8 most disturbing serial killer horror movies that will linger in your mind for days

Terrifier 2 - Courtesy Brigade Marketing
Terrifier 2 - Courtesy Brigade Marketing /

What's so great about the horror genre is that it's incredibly diverse, including a wide range of subgenres and styles. While many people enjoy watching supernatural horror flicks that focus on evil spirits, others' go-to horror movies center around murderous serial killers offing their victims one by one.

Here at 1428 Elm, we've watched our fair share of serial killer horror movies. While most left us at the edge of our seats, some left the most disturbing impression. A lasting impression that stayed with us long after watching them.

Are you curious about what films we're talking about? If so, keep reading. Below, we've shared a list of some of the most disturbing serial killer horror movies.

Se7en (1995)

Directed by: David Fincher

Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker

There are so many disturbing scenes in Se7en, but the one that I still think about to this day would have to be the scene with the victim who is handcuffed to his bed for a year and starved to death. The gluttony victim scene is also very disturbing along with the envy victim scene. Truthfully, I still get chills thinking about that scene.

Se7en follows two detectives as they work together to hunt down a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his motives to murder people. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman star as the two detectives, David Mills and William Somerset. Joining them in the cast are Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow, John C. McGinley, Richard Roundtree, and R. Lee Ermey.

I Saw the Devil (2010)

Directed by: Kim Jee-woon

Written by: Park Hoon-jung

I Saw the Devil is easily one of the heaviest and most disturbing movies I've ever watched. I mean, it holds nothing back, delving deep into the themes of revenge and violence and exploring the darker aspects of human nature. It's a deeply unsettling film containing scenes of extreme violence, including gruesome murders, torture, and mutilation. It's definitely not a horror film meant for just anybody to watch, especially not those of the faint of heart.

After secret agent Kim Soo-hyun's wife is brutally murdered by a psychopathic serial killer, a devastated and vengeful Soo-hyun sets out to exact revenge on his wife's killer. But he doesn't just want to take him down. Once the killer is in his clutches, he decides to exact his revenge slowly by torturing him and then letting him go just to capture him again and inflict more damage. This is his way of making the serial killer feel the pain that his wife felt. Lee Byung-hun stars in the leading role of Kim Soo-hyun, while Choi Min-sik stars as serial killer Jang Kyung-chul.

X (2022)

Directed and written by: Ti West

One of A24's best horror movies would have to be X. It's very creepy and a bit gory, too, with mild jump scares. The scene that disturbed me the most was when a character gets their head run over by a truck, and their head explodes with blood and brain matter splattering everywhere.

The movie is set in 1979 on a homicidal elderly couple's farm in rural Texas. A small film crew gathers to make a porno on the elderly couple's property but finds themselves fighting for their lives when the elderly couple begins hunting them down one by one. Mia Goth plays two roles in the film, Maxine and Pearl. Also joining her in the cast are Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure, and Scott Mescudi.

My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)

Directed by: Patrick Lussier

I remember going to see this movie in theaters back in 2009 with my cousins and being completely terrified after watching it. I had nightmares for days, thinking that a person dressed up as a miner was trying to hunt me down. It took a while for me to clear my mind of this movie. That's how disturbing it was.

It centers around the residents of a small town who become targeted by a pickaxe-wielding killer in miner's gear on Valentine's Day, with the killer believed to be the same deranged murderer who was thought to have died 10 years prior. The cast is made up of Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith, Kevin Tighe, and many others.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

Written by: Hooper and Kim Henkel

All of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies are disturbing, but the original 1974 version takes the cake. Imagine taking a road trip with a group of friends only to find yourself and your friends soon in a fight for survival because a family of cannibalistic killers is after you all. Oh, and one of the serial killers couldn't look or be any creepier with their face being covered with human skin and their choice of weapon being a chainsaw. Yes, we're talking about you, Leatherface. From just his height alone, Leatherface is easily one of the creepiest fictional serial killers in the horror world. This is what The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is about.

Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, Gunnar Hansen, and many others star in this hit slasher film.

Saw III (2006)

Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman

Written by: Leigh Whannell

You just had to know that Saw III would be on the list. This horror movie, along with the other nine movies in the Saw film series, are some of the most disturbing horror movies ever. What makes them so unsettling is that you have this serial killer (Jigsaw) and his apprentices who set up gruesome tests and traps to test their victims will to live. Jigsaw believes he's delivering justice in his own twisted way, and that's just plain ole creepy if you ask me.

Here's what Saw III is about via Rotten Tomatoes:

"Dr. Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh) becomes a pawn in the Jigsaw Killer's (Tobin Bell) latest gory game. Kidnapped and taken to an abandoned warehouse, she finds Jigsaw bedridden and dying. Her task is to keep the maniac alive long enough for Jeff (Angus Macfadyen), a fellow victim, to complete his own task. Each is unaware that Jigsaw has much bigger -- and deadlier -- plans in store."

Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus Macfadyen, Bahar Soomekh, and Dina Meyer all star in this horror film.

The Strangers (2008)

Directed and written by: Bryan Bertino

What makes The Strangers creepy, in my opinion, is that the things that happen in this movie could actually happen in real life. In fact, the film is loosely inspired by the Manson family Tate murders that happened in real life. Home invasions are real, and sadly, some people don't make it out alive.

The horror flick follows a young couple, Kristen and James, who decide to stay at a family vacation home for the weekend only to soon find themselves fighting for their lives when three masked intruders enter the home and begin terrorizing them. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman star as Kristen and James.

One scene from The Strangers that has unintentionally stuck with me all this time is when Kristen asks one of the masked intruders why they are tormenting her and her partner, and the intruder replies by saying, "Because you were home." That's super creepy!

Terrifier 2 (2022)

Directed and written by: Damien Leone

Terrifier 2 is one of the goriest horror movies I've ever watched, and that's why it's so disturbing along with the brutal killings. Like the serial killers in The Strangers, the deranged serial killer, Art the Clown, has no apparent motive for killing people in the Terrifier movies other than just because he can.

In Terrifier 2, we see Art the Clown resurrected by an evil entity before he sets his sights on a teenage girl and her younger brother as his next victims. David Howard Thornton returns to play Art the Clown. Joining him in the cast are Lauren LaVera, Elliott Fullam, Sarah Voigt, Kailey Hyman, and Casey Hartnett.

What do you think are the most disturbing serial killer horror movies?

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