There are several ways to build a good suspense. For a long time, cinema believed that it would be enough to put some supernatural element and that’s it, but the truth is that the genre is much broader than that. It’s a murderer on the loose, an unsolved crime or even that bizarre and poorly explained phenomenon that makes you sleepy just thinking about it. A good suspense part of the tension that is built in parallel to its mystery.
And HBO Max has a weighty catalog of the genre, featuring some very classic and memorable productions to this day. With immersive plots and unpredictable twists, these are stories that deserve to be checked out or revisited — after all, there is always a secret that goes unnoticed at first glance.
So, to help you choose the reason for your bitten nails, the Canaltech listed the best thrillers to watch on HBO Max.
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What kinds of secrets can a childhood friend bring to light after decades apart? It is from this questioning that The gift unfolds, showing how high-school pranks can have lifelong consequences, to the point of destroying everything you love and showing the world that you are not who you appear to be.
The film starring Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman starts from this proposal to create its suspense. Upon meeting an old schoolmate, the newly married couple start receiving strange gifts in their home and are confronted with a secret that their husband has carried all his life. And that’s going to rock the relationship, especially when the wife realizes she just doesn’t know the man she married.
The gift it’s a beautiful example of how suspense doesn’t need supernatural elements to be tense and reminds us how our lives can come crashing down for so little.
Few things make us more nervous in a movie than a threat that can hit us in real life. That’s why The Panic Room it’s so effective at building your suspense, as any of us could be in that situation with relative ease.
In the story, mother and daughter have just moved into a new apartment when the property is invaded by criminals. To protect themselves from the bad guys, they hide in a panic room — a virtually inviolable room that leaves them isolated from the outside world. The problem is that the bandits’ target is right inside this room and they need to find a way to escape before they can invade.
The sequel to the classic The illuminated took everyone by surprise. The film is more inspired by Stephen King’s book than necessarily by Stanley Kubrick’s film and takes place decades after the tragedy at the Overlook Hotel, showing the consequences of those events in the life of Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor). But it takes a totally unexpected turn when he meets a young man who has the same extrasensory abilities—that glow.
This is where a kind of sect comes in that hunts people like them in search of a path to immortality. And it is from this alliance between Danny and his new friend that she will have to face this new threat and the ghosts of the past.
Speaking like that, it sounds like a huge and confusing salad, but it’s the kind of supernatural suspense that King excels at, and revisiting this iconic universe of film history is a really must-see.
But of course there could not be a good supernatural suspense in our list, those who flirt with terror and make you cringe in front of the TV. In fact, the device is a fundamental part of the story of Poltergeist and the imagery of ghosts he introduced. After all, who has never died of fear when they saw a television turn on by itself or just stay in static?
In the film, a family is visited by ghosts who have a strange preference for manifesting themselves in objects in the house. They are chairs that move by themselves, glasses that break… But things start to evolve to the point where a child is swallowed by the TV. So, what to do to get rid of these spirits from your house?
Another thriller that flirts a lot with horror, Hereditary is one of the most tense films in this new wave of the genre. Instead of monsters and people dying in the most violent ways possible, the film bets on psychological and supernatural tension to build fear and does it all very well.
Given this, the story is even relatively simple, with a family discovering the secrets of their ancestors. It’s just that things get deeper and heavier until they get completely out of control, in a way we don’t expect.
Brown journalism also makes for a good suspense, especially when it shows what happens when ethics becomes the first victim of ambition. The feature film starring Jake Gyllenhaal tells the story of a young man who discovers how to make money by filming accidents, fires, murders and other police cases in order to sell the footage to TV shows. But the thing quickly gets out of hand.
Thus, the film creates its tension by presenting how a person can be consumed by this unscrupulous ambition and the consequences of this hunt for tragedies.
A classic of cinema and literature, The name of the Rose recreates the good old murder mystery in a very peculiar context. Instead of putting death in the middle of a city or something similar, the crime takes place inside a convent in the middle of the Middle Ages.
So, as monks begin to be murdered on the eve of the Pope’s visit, the race to find out what is going on begins. While part of the religious believe that it is the work of the devil to stop the work of the servants of God, a Franciscan friar — played by the legendary Sean Connery — develops a real detective work using logic to decipher the crime.
The highlight here goes beyond the suspense itself, but the excellent recreation of the Middle Ages and the always phenomenal acting of Connery. Of course, Umberto Eco’s original story is wonderful, but its transposition to the screen manages to maintain the level of classic with ease.
Speaking of murder, one of the most engaging films following this logic of serial killer It’s Seven: The Seven Deadly Crimes, starring Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt. The film follows two detectives who need to identify a murderer who kills his victims inspired by the seven deadly sins.
As if that wasn’t bizarre enough, the way the story is told and how these crimes involve the characters and the viewer make everything even more tense — especially when he brings major plot twists.
That old story that “nothing is as it seems” is a big cliché in cinematic suspense, but few things describe Fear Island as well as that. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring a Leonardo Di Caprio in excellent shape, the film plays with the viewer by subverting all expectations and creating twists that are simply impossible to predict.
Set in 1954, during the Cold War, the story focuses on two detectives who are called to a psychiatric prison in the middle of an island to investigate the disappearance of a patient. But the mysterious disappearance quickly becomes something even bigger and you are simply breathless when you find out what really happened there.
It’s impossible to talk about suspense without having this one of the greatest movie icons of all time. The illuminated it is, for many, Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece—and with good reason, as the film manages to express all its tension only through the performance of Jack Nicholson and the increasingly claustrophobic setting of that hotel isolated in the snow.
The curious thing is that, although inspired by Stephen King’s book of the same name, the film follows very different paths. So much so that it deals much less with paranormal events and extrasensory entities and creates a story that moves towards terror by being terrifyingly human. After all, it all comes down to a man who just goes crazy.
These changes displeased King to the point that the author wanted another adaptation of his work. only that The illuminated Kubrick’s is so iconic and striking that the other version has been completely forgotten from the public’s memory.
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