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The 25 Best Horror Movies on Netflix Instant

October 3, 2013  |  1:35pm
Netflix offers exactly 700 horror movies for instant streaming, including some of both the best and worst examples of the genre. We pored through creature features, slashers, and tales of zombies, vampires and werewolves to find 25 films that are scary-good. Our picks span nearly a century of horror-movie making from classics like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) to last year’s V/H/S. They include works from cinematic legends like Alfred Hitchcock, Brian de Palma, and Roman Polanski, as well as horror specialists Wes Craven and Clive Barker. These are frightening films for sure, but most will give you something more than just a cheap scare.

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12. Scream
Year: 1996
Director: Wes Craven
Before Scary Movie or A Haunted House were even ill-conceived ideas, Wes Craven was crafting some of the best horror satire out there. And while part of Scream’s charm was its sly, fair jabs at the genre, that didn’t keep the director from dreaming up some of the most brutal knife-on-human scenes in the ‘90s. With the birth of the “Ghost Face” killer, Craven took audiences on a journey through horror-flick fandom, making all-too-common tricks of the trade a staple for survival: sex equals death, don’t drink or do drugs, NEVER say “I’ll be right back.” With a crossover cast of Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan and Drew Barrymore (okay, for like, 10 minutes), Scream arrived with a smart, funny take on a tired genre.—Tyler Kane

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11. Night Watch
Year: 2004
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
A huge hit in its native Russia, Night Watch is a preposterous celluloid Rorschach blot, the backstory and main narratives of which are too feverishly convoluted to summarize. But it works. As an epic about Good and Evil warriors scrapping on the streets of modern Moscow, the film is blissfully free of faux history lessons from the Obi-Wan and Elrond School of Film Exposition. The audience is tossed into a 1,000-year conflict involving witches, curses, vampires, shapeshifters and hypersonic public-utility vehicles and told to sink or swim. Thus, Night Watch feels like Harry Potter’s first week at Hogwarts—crammed with the giddy culture shock of constant discovery.—Michael Marano

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10. Day Watch
Year: 2006
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Day Watch is the sequel to Night Watch in which we learn that the world is in balance because of a centuries-old truce between the dark-siders and the light-siders who live amongst we clueless mortals.The truce is strained when one of the light guys, Anton, is suspected of murdering a couple of dark side vampires while searching for the mystical “Chalk of Fate.” He’s also looking for his son who has gone to the dark side. And he’s dealing with temporarily inhabiting the body of a woman who used to be an owl. Needless to say, Day Watch can be a tad confusing despite the fact that we are quickly updated on what happened in the first film. But the acting is superb, the dialogue is incredibly sharp and humorous, and the effects are amazing. Even the subtitles are entertaining as the words change color, bounce and crash into pieces.—Tim Basham

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9. Carrie
Year: 1976
Director: Brian De Palma
Based on Stephen King’s first novel, this first King adaptation still remains among the best. The scene where Carrie burns down the school gym with her mind while her tormentors are trapped inside is one of the most relentless revenge scenes in history. That’ll teach bullies to be nicer to the nerds.—Wyndham Wyeth

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8. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Year: 1919
Director: Robert Wiene
Tim Burton, David Lynch and Dario Argento all owe a great debt to director Robert Wiene and cinematographer Willy Hameister for this surreal, disorienting contribution to German Expressionist cinema. Dr. Caligari stands out for its fully painted sets devoid of any right angles, creating a skewed dream world that would be imitated in the feverish works of animators and horror auteurs for decades. The sleep-walking zombie and mind-fuck ending are just an added bonus to one the most visually arresting horror fantasies ever made.—Sean Edgar

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7. The Cabin in the Woods
Year: 2011
Director: Drew Goddard
For a movie chock-full of twists, perhaps the biggest is that despite all appearances to the contrary, The Cabin in the Woods is a heartfelt love story. Mind you, not between any of the young and pretty college students who tempt fate at the cabin in question. No, this romance is between creators Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, and the scary-movie genre as a whole. A ménage à terror, if you will. Like Scream before it, the film is a simultaneous dissection and celebration of all the tropes to which it pays homage, while also managing to be a superb example of the genre in its own right. The script is vintage Whedon—smart, funny and surprising. Thanks to Goddard’s direction and staging, and despite the film’s very focus on the formulaic nature of horror, it still manages to be tense, atmospheric and jump-out-of-your-seat scary. The Cabin in the Woods may very well be the ultimate schlocky little horror movie.—Dan Kaufman

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6. The Evil Dead
Year: 1981
Director: Sam Raimi
Sam Raimi’s first full-length feature is a self-conscious, gratuitous homage to some of the best horror movies of all time. Where it branches off into its own glorious substrata is its implementation of fun and whimsy into its relentless bloodletting. Ironically, the Evil Dead films would go on to influence a generation of tongue-in-cheek hyper violence found in the slasher films of the ‘80s.—Sean Edgar

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5. The Bride of Frankenstein
Year: 1935
Director: James Whale
Egregiously omitted from most “best sequel” discussions, this darkly inventive would-be love story may well be the finest of the golden-age Universal monster movies. With its extravagant gothic aesthetic and timeless Hollywood mores (“We belong dead!”), the film is the face of an era and a fearsome inspiration to many that followed.—Sean Edgar

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4. Children of the Corn
Year: 1984
Director: Fritz Kiersch
It’s not often that the adults should be the ones afraid to watch a horror movie with kids, but it would be hard not to look at kids differently after 1984’s Children of the Corn. The film focuses on a cult in a fictional Gatlin, Neb., lead by redheaded terror Malachai who is convinced by an entity called He Who Walks Behind the Rows that all adults over 18 should get the ax. We see Burt and Vicky (played by Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) struggle to escape the small town after driving through and hitting a young, dying boy with their car. There’s plenty of slasher scares and creepy visuals, but like any good horror movie, it’s a commentary on us as a society. And like Lord of the Flies before it, this Stephen King-based story looks towards our kids to point out the oddities of our culture, including an obsession with religion.—Tyler Kane

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3. Rosemary’s Baby
Year: 1968
Director: Roman Polanski
The most famous of Polanski’s paranoid thrillers, not to mention the most inviolable. The film infiltrates a privileged space of middle-class entitlement and pollutes it with the most extreme evil possible: sweet, unassuming Rosemary (Mia Farrow) is pregnant, but could her baby already belong to someone else? The volatile climax has an answer, and the sequence has remained one of the most celebrated in horror history for good reason.—Sean Edgar

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2. Nosferatu
Year: 1929
Director: F. W. Marnau
F.W. Murnau’s sublimely peculiar riff on Dracula has been a fixture of the genre for so long that to justify its place on this list seems like a waste of time. Magnificent in its freakish, dour mood and visual eccentricities, the movie invented much of modern vampire lore as we know it. It’s once-a-year required viewing of the most rewarding kind.—Sean Gandert

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1. Let the Right One In
Year: 2008
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Vampire stories are plastered all over American pop culture these days (True Blood, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries), but leave it to the Swedes to produce a vampire film that manages to be both sweet and frightening. The friendship between Oskar, a scrawny, 12-year-old outcast, and Eli, a centuries-old vampire frozen in the body of a child, is a chilling but beautiful story to behold.—Jeremy Medina

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