The rise of Netflix has been great for fans of the horror movie genre. The streaming service now offers a huge variety of scary flicks, and not just the usual suspects. Forget the Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, or Freddy Kruegers of the world. Netflix is a place where you can find surprising horror gems nestled in among the big boys like Hellraiser or Jaws.
While October is one of the best times to throw on a horror movie, they really a solid choice any time of the year. Any sufficiently dark and stormy night will do (points deducted for watching during the day, of course). With that in mind, we combed through the Netflix archives and made of a list of the best scary movies currently available.
Before we get started, a few disclaimers: we tried to mostly stay away from the “mainstream” horror films, because most fans will have already seen them. Most of our picks are a little bit “outside the box.” Also, there are a wide variety of horror subgenres, and we tried to pick at least one movie from each — found footage, slasher, foreign, serial killers, paranormal killers, and a host of other twisted and disturbing tales
Lastly, the Netflix lineup is constantly changing from country to country, on a monthly basis. Don’t email us and complain that these movies aren’t available in your region — there are ways around that, after all. It doesn’t make these movies any less enjoyable, so seek them out regardless.
The Invitation premiered at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival and scored big fans, who gave it excellent ratings on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Directed by Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body), this movie starts with Will (Logan Marshall-Green) receiving an invitation to a dinner party at his ex-wife Eden’s gorgeous mini-mansion. That’s strange enough, considering they haven’t spoken in two years. But he goes anyway, along with his girlfriend (Emayatzy Corinealdi). Once they arrive, Will begins to witness strange things that slowly build the tension.
The whole thing is framed by the tragic death of Will and Eden’s son, which contributed directly to their breakup. When a mysterious stranger arrives (John Carroll Lynch), the dinner party devolves in a disturbing paranoia, leaving the viewer unsure if Will’s concerns are legitimate or just petty jealously, caused by the traumatic memories of his son. You’ll have to watch the ending to see who ends up being right.
No, not the 2013 American film adapted from a Stephanie Meyer novel. Skip that trainwreck. We’re talking about the 2006 South Korean horror movie directed by Bong Joon-ho, which is more than just the typical monster movie it looks like at first glance. Sure, a frightening river monster does emerge and kidnap a man’s daughter, but the movie is also a bit of political satire, as it shows a bumbling and useless bureaucracy attempting to deal with the new threat.
Beyond that, though, is a thoroughly terrifying movie that focuses on themes of family and environmental carelessness. It’s one of the few films on this list that will require you to read the subtitles to follow along, though, since it wasn’t filmed in English. We say it’s well worth the extra effort.
V/H/S 1 & 2
The first V/H/S was a novel idea. It contained a bunch of found footage short films, framed by a larger storyline where a criminal gang is hired to break into a house and steal a VHS tape. Unfortunately for them, the house if filled with tapes and they start watching them. As frightening horror shorts play for the viewer, the gang slowly begins to realize not everything is what it seems.
The sequel follows the same model but goes even further with the scares, this time framed with a private investigator who stumbles upon a stack of tapes while searching for a missing college student. Some of the shorts are worth watching alone, but together they form an interesting larger narrative that should keep horror fans happy. There is another sequel (V/H/S: Viral) and a spin-off too (SiREN), if you’re a fan of the first two.
It Follows started as a weird analogy to the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, but eventually emerged a slick horror movie with a creative new twist. The plot is pretty simple; an unnamed creature slowly follows victims, and kills them. Once one person is cross off the list, the creature moves on to the next. The twist is that characters can remove themselves (temporarily, at least) from the list by having sex, passing the curse on to their partner. Of course, if your partner dies before passing it on again, you’re back on the chopping block.
Starring a basically unknown cast, It Follows provides plenty of scares following the classic “teenagers-trying-to-not-die-horrible-deaths-at-the-hand-of-supernatural-killer” mold that made franchises like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street famous. Trust us, this is a great horror film. It currently holds a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and that mark is well-deserved.
Vegetarians, avert your eyes! Raw is a 2016 French film that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, about a young woman (Garance Marillier) who attend veterinary school after being a lifelong vegetarian, due to her love on animals. She quickly realizes that being a vet isn’t always about being kind to animals, and is forced to eat raw rabbit kidney during a grotesque hazing ritual. Somehow, she develops a cannibalistic urge and thing get very gory, very fast.
There are definitely some strong background themes to the movie, including the ethics of eating meat versus animal cruelty and the primal urges of human beings. And while the premise may sound a bit cheesy to some, the movie is actually quite stunning to watch. Director Julia Ducournau managed to create quite an artistic movie, with plenty of scares and blood for traditional horror fans.
We did say we were going to avoid the traditional horror classics, but we love The Shining too much to not include it on this list. Adapted from a Stephen King novel and directed by the iconic Stanley Kubrick, we never get sick of watching this movie. Jack Nicholson puts in one of his greatest performances ever as Jack Torrance, a man who takes a job as the caretaker of an isolated mountain hotel over the winter off-season. But the hotel has a mysterious, evil history that starts to seep into Jack’s brain, driving him mad.
You’ve probably already seen The Shining. If you haven’t, make it a priority. If you have, it’s always worth another watch. It’s one of Kubrick’s best films and had a lasting influence on pop culture and the movie industry. Interestingly enough, King actually said he hated the film version. Somehow, Kubruck was also nominated for Worst Director at the inaugural version of the Golden Raspberry Awards, which run counter to the annual Oscar presentations. Some people have no taste, it seems.
The Snowtown Murders
The scariest part about this movie is actually the tagline “Based on a True Story,” which it actually is, unlike a lot of other horror movies which use the same term a little too liberally. The Snowtown Muders (also known simply as Snowtown in some parts of the world) is a biographical crime horror movie about — surprise! — the Snowtown murders, which took place in the mid-90s in Australia.
The movie focuses on real-life serial killer John Bunting (Daniel Henshall), who used his natural charisma to attract followers. Then, they would kill whomever they seemed to be bad, in a form of twisted vigilantism. This movie is told from the point of view of James Vlassakis, one of Bunting’s disciples. There’s no ghoulish monsters or paranormal creatures in this flick, but the brutality of Bunting and his crew are damn sure scary enough to make your skin crawl.
At first glance, Hush is just a run-of-the-mill horror flick about a woman named Madison (Kate Siegel) staying alone in house, isolated deep in the woods. You’ve seen this movie a hundred times, right? Wrong. This movie comes with a fun twist — the woman in the house is deaf and can’t speak. When a sadistic home invader realizes that she can’t hear, he begins to mentally torture her in various ways For example, he starts by stealing her phone and then sending pictures of her sitting on the couch to her nearby laptop.
Director Mike Flanagan originally wanted to make a film “without dialogue,” although there are still speaking roles in the movie. Even still, it relies heavily on sound effects and believing in the other senses, like sight, smell, and touch. How good is Hush? No less than Stephen King and William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, both tweeted out that they loved the movie.
At The Devil’s Door
Have you ever been so with a person that you haphazardly sold your soul to the Devil? What’s that? No, you say? Unfortunately for Ashley Rickards’ character in At The Devil’s Door, she totally did. What follows is a strange story of a real estate agent (Catalina Sandino Moreno) trying to sell a house with a haunted past and her younger sister (Naya Rivera), who continually refuses to settle down and start a family.
At The Devil’s Door isn’t the best movie on this list, but it still provides plenty of scares and heavily borrows themes from Rosemary’s Baby. If for nothing else, it’s enjoyable to watch Rivera, best known for playing singing cheerleader Santana Lopez on Fox’s musical series Glee, make her feature film debut in something that is basically the opposite of Glee. And she’s easily the bright spot of the whole thing.
Let The Right One In
This film is entirely in Swedish, but we still recommend it over it’s American remake (Let Me In) despite the reliance on subtitles. The original Let The Right One In is simply a better film, from start to finish, in basically every regard. It’s about a bullied young boy, who befriends a new girl in his neighborhood. Slowly, he comes to the realization that she is a vampire.
This movie still has plenty to offer in terms of scares and blood, but the monster in this flick is hardly the bad guy. In fact, you feel sorry for the young girl cursed with a horrible condition. Let The Right One In excels, however, at being a horror movie with a ton of heart. The relationship between the two children is as innocent as can be. Before people start being eaten, that is. This film won a ton of different awards at various film festivals and is one of the best foreign films — horror or otherwise — in recent memory.
The Den brings found footage horror films to another level. Instead of shaky hand-held camcorders, this film is shot entirely through the lens of various webcams on a fictional site known as The Den (which is basically Chatroulette or Omegle). The main character Elizabeth (Melanie Papalia) starts interacting with other users on the site as a graduate school project. After the usual string of idiots and gratuitous nudity (this is the internet, after all), Elizabeth sees something very disturbing — a live murder.
As she attempts to solve the murder, she becomes a target herself. A number of intense and terrifying scenes follow, including a darker-than-dark ending that might make you want to unplug your computer, cancel your cellphone, cut the internet, and stay away from all social media for a while. You never know who might be on the other end of a random friend request.
Every child has an overactive imagination, thinking there might be a monster under their bed or a boogeyman in their closet. Most of them grow out of it when they realize the monsters aren’t real. The Babadook will make you think again. This Australian horror film will cause you wonder what lies in the depths of your bedtime closet, just like when you were a child.
Starring Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman as a mother and son who read a strange pop-up book about the Babadook and then become haunted by his presence in their house. Sleepless nights lead to delusional visions — or are they actually real? This movie will keep you guessing until the very end with it’s eerie atmosphere and intense direction. On a personal level, we loved it because it creates truly scary moments without relying on jump scares — we hate those!
After launching into fame as the wildling Ygritte on HBO’s Game of Thrones and then seeing her character get killed off (dammit, Olly!), Rose Leslie’s next project was the 2014 science fiction horror film Honeymoon. As you may have guessed from the title, it features a young couple (the other half is played by Harry Treadaway) who head to a secluded cottage for a romantic honeymoon. The bliss is soon shattered when Leslie’s character Bea goes missing, only to be found in the woods, naked and disoriented.
After that, things get even weirder as the couple try to cope with Bea’s strange behavior. A shocking ending is the culmination of 90 minutes of masterful tension building, which is amazing when you realize the film only has four cast members and was made for just $1 million. The chemistry between Leslie and Treadaway is amazing, and carries the films to great heights even as their respective characters get driven apart by the events in the movie.
This is the last found footage film on our list, but it’s makes for a unique viewing experience. The film stars Mark Duplass (as Josef) and Patrick Brice (as Aaron), and is filmed entirely in hand-held camcorder mode. The premise is that Aaron, a freelance videographer, answers a Craigslist ad that offers him $1,000 for a day of filming. Josef, recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, wants to film a series of videos for his unborn son, since he likely won’t survive to see him born.
When the day is over, though, Josef refused to let Aaron leave. As his behavior becomes more and more erratic, Aaron starts to wonder what he got himself into. The newly-formed relationship degrades quickly, as Josef transforms from a sympathetic dying father-to-be into a deranged stalker with questionable motives. The fresh premise definitely kept audiences interested, to the tune of a 96% rating on RottenHoney Tomatoes. It’s not huge on gore or violence, but will definitely make you scared to answer online classified ads.
This movie didn’t get the same attention as other Stephen King film adaptations in 2017, like The Dark Tower or IT, but it definitely deserved to be. Gerald’s Game is a Netflix exclusive film based on King’s 1992 novel by the same name, and it’s everything you expect from the mind of one of horror’s greatest writers. It stars Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood as a couple who plan a weekend getaway at an isolated lake house in order to jump start their failing marriage and frustrating sex life. Things go terribly wrong from the get go, when Gerald suffers a heart attack after handcuffing Jessie to the bed in attempt to introduce some kink into their lives.
Jessie is left trapped, and slowly loses her mind and she stumbles in and out of consciousness as exhaustion, atrophy, and dehydration kick in. Secrets from her past come to light as she struggles to come up with a way out of her harrowing situation. It’s dark, it’s depressing, and chalked full of very adult themes and situations. Horror fans will appreciate some of the more gory moments that actually made us look away from the screen in disgust. We highly recommend it!