Extra Credit: The 10 Best Horror Movies Currently Streaming on Netflix Instant
It’s October and you know what means — it’s time to dust off the horror genre and spend a few weeks screaming at your television. Since actually getting off your couch and actually getting a movie off the shelf is too much effort, we’ve gone ahead and done all of the hard work for you. Here are the 10 best horror movies currently streaming on Netflix Instant. From bonafide classics to newer discoveries, these movies have a little something for everyone.
You may also note that four of these movies are also on ScreenCrush’s 25 Best Horror Movies of the Past 25 Years list. In other words, 100% of this website recommends 40% of these movies. But that’s enough math. You really can’t go wrong with anything here.
You don’t have see the first V/H/S to appreciate its entirely unconnected sequel. A horror anthology collecting four “found footage” tales from four different directors, V/H/S/2 is unique among its anthology brethren in that none of its individual sequences is weak. There is nothing bad here, only “good,” “very good, “HOLY SH*T DID YOU SEE THAT” and “excellent.” Although each filmmaker delivers, it is the third segment from directors Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto that feels truly genre-defying and vital. At 40 minutes, “Safe Haven” is one of the longer short films you will ever see but it also, maybe, the best found footage anything ever produced.
How’s this for a premise: a young petty criminal is caught after bungling an idiotic crime and sentenced house arrest in her childhood home. Unable to leave, she suddenly beguns to suspect that the house is haunted. Chaos ensues. Like Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson and Edgar Wright before him, Housebound writer/director Gerard Johnstone has a talent for infusing comedy into his horror. But unlike those two obvious influences, he is very much his own artist. Housebound’s ability to effortlessly glide between silly character comedy, jump scares and sudden, vicious gore is delightful, with the comedy never dulling the terror and vice versa. This is also a smart film whose central mystery is genuinely intriguing. You don’t just wait around waiting for revelations between scares – this is a movie that demands you put on your investigator hat and play along.
There has never been a movie quite like Ravenous. It’s almost unfair to just call it a horror movie when it’s really it’s own bizarre beast. It exists alone. Whatever it is, it’s terrific, weird entertainment. Antonia Bird’s perfectly mixed cocktail of grim humor, vicious violence, and period detail follows a team of soldiers who depart their isolated 18th century outpost in the Sierra Madre to track down a killer cannibal. To say more would be unfair, as Ravenous wraps up what you’d think is its entire plot by the halfway point, doubling back on itself and becoming something that you never saw coming. Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, and Jeffrey Jones are the standouts from the cast (a who’s who of character actors), but it is Bird’s flexible atmosphere, powered by the strangest musical score you will ever hear, that is the real star.
7. Let the Right One In
The American remake of Let the Right One In (Matt Reeves’ Let Me In) is pretty good. The Swedish original is a masterpiece. A coming of age story that tracks the burgeoning relationship between a disturbed young boy and an ageless vampire girl (who just so happens to look his age), this is a brutal and oddly sweet examination of childhood. It just happens to have more eviscerations. Director Tomas Alfredson is a master of atmosphere and every frame of his movie is dark and beautiful, but his real secret weapon is his storytelling. He refuses to give the audience easy answers and allows the actions of characters to speak for themselves, even when those actions can’t be very easily pinned down. Let the Right One In is scary and challenging and perfect for fueling post-movie conversations that go late into the night.
6. The Babadook
The Babadook is a horror-art film that uses a terrifying monster to tell the most human of stories. Just don’t let the “art” part scare you off – this movie is just as much fun as anything else you’ll find on Netflix. You’ll just feel all the more fulfilled when the credits roll. On the surface, the film is about a widow and her young son who are terrorized by a monster that enters their lives through a cursed children’s book. Under that initial layer of flesh, it’s a movie about how a mother must deal with the grief of losing the love of her life when she must spend every waking minute caring for a walking, breathing reminder of what she’s lost. These two ideas merge perfectly, with Essie Davis’ towering lead performance uniting The Babadook’s chills and its artistic ambitions.
According to our list that was decided with a group vote, Wes Craven’s Scream is the second greatest horror movie of the past 25 years. It falls a little lower on this list because we’re applying different criteria, but that doesn’t change a thing. This movie hit the horror genre like a freight train plowing through a pile of cantaloupes and we’re still sorting through the gooey wreckage today. A riff on the slasher genre that also functions as a top-notch slasher movie. Scream acknowledges its debt to horror movies by referencing them and their unwritten rules … and it then it throws those rules away and paves its own way. Don’t let the lesser sequels besmirch your memory of the original. It’s just as good as you remember. And if you haven’t seen this one yet, you have some Halloween homework ahead of you.
4. The Fly
You haven’t properly celebrated Halloween until you’ve watched a Vincent Price movie and thankfully, one of his very best films is available for steaming right now. You may have already seen David Cronenberg’s nasty, intensely emotional 1986 remake of The Fly, but know this: Kurt Newumann’s 1958 original is just as good, albeit not as gory. The premise is the same: a genius scientist invents a teleportation device, decides to test it out himself, doesn’t realize that there’s fly in the machine with him, and … well, let’s just say that things do not go well for anyone. What follows is one of the most tragic horror stories of the 1950s, where the central monster is a victim and the mission to destroy him is an act of mercy. As the scientist’s brother, Price gets to sit on the sidelines, lending his iconic voice and presence to the proceedings. No one has ever been a better tour guide through hell.
Hellraiser has become so known for its countless turgid sequels that it can be easy to forget that the original is one of the best horror movies ever made. Lurid and unforgiving, it represents a high watermark that writer/director Clive Barker never quite managed to top again. Although the sado-masochistic demon known as “Pinhead” ultimately became the face of this franchise, he is a supporting character in the first film, where he’s also his most effective (that’s no coincidence). The real villains here are Larry and Julia, played with unnerving menace by Andrew Robinson and Claire Higgins, whose brushes with the supernatural literally bring hell down upon the house that they share with young Kirsty (Ashley Laurence). The human face of evil on display in Hellraiser, and their conflict with hellish “Cenobites” who are just doing their job, makes this one of the most unique horror movies to come out a decade in which the genre copied and pasted the same thing over and over again. Hellraiser has mood to spare, mysteries to get lost in, and gore that will make you lose your lunch. It’s a complete package.
2. Rosemary’s Baby
Rosemary’s Baby is a slow and methodical film. It doesn’t contain a single scare, but it does contain scene after scene of dread and menace, documenting a bad situation as it steadily blossoms into the worst-possible-scenario status. The plot known even to those who haven’t seen the movie. Mia Farrow is the Rosemary of the title, who begins to suspect that her neighbors have ill intentions for the child growing within her womb. By the time things take an overt left turn into Satan-town, it’s too late to turn back. Rosemary’s Baby is one of Roman Polanksi’s most famous and successful films, but it is also one of his best. Here is a filmmaker with the patience and eye of a fine artist turning his attention to the most populist of genres. The results are unforgettable.
1. The House of the Devil
Do you want to watch a movie that evokes the feeling of walking through a dark and unfamiliar place? Do you want to watch a movie that will make you shiver in a warm room? Do you want to watch a movie that should be watched in a room lit only by the glow of a Jack-o-Lantern? Ti West’s The House of the Devil is a perfect Halloween movie, a tour through a waking nightmare that only grows steadily more intense with each passing minute. Although known for its infamously “slow” pace, the film is never boring. You are awash with dread from the first frames as you wait (and wait) for the hammer to drop and for this suspicious babysitting gig to go horribly wrong. And oh boy, it sure goes wrong, but West milks that build-up for all that it’s worth before unleashing hell. The House of the Devil may be an experiment in mood, a deliberate throwback to the horror thrillers of the ’70s and ’80s, but you won’t find another horror movie more exciting or thoroughly modern on Netflix.