6 horror movies that primarily take place at night

What's scarier than horrific things happening when it's dark outside?
Still from Skinamarink. Photo Credit: Shudder
Still from Skinamarink. Photo Credit: Shudder /

Scary things almost always happen at night, in real life and fiction. But it's not often that a horror movie takes place almost entirely at night.

Usually, the scarier scenes are offset by scenes filmed during the day to give viewers a moment of respite (unless it's a horror movie that revels in the unsettling shock of daylight horror), but the films that take place entirely at night create an atmosphere where audiences have to stay on edge the entire runtime.

The following are great examples of terrifying scary movies that take place at night for all, or at least the majority, of their story.

Dark City (1998)

The entire point of this movie is that the city exists in perpetual night. A man (Rufus Sewell) wakes up in a bathtub with the body of a brutally murdered woman beside him.

He receives a phone call from a doctor who advises him to run as a mysterious group of men known as the "Strangers" are coming for him. Even though it was a box office bomb, Dark City has been re-evaluated over the years and is now considered a sci-fi cult classic. Try to find the director's cut to watch if you can.

Streaming free on Tubi.

The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

Many people missed this film in theaters because Lionsgate severely limited its release. Based on Clive Barker's short story of the same name, The Midnight Meat Train is a surprisingly terrifying cosmic horror film starring Bradley Cooper as a photographer determined to document the "true" New York City, which often means skulking around at night. While riding the subway, he uncovers a terrifying serial killer preying on people.

Streaming free on Tubi.

Grave Encounters (2011)

Considered one of the scariest found-footage horror films ever, Grave Encounters follows the crew of a reality show as they investigate an abandoned mental hospital. Things quickly go awry. The movie is presented as a "lost" episode of their show.

Now streaming free on Freevee and Tubi.

Skinamarink (2023)

While it starts at night, we don't actually know how much time passes during Skinamarink since the entire plot hinges on creating a liminal space where all the doors and windows, i.e., things that would help indicate the time of day indoors, start disappearing. I recommend watching it alone at night, preferably after midnight, to get the full effect.

Streaming on Hulu and Shudder.

30 Days of Night (2007)

The title and premise of this film (vampires) should let you know from the jump that it will take place mostly at night. Set in an Alaskan town in the northernmost part of the country, 30 Days of Night is about an extended period that occurs each year when residents must deal with an entire month of night. Normally, residents leave during that time, but this year, things take a dark turn when a horde of vampires descend upon the town.

Coraline (2009)

Coraline's reality is normal, but in the Other, it's always night. That's different from the original book by Neil Gaiman, on which the movie is based, but it makes sense to use the contrast between day and night to help viewers differentiate between the two worlds. Coraline is a darkly fantastical, stop-motion animated feature from acclaimed director Henry Selick. A newly remastered 3D version will play in theaters this August.

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