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The 22 Best Horror Movies on Netflix Instant

October 26, 2012  |  10:49am

Of the more than 750 horror movies available on Netflix Instant, we’d wager that about 700 of them are pretty terrible, with titles like Zombie Women of Satan, 1313: Couger Cult, Vampegeddon and Frankenqueen. But there are some gems in there if you can find them. We’ve made that a little easier with our list of the 22 Best Horror Movies on Netflix Instant. We’ll update the list as Netflix updates its selection.

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22. Troll 2
Year: 1986
Director: Claudio Fragasso
Perhaps the epitome of early ‘90s horror, Troll 2 offers a delightful display of acting and gore at its finest. The night before departing for the dream-like vacation destination of remote farming community called Nilbog, little Joshua Watts is visited by the ghost of his grandfather who warns him about goblins living in the area. Apparently, these goblins turn people into human-plants so that they can eat them. Will Joshua survive? And, perhaps more importantly, how come goblins are scary but creepy ghosts of dead relatives are not? There’s a reason this film top our list of Awesomely Bad Movies on Netflix Instant; Brian Tremml

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21. Dead Snow
Year: 2009
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Dead Snow is one of many Norwegian horror flicks that takes place amid endless, snow-cloaked mountains, a hint at some national anxiety we don’t quite understand. The film’s plot, on the other hand, could not be more universal: It follows vacationers terrorized by Nazi zombies.
Yep, actual Nazis, exiled after World War II and now reanimated with a slightly different kind of hunger for human flesh. It’s hyperbolic evil taken to a new extreme: Skulls and limbs are decimated, and there’s a zealous fixation on human intestines. Alas, co-writer/director Tommy Wirkola can’t resist the urge to make the mordant comedy implicit in these movies more literal than it should be. A midnight selection at Sundance this year, Dead Snow boasts a surprising technical expertise that will placate genre devotees, but the lame play for laughs diffuses the movie’s momentum without any real upside for the viewer.—Jeffrey Bloomer

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20. Paranormal Activity 2
Year: 2010
Director: Tod Williams
After the incredible independent success of the original Paranormal Activity, it was to the surprise of eager audience members that the big-budget sequel (we’re talking around $3 million) didn’t suck the life out of the original. It follows the same found-footage style, this time giving a broader scope with surveillance cameras set up around the home of new characters Kristi and Dan Rey. As always, we’re faced with the minute details getting the big screams from the audience: Creaking cabinets and turning doorknobs take the place of jump-out scares in this series. But as the series shows, a bigger budget isn’t necessarily a terrible thing.—Tyler Kane

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19. The Signal
Year: 2008
Director: David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry
Often pegged (erroneously) as a neo-zombie flick, The Signal also takes inspiration from sci-fi nightmares like Videodrome. In a city analogous to modern America, citizens are subjected to a shifting digital signal via televisions, cell phones and radios. Results vary, but one effect is common: those exposed begin to act on their base impulses, with a severe tendency towards violence. A directorial trio (David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry) splits the film into three “transmissions.” The result isn’t an anthology, but a single story divided into three basic perspectives, each with a distinct tonal flavor. The first is almost straightforward survival horror; the second black comedy; the third ambiguous terror. It’s violent, grim and unrelenting, despite—and at moments, because of—the mid-section comic relief. Still, it’s a pleasure—punk-rock cinema, thrilling and engrossing.—Russ Fischer

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18. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
Year: 2011
Director: Eli Craig
Let’s face it, hillbillies and their ilk have been getting the short end of the pitchfork in movies since the strains of banjo music faded in 1972’s Deliverance. And whether due to radiation (The Hills Have Eyes) or just good old determined inbreeding (Wrong Turn and so, so many films you’re better off not knowing about), the yokel-prone in film have really enjoyed slaughtering innocent families on vacation, travelers deficient in basic map usage skills, and, best of all, sexually active college students just looking for a good time. But fear not, members of Hillbillies for Inclusion, Consideration & Kindness in Screenplays (HICKS)—writer/director Eli Craig has your hairy, unloofahed back. His film, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, answers the simple question: What if those hillbillies are just socially awkward fellows sprucing up a vacation home and the young college kids in question are just prone to repeatedly jumping to incorrect, often fatal, conclusions? Think Final Destination meets the Darwin Awards.—Michael Burgin

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17. Beyond the Black Rainbow
Year: 2010
Director: Panos Cosmatos
Panos Cosmatos’ feature debut is an affectionate paean to that first wave of straight-to-video horror and sci-fi flicks—or, more precisely, to their cover art, since he was then too young to actually watch most of them. Quiet, portentous, and surprisingly affecting, “Beyond the Black Rainbow” shows immense confidence in its inventive visuals as well as its moving allegory of the freedoms that come with adolescence and experience. Eva Allen gives a highly charged performance without speaking a single world, but it’s Michael Rogers, as a doctor with some truly bizarre secrets, that gives this movie its heady charge. He’ll be a cult star as sure as this movie will be a perennial midnight fave.—Stephen M. Deusner

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16. Creature From the Black Lagoon
Year: 1954
Director: Jack Arnold
Like King Kong, this is a horror movie as love triangle, with both Richard Carlson and the Creature vying for the affections of beautiful, brave, compassionate Julie Adams. Also like King Kong, you’ll find yourself rooting for the monster. Director Jack Arnold portrays the Creature as deeply sympathetic, and the underwater scenes are crisp, even beautiful; rarely are monsters allowed to move so gracefully or act with as much dignity.—Stephen M. Deusner

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15. House of the Devil
Year: 2009
Director: Ti West
Detractors complain that Ti West’s movie are “slow,” which is missing the point. A better adjective is “deliberate.” On his third and best movie, he builds the tension gradually and carefully, as though there is nothing scarier than watching a young woman dance around an empty house while listening to the Fixx. By the time the second act ends, you’ve been holding your breath for an hour when the film explodes into its gory, violent third act, which offers a perverse sense of release. It also gives Jocelin Donahue’s heroine her finest moment, as she at least attempts what the audience is by then shouting for her to do. —Stephen M. Deusner

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14. Pontypool
Year: 2008
Director: Bruce McDonald
A quick plot summary of Pontypool makes it sound like just a rehash of Orson Welles’ 1938 The War of the Worlds broadcast with zombies in the place of aliens, and while it’s certainly more than a little bit indebted to that work, that would be to give the film far too little credit. The movie instead draws thematic inspiration from the words of its radio broadcast and recasts the zombie disease as verbal, a product of mindless repetition and meaningless phrases in the English language. Pontypool’s clever script is superbly acted, and the film manages to take the zombie genre in a different direction without going the route of ironic deconstruction.—Sean Gandert

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13. The Mummy
Year: 1932
Director: Karl Freund
Good lord, not the 1999 remake/atrocity with Brendan Fraser. Inspired by the 1922 excavation of King Tutankhamun’s tomb, this 1932 hit established the Mummy as one of Universal’s premiere monsters, alongside Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman. Playing both the title character as well as a mysterious Egyptian with the amazing name of Ardath Bey, Boris Karloff is supremely creepy, using his gaunt features and tall frame to instill every scene with menace. —Stephen M. Deusner

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12. Scream 2
Year: 1997
Director: Wes Craven
It was going to be hard to follow up the original Scream for plenty of reasons: Aside from it being one of the more innovative, self-aware horror films in years, Wes Craven killed off all of its bad guys in the final scenes of the movie. Here’s where Scream 2—a respectable follow-up and one that sets the stage for all of the film’s sequels—comes into play. It follows a new string of “ghost face” murders, this time centering around the creation of Stab, a film based upon the Woodsboro murders. As always, the film is painfully critical of the horror movie genre while still scaring the pants off audiences in voice-morphed, quizzical phone calls and Ghost Face pop-ups.—Tyler Kane

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11. Funny Games
Year: 1998
Director:Michael Haneke
A friend of mine once compared filmmaker Michael Haneke to a scientist: In his movies, Haneke locates a functioning system, introduces an external stimulus, and observes the results. In Caché, his brilliant 2005 film, a bourgeois French family receives anonymous video tapes that show the exterior of their house, and they take them, as many of us might, to be some kind of threat. Haneke’s task is to observe their telling response. But often the subject of his experiment isn’t the family on the screen but the people in the theater, and there may be no clearer example than Funny Games, both his own 2005 remake and this, the original.—Robert Davis

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