Streaming services are loaded with action movies and Adam Sandler comedies, but they are practically overflowing with horror flicks. Maybe it’s the number of great titles; maybe it’s the number of horror fans? Either way, it’s almost impossible to choose from the thousands of options.
But that’s what we’re here for. As we braved the dark woods of eight streaming services–Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, etc…– we came out with a grab bag of excellent titles, iconic moments, and classic villains. Dive in and be warned: these aren’t for the faint of heart.
The Evil Dead (HBO Max):
Sometimes, you just want to watch a guy take on a bunch of monsters. The Evil Dead recognizes that. They ditched the plot for a monster mash with more blood, jump-scares, and tree rapes than any other genre flick to date. Maybe they could have done without the tree rape, but the DIY camerawork from Sam Raimi remains one of the most impressive feats of cinematography in modern cinema.
28 Days Later (HBO Max):
If you don’t want to watch a movie about a plague, we get it. That being said, 28 Days Later is a savage, terrifying film brimming with scares and memorable moments. It’s so good Robert Kirkman cited it as the inspiration for The Walking Dead.
Annihilation (Paramount +):
The biggest horror film of 2018 was Annihilation. While it turned out to be more sci-fi than horror, it still had a few scares. The Tarkovksy-inspired journey into the zone–a fluorescent bubble where animals grow flowers and soldiers grow weary–is a mind-fuck you won’t soon forget.
House (HBO Max):
Speaking of mind-fucks, House is the closest thing to acid on the market. Want to see evil pianos, magic cats, and talking bananas without the come-down of psychedelics? Boy, do we have the movie for you. Nobuhiko Obayashi’s debut feature is like a mix between Scooby-Do and The Magical Mystery Tour, Suspiria and Salvador Dali. You have to see it to believe it.
The Ring (Hulu):
The Ring is also a mind trip but in a different way. It’s a Japanese film with a cool premise and a crazy ending. The scene where a woman crawls out of a well and into a TV is just as nuts as anything in House or Annihilation. Maybe even more so…
Black Narcissus (Criterion Channel):
Black Narcissus is the fifth feature from The Archers. It’s not their best by any means, but then again, they did make some of the best movies of all time. How could anything top The Red Shoes or A Canterbury Tale? That being said, they did invent the Evil Nun movie with this 1947 classic, an atmospheric slice of Technicolor that would go on to inspire Benedetta and The Nun.
His House (Netflix):
Netflix’s latest horror effort enters the realm of the supernatural. It involves a house that is haunted and a couple who are trapped, along with a lesson on what it’s like to be an immigrant in England. Haunted houses are scary, but moving to a place where no one looks like you can be even scarier.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Tubi):
No, not the Donald Sutherland version. Sutherland was still a child at this point. The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an American classic from Don Siegal, a notably better filmmaker than Phillip Kaufman. His version of the aliens-disguised-as-humans tale is a metaphor for communism and the evils that hide in plain sight, making it all the more terrifying when “pod people” start showing up out of nowhere.
The Shining (HBO Max):
We had to get some Kubrick on here. The Shining is his only “horror film,” but all of his films have elements of horror: a gang of rapists (A Clockwork Orange), a man who crumbles (Barry Lyndon), a species that vanishes (2001: A Space Odyssey). Kubrick is low-key a maestro of terror, which has never been more apparent than in the jarring, color-coded corridors of The Shining. Jack Nicholson plays a father with an axe to grind. After a month at the Overlook Hotel, he starts to lose his mind and chases his family around like a pack of mice. Redrum ensues.
It’s giant alligators! What could be more fun than that? I’ll wait…
Eyes Without a Face (Criterion Channel):
You may not have heard of it, but Eyes Without a Face is one of the most influential movies ever made. The film inspired The Skin I Live In, as well as directors like Guillermo del Toro. It follows a plastic surgeon who murders college students so he can peel off their faces and attach them to his daughter, whose skin was damaged in a car accident. The images are grim, the score poetic, and the ending gives new meaning to “saving face.”
Rear Window (Criterion Channel):
It’s a story that has been told a million times over. Someone looks into their neighbor’s window. Then, a murder happens, and they call a friend to investigate. Disturbia and The Woman in the Window are based on the same premise. The only one that matters, however, is Hitchcock’s version in which a man realizes a woman has gone missing.
The first Halloween was top-notch and really changed the game. Then, we got a couple of sequels that were…fine. Maybe evil isn’t as scary when you know the heroine is going to survive, and survive, and survive, and survive. I’m starting to think Lauri Strode is the immortal one, not Michael Meyers. Anywho, John Carpenter’s original has real stakes and real tension. The gliding camera, the harpsichord score, the opening shot, the Final Girl… not even 11 sequels can take away the novelty of Carpenter’s magnum opus.
It Follows (Netflix):
Is it a movie about STDs, or is it an advertisement for condoms? I can’t think of another movie about the importance of wearing protection, which means David Robert Mitchell’s directorial debut is in a class of its own. It follows a woman who is haunted by a demon that was transmitted to her through sex. Will she pass it on? Or will she keep running? The answer is never clear.
Pan’s Labyrinth (Netflix):
Guillermo del Toro is at the forefront of Dark Fantasy, and he broke into the mainstream with Pan’s Labyrinth. Part of his skill is in bringing creativity and reality together. The story of a girl in another world may not seem realistic, but it’s grounded in the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, child abuse, and neglect. Even in a movie that features a monster called “Pale Man,” the real monsters are human.
The Invisible Man (HBO Max):
You think you have boyfriend issues… Cecilia’s got a boyfriend who is invisible and wants to trap her in a mansion. She tries to run, but only he can hide.
The Omen (Hulu):
Not every movie with an evil kid works, but this one does. Damien is the kind of child you would never allow anywhere near your son, or yourself. There’s a reason he has a new nanny every
month, and it’s not because of poor pay. Suffice to say people go missing, funerals are held and death greets visitors at the door like a welcome mat.
Poltergeist (HBO Max):
We know Steven Spielberg as a director, but he’s actually become quite the producer as well. He produced some of the best movies of the 1980s, and his imprint is all over this effects-heavy ghost story. When a girl begins conversing with her television set, strange things start to happen. Soon, she’s kidnapped by a malevolent force. Before you can say “phone home,” she’s trying to contact her parents from another world.
Not to be confused with Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria, this Suspiria is about a teen who enters a dance academy run by witches. At some point, she will have to find their coven and stop them from killing more dancers. Good luck… The academy is an unparalleled maze of Gothic architecture, trapped doors, and fountains of crimson blood. The Goblin score turns every staircase into a stairway to hell.
The Wicker Man (Amazon Prime, premium):
It’s a horror film. It’s a comedy. It’s a folk tale. It’s a travelog. The Wicker Man is all those things and more. A policeman arrives on an island to investigate a 12-year-old girl’s disappearance, which the locals claim they know nothing about. Things come to head when their rituals (pole dancing?) start to seem more and more satanic, leading to an ending you won’t see coming, and won’t soon forget.
The Lighthouse (Amazon Prime):
Is it a horror flick? Of course it is! I don’t get why so many genre fans were so easy to dismiss this black-and-white chamber piece when it packed more tension into a single frame than most movies do in an entire runtime.
Night of the Living Dead (Criterion Channel):
Night of the Living Dead may not have invented the zombie movie, or the DIY movement, like so many people seem to think. But it did take horror out of the realm of castles and shadows and into the light of modern-day. Director George Romero says that most of what made his debut so special–the hand-held camera, the natural light–were just the product of low-budget filmmaking. Yeah, right. Only a genius could have pulled off what Romero does here.
Les Diaboliques (Criterion Channel):
M. Night Shyamalan must have watched Les Diaboliques at least 20 times before making The Sixth Sense. The film follows a similar trajectory: after Nicole drowns her husband in a bathtub, she dumps his body in a pond. Then she starts seeing her husband around town. Is he alive? Or does she see dead people? Hmmm, I wonder?
Carrie is now streaming on Shudder, so naturally, we had to include it. This was Sissy Spacek’s first role, and she couldn’t have been better. It’s not every day you get to see someone this talented in a picture this well-directed.
Midsommar (Amazon Prime):
Ari Aster once described Midsommar as The Wizard of Oz on mushrooms, which makes sense. The yellow brick road is one hell-of-a-drug in Midsommar. There are lots of distorted images, trippy colors, and mangled minds on the road to this Swedish festival. We aren’t in Kansas anymore, that’s for sure.
Hereditary (Hulu, premium):
Hereditary is also directed by Ari Aster. And like Midsommar, it centers on a woman trying to keep her relationship together. Toni Collette plays Annie, an artist who loses her mother and is afraid of losing her husband as well. She makes miniatures of her house that are soon more than miniatures; they are prophecies of what’s to come. If you haven’t already seen this knockout debut, what are you waiting for?
Eraserhead (Criterion Channel):
I love everything about Eraserhead. The cast is great, the atmosphere is eerie, the concept is brilliant. The story is based on the birth of David Lynch’s daughter, though the baby looks closer to a water bottle than a human being. Not everyone will be on its wavelength, but I certainly was.
Vampyr (Criterion Channel):
There are more vampire movies out there than Starbucks Coffees, but Vampyr doesn’t look like any of them. It’s more dream than movie, more mood than murder. It’s everything Blade is not: quiet, meditative and bone-chilling.
Jaws (Amazon Prime):
Jaws is the best thing Spielberg has ever made, full stop. As much as we love E.T. Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park, nothing tops the thrill of spending a weekend in Amity with Robert Shaw, Roy Schnieder, Richard Dreyfuss, and a giant shark.
The Conjuring (Netflix):
For this last one, we wanted to give you something everyone can enjoy. The Conjuring is the kind of movie that appeals to horror buffs and Marvel fans, thrill-seekers, and scaredy-cats. Somehow this throwback is a favorite among all demographics. Even teenage girls think The Conjuring is, like, totally cool.