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 horror movies you should – no, need to – watch over Halloween that are available on Netflix 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.
1. An American Werewolf in London
A classic movie that is one-part comedy to two-parts horror, American Werewolf in London starts off as a homage to Hammer and ends up being its own brilliant beast. The tale of two backpackers going off piste and one (spoiler) ending up as a werewolf terrorising the streets of London has an amazing soundtrack and still one of the best transformation scenes in film history. A stone-cold classic.
2. The Babadook
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.
3. Black Christmas (1974)
Halloween may have been the film that took the slasher horror genre by the neck and gave it a squeeze but Black Christmas created that genre. Director Bob Clark was among the first to think that the idea that a lone maniac who takes pleasure in cutting up nubile teenagers would make for decent cinema fodder. Given this blueprint was carried on through the works of John Carpenter, the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchise we can not really disagree. Viewed some 40 years later the movie has only improved with age and can still hold its head high as one of the greatest indie horror movies ever made. And the greatest to come out of Canada.
4. The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project always seems to come under unnecessary criticism but that’s because it is a victim of its own success. It’s a horror movie that was never really meant for the big screen, let alone one of the most successful films of all time. The camera shakes, the poor lighting and bad acting are all because the movie was made on the weekends by some film-school buddies. It’s not low budget, it’s no budget and it’s a style that, for better or worse, created the found footage genre that’s still being used today. It’s a hard watch but stick with it and it does repay you with a deepening sense of dread. The tears and the snot at the end are real because the actors had no idea what was going on and this only adds to the tension. It’s not perfect but it’s a great insight into how to make a horror film when cash is nowhere to be seen.
5. The House Of The Devil
Many modern films have tried to ape the ’70s /’ 80s look of horror movies but none have done it as well as House of The Devil. Ti West is one of the most promising horror directors around and this movie is him finding his feet in the horror genre, ratcheting up the suspense slowly but assuredly. Do not watch if you want a slash fest but if you are fans of brooding, bubbling tension then this is for you. Oh, and indie starlet Greta Gerwig makes an appearance.
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.
7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
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.
8. Let’s Scare Jessica To Death
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.
9. The Mist
Stephen King may well be the master of horror when it comes to books but adaptations of his stories have always been a bit hit and miss, especially the horror ones. Directed by King regular Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption), The Mist manages to evoke pure horror from a pulpy plot that involves some freaky creatures that descend on a town after a freak storm. Taking many cues from Dawn of the Dead – society collapsing, a shop standoff – the movie does not shy away from making a doomed situation feel even worse.
10. The Omen (1976)
Jerry Goldsmith’s Ave Satani score is one of the most recognisable and sinister scores ever made and underpins a movie that has more shocks than a jellyfish hugging an electric eel. The plot is wafer thin: and American diplomat (Gregory Peck) adopts a lovely son called Damian, who turns out to be the spawn of the devil. But you do not watch this for the plot but the operatic death scenes that include decapitations, people falling out of the windows and a ruddy great spike. Lovely stuff.
An HP Lovecraft story this may be but Re-animator is pure schlock, lovingly put together by director Stuart Gordon. Jeffrey Combs stars as Herbert West, a mad scientist who finds a way to bring people back to life by ‘re-animating’ them. Renowned for being one of the goriest and over-the-top movies ever made, Re-animator does not flinch with the blood letting but it’s all done with (severed) tongue firmly in cheek.
12. The Prophecy (1995)
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.
14. The Sacrament
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.
15. Would You Rather
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 does not quite reach the heights it should but you will have a lot of fun watching it try. Definitely not one for the squeamish!