The big streaming services always have a ton of horror movies on offer, but not all of them are especially fright-inducing. In honor of Halloween, put all the Sharknado and Gingerdead Man sequels aside in favor of actually scaring the bejesus out of yourself. Each of these 11 movies will haunt your nightmares.
Before he was lured to the US to remake The Hills Have Eyes (and, a few years later, helm Piranha 3D), French director Alexandre Aja made this blood-spattered thriller that gained international acclaim thanks to its liberal use of old-school practical effects and a last-act mindfuck of a plot twist. It’s about two young women, Marie and Alex, who decide to spend the weekend with Alex’s family at their isolated home. Too bad a serial killer is determined to have the girls—and anyone who gets in his way—as his next prizes. The movie is so gruesome that its original version required trimming to come in line with an R rating (Hulu, of course, has the R-rated version), but even hardcore gorehounds won’t walk away disappointed.
I Saw the Devil
South Korean director Kim Jee-woon (A Tale of Two Sisters) and a fantastic cast (headed up by Oldboy’s Choi Min-sik and The Magnificent Seven’s Lee Byung-hun) anchor this cat-and-mouse tale of a cop whose dogged pursuit of a brutal serial killer morphs from professional to deeply personal to something very, very dark. The whole “I become the monster I am chasing” plot has been done many times before, but I Saw the Devil is so well-made—with great performances and gorgeous (which, yes, sometimes translates to “ghoulishly visceral”) filmmaking—that it doesn’t feel like another do-over.
Berberian Sound Studio
I’ve heaped praise on this terrifying movie before, but it’s so good I’m risking redundancy by including it again. The always excellent Toby Jones plays a British sound engineer, hence the title, whose gig working on a 1970s erotic horror movie in Italy starts off weird and only gets weirder, as elements from the movie-within-the-movie (delightfully titled The Equestrian Vortex) begin bleeding into real life. If you’re a fan of Mario Bava or Dario Argento or giallo movies in general, Peter Strickland’s love letter to the genre is a note-perfect, shriek-filled must-watch.
Train to Busan
When a workaholic (Gong Yoo) reluctantly agrees to chaperone his young daughter (Kim Su-an) from Seoul to Busan on her birthday, their high-speed train soon becomes one of the few places in South Korea that isn’t crawling with zombies... for a while. But after the rampaging undead soon infiltrate some of the cars, the ragtag group of survivors (a clever mix of teenage baseball players, rich assholes, elderly sisters, a pregnant woman, and a badass homeless man, to name just a few) don’t exactly band together to protect each other. Some unlikely heroes do emerge, of course, giving the film a surprising amount of heart... amidst all the horrifying tooth-gnashing and flesh-ripping, that is. Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan is easily one of the best zombie movies in recent years, and one of the most disturbing.
So many horror movies feel exactly alike these days that it’s cause for celebration when something unique comes along—bonus points if it’s artistically executed, and triple-bonus points if it’s legitimately scary. It Follows takes a basic horror concept (a young woman stalked by a monster) and makes it even scarier by making it oddly ordinary, having the monster look like a regular person that just keeps moving toward its target. It’s slow, but it never, ever stops, and eventually, inevitably, it’s going to reach its prey. Maika Monroe is likable as the would-be final girl facing an extremely baffling threat, and filmmaker David Robert Mitchell’s stylistic choices—including using a pulsing electronic soundtrack (way before Stranger Things did)—tighten the screws of tension throughout.
The Creep sequel has just been released and will be hitting Netflix soon, so here’s your chance to get acquainted with Mark Duplass’ title character in the film that started it all. Director Patrick Brice also co-stars with Duplass in the movie, playing a filmmaker who thinks he’s been summoned to a remote cabin for a simple documentary gig... but soon realizes his subject is seriously, dangerously unhinged. Found-footage horror has long since worn out its welcome, but a shudder-inducing movie like Creep can make you realize there’s still some creative life left in the genre. It will also remind you, for the millionth time, why you should never trust anyone you meet through Craigslist.
A stranger in a small town. A string of mysterious deaths. A policeman who also happens to be a flawed human being (Kwak Do-wong) tasked with the most bizarre and violent case he’s ever encountered. So far, that could be just about any crime thriller you’ve ever seen, but South Korean director Na Hong-jing loads up his film with dread and atmosphere, weaves in some very unnerving supernatural elements, and maintains a tone where the lead character (and therefore, the audience) is never quite sure exactly what’s real and what’s being conjured by the spirit realm. The evil spirit realm, to be clear.
Under the Shadow
First-time feature director Babak Anvari gives his film plenty of suspense right off the bat with its fraught setting, 1980s Tehran. Amid widespread political and social unrest, a young family struggles when father Iraj (Bobby Naderi), a doctor, is sent to aid troops fighting in the Iran-Iraq war. Sheltering in their city apartment amid air raid sirens and (eventually) an actual bomb strike, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) and her little girl, Dorsa (Avin Manshadi), find their psychological stress compounded by something even scarier: the intrusion of a ghostly djinn. The presence soon escalates from pilfering beloved objects to an endgame of deepest malevolence, and the resulting terror is relentless.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
There’s nothing supernatural in John McNaughton’s 1986 low-budget thriller, unless the deeply diseased mind of a serial killer counts—and it probably should, because this movie will freak the hell out of you. Technically, there are two serial killers in this crime tale, which is loosely based on the notorious real-life duo of Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole. Michael Rooker has gone on to do zillions of amazing things—he’s Mary Poppins, y’all!—but once you see him as Henry, you won’t soon forget his chilling performance. The movie has arguably one of the scary-movie genre’s first found-footage sequences, when the slaughter of a family is captured through the lens of a video camera, as well as one of the most upsettingly understated endings in all of horror.
You may remember “Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”, but the real impact of The Witch comes from the skin-crawlingly agonizing build-up to it. Yeah, Satan is spooky, but he’s not even really the villain in Robert Eggers’ debut film. The true terror experienced by Puritan teen Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy, in a stunning breakout performance) comes from living a backbreaking farm life in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by an repressive family that’s determined to crush her spirit and, probably, sell her into indentured servitude and/or accuse her of being a broom-riding you-know-what. The attention to detail in this film is incredible; it feels so real that you can really understand what its young heroine is going through—which is, of course, nightmare upon desperate nightmare, building to a finale that delivers some very well-earned payoff.
The Witch director Robert Eggers is working on a remake of this silent classic, and while his version is sure to be gorgeous, there’ll be no topping F.W. Murnau’s classic of German Expressionism—and of vampire cinema. Though it’s heavily inspired by Dracula (to the extent that lawsuits were filed by Bram Stoker’s irritated heirs), Nosferatu crafts a strange magic all its own. Its most iconic moments, nearly all courtesy of the mysterious actor Max Schreck as the dreadful Count Orlok, are still as ghastly as they were back in 1922: The Count gliding up from his maritime coffin in a single motion, or creeeeeping up the stairs in shadow, his long, pointy fingernails mirroring the fangs he’s planning on sinking into the lovely throat of his next victim.