My motto is, no matter what, if a film moves me, there is no shame in turning on the waterworks. I ugly cried in the theater during Disney’s Coco, I sobbed through the second half of Titanic, and I bawled my eyes out for the third and fourth installments of Toy Story. But I’ve been known to get teary-eyed during scary movies, too — when I say I’ll cry if a film moves me, I do mean any film, including horror.
It may seem odd to get emotional during horror films, but they can do so much more than just be terrifying. Some can inspire sadness, hope, or even happiness. The first one I remember getting me in my feelings is Candyman (1992); I was nine years old and begged my father to take me to see it. While the film terrified me throughout, a dramatic tear rolled down my cheek during the last 15 minutes. There was something about sacrifice and children that got to me, even at a young age — it still gets me to this day.
As Halloween approaches, we revisited some of the films that include a little slashing, a little bashing, and a little sensitivity. Got suggestions of horror movies that made you weep? Let us know in the comments.
[Warning: Major spoilers follow below.]
The Monster (2016)
Lizzie (Ella Balentine) is a bright young 11-year-old who has to deal with her mother Kathy’s (Zoe Kazan) alcoholic, abusive, unpredictable ways. As they travel on the road at night, they find themselves stranded on an isolated road in the middle of nowhere, fighting for their lives against one ugly forest monster.
Cry Factor: The best mother and daughter bonding happens on this frightful night. You don’t get the sense that Kathy cares for Lizzie until it’s life or death; as a mother who feels she’s given her child nothing but strife, the only thing left for Kathy to do is to sacrifice her own life so Lizzie has a fighting chance to survive. The characters started crying, and then I started crying. It’s a scary cry fest!
Dark Water (2002)
In this moody Japanese horror film by Hideo Nakata, single mom Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) is dealing with a bitter divorce and custody battle for her young daughter, Ikuko (Rio Kanno). As the two try to start life anew in their new apartment, ghostly apparitions of a young girl with a red backpack begin to haunt them, and it’s clear something supernatural — and evil — is afoot.
Cry Factor: This movie is just sad all around. The body of a young girl who drowned in the building water tower still lingers in it; her spirit haunts the building’s hallways looking for a new “mother” to latch onto, and Yoshimi is it. The woman must choose between crossing over to be with this ghost child or allowing her own daughter to be possessed by the spirit. Yoshimi ultimately decides to sacrifice herself so Ikuko can live in peace. Ten years later, Ikuko returns to the site of her mother’s disappearance and sees her ghost, who assures her that she’s OK in the afterlife and not to worry, providing rare horor-film closure for Ikuko.
A college student commits suicide on a live internet stream, setting off a chain reaction across Tokyo that causes others to follow suit. The film follows Michi (Kumiko Aso), Ryosuke (Haruhiko Kato), and Harue (Koyuki), three unrelated folks whose stories eventually converge in this atmospheric, supernatural horror in which the internet plays a pivotal role.
Cry Factor: Kairo isn’t a typical horror film as it’s more about existentialism than anything else. Ghosts are lonely, and they travel through the internet to make contact with the living. In the end, 85% of the population is gone, and Michi begins to realize the power of human connection. The film asserts that death is just as finite as the living world, and if people cannot connect in life, they will be forced to do it in death. It will hit you in the feels, ya’ll.
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Many consider this to be Guillermo del Toro’s best film. The horror/fantasy tale is told against the backdrop of Franco’s authoritarian rule over Spain amd packs an emotional punch. The film follows 12-year-old Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), otherwise known as Princess Moanna of the underworld, who meets a faun that wants to help her return to her kingdom. In reality, Ofelia lives a harsh life with her stepfather, a captain under Franco’s regime.
Cry Factor: Ofelia’s mortal mother dies, and she herself is abused by her stepfather and nearly eaten by the Pale Man, all while living under Franco’s rule. This kid goes through it all. Just when you think she’s victorious, she’s shot and killed by her stepfather. Not all is bleak in death, though: she returns to the underworld to rule as its princess once again. How can you not feel anything from that?
If Before Sunrise and H.P. Lovecraft had a baby, it would be the horror/romance film Spring. Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) is an American in Italy learning how to farm. He meets Louise (Nadia Hilker), a genetics student, and it’s love at first sight. The two exchange life stories, but Louise forgets to mention she is a 2,000-year-old Cthulhu-like monster. Until, that is, Evan catches her one day in the midst of a transformation phase that’s pretty gnarly to witness.
Cry Factor: Evan sees this transformation and doesn’t care; he is still in love with Louise. She explains this is a hereditary trait that helps her achieve immortality. She injects a special serum to keep herself in human form, but every 20 years, she must transform into a new look and new body – the only thing that will stop this process is falling in love. The duo decide to spend Louise’s final moments in her present form together, but when the time comes, the transformation doesn’t happen because she’s in love with Evan. It’s enough to bring tears to your eyes and butterflies to your stomach.
The Orphanage (2007)
Creepy dead children, a haunted house, and a mother at her wits’ end trying to find her missing son – nothing is as it seems in The Orphanage. Laura’s (Belén Rueda) son Simón (Roger Princep) is missing, and she is desperate to find him. The cops aren’t helpful, and she’s seeing frightening apparitions of dead children in her home, a former orphanage. Laura can’t decipher if she’s going mad or if the ghosts are trying to tell her something.
Cry Factor: Laura has truly lost all hope, but emotions escalate when she discovers she killed her son by accident and didn’t even realize it: What she thought was the ghost of one of the creepy children was, in fact, her own child in disguise. You’ll tear up just thinking about it even years after watching. The film ends on a bittersweet note, as Laura commits suicide to cross over and be with Simon and the other children. Now she too is a part of the orphanage.
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