It’s a telling admission of how Netflix views genre audiences when you can look at the list of new programming on the streaming service in October and quickly see that it includes no significant new horror movies. It doesn’t mean that Netflix isn’t going to promote its horror films in October, because they will. What it means is that Netflix doesn’t see “horror fans” as a specific market it has any interest in trying to reach. In the eyes of Netflix executives, horror films are just something that the “regular audience” turns to once each year, in the weeks leading up to Halloween.
On some level, they’re of course correct. Viewership of and interest in horror cinema peaks every year in this month, which is of course why we chose to update our ranking of the best horror movies on Netflix at the beginning of October as well. Looking at our traffic numbers, the connection between October and horror-driven content is clear. But still, it’s disappointing that Netflix just doesn’t care about genre fans, or doesn’t find them profitable enough to court. Because that’s what they’re tacitly saying to their audience when October rolls around and the only horror films they’re adding to the service are trash such as The Uninvited (2009) or Queen of the Damned (2002)—neither of which will make this list. Perhaps I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House will make the list when added on Oct. 28, but no one outside of Toronto International Film Festival audiences have even seen it yet. The lack of interest in catering to a genre audience is exactly why horror-centric streaming services such as AMC’s Shudder have become viable alternatives—check out our ranking of Shudder’s horror movies here.
As we’ve covered before in these rankings, when it comes to horror, Netflix is very lacking in classics and franchise staples. Don’t expect to find any Halloween or Friday the 13th entries, or a single one of George Romero’s zombie classics—not even Night of the Living Dead, which is free in the public domain for them to exhibit. What they can claim, though, is a decent number of more recent, solid indie horror pictures such as The Babadook, Starry Eyes or The Canal. It’s not fabulous, but there are some great movies here, if you know which ones to watch.
Thus, we invite you to use this list as a guide. The lowest-ranked films are of the “fun-bad” variety—flawed, but easily enjoyable for one reason or another. The highest-ranked films are obviously classics. Check them out, and let me know about any great horror films currently on Netflix that you think deserved a spot on the list.
Director: Jordan Rubin
Look, if you don’t know before you ever hit “play” exactly what you should be expecting from Zombeavers, I’m not sure how much I can help you. It’s a film about toxic waste-spawned zombie beavers, people. It’s halfhearted as both a horror film and a comedy, with a preponderance of jokes that thud and just enough that will draw an ashamed chuckle. It feels like a throwback to the straight-to-VHS horror schlock of the ’80s and ’90s—simple, kitschy premise, plenty of gratuitous nudity, lots of attempts at humor. By the time people start turning into WERE-BEAVERS near the film’s end, you’ll have settled into a good groove of mocking its flaws and enjoying its alternating shamelessness and reverence for the genre—because at least they attempt some interesting practical effects. Good on you, Zombeavers. It’s trash, but a step above the bottom of the barrel. —Jim Vorel
59. The ABCs of Death
Directors: Various directors
The ABCs of Death is an anthology film with a great premise: 26 horror shorts about death from up-and-coming directors, one for each letter of the alphabet. Unfortunately, the results are as scattershot as you would expect, and for every good entry there are two uninteresting, confusing or just plain “gross for gross sake” ones. It’s worth seeing, however, for the two or three entries that are really great, which also happen to be from three very promising directors—Nacho Vigalondo’s “A is for Apocalypse,” Marcel Sarmiento’s “D is for Dogfight” and Adam Wingard’s “Q is for Quack.” The “D” entry is probably the star of the show and the one that attracted the most critical praise when it came out, for good reason. It’s a grungy, uncompromising, brutal inversion of a typical story between a man and his dog, and it’s beautiful looking to boot. —J.V.
58. Dark Skies
Director: Scott Stewart
This alien abduction horror flick starts out with a satisfyingly pulpy premise but can’t quite stand up under the weight of the strange rules it employs to limit its antagonists. Following a family unit as inexplicable and seemingly supernatural events begin to erode the fabric of their lives, Dark Skies builds some solid suspense earlier on and has a lot of individually unnerving moments—I love the family members all wandering off and going catatonic, or the swarm of birds beating themselves to death against the house. Also wonderful is the presence of J.K. Simmons as the extraterrestrial expert, because really, when else have you seen that guy in a horror film? The movie goes off the rails as it rounds into the final third, though, and the film is forced to finally show us some aliens rather than simply suggest their presence. It’s a fairly paint-by-numbers horror movie that has some good moments of atmosphere but can’t deliver on a satisfactory payoff. —J.V.
57. Dead Silence
Director: James Wan
This film actually has a small if significant fanbase among the horror community—you’ll often see people citing it as “underrated,” possibly because it comes from Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring maestro James Wan. It is, however, Wan’s weakest film, one that feels somewhat like a perfunctory follow-up to Saw, which is pretty much exactly what it is. Screenwriter Leigh Whannell has said as much; that it was a film he was essentially made to write as quickly as possible to capitalize on the success of Saw. It is, however, a very different movie than the former—a combination of ghost story and Twilight Zone-like urban legend/morality tale about an evil ventriloquist who returns from the dead to stalk a family through dolls—but she can only kill you if you scream, hence the title. Wan’s signature visual style goes a long way toward making Dead Silence interesting, but the plot and characters seem closer to something you’d see in a FearNet or Syfy television movie. There are kernels of an interesting film here, but the best work of both Wan and Whannell was still yet to come. —J.V.
56. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead
Director: Tommy Wirkola
The sequel to Dead Snow (and there’s a third coming, by the way), Red vs. Dead completely abandons the true horror elements of the first film in favor of straight-up camp and horror comedy, a shift that I always take as a sort of admission—“We can’t legitimately frighten you with this, so let’s make it funny instead.” The resulting film is fun and colorful, bringing back the nazi zombies of the first installment for mayhem that becomes more over the top and gory, in the style of say, Dead Alive/Braindead. The main character from the previous film has had a zombie arm stitched onto him, which grants him both super strength and the ability to raise his own zombie army of dead Russian soldiers, i.e. the “Red” of the title. It’s ridiculous and full of action, which is great, but is slowed down throughout by thudding comic relief characters who you’d rather see eaten than speaking more lines. But in terms of being a splatter spectacle? Both Dead Snow films are great at that. —J.V.
55. The Hole
Director: Joe Dante
Horror great Joe Dante, he of The Howling and Gremlins, among others, directed this 3D horror film a few years back, which passed without much attention. It was a return to the feature film director’s chair for Dante, who has mostly been working quietly in TV in the last decade or so. The film is clearly meant to be something of a return to classic themes for the director, so-called “comfortable ground” that might allow him to recreate something along the lines of his older classics. The results? Serviceable, but not the most inspired. The Hole is a film in the “suburban teen horror” genre, of the type you might recall from 1985’s original Fright Night. A single, overworked, absent mother (a constant, in these types of movies) with two sons moves into an old house, where the kids soon discover a seemingly bottomless pit in the basement. They inadvisably remove the locks from said pit, and unleash a generic evil. They must naturally team up with the hot neighbor girl/love interest to discover the true nature of the hole from a previous occupant and then seal that sum’bitch back up. It’s a paint-by-numbers film that is at its best when receiving bits of old Joe Dante embellishment and humor—such as cameos by the likes of Roger Corman favorite Dick Miller and even Bruce Dern, who appeared in Dante’s The Burbs, which this film channels. It’s better than most of the other straight-to-VOD stuff on Netflix, but one wishes that a classic director such as Dante had a more interesting, unexpected story to tell. —J.V.
54. Last Shift
Director: Anthony DiBlasi
Last Shift doesn’t really aspire to much, other than to be cheap and to hit all the notes the director believes it’s supposed to hit. Essentially a one-woman, one-location show, it follows a rookie police officer on her first day on the job, working the overnight shift in an old police station that is about to be shuttered. Unfortunately for her, the various atrocities and bits of violence committed at the location over the years have made this station somewhere between “paranormal hotspot” and “portal to hell dimension.” We’re given some minor exposition about a cult who met a grisly end around the premises, but the majority of the film is simply a procession of well-worn tropes, as our heroine wanders the office, makes terrible choices and observes spooky phenomena. One can at least say that Last Shift looks quite nice for its budget, and there are a handful of effective jump scares sprinkled throughout, but it has a definite air of “bargain bin” about it. —J.V.
53. Would You Rather
Director: David Guy Levy
Would You Rather is the kind of somewhat reductive horror film that follows in the wake of the Saw and Hostel generation of the 2000s, where characterization is just an excuse to reduce each character to one driving motivation. Here’s our heroine—oh, she needs money to pay for the treatment of her sick brother, but what will she do to get it? Films like this are careful to not present any of the other characters as equally or more sincere in their desire than that protagonist, because that would introduce real moral ambiguity rather than the illusive choices here. Regardless, you’re not watching for the story—you’re watching to see what a bunch of strangers will be forced to do to each other in order to win a demented millionaire’s payday. ’80s horror icon Jeffrey Combs plays that villain, and although he’s clearly having a good time, there’s some spark of vitality to his performances in Re-Animator or From Beyond that has long since been reduced to paycheck-minded professionalism. If this movie had been made in 1985, perhaps it would have been a minor classic. —J.V.
52. Children of the Corn
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, one of the higher-profile entries in horror’s “kids kill all the adults” subgenre. The film focuses on a cult in a fictional Gatlin, Neb., lead by child preacher Isaac, 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 toward our kids to point out the oddities of our culture, including an obsession with religion. With that said, the performances are cheesy as hell—from both the adults and children. —Tyler Kane
51. The House at the End of Time
Director: Alejandro Hidalgo
I earlier made the mistake of thinking this film was part of the prolific Spanish indie horror market, which has given us the likes of Nacho Vigalondo and Guillermo Del Toro, but The House at the End of Time is actually Venezuelan in origin. It’s ambitious but somewhat messy, a story about a family that undergoes a traumatic, fracturing event and its fallout over the course of 30 years. The eventual revelation of the twist pushes the story into more of a “sci-fi horror” direction, and feels somewhat inspired by the prime-era films of M. Night Shyamalan in execution. The film simply isn’t quite as profound as it would like to think it is, and the visual fidelity holds back its “cinematic” quality slightly, but it gets the most out of a strong central performance from its lead. If you get on a South American horror kick, you’ll end up watching it eventually. —J.V.
Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence
We already mentioned that horror anthologies are, by nature, almost always uneven in terms of quality, but if there’s one constant, it’s usually that fewer stories is better than MANY stories. That’s one of the factors that helps V/H/S work better than say, the unrestrained insanity of The ABCs of Death, along with a more coherent framing narrative. It features segments by some of the best young directors in horror such as Adam Wingard and Ti West, but it’s ultimately David Bruckner, who also directed the genre-bending 2007 horror flick The Signal, who steals the show with his segment, “Amateur Night.” That story, about a group of douchey guys who bring home a strange girl from the bar and get much more than they bargained for when she turns out to be a literal monster, is now getting the full-on feature film treatment under the title of Siren. As for which of the first two V/H/S entries is strongest, though, it’s a bit of a toss-up. Both of them have highlight segments and a few downers. The one thing there’s no doubt about is that both of them are fun, and MUCH better than the abortive 2014 second sequel, V/H/S: Viral. —J.V.
As we just said in the last entry, your taste in the V/H/S series will likely depend on which entry has your personal favorite segment, but the first two are relatively neck and neck. At the very least, this one contains what might be the single best segment in the entire series, Eduardo Sanchez’ “A Ride in the Park.” Without giving everything away, it involves bicyclists, zombies and helmet-mounted GoPro cameras, which help give us a perspective we’ve never really seen in horror while deftly avoiding the question of “Why would anyone be filming this?” There’s still some not-great segments—really the ideal V/H/S would be a compilation that takes only the best segments from each entry to create a really solid horror anthology. One has to wonder if Viral killed this series for good, or whether they’ll eventually act like it never happened and release a straight-up V/H/S 3. —J.V.
Director: Jason Lei Howden
New Zealand is seeing a revival as a hot-spot for indie horror comedies these days, between this film and others such as What We Do in the Shadows and its upcoming sequel, We’re Wolves, harkening back to the days of Peter Jackson. Deathgasm is a simple film, but a fun one that doesn’t aspire to much. A band of surly heavy metal-worshiping high school students stumbles upon “The Black Hymn,” a piece of medieval-era sheet music that has the power to summon demons and possibly bring about the end of the world. Naturally, they adapt it into a garage rock song, and soon enough, the neighborhood is abuzz with gore-heavy scenes of demonic possession. The humor is crude, and not quite as funny as it thinks it is, but the horror scenes are fun, and Deathgasm never drags. It’s been hailed as a new classic by metalheads, but I still think there’s an even better heavy metal horror film waiting to be made out there. Fun trivia note: Walmart refused to sell copies of the film without changing its title to “Heavy Metal Apocalypse,” so they did. —J.V.
47. Stage Fright
Director: Jerome Sable
Stage Fright came and went pretty quickly last year, as indie horror flicks do unless they happen to catch that rare wave of critical acclaim enjoyed by The Babadook or It Follows. This one certainly didn’t stand out like those, even as a “comedy horror musical,” which isn’t exactly a combination one sees every day. Set in the ultra-competitive world of summer theater camp, it manages to do everything pretty well—it’s funny without being hilarious, musically inclined without being mind-blowing and features impressive gore and physical effects without being truly frightening. It feels like an attempt to put a slightly different spin on the meta-horror instincts of Scream, without the burden of having a bunch of characters constantly discussing the tropes of the horror genre. It could be a good choice to watch if you want to see something that’s horror in name without making much of an attempt to keep you up at night. —J.V.
46. Bad Milo!
Director: Jacob Vaughan
Bad Milo! is a silly, enjoyably stupid exercise in b-horror comedy, the exact sort of premise that Troma would have been happy to make, except here it’s handled slightly (emphasis on “slightly”) more tastefully. It tells the story of a harried man named Duncan, who is beset by stressors both at home and the office, and the extremely unusual way his body responds as a coping mechanism. The titular “Milo” is a small demon that literally lives up Duncan’s rectum—and it emerges to wreak a terrible vengeance whenever stress pushes him over the edge. You know what you’re getting here: A mostly funny gross-out comedy, but one with an above-average cast that includes Gillian Jacobs, Stephen Root, Peter Stormare and Patrick Warburton, among others. The puppet is suitably icky—it’s like if the baby from Dinosaurs grew a bunch of sharp teeth and was rubbed with Vaseline. But really, this is the kind of movie where you should probably be able to tell before even turning it on if it’s the kind of thing you’re likely to enjoy. —J.V.
45. Witching & Bitching
Director: Alex de la Iglesia
Witching & Bitching is a strange, rambling Spanish horror comedy that was showered with awards at the 2013 Goyas, the Spanish equivalent of the Academy Awards—just imagine a horror film of any description being able to say the same in America. For the first 30 minutes, you wouldn’t even know that it’s technically a horror film—instead it starts out as a heist comedy, as a gang of men in ridiculous costumes attempt a Point Break-inspired theft at a cash-for-gold store. On the run from the law, they finally end up in a backwoods Spanish town controlled by … yep, witches. The performances are solid and the jokes are frequently funny, but Witching & Bitching never really attempts to achieve anything substantive. It’s a lightweight diversion that hardly seems like horror-comedy at all—that is, until the last 20 minutes or so, when shit really hits the fan in a big way. What it makes for is a film that is uneven but fun, as long as you can stand watching a comedy with subtitles. —J.V.
Director: Gareth Edwards
The last few times I put this list together, I left off Monsters only because I couldn’t decide if it truly qualified on any level as “horror” despite being subcategorized as such on Netflix. It is, however, a well-made little film that gave the world its first look at director Gareth Edwards, who parlayed his micro-budget success (budget under $500,000) into a chance to direct blockbusters Godzilla and now Rogue One: A Star Wars Story—an incredible leap forward in prominence in the film community. Monsters, on the other hand, is almost like a sci-fi relationship drama, a film about a journalist tasked with escorting a tourist across a dangerous, quarantined zone of Central America that has become home to alien lifeforms. Edwards skillfully makes the most of on-location shooting and very limited FX to evoke a sense of how the aliens are changing the planet, and of how their arrival changed everything for mankind. Ultimately, though, you’re watching this film for the performances and subtle interplay between its characters rather than any kind of spectacle. Go in looking for a scary movie or action romp, and you’ll be disappointed. You need to take it for what it is: A realistic story about what it might be like for two average people with complicated emotional baggage being thrust into a challenging scenario. Whatever you do, just don’t see the 2014 sequel in name only, Monsters: Dark Continent. —J.V.
Director: Lowell Dean
Wolfcop is full-on horror comedy, but it’s delirious good fun. When an alcoholic small-town Canadian cop gets cursed and turned into a werewolf, he retains all of his human faculties—above all, a respect for the LAW. Using his newfound werewolf superpowers, he opposes the local cabal of reptilian shapeshifters. Yep. That’s your film. It’s one of those carefully calculated modern, indie horror-comedies that was created explicitly in the hopes of someday being labeled “cult classic,” but it does its job better than most. It feels at times a bit like the neo-grindhouse aesthetic of Hobo With a Shotgun, perhaps thanks to the gore effects, although it’s nowhere near as nihilistic. More than anything, you feel a very genuine love for the utter ridiculousness of the premise. It’s a film that people clearly enjoyed the hell out of making, which makes that fun infectious to the viewer. —J.V.
42. Europa Report
Director: Sebastian Cordero
This is definitely a stretch, but I wanted to give some recognition to an interesting indie sci-fi film with some definite horror elements. Europa Report is rather stunning in how awesome its production design pulls off a realistic-looking spacecraft traveling to one of Jupiter’s moons. With The Martian fresh in peoples’ minds, consider this film as it tackles similarly science-based issues of the dangers of space travel, along with the question of other forms of life—possibly hostile life—once the destination is reached. Featuring a cast of lesser-known actors, it nevertheless has both Neill Blomkamp favorite Sharlto Copley and Daniel Wu, who has now been exposed to a wider audience as the lead protagonist of AMC’s Into the Badlands. The film’s first half impresses via both characterization and its realistic portrayal of one possible mode of space travel, before the second half unexpectedly ratchets up the suspense and introduces some genuine horror elements. Detractors would say that it’s tonally inconsistent—I say that it’s two different types of effective, and super-impressive on a smaller budget. —J.V.
41. Dead Snow
Director: Tommy Wirkola
You’d be surprised just how many nazi zombie movies there truly are out there—it’s a subtype of the zombie film that was first made in the ’70s with films like Shock Waves and has never stopped being made since, but the highest profile version from recent years was Dead Snow and its ridiculous sequel from last year, Red vs. Dead. The first Dead Snow, though no masterwork, is the better film because it at least partially tries to hit the horror audience instead of abandoning it for full-on horror-comedy camp. A group of students camp out in a remote, snowy cabin in Norway and unwittingly revive a regiment of Nazi zombies by appropriating their Nazi gold—pretty standard stuff for the genre. The attempts at humor and characterization are so-so, but the FX and action work are top-notch for an indie feature, with great costuming for the zombies and lots of explosive bloodletting. Go in with low expectations and just enjoy the blood ’n’ guts. —J.V.
Director: Lewis Teague
Cujo is a very modest, intimate horror film, as sad as it is potentially frightening. There’s something really tragic in the degradation of Cujo the St. Bernard after he contracts rabies, the way his eyes and mental state begin to crumble in the face of the disease. He’s made into a monster, but it’s an unwilling transformation from his normally friendly state, a stripping away of non-sentient good-naturedness—one might call it a metaphor for the corrupting power of evil in society. It’s well-structured to lead itself to a long, tense stand-off between a mother, her young son and the dog, as they sit trapped in their car in the broiling heat, trying to make a decision between heatstroke or the vicious dog waiting for them outside. As if it needs to be said, you shouldn’t watch this if you’ve ever had any doubts about the loyalties of the family pooch, as it will only exacerbate them. —J.V.
39. Sleepy Hollow
Director: Tim Burton
Visually, there’s no denying that Sleepy Hollow is among Tim Burton’s most sumptuous films. A modern retelling of the story of Ichabod Crane makes Johnny Depp’s character an eccentric police inspector rather than a nebbish school teacher, although he does retain plenty of the typical Depp mix of awkwardness, vulnerability and smoldering sensuality. The story almost plays like a Burton film crossed with something by say, Wes Craven if it’s Craven in one of his more populist, money-making moods—a Georgian-era supernatural slasher film with a touch of American giallo as Crane tries to work out not the identity of the killer (the headless horseman) but who is controlling the killer. It all builds to a big finale that feels a little out of place and overwrought, a seeming overture toward making a financially successful film that doesn’t feel entirely necessary. Sleepy Hollow is at its best in its quieter moments, living off the strength of Depp and its creepy art direction, rather than when resorting to fight and chase scenes. But the gothic visuals definitely do carry it quite a ways. —J.V.
Director: Clive Barker
Nightbreed is an odd duck of a movie, stranded somewhere between legitimate horror film and dark fantasy story. Clive Barker directs, only a few years after Hellraiser, but here his ambition perhaps got the best of him. It’s pretty clear that he wanted Nightbreed to be something akin to a horror epic, a movie with a profound message about identity, acceptance and community. In execution, though, it has a hard time picking what tone it’s supposed to be emanating. Sometimes it’s darkly humorous. Sometimes it’s legitimately spooky. Other times you’re not sure whether you’re supposed to be taking the action on screen seriously or not. One thing that is spectacular throughout is the art direction, sets, costuming and makeup. Some of the character designs may come off as “silly,” but just as many of them are likely to end up in your nightmares. Nightbreed is a mixed bag, a would-be inspiring story about monsters trying to build a safe community to peacefully live their lives, but lacking the iconic nature of Barker’s most famous creations. —J.V.
37. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2
Director: Tony Randel
Hellbound is a somewhat divisive sequel among horror fans, but we can all at least agree on one thing: It’s much, much better than any of the approximately 57 additional Hellraiser sequels that followed, most of which will make you wish the Cenobites were gouging your eyes out with their rusty hooks. It’s actually a more ambitious, somewhat less intimate film than the first Hellraiser, greatly expanding upon the mythos of the series as Kirsty must journey to the hellish dimension of the demonic Cenobites to oppose an evil doctor whose dreams of power transform him into a Cenobite himself. The lovely Ashley Laurence returns as the protagonist, along with a young, emotionally disturbed girl who is adept at solving puzzles, which almost gives it the feel of a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel such as Dream Warriors. The Cenobites themselves get a little bit watered down from their nigh omnipotence in the original film, but the settings and effects are great for the meager budget and do as good a job as anyone could reasonably do of translating the twisted vision of Clive Barker to the screen. —J.V.
36. The Taking of Deborah Logan
Director: Adam Robitel
This recent spin on the extremely crowded possession genre is the real definition of a mixed bag. Its initial premise is solid, as it follows a college film crew documenting a senior citizen (Deborah Logan) who is battling Alzheimer’s disease. What they don’t realize is that someone or something else may have been welcomed into Deborah’s mind as her mental faculties weaken. The film gets points for stylishness on a budget, and especially for the chilling, nuanced performance by Jill Larson as Deborah, but it’s eventually unable to sustain itself in the last third, becoming increasingly divorced from logic. There are moments of great, disturbing imagery, but that’s counterbalanced by characters who act incredibly irrationally—even for a horror film. It becomes more and more difficult to find reasons for any of the story being filmed at all, which leads to an ending that some might label a cop-out. But with that said, it’s still a far cry better than most entries in either the found footage or possession subgenres. Note: This film is leaving Netflix on Oct. 24, so you’ll want to hurry up. —J.V.
35. From Dusk Till Dawn
Director: Robert Rodriguez
I can’t help but wonder, watching From Dusk Till Dawn, what the film might have looked like if Robert Rodriguez wrote it as well, rather than Quentin Tarantino. Would the Mexican vampire element have been introduced before the halfway mark? Probably. But there’s Tarantino for you, not content to tell one story—instead, he delivers what almost becomes two entirely separate movies starring the same characters. In the first half we get a crime dramedy about a pair of sociopathic brothers on the lam, taking hostages down the Mexico. When they finally get there, the switch flips and it turns into a gory vampire western. Both halves are entertaining in their own way, although genre purists who went in expecting a vampire film were probably perplexed by the lead-in to the payoff. That payoff is satisfyingly pulpy, though, and there’s a certain pleasure in going back to see the earlier era of George Clooney, when he thought the idea of fighting Mexican vampires seemed like a good career move. —J.V.
34. The Invitation
Director: Karyn Kusama
The “dinner party horror movie” is not quite frequent enough a thing to warrant its own, personal subgenre, but they do seem to pop up with regularity. Just look at this list—Would You Rather also revolves around the same concept, and they appear in a few of the other films in more limited capacities as well. They’re the perfect setting for psychological thrillers and horror films, bringing together a diverse group of people into a small, confined area where tensions can reach a boiling point. In Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation, it’s a man who lost his son, invited along with a large network of friends to reconnect with his ex-wife and her new husband at the dinner party. Once the guests arrive, the suspicions begin to mount. Why are there bars on the windows? Where’s that one, missing friend? And how much of this is all in our protagonist’s head, as he’s eaten up by the memories and profound guilt he feels for the accidental death of his son? It’s a bit of a meandering film that could likely lose a few minutes of introspection and be stronger for it, but it’s simultaneously suspenseful and visceral when it should be. It takes a bit too long for the pot to boil, but when it does, things get out of hand quickly. Unrelated note: There’s a great appearance by creepy, unnerving character actor John Carroll Lynch, who also played the suspected serial killer in David Fincher’s Zodiac. —J.V.
33. The Horde
Directors: Benjamin Rocher, Yannick Dahan
The Horde plays a bit like someone in France saw From Dusk Till Dawn and wondered what the format of that movie might be like with zombies instead of vampires. Like the Robert Rodriguez film, we get sucked into a tense crime story first, following a group of police officers as they storm a mostly abandoned apartment high-rise to take down a gang of drug dealers who killed one of their own. And then, 20 minutes in … a bunch of zombies arrive! You almost have to admire the total lack of foreshadowing—it’s a unique take on “the world has come to an end,” because in this story, the world comes to an end while the two sides (cops and drug dealers) are in the midst of a very pitched confrontation. They have no access to information on the wider world, and can only watch as Paris apparently tears itself apart. Naturally, the cops and robbers then need to team up in order to survive, in a strange mix of sadistic humor and emotional turmoil. As for the zombies, they actually look pretty awesome, although their abilities tend to vary wildly from scene to scene. An odd quirk: The zombies actually remove their own dead from the battlefield for reasons never fully explained, a trait I’ve never seen in another zombie movie. —J.V.
32. John Dies at the End
Director: Don Coscarelli
Your ability to withstand the absurdity of John Dies at the End will depend almost entirely on if you’re able to tolerate nonlinear storylines and characters who tax the lengths of the imagination. An oftimes crude and farcical combination of horror, drug culture and philosophy, it’s a film you won’t entirely grasp until you’ve seen it for yourself. Central is a drug known as “soy sauce” that causes the user to see outside the concept of linear time, existing at all times at once in a way that almost reminds one of the alien beings from Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Also appearing: Phantom limbs, an alien consciousness known as “Shitload,” a heroic dog and an evil, interdimensional supercomputer. No drugs necessary—the film will make you feel like you’ve already ransacked your medicine cabinet. —J.V.
31. The Hallow
Director: Corin Hardy
There are mythological horror stories, and there are scientifically based horror films, and then there’s The Hallow, which splits the difference in a unique and off-putting way by fusing the two. As viewers, we’re tempted to believe that the film is simply going to give us something of a monster movie, spinning off some Irish mythology on nature spirits and whatnot as they enact terrible vengeance upon a family trespassing on their woods, but it’s actually a much ickier and invasive concept. The creatures may be of a “supernatural” bent, yes, but the film ties it all together with a certain amount of science-based physiology, referencing and drawing a metaphor to the so-called “zombie ants” that are taken over and essentially puppeted by a virulent fungus. So it is with The Hallow, which features Game of Thrones’ Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) in a supporting role and builds nicely to a conclusion where the viewer isn’t certain quite what the outcome will be. Of special note, I would be remiss to not praise the FX work on this film, which is better than you can possibly expect from your average indie British-Irish horror movie. The whole film feels like something with a substantial, well-spent budget behind it, especially in the FX work, which is really top notch. It’s an impressive debut for director Corin Hardy, that’s for certain. —J.V.