There’s nothing better than watching a decent horror movie. A horror movie that forces you to sleep with the light on after watching it. A horror movie that latches onto your deepest, primal fears, pokes and prods at your psyche, strangles you with fear and raises your heart rate to palpitation levels. These types of horror movies are rare, and that is what makes them so special.
The following is a hand-picked list of the best horror movies on Netflix you should – no, need to – watch over Halloween that are available on the service in the UK. They are the titles on Netflix that will induce fear but as you will see, fear takes different forms. Sometimes it’s foreboding, sometimes it’s mixed with comedy, other times it’s bloody and brutal.
And then there’s that other fear: the fear that you have missed off some damn good movies from a list. If that’s the case, then let us know in the comments below.
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The Babadook’s horror, a brilliant debut by director Jennifer Kent, lies in its subtlety. The plot revolving around a creepy bedtime book is secondary to the fraught relationship between widowed Amelia (Essie Davis) and her six-year-old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). It plays on the usual fear-inducing tropes but the real horror of the movie is seeing a family in grief and the devastating sadness that accompanies this.
Director James Wan cut his teeth – and many other limbs – with Saw, which is fun but forgettable. Insidious feels like a much more grown up horror movie, that eschews blood for Poltergeist-style japes. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne are husband and wife who are looking after their coma-induced son. Some great cinematography makes up for a plot that does annoyingly veer into supernatural territory near the end. Despite this, there’s a lot of fun to be had.
As remakes go, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is up there with the best. A brilliant turn from a haunted Donald Pleasence means that even if the McCarthy era paranoia from the original is missing, and small town America has been replaced by San Francisco, there’s still plenty of terror to get your teeth into. And it looks amazing, too – thanks to cinematography from Michael Chapman, the man who also lensed Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.
One of the most overlooked horror movies of all time, this is a wonderful hidden slice of ’70s horror. Shot through a dream-like lens, the movie follows a group of mates looking to find solace for their friend Jessica, who has just been released from a clinic. After a road trip they end up shacking up in an empty house that comes complete with a stranger called Emily. Full of subtle scares, marvellous missteps and lingering shots, Let’s Scare Jessica To Death is a must watch.
Christopher Walken is superb in this tale of angels coming back to earth to collect a soul that belongs in heaven. Walken is no stranger to horror flicks – he also starred in the superb Dead Zone – but in the Prophecy he is an, er, revelation as the Angel Gabriel. Part action movie, part horror, part supernatural thriller, The Prophecy is no Oscar contender but it is a whole lot of fun.
With its myriad meta musings on the slasher genre and knowing nods to other horror movies, it is sometimes forgotten that at the heart of Scream is a damn good horror movie. Director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson play against trope after trope in Scream and pretty much spell the plot out for you, but from the first scene to the last there’s a real menace to the movie. The look of Ghostface may have entered parody thanks to Scary Movie but, nearly 20 years ago, the mask was the face of horror. Brilliant stuff.
The Sacrament is a movie that shines a light on the scary world of cults and enigmatic cult leaders. The story leans heavily on the real-life Jonestown Massacre, which saw cult leader Jim Jones lead his followers into mass suicide. Using the found footage formula that is baked into the horror genre, The Sacrament gives a brilliant first-hand account of what it is like when a paradise turns into a nightmare.
Yet another movie that is made 1,000 per cent better because Jeffrey Combs stars in it. Would You Rather has an interesting concept – the ultimate life or death game of ‘would you rather’ hosted by a sadistic aristocrat – that doesn’t quite reach the heights it should but you will have a lot of fun watching it try. Definitely not one for the squeamish!
Forget the frankly terrible title, February is a sparse and suspenseful chiller that sees two school girls spend their winter break in a boarding school after their parents fail to pick them up. The soundtrack soars with synths, the visuals are gorgeous and the acting from Mad Men alumni Kiernan Shipka and Emma Roberts is sublime. It takes its time and is something of an odd watch but February is one of the best new horrors around.
This Netflix exclusive landed on the site a few days before Halloween and is a slow-burning delight. Made by director Osgood Perkins, who created the brilliant February and incidentally is the son of Psycho’s Anthony Perkins so has horror in his veins, I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House is a tough watch as its pace is glacial. But it fizzes with so much unease that it will leave you mesmerised.
How do you make a home invasion movie original? By making the protagonist deaf and unaware of what’s going until it’s nearly too late. That’s the premise of Hush and it breathes new life into the cat-and-mouse psychopath genre. Hush is another great movie from the Blumhouse lot – those who created Paranormal Activity – and is directed by Oculus’ helmer Mike Flanagan.
As remakes go, Let Me In is a rare beast that matches the original movie for tension and suspense. Director Matt Reeves ports this vampire story from the cold of Stockholm to New Mexico, telling the tale of a 12-year-old kid who gets one-up on the bullies by befriending a vampire. The 1980s setting adds to the unease, as does Reeves’ assured direction.
Director David Slade may have lost a bit of kudos by making a Twilight movie but his first proper stab at horror was a decent one. 30 Days of Night is a simple premise: vampires descend on an Alaskan town that suffers from total darkness for one month of the year and cause total carnage. Josh Hartnett is great as the grizzled resident who has to fight for his life.
An antidote to the Blair Witch style shaky cam found footage movies, Paranormal Activity managed to make CCTV footage scary, offering up a low-budget horror film that is genuinely unnerving. Although the franchise suffers, as many horror series do, from diminishing returns, the sequels are also worth a watch.
Nicolas Winding Refn may be getting all the plaudits for his super-stylish fashion-based horror flick The Neon Demon but Starry Eyes got in there first with its harrowing look at what can go wrong when you pursue fame. Pitch black in its tone and set to an unnerving score, Starry Eyes is a great but haunting watch.
The Beast Within is a nice slab of ’80s horror that takes the idea of a teenager suffering from growing pains to the extreme. Written by horror legend Tom Holland, the movie was a cult hit when first released – thanks to its rather decent practical effects – and stars RoboCop’s Ronny Cox.
The Duplass brothers are usually associated with comedy – their TV show Togetherness is well worth a watch – which makes their first foray into horror so surprising. Creep is a, well, creepy look at someone who answers an online ad to make a movie for a stranger’s unborn child. What ensues is, as you’d expect, not a movie for the child but something altogether more sinister.
It may have an age rating that says it’s family friendly, but The Others is nothing of the sort. It’s a creepy, brilliant horror starring Nicole Kidman as a religious mother who moves her family away from the city and to the country during World War II. If the words: “I am your daughter” don’t send shivers down your spine, then nothing will.
Before he was chosen to helm the rather brilliant Doctor Strange, director Scott Derrickson directed this very effective horror. Based loosely on a true story, the film is set around a court case where a reverend is being charged for wrongful death after an exorcism goes wrong. The scares may be gore free, but they are no less chilling.
Scarecrows has one of our favourite-ever film premises. It is about a group of mercenaries who rob a bank, steal a plane and land in a field full of killer scarecrows. What ensues is complete and utter carnage. Scarecrows is a curio that was hard to find for a long time, but for some reason it’s cropped up on Netflix. If you want some old-fashioned horror mayhem, then this is for you.