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The 20 Best British Horror Films of All Time

Brexit is scary, but these movies are scarier.

Under the Skin

“Under the Skin”

Courtesy of A24

British horror thrives on a juxtaposition of the proper and the sinister. Blame it on the accents: Americans can’t help but be drawn in by the way our friends across the pond speak, and by the time certain villains reveal their true aims it’s too late to turn back. As you contemplate the implications of Brexit, look back on horror of a different kind.

20. “Hellraiser” (1987)

Before becoming one of the most bizarre franchises of all time, “Hellraiser” was a relatively modest cult sensation. Written and directed by horror icon Clive Barker, and based off of his novella “The Hellbound Heart,” this bold vision mixed S&M darkness with some of the grossest visuals of ’80s cinema. The series soon became known for Doug Bradley’s iconic portrayal of lead Cenobite Pinhead, but this first chapter is engrossing gross-out tale with genuine emotion.

 

19. “Shaun of the Dead” (2004)

Edgar Wright’s 2004 zombie film is a pitch-perfect genre deconstruction, but its best trick is all the heart below the surface. While fans will be able to recall their favorite lines and slapstick moments, true horror and grief sneaks up during surprisingly gory and impactful deaths. By the time Simon Pegg and Nick Frost hit the bittersweet final notes, it’s clear that Wright has achieved a feat that even parody greats like Mel Brooks had trouble pulling off: elevating the material so much that you truly care about the characters.

 

18. “Event Horizon” (1997)

Scientifically speaking, an event horizon is a point of no return — a gravitational force so strong that nothing can escape it, including light. Cinematically speaking, “Event Horizon” is similar: the kind of movie that pulls you into its orbit and refuses to let go. As he did in “Possession,” Sam Neill plays a man contending with forces beyond his reckoning; suffice to say that the spaceship he’s on can’t be righted. If you can think of a more evil premise than a gateway to hell opening in the far reaches of space, we’d love to hear it.

 

17. “The Descent” (2005)

Go spelunking with a few of your best friends, they said. What could go wrong, they said. Led by a fierce ensemble and boasting some deep, dark terrors, “The Descent” is to caves what “Jaws” was to the beach. There may be nothing sinister in your local cave system, but after watching “The Descent” you probably won’t be inclined to find out for yourself. If you are, bring a reliable flashlight and hope for the best.

 

16. “Under the Skin” (2013)

If Scarlett Johansson playing a beautiful alien doesn’t sound scary to you, congratulations: You’ve just been ensnared by the same trap as her many victims in Jonathan Glazer’s surreal dreamscape of a film. Not unlike “Her,” “Under the Skin” provides a showcase for Johansson’s unique ability to inject feeling into not-quite-human characters who everyone around her can’t help but be drawn to. To say that they do so at their own peril would be putting it lightly. 

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