What better way to indulge your taste for the pants-fillingly frightening than to dim the lights, curl up on the sofa and watch a horror film?
There’s a terrifying treasure trove of scary movies available on streaming services like Netflix, Now and Prime Video. Here, you’ll find the Stuff team’s pick of Netflix’s selection. Whether you like your horror movies bloody, creepy, arty or with a twist of comedy, there’s sure to be something in here that’ll put the willies up you.
Searching for scares on a different streaming service? We’ve got you covered:
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It: Chapter Two
Concluding Andy Muschietti’s two-part adaptation of Stephen King’s classic chiller, It: Chapter Two sees our heroes the Losers gang, having grown up and moved on (or attempted to) from the trauma events of their childhood, reunited when demonic entity Pennywise returns to their hometown of Derry.
While Chapter Two doesn’t always hit the horrifying heights of the first film, it’s a well-crafted dose of creepiness, and the group dynamic between the Losers keeps the human element strong. That being said, at well over two hours you may find it something of a slog towards the end; the bloat doesn’t do its scariness many favours.
A bleak forest, a failed harvest, a creepy set of twins, a disappeared infant – and a strangely aggressive goat called Black Phillip. The Lighthouse director Robert Eggers’ debut film The Witch really ticks off the classic horror tropes as it tells the story of a farming family’s brush with the paranormal in colonial America.
Ye olde worlde 17th century dialogue might be jarring at first, but it stokes the feeling of authenticity and adds to the film’s tremendous sense of otherworldliness. If you’re looking for copious gore or jump scares go elsewhere – The Witch is built around atmosphere, psychology and creeping paranoia instead.
The Invisible Man
In this creepy psychological thriller, Elisabeth Moss plays a young woman who believes she’s being stalked by her abusive, controlling ex-boyfriend – a wealthy tech bro who may have invented a way to make himself totally invisible. With friends and family waving away her suspicions as trauma-fuelled delusions, she is forced to face down her imperceptible tormentor alone. It might not have anything in common with H.G. Wells’ original sci-fi tale, but this movie feels timely, taut and tense.
Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne play a married couple who move into a new house only to find that they and their young children may not be the only inhabitants. When their elder son Dalton falls into a mysterious coma and a series of unexplainable events and sightings prompt them to seek help, it transpires that something truly evil is at work – and they may have to sacrifice everything to save Dalton’s soul.
James Wan’s modern update on the classic haunted house tale comes complete with jump scares, eerie sounds and furniture with a life of its own – a good old-fashioned ghost story that doesn’t require you to turn your brain on.
Pet Sematary (1989)
This Stephen King adaptation gave millions of 1980s kids sleepless nights and, while it might have lost its edge somewhat a few decades later, it’s still a lot scarier than the recent remake – a sign that some things are better left alone. That’s actually the main theme of the movie, in which a family moving to a house in a spooky forest discovers that things buried in the nearby pet cemetery don’t stay underground for long – and when they come back, they’re not quite the same as before…
To say any more risks dulling this film’s sharp edges, so if you haven’t seen it, do dive in.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake takes George A. Romero’s classic horror film (a wry commentary on America’s braindead consumerist culture), throws out all satirical intent and dials everything to 11. Snyder’s zombies sprint rather than shamble, there’s gunplay and gore aplenty and the overall feel is more akin to an action-thriller than a subversively intellectual horror flick. That said, this movie, in which a squabbling group of survivors hole up in a suburban shopping mall, is a whole heap of dumb fun.
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A family tragedy leads to young American Dani (Florence Pugh) deciding to accompany her boyfriend and his grad-school pals on a vacation to a remote part of Sweden. Their destination is a folk festival celebrating the summer solstice, but Dani’s less interested in fertility rites and feasts than she is in addressing her relationship troubles in the peace and quiet of the idyllic countryside. Quickly, however, it becomes apparent that the local customs are a little more extreme than prancing around the maypole, and she has no choice but to take notice.
Director Ari Aster takes the young travellers and viewers alike on a bright psychedelic trip into ancient pagan rituals, mental trauma and a climax that’s nigh-on impossible to shake off.
One of the few 90s horror movies that isn’t postmodern, teen-based or both, Candyman (loosely based on a Clive Barker short story) is something of an elevated slasher flick, examining class and racism while delivering plenty of frights. Tony Todd is unnerving as the hook-handed title character, a mythical boogieman who’ll reportedly appear if you utter his name five times. When a Chicago grad student becomes fascinated with this urban legend, she discovers that some folk tales are best left unexplored.
The Blair Witch Project
It wasn’t the first horror movie to use the found footage angle (some might call it “gimmick”) but The Blair Witch Project was the first to break into the mainstream. A true box office smash, its success was partly thanks to a marketing campaign that hinted at the movie being a true story.
Was this real-life footage we were watching, cobbled together from tapes discovered after a trio of college film students vanished in the Maryland woods? Of course it wasn’t – but the lo-fi handheld footage, unknown cast and their convincing sense of mounting panic as they realise they may not be alone in the forest all serve to create a disturbingly authentic feel. In the years since its release we’ve been deluged with similar films, but this remains one of the best, and creepiest, examples.
The Descent is the horrifyingly claustrophobic tale of a group of women taking what’s supposed to be a cathartic caving trip in the Appalachian Mountains. As you’ve probably guessed, the spelunking quickly turns sour, the general dangers of underground rock climbing somewhat compounded by the fact that there seems to be something inhuman lurking in the inky subterranean gloom.
The Purge (2013)
In a near-future USA, crime has been all but eliminated, the economy is flourishing, and everybody coexists in productive harmony. For 364 days of the year, at least. During the annual “purge”, crime becomes legal for a night and you’re free to grab a baseball bat, head out into the evening and bash your neighbour’s kneecaps in. Unless your neighbour is rich, in which they’re probably safely tucked away behind the best security system money can buy. Some things never change.
The purge is seen as society’s safety valve, releasing a year’s worth of pent-up aggression in an orgy of violence before people return to their law-abiding normal lives – but when one wealthy family finds their security shutters inadequate and a murderous masked gang at their door, they’re forced to question their former belief in the system.
Blood Red Sky
What do you get when you mash up From Dusk till Dawn, Air Force One and Snakes on a Plane? Something like Blood Red Sky, a German film (with, curiously, about two-thirds of its dialogue in English) in which a transatlantic flight is hijacked by murderous terrorists. Seeking to protect her young son, a mother with a mysterious illness decides to take drastic action.
Despite its b-movie DNA and relatively low budget, Blood Red Sky offers an enjoyable twist on a bunch of familiar movie tropes, and its practical special effects work well. Perfect fodder for a midweek movie night.
Drag Me to Hell
Sam Raimi’s 2009 popcorn-horror recalls his breakout hit Evil Dead by sprinkling its over-the-top jump scares and gross-out SFX with plenty of knowing humour. When Alison Lohman’s ambitious bank clerk tries to impress her boss by repossessing a penniless old woman’s house, she ends up on the receiving end of a gypsy curse – and this particular spell goes a lot further than warts, nightmares or bad luck. Can she reverse the curse before it’s too late?
Some of the CGI effects haven’t aged particularly well, but it doesn’t knock this fun old-school horror flick off its tracks.
The tension ratchets up masterfully in this slow-burn psychological thriller, in which Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman play a young couple whose romantic night in is interrupted by three masked strangers. Simple as it is, the home invasion setup makes for a suspenseful 90 minutes as the pair gradually realise the peril they’re mired in, then attempt to fight back against their mysterious tormentors. The Strangers uses silence and stillness to its advantage, eschewing standard horror techniques like jump scares and ominous music in favour of a steadily increasing sense of dread.
Part of an early noughties wave of provocative mainstream horror movies (Saw being another prime, and more enduring, example), Eli Roth’s Hostel a grim escalation of the classic horror setup: a group of young travellers find discover that foreign hospitality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Jay Hernandez and friends are American backpackers experiencing all Europe has to offer – including a visit to a (we suspect zero star) murder hostel in which the guests part with vast sums to torture and butcher hapless tourists. The Airbnb from hell – and then some.
Hostel is executive produced by Roth’s buddy Quentin Tarantino, but don’t expect any postmodern twists on the horror genre here: this is a fat old slice of bleakness, and all the more effective for it.
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Based on a case investigated by real-lifeghost hunters Ed an d Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring tells the story of a New England family haunted by a vindictive spirit – and comes with all the standard jump scares, whispering voices, flying furniture and wailing you’d expect from a modern-day horror flick. It’s far from the cleverest movie in this list, but for those times you just want a good popcorn yarn to wrap yourself up in, it’s spot-on.
Despite taking some liberties with the source material – the real life Ed and Lorraine weren’t quite as easy on the eye as stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, for one thing – it’s an entertaining, well-paced ride on the ghost train.
I See You
A smart modern horror film that cleverly plays with the genre’s tropes and its viewers’ expectations, I See You is one of those under-the-radar movies that will hopefully get the attention it deserves on Netflix. We can’t say too much without risk of ruining the fun, but it involves creepy, unexplained goings-on around Helen Hunt’s house while she struggles to keep her family together and local children are going missing in strange circumstances. If it sounds like a lot to follow, rest assured everything comes together pretty satisfyingly in the end.
Writer-director Alex Garland’s follow-up to the dazzling Ex Machina had a tricky release. Originally destined to get a full release in cinemas worldwide, in the end studio Paramount decided it deserved only a limited US theatrical release, with everyone else getting their first chance to see it on Netflix. Why? Because they likely figured it’d flop in cinemas – it’s chilly, complex and brainy and, right or wrong, big studios don’t credit the average filmgoer with much intellectual curiosity.
Don’t let Paramount’s decision put you off. This is one of the most accomplished and interesting science fiction horrors of recent years, a visually and sonically arresting film that’ll leave you with more questions than answers, but enough clues to work everything out too.
When an unexplained “shimmer” engulfs a tract of land in the southeastern United States, then starts increasing in size, authorities seem powerless to stop it. Everything and everybody they send inside disappears, never to return – with one exception. When Natalie Portman’s biologist finds herself personally drawn into the mystery, she joins a team venturing into the Shimmer to attempt to uncover the truth.
For our money the most interesting horror film of 2018, Hereditary starts out like a family drama and ends as… well, that’d risk ruining a ride filled with more twists than a runaway rollercoaster.
When her secretive mother dies, Toni Collette’s Annie tries to parse the ways in which her behaviour shaped and warped her family – not just affecting Annie herself, but her deceased brother, her son Peter and her daughter Charlie, the latter two of which seem particularly troubled. When these troubles lead first to tragedy, then full-on nightmare, it already may be too late for Annie to steer things back on course.
If you’re looking for an intelligent, brilliantly crafted film that retains the power to shock, look no further. Director Ari Aster (who more recently made Midsommar, another smart and scary movie) leaves plenty of clues and cues in to hint at the ending, but you still might not see it coming.
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Gareth Evans is best known for directing the kick-ass Indonesian action flicks The Raid and The Raid 2, but with Apostle, which he also wrote, he immerses himself into the world of dramatic horror. In this period piece, a clearly troubled Dan Stevens joins a mysterious island-based cult (led by Michael Sheen’s demagogue-like prophet) in order to rescue his sister from its clutches. He quickly discovers there’s much more to this bunch of outcasts and misfits than a spot of misguided religious fervour. Cue mangled bodies, bloody carnage and some extremely creepy reveals.
Even if Evans doesn’t quite manage to pull things off with the same flair as we’ve seen in his stellar pair of action movies, Apostle is an atmospheric folk horror with some truly squirm-inducing scenes and a great final shot.
This Netflix-made, Australia-set zombie horror stars Martin Freeman as a new father whose outback holiday goes horrifically awry courtesy of a massive viral outbreak. Get bitten by a carrier and you’ve got 48 hours before you become a shambling, mindless, meat-seeking husk yourself – and the wide open landscape means there are few places to hide from either the zombies or the live folks mercilessly hunting down anyone infected.
So far, so familiar, right? Well, Cargo subverts expectations by focussing on the characters rather than on finding different ways to make you jump, and the viral menace is used as a device to drive the narrative rather than define it. It’s more thought-provoking drama than many gore-hounds would like, no doubt, but we’d rather watch it than yet another Dawn of the Dead rip-off.
It’s “found footage” time once more in this micro-budgeted indie flick concerning a videographer hired by a mysterious man for a job – one that initially seems simple but turns out to be anything but.
With a lean cast (it’s basically a two-hander starring writer/director Patrick Brice and co-writer Mark Duplass – yes, he of mumblecore movie fame) and a lean 77-minute running time, Creep relies more on mood and tone than special effects or gore – and it’s well worth sticking around until the conclusion.
Under the Shadow
After her husband is sent away to serve in the army, an Iranian mother is left to care for their young daughter under the looming threat of missile strikes. When their apartment is hit, events take a turn for the paranormal and leave the pair haunted by a mysterious ‘Djinn’ spirit. Though some classic horror tropes soon follow, Under the Shadow‘s unusual setting and creaking, groaning building give it an extra bite.
Purported to be based on an actual police report, this early 1990s-set shocker sees a Madrid teenager and her younger siblings terrorised by a malevolent spirit in their apartment – and throws creepy blind nuns, gnarly Spanish alt-rock and coming-of-age tropes into the mix as well.
Think ouija boards, disembodied whispers and half-glimpsed demonic entities rather than gallons of gore, but once the final reel is over you’ll know you’ve watched not only one of the best foreign language horror films on Netflix, but one of the finest foreign language films full stop.
This brand new adaptation of a near-forgotten 1992 Stephen King novel offers a cracking setup: to salvage their ailing marriage, a couple head to their remote holiday home and decide to try some kinky stuff – only for things to go swiftly south when hubby keels over from a heart attack, leaving his wife cuffed to the bedframe.
Cue an hour and a half of relentless psychological chills and spills as she attempts to free herself before dying of thirst/dog/possible-giant-bald-demon-man-lurking-in-the-shadows, all the while assailed by the worst terror of all: the recollection of horrific childhood trauma.
If you prefer your scary movies to be at least somewhat grounded in reality, Gerald’s Game fits the bill. Just like a wrist in a tight pair of handcuffs…
When a deaf novelist retires to a secluded woodland cabin to finish off her latest book and get over a breakup, she thinks loneliness is going to be her biggest problem. Instead, she ends up being hunted by a creepy psycho in a featureless mask. It is, we think you’ll agree, a situation that would be pretty pants-filling for anybody – but when you can’t hear the murderer coming, it’s even more fraught. It all makes for a clever twist on what might otherwise be a fairly run-of-the-mill horror yarn.