17 Horror Movies With the Most Unique Plots

In a genre of endless franchise sequels, these films stand out as charting new creative territory.

While most horror movies rely on sound, A Quiet Place (2018) immerses you in a post-apocalyptic world where silence is crucial for survival. The nearly soundless film adds a different eerie effect than almost any others within the genre.

There are a myriad of popular horror movie tropes that fans can’t seem to get enough of. Some audiences anxiously await for new slashers to be released, while others may prefer the thrill of a haunting ghost story. Whichever chilling cinematic experience you prefer, you’re not alone in your scare predilection. However, some directors go the extra mile, crafting tales that avoid infusing the expected clichés into their stories.

While the movies on this list of unique horror movie plots may have a ghost floating around, a bit of gore, or a family fearfully staying at a cabin in the woods, the overall plot is unlike any other. It takes a lot of talent to create a film that’s beyond what we’re used to seeing, causing many of their works to take off and amass cult followings. Most of us are suckers for something that breaks the usual mold because it’s hard to envision what will happen next when it’s something we’ve never seen before, adding to the scares.

Here are horror movies with very unique plots:

The Cell (2000)

The Cell (2000) is a visually stunning film that uses fantastical technology designed for therapy as a way to save someone’s life.

The FBI is in search of a psychopathic killer, Carl Rudolph Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio), who abducts and holds women captive where they slowly die. Unfortunately, when they finally catch up to him, he’s in a coma, unable to lead them to his most recent victim. To get inside the mind of the murderer, they turn to Catharine Deane (Jennifer Lopez), a psychotherapist who has uncovered the ability to literally place herself inside the minds of her patients. It’s up to Catharine to immerse herself in the psyche of the twisted man so she can retrieve vital information to locate the missing woman. The venture into his sadistic thoughts poses unimaginable risks to Catherine’s own mind, threatening to take her over.

We often wonder what really goes on in the minds of murderers and psychopaths, but would we really want to plunge into the depths of their unimaginable depravity? The Cell explores this very specific idea, placing you directly into the nightmarish imagery.

The Ring (2002)

The Ring (2002) is based on the Japanese movie Ringu (1998) and the novel by Koji Suzuki.

The original Ring movie is the Japanese horror movie Ringu (1998). Since our readers are likely more familiar with the American remake, we’ll discuss that film, acknowledging that credit for the plot goes to the original which is based on the novel by Koji Suzuki.

Two teenagers, Becca (Rachael Bella) and Katie (Amber Tamblyn), talk about an urban legend about a videotape that’s undoubtedly scarier than your average horror movie. This video was said to have deadly consequences, as anyone who watches it will receive a phone call telling them they have seven days to live. Katie and several of her other friends mysteriously died at the same time, lending credence to the rumor.

The Ring is undoubtedly a psychological horror movie with a truly one-of-a-kind premise. Unlike most chilling stories, no physical entity has set out to kill the characters, adding a supernatural mystery element. Even more psychologically thrilling, the audience becomes involved in the curse by watching the same erie images that sealed the characters’ fate.

See also: The Ring (2002): 45+ Fascinating Facts and Trivia

Saw (2004)

After the events of Saw, Jigsaw nursed the one-footed doctor back to health and Gordon became one of Jigsaw’s many accomplices.

Two men, Adam (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes), awake in a broken-down room with the corpse of what appears to be a suicide victim lying between them with a microcassette recorder and a gun. They find tapes in their pockets, both with their own unsettling messages. Unfortunately for Adam, Dr. Gordon’s tape orders him to kill Adam by 6:00, or his wife and daughter will be murdered. The two must figure out who did this to them, how they’re connected, and determine if there’s any way they can escape.

Although Saw had a relatively low budget, it quickly gained a cult following, adding nine more films to the franchise. The antagonist, Jigsaw’s, motivation makes the Saw films stand out among the crowd. While he may get some twisted joy from punishing those he deems unappreciative of life, he ultimately wants them to escape. He believes once they go through one of his sadistic puzzles, it’ll tap into their will to live, giving them a new outlook on life.

See also: The Rise and Fall of Jigsaw: Making Sense of the Saw Franchise

Pontypool (2008)

A zombie outside of the booth where Grant Mazzy works as a DJ.

Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) is a radio announcer in Pontypool, Ontario, Canada. The station receives reports of rioting before getting a transmission in French, instructing him to avoid specific phrases and ways of speaking or translating the message into English. Films about viruses are nothing new, though Pontypool may be the first to have the contagion be tied to communication. Rather than an illness spreading through a small town, it’s the English language that causes the infection.

See also: 34+ Pandemic/Epidemic Movies

Orphan (2009)

Isabelle Furhman was just 11 when she portrayed a 33-year-old woman named Leena who pretends to be a 9-year-old in Orphan.

After enduring the heartbreak of having a stillbirth, Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard) struggle to move forward with their lives. Kate takes the loss especially hard, often turning to alcohol to help numb the pain. It seems their prayers are answered when they adopt Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a 9-year-old Russian girl who is incredibly smart, sweet and a bit shy. When tragedies seem to unfold all around the family, Kate can’t help but notice something is off about Esther and begins to wonder if she’s the one to blame.

While there have been a decent amount of horror movies revolving around killer kids, this one has a twist nobody saw coming. Once you discover Esther’s true identity and motives, it’s clear why Orphan stands out amongst the rest.

Rubber (2010)

A sentient tire named Robert is hungry for murder.

It’s the late 1990s in a small-town California desert. Unbeknownst to those living in the area, a tire named Robert slowly gains consciousness, transforming into a sinister murder-hungry car part. As he comes to life, his viciousness only increases, as does his powers of telekinesis, which he uses for evil. He sets out to find a mysterious woman he’s become enamored with, going on a killing spree along the way.

Nearly every B-grade, sci-fi, and comedy horror has a unique blend of unexpected absurdity, though Rubber tends to stand out among the crowd. Many movies within these categories typically have some sort of backstory to explain how the impossible became possible. With Rubber, we’re simply supposed to accept that Robert the Tire is self-aware with no context on how it came to be.

See also: 22 Goofiest Villains in Horror Movie History

The Skin I Live In (2011)

A woman is the test subject for a doctor intent on inventing futuristic skin.

After scientist Dr. Robert Ledgard’s (Antonio Banderas) wife dies in a fiery car accident, he sets out to create the perfect damage-proof skin. As he gets closer to synthesizing skin that can withstand cuts and burns, among other injuries, he holds a mysterious woman, Vera (Elena Anaya), captive to use as his guinea pig.

It’s hard to place this film in just one category. Not only does it fit in with body horror, but it’s also classified as a suspense thriller and melodrama. As you watch, you’ll question everything: the characters’ identities, motives, and relationships. 

The Purge (2013)

Wealthy thugs prowl the streets on Purge night.

In the movie, the United States has what is called “The Purge,” a 12-hour period where crime, even murder, is allowed. During the event, one family reluctantly allows a stranger to join them after he escapes a gang of masked killers. Unfortunately, the killers surround the house, demanding the family give up the man or they’ll all be at risk.

There are many ways to break the law, but the worst offense is taking another life. Even in fiction movies, there’s an understanding that murder is illegal. However, in The Purge, crime no longer exists, adding a layer of discomfort when considering life without law and order.

See also: 32 Trivia Facts About ‘The Purge’ Universe

The Babadook (2014)

Samuel is one of the most upsetting children in horror movie history.

After Amelia Vanek’s (Essie Davis) husband tragically dies in a car crash, the burned-out widow struggles to cope while raising her 6-year-old son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), as a single mother. Meanwhile, Samuel is convinced a horrifying monster depicted in his storybook is out to kill them both. As he experiences more troubling nightmares and hallucinations, his behavior becomes more erratic. Amelia’s skepticism quickly shifts to a fearful realization that her son may have been right all along.

The Babadook is unique in that it doesn’t rely on jump scares, elaborate special effects, or gore. Instead, the eeriness comes more from what you feel when watching it than what you see. While the idea of a creepy book emulating your life is indeed scary, the metaphor behind the monster is where the true uneasiness lies.

It Follows (2014)

Maika Monroe is blissfully unaware that her date is about to pass a horrifying curse onto her.

Jay (Maika Monroe) is a carefree university student who goes on a date with a guy named Hugh (Jake Weary). After having sex, he breaks the news to her that he’s passed something even more deadly than an STD. Instead, she is now cursed by a shape-shifting being that will hunt her down with it’s only mission being to kill her. The only way to rid herself of the entity is to pass it on by having sex with someone else. However, there’s a catch: if “it” catches up to the next person, she’ll be cursed again.

Known as the “STD horror movie” because of its original concept, there’s no doubt that there isn’t another movie like it. The idea of contracting a curse after intercourse is a terrifying, albeit entertaining, fresh new premise we hadn’t seen until this film.

See also: Here’s Why You Missed The Scariest Part Of ‘It Follows’

12 Feet Deep (2017)

Two sisters discover they are trapped beneath a fiberglass pool cover in 12 Feet Deep.

Bree (Nora-Jane Noone) and her sister, Jonna (Alexandra Park), meet up at a public swimming pool. When they are about to leave, Bree notices she’s missing her engagement ring. Jonna catches it shimmering at the bottom of the water, and both girls dive into the pool to grab it. Because the manager thinks everyone has left, he closes the pool with an automatic fiberglass covering. It’s a holiday, and now the sisters will be stuck underneath the cover for the weekend or until they can plan an escape.

What most people consider a fun activity turns into a claustrophobic, nightmarish experience that hasn’t been covered in any other horror movie. The film adds other real-life fearful aspects like Bree being at risk of slipping into a diabetic coma and repressed childhood trauma coming to the surface.

See also: 19+ Underwater Horror Movies

Gerald’s Game (2017)

Jessie (Carla Gugnino) repeats her childhood trauma with husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) in Gerald’s Game (2017).

Jessie (Carla Gugino) and Gerald Burlingame (Bruce Greenwood) travel to an Alabama lakehouse to add a little romantic spark to their relationship. After changing into a slip, Gerald handcuffs Jessie to the bed to play out his sexual fantasy. At first, she plays along but soon becomes uncomfortable and asks to be uncuffed, leading to a heated argument. Gerald suffers a heart attack, leaving Jessie alone to figure out how she’ll survive.

Before Mike Flanagan took the project on, this Stephen King novel was considered impossible to adapt to film. Several horrors take place within this one film. Not only is Jessie trapped in a room with her dead husband, but she begins seeing apparitions she’s unable to escape from. Additionally, she begins confronting her past traumas, giving the plot an even more unique spin.

Get Out (2017)

Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), travel upstate to visit her parents for the weekend. Naturally, he’s uneasy about how the family will handle the couple’s interracial relationship. Upon meeting them, the family seem a little too accommodating. As time progresses the uneasiness grows and Chris comes across a mysterious locked room in the basement.

Get Out is one of few movies that expertly weaves horror with racial themes throughout the film. Black characters are forced to suppress their thoughts and experiences to conform to white norms, both metaphorically and literally.

See also: A Creepy Detail In ‘Get Out’ That Most People Missed

A Quiet Place (2018)

Viewers will be unnerved by the lack of sound and dialogue in A Quiet Place.

Alien creatures have taken over, wiping out nearly the entire population on Earth. One family, the Abbotts, do what they can to continue living as they avoid attracting the monsters. Although these unknown beings are blind, they have inconceivably good hearing abilities, so anyone left standing must live an almost entirely silent life to stay safe.

While most horror movies rely on sound, A Quiet Place immerses you in a post-apocalyptic world where silence is crucial for survival. The nearly soundless film adds a different eerie effect than almost any others within the genre.

See also: 72+ Movies About a Scary Societal Collapse

Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary is unlike any other horror movie.

Grandmother Ellen (Kathleen Chalfant) passes away shortly before the Graham family experience another sudden loss. As Annie (Toni Collette), Ellen’s daughter, works through her grief, she begins uncovering disturbing secrets about her family history. As the story continues, bizarre and traumatic events continue to plague Annie, her husband, and her children.

At first glance, it may seem like another demonic possession storyline we’ve seen time and time again. What makes Hereditary stand out is the added layer of grief being a horror in itself. Additionally, it isn’t their house or an object that’s haunted; it’s their heritage. 

See also: The Most Disturbing Scene in ‘Hereditary’

Incident in a Ghostland (2018)

Taylor Hickson (left) was seriously injured during one scene in Ghostland, resulting in her getting 70 stitches. She successfully sued the production company and the Canadian government fined them $40,000 for failing to establish a safe work environment.

Pauline (Mylène Farmer) and her two daughters, Vera (Taylor Hickson) and Beth (Emilia Jones), move into the new home they inherited from their aunt. As they’re carrying in their belongings, intruders sneak in and force the family to go to extreme lengths to survive. Sixteen years later, Beth (Crystal Reed as adult Beth) has achieved everything she has wanted in her career and life. When she receives a call from her mother, she’s forced to return to the home to check on her paranoid and traumatized sister (Anastasia Phillips as adult Vera). Upon her return, a series of odd events occur, causing her to confront that her life may not be what it seems.

The shocking revelations Beth uncovers when she returns to her childhood home not only send this plot in motion but also make it stand out as a whole. Incident in a Ghostland (also known as Ghostland) takes several unexpected turns as it shifts between past and present and taps into the audience’s most primal fears.

Midsommar (2019)

Has there ever been a horror movie like Midsommar?

The film starts with Dani (Florence Pugh) trying to contact her sister while she’s having what seems to be another one of her frequent meltdowns. Unfortunately, Dani’s worst fears become reality when she finds that her sister and both of her parents are dead. While processing the grief, she accompanies her distant boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), and his friends to a midsummer festival in Sweden. They’re shocked by the eerie rituals taking place, and soon, the outsiders start disappearing.

When you think of scary movies, you likely imagine dark, moody colors and an eerie nighttime setting. It’s hard to imagine how it’d be possible to create such an unsettling atmosphere in a bright, beautiful location, with cheerful people wearing flowy white clothing. However, Ari Aster was able to make a film unlike any other, doing just that.

See also: 51 Facts About the Movie ‘Midsommar’

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Meet The Author

Brandy Eaklor is a writer, artist, and content creator who specializes in entertainment and horror subjects. Her favorite horror movies are Hereditary and The Strangers.