I might lose my press credentials for saying this, but there are a lot of terrible horror movies on Netflix. I’m all for sharing creativity, so I commend the streaming giant for housing all the movies that wouldn’t even be on the shelves at Blockbuster. But I swear “shlock” would be offended if it were used to describe titles like American Poltergeist, The Disappointments Room, and #Horror.
Anyways, the genre isn’t for everyone. That's why I've previously made lists of the best Netflix movies and shows to watch when you're stoned, the best action movies, best comedies, and best documentaries on Netflix, movies to watch when you're tripping, the best movies to watch when you're heartbroken, the finest Oscar-nominated movies new to Netflix, movies on Netflix that pass the Bechdel test, and the finest Oscar-nominated movies new to Netflix. But any gorehound will tell you, there is nothing quite like the thrill you get from watching a really scary movie. To help you give you that feeling, I culled Netflix (US) for its most frightening films. Here's what I found:
When it comes to terrors of the natural persuasion, there’s nothing scarier than getting lost in a place where no one can find you. Add in some mutant cannibals and ultra-claustrophobic camerawork and you’ve got the recipe for British director Neil Marshall’s hyper-violent adventure-horror about six women spelunkers who get trapped in an unexplored Appalachian cave system after a rock fall. Yodel and you die.
Children of the Corn
Bucking the then-popular slasher trend for a pastoral vibe that hits closer to home, this adaptation of a Stephen King short story about possessed children who murder all of the adults in their Nebraska town was lampooned in a South Park episode, so you know it’s part of the cultural unconscious. Watch this one if you’re not sure about having children.
For an 80s-horror update that won’t leave you scratching your head wondering why we’re so obsessed with station wagons and ranch-style homes lately, check out this self-assured seat-gripper from Detroit director David Robert Mitchell. It's sexy, respectful of the audience’s intelligence, and—unlike Stranger Things—actually cool, not just pretending to be. It Follows is the kind of horror film that will make you second-guess yourself next time you decide not to wrap it up.
The Human Centipede
Is there a more horrifying death than having your elbows and knees broken and mouth surgically attached to someone else’s asshole, while having someone else’s mouth surgically attached to yours, and suffering in agony for a few days as some sicko trains you to be his housepet until you inevitably succumb to the slow, nauseating delirium of sepsis? You decide.
Grief can be a slow-moving shadow that infiltrates every aspect of your life until it fully consumes you. Australian writer-director Jennifer Kent’s feature-length debut is like the death-meets-Dr. Seuss literalization of that. While it’s not as scary as you’d expect from the trailer, what The Babadook lacks in brutality it makes up for in its realistic depiction of psychological breakdown.
Clive Barker’s Hellraiser
OK, if you’ve seen Hellraiser and want to claim it’s Not That Scary, fine. Anyone who doesn’t appreciate Clive Barker for being Tom of Finland from Hell can go jump in Camp Crystal Lake like a jock normie. But if you are into demons, leather, and flaying, well you can slide right into my S&DMs. Hellraiser is basically Cruising with dimension-hopping jizz-gods. Come to daddy…
30 Days of Night
What began as a short run of comics turned into a pretty solid vampire film starring Josh Hartnett’s best tragic-hero character (his specialty) since The Faculty. When a remote Alaskan town just trying to cope with a month of darkness attracts a coven of sadistic vampires, a literal Hell on ice unfolds. The adventure-survival subgenre may not leave you fearful, but it’s certainly worth watching for a supremely satisfying final act.
The ABCs of Death
Ben Wheatley, Ti West, and Lee Hardcastle lend their talents to this anthology film where not every chapter is terrifying, but the ones that get under your skin will stay there for a long time. It’s sort of like the Mario Party of horror movies, where there’s something here for everyone, so maybe save The ABCs for your next actual get-together.
Georgie Wright at i-D wrote a great explanation on why you should watch this Spanish horror addition to Netflix. But it's safe to say that you might rethink your position on the supernatural altogether after you dive into the true story.
I’ve never met anyone else who’s seen this adaptation of Stephen King’s sci-fi body horror screamer, and that’s a shame because the terrifying and surprisingly poignant story was translated well by William Goldman. He's the same guy who wrote Marathon Man and Heat. I don’t want to give too much away but when four friends find something unnatural on a hunting trip, it’s up to them and a dead-serious Morgan Freeman to save no less than the entire planet. Also, even if Stephen King said he doesn’t love the book, it’s grisly, heartbreaking, and totally worth the vacation-read.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
American actor Jennifer Carpenter looks remarkably similar to Anneliese Michel, the German 23-year-old who inspired Carpenter’s character with her own brutally sad true-life story. The resemblance lends a gut-wrenching realness to this wildly successful demonic possession film. While I, a scholar, was disappointed by how succinctly the film did away with the allegations of religious abuse that loom over the real events, I did leave the theater considering a secondary career in exorcism (which is apparently more needed than ever these days!).
A peculiar air of mystery hangs over this Quebecois zombie survival film, making it all the more compelling than the seemingly endless melodrama of The Walking Dead. It’s also way more brutal than the AMC series: Real hopelessness comes from horror that happens in broad daylight and The Ravenous is about as out-in-the-open as it gets.
The Sixth Sense
Last Halloween, I wrote about how and why this movie traumatized me as a kid. Three reasons: Haley Joel Osment, gun violence, and totally helpless adults. Honestly, if you haven’t seen The Sixth Sense by 2018, you might be one of them.
The Good Son
If Kevin McCallister’s experiences with the Wet Bandits left him traumatized and he instead applied his Rube Goldberg-level genius towards becoming a depraved homicidal maniac, you’d wish they’d have left him Home Alone for good. This is perfect for fans of The Bad Seed, The Omen, and We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Sorry, but if you think I’m leaving one of the highest-grossing horror films ever made off of this list just because it’s "mainstream," you've wildly overestimated my hipsterdom. It’s time you get acquainted with what the entire rest of the world is talking about.
There are memes about how chilling this goddamn stop-motion animated film is. The story comes from a Neil Gaiman premise, and while it’s not as objectively scary as some of the other flicks on this list, I guarantee you’ll never look at buttons the same way again.
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