The Best Horror Movies on Amazon Prime (Spring 2019)

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The Best Horror Movies on Amazon Prime (Spring 2019)

After drawing up huge rankings of the best horror movies on Netflix and the best horror movies on Hulu, it’s safe to say we’ve gotten used to the challenge of diving through the refuse of a streaming service and searching for the gems. Still: we’ve never really experienced a library with just as much junk in it as Amazon’s. If you’ve been paying attention, then you know this is only compounded by the fact that the “browse” function on Amazon Video is completely and utterly broken.

That said, Amazon subscribers also have access to a wealth of riches, many of them hiding in plain sight. Slowly but surely, Amazon has built the biggest and most comprehensive horror library of all the major services; there’s really no question now that they’ve surpassed Netflix and all other streamers, except for genre-specific platforms like Shudder. The trick is realizing those movies are there at all. Sure, it’s no surprise that Hereditary is now on the service, but did you know Amazon Prime was loaded with classic Italian giallo movies like Deep Red, Opera and Stage Fright? Or werewolf classics like Dog Soldiers and Ginger Snaps? There are all sorts of great movies here, which have made us expand the scope of this list all the way to 80.

Therefore, fall back on our list of films that are worth your time for one reason or another—just don’t expect to find them via browsing, when something like Carrie only shows up when you’re 30 pages deep.

Here are the 80 best horror movies on Amazon Prime:

troll 2 poster (Custom).jpg 80. Troll 2
Year: 1990
Director: Claudio Fragasso
What can you say of Troll 2, rightly regarded as one of the worst films ever made, that wasn’t already said in the excellent 2009 documentary Best Worst Movie? This is what happens when you take a schlocky Italian director in the form of Claudio Fragasso—a guy who didn’t even speak English at the time—and drop him in the middle of Utah to make a low-budget horror movie with a cast of principals who had never acted before. You end up with a movie titled Troll that doesn’t have any trolls in it, and the result is unintentional (but thoroughly delightful) hilarity. Troll 2 is one of those bad movies that are perfect for indoctrinating someone into the cult of appreciating trash, thanks to its unrelenting inexplicability. Why did that kid just pee on the dinner table in order to save his family from goblins? What’s up with this ghost Grandpa character? Why are the goblins in this “horror film” vegetarians? Is this actor affecting a bad accent, or is that just how he speaks? Don’t expect a lot of answers, but do expect to thoroughly enjoy the sense of certainty that you and your friends could definitely have filmed a better movie than this. —Jim Vorel


thankskilling poster (Custom).jpg 79. 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. Trust me, it’s not as clever as it sounds. —Jim Vorel


53. white zombie (Custom).jpg 78. White Zombie
Year: 1932
Director: Victor Halperin
One doesn’t need a Shudder subscription to see White Zombie—it’s readily available in the public domain, and you’ll see it included in every cheapo horror box set for that reason. Outside of star Bela Lugosi, the acting is pretty atrocious, but it’s a film that horror genre purists need to check off their lists at some point simply due to its influence and importance to the genre as the first-ever “zombie film.” Zombies, of course, had a very different connotation in the pre-George Romero world—these are Haitian voodoo zombies, with Lugosi as the spellbinding ringleader with the hypnotic eyes. This was in an age before subtlety had arrived in horror, so the name of Lugosi’s character is literally “Murder,” and he spends most of the film mucking about in the affairs of an engaged couple, zombifying the woman in the process to become his slave. It’s only 67 minutes long, so what do you have to lose? If you end up watching Revolt of the Zombies, King of the Zombies and I Walked With a Zombie afterward, I swear off all responsibility. — Jim Vorel


galaxy of terror poster (Custom).jpg 77. Galaxy of Terror
Year: 1981
Director: Bruce D. Clark
At first blush, Galaxy of Terror looks like your basic early ’80s Star Wars rip-off, quite a bit like executive producer Roger Corman’s own Battle Beyond the Stars from one year earlier. In reality, though, Galaxy of Terror is ever so much stranger (and grosser) than being a cheap imitation of anything, although there’s certainly some influence from Ridley Scott’s Alien involved … influence that would be revisited when James Cameron (production designer on Galaxy of Terror) directed Aliens five years later. As for this film, though, it’s an icky, squirmy mishmash of sci-fi and body horror elements, which sees a crew of oddball spacefarers (including Rob Zombie collaborator Sid Haig and a pre-Nightmare on Elm Street Robert Englund) crash-land on a planet, where they’re stalked and picked off by demonic creatures born of their own fears. The film’s low-budget FX are, for the most part, on the right side of endearing, but it’s the surprising amount of gore and strange death scenes that really make it memorable. Anyone who’s seen Galaxy of Terror will know that the “worm scene” in particular has gained a special sort of infamy, in a way that only implied sexual assault by a 12-foot worm monster can. In terms of recognition, Galaxy of Terror is still firmly in the cult camp, likely because it’s just too damn weird to ever escape it. —Jim Vorel


the town that dreaded sundown poster (Custom).jpg 76. The Town That Dreaded Sundown
Year: 1976
Director: Charles B. Pierce
The original version of The Town That Dreaded Sundown feels like a strange outlier among other proto-slashers, thanks to its insistence on marketing itself as a dramatization of a true story. This it does with surprising fealty in many ways—its depiction of a string of murders in 1946 Texas is actually pretty accurate to the historical record, but that accuracy sometimes comes at the cost of a complete narrative. As in reality, the killer is never caught, and the film never deigns to speculate as toward his identity or true motivations—it’s the rare slasher film that is largely depicted from the perspective of the police trying to catch the killer, rather than the killer’s motley crew of victims—an embryonic version of David Fincher’s Zodiac. As a result, there’s an exploitative edge to The Town That Dreaded Sundown, and it’s unsurprising that the film offended family members of the people who had been killed, especially with its claim that the killer “still lurks the streets of Texarkana.” Still, perhaps they were right. In the end, this film is a gritty, sober, almost depressive slice of rural bloodthirstiness that raises more questions than it answers. We should note that there is one extremely goofy kill, involving a trombone, that seems much more slasher-esque than the others. —Jim Vorel


the little shop of horrors poster (Custom).jpg 75. 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 74. 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


final exam poster (Custom).jpg 73. Final Exam
Year: 1981
Director: Jimmy Huston
During the height of the early slasher boom, some horror films attempted to carve out unique niches for themselves and expand the boundaries of the genre. Others were merely content to copy-cat the conventions of other films and let the bodies fall where they may. Final Exam falls mostly into the latter camp—the filmmakers were literally instructed to produce Halloween, except on a college campus, and this is the result. Still, there are a few little idiosyncrasies that make it more memorable than some of the other Halloween or Friday the 13th clones. Most notable is the killer himself, who is presented as a completely unknown, rampaging force to whom motive (or even identity!) is never ascribed. The anonymous, seemingly unmotivated nature of the threat makes it easier to sympathize with the college kids, rather than simply rooting for their voyeuristic deaths, as becomes common the longer the slasher genre is around. It’s a minor entry in the “death stalks campus” genre that also includes such films as Happy Death Day, The House on Sorority Row and Graduation Day. —Jim Vorel


day of the animals poster (Custom).jpg 72. 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—an all-out war of 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 if you’ve always wanted to see a shirtless Leslie Nielsen fight a bear, it’s really your only option. Regardless, of all the films on this list, it’s the one I’d most like to see remade with a big budget. I want to see that movie, and all the killer koalas it would surely entail. —Jim Vorel


madman 1981 poster (Custom).jpg 71. Madman
Year: 1982
Director: Joe Giannone
Madman is one of those perfectly serviceable early ’80s slashers that simply suffers in comparison to memories of the superior films it’s ripping off—namely Friday the 13th and The Burning. In actuality, this camp-set story was essentially going to be an adaptation of the same source material as The Burning, that of the New York “Cropsey” urban legend, before the (much better) film by Tony Maylam beat them to the punch. And lo, we got Madman instead, wherein Cropsey is replaced by the revenant of “Madman Marz,” a murderer who survived hanging and still stalks the woods located conveniently next to the camp for gifted children. This film is exactly what you expect it to be, full of red herrings and drawn-out stalk-and-slash killings. You could throw this on any night of the week and it would immediately feel comfortably familiar to any golden era slasher fan. It doesn’t aspire to be anything more than that, but it serviceably does its duty. —Jim Vorel


house at the end of time poster (Custom).jpg 70. 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


dont go in the house poster (Custom).jpg 69. Don’t Go in the House
Year: 1979
Director: Joseph Ellison
Many entries on the famous British “video nasties” list of banned or otherwise restricted films are questionable, but Don’t Go in the House is one of those movies to actually earn the title in some respects—it truly is a nasty, mean-spirited movie with a seriously nihilistic streak. Equal parts Psycho, Carrie and Halloween, its central character/antagonist is a man who suffered long-running and traumatic abuse at the hands of his Norma Bates-esque mother, and lashes out at the world with fire as his preferred weapon to purify the world of evil. Some of its kills are particularly grisly, including graphic depictions of young women being burnt alive, and one imagines it was these sequences that partially inspired the fake trailer for Don’t, which ran in between segments of Rodriguez/Tarantino’s Grindhouse. Today, Don’t Go in the House stands as a minor grindhouse classic that appeals to the viewer with a somewhat misanthropic streak. —Jim Vorel


55. the haunting (Custom).jpg 68. The Haunting
Year: 1999
Director: Jan de Bont
The superior 1963 original is of course not available on this service, leaving us with the 1999 remake that you may simply remember for starring Catherine Zeta-Jones at the height of her powers. Although not particularly well remembered at this point, it’s at the very least competently shot and brisk. A pretty accurate representation of a wide-release, PG-13 horror flick from the late ’90s, it features some nice art direction and production values to tell a throwback haunted house story about a group of people locked in a remote location overnight, dealing with vengeful spirits. The performances are competent—certainly better than the House on Haunted Hill remake from around the same time—and although the CGI now looks terribly dated, it’s all in good fun. You can do far, far worse as far as PG-13 horror movies from this time period go. And at least there’s plenty of Catherine Zeta-Jones, which might have you looking for that old DVD of Entrapment afterward. —Jim Vorel


horror express poster (Custom).jpg 67. Horror Express
Year: 1972
Director: Eugenio Martin
An unusual film for its time period, Horror Express stars both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and yet it’s not from Hammer as one would expect. Rather, it was a joint British/Spanish production simply aping the Hammer formula of classy actors in silly premises. This one is particularly weird: An archaeologist played by Lee discovers a “missing link” ape man buried in ice and tries to transport him in secret via train. The still-alive ape man defrosts, however, and proves to be armed with a rather unique set of powers. What follows is a bizarre film about stolen memories and brain-swapping, all taking place aboard the train. There are some really hypnotic performances, especially from relatively unknown Argentinean actor Alberto de Mendoza as a crazed priest. Telly Savalas, TV’s Kojak, even shows up out of right field playing a Russian Cossack officer, sans the usual lollipop. Who loves ya, baby? —Jim Vorel


basket case poster (Custom).jpg 66. Basket Case
Year: 1982
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Bargain bin horror really reached a new level in the 1980s as filmmaking equipment became more widely available. Made for only $33,000, Basket Case nevertheless received a fairly wide theatrical release, proving once again that horror is the genre where opportunity always knocks. Armed with little more than some crappy actors and a big wicker basket, Henenlotter crafted this schlocky tale of two brothers: A seemingly normal guy named Duane and his separated, deformed Siamese twin Belial, who he carries around with him at all times. Little more than a lumpy, fanged head with one random arm, Belial is at times stop-motion animated as he escapes from his basket and runs amok. The film eventually developed enough of a cult for Henenlotter to return and direct two sequels in the early 1990s. Basket Case ultimately combines some of the subversive humor of a Troma film with Henenlotter’s gory streak to make a zero-budget classic. —Jim Vorel


aaah zombies poster (Custom).jpg 65. 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


lifeforce poster (Custom).jpg 64. Lifeforce
Year: 1985
Director: Tobe Hooper
Even though he’s a classic horror director, Tobe Hooper of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre fame isn’t really the guy most would have expected to produce a kooky, ’80s sci-fi-infused vampire film. That is of course provided you recognize the aliens of Lifeforce as vampires. Hooper ditches the grimy aesthetic of his earlier work and cleverly plays with the old vampire genre conventions, keeping a few bat references but ditching the blood-sucking. Rather, the “space vampires” have been updated into more cerebral, aloof killers who drain people of their life energy. Oh, and by the way—the lead “space girl,” gorgeous French actress Mathilda May, spends pretty much the entire film nude, so be ready for that. What you’re left with is a uniquely gonzo, sexually charged sci-fi horror mash-up, equal parts mystical and pseudo-scientific—like a feature-length Twilight Zone episode as presented by USA Up All Night in the mid-’90s. I once saw it screened as part of a 24-hour B-movie festival, and that strikes me as exactly the way to consume Lifeforce: In a half-awake haze full of nudity and desiccated victims exploding into dust. —Jim Vorel


pet sematary 1989 poster (Custom).jpg 63. Pet Sematary
Year: 1989
Director: Mary Lambert
The book might be one of King’s biggest-selling works and the movie adaptation might have been a success at the box office, but let’s face it, Pet Sematary has a really stupid premise. It’s essentially a pre-Romero, old-fashioned zombie tale with flesh-eating undead kitty cats and little boys. Don’t get me wrong, director Mary Lambert’s take on King’s novel probably represents the best possible cinematic outcome for this silly tale, with an overbearing gothic mood that unsettles the audience at every turn, and an admirably straight-faced execution that manages to give the project some gravitas. But at the end of the day, this is a movie that takes the idea of a zombie cat seriously, while also climaxing with an annoyingly clichéd genre twist. —Oktay Ege Kozak


slumber party massacre poster (Custom).jpg 62. The Slumber Party Massacre
Year: 1982
Director: Amy Holden Jones
The Slumber Party Massacre is a classic early ’80s cheesefest that holds the distinction of being one of the few slasher movies from the golden age of the genre that was actually directed and written by women—Amy Holden Jones and Rita Mae Brown, respectfully. In fact, Brown originally wrote the film as an early parody of the genre, playing off the tropes established by Halloween and Friday the 13th, but the movie was ultimately filmed as a legitimate horror vehicle instead, leaving it in a unique tonal middle ground that retains a fair amount of black comedy. As a result, it’s a trope-laden film that sees the denizens of the titular slumber party stalked by an escaped maniac (always a popular option, when you don’t want to write a killer’s backstory) armed with a power drill, à la 1979’s The Driller Killer. Ironically, despite being intended as parody, the film ended up establishing a number of “slumber party” horror movie tropes itself, the residuals of which echoed through the slasher genre for a decade to come. It’s also unusual in the sense that it has more than one character who could properly be labeled as a “final girl,” allowing for some tandem offense against the killer. —Jim Vorel


torso poster (Custom).jpg 61. Torso
Year: 1973
Director: Sergio Martino
Whereas the peak films of Dario Argento (or even Lucio Fulci and Mario Bava, at their best) are assessed with a certain critical goodwill in mind, the same is not true of what one might call the true giallos, those dime-a-dozen proto-slasher mysteries that more accurately captured the spirit of the yellow paperbacks from whence they sprung. Torso certainly feels like one of those lurid, gaudy films, although director Sergio Martino does infuse it with a certain artistic flair, especially in the depiction of the stocking-faced killer, whose blank gaze is more than a little disturbing … as is his penchant for sawing women apart. Still, Torso is as exploitative as the title no doubt sounds, with plenty of nudity and a hedonistic, Bohemian attitude periodically punctuated by strangulations. If there’s one scene in particular that stands out, it’s the poor final girl watching from a hiding place, powerless to stop the killer as he begins to brutally dismember her friends. Few scenes so well capture the voyeuristic terror of witnessing a crime unfolding. —Jim Vorel


girl-with-all-gifts-poster.jpg 60. 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


the prowler 1981 poster (Custom).jpg 59. The Prowler
Year: 1981
Director: Joseph Zito
The Prowler isn’t particularly well known, but it’s an excellent example of classical slasher fare from Joseph Zito, better known in horror circles for the well-regarded Friday the 13th IV: The Final Chapter. The setup is extremely familiar, echoing My Bloody Valentine’s “the first dance in ____ years” celebration as the impetus for the revenant of a long-gone killer to resurface. In this case, it’s the titular “prowler,” although “the soldier” might have been a better title, as the killer takes the form of a masked WWII G.I., which allows for some pretty memorable costuming choices. As a whole, the film is a very proficient, if familiar whodunit, highlighted by crisp cinematography, some good-looking chase sequences and some truly nasty bits of gore from Tom Savini. It’s the kind of movie that puts bayonets through people’s heads, and doesn’t skimp on showing you exactly what that might look like. And like all good slashers, it gets one last, good scare in before the end, when the audience is least expecting it. —Jim Vorel


hell house llc poster (Custom).jpg 58. Hell House LLC
Year: 2015
Director: Stephen Cognetti
This is just about as lean and minimalist a concept as you can choose for a modern found footage horror movie, but Hell House LLC is much more a practice in execution than imaginative settings. It’s the documentary-style story of a haunted house crew that picks a decidedly wrong location for their attraction, and boom—they all wind up dead. Very standard set-up for a “no one gets out alive” entry in the found footage genre, but Hell House LLC actually does have some inspiring scares and performances. It gets a whole lot out of very small set-ups and deliveries, such as the shifting positioning of props and the life-size (and appropriately horrifying) clown costumes, shooting scenes in what looks very much like “real time,” with no cuts. There’s a naturalistic air to the actors’ sense of frustration and unease as weird events start to mount, but of course it all goes quite off the deep end and into unintentional humor in the closing moments. Still, there are many islands of genuine, blood pressure-raising fear in this well-executed film. Certainly, it’s better than most found footage efforts in the post-Paranormal Activity landscape. —Jim Vorel


carnival of souls poster (Custom).jpg 57. Carnival of Souls
Year: 1962
Director: Herk Harvey
Carnival of Souls is a film in the vein of Night of the Hunter: artistically ambitious, from a first-time director, but largely overlooked in its initial release until its rediscovery years later. Granted, it’s not the masterpiece of Night of the Hunter, but it’s a chilling, effective, impressive tale of ghouls, guilt and restless spirits. The story follows a woman (Candace Hilligoss) on the run from her past who is haunted by visions of a pale-faced man, beautifully shot (and played) by director Herk Harvey. As she seemingly begins to fade in and out of existence, the nature of her reality itself is questioned. Carnival of Souls is vintage psychological horror on a miniscule budget, and has since been cited as an influence in the fever dream visions of directors such as David Lynch. To me, it’s always felt something like a movie-length episode of The Twilight Zone, and I mean that in the most complimentary way I can. Rod Serling would no doubt have been a fan. —Jim Vorel


paranormal activity poster (Custom).jpg 56. Paranormal Activity
Year: 2007
Director: Oren Peli
Here’s a statement: Paranormal Activity is the most wrongly derided horror film of the last decade, especially by horror buffs. That’s what happens in the wake of massive overnight success, and immediately derivative, inferior sequels: The original gets dragged down by its progeny. The original Paranormal Activity is a masterful piece of budget filmmaking. For $15,000, Oren Peli made what is probably the most effective “for the price” horror movie ever released, surpassing The Blair Witch in terms of both tension and narrative while pulling off incredibly unnerving minimalist effects. Yes, there are some stupid, “I’m in a horror movie” choices by the characters, and yes, Micah Sloat’s “get out here so I can punch you, demon!” attitude is irritating, but it’s calculated to be that way. Sloat is a reflection of the toxic “man of the house” attitude, a guy who would rather be terrorized than accept outside help. Meanwhile, Katie Featherston’s realistic performance as a young woman slowly unraveling is a thing of beauty. But beyond performances, or effects, Paranormal Activity is a brilliant case study in slowly building tension, and in raising an audience’s blood pressure. I know: I saw this film in theaters when it was still in limited release, and I can honestly say I’ve never been in a movie theater audience that was more terrified. How could I tell? Because they were so loud in the moments of calm before each scare (the most dead giveaway of all: when a young man turns to his friends to assure them how not-nervous he is). This was just such an event—there were actually ushers standing at the entrance ramps throughout the entire film, just watching the audience watch the movie. I’ve yet to ever see that happen again. Deride all you want, but Paranormal Activity scared the hell out of us. —Jim Vorel


deathgasm poster (Custom).jpg 55. Deathgasm
Year: 2015
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. —Jim Vorel


childs play poster (Custom).jpg 54. 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


blackcoats daughter movie poster (Custom).jpg 53. The Blackcoat’s Daughter
Year: 2016
Director: Osgood Perkins
Looking at his first two horror features, it becomes clear that director Osgood Perkins seems to have a distinct distaste for both plot and film convention. His films defy easy description, as anyone who watched I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House on Netflix could attest. The Blackcoat’s Daughter, meanwhile, was completed and exhibited as early as 2015 under the title February, but has been floating around in limbo ever since until A24 decided to finally give it a limited release this spring. Compared with Pretty Thing, Blackcoat’s Daughter is at least easier to grasp and marginally brisker, which makes it more effective overall. Perkins’ style is languid, atmospheric and deliberate, favoring repetition and a slowly multiplying sense of unease and impending doom. The story follows two high school-aged students who are both left relatively alone at their uptight Catholic boarding school over break when their parents fail to pick them up. As one descends into what is implied to be either madness or demonic possession, the events are interwoven with another story about a young woman journeying on the road in the direction of the boarding school. The two stories inevitably intertwine. The film’s pace sometimes leaves something to be desired, but patience is largely repaid by its final third, which contains several moments genuinely disturbing in their violence and transgressive imagery. In the end, The Blackcoat’s Daughter comes together significantly more neatly and logically than one might consider while watching its first hour, rewarding careful attention to detail throughout. —Jim Vorel


toxic avenger poster (Custom).jpg 52. 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


the house that dripped blood poster (Custom).jpg 51. The House That Dripped Blood
Year: 1971
Director: Peter Duffell
If the output of British film studio Amicus Productions is usually said to lack the refinement and grandeur of Hammer’s horror films, they always seemed to make up for it with cheeky, good-natured charm. Their anthology horror films, such as Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors have a disarmingly simplistic quality to them—not the stately, stuffy gothic horror of Hammer, and more a continuation of the violent, ironic and comical horror stories seen in American E.C. Comics such as Vault of Horror or Tales From the Crypt. The House That Dripped Blood is one of those vintage anthologies, centered around a cursed house that keeps being inherited by new tenants—which is to say, victims. Its tales are silly and basic, but it’s buoyed by a strong cast of familiar British faces, from the duo of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (they’re in different stories, sadly) to Raiders of the Lost Ark’s Denholm Elliott and consummate Hammer buxom beauty Ingrid Pitt. It’s the perfect film for a jovial, Halloween party atmosphere—vintage spooky, but never truly disturbing. —Jim Vorel


48. frankenstein army (Custom).jpg 50. 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


29. Cujo (Custom).jpg 49. Cujo
Year: 1983
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. Well-structured, Cujo leads 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. —Jim Vorel


city of the living dead poster (Custom).jpg 48. City of the Living Dead
Year: 1980
Director: Lucio Fulci
If it’s an Italian horror film from the ’70s or ’80s, and it doesn’t involve cannibals, and it’s not a giallo, then it’s probably an arty, stylish, partially incomprehensible movie about zombies and ghosts. Such is City of the Living Dead, and such is almost everything in the filmography of Lucio Fulci. Never a director with the critical acclaim or heightened stature of a Dario Argento, Fulci was instead prolific, making his name in 1979 with the greatest of the Italian zombie films, Zombi 2. City of the Living Dead is considered the first in a so-called “Gates of Hell” trilogy, alongside two of his other best-known works, The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery. Like many of the Italian films it’s set in the U.S.A., which creates a strange, otherworldly quality given the international cast and dubbed dialog. It follows a young woman and her friends, who travel from New York to the Lovecraft-inspired town of Dunwich, where the suicide of a corrupted priest is causing the dead to rise from their graves and strike out at the living. It’s almost more a series of vignettes and unrelated scenes than a straightforward narrative, as residents of the town are killed at random by the zombies. That’s just how Fulci rolls. You don’t watch Lucio Fulci movies for plot; you watch them for atmosphere and stylish splatter. — Jim Vorel


absentia poster (Custom).jpg 47. Absentia
Year: 2011
Director: Mike Flanagan
Before he became Netflix’s go-to guy for horror, in projects such as Gerald’s Game and The Haunting of Hill House, Mike Flanagan completed his first feature, Absentia, which may very well be the best horror film you’ll ever see that raised its initial budget on Kickstarter. The film’s most notable achievement, though, is just how little it happens to be constrained by the extremely meager budget—at least until the third act gets a bit overambitious. Still, Absentia is a really impressive piece of indie filmmaking, with steady direction and fantastic performances from actresses Courtney Bell and Katie Parker, the former playing a woman who is finally going through the steps of declaring her husband dead after he went missing seven years earlier. Only now, she seems to be seeing him everywhere she looks. Part psychological thriller and part urban legend fantasy, it hinges almost entirely on the skillful, naturalistic performances of its leads and a collection of well-timed, unexpected scares that are sprung on the viewer when you’re least expecting them. Only in the big finale does its reach exceed its grasp, which makes us wish that perhaps Flanagan could remake Absentia someday, complete with the budget it needs. —Jim Vorel


the crazies poster (Custom).jpg 46. The Crazies
Year: 1973
Director: George A. Romero
The Crazies is one of those lesser Romero works that tends to fall by the wayside because we’re always talking about his “of the Dead” films. Honestly, there are some horror fans out there who don’t even know that Romero made any non-zombie movies, although in this case you could argue that the infected of The Crazies drew both on his own Night of the Living Dead ghouls and presaged their evolution in 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. The tale of a small town gone mad in the wake of a biological weapons accident, it’s filled with great ideas and serviceable execution. The themes of man’s inhumanity to man in times of crisis are pretty rough, and there’s definitely some boundary-pushing material when it comes to sexuality as well, which make The Crazies a more cerebral watch than one might initially give it credit for. —Jim Vorel


bride of reanimator poster (Custom).jpg 45. 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


killer klowns poster (Custom).jpg 44. 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


the company of wolves poster (Custom).jpg 43. The Company of Wolves
Year: 1984
Director: Neil Jordan
The Company of Wolves is among the most bewitching and oddest of werewolf movies, uneven but memorably bonkers all at once. Evoking fairy tale and Brothers Grimm sensibilities, it mostly takes place within a dream—or a dream within a dream—and visually reflects this with a sheen of creepy, gauzy otherworldliness. The fantasy world that exists within draws upon fantasy cliches of magical, haunted forests, while also infusing itself with the gothic grandeur and stateliness of Hammer horror productions. It feels at times like a high production value stage play, with somewhat unusual, campy performances but little plot to speak of … until the moments that it explodes with gory, violent intensity. To watch only the various transformations and “wolfy” moments, you might think the film was an excessive ’80s American gore film, but whenever we move away from what might be deemed “horror scenes,” the focus is instead on lush sets, beautiful backdrops, vivid colors and a positively “painterly” mindset. It may not quite serve up the coherent story and tight plotting that a modern audience would expect, but the images of The Company of Wolves will likely stick with you for a long time. —Jim Vorel


blacula poster (Custom).jpg 42. Blacula
Year: 1972
Director: William Crain
The production of Blacula is decidedly on the low-budget and gritty side, but you can at least say it’s a better film than the silly title might suggest, and much better than the other blaxploitation horror flicks it inspired such as the godawful Blackenstein. Also unique: You’re probably not going to find another film on the list where the rampaging vampire is released because a pair of gay interior decorators buy his Transylvanian coffin as a furnishing for their L.A. apartment. The actual vampire is Mamuwalde, an African prince of some kind who was vampirized by Dracula for daring to seek his help in stopping the slave trade in 1780. In doing so, you establish a classic blaxploitation anti-hero—even if he’s killing people in L.A. to stay alive, Mamuwalde is immediately lionized with the title of freedom fighter and liberator. The movie is also a soul-gothic story of doomed lovers, reincarnated over the centuries in the style of The Mummy. It’s quite the hokey watch in 2019, but with the right crowd—especially film fans who are blaxploitation-savvy—it’s an indispensable slice of the early ’70s urbanization of horror. —Jim Vorel


the dead zone poster (Custom).jpg 41. The Dead Zone
Year: 1983
Director: David Cronenberg
As expected from a King adaptation, we’re once again dealing with a protagonist who has telekinetic powers that he doesn’t want, and it depends on the course of the story and the choices that the character makes to find out if that gift becomes a curse, or if the curse becomes a gift. For the first half of The Dead Zone, David Cronenberg’s tightly wound and twist-filled thriller, the first outcome seems to be the case, as Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) uses his newfound powers of touching people and being able to see into their secrets and pasts to help those in need. Then the latter outcome presents itself, as Johnny is forced to dispose of a presidential candidate (Martin Sheen) who will certainly bring about nuclear holocaust. Sound familiar? Also, minor spoiler, does anyone really think Trump won’t use a baby as a human shield to save his own life? Perhaps The Dead Zone itself has powers of premonition. This is one of Cronenberg’s most accessible films, with a fairly straightforward mystery-horror structure, but this doesn’t stop him from building a mood full of dread and confusion, right from the terrifically enigmatic opening titles. Walken had the ability to come across as a likable everyman, a conduit for the audience, before his oft-imitated mannerisms turned him into a caricature. He displays that side of his work really efficiently here. —Oktay Ege Kozak

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