The 60 Best Horror Movies on Netflix (Spring 2018)

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The 60 Best Horror Movies on Netflix (Spring 2018)

There was once a time when Netflix hemorrhaged classic horror movies like so much slasher blood, but since the fall of 2017, Netflix has lost scores of horror greats, and done a poor job of compensating. Of the 70 we previously listed, 22 have gone missing, including some of the best horror movies of all time, like Jaws, An American Werewolf in London and Young Frankenstein, as well as notable indie films, such as We Are Still Here, The Sacrament and Honeymoon, replaced with straight-to-VOD horror junkers with similar titles. (There’s literally another film called Honeymoon on Netflix, but for the love of god, please don’t watch it.) In fact, Netflix has added so little of interest to the service in the last six months (in terms of horror films) that I’ve been forced to trim this list from 70 to 60 movies. Everything you need to know about the average quality of Netflix’s horror selection can be summed up by simply looking at the poster for Shelley, which gleefully rips off Rosemary’s Baby, content in its belief that you’re too stupid to notice.

rosemary shelley comparison inset (Custom).jpg The sincerest form of flattery, etc.

As always, there are a few things to keep in mind when browsing this library. Netflix is very much lacking in iconic horror movies and franchise staples. Don’t expect to find any Halloween or Friday the 13th entries here, or a single one of George Romero’s zombie classics—not even Night of the Living Dead, which is free in the public domain for them to exhibit. What they can usually claim, though, is a decent number of more recent, solid small-budget horror pictures (The Babadook, Starry Eyes, The Canal). The key is knowing which films to watch, and not getting sucked into watching the trash, which proliferates on Netflix like weeds. In the streaming service’s current era of “suggested films” accompanied by percentage ratings, it’s harder than ever to tell the wheat from the chaff.

Thus, we invite you to use this list as a guide. The lowest-ranked films are of the “fun-bad” variety: flawed, but easily enjoyable for one reason or another. The highest-ranked films are obviously classics. Check them out, and let us know about any great horror films currently on Netflix that you think deserved a spot on the list.

You may also want to check out the following horror-centric lists:

The 100 Best Horror Movies of All Time
The 100 Best Vampire Movies of All Time
The 50 Best Zombie Movies of All Time
The 100 Best Horror Movies Streaming on Shudder
The 50 Best Movies About Serial Killers

sharknado poster (Custom).jpg 60. Sharknado
Year: 2014
Director: Anthony C. Ferrante
B-movie geeks and bad movie fans are not kind to the original Sharknado, and I don’t think that’s entirely fair. It gets flak from that audience for being “purposefully bad,” but it is possible to make an entertainingly goofy film in this way … it’s just pretty rare. Now dragged down by an increasingly forced run of sequels, all of which I’ve reviewed for Paste because I’m a crazy person, it’s easy to lose sight of how slapdash (and thus amusing) the first film was. There’s absolutely no budget behind Sharknado, which makes the gaffes introduced by a tight shooting schedule all the more apparent and hilarious. The sky goes from dark to sunny in between shots in the same scene. The film idles in place for 20 minutes while trying to get kids out of a school bus, just to shamelessly pad itself out to “feature length.” Tara Reid tries to get dialog to come out of her mouth, and fails spectacularly. In short: There’s fun stuff here. Don’t be a bad movie hipster; embrace the original Sharknado. The sequels, feel free to ignore.
—Jim Vorel

Zombeavers poster (Custom).jpg 59. Zombeavers
Year: 2015
Director: Jordan Rubin
Look, if you don’t know before you ever hit “play” exactly what you should be expecting from Zombeavers, I’m not sure how much I can help you. It’s a film about toxic waste-spawned zombie beavers, people. It’s halfhearted as both a horror film and a comedy, with a preponderance of jokes that thud and just enough that will draw an ashamed chuckle. It feels like a throwback to the straight-to-VHS horror schlock of the ’80s and ’90s—simple, kitschy premise, plenty of gratuitous nudity, lots of attempts at humor. By the time people start turning into WERE-BEAVERS near the film’s end, you’ll have settled into a good groove of mocking its flaws and enjoying its alternating shamelessness and reverence for the genre—because at least they attempt some interesting practical effects. Good on you, Zombeavers. It’s trash, but a step above the bottom of the barrel. —Jim Vorel

52. abcs of death (Custom).jpg 58. The ABCs of Death
Year: 2012
Directors: Various directors
The ABCs of Death is an anthology film with a great premise: 26 horror shorts about death from up-and-coming directors, one for each letter of the alphabet. Unfortunately, the results are as scattershot as you would expect, and for every good entry there are two uninteresting, confusing or just plain “gross for gross sake” ones. It’s worth seeing, however, for the two or three entries that are really great, which also happen to be from three very promising directors—Nacho Vigalondo’s “A is for Apocalypse,” Marcel Sarmiento’s “D is for Dogfight” and Adam Wingard’s “Q is for Quack.” The “D” entry is probably the star of the show and the one that attracted the most critical praise when it came out, for good reason. It’s a grungy, uncompromising, brutal inversion of a typical story between a man and his dog, and it’s beautiful looking to boot. —Jim Vorel

stake land 2 poster (Custom).jpg 57. Stake Land 2: The Stakelander
Year: 2016
Director: Dan Berk, Robert Olsen
I am a big fan of Jim Mickle’s 2010 film Stake Land, as its consistent high rankings in this list would attest to, but I can’t say that I was holding out much hope for the belated sequel, which arrived six years later with a TV premiere on SyFy and without input from the previous film’s director and co-writer. Still, Stake Land 2 does manage to bring back the two principal leads, one of whom is the previous film’s co-lead, Nick Damici, and a spark of the original does remain. It can’t quite recapture the bleak beauty and surprisingly effective world-building of the original, as a pair of vampire hunters sojourn across the American west in search of shelter, but it does at least have the benefit of being set in a memorable world. As the previously “scruffy young kid” Martin, Connor Paolo has aged nicely, taking on a believable level of grit. Damici, as in the previous film, is the real highlight, having become even more of a grizzled font of wisdom over the years. It’s all a little reductive, but the production quality is still high enough that it would feel out of place in the DVD bargain bin. —Jim Vorel

pretty thing inset (Custom).jpg 56. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
Year: 2016
Director: Osgood Perkins
This somewhat labored ghost story premiered at the Toronto International Film Fest before being picked up by Netflix for distribution, but the festival circuit is really its natural home. It’s a staid, extremely patient haunted house yarn with some intriguing performances, but it’s likely to be too slow to be appreciated by many modern audiences. A woman moves into a creaky old home to become the live-in nurse for an elderly horror author with dementia, but she soon finds herself being sucked into the ghost story that makes up the author’s most famous book. That likely sounds like a fairly conventional horror movie premise, because it’s the delivery that sets this film apart rather than the summation. Every shot lingers. We glide through the house with minimal, whispered dialog and occasional narration, and although it does build a palpable sense of unease, the payoffs are few and far between. I couldn’t help but be reminded of H.P. Mendoza’s similarly experimental 2012 film I Am A Ghost, which is equally laconic but more visually arresting. I Am the Pretty Thing has grand artistic aspirations of some kind behind it, but has trouble giving them vibrancy. This is a horror film for audiences with solid attention spans. —Jim Vorel

what we become poster (Custom).jpg 55. What We Become
Year: 2015
Director: Bo Mikkelson
The thing that limits a film the likes of What We Become is its familiarity. It’s a tight-knit family drama zombie movie, following a single family unit as they experience the tropes we’ve seen in nearly every “serious” indie zombie film of the last 15 years. Even the title is taken directly from one of the trade paperbacks of The Walking Dead comic, and that comic’s modern, Romero-esque outlook feels like heavy inspiration for the film. It’s not to say that it isn’t effective … but it’s a question of what still remains to be said with a film about a small family trapped inside their home by zombies that hasn’t already been said. What We Become is well shot and handles its minimal story effectively, but it struggles somewhat to justify its own existence. The third act, thankfully, does ratchet up both the tension and action, paying off in some effective bloodletting that takes a bit too long to arrive. It’s a film that is very indicative of the state of modern indie zombie films, both in the U.S. and abroad—competent, fairly entertaining, but struggling for purpose. —Jim Vorel

before i wake poster (Custom).jpg 54. Before I Wake
Year: 2016
Director: Mike Flanagan
Director Mike Flanagan seems to have become Netflix’s go-to guy when it comes to directing Netflix Original horror movies ‘ala Hush and Gerald’s Game, and they returned the favor to the director by acquiring and releasing the somewhat less inspired Before I Wake in 2016. This film, originally titled Somnia, was passed to several potential distributors and even had in-theater advertising at one point, but its plans for a theatrical release were ultimately scrapped. The story of a young boy (Jacob Tremblay of Room and Wonder) with the unconscious power to manifest his dreams in reality, it draws obvious parallels to Nightmare on Elm Street but especially to the astral plane-tripping excursions of the Insidious series, without quite having the verve of either. Still, it could be an interesting genre footnote in the career of Tremblay if this kid grows up to be an Oscar-winner someday.
—Jim Vorel

odd thomas poster1.jpg 53. Odd Thomas
Year: 2013
Director: Stephen Sommers
2016 was a year we lost numerous Hollywood icons, but the loss of Anton Yelchin is especially bitter, as he was only 27. The Star Trek star had already put together one hell of an incredible portfolio, and he radiated an innate likability that could well have made him an A-list leading man in Hollywood. With that said, Odd Thomas isn’t exactly his best film—it’s a shame that his underrated Fright Night remake with Colin Farrell isn’t on Netflix right now. But Yelchin is most definitely the best thing in this movie, playing the title character of “Odd,” a young man with abilities to both see and fight restless ghosts and malevolent spirits. The script is jumbled and has a tendency to loop back in on itself repeatedly, but Yelchin is charming, and it’s buoyed by a fun supporting role from Willem Dafoe as the unusually open-minded town sheriff—refreshing, given that this type of character almost never is helpful to the protagonist. It’s not without its problems, but it deserved better at the American box office than the “bomb” status it earned. —Jim Vorel

the awakening poster (Custom).jpg 52. The Awakening
Year: 2011
Director: Nick Murphy
A competent but rather paint-by-numbers ghost story from 2011, The Awakening was released in theaters with little fanfare and didn’t get much notice. A period piece set in 1921, it follows a supernatural debunker played by the charming Rebecca Hall as she visits a boys’ boarding school to investigate its resident spooks. It has some DNA of Del Toro’s superior The Devil’s Backbone, as its protagonist seeks answers in the mystery of what is causing the local haunting, but gets a little ridiculous when her secret backstory begins spilling out. It’s nicely shot, but the sepia-toned visuals suck away some vitality from the color palette. It still retains a little bit of that residual Hammer Horror feeling, though—billowing curtains and candles and ornate British mansions always go a long way toward setting the scene. A good watch for those seeking classic ghost story beats rather than gore or more overt violence. —Jim Vorel

last shift poster.jpg 51. Last Shift
Year: 2014
Director: Anthony DiBlasi
Last Shift doesn’t really aspire to much, other than to be cheap and to hit all the notes the director believes it’s supposed to hit. Essentially a one-woman, one-location show, it follows a rookie police officer on her first day on the job, working the overnight shift in an old police station that is about to be shuttered. Unfortunately for her, the various atrocities and bits of violence committed at the location over the years have made this station somewhere between “paranormal hotspot” and “portal to hell dimension.” We’re given some minor exposition about a cult who met a grisly end around the premises, but the majority of the film is simply a procession of well-worn tropes, as our heroine wanders the office, makes terrible choices and observes spooky phenomena. One can at least say that Last Shift looks quite nice for its budget, and there are a handful of effective jump scares sprinkled throughout, but it has a definite air of “bargain bin” about it. —Jim Vorel

scream 3 poster (Custom).jpg 50. Scream 3
Year: 2000
Director: Wes Craven
Scream 3 is the redheaded stepchild of Wes Craven’s iconic meta-slasher series, a film that clearly can’t stand up to the originality of either Scream or Scream 2, but is generally regarded to still contain some small spark of the divine. It at least aims to close the series (until it was reanimated in 2011’s Scream 4) with a deeper bit of context into what kicked off the events of the first film, but it does so in a way that lacks the subtlety of either previous installment—seemingly ever reviewer felt it necessary to point out that “Scream has become the thing it was originally parodying.” Neve Campbell is resourceful as ever as ultimate final girl Sidney Prescott, but it’s the supporting cast that has now worn thin—even with a visit (via video) from dead horror geek Randy Meeks, who informs the cast of the tenants surrounding a horror trilogy. Still, for the horror completionist, its ending provides a worthwhile sense of closure for Sidney. The fourth film, unsurprisingly, remains unnecessary as a result. -Jim Vorel

tales of halloween poster (Custom).jpg 49. Tales of Halloween
Year: 2015
Director: Various
Every viewer will have his or her favorite story in anthology horror comedy Tales of Halloween. Half the fun of films like this lies in arguing with friends over which narrative is best, after all, and while there are clear standouts among the pack, the real pleasure of Tales of Halloween is the ride rather than the destination: For as long as you’re held in the movie’s thrall, you’ll be celebrating Halloween. There’s something here for everybody, whether you prefer your horror goofy or gory, but no matter your tastes, it’s the film’s love of Halloween—not to mention its general dedication to practical effects over CGI—that makes it worth attending. —Andy Crump

curse of chucky poster (Custom).jpg 48. Curse of Chucky
Year: 2013
Director: Don Mancini
Curse of Chucky is one of those rare cases where a direct-to-video horror film exceeds its limited aspirations and makes a case for getting a theatrical release. It’s understandable why Universal didn’t consider it for that role after the diminishing returns of the horror comedies Bride of Chucky and especially Seed of Chucky, but Curse arrived in 2013 as an unexpected return to form more in line with the 1988 original, Child’s Play. Brad Dourif is back as the voice of the killer doll once again of course—it’s not like you could do it without him—and the film also stars his daughter Fiona in the interesting role of a paraplegic protagonist. The film shows us clearly that although Child’s Play will always be a goofy concept, and defined by its dark humor, there needs to be a more serious, visceral side to the production as well for it to really work. Curse brings back that gory physicality that had been missing, and features more of the great puppet work that is the series’ signature. The only downside: Some scenes use a CGI Chucky (presumably to save costs), and the results are absolutely abominable. Here’s hoping Mancini sticks exclusively with the puppet in his next entry in the series, Cult of Chucky. ——Jim Vorel

when animals dream poster (Custom).jpg 47. When Animals Dream
Year: 2014
Director: Jonas Alexander Arnby
Puberty can be horrifying. With the exception of Ginger Snaps, it’s surprising how rarely the werewolf film is used to showcase the terror of growing up, what with a pubescent finding hair appearing out of nowhere, undergoing unexpected growth, and hungering for something new. The Danish film When Animals Dream attempts to link lycanthropy with the horrors inherent in becoming an adult—but that’s the only surprise its meandering plot can muster. As a werewolf flick, When Animals Dream truly lacks any sort of anxiety or dread, and as simply a puberty metaphor, the film offers no explanation or context regarding how or why this is happening to Marie—almost as if it’s just not interested in explaining, period (sorry). Yet it wants to be both. And that’s that: With a running time of about 80 minutes, Arnby has plenty of time to create a beautifully dark world for us to visit, but doesn’t offer much of a reason to let it grow on us. —Ross Bonaime

would you rather poster (Custom).jpg 46. Would You Rather
Year: 2012
Director: David Guy Levy
Would You Rather is the kind of somewhat reductive horror film that follows in the wake of the Saw and Hostel generation of the 2000s, where characterization is just an excuse to reduce each character to one driving motivation. Here’s our heroine—oh, she needs money to pay for the treatment of her sick brother, but what will she do to get it? Films like this are careful to not present any of the other characters as equally or more sincere in their desire than that protagonist, because that would introduce real moral ambiguity rather than the illusive choices here. Regardless, you’re not watching for the story—you’re watching to see what a bunch of strangers will be forced to do to each other in order to win a demented millionaire’s payday. ’80s horror icon Jeffrey Combs plays that villain, and although he’s clearly having a good time, there’s some spark of vitality to his performances in Re-Animator or From Beyond that has long since been reduced to paycheck-minded professionalism or self-parody of his earlier characters. If this movie had been made in 1985, perhaps it would have been a minor classic. —Jim Vorel

48. children of the corn (Custom).jpg 45. Children of the Corn
Year: 1984
Director: Fritz Kiersch
It’s not often that the adults should be the ones afraid to watch a horror movie with kids, but it would be hard not to look at kids differently after 1984’s Children of the Corn, one of the higher-profile entries in horror’s “kids kill all the adults” subgenre. The film focuses on a cult in a fictional Gatlin, Neb., lead by child preacher Isaac, who is convinced by an entity called He Who Walks Behind the Rows that all adults over 18 should get the ax. We see Burt and Vicky (played by Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) struggle to escape the small town after driving through and hitting a young, dying boy with their car. There’s plenty of slasher scares and creepy visuals, but like any good horror movie, it’s a commentary on us as a society. And like Lord of the Flies before it, this Stephen King-based story looks toward our kids to point out the oddities of our culture, including an obsession with religion. With that said, the performances are cheesy as hell—from both the adults and children. —Tyler Kane

extraordinary tales poster (Custom).jpg 44. Extraordinary Tales
Year: 2013
Director: Raul Garcia
There is so much bargain bin, straight-to-VOD horror trash streaming on Netflix that it’s all too easy for something like Extraordinary Tales to go completely unnoticed, and that’s a shame. This anthology of animated, narrated stories by Edgar Allen Poe may be uneven in terms of quality, but damnit if it’s not far more artistically interesting than another found footage horror turd that was shot in the course of a weekend in Bulgaria. Extraordinary Tales is remarkable for the level of talent the filmmakers were able to bring on as narrators or voice actors: Christopher Lee, Guillermo Del Toro, Julian Sands and Roger Corman, reprising his own interest in Poe that led him to direct films such as House of Usher and The Raven in the ‘60s. There’s even a unique rendition of The Tell-Tale Heart that is narrated via archival recordings by Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi! Each story is likewise presented in a different style of animation, which sadly is of varying quality. But for the sheer novelty of hearing Christopher Lee perform “The Fall of the House of Usher,” or the attractive animation of “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” Extraordinary Tales is worthy of attention. It would be an excellent film to have playing in the background of a Halloween party. —Jim Vorel

little evil poster (Custom).jpg 43. Little Evil
Year: 2017
Director: Eli Craig
Seven years after he gave us Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, one of the best horror comedies in recent memory, director Eli Craig has finally returned with another horror comedy exclusive for Netflix, Little Evil. An obvious parody of The Omen and other “evil kid” movies, Little Evil wears its influences and references on its sleeve in ways that while not particularly clever, are at least loving. Adam Scott is the sad-sack father who somehow became swept up in a whirlwind romance and marriage, all while being unfazed by the fact that his new step-son is the kind of kid who dresses like a pint-sized Angus Young and trails catastrophes behind him wherever he goes. Evangeline Lilly is the boy’s foxy mother, whose motivations are suspect throughout. Does she know that her child is the spawn of Satan, or as his mother is she just willfully blind to the obvious evil growing under her nose? The film can boast a pretty impressive supporting cast, from Donald Faison and Chris D’elia as fellow step-dads, to Clancy Brown as a fire-and-brimstone preacher, but never does it fully commit toward either its jokes or attempts to frighten. The final 30 minutes are the most interesting, as they lead the plot in an unexpected direction that redefines the audience’s perception of the demon child, but it still makes for a somewhat uneven execution. Tucker & Dale this is not, but it’s still a serviceable return for Craig. —Jim Vorel

40. vhs 2 (Custom).jpg 42. V/H/S/2
Year: 2013
Directors: Various
Your taste in the V/H/S series will likely depend on which entry has your personal favorite segment, but the first two are relatively neck and neck. At the very least, this one contains what might be the single best segment in the entire series, Eduardo Sanchez’ “A Ride in the Park.” Without giving everything away, it involves bicyclists, zombies and helmet-mounted GoPro cameras, which help give us a perspective we’ve never really seen in horror while deftly avoiding the question of “Why would anyone be filming this?” There’s still some not-great segments—really the ideal V/H/S would be a compilation that takes only the best segments from each entry to create a really solid horror anthology. One has to wonder if Viral killed this series for good, or whether they’ll eventually act like it never happened and release a straight-up V/H/S 3. —Jim Vorel

cult of chucky poster (Custom).jpg 41. Cult of Chucky
Year: 2017
Director: Don Mancini
The Child’s Play series has managed the supremely rare accomplishment of actually improving itself in its direct-to-video days, clawing its way up from the abyss that was the Seed of Chucky days with its last two installments, Curse and Cult of Chucky. This latest, the seventh in the series, is possibly the best since Child’s Play 2, weaving together a complex web of characters from the history of the series. The voodoo mumbo-jumbo at the heart of the plot has gotten more fiendishly complicated than ever, resulting in not one but a small army of Chucky dolls, each containing the soul of Brad Dourif’s iconic serial killer, Charles Lee Ray. Stark and futuristic-feeling, the film is set in a brilliantly white-toned mental health institution, where recovering heroine Nica (Dourif’s daughter, Fiona Dourif) must grapple with the legacy of Chucky, while also bringing original hero Andy Barclay back into the fold. This Chucky is certainly a return to the original film in many respects; especially in its depraved attitude and copious amounts of gore. And unlike Curse of Chucky, most of the FX are rendered practically, to boot. Ultimately, Cult is a far better entry than you could ever hope for in the seventh film of a horror franchise, and it should be commended for that. Don Mancini never says “die” with this series, it would seem. —Jim Vorel

deathgasm poster (Custom).jpg 40. 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

veronica horror poster (Custom).jpg 39. Verónica
Year: 2017
Director: Paco Plaza
Paco Plaza, the Spanish director of landmark 2007 found footage horror film R.E.C., has largely delivered diminishing returns via R.E.C. sequels in the years that followed. Verónica, therefore, has been received as a welcome venture into a new concept for the director, even if the results are decidedly on the derivative side. A spirit/demonic possession movie in the vein of Witchboard, the film follows a 15-year-old Spanish student who unwittingly invites evil into her home while conducting an ouija seance with her school chums. Where it shines is largely on the presentation side—the film looks great whenever its images aren’t too dark, capturing an interesting moment in history by setting the film in 1991 Spain. Charismatic performances from multiple child actors serve to bolster a story that unfortunately feels frustratingly familiar, recycling elements of Ouija, The Last Exorcism and practically every possession film ever written. This is very well-trodden ground, but Verónica is at the very least more than competent, even if it’s not the revelation that certain Twitter users have been making it out to be. —Jim Vorel

europa report poster (Custom).jpg 38. Europa Report
Year: 2013
Director: Sebastian Cordero
This is definitely a stretch, but I wanted to give some recognition to an interesting indie sci-fi film with some definite horror elements. Europa Report is rather stunning in how awesome its production design pulls off a realistic-looking spacecraft traveling to one of Jupiter’s moons. With The Martian fresh in peoples’ minds, consider this film as it tackles similarly science-based issues of the dangers of space travel, along with the question of other forms of life—possibly hostile life—once the destination is reached. Featuring a cast of lesser-known actors, it nevertheless has both Neill Blomkamp favorite Sharlto Copley and Daniel Wu, who has now been exposed to a wider audience as the lead protagonist of AMC’s Into the Badlands. The film’s first half impresses via both characterization and its realistic portrayal of one possible mode of space travel, before the second half unexpectedly ratchets up the suspense and introduces some genuine horror elements. Detractors would say that it’s tonally inconsistent—I say that it’s two different types of effective, and super-impressive on a smaller budget. —Jim Vorel

teeth poster (Custom).jpg 37. 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

the devils candy poster (Custom).jpg 36. The Devil’s Candy
Year: 2015
Director: Sean Byrne
What makes The Devil’s Candy work beyond its allegorical ambitions is its refreshing attention to characterization, to the point where you respond to the people on screen as flesh-and-blood human beings rather than just cannon fodder. Much credit for this goes not only to director Sean Byrne’s writing, but to actor Ethan Embry, who imbues Jesse with equal parts sensitivity and a machismo that can occasionally veer into the terrifyingly imposing. Beyond just his fondness for heavy metal and his shoulder-length hair, he’s completely credible as both loving father and obsessive artist. Embry’s scenes with an equally terrific Kiara Glasco, especially, exude a warmth that makes those demon-possessed moments in which he fails his daughter even more heartbreaking. The Devil’s Candy is as much about one father’s paternal anxieties as it is about an artist teetering on the edge of losing his soul. It is, in other words, the kind of horror film that transcends genre and reaches that rare but exalted sweet spot of touching on genuine human fears. —Kenji Fujishima

the ritual poster (Custom).jpg 35. The Ritual
Year: 2017
Director: David Bruckner
Where The Ritual excels is technically, in both its imagery and sound design. Cinematographer Andrew Shulkind’s crisp images and deep focus are a welcome respite from the overly dark, muddy look of so many modern horror films with similar settings (such as Bryan Bertino’s The Monster), and the forested location shots, regardless of where they may have been filmed, are uniformly stunning. Numerous shots of tree clusters evoke Celtic knot-like imagery, these dense puzzles of foliage clearly hiding dire secrets, and we are shown just enough through the film’s first two thirds to keep the mystery palpable and engaging. Bruckner, who is best known for directing well-regarded segments of horror anthologies such as V/H/S, The Signal and Southbound, demonstrates a talent here for suggestion and subtlety, aided by some excellent sound design that emphasizes every rustling leaf and creaking tree branch. Unfortunately, the characters are a bit thin for what is meant to be a character-driven film, and the big payoff can’t quite maintain the atmosphere of the film’s first two acts. Still, The Ritual is a great-looking film, and one that features one of the more memorably “WTF!” monster designs in recent memory. It’s worth a look for that alone. —Jim Vorel

hellraiser 2 poster (Custom).jpg 34. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2
Year: 1988
Director: Tony Randel
Hellbound is a somewhat divisive sequel among horror fans, but we can all at least agree on one thing: It’s much, much better than any of the approximately 57 additional Hellraiser sequels that followed, most of which will make you wish the Cenobites were gouging your eyes out with their rusty hooks. It’s actually a more ambitious, somewhat less intimate film than the first Hellraiser, greatly expanding upon the mythos of the series as Kirsty must journey to the hellish dimension of the demonic Cenobites to oppose an evil doctor whose dreams of power transform him into a Cenobite himself. The lovely Ashley Laurence returns as the protagonist, along with a young, emotionally disturbed girl who is adept at solving puzzles, which almost gives it the feel of a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel such as Dream Warriors. The Cenobites themselves get a little bit watered down from their nigh omnipotence in the original film, but the settings and effects are great for the meager budget and do as good a job as anyone could reasonably do of translating the twisted vision of Clive Barker to the screen. —Jim Vorel

under-shadow-movie-poster.jpg 33. Under the Shadow
Year: 2016
Director: Babak Anvari
For most of the film, Babak Anvari is crafting a stifling period drama, a horror movie of a different sort that tangibly conveys the claustrophobia of Iran during its tumultuous post-revolution period. Anvari, himself of a family that eventually fled the Ayatollah’s rule, has made Under the Shadow as statement of rebellion and tribute to his own mother. It’s a distinctly feminist film: Shideh (Narges Rashidi) is cast as the tough heroine fighting back against greater hostile forces—a horror movie archetype that takes on even more potency in this setting. Seeing Shideh defy the Khomeini regime by watching a Jane Fonda workout video, banned by the state, is almost as stirring as seeing her overcome her personal demons by protecting her child from a more literal one. —Brogan Morris

the-void-movie-poster.jpg 32. The Void
Directors: Steven Kostanski, Jeremy Gillespie
Viewers should grade writer-directors Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie’s The Void on a curve: While the low-budget Canadian production earns an “A” for ambition, its mélange of The Thing-inspired body horror, ‘80s nostalgia and Lovecraftian cosmic terror doesn’t quite cohere into a satisfying whole by the time its chief antagonist peels away his skin to reveal a bodysuit that looks like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ Lord Zedd. The first half of the film demonstrates much more restraint, building tension as triangle-branded cultists isolate a mismatched group of (mostly) innocent people—led by Aaron Poole as an out-of-his-depth small-town cop—in a (mostly) vacant hospital. Kotanski and Gillespie build in too many potentially conflicting twists—who, exactly, is impregnated with what?—but the grotesque practical effects and descent-into-Hell structure at times pass for a solid Silent Hill adaptation. Some of horror’s most recent, popularly memorable features (say: It Follows, The Babadook) have wisely employed relatively narrow scopes. Instead, The Void attempts to push audiences into another dimension, but manages at least a few successful frights along the way. —Steve Foxe

30 days of night poster (Custom).jpg 31. 30 Days of Night
Year: 2007
Director: David Slade
With sparkly, emo vampires being all the rage amongst tweens and slash/fic enthusiasts at the time, the big screen adaptation of Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s comic book miniseries, 30 Days of Night, could easily be seen as something of a balm for true horror fans. There are no tragic or misunderstood monsters as far as the guyliner’d eye can see; the vampires here—led by Danny Huston’s vicious Marlow—are savage, pitiless, bloodsucking ghouls. Despite the unfortunate blank space in the center of the film where town sheriff Josh Harnett’s command of the screen should be, the movie faithfully captures the source material’s terror of a small Alaskan town falling prey to ravenous creatures, and dawn is an entire, excruciating month away. Rarely does a horror setting seem quite so hopeless as it does here. —Scott Wold

invitation-movie-poster.jpg 30. The Invitation
Year: 2016
Director: Karyn Kusama
The less you know about Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation, the better. This is true of slow-burn cinema of any stripe, but Kusama slow-burns to perfection. The key, it seems, to successful slow-burning in narrative fiction is the narrative rather than the actual slow-burn. In the case of The Invitation, that involves a tale of deep and intimate heartache, the kind that none of us hopes to ever have to endure in our own lives. The film taps into a nightmare vein of real-life dread, of loss so profound and pervasive that it fundamentally changes who you are as a human being. That’s where we begin: with an examination of grief. Where we end is obviously best left unsaid, but The Invitation is remarkable neither for its ending nor for the direction we take to arrive at its ending. Instead, it is remarkable for its foundation, for all of the substantive storytelling infrastructure that Kusama builds the film upon in the first place. —Andy Crump

john dies at the end poster (Custom).jpeg 29. John Dies at the End
Year: 2012
Director: Don Coscarelli
Your ability to withstand the absurdity of John Dies at the End will depend almost entirely on if you’re able to tolerate nonlinear storylines and characters who, woven together, tax the lengths of the imagination. An oftimes crude and farcical combination of horror, drug culture, and philosophical sci-fi, it’s a film you won’t entirely grasp until you’ve seen it for yourself. Central is a drug known as “soy sauce,” which causes the user to see outside the concept of linear time, existing at all times at once, similar to the alien beings from Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Also appearing: phantom limbs, an alien consciousness known as “Shitload,” a heroic dog, Paul Giamatti and an evil, interdimensional supercomputer. No drugs necessary—John Dies at the End will make you feel like you’ve already ransacked your medicine cabinet. —Jim Vorel

the hallow poster (Custom).jpg 28. The Hallow
Year: 2015
Director: Corin Hardy
There are mythological horror stories, and there are scientifically based horror films, and then there’s The Hallow, which splits the difference in a unique and off-putting way by fusing the two. As viewers, we’re tempted to believe that the film is simply going to give us something of a monster movie, spinning off some Irish mythology on nature spirits and whatnot as they enact terrible vengeance upon a family trespassing on their woods, but it’s actually a much ickier and invasive concept. The creatures may be of a “supernatural” bent, yes, but the film ties it all together with a certain amount of science-based physiology, referencing and drawing a metaphor to the so-called “zombie ants” that are taken over and essentially puppeted by a virulent fungus. So it is with The Hallow, which features Game of Thrones’ Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) in a supporting role and builds nicely to a conclusion where the viewer isn’t certain quite what the outcome will be. Of special note, I would be remiss to not praise the FX work on this film, which is better than you can possibly expect from your average indie British-Irish horror movie. The whole film feels like something with a substantial, well-spent budget behind it, especially in the FX work, which is really top notch. It’s an impressive debut for director Corin Hardy, that’s for certain. —Jim Vorel

hush poster (Custom).jpg 27. Hush
Year: 2016
Director: Mike Flanagan
Hush is a simple, intimate film at heart, and one that takes more than a few cues from Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers, among other home-invasion thrillers. Director Mike Flanagan, whose Oculus is one of the decade’s better, more underrated horror films, remains a promising voice in horror, although Hush plays things considerably safer than that ambitious haunted mirror tale did. Here, the gimmick is that the sole woman being menaced by a masked intruder outside her woodland home is in fact deaf and mute—i.e., she can’t hear him coming or call for help. At first, the film appears as if it will truly echo The Strangers and keep both the killer’s identity and motivations secretive, but those expectations are subverted surprisingly quickly. It all boils down into more or less exactly the type of cat-and-mouse game you would expect, but the film manages to elevate itself in a couple of ways. First is the performance of actress Kate Siegel as protagonist Maddie, who displays just the right level of both vulnerability and resolve, without making too many of the boneheaded slasher film character choices that encourage you to stand up and yell at the screen. Second is the tangible sense of physicality the film manages in its scenes of violence, which are satisfyingly visceral. Ultimately it’s the villain who may leave a little something to be desired at times, but Hush is at the very least a satisfying way to spend a night in with Netflix. —Jim Vorel

geralds game list poster (Custom).jpg 26. Gerald’s Game
Year: 2017
Director: Mike Flanagan
As he did previously in Oculus, Absentia and the preceding film Hush, director Mike Flanagan seems drawn toward the concept of telling horror stories about strong female characters who fight to achieve their sense of independence by shedding old scars or ghosts, be they literal or figurative. This made him a natural fit for Netflix’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game, a property with much less cultural cache than the recent phenomenon of It. What he delivers is a slimmed down, thoughtfully condensed version of King’s “fight for survival” story; one that is anchored around two extremely strong lead performances by Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood. The faults that still exist in the final product are more to do with King’s unusual ending than anything related to its adaptation, and it could stand to be a little more brisk, but keep an eye out for one of the most unexpectedly gory and horrifying scenes in recent memory. —Jim Vorel

the babysitter poster (Custom).jpg 25. The Babysitter
Year: 2017
Director: McG
The Babysitter is a little guileless in its overt desire to be lovingly described as an ‘80s slasher homage, but simultaneously effective enough to earn a good measure of that approval it craves. With twists of Fright Night and Night of the Demons, it’s at its best not when trying to slavishly recreate a past decade but when letting its hyper-charismatic teenage characters run wild. Stylish, gory and profane to a fault, The Babysitter features a handful of bang-up performances by Judah Lewis as a late-blooming 12-year-old, Robbie Amell as a nigh-invincible football jock and Samara Weaving as the title character, the girl of Lewis’ dreams—right up until she tries to sacrifice him to the devil. Fast-moving (only 85 minutes!) and frequently hilarious, it’s probably the best unit of popcorn horror entertainment that Netflix has managed to put out so far. The Babysitter’s character chemistry actually justifies a second go-round, which I’d be happy to watch. —Jim Vorel

troll-hunter.jpg 24. Troll Hunter
Year: 2010
Director: André Øvredal
There’s no denying that at its beginning, Troll Hunter seems like another Blair Witch Project knock-off. The first 20 minutes show us a young camera crew investigating some unexplained bear deaths and a suspicious man who may be poaching them. But rather than drawing out the mystery, it takes a sharp turn and tells us matter-of-factly that of course it was trolls killing the bears, and not only that, here’s one of them ready to bonk you on the head. The titular Troll Hunter extraordinaire is played by the affable comedian Otto Jespersen, who brings the entire monster premise to an entirely different level through his nonchalant attitude. In every sense, Troll Hunter lives up to its ridiculous name and premise. —Sean Gandert

xx.jpg 23. XX
Year: 2017
Directors: Roxanne Benjamin, Annie Clark, Karyn Kusama, Jovanka Vuckovic, Sofia Carrillo
It’s important that the scariest segment in XX, Magnet Releasing’s women-helmed horror anthology film, is also its most elementary: Young people trek out into the wilderness for fun and recreation, young people incur the wrath of hostile forces, young people get dead, easy as you please. You’ve seen this movie before, whether in the form of a slasher, a creature feature, or an animal attack flick. You’re seeing it again in XX in part because the formula works, and in part because the segment in question, titled “Don’t Fall,” must be elementary to facilitate its sibling chapters, which tend to be anything but. XX stands apart from other horror films because it invites its audience to feel a range of emotions aside from just fright. You might, for example, feel heartache during Jovanka Vuckovic’s “The Box,” or the uncertainty of dread in Karyn Kusama’s “Her Only Living Son,” or nauseous puzzlement with Sofia Carrillo’s macabre, stop-motion wraparound piece, meant to function as a palate cleanser between courses (an effectively unnerving work, thanks to its impressive technical achievements). Most of all, you might have to bite your tongue to keep from laughing uncontrollably during the film’s best short, “The Birthday Party,” written and directed by Annie Clark, better known by some as St. Vincent, in her filmmaking debut. XX is a horror movie spoken with the voices of women, a necessary notice that women are revolutionizing the genre as much as men.
Andy Crump

creep-2-movie-poster.jpg 22. Creep 2
Year: 2017
Director: Patrick Brice
Creep was not a movie begging for a sequel. About one of cinema’s more unique serial killers—a man who seemingly needs to form close personal bonds with his quarry before dispatching them as testaments to his “art”—the 2014 original was self-sufficient enough. But Creep 2 is that rare follow-up wherein the goal seems to be not “let’s do it again,” but “let’s go deeper”—and by deeper, we mean much deeper, as this film plumbs the psyche of the central psychopath (who now goes by) Aaron (Mark Duplass) in ways both wholly unexpected and shockingly sincere, as we witness (and somehow sympathize with) a killer who has lost his passion for murder, and thus his zest for life. In truth, the film almost forgoes the idea of being a “horror movie,” remaining one only because we know of the atrocities Aaron has committed in the past, meanwhile becoming much more of an interpersonal drama about two people exploring the boundaries of trust and vulnerability. Desiree Akhavan is stunning as Sara, the film’s only other principal lead, creating a character who is able to connect in a humanistic way with Aaron unlike anything a fan of the first film might think possible. Two performers bare it all, both literally and figuratively: Creep 2 is one of the most surprising, emotionally resonant horror films in recent memory. —Jim Vorel

transfiguration-movie-poster.jpg 21. The Transfiguration
Year: 2017
Director: Michael O’Shea
Michael O’Shea’s The Transfiguration refreshingly refuses to disguise its influences and reference points, instead putting them all out there in the forefront for its audience’s edification, name-dropping a mouthful of noteworthy vampire films and sticking their very titles right smack dab in the midst of its mise en scène. They can’t be missed: Nosferatu is a big one, and so’s The Lost Boys, but none informs O’Shea’s film as much as Let the Right One In, Tomas Alfredson’s unique 2009 genre masterpiece. Like Let the Right One In, The Transfiguration casts a young’n, Milo (Eric Ruffin), as its protagonist, contrasting the horrible particulars of a vampire’s feeding habits against the surface innocence of his appearance. Unlike Let the Right One In, The Transfiguration may not be a vampire movie at all, but a movie about a lonesome kid with an unhealthy fixation on gothic legends. You may choose to view Milo as O’Shea’s modernized update of the iconic monster or a child brimming with inner evil; the film keeps its ends open, its truths veiled and only makes its sociopolitical allegories plain in its final, haunting images. —Andy Crump

the nightmare poster (Custom).jpg 20. The Nightmare
Year: 2015
Director: Rodney Ascher
In my own personal estimation, this is one of the most frightening movies on Netflix right now, and one of the most unsettling documentaries I’ve ever seen. Yes, it’s a documentary, from Rodney Asher, director of the similarly horror-themed doc Room 237. The simple structure of this documentary involves in-depth interviews with eight people who all suffer from some form of sleep paralysis as they describe the horrifying visions they encounter on a nightly basis. It’s equal parts tragic and chilling to hear how the condition has made their nighttime hours into a living hell, and legitimately frightening to watch those scenes reenacted. On the other hand, the documentary is frustrating at times for not asking or answering what seem like fairly obvious questions, i.e. does medication aid with these sleep paralysis episodes? Have any of the subjects of the documentary ever been studied in an overnight sleep study? Etc. Personally, this is a fear I’ve always dreaded experiencing, so if you’re anything like me, you’ll agree with the subject who describes the terror as “the kind of horror that is worse than movies.” If you’re going to watch this documentary, you don’t want to do it before falling asleep. —Jim Vorel

28. oculus (Custom).jpeg 19. Oculus
Year: 2013
Director: Mike Flanagan
When one hears that the central focus point of Oculus is a haunted mirror, you expect a fairly self-contained ghost story, but this recent release proved to be a surprisingly ambitious concept from a promising horror director, Mike Flanagan. It simultaneously juggles accounts of the mirror’s evil influence in two timelines, following the same characters as children and adults. The segments as children feel a tad by-the-books, but the pleasantly over-the-top performances in the adult portion are particularly enjoyable, as a young woman attempts to scientifically document and then seek revenge upon the source of her family’s misery. The film begins to peter out just a bit by the end, as the two stories become intertwined to the point of confusion in an attempt to blur the lines of reality, but in general it’s a stylish, creepy horror flick that goes out of its way to defy conventions. Look no further than the soul-sucking ending, which leaves the door wide open to all sorts of future possibilities if Flanagan ever wants to revisit the concept. —Jim Vorel

baskin poster (Custom).jpg 18. Baskin
Year: 2016
Director: Can Evrenol
It is telling that the single scariest image in Baskin emphasizes creeps over carnage. It’s a shot of a boy standing alone in his living room, illuminated only by the static glow of his family’s television set, which has inexplicably turned itself on in the middle of the night. Nothing about the scenario is overtly terrifying—at least until he shuts the TV off—but it is memorably real in a film where it’s difficult to distinguish what is and isn’t imagined. Grand guignol-level spectacle where every character in the frame is streaked with viscera? That’s one thing. Domestic peculiarities that invoke nocturnal aberrations, though, are another thing entirely. The film evokes the artistic sensibilities of both Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento with its lurid color palette, but it carves a gore-streaked path all its own. —Andy Crump

late phases poster (Custom).jpg 17. Late Phases
Year: 2014
Director: Adrian Garcia Bogliano
Late Phases is a limited but kind of brilliant take on the werewolf movie, featuring a truly outstanding performance by screenwriter-turned-actor Nick Damici (from Stake Land) as an elderly, blind Vietnam veteran who moves to a retiree community currently being menaced by a lycanthrope. After beginning with a bang, it unfolds slowly, developing the strained relationship between the protagonist and his son, the difficulties presented by his blindness and the search for the werewolf’s identity. The characterization of the embittered protagonist is very well developed, and the film shines with lots of the “little things”—great sound design, great dialog, well-cast minor roles. It even features a pretty awesome werewolf transformation scene that, if not quite in American Werewolf in London territory, is one of the best I’ve seen in quite a while. The actual werewolf costumes, it must be noted, look just a little bit ridiculous—like a man in a wolf-bat hybrid suit, and nowhere near as good as say, Dog Soldiers—but the blood effects are top notch. It’s far above most indie horror films in terms of performances, though, and even tugs at the heartstrings a bit with some effective drama. If werewolves are your movie monster of choice, it has to vault up your must-see list. —Jim Vorel

creep poster (Custom).jpg 16. Creep
Year: 2014
Director: Patrick Brice
Creep is a somewhat predictable but cheerfully demented little indie horror film, the directorial debut by Brice, who also released this year’s The Overnight. Starring the ever-prolific Mark Duplass, it’s a character study of two men—naive videographer and not-so-secretly psychotic recluse, the latter of which hires the former to come document his life out in a cabin in the woods. It leans entirely on its performances, which are excellent. Duplass, who can be charming and kooky in something like Safety Not Guaranteed, shines here as the deranged lunatic who forces himself into the protagonist’s life and haunts his every waking moment. The early moments of back-and-forth between the pair crackle with a sort of awkward intensity. Anyone genre-savvy will no doubt see where it’s going, but it’s a well-crafted ride that succeeds on the strength of chemistry between its two principal leads in a way that reminds me of the scenes between Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina. —Jim Vorel

they look like people poster (Custom).jpg 15. They Look Like People
Year: 2015
Director: Perry Blackshear
I fully expect there to be someone in the comments—one of the few people who has actually seen this film—arguing that it doesn’t belong on a “horror” list, but it’s in Netflix’s horror section, and that’s our only qualifier. And indeed, They Look Like People is far more genuinely creepy than many other, more traditional horror films on this list that aim to entertain more than legitimately scare. What we have here is a very unusual, unflinching portrait of mental and emotional illnesses that spin wildly out of control. It would be really easy for the story to be more conventional—guy’s friend visits, but it turns out the friend is crazy—but They Look Like People messes with the audience’s expectations for the narrative by giving both of the male leads their own mental hurdles to overcome. They never react quite like we expect them to, because neither sees the world in a healthy way. It’s a film where the threat and implication of terrible violence, evoked via constantly on-edge atmosphere, becomes almost unbearable, whether or not it actually arrives. Thanks to some very, very strong performances, you always feel balanced on the edge of a knife. Deliberately paced but thankfully brisk (only 80 minutes), it leaves much unanswered, but we still feel satisfied anyway. —Jim Vorel

mad rons poster (Custom).jpg 14. Mad Ron’s Prevues From Hell
Year: 1987
Director: Jim Monaco
This is easily the strangest selection I’ve chosen for this list, but I can’t help but love it because it represents everything missing from the horror selection on Netflix streaming. I seriously have no idea how it made its way to the streaming collection, but Mad Ron’s Prevues From Hell is essentially a feature-length collection of vintage, ’70s-era grindhouse horror trailers. They’re presented in a crumbling theater by Nick, a nebbish-looking ventriloquist accompanied by an annoying puppet named Happy. “Mad Ron” is the projectionist, if you were wondering. What follows is the weirdest jumble of silly puppet shtick and super violent, gory trailers you’ve ever seen. Seriously, it’s trailers for the likes of I Drink your Blood and Blood Splattered Bride and I Dismember Mama, followed immediately by bad ventriloquist hijinks and zombie audience members pouring blood on their popcorn. The whole thing feels like something Netflix added completely by accident, and I sit here desperately hoping they don’t realize their mistake. The actual meat of the content is the trailers, and there’s some wonderfully, horribly icky stuff, all reminders of the kinds of films you’ll never see on this streaming service. It would be a great movie to put on during a Halloween party, provided your guests have very strong constitutions. —Jim Vorel

conjuring.jpg 13. The Conjuring
Year: 2013
Director: James Wan
Let it be known: James Wan is, in any fair estimation, an above average director of horror films at the very least. The progenitor of big money series such as Saw and Insidious has a knack for crafting populist horror that still carries a streak of his own artistic identity, a Spielbergian gift for what speaks to the multiplex audience without entirely sacrificing characterization. Several of his films sit just outside the top 100, if this list were ever to be expanded, but The Conjuring can’t be denied as the Wan representative because it is far and away the scariest of all his feature films. Reminding me of the experience of first seeing Paranormal Activity in a crowded multiplex, The Conjuring has a way of subverting when and where you expect the scares to arrive. Its haunted house/possession story is nothing you haven’t seen before, but few films in this oeuvre in recent years have had half the stylishness that Wan imparts on an old, creaking farmstead in Rhode Island. The film toys with audience’s expectations by throwing big scares at you without standard Hollywood Jump Scare build-ups, simultaneously evoking classic golden age ghost stories such as Robert Wise’s The Haunting. Its intensity, effects work and unrelenting nature set it several tiers above the PG-13 horror against which it was primarily competing. It’s interesting to note that The Conjuring actually did receive an “R” rating despite a lack of overt “violence,” gore or sexuality. It was simply too frightening to deny, and that is worthy of respect. —Jim Vorel

the-wailing.jpg 12. The Wailing
Year: 2016
Director: Na Hong-jin
The U.S. title of Na Hong-jin’s The Wailing suggests tone more than it does sound. There is wailing to be heard here, and plenty of it, but in two words Na coyly predicts his audience’s reaction to the movie’s grim tableaus of a county in spiritual strife. Though The Wailing ostensibly falls in the “horror” bin, Na trades in doubt and especially despair more than in what we think of as representing the genre. He isn’t out to terrify us—he’s out to corrode our souls, much in the same way that his protagonist’s faith is corroded after being subject to both divine and infernal tests over the course of the film. You may not leave the film scared, but you will leave it scarred, which is by far a more substantive response than naked fear. —Andy Crump

the canal poster (Custom).jpg 11. The Canal
Year: 2014
Director: Ivan Kavanagh
This indie Irish horror film announces Ivan Kavanagh as a serious talent and remarkably skilled director—I watched it for the first time recently and it blew all my expectations away. Nominally a “ghost story” of sorts about a man who discovers a century old grisly crime that occurred in his house, it is actually much more of a psychologically intense minefield—the sort of film that Polanski would have made, if he was shooting a ghost story. Combining elements that remind one of The Shining’s superb sound design with the the red-and-blue color palette of a film by Dario Argento, it is impeccably put together and beautiful to look at. The story, unfortunately, gets just a little bit too literal and wraps things up a bit neatly in the last 15 minutes, but the movie crafts an extremely effective web of dread and genuine fear through its entire runtime. Here’s hoping that we see another horror film from Kavanagh very soon. —Jim Vorel

train-to-busan.jpg 10. Train to Busan
Year: 2016
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Love them or hate them, zombies are still a constant of the horror genre in 2016, dependable enough to set your conductor’s watch by. And although I’ve probably seen enough indie zombie films at this point to eschew them from my viewing habits for the rest of my life, there is still usually at least one great zombie movie every other year. In 2016, that was Train to Busan, a film that I sadly hadn’t yet seen when I wrote the 50 Best Zombie Movies of All Time. There’s no need for speculation: Train to Busan would undoubtedly have made the list. This South Korean story of a career-minded father attempting to protect his young daughter on a train full of rampaging zombies is equal parts suspenseful popcorn entertainment and genuinely affecting family drama. It concludes with several action elements that I’ve never seen before, or even considered for a zombie film, and any time you can add something truly novel to the genre of the walking dead, then you’re definitely doing something right. With a few memorable, empathetic supporting characters and some top-notch makeup FX, you’ve got one of the best zombie movies of the past half-decade. —Jim Vorel

15. tucker and dale (Custom).jpg 9. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
Year: 2010
Director: Eli Craig
Let’s face it, hillbillies and their ilk have been getting the short end of the pitchfork in movies since the strains of banjo music faded in 1972’s Deliverance. And whether due to radiation (The Hills Have Eyes) or just good old determined inbreeding (Wrong Turn and so, so many films you’re better off not knowing about), the yokel-prone in film have really enjoyed slaughtering innocent families on vacation, travelers deficient in basic map usage skills, and, best of all, sexually active college students just looking for a good time. But fear not, members of Hillbillies for Inclusion, Consideration & Kindness in Screenplays (HICKS)—writer/director Eli Craig has your hairy, unloofahed back. His film, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, answers the simple question: What if those hillbillies are just socially awkward fellows sprucing up a vacation home and the young college kids in question are just prone to repeatedly jumping to incorrect, often fatal, conclusions? Think Final Destination meets the Darwin Awards in a film that is extremely funny and big-hearted but also doesn’t skimp on the violence. —Michael Burgin

8. Stake land (Custom).jpg 8. Stake Land
Year: 2010
Director: Jim Mickle
Jim Mickle is the best young horror director to get left out of most discussions on the best young horror directors, and I’m not sure why that is. From his debut work Mulberry Street (not on Netflix streaming), he’s been one of the leading auteurs of low-budget horror that still strives for ambitious ideas, and Stake Land is all about ambition rather than exploitation. Lord knows how many cheapo zombie movies have been made in the last decade, but Mickle throws a first wrench into convention by changing up the monster, essentially making a post-apocalypse zombie film, except with vampires. But Stake Land’s greatest achievement is inarguably its wonderful design and evocative landscapes—I’ve never seen a low-budget “post-apocalypse” film that can stand up to more expensive productions the way this one can. It’s a genius work of minimalism, to be able to suggest such a fleshed-out universe, where small pockets of humanity survive in barricaded cities and barter for goods with the teeth of dead vampires. Our characters and story are extremely simple—a veteran hunter and young protege traveling across the wasteland looking for safe refuge—but it’s exactly what the film needs to be. It’s a realistic, sober-minded film that looks great, boasts solid performances and accomplishes so much with so little. —Jim Vorel

12. hellraiser (Custom).jpg 7. Hellraiser
Year: 1987
Director: Clive Barker
The head villain/eventual hero (there’s a sickening number of terrible Hellraiser sequels) behind Clive Barker’s Hellraiser franchise is the Cenobite Pinhead, sent from the pits of his own personal hell dimension to drag you down into the depths with him. Where he tortures you. For eternity. All because you opened a fancy Rubik’s Cube. Pinhead has zero remorse, looking you dead in the eye as he delivers a deadpan promise to “tear your soul apart.” Oh yeah, and the Cenobites are indestructible. Personally, it turned me off to puzzle boxes forever. As in his fiction, Barker’s obsessions with the duality of pain and pleasure are on full display in Hellraiser, an icky story of sick hate and sicker love. —Rachel Haas

descent-movie-poster.jpg 6. The Descent
Year: 2005
Director: Neil Marshall
True camaraderie or complex relationships between female characters isn’t so much “rare” in horror cinema as it is functionally nonexistent, which is one of the things that still makes The Descent, nominally about a bunch of women fighting monsters in a cave, stand out so sharply all these years later. But ah, how The Descent transcends its one-sentence synopsis. The film’s first half is deliberately crafted to fill in the personalities of its group of women, while slowly and almost imperceptibly ratcheting up the sense of dread and foreboding. As the characters descend deeper into the cave, passageways get tighter and the audience can feel the claustrophobia and dankness creeping into their bones—and that’s before we even see any of the resident troglodytes. Neil Marshall’s screenplay makes masterful use of dubious morality, infusing its protagonists, particularly the duo of Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) and Juno (Natalie Mendoza), with numerous shades of gray. Not content to simply paint one of the two as flawed and the other as resourceful and ultimately vindicated, he uses a series of misunderstandings to illustrate human failing on a much more profound and universal level. Ultimately, The Descent is as moving a character study as it is terrifying subterranean creature feature, with one hell of an ending to boot. —Jim Vorel

a-dark-song-movie-poster.jpg 5. A Dark Song
Year: 2016
Director: Liam Gavin
In Liam Gavin’s black magic genre oddity, Sophia (Catherine Walker), a grief-stricken mother, and the schlubby, no-nonsense occultist (Steve Oram) she hires devote themselves to a long, meticulous, painstaking ritual in order to (they hope) communicate with her dead son. Gavin lays out the ritual specifically and physically—over the course of months of isolation, Sophia undergoes tests of endurance and humiliation, never quite sure if she’s participating in an elaborate hoax or if she can take her spiritual guide seriously when he promises her he’s succeeded in the past. Paced to near perfection, A Dark Song is ostensibly a horror film but operates as a dread-laden procedural, mounting tension while translating the process of bereavement as patient, excruciating manual labor. In the end, something definitely happens, but its implications are so steeped in the blurry lines between Christianity and the occult that I still wonder what kind of alternate realms of existence Gavin is getting at. But A Dark Song thrives in that uncertainty, feeding off of monotony. Sophia may hear phantasmagorical noise coming from beneath the floorboards, but then substantial spans of time pass without anything else happening, and we begin to question, as she does, whether it was something she did wrong (maybe, when tasked with not moving from inside a small chalk circle for days at a time, she screwed up that portion of the ritual by allowing her urine to dribble outside of the boundary) or whether her grief has blinded her to an expensive con. Regardless, that “not knowing” is the scary stuff of everyday life, and by portraying Sophia’s profound emotional journey as a humdrum trial of physical mettle, Gavin reveals just how much pointless, even terrifying work it can be anymore to not only live the most ordinary of days, but to make it to the next. —Dom Sinacola

raw-movie-poster.jpg 4. Raw
Year: 2016
Director: Julia Ducournou
If you’re the proud owner of a twisted sense of humor, you might tell your friends that Julia Ducournau’s Raw is a “coming of age movie” in a bid to trick them into seeing it. Yes, the film’s protagonist, naive incoming college student Justine (Garance Marillier), comes of age over the course of its running time; she parties, she breaks out of her shell, and she learns about who she really is as a person on the verge of adulthood. But most kids who come of age in the movies don’t realize that they’ve spent their lives unwittingly suppressing an innate, nigh-insatiable need to consume raw meat. “Hey,” you’re thinking, “that’s the name of the movie!” You’re right! It is! Allow Ducournau her cheekiness. More than a wink and nod to the picture’s visceral particulars, Raw is an open concession to the harrowing quality of Justine’s grim blossoming. Nasty as the film gets, and it does indeed get nasty, the harshest sensations Ducournau articulates here tend to be the ones we can’t detect by merely looking: Fear of feminine sexuality, family legacies, popularity politics, and uncertainty of self govern Raw’s horrors as much as exposed and bloody flesh. It’s a gorefest that offers no apologies and plenty more to chew on than its effects. —Andy Crump

starry eyes poster (Custom).jpg 3. Starry Eyes
Year: 2014
Director: Kevin Kölsch
Starry Eyes might be the most difficult film on this entire list to watch. Not necessarily because it will frighten you, although it will. But this is a harrowing film experience. It’s an ordeal, in the same way the protagonist’s journey is an ordeal and a transformation. At the beginning, you think you have a pretty decent idea of the surface-level points it’s trying to make, “Hollywood against Hollywood” bitterness and cynicism about fame and the film industry’s pettiness. But it’s so much more destructive and subversive than that. Our protagonist, Sarah, is a tragic figure, and this is a “horror tragedy,” if such a thing exists, made worse by the fact that she brings it all onto herself, fueled by deep-seated inadequacy and a crushing lack of self-identity. Her ambition turns her into a monster because she has nothing else. Her life is so devoid of meaning that doing the unthinkable has no downside. It’s a horrific self-destruction that leads into a orgy of truly grotesque violence, but there’s no joy or titillation in any of the ways it’s depicted. No one is going to describe Starry Eyes as “fun” or light viewing, and no one is going to laugh at the deaths. You don’t show this thing at a party—you dwell on it in the depth of night while self-identifying with its horrors. Its themes of abandonment of the self make it one of the most disturbing and well-crafted horrors I’ve seen in quite a while. —Jim Vorel

18-best-so-far-2015-It-Follows.jpg 2. It Follows
Year: 2015
Director: David Robert Mitchell
The specter of Old Detroit haunts It Follows. In a dilapidating ice cream stand on 12 Mile, in the ’60s-style ranch homes of Ferndale or Berkley, in a game of Parcheesi played by pale teenagers with nasally, nothing accents—if you’ve never been, you’d never recognize the stale, gray nostalgia creeping into every corner of David Robert Mitchell’s terrifying film, but it’s there, and it feels like Metro Detroit. The music, the muted but strangely sumptuous color palette, the incessant anachronism: In style alone, Mitchell is an auteur seemingly emerged fully formed from the unhealthy womb of Metro Detroit. All of which wouldn’t work were Mitchell less concerned with creating a genuinely unnerving film, but every aesthetic flourish, every fully circular pan is in thrall to breathing morbid life into a single image: someone, anyone slowly separating from the background, from one’s nightmares, and walking toward you, as if Death itself were to appear unannounced next to you in public, ready to steal your breath with little to no aplomb. Mitchell inherently understands that there is practically nothing more eerie than the slightly off-kilter ordinary, trusting the film’s true horror to the tricks our minds play when we forget to check our periphery. It Follows is a film that thrives in the borders, not so much about the horror that leaps out in front of you, but the deeper anxiety that waits at the verge of consciousness—until, one day soon, it’s there, reminding you that your time is limited, and that you will never be safe. Forget the risks of teenage sex, It Follows is a penetrating metaphor for growing up. —Dom Sinacola

6. the babadook (Custom).jpg 1. The Babadook
Year: 2014
Director: Jennifer Kent
Between It Follows and The Babadook, the last year or so has been a strong one for indie horror films breaking free from their trappings to enter the public consciousness. Between the two, The Babadook is perhaps less purely entertaining but makes up for that with cerebral scares and complex emotion. It’s an astoundingly well-realized first feature film for director Jennifer Kent, and one that actually manages to deal with a type of relationship we haven’t seen that often in a horror film. Motherhood in cinema tends to invariably be portrayed in a sort of “unconditional love,” way, which isn’t necessarily true to life, and The Babadook preys upon any shred of doubt there might be. Its child actor, Noah Wiseman, is key in pushing the buttons of actress Essie Davis, pushing her closer and closer to the brink, even as they’re threatened by a supernatural horror. The film’s beautiful art direction approximates a crooked, twisted fairytale, with dreamlike sequences that never quite reveal what is true and what might be a hallucination. The characters of The Babadook ultimately undergo quite a lot of suffering, and not just because they’re being chased by a monster. —Jim Vorel