Scares that Soothe: Top 10 Happy Ending “Feel Good” Horror Movies

I’ve been torn all week, attempting to maintain “business as usual” as Editor-in-Chief at Dread Central while watching the world rage around us. In comparison to what many are enduring, my work sometimes feels meaningless. But it’s times like this that I’m also reminded of horror’s power to both scare and soothe.

Cinema has always been a refuge, an escape and that may be needed now more than ever. But movies do more than simply distract us; they allow us to process our own difficult emotions, often leaving us feeling unfettered for the experience. Even the most depraved horror movie will often include themes of strength, endurance, and perseverance. Horror pushes us to our limits but ultimately gives all its power to the audience.

Some horror movies are, obviously, more uplifting than others, and that’s probably what most of us are looking for these days. So I’ve assembled a list of “feel good”/”happy ending” horror movies to deliver some thrills and some feels.

Horror movies can’t be expected to fix a broken system or heal the masses; horror movies don’t offer solutions. And no one should be burying their head in the sand when our current situation needs to be witnessed and processed. We can’t ignore what’s happening on our streets and in our hospitals. Still, we can turn to some of these titles for both relief and inspiration.

*Mild spoilers below.


Fright Night
Directed by Tom Holland

Teenage Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is a horror-film junkie, so it’s no surprise that, when a reclusive new neighbor named Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) moves next-door, Brewster becomes convinced he is a vampire. It’s also no surprise when nobody believes him. However, after strange events begin to occur, Charlie has no choice but to turn to the only person who could possibly help: washed-up television vampire killer Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall).

Why it’s “feel good”:
Charley almost loses everything when a vampire moves in next door—and tries to steal his girlfriend! But all is well by the film’s conclusion. Charley also befriends his idol, Peter Vincent and helps his mentor regain past confidence. Even the idea that “Evil Ed” is still lurking in the darkness makes us smile.

The Sixth Sense
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Young Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) is haunted by a dark secret: he is visited by ghosts. Cole is frightened by visitations from those with unresolved problems who appear from the shadows. He is too afraid to tell anyone about his anguish, except child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis). As Dr. Crowe tries to uncover the truth about Cole’s supernatural abilities, the consequences for client and therapist are a jolt that awakens them both to something unexplainable.

Why it’s “feel good”:
Cole sees dead people—whether he wants to or not. But psychiatrist Malcolm Crowe teaches him to overcome his fears while strengthening the boy’s relationship with his mother. Cole eventually becomes a paranormal superhero. In return, the boy helps Malcolm reconnect with his estranged wife.

28 Days Later
Directed by Danny Boyle

A group of misguided animal rights activists free a caged chimp infected with the “Rage” virus from a medical research lab. When London bike courier Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up from a coma a month after, he finds his city all but deserted. On the run from the zombie-like victims of the Rage, Jim stumbles upon a group of survivors, including Selena (Naomie Harris) and cab driver Frank (Brendan Gleeson), and joins them on a perilous journey to what he hopes will be safety.

Why it’s “feel good”:
After a virus decimates Great Britain, we’re left with the feeling that the worst is behind us. And while things may never return to “normal”, we can still imagine a new and prosperous future. (Ignore the fact that 28 Weeks Later unleashes a second wave!)

Directed by James Cameron

After floating in space for 57 years, Lt. Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) shuttle is found by a deep space salvage team. Upon arriving at LV-426, the marines find only one survivor, a nine-year-old girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). But even these battle-hardened marines with all the latest weaponry are no match for the hundreds of aliens that have invaded the colony.

Why it’s “feel good”:
Ripley goes through hell facing seemingly insurmountable odds. But she never gives up, even when going toe-to-toe with the imposing Xenomorph Queen. She forges a maternal relationship with Newt and we even see sparks of romance with Hicks. And Bishop lives! Unfortunately, Alien’s “feel good” ending is dashed in the opening minutes of Alien 3!

The People Under the Stairs
Directed by Wes Craven

When young Fool (Brandon Adams) breaks into the home of his family’s greedy and uncaring landlords, he discovers a disturbing scenario where incestuous adult siblings have mutilated a number of boys and kept them imprisoned under stairs in their large, creepy house. As Fool attempts to flee before the psychopaths can catch him, he meets their daughter, Alice (A.J. Langer), who has been spared any extreme discipline by her deranged parents. Can Fool and Alice escape before it’s too late?

Why it’s “feel good”:
The People Under the Stair is more than just the story of a boy overcoming his fears to become a hero; it’s the story of a community standing up to oppressive forces that have kept them marginalized. Parallels to the current state of affairs can’t be ignored and may offer hope for real, lasting change.

The Final Girls
Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson

Max, recently orphaned, goes to see a screening of a B-horror movie that her mother made 20 years earlier. When Max and her friends find themselves in the world of the film itself, they must apply their knowledge of horror tropes to survive.

Why it’s “feel good”:
Max is given the opportunity to bond with her dead mother as a peer, resulting in both understanding and resolution.

Directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead

An aimless young man (Lou Taylor Pucci) takes an impromptu trip to Italy and becomes involved with an alluring genetics student (Nadia Hilker) who harbors a transformative secret.

Why it’s “feel good”:
Spring reminds us that sometimes (not always, but sometimes) the most important and meaningful relationships we make are the ones that seem almost impossible. Never give up on love. Fight for it.

Get Out
Directed by Jordan Peele

Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.

Why it’s “feel good”:
Institutionalized racism is dismantled—and Chris doesn’t end up in jail just for defending himself. We could all use a friend like Rod (played by Lil Rel Howery) in our lives. Get Out is a film that entertains and inspires without shying away from the horror of its subject matter.

Let the Right One In
Directed by Tomas Alfredson

When Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a sensitive, bullied 12-year-old boy living with his mother in suburban Sweden, meets his new neighbor, the mysterious and moody Eli (Lina Leandersson), they strike up a friendship. Initially reserved with each other, Oskar and Eli slowly form a close bond, but it soon becomes apparent that she is no ordinary young girl. Eventually, Eli shares her dark, macabre secret with Oskar, revealing her connection to a string of bloody local murders.

Why it’s “feel good”:
Bullies are bested, absentee parents are abandoned, and a young man finds a powerful (if unusual) soulmate.

Warm Bodies
Directed by Jonathan Levine

A terrible plague has left the planet’s population divided between zombies and humans. An unusual zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult) sees his walking-dead brethren attacking a living woman named Julie (Teresa Palmer) and rescues her. Julie sees that R is different from the other zombies, and the pair embark on an unusual relationship. As their bond grows and R becomes more and more human, a chain of events unfolds that could transform the entire lifeless world.

Why it’s “feel good”:
If a human and a zombie can fall in love, then the rest of us can surely learn to get along.

Did your favorite “feel good” horror movie make the list? What are some other “happy ending” horror movies fans can turn to in dark times? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter @josh_millican.



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