The 40 Best Horror Movies on Amazon Prime

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The 40 Best Horror Movies on Amazon Prime

After drawing up huge rankings of the best horror movies on Netflix and the best horror movies on Shudder, it’s safe to say I’ve gotten used to the challenge of diving through the refuse of a streaming service and searching for the gems. But I’ve never really experienced a library with just as much junk in it as the Amazon library.

Good lord, Prime subscribers have access to a bizarre mixed bag here. There are a handful of classics, such as An American Werewolf in London, but these are pretty limited. It has access to one of the classic slasher franchises in the form of Friday the 13th movies (if you do the free trial of Starz), which is a feat that Netflix can’t match, but then no free access to similar series such as Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street. They have a ton of classic, raunchy films from Troma, such as The Toxic Avenger and Terror Firmer, but do those really belong on a horror list? There’s even a good selection of Rifftrax episodes, featuring the former crew of MST3k riffing on the likes of Italian Jaws rip-off The Last Shark. Complicating matters is the fact that many of the horror films require additional subscriptions to services with names like “Fear Factory” or “Screambox” in order to access.

But ultimately, the bulk of this horror library seems to be made up of straight-to-VOD garbage, the likes of which you just won’t want to watch. Therefore, fall back on our list of films that are worth your time for one reason or another. It’s heavy on campy horror classics from the ’80s, which Prime seems to have in spades.

Here are the 40 best horror movies on Amazon Prime:

the monster 2016 poster (Custom).PNG 40. The Monster
Year: 2016
Director: Bryan Bertino
Bryan Bertino’s The Monster takes place at the crossroads between a serviceable drama and a middling horror film. Each exists in its own parallel dimension, but despite the director’s clear intentions to bring those dimensions together, each is often a detriment to the other. The sparring between an irresponsible, addict mother and regressive daughter is often powerful, and might even remind an audience at some point of Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, but the tacked-on monster movie fails to evolve the drama at the heart of the film in a substantive way. Unlike the mesmerizing masked killers from Bertino’s own The Strangers, the beast here is packing no deeper, more intriguing motivations—but all in all, The Monster may still fascinate any Zoe Kazan fans in the house. —Jim Vorel


thankskilling poster (Custom).jpg 39. Thankskilling
Year: 2008
Director: Jordan Downey
In the pantheon of zany, holiday-themed horror movies, Thankskilling is somehow both the very worst and the very best. It’s immediately obvious that this profane, smutty horror-comedy about a killer turkey is “bad on purpose,” but at the same time it displays incompetence both intentional and unintentional. The performers, especially the leads, are bad in ways that no amount of coaching could ever help, but that turkey … his one-liners are somehow just crass enough to often be side-splitting. Made for a mere $3,500, it’s a clear case where a writer-director’s cleverness is on an entirely different level from the poor souls he was able to scrape together to make his film, and the effect is an endearingly weird mix of repulsion and charm. Enjoy it for what it is, but by all means, avoid the horrendous, shark-jumping sequel, Thankskilling 3. If you’re wondering about that title, it’s because the series skipped right over Thankskilling 2. —Jim Vorel


killer klowns poster (Custom).jpg 38. Killer Klowns From Outer Space
Year: 1988
Director: The Chiodo Brothers
Stephen, Charles and Edward Chiodo are a trio of siblings who have spent most of their careers working in practical movie effects, on everything from Critters to Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, but to horror fans they’ll always be known as those guys responsible for Killer Klowns From Outer Space. The titular monsters are actually aliens—it appears to be a series of incredible coincidences that everything about them is related to clowns. As in, their spaceship is a giant circus tent. Or the fact that they turn people into cotton candy before eating them. Or the fact that they’re all wearing floppy shoes and red ball noses. Coincidences, beautiful coincidences. The movie is a darkly comic story that never legitimately attempts to frighten—it’s saccharine faux-horror fun as silly and colorful as the clowns themselves. Today, it’s mostly worth seeing for the impressive makeup and FX work that the Chiodos managed to pull off on a small budget. Particularly memorable is the “shadow puppets” sequence, wherein one of the clowns uses what can only be described as Clown Magic to create a shadow T-Rex that first entertains, then devours, a crowd of onlookers. —Jim Vorel


hannibal poster (Custom).jpg 37. Hannibal
Year: 2001
Director: Ridley Scott 
It would be highly suspect if a movie geek ever advocated for this film as somehow better than The Silence of the Lambs, but despite an obvious downgrade from Jonathan Demme’s distinct visual style, there are still some fun performances that make Hannibal worth watching. Gary Oldman is equal parts disturbing and amusing as the horrifically scarred Mason Verger, who was left alive after being mauled by Hannibal Lecter as a special kind of punishment. Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling has sadly been replaced by Julianne Moore, who fails to connect with the character’s West Virginia roots in the way that made her both interesting and exploitable by Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. Still, you get a double dose of Hannibal in the film that bears his name, as Anthony Hopkins receives considerably more screen time than he did in the previous movie, living abroad in Italy and leaving a trail of gore in his wake. Ultimately, this story isn’t nearly as satisfying, but Hopkins plays a character who is just so damn interesting that we always end up wanting to spend as much time observing him as we can. —Jim Vorel


the little shop of horrors poster (Custom).jpg 36. The Little Shop of Horrors
Year: 1960
Director: Roger Corman
If you’ve only seen the Broadway musical or the 1986, Rick Moranis-fronted remake of The Little Shop of Horrors, then Roger Corman’s 1960 original might be something of a tough sell. It’s shot in grainy, low-budget black and white, of the kind that typified Corman’s horror comedies such as A Bucket of Blood in the same era, but there’s an earnest goofiness that survives through it all. Seymour Krelboyne is one of cinema’s great nebbish losers, but you can’t help but root for the guy on some level, even as he’s being manipulated to commit murders in service of a blood-drinking plant. And of course, the film is also filled with easter eggs, from the appearance of classic Corman bit player Dick Miller (of Gremlins and Terminator) to the weirdo performance turned in by a very young Jack Nicholson as a masochistic dental patient. And really—the film is a brisk 72 minutes long, so it’s not as if you’re making too much of a commitment here. —Jim Vorel


woman in black poster (Custom).jpg 35. The Woman in Black
Year: 2012
Director: James Watkins
There’s not much to this 2012 modern Hammer Horror film—nothing unique about it, but it’s quite competently assembled. With that said, you could argue that simply producing a ghost story this traditional in 2012 offered a bit of novelty. Daniel Radcliffe, fresh off his final Harry Potter appearance, took a role playing “an adult” as Arthur Kipps, a Victorian era lawyer who travels to the country to negotiate the sale of a house that is revealed to be haunted by the spirit of the Woman in Black. This CGI specter has a particular fondness for targeting children, and the film becomes a mystery in the “placate this restless spirit and set her free” mold. It offers a few fun twists and turns, and evokes classic British haunted house movies of the past, as Radcliffe stalks through dark, cobwebbed rooms with a flaming candelabra to light his way. The ending is a bit derivative of Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell, but all in all this is a better than average classical ghost story. —Jim Vorel


day of the animals poster (Custom).jpg 34. Day of the Animals
Year: 1977
Director: William Girdler
After Jaws became the first true summer blockbuster in 1975, “animals attack” films proliferated. 1976’s Grizzly was the first big success in the “Jaws on land” variants, and director William Girdler followed it up with Day of the Animals, which could probably be considered the logical zenith of the “nature attacks” premise—all animals vs. all humans. As in, solar radiation somehow causes every animal above 5,000 feet of elevation to go insane, attacking anything in their path. A group of hikers are menaced by all kinds of animals—mountain lions, bears, birds of prey and even pet dogs. Leslie Nielsen, five years before his career-altering comedic turn in Airplane!, appears as the primary human villain, channeling a bit of his Creepshow character from the early ’80s. It’s sort of an ugly film to watch today, but imagine if they ever decided to remake this thing with a decent budget. I want to see that movie, and all the killer koalas it would surely entail. —Jim Vorel


house at the end of time poster (Custom).jpg 33. The House at the End of Time
Year: 2013
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. —Jim Vorel


the house on sorority row poster (Custom).jpg 32. The House on Sorority Row
Year: 1983
Director: Mark Rosman
If you dreamt up an early ’80s slasher movie that wasn’t a franchise, it would look exactly like The House on Sorority Row. Sororities have always been prime slasher territory, thanks to the preponderance of young female victims living under the same roof—even the first-ever true slasher, Black Christmas, was set in a sorority. This one reveals tightly around a group of seven girls who accidentally murder their overbearing house mother in a prank gone wrong. As they try to cover up the crime, members of the group start showing up dead, begging the question of who or what is doing the killing. It’s pretty archetypal stuff, but a fun whodunit from smack dab in the middle of the golden era of the slasher. —Jim Vorel


aaah zombies poster (Custom).jpg 31. Aaah! Zombies!!
Year: 2007
Director: Matthew Kohnen
There’s no escaping that in the post-Shaun of the Dead era, indie zombie comedies piled up like so many bodies at the morgue after a zombie outbreak. Many of them are terrible, but occasionally you do get one like Aaah! Zombies! that is a pleasant surprise. The film uses a similar “told from the zombie’s point of view” structure to what you see in Colin, but with a clever, comedic twist: The zombies are conscious and unaware that they’re zombies. Rather, a group of slacker friends believe that they’ve become “super soliders” thanks to a confused military private who’s also become zombified. This is achieved through differing perspectives: When we see things from the zombies’ point of view, the film is colorized and their dialog is audible. When we see things from the perspective of human characters, the film is black-and-white, and the zombies are lumbering and uncoordinated. Our zombies, then, are something like unreliable narrators—we mostly see from their perspective, but we’re quickly made aware that their perspective is incorrect, which is the main source of humor. I’m making this film sound a bit more cerebral than it actually is, though—what one should expect from Aaah! Zombies! is simply some over-the-top slapstick humor, cartoonish zombie violence and silly character actor cameos. It gets a decent amount of mileage and laughs out of a decidedly indie budget. —Jim Vorel


girl-with-all-gifts-poster.jpg 30. The Girl With All the Gifts
Year: 2016
Director: Colm McCarthy
M.R. Carey’s novel The Girl With All the Gifts plays coy with its zombie (or “hungries,” as they’re called here) trappings, drawing readers in for dozens of pages before revealing its flesh-eating premise. The film adaptation, released last year in the U.K. before making its U.S. debut in February, bares its teeth right away. If viewers aren’t burnt out on zombie offerings (and they shouldn’t be, with such recent standouts as 2016’s Korean hit Train to Busan proving that the genre has plenty of life left in it), they’ll find that The Girl With All the Gifts is less concerned with the initial overwhelming outbreak than with the moral lines survivors in the military and scientific community are willing to cross. Director Colm McCarthy, working from a screenplay by Carey himself, doesn’t skimp on the swarming carnage, often rendering attacks in brutal, fully lit scenes, but the most frightening tension comes from a menacing, single-minded Glenn Close as a scientist with few scruples. Young actress Sennia Nanua as Melanie, the “hungry” most in control of her impulses, gives the crowded zombie genre one of its only truly heroic performances, enshrining The Girl With All the Gifts as the bloody heir to George Romero’s misunderstood-at-the-time classic Day of the Dead. —Steve Foxe


toxic avenger poster (Custom).jpg 29. The Toxic Avenger
Year: 1984
Directors: Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman
The Toxic Avenger, or simply “Toxie” as he’s known to fans, is the mascot and long-running figurehead of B-movie studio Troma Entertainment, having to date starred in four bone-crushing films. Born when a hapless nerd (Mark Torgl) falls into a barrel of toxic waste, Toxie (Mitch Cohen) is part Batman, part Swamp Thing and part Jason Voorhees, except his ire is thankfully directed solely at the legions of scumbags who ceaselessly seem to populate and spawn in the fictional Tromaville, NJ. A word to the wise: The Toxic Avenger isn’t for consumption by those without a strong stomach, although you could say that about most any of Troma’s classics. Their films aren’t so much “bottom of the barrel” or “lowest common denominator” as they are sub-denominatorial, reveling in their own poor taste and crassness, simultaneously parodying themselves and their own violent, sexual and scatological excesses. There’re no pretensions toward art in a Toxic Avenger movie, simply wish-fulfillment: a monster movie crossed with Death Wish, as performed by high school students. To quote the trailer: “The muggers and rapists didn’t know what law and order was until the Toxic Avenger came to town!” —Jim Vorel


friday 13th part 3 poster (Custom).jpg 28. Friday the 13th: Part 3-D
Year: 1982
Director: Steve Miner
It might be fair to call Part 3-D the silliest overall entry in the Friday the 13th series, but that only serves to make it lovable. Much of its ludicrous nature comes from the 3D aspect, which the studio was heavily promoting as a gimmick to ramp the slasher series up to the next level. The application of the 3D is both shameless and totally uninspired, to the point where it almost seems like parody—you’ve got yo-yos, baseball bats and parts of the human anatomy flying directly at the camera in a way that is completely alien to how Hollywood films are typically shot. I especially love the moment when one of the stoner characters passes a joint directly to the audience; hey thanks! As far as the Jason Voorhees mythology goes, this film is his second go-around as the primary killer, but the first where he acquires the iconic hockey mask he wears for the rest of the series. His “undead revenant” status and corresponding super strength are developing but not entirely present just yet, but nevertheless this feels like the moment when the Friday the 13th series is fully baked for the first time. Fire up a joint of your own, if you’re watching this one. —Jim Vorel


halloween h20 poster (Custom).jpg 27. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
Year: 1998
Director: Steve Miner
Halloween H20 represented a spiritual “hard reset” of the Halloween film franchise in the late ‘90s, following its complete departure from the rails in 1995’s supremely disappointing (and disjointed) Halloween 6, subtitled The Curse of Michael Myers. It was a somewhat rash action at the time, casting aside the continuity of every film after Halloween 2, to return the series to its roots—Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, played by the returning Jamie Lee Curtis, who is revealed to have faked her death and is living under an assumed name, still haunted by the memories of her original encounter with “the shape.” Today, one might remember the film for its off-the-wall supporting cast, which included a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt and LL Cool J, along with Josh Hartnett as Curtis’ son, but more than that, it was a fairly effective return to form on the “creepy stalker” formula of John Carpenter’s original 1978 classic. It even managed to give fans a fairly effective end to the Michael Myers character … which was sadly (and almost immediately) undone by the truly wretched Halloween: Resurrection in 2002. So it is, with these slasher franchises. —Jim Vorel


sleepy hollow poster (Custom).jpg 26. Sleepy Hollow
Year: 1999
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. —Jim Vorel


48. frankenstein army (Custom).jpg 25. Frankenstein’s Army
Year: 2013
Director: Richard Raaphorst
Indie found footage horror, contrary to what the success of Paranormal Activity would have you believe, is not an easy proposition—not at all. The original Paranormal Activity succeeds as a low-budget triumph because it has such modest goals, and most of the other found footage successes share that in common, but Frankenstein’s Army is very different in that regard. It’s the story of a troop of Russian soldiers in the waning days of WWII, infiltrating a German compound that turns out to be the testing grounds for a Frankenstein-descendent mad scientist. When his undead soldier creations come to life, the Russian soldiers end up fighting for their lives. Plot and performances are essentially unimportant—what ends up being extremely impressive here are the fabulously grisly monster designs, practical effects and inventiveness in staging found footage action sequences. This is an ambitious film that can be dull when there aren’t monster attacks happening, but what they achieved on a limited budget in depicting their monsters is absolutely remarkable. —Jim Vorel


bride of reanimator poster (Custom).jpg 24. Bride of Re-Animator
Year: 1990
Director: Brian Yuzna
Bride of Re-Animator has a tendency to rehash a lot of material from the seminal Stuart Gordon original, but that happens to be in the nature of both Herbert West and Dr. Frankenstein before him—they’re both so arrogant that no matter how many people die in each grisly experiment, they always convince themselves that next time all the flaws can be corrected. Dr. West is back in action here, roping his old accomplice Dan into helping him by promising to bring his dead fiancee Megan back to life by reanimating her heart. Meanwhile, West’s nemesis Dr. Hill is also revived via the re-agent, with his severed head and psychic powers entirely intact. With an army of reanimated zombies at his command, it all leads to a big showdown between Herbert West, Hill and the revived “Bride.” As in the last film, the real draw here is the explosively gory practical effects and the performance of the wonderful Jeffrey Combs as West. His imperious, patronizing tone toward everyone who isn’t on his intellectual level makes the character a joy to watch—you simultaneously root for him and await his inevitable comeuppance. —Jim Vorel


teeth poster (Custom).jpg 23. Teeth
Year: 2007
Director: Mitchell Lichtenstein
You’ll find Teeth lodged in a crevasse somewhere between black comedy and horror film; it is a unique, disturbing flick with a premise likely to decide your reaction to it before you’ve ever actually seen the movie, which is too bad. To put it bluntly, it’s about a young, abstinent girl whose first sexual experiences reveal a rare, deadly, (fictional) condition known as “vagina dentata,” aka teeth where teeth really should not be. You could try playing that kind of story completely seriously, and it would probably be truly horrifying, but Teeth instead is presented almost like a teenage sex comedy gone horribly wrong. There’s beats that almost remind one of say, American Pie, except for all of the severed sex organs. It’s often wickedly funny, though, centered around a great performance by Jess Weixler as the protagonist. It’s like Sixteen Candles, if Molly Ringwald had spent the entire movie leaving a trail of maimed boys in her wake. —Jim Vorel


42. henry portrait of a serial killer (Custom).jpg 22. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Year: 1986
Director: John McNaughton
Henry stars Merle himself, Michael Rooker, as a character who is essentially meant to approximate serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, along with his demented sidekick Otis Toole. The film was shot and set in Chicago on a budget of only $100,000, and is an ugly, depraved journey into the depths of the darkness capable of infecting the human soul. That probably sounds like hyperbole, but Henry really is a gross, ugly film—you feel dirty just watching it, from the filth-crusted streets of Chicago to the supremely unlikeable characters who prey on local prostitutes. It’s not an easy watch, but if gritty true crime is your thing, it’s a must-see. Some of the sequences, such as the “home video” shot by Henry and Otis as they torture an entire family, gave the film a notorious reputation, even among horror fans. —Jim Vorel


childs play poster (Custom).jpg 21. Child’s Play
Year: 1988
Director: Tom Holland
Child’s Play is one of those late ‘80s gimmick slashers where it’s all too easy to feel as if you’ve already seen the film, without actually having sat down to watch it. Killer doll, very cheesy, plenty of one-liners, right? Well yes, and no. The original (and pretty obviously best) entry in the Child’s Play series is the most serious-minded (at least slightly) and grounded of the movies, and it goes out of its way to humanize its iconic killer Chucky—or the spirit within him, that of serial killer Charles Lee Ray—more than one might expect. If you’ve never seen a film in the series, ask yourself this: Did you know that the plot of Child’s Play is technically all about voodoo? Because it is. In the end, though, its greatness and inherent watchability boils down to the charms of the wonderful Brad Dourif, who found in Chucky the vessel he needed to become a genre legend forevermore. Like Robert Englund did with Freddy Krueger, Chucky becomes the most beloved aspect of the series because Dourif’s voiceover just oozes charisma and character—he’s more alive than any of the flesh-and-blood characters in this series could ever be. It’s just one of those sublime moments of perfect casting—it’s easy to imagine that no one would remember the Child’s Play series today if that one aspect had been different. —Jim Vorel


invasion of the body snatchers 1956 poster (Custom).jpg 20. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Year: 1956
Director: Don Siegel
Few horror films in the history of American cinema have been read into as deeply (and conflictingly) as Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Perhaps that’s a tribute to the compelling nature of its central premise: That a race of aliens, of “Others,” has infiltrated our society and begun replacing your friends and relatives with emotionless “pod people.” Some read the film as a castigation of Communist ideals: fear over the abandonment of the self and individuality in a collectivist society. Others saw what was essentially the opposite: a sense of paranoia about the homogenization of McCarthy-era America, where individuality was being snuffed out by puritanical, “pleasant” culture and secret suspicion of every citizen by the government. But no matter how you read the film, it’s clear that its imagery has held fast in the cultural consciousness in the decades that followed, through multiple remakes and reimaginings—even ones as bad as 2007’s The Invasion. As we often struggle to remain socially empathetic, the term “pod people” seems more relevant than ever. —Jim Vorel


green-room.jpg 19. Green Room
Year: 2016
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
What’s perhaps most refreshing in Green Room is writer-director Jeremy Saulnier’s lack of interest in the kind of moralizing that made his last film, Blue Ruin, ultimately seem conventional. Instead, Saulnier simply presents us this nutty scenario without feeling the need to lard it up with anything as cumbersome as topical commentary or moral ambiguity. He proceeds to wring as much tension and suspense from its pulpy retro plot as possible, adding a few entertaining grace notes along the way, which can best be seen in its performances. In the ensemble-based Green Room, Saulnier revels in the contrasts of personalities and styles: band bassist Pat’s (Anton Yelchin) Bill Paxton-like desperation, for instance, set alongside the weary, near-drugged-out deadpan of Amber (Imogen Poots), a friend of the woman whose murder sets off the film’s violent chain of events; or the imperial calm of Darcy (Patrick Stewart), the ruthless leader of the band of white supremacists who attempt to kill Pat, Amber and the rest. It’d be a stretch to call these characters three-dimensional, but nevertheless, under Saulnier’s writing and direction, they all manage to stand out just enough as individuals for us to become emotionally involved in their fates. Meanwhile, Saulnier supports these characters and plot turns with filmmaking that is remarkable for its economy and patience. D.P. Sean Porter gets a lot of mileage out of the cramped quarters and grimy lighting of the bar, lending its wide (2.35:1) frames an appropriately nightmarish feel amidst many suspenseful set pieces. In those ways, the lean, mean Green Room stands as one of the best B-movie genre exercises in many years. —Kenji Fujishima


innkeepers.jpg 18. The Innkeepers
Year: 2011
Director: Ti West
When you’re working in indie horror, a big part of success is learning how to turn your budgetary limitations into a positive—to rely less heavily on effects and setting and more on characterization and filmcraft. Ti West understands this better than most, which is part of what made his earlier House of the Devil so effective. The Inkeepers has some of the same DNA, but it’s rawer and more “real,” following the mostly unremarkable exploits of two friends as they work in a dingy old bed & breakfast and conduct nightly paranormal research in their place of business. They’re well-cast and feel like two of the most “real people” you’re likely to see in a horror film—West, feeling in moments like a horror Tarantino, enjoys lingering on them during their conversations and small-talk, which builds a sense of casual camaraderie present between long-time co-workers. Of course, things do eventually start going bump in the night, and the film ratchets up into a classically inflected ghost story. Some will accuse it of being slow, or of spending too much time dawdling with things that are unimportant, but that’s “mumblegore” for you. Ultimately, the reality imbued into the characters justifies the time it takes to give them characterization, and you still get some spooky “boo!” moments in the final third. It succeeds on the back of strong performances. —Jim Vorel


friday 13th new blood poster (Custom).jpg 17. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
Year: 1988
Director: John Carl Buechler
You can almost imagine the pitch meeting for Friday the 13th: The New Blood. A bunch of studio execs are sitting around a table. “But we’ve DONE these Jason movies,” says one. “What can we possibly do that we haven’t already done?” The room falls silent. A nebbish guy stands up and tentatively says the following: “What about psychic powers?” And the room bursts into applause. Because that’s what this fun, exuberant entry in the series gives us—an otherwise archetypal female protagonist who is set apart by her Carrie-esque telekinetic abilities. Just that one change allows for the application of a fresh coat of supernatural paint to the Jason Voorhees slasher primer. Jason is at his indestructible best in this entry, completely unstoppable and boasting what may be the best overall design of the series—from behind, you can actually see his exposed spine and bone structure, making it clear the Voorhees is more or less a murder golem at this point. The last 20 minutes are excellent, as blonde psychic Tina uses her nascent powers to battle Jason in a variety of locales, peppering him with housing nails before stringing him up with lightbulbs and setting him ablaze. It’s marred only by a dopey conclusion that seems out of place with the rest of the film. Other than that, the only entry in the series with a bigger, better body count is Part VI: Jason Lives. —Jim Vorel


friday-13th.jpg 16. Friday the 13th
Year: 1980
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
The Friday the 13th film that started them all. Years after two summer camp counselors are offed while they’re getting it on, a new group with similar extracurricular activities arrives at Camp Crystal Lake. Hack, slice. A pre-Footloose Kevin Bacon (one of the series’ many casting gems) gets lucky and then immediately gets an arrowhead through the back of the throat. Bummer. It’s a competent and formative slasher flick, though it barely resembles the series it spawned, in ways both positive and negative. Its impact, however, can’t be argued, and it’s the film most singularly responsible for properly kicking off the slasher boom of the ’80s. Jason makes only a brief, but extremely memorable appearance. And the ending reveal is among the most shocking in horror history. —Jeffrey Bloomer


southbound poster (Custom).jpg 15. Southbound
Year: 2016
Directors: Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath
Tricksters and demons, vengeful spirits and serial killers, the hope of salvation and the lingering presence of Satan: These are the things that anthology film Southbound is made of. The film has a single vision but is built on a wide variety of grim and ghoulish horror tropes, all the better to satisfy the hungers of even the most niche genre connoisseurs. Best of all, though, the wild variations from one section of the picture to the next enhances rather than dilutes the viewing experience. It helps that there are common themes that run across the film—loss, regret and guilt make up a repeated refrain—and that the sum of its parts adds up to an examination of how people unwittingly architect their own suffering. But Southbound is first and foremost a work of velocity, a joyride through Hell well worth buckling up for. ——Andy Crump


chopping mall poster (Custom).jpg 14. Chopping Mall
Year: 1986
Director: Jim Wynorski
Calling Chopping Mall the best film by director Jim Wynorski isn’t saying much—at all—but it remains a minor ’80s horror/sci-fi classic despite that. The premise is irresistible pulp, dressed in ’80s neon teen fashion—a group of kids hide out in the mall past closing time so they can party (and score) in one of the furniture stores overnight. Little do they know, however, that the mall recently unveiled a new fleet of deadly efficient security robots that are, shall we say, more than a little twitchy. The cast gives us Kelli Maroney, who also appears in the similarly teen-inflected Night of the Comet, and Roger Corman regular Dick Miller as the janitor, once again playing his signature role: “that guy who gets killed in an ’80s horror movie.” It’s a desperate fight for survival as the kids face off against the robots like the zombies of Dawn of the Dead, except with much more gallows humor. Today, genre fans are likely to fondly remember Chopping Mall for the fact that it contains one of the greatest single practical effects of the era; the graphic explosion of Suzee Slater’s head, followed by the robot’s wry line of “Thank you, have a nice day.” You’ve gotta love it. —Jim Vorel


house-haunted-hill.jpg 13. House on Haunted Hill
Year: 1959
Director: William Castle
Every William Castle movie has its own campy charms, but House on Haunted Hill is the guy’s masterpiece. It’s got it all: Vincent Price at his goofiest, a big spooky house, a mystery and a profoundly non-frightening walking skeleton. The gimmick this time around was referred to by Castle as “Emergo,” and it amounted to a plastic skeleton on a pulley system being flown over the audience—not his most creative, but shameless enough that only Castle would stoop so low. To me, this is the quintessential 1950s horror film, even though it comes at the end of the decade. It’s totally tame by today’s standards but has some fun, over-the-top performances, a bit of witty dialog and a large helping of cheese. I can watch this thing over and over without ever getting tired of it. It’s like horror comfort food. The colorized version is even more fun, replacing the static black-and-white original with an unrealistic palette of color-coded characters you will remind you of the cast of Clue. —Jim Vorel


friday 13th final chapter poster (Custom).jpg 12. Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter
Year: 1984
Director: Joseph Zito
Here’s a fun game: Find someone without much knowledge of the horror genre, and ask them to guess what number in the Friday the 13th series bears the subtitle The Final Chapter. Then, when they answer, inform them that there were eight more movies featuring Jason made after this one, which was already number four. Regardless, Final Chapter is universally well liked by fans of this series, and is often cited as one of the best, or at least in the top three. Much of it is character driven—this is the film that introduces the kid who would rightfully be considered Jason’s “arch enemy,” Tommy Jarvis, here played by a rather unsettling Corey Feldman one year before The Goonies. Jason himself has also matured into a fully powered engine of destruction by this point, and his physicality is top notch, as he comes bursting through windows, doors and literally anything in his way. The film even has a memorable appearance from a young-ish Crispin Glover, also a year before Back to the Future, playing a neurotic, Woody Allen-esque teenager determined to score. The scene of his spastic, improvisational ’80s dancing is nothing short of legendary. – Jim Vorel


society-movie-poster.jpg 11. Society
Year: 1989
Director: Brian Yuzna
Society is perhaps what you would have ended up with in the earlier ’80s if David Cronenberg had a more robust sense of humor. Rather, this bizarre deconstruction of Reagan-era yuppiehood came from Brian Yuzna, well-known to horror fans for his partnership with Stuart Gordon, which produced the likes of Re-Animator and From Beyond…and eventually Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, believe it or not. Society is a weird film on every level, a feverish descent into what may or may not be paranoia when a popular high school guy begins questioning whether his family members (and indeed, the entire town) are involved in some sinister, sexual, exceedingly icky business. Plot takes a backseat to dark comedy and a creepily foreboding sense that we’re building to a revelatory conclusion, which absolutely does not disappoint. The effects work, suffice to say, produces some of the most batshit crazy visuals in the history of film—there are disgusting sights here that you won’t see anywhere else, outside of perhaps an early Peter Jackson movie, a la Dead Alive. But Society’s ambitions are considerably grander than that Jackson’s gross-out classic: It takes aim at its own title and the tendency of insular communities to prey upon the outside world to create social satire of the highest (and grossest) order. —Jim Vorel


friday 13th jason lives poster (Custom).jpg 10. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Year: 1986
Director: Tom McLoughlin
It’s a bit of a sleeper pick, but one that has become more defensible over time as its stock grows—of all the Friday the 13th movies, the most purely entertaining entry falls right in the middle of the series: Part VI, Jason Lives. A near perfect amalgam of everything we love about ’80s era slasher movies, it’s an expertly balanced melange of jump scares, goofy characters, comic ultraviolence, spooky settings and gratuitous titillation. Tommy Jarvis from Final Chapter returns as a grown man after the disappointing and confusing fifth installment of the series, unable to accept the fact that Jason is actually dead. Naturally, his attempts to make sure end up resulting in Voorhees actually reanimating as a truly undead killing machine for the first time, and we’re off to the races. Jason stacks up a truly absurd body count in this entry, dispatching minor characters and cannon fodder with the greatest of ease and stylish panache. The film winks at the audience quite a bit, critiquing their taste in tawdry slashers even while it delivers one of the most fun, vibrant examples of the genre from the mid-80s. It’s self-aware in all the best ways, because its awareness never stops it from giving the paying audience exactly what they came to see. —Jim Vorel


last-man.jpg 9. The Last Man on Earth
Year: 1964
Directors: Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow
Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend has proven notoriously difficult to adapt while keeping any of its ideas intact, but compared to the later Omega Man or 2007 version of I Am Legend with Will Smith, this is probably the best overall take on the story. Some have called it Vincent Price’s best film, featuring wonderfully gothic settings in Rome where the last human man on Earth wages a nightly war against the “infected,” who have taken on the characteristics of classical vampires. It doesn’t fully commit to the inversion of protagonist/antagonist of the source material, but it makes the use of Price’s magnetic screen presence and ability to monologue. No one ever watches a Vincent Price movie and thinks “I wish there was less Vincent Price in this,” and The Last Man on Earth delivers a showcase for the actor at the height of his powers. Night of the Living Dead director George Romero has stated that without The Last Man on Earth, the modern zombie would never have been conceived. – Jim Vorel


we are still here poster (Custom).jpg 8. We Are Still Here
Year: 2015
Director: Ted Geoghegan
We Are Still Here never wants for scares. It might actually be the single most terrifying movie of 2015, even next to David Robert Mitchell’s acclaimed and unsettling It Follows. But Geoghegan handles the transition smoothly, from the story of running away from tragedy We Are Still Here begins as to the bloodbath it becomes. There’s no sense of baiting or switching; the director flirts with danger confidently throughout. Plus, there’s that New England winter to add an extra layer of despair. The elements forebode and forbid in equal measure. The weather outside is frightful…and the carbonized wraiths in the basement even more so. In the end, this is one haunted house that won’t be denied. – Andy Crump


it-comes-at-night-poster.jpg 7. It Comes at Night
Year: 2017
Director: Trey Edward Shults
It Comes at Night is ostensibly a horror movie, moreso than Shults’s debut, Krisha, but even Krisha was more of a horror movie than most measured family dramas typically are. Perhaps knowing this, Shults calls It Comes at Night an atypical horror movie, but—it’s already obvious after only two of these—Shults makes horror movies to the extent that everything in them is laced with dread, and every situation suffocated with inevitability. For his sophomore film, adorned with a much larger budget than Krisha and cast with some real indie star power compared to his previous cast (of family members doing him a solid), Shults imagines a near future as could be expected from a somber flick like this. A “sickness” has ravaged the world and survival is all that matters for those still left. In order to keep their shit together enough to keep living, the small group of people in Shults’s film have to accept the same things the audience does: That important characters will die, tragedy will happen and the horror of life is about the pointlessness of resisting the tide of either. So it makes sense that It Comes at Night is such an open wound of a watch, pained with regret and loss and the mundane ache of simply existing: It’s trauma as tone poem, bittersweet down to its bones, a triumph of empathetic, soul-shaking movie-making. —Dom Sinacola


texas-chainsaw.jpg 6. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Year: 1974
Director: Tobe Hooper
One of the most brutal mainstream horror films ever released, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, based on notorious Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, resembles art-house verité built on the grainy physicality of its flat Texas setting. Plus, it introduced the superlatively sinister Leatherface, the iconic chainsaw-wielding giant of a man who wears a mask made of human skin, whose freakish sadism is upstaged only by the introduction of his cannibalistic family with whom he resides in a dilapidated house in the middle of the Texas wilderness, together chowing on the meat Leatherface and his brothers harvest, while Grandpa drinks blood and fashions furniture from victims’ bones. Still, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre might not be the goriest horror film ever made, but as an imaginal excavation of the subterranean anxieties of a post-Vietnam rural American populace, it’s pretty much unparalleled. Twisted, dark and beautiful all at once, it careens through a wide variety of tones and techniques without ever losing its singular intensity. (And there are few scenes in this era of horror with more disturbing sound design than the bit where Leatherface ambushes a guy with a single dull hammer strike to the head before slamming the metal door shut behind him.) —Rachel Hass and Brent Ables


night-of-living-dead.jpg 5. Night of the Living Dead – Digitally Remastered
Year: 1968
Director: George A. Romero
It’s not really necessary to delve into how influential George Romero’s first zombie film has been to the genre and horror itself—it’s one of the most important horror movies ever made, and one of the most important independent films as well. The question is more accurately, “how does it hold up today?”, and the answer is “okay.” Unlike, say Dawn of the Dead (not on Shudder), Night is pretty placid most of the time. The story conventions are classic and the black-and-white cinematography still looks excellent, but some of the performances are downright irritating, particularly that of Judith O’Dea as Barbara. Duane Jones more than makes up for that as the heroic Ben, however, in a story that is very self-sufficient and provincial—just one small group of people in a house, with no real thought to the wider world. It’s a horror film that is a MUST SEE for every student of the genre, which is easy, considering that the film actually remains in the public domain. But in terms of entertainment value, Romero would perfect the genre in his next few efforts. Also recommended: The 1990 remake of this film by Tom Savini, which is unfairly derided just for being a faithful remake. —Jim Vorel


nosferatu poster (Custom).jpg 4. Nosferatu
Years: 1922
Directors: F.W. Murnau
It’s only natural for a modern viewer to think to themselves, at least somewhat snidely, that the 1922 silent original version of Nosferatu isn’t likely to be very “scary,” but they might be mistaken. If anything, the silent nature and griminess of old film stock give it a more ethereal, alien quality that adds to its creep factor—not to mention the fact that Max Schreck’s otherworldly performance is truly incredible. The way he moves, coupled with the disturbing makeup, make Count Orlok one of the most frightening film vampires of all time, even today. Seriously, don’t show Nosferatu to your young children, unless you want them to be awoken by nightmares on a regular basis. There wasn’t a scarier cinematic vampire than Orlok for many, many decades. – Jim Vorel


behind the mask poster (Custom).jpg 3. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Year: 2006
Director: Scott Glosserman
In the years following Scream there was no shortage of films attempting similar deconstructions of the horror genre, but few deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the criminally underseen Behind the Mask. Taking place in a world where supernatural killers such as Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger actually existed, this mockumentary follows around a guy named Leslie Vernon, who dreams of being the “next great psycho killer.” In doing so, it provides answers and insight into dozens of horror movie tropes and clichés, such as “How does the killer train?” How does he pick his victims? How can he seemingly be in two places at once? It’s a brilliant, twisted love letter to the genre that also develops an unexpected stylistic change right when you think you know where things are headed. It’s one of the most creative indie horror films of the 2000s, and despite a lack of star power, boasts tons of cameos from horror luminaries—Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, Zelda Rubinstein and even The Walking Dead’s Scott Wilson. Every, and I mean every horror fan needs to see Behind the Mask. —Jim Vorel


the-witch.jpg 2. The Witch
Year: 2016
Director: Robert Eggers
From its first moments, The Witch strands us in a hostile land. We watch (because that’s all we can do, helplessly) as puritan patriarch William (Ralph Ineson) argues stubbornly with a small council, thereby causing his family’s banishment from their “New England” community. We watch, and writer-director Robert Eggers holds our gaze while a score of strings and assorted prickly detritus. The wagon lurches ever-on into the wilderness, piling the frontier of this New World upon the literal frontier of an unexplored forest. It’s 1620, and William claims, “We will conquer this wilderness.” Eggers’ “New England Folk Tale” is a horror film swollen with the allure of the unknown. To say that it’s reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials, which take place 70 years after the events in the film, would be an understatement—the inevitable consequences of such historic mania looms heavily over The Witch. All of this Eggers frames with a subconscious knack for creating tension within each shot, rarely relying on jump scares or gore, instead mounting suspense through one masterful edit after another. The effect, then, is that of a building fever dream in which primeval forces—lust, defiance, hunger, greed—simmer at the edges of experience, avoided but never quite conquered. —Dom Sinacola


american werewolf poster (Custom).jpg 1. An American Werewolf in London
Year: 1981
Director: John Landis
Few directors have ever displayed such an innate tact for combining dark humor and horror the way John Landis does. At the height of his powers in the early ’80s, one year removed from The Blues Brothers, Landis opted for a much dirtier, grittier, scarier story that stands as what is still the best werewolf movie of all time. When two travelers backpacking across the English moors are attacked by a werewolf, one is killed and the other infected with the wolf’s curse. Haunted by the simultaneously unnerving and hilarious visions of his dead friend, he must decide how to come to terms with the monster he has become, even as he strikes up a relationship with a beautiful nurse played by Jenny Agutter. The film lulls you into comfort with its witticism before springing shocking, gory dream sequences on the viewer, which repeatedly arrive unannounced. The key moment is the protagonist’s incredibly painful, traumatic full transformation, set to the crooning of Sam Cooke doing “Blue Moon,” which is still unsurpassed in the history of the genre. Legendary FX and monster makeup artist Rick Baker took home the first-ever Academy Award for For Best Makeup and Hairstyling for creating a scene that has given the wolf-averse nightmares ever since. – Jim Vorel


Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident horror geek. You can follow him on Twitter for much more film writing.

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