It’s difficult to put the effect of a good horror movie into words, but few cinematic experiences can match the vicarious thrill of watching others endure terrifying circumstances most of us will (thankfully) never have to go through ourselves. Here are 35 on Netflix that will get your heart racing.
“The end result provides a range of quality, from the inspired and creative to the lazy and insipid, but one that horror fans will certainly devour.” —Ryan Gowland
“British chiller ‘The Awakening,’ while certainly commercial, is a more old-fashioned kind of ghost story, firmly of a piece with recent genre hits like ‘The Others’ and ‘The Orphanage.’ With backing from BBC Films, and a strong cast led by Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton, it certainly seems to be on the classier side of the horror movie spectrum, and our hopes were high that it might provide a little change of pace. And so it did.” —Oliver Lyttleton
“A marvelous and plausible premise to launch a dark fable and a story of psychological horror, Aussie filmmaker Jennifer Kent’s promising debut is a terrific examination of the terrors of childhood, the isolating nature of single motherhood, the traumas of grief and the horrors of raising monstrous children.” —Rodrigo Perez
One of many stories by Stephen King to be adapted for film, “Children of the Corn” is a classic of the “creepy kid” genre — and most recently re-entered the public consciousness after a photo of the incoming First Family reminded everybody of it.
“The found-footage genre has a ceiling, one that Blum and his confederates would constantly bump up against. But with his newest found footage concoction ‘Creep,’ he seems to be going for something altogether different and way stranger — a funny/sad horror comedy that feels like the unholy union of ‘What About Bob’ and ‘Fatal Attraction.’ Blum has broken through that ceiling and has found something very weird on the other side.” —Drew Taylor
New Zealand isn’t exactly known as a horror hotbed, which is a bit odd when you remember that Peter Jackson got his start with such genre fare as “Bad Taste” and “Braindead.” Jason Lei Howden picks up that torch in his directorial debut, which concerns two metalheads who accidenally summon a demon.
Not that “Grindhouse” isn’t great, but this might be the best collaboration between Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. A vampire flick that doesn’t reveal itself as such until one key moment, it contains more quotable dialogue than most horror movies.
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”
“‘The Hallow” elevates its premise with utterly believable (and largely practical) effects as the forest slowly comes alive: Vines and shrubbery never looked this menacing before. A visual artist before he turned to cinema, Hardy’s atmospheric horror uses a series of familiar beats to churn out marvelously eerie storybook imagery, not to mention the world’s scariest fungus.” —Zack Sharf
Sure, you remember Pinhead from your childhood nightmares, but do you also remember the psychosexual overtones in Clive Barker’s own adaptation of his novel “The Hellbound Heart”? Revisit this one for a reminder of how bizarre the whole franchise is.
“Part of what makes ‘Holidays’ a devious delight is in bucking low expectations. With nine directors on tap to bring us eight spooky stories of the holidays, this easily could have been a by-the-numbers slice-and-dice parody. Yet the bulk of the tales reach for something stranger, unravelling the core of each holiday’s origins and spinning a sinister web.” —William Earl
Arguably Bong Joon-ho’s best film — though “Mother” and “Memories of Murder” might have something to say about that — “The Host” is the rare creature feature that lives up to the standard set by its decades-old predecessors.
Though found-footage and sequels dominate the box office as far as horror is concerned, a number of low-key indies have made for essential counterprogramming in recent years. Gerard Johnstone’s horror/comedy flick is on such film, and it tells of a woman under house arrest in what may or may not be a haunted house.
“The Human Centipede”
“One of the countless modestly budgeted genre efforts from producer Jason Blum’s Blumhouse model, ‘Hush’ is a solid example of its effectiveness. With a main cast of two and one eerie cabin-in-the-woods setting, the movie is continually engaging without any fancy tricks, aside from its heroine’s relationship to her surroundings.” —EK
Writer/director Oz Perkins’ old-school horror flick premiered in Toronto last year, earning strong reviews for its literary bent and reliance on mood and atmosphere rather than jump scares.
“If Kusama’s films to date have a single theme linking all of them together, it’s that life is a constant battleground, no matter the specifics. That makes ‘The Invitation’ her definitive statement, as it lands on the suggestion that surviving one tumultuous experience only leads to more of the same.” —EK
“There’s nothing as inherently terrifying as the steady approach of an evil presence that just keeps on coming. ‘It Follows’ explores the intimate aspects of that fear by suggesting that it will never, ever dissipate.” —EK
We’re gonna need a bigger blurb. One of the most influential movies of all time — and something like the textbook definition of the word “blockbuster” — “Jaws” introduced the world to both Steven Spielberg and the concept of high-concept fare dominating the summer box office. At least one of those has proven to be a welcome addition to cinema.
“It involves axe handles, zombies, mutant leeches, axe heads, hardware store trips and answering a dead man as to whether or not the axe in question is the same that killed him. Confused? If you are, then you don’t want to stick around. If you’re too overjoyed that the spiritual successor to Sam Raimi has appeared, you’re in luck.” —John Lichman
“Calling ‘Odd Thomas’ the best Dean Koontz adaptation yet feels like damning it with faint praise, but it’s true. Too bad it’s barely getting released.” —DT
“A minimalist horror movie, ‘Pontypool’ relies more on the vague suggestions of a mass, unexplainable catastrophe just beyond our realm of awareness — not unlike M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Signs,’ but much, much better.” —EK
Loosely based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, Stuart Gordon’s tale of a scientist who, like so many before him, considers it a good idea to try bringing the dead back to life, is an over-the-top good time.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so why not unwind with perhaps the greatest — and scariest — horror movie of all time?
If you’ve ever thought that Hollywood sems a bit cult-like, “Starry Eyes” may be the movie for you. Alex Essoe plays an aspiring actress who gets what might be the role of a lifetime after a casting director notices walks in on her during a fit of anxiety; things get stranger and more body horror–esque from there as she becomes more and more like the character she’s been hired to play.
George A. Romero created this anthology series, which ran for four seasons beginning in 1983. Like a darker version of “The Twilight Zone,” the show was structured as a series of short stories with frequent twist endings. (Netflix)
“Cutting between various chilling anecdotes of sinister late night visions and horrifying reenactments, ‘The Nightmare’ manages a tricky balance of visceral fright and sincere investigation. It’s a rare non-fiction achievement that earns the ability to freak you out.” —EK
“As a horror movie that’s incredibly effective and yet evaporates pretty quickly once it’s over, Scott Derrickson’s ‘Sinister’ defines the difference between ‘scary’ and ‘haunting.’ Truthfully it’s a balance of a lot of things — ghost story versus murder mystery, found-footage ‘realism’ versus pure fiction, theatricality versus raw emotion — but it exemplifies an era in which audiences, much less filmmakers, no longer distinguish between suspense and terror, which is why their payoffs work twice as brilliantly but linger half as long.” —Todd Gilchrist
“Riffing on the DIY monster-movie approach of ‘Cloverfield’ and the absurd supernatural premise of ‘Ghostbusters,’ Norwegian mockumentary “The Troll Hunter” offers high-caliber entertainment despite a low-budget production. The shaky camera suggests ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ but writer-director Andre Ovredal’s impressive array of fantastical creatures, and the film itself, plays more like ‘Jurassic Park.'” —EK
“Though it ultimately falls back on the usual pileup of scare tactics — floating things, gooey things, sudden forms emerging from the shadows — Anvari uses this toolbox in a pointed fashion. ‘Under the Shadow’ smartly observes the emotions stirred up by a world defined by restrictions, and the terrifying possibility that they might be inescapable.” —EK
“The ‘found footage’ horror movie has been, if you will, done to death. Handheld camcorder footage provides an excuse to eschew cinematic storytelling in favor of sloppiness, under the assumption that the amateur quality fits the narrative. The anthology horror movie ‘V/H/S’ is a sharp rebuke to this laziness, delivering the creepiest first-person horror movie since the original ‘Paranormal Activity’ while pushing the genre in a fresh direction with the sheer visceral energy of its execution.” —EK
“Already a monster hit back home, Na Hong-jin’s spellbinding and scatterbrained “The Wailing” is 156 minutes of demented occult nonsense that gradually begins to feel less like a linear scary story than that it does a ritualistic invocation of the antichrist.” —DE
Ted Geoghegan earned strong reviews for his film, which premiered at South by Southwest two years ago and follows an aging couple whose grief is compounded when their house comes alive.
“‘We Are What We Are,’ Mickle’s loose remake of Jorge Michel Grau’s 2009 Mexican cannibal tale, brings the filmmaker’s distinct blend of the elegant and the macabre to its ultimate realization. Outdoing the original by a long shot, Mickle’s slow-burn take on the story is poetic, creepy and, finally, satisfyingly gross.” —EK
Freddy Kreuger gets meta in what’s easily the weirdest, most ambitious chapter of his decades-old saga. In some ways a precusor to Craven’s “Scream” franchise, “New Nightmare” acknowledges the slasher villain as a fictional character — not that that stops him from entering the real world and offing the people involved in making movies about him.