The 40 Best Horror Movies on Hulu Ranked (2021)

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The 40 Best Horror Movies on Hulu Ranked (2021)

In terms of comparing the major streaming services, it’s easy to think of Hulu as “the TV-focused one,” but that’s not entirely fair—the service also has a healthy number of movies at any given time, although its overall library is nowhere near the size of Netflix’s or (especially) Amazon Prime’s. Still, horror geeks who happen to have a Hulu subscription actually have access to a surprisingly large library of quality films.

Kudos to Hulu for eventually creating a horror-specific subcategory instead of “horror and suspense” jumbled together into one category that contained the likes of both The Babadook and Snowden. Now at least everything you see when you visit the “horror” tab makes sense being there. Unfortunately, as we progress through 2020, Hulu has also lost some solid titles they had access to fairly recently, including The Monster Squad or A Quiet Place, but they’ve replaced them with other solid selections.

After reading about the top horror movies on Hulu, you may also want to consult the following horror-centric lists:

The 100 best horror films of all time.
The 100 best vampire movies of all time.
The 50 best zombie movies of all time.
The 60 best horror movies on Amazon Prime
The 50 best movies about serial killers
The 50 best slasher movies of all time
The 50 best ghost movies of all time
The 50 Best Horror Movies Streaming on Netflix
The 50 best horror movies streaming on Shudder
The 50 Best Movies About Serial Killers

So without any further ado, here are the 50 best horror movies streaming on Hulu:

1. Let the Right One In

3. let the right one in (Custom).jpg Year: 2008
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Stars: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Ika Nord, Peter Carlberg
Rating: R
Runtime: 114 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Vampires may have become cinema’s most overdone, watered-down horror villains, aside from zombies, but leave it to a Swedish novelist and filmmaker to reclaim frightening vampires by producing a novel and film that turned the entire genre on its head. Let the Right One In centers around the complicated friendship and quasi-romantic relationship between 12-year-old outcast Oskar and Eli, a centuries-old vampire trapped in the body of an androgynous (although ostensibly female) child who looks his same age. As Oskar slowly works his way into her life, drawing ever-closer to the role of a classical vampire’s human “familiar,” the film questions the nature of their bond and whether the two can ever possibly commune on a level of genuine love. At the same time, it’s also a chilling, very effective horror film whenever it chooses to be, especially in the absolutely spectacular final sequences, which evoke Eli’s terrifying abilities with just the right touch of obstruction to leave the worst of it in the viewer’s imagination. The film received an American remake in 2010, Let Me In, which has been somewhat unfairly derided by film fans sick of the remake game, but it’s another solid take on the same story that may even improve upon a few small aspects of the story. Ultimately, though, the Swedish original is still the superior film thanks to the strength of its two lead performers, who vault it up to become perhaps the best vampire movie ever made. —Jim Vorel


2. Annihilation

annihilation-poster.jpg Year: 2018
Director: Alex Garland
Stars: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac
Rating: R
Runtime: 115 minutes

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Annihilation is a movie that’s impossible to shake. Like the characters who find themselves both exploring the world of the film and inexplicably trapped by it, you’ll find yourself questioning yourself throughout, wondering whether what you’re watching can possibly be real, whether maybe you’re losing it a little yourself. The film is a near-impossible bank shot by Ex Machina filmmaker Alex Garland, a would-be science fiction actioner that slowly reveals itself to be a mindfuck in just about every possible way, a film that wants you to invest in its universe yet never gives you any terra firma on which you can orient yourself. This is a film that wants to make you feel as confused and terrified as the characters you’re watching. In this, it is unquestionably successful. This is a risky proposition for a director, particularly with a big studio movie with big stars like this one: a movie that becomes more confusing and disorienting as it goes along. Garland mesmerizes with his visuals, but he wants you to be off-balance, to experience this world the way Lena (Natalie Portman) and everyone else is experiencing it. Like the alien (I think?) of his movie, Garland is not a malevolent presence; he is simply an observer of this world, one who follows it to every possible permutation, logical or otherwise. It’s difficult to explain Annihilation, which is a large reason for its being. This is a film about loss, and regret, and the sensation that the world is constantly crumbling and rearranging all around you every possible second. The world of Annihilation looks familiar, but only at first. Reality is fluid, and ungraspable. It can feel a little like our current reality in that way. —Will Leitch


3. Day of the Dead

day-of-the-dead-poster.jpg Year: 1985
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joe Pilato, Richard Liberty
Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Although Dawn will probably always have more esteem, and is significantly more culturally important, Day of the Dead is my personal favorite of George Romero’s zombie films, and I don’t think it ever quite gets the respect it deserves. It comes along at a sort of sweet spot for the director—bigger budget, more ambitious ideas and Tom Savini at the zenith of his powers as a practical effects artist. The human characters this time are scientists and military living in an underground bunker, which for the first time in the series gives us a wider view of what’s been going on since the dead rose. This film reintroduces the science back into zombie flicks, finally making one of the main characters a scientist (Matthew “Frankenstein” Logan, played by Richard Liberty) who has had some time to study the zombies in the relative safety of a lab. As such, the movie redefines the attributes of the classic Romero ghoul—they’re dumb, but not entirely unintelligent, and some of them can even be trained to use tools and possibly remember certain aspects of their previous lives. That of course brings us to “Bub,” (Sherman Howard) maybe the single most iconic zombie in Romero’s oeuvre, who displays a unique level of personality and even humor. Day of the Dead ultimately takes a monster that audiences thought they knew pretty well at this point and suggests that perhaps they were only just scratching the surface of the subgenre’s potential. —Jim Vorel


4. The Host

23. the host (Custom).jpg Year: 2006
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Stars: Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona, Go Ah-sung
Rating: NR
Runtime: 119 minutes

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Before he was breaking out internationally with a tight action film like Snowpiercer, and eventually winning a handful of Oscars for Parasite, this South Korean monster movie was Bong Joon-ho’s big work and calling card. Astoundingly successful at the box office in his home country, it straddles several genre lines between sci-fi, family drama and horror, but there’s plenty of scary stuff with the monster menacing little kids in particular. Props to the designers on one of the more unique movie monsters of the last few decades—the mutated creature in this film looks sort of like a giant tadpole with teeth and legs, which is way more awesome in practice than it sounds. The real heart of the film is a superb performance by Song Kang-ho (also in Snowpiercer and Parasite) as a seemingly slow-witted father trying to hold his family together during the disaster. That’s a pretty common role to be playing in a horror film, but the performances and family dynamic in general truly are the key factor that help elevate The Host far above most of its ilk. —Jim Vorel


5. The Cabin in the Woods

the-cabin-in-the-woods-poster.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Drew Goddard
Stars: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Sigourney Weaver
Rating: R
Runtime: 95 minutes

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The gag here is that a group of young people—who loosely fall into a variety of slasher movie archetypes such as “the virgin,” “the fool” and “the athlete,”—are manipulated into a life-or-death scenario that also serves as a proxy battle for all of humanity. This “ritual,” we come to understand, is orchestrated from an underground bunker full of comically unsympathetic white collar workers who bend the rules of this contest as far as they possibly can, and for good reason: If the hapless protagonists “upstairs” manage to survive, the entire world will be devoured by ancient gods who will rise from below. Only the appeasement of horror film cliches will keep the ancient evil below slumbering for another year. That framework is an excuse to pick apart the silliest (and most beloved) aspects of horror movie tropes. The monsters and antagonists likewise draw inspiration from countless horror franchises: Evil Dead, Hellraiser, It, Chopping Mall, The Wolf Man. It’s a loving assembly of sinister, familiar cinematic imagery that has been corralled and controlled in a way that paints mankind as the ultimate evil above all others, due for extinction. The Cabin in the Woods remains a high bar against which horror genre parodies are judged. —Jim Vorel


6. Southbound

southbound poster (Custom).jpg Year: 2016
Directors: Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath
Stars: Chad Villella, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Fabianne Therese, Hannah Marks, Larry Fessenden
Rating: R
Runtime: 89 minutes

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


7. Castle Rock

castle rock poster (Custom).jpg Year: 2018
Director: Various
Stars: Andre Holland, Melanie Lynskey, Bill Skarsgård, Sissy Spacek, Lizzy Caplan, Tim Robbins
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 20 episodes

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Castle Rock is easy to love if you’ve already given yourself up to Stephen King’s brand of campfire story, with all the hokey chuckles and midnight palm-sweating that comes with it. I know I have—I just finished enjoying King’s latest, The Outsider—which makes me a prime target (though, I suspect, not the only target) for Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason’s Hulu original series, based on King’s mythos. Michael Uppendahl directs the solid pilot, which pushes artistry and literary fidelity into its compellingly sketched mystery, and the hooks only sink in deeper over the rest of season one. The plot and environment (because one is inevitably entangled with the other) use the stories of Stephen King as their knitting fiber, intertwining both meta- and textual characters and themes into the afflicted town of Castle Rock (home of Cujo and The Dead Zone). Along with It’s Derry and the oft-abbreviated Jerusalem’s Lot, Castle Rock makes up the Bermuda triangle of fictitious Maine haunts that King keeps coming back to. King’s work loves a polluted system, and towns work just as well as prisons or hotels. The atmosphere works because the series’ thematic and artistic construction do each other plenty of favors. For example, the show treats religion and the supernatural as forces that aren’t necessarily on equal footing, but are certainly enabling each other, like a father pushing his child higher and higher on the swing set. Which is which never stays the same. There’s misguided righteousness, dangerous excitement, and legitimate goodness caught up in the battle for Castle Rock’s soul, which is an exciting spin on the conventional Exorcist-like binary questioning of faith. —Jacob Oller


8. Sea Fever

sea-fever-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Neasa Hardiman
Starring: Hermione Corfield, Dougray Scott, Connie Nielsen, Ardalan Esmaili
Rating: NR
Runtime: 89 minutes

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Talk about bad timing. Or good timing? Whether Sea Fever’s release coinciding with the pandemic is to either the film’s benefit or detriment is a question without a concrete answer, but like Nicolas Pesce’s The Grudge, it’s all a matter of strange kismet. How else to take a horror movie about people stuck in tight quarters together, endangered by a heretofore unknown entity that transmits to hosts with but a touch and kills in geysers of blood? And the one person in the cast smart enough to make deductions and offer advisories on how to proceed is routinely ignored by everybody else, especially when that person identifies self-isolation as the safest course of action. Prescient! Sea Fever, however, isn’t about a virus but an undiscovered lifeform that inhabits the photic zone, basically a gargantuan tentacled thing that passes on its spawn to other organisms, which then explode violently from said organisms’ eyeballs. The creature menaces the crew of a fishing trawler off the West coast of Ireland, including Siobhán (Hermione Corfield), the introverted marine life expert brought on board to sort out “anomalies” in the catch. She’s also the only one capable of figuring out what’s happening to the boat, and the crew, in what reads as an amalgam of The Thing and Leviathan, with maybe a bit of The Abyss in there as well. Sea Fever’s gory, claustrophobic paranoia is only part of its pleasure. There’s terror in the depths, but bioluminescent beauty, too, the kind that inspires Irish folklore when it should inspire a moratorium on fishing. Sea Fever didn’t get to pick its moment, but the moment is ripe for movies like it to help put in perspective the matter of quarantine. A great movie at any time, but an unexpectedly thought-provoking movie for the time that we’re in. —Andy Crump


9. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

rare-exports-poster.jpg Year: 2010
Director: Jalmari Helander
Stars: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila, Per Christian Ellefsen, Tommi Korpela, Rauno Juvonen
Rating: R
Runtime: 82 minutes

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Of all the films that have attempted to tackle Christmastime mythology through the lens of horror, none have done it with half the gonzo weirdness of Finland’s Rare Exports. Although the subject of Krampus became popular horror fodder in the back half of this decade, the Fins were definitely laying some foundations here, dredging up the figure of Joulupukki, the so-called “Christmas goat” of Scandinavian folklore, who like Krampus punishes wicked children for their sins instead of dispensing candy and gifts. We see this particular story through the eyes of rural Finnish kids and their destitute parents, their livelihoods trampled by the engine of economic progress and consumerism, in a message that reflects the cynicism of Joe Dante’s Gremlins. It seems fitting, then, that it’s a government research team that dredges up horrors from beneath the crust of the Earth, representing the greed of adult children as they do. With a magical Nordic setting that perfectly suits its fantastical vibe, Rare Exports settles in alongside chilly, Scandinanvian horror contemporaries such as Let the Right One In or Dead Snow, although it never strives for the emotion or gravity or the former. It does, however, build to a formidable conclusion, giving us perhaps the most oddly unique origin story for Santa Claus that has yet been brought to the horror genre.


10. The Clovehitch Killer

clovehitch-killer-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2018
Director: Duncan Skiles
Stars: Dylan McDermott, Charlie Plummer, Samantha Mathis, Madisen Beaty
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 110 minutes

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Life in small-town Christian America can have a stultifying effect on a person, sucking out all personality and vitality, replacing all individual identity with better living through dogma. In The Clovehitch Killer, director Duncan Skiles replicates this bait-and-switch through cinematographer Luke McCoubrey’s camera. The film is shot stock-still, the camera more or less fixed from one scene to the next, as if affected by the vibe of routine humming throughout its setting of Somewhere, Kentucky. Almost none of the characters we meet in the movie have a spark; they’re drones tasked with maintaining the hive’s integrity against interlopers who, god forbid, actually bother to be somebody. Caught up in this dynamic is Tyler (Charlie Plummer), awkward, quiet and shy, the son of Don (Dylan McDermott), a handyman and Scout troop leader, which brings no end of unexpressed consternation to Tyler as a Scout himself. On the surface, Don looks and acts like an automaton, too, with occasional hints of humor and warmth in his capacity as father and Scoutmaster. Beneath, though, he’s something more, at least so Tyler suspects: The Clovehitch Killer, a serial killer who once tormented their area with a horrific murder spree long completed. Or maybe not. Maybe Don just has a real kink fetish and keeps rope around for fun in the bedroom. Either way, fathers aren’t always who or what they appear.

Horror movies are all about the squirm, the nerve-wracking build-up of tension over time that, done properly, leaves viewers crawling out of their skin with dread. In The Clovehitch Killer, this sensation is wrought entirely through craft instead of effects. That damn camera, motionless and unstirred, is always happy to film what’s in front of it, never one to pan about to catch new angles. What you see is what it shows you, but what it shows you might be more awful than you can stomach at a glance. This is a devilish movie that does beautifully what horror films are meant to—vex us with fear—through the most deceptively simple of means. —Andy Crump


11. The Beyond

the-beyond-poster.jpg Year: 1981
Director: Lucio Fulci
Stars: Katherin MacColl, David Warbeck, Sarah Keller, Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar
Rating: R
Runtime: 87 minutes

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It’s hard to describe Fulci’s The Beyond in absolutes. Some would contend that it isn’t a “zombie movie.” Which isn’t to say there aren’t any zombies in it, but it’s not a Romero-style zombie movie, as Fulci pulled off in Zombi 2. The Beyond is the middle entry in Fulci’s “Gates of Hell” trilogy, and takes place in and around a crumbling old hotel that just happens to have one of those gates to hell located in its cellar. When it opens, all hell starts to break loose in the building, in a film that combines a haunted house aesthetic with demonic possession, the living dead and ghostly apparitions. As with so many of the other films in this mold, it’s not always entirely clear what’s going on … and honestly, the plot is more or less irrelevant. You’re watching it to see zombies gouge the eyes out of unsuspecting innocents or watch heads being blown off, and there’s no shortage of either of those things. Thinking back to Lucio Fulci movies after the fact, you won’t remember any of the story structure. You’ll just remember the ultra gory highlights, splattering across the screen in a way that continues to influence filmmakers to this day. Modern horror films such as We Are Still Here show heavy inspiration from Fulci, and The Beyond in particular. It’s one of the most stylish of the Italian, zombie-featuring horror flicks.


12. Arachnophobia

arachnophobia-poster.jpg Year: 1990
Director: Frank Marshall
Stars: Jeff Daniels, Julian Sands, Harley Jane Kozak, John Goodman
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 110 minutes

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Unless you harbor the actual phobia in the film’s title, Arachnophobia perhaps isn’t the most genuinely “frightening” horror film, but that never seems to have been its chief priority. Rather, this is a slick, professionally assembled combination of dark comedy and throwback creature feature, evoking the post-war, nuclear-era “bug” movies while simultaneously dripping with Gen X sarcasm. Jeff Daniels is well cast as the family man attempting to move his family into a creaky farmhouse in a new town, plagued by spiders that he happens to fear intensely, but the whole film is ultimately stolen by John Goodman’s exterminator, Delbert McClintock. Rarely has a bit player in a film like this one managed to elevate it to cult classic status quite so quickly as McClintock, a vapid rube who manages to be as repellent to humans as he is ineffective against mutated Venezeuelan spiders. Goodman has had a career built on playing loudmouths, jerks and goofballs, but few of his characters sum up the appeal of the actor quite as succinctly as this one. —Jim Vorel


13. The Other Lamb

other-lamb-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Malgorzata Szumowska
Starring: Michiel Huisman, Raffey Cassidy, Denise Gough
Rating: NR
Runtime: 94 minutes

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The so-called “Shepherd” sends Selah (Raffey Cassidy) to the hills to deliver a newborn lamb. Instead, she returns with blood-stained hands and the wrath of an almost anthropomorphic ram, who—for the rest of The Other Lamb—follows her around, breathing heavily, angry horns in her face and stony eyes challenging hers. The horror of The Other Lamb accrues slowly. Director Malgorzata Szumowska is a master of world building; the film is told through cult member Selah’s perspective, with the cult leader, the “Shepherd” (Michiel Huisman), existing as a more-or-less silent and cruel specter. Initially, the followers believe that only the male leader has the right to tell stories, but The Other Lamb skewers the male gaze. In the film, to see is to know—and to surveil. The leader organizes his all-women cult into two horrifying categories: Those who wear red frocks are forced to be his “wives” and the ones wearing blue are his “daughters,” many of whom, if not all, are his biological daughters (Szumowska obscures some of these details). He knows everyone’s menstrual cycles, and he seems to always be lurking, trying to pluck the next daughter from childhood and make her his wife as soon as she begins her period. His favorite daughter, the pious Selah, however, begins to perceive his insidiousness and grows fearsome of the impending arrival of her period. As in Ari Aster’s cult thriller Midsommar, viewers can find allusions to fascism and religious extremism in The Other Lamb, but the film is less interested in exploring the leader’s obvious cruelty at length than it is concerned with Selah’s inevitably gory pilgrimage. It’s a resonant tale of a young woman who learns to reject the deeply patriarchal system in which she was raised, to carve out a narrative outside of the one she has been forced to believe. —Isabella Bridie DeLeo


14. Run

run-hulu-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Stars: Sarah Paulson, Kiera Allen
Rating: NR
Runtime: 89 minutes

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Under 90 minutes and without an ounce of fat, Run buzzes with anxiety even in the quietest scenes where technically all’s well but nothing’s right: Repeated sequences, like a daughter’s ritualized mealtimes, grow increasingly uneasy as her questions about her mother and the truth slowly evolve into suspicions and then, at last, fully blossom into horrified disbelief. What would you do if you found out the person you call “mom” may not actually be your mom at all? Earlier in 2020, The Craft: Legacy clumsily posed and answered the same question, but Chaganty and his Searching co-writer Sev Ohanian map Run around that fearful betrayal and give real thought to its consequences—and Chloe’s response. —Andy Crump


15. Little Monsters

little-monsters-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Abe Forsythe
Stars: Lupita Nyong’o, Alexander England, Kat Stewart, Diesel La Torraca, Josh Gad
Rating: R
Runtime: 94 minutes

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As Lupita Nyong’o was picking up her Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2013, one probably wouldn’t have expected that she would be starring in not one but two different critically acclaimed horror films in 2019, but here we are. Most of the horror attention on Nyong’o last year was understandably derived from her scintillating turn in Jordan Peele’s Us, but Little Monsters feels sadly overlooked. This is a frequently uproarious zombie comedy, set in Australia, starring actor Alexander England as a slacker uncle to a precocious young child, and Nyong’o as the kid’s supremely dedicated and charming kindergarten teacher. And wouldn’t you know it—the class field trip to the farm/petting zoo just happens to be interrupted by a massive outbreak of the undead, leaving Nyong’o to shepherd her little flock to safety, all while concealing from them the seriousness of these events. She pulls off a performance that is both touching and generates the occasional belly laugh, while also showing off such a consistent talent for musical performance that you can’t help but wonder if the film was calculated as the launching point for yet another side career. Josh Gad also shows up as a children’s entertainer that takes full advantage of his irritating talents, but the film really belongs to Nyong’o. —Jim Vorel


16. Crawl

crawl-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Alexandre Aja
Stars: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper
Rating: R
Runtime: 87 minutes

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Crawl, unlike Jaws, is actually just a movie about people vs. a natural predator. It is simple. It is effective. It is the most fun I’ve had in a theater since John Wick 3. Directed by Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, High Tension, Horns) and written by Shawn and Michael Rasmussen, Crawl is a horror-thriller set in the heart of Florida. In it, Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) returns home from college during a category 5 hurricane, searching for her father, Dave Keller (Barry Pepper), whom she’s unable to get a hold of. Luckily for Haley, she is an aspiring collegiate swimmer so she probably won’t drown while she trudges through flooded street after flooded street. Not so luckily, she finds her dad stuck in a crawl space where the water is slowly rising. There is also their cute family dog, Sugar. And, as advertised, there are alligators—toothy and ravenous. Crawl’s heart thrums with the unique beat that is Florida itself. In the age of “Florida Man” stories that go viral on a near-daily basis, Florida is a seemingly mythic place. There, a man can rob a bank wielding two raccoons, so it just makes sense that a father and daughter could be beset by alligators in a house during a category 5 hurricane. It is just another day in our collective projection of what that humid little state can offer. Still, Crawl embraces the absurd with intense seriousness. There is very little levity to be found in the film, and emotions, blood and viscera flow forth when Crawl really kicks into gear. In the sweaty, latter months of the season, in an age in which such horror is relegated to Syfy drivel, Crawl is a brilliant ode to the magical realism of Florida and how, when made with craft and care, few movie-going experiences are as good as creature-features in the hottest month of the year. —Cole Henry


17. Oculus

28. oculus (Custom).jpeg Year: 2013
Director: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane
Rating: R
Runtime: 103 minutes

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When one hears that the central focus point of Oculus is a haunted mirror, you may expect a fairly self-contained ghost story, but this film 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 (Jumanji’s Karen Gillan, now much better known) 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


18. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2

hellraiser 2 poster (Custom).jpg Year: 1988
Director: Tony Randel
Stars: Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Kenneth Cranham
Rating: R
Runtime: 93 minutes

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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


19. Gretel & Hansel

gretel-and-hansel-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Oz Perkins
Stars: Sophia Lillis, Sam Leakey, Charles Babalola, Jessica De Gouw, Alice Krige
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 87 minutes

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Director Oz Perkins’ first two features, The Blackcoat’s Daughter and I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, are meticulously constructed examples of slow burn horror, favoring ever-building, chilling atmosphere over quick scares. He begins Gretel & Hansel with a traditional fairy tale structure, only to degenerate into an otherworldly, hopeless setting that liberally plays with space and time. Accordingly, production and costume designs borrow from multiple time periods—slightly resembling medieval Europe—while characters speak in Shakespearean prose, their body language still distinctly modern. Instead of the usual sea of white faces for such a tale, different races that seem to have equal social standing populate this world. Perkins purposefully juxtaposes Galo Olivares’s classically picturesque cinematography, imbued with the illusion of natural light, against Robin Coudert’s synth-heavy score that resembles Wendy Carlos’s work for Stanley Kubrick. The film thrives within a dream-logic vibe, especially in Olivares’ cinematography, with its heavy emphasis on symmetrical framing, stark contast and lush use of yellows and blues, evoking subliminal terror. —Oktay Ege Kozak


20. We Are What We Are

we are what we are 2010 poster (Custom).jpg Year: 2010
Director: Jorge Michel Grau
Stars: Carmen Beato, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Paulina Gaitán
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 90 minutes

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This 2010 Mexican horror thriller was remade in the U.S. in 2013 by the talented Jim Mickle—and I have to admit, the American remake is the stronger of the two stories. Still, the original We Are What We Are sows the seeds of a compelling film. It follows a close-knit family of cannibals secretly maintaining their way of life in an urban setting. When the patriarch of the family drops dead, presumably from the cannibalism-related disease kuru, the family unit is thrown into disorder and the two teenage sons suddenly inherit the responsibility of obtaining fresh meat for the family’s ritualized cannibalism. What follows is a somewhat awkward, very dour and morbid series of misadventures as they try to maintain their way of life. The film is both creepy and gory, but it lacks the strength of characters and relationships that are established in the American version, which delves deeper into the psyche of each family member. You can see why Mickle took an interest in the premise, though. —Jim Vorel


21. The Devil’s Candy

devils-candy-poster.jpg Year: 2015
Director: Sean Byrne
Stars: Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby, Kiara Glasco, Pruitt Taylor Vince
Rating: NR
Runtime: 80 minutes

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The set-up of The Devil’s Candy—Australian filmmaker Sean Byrne’s follow-up to his 2009 Carrie meets Texas Chain Saw Massacre riff The Loved Ones—suggests a cross between the haunted house and serial killer subgenres. The movie centers on a child murderer, Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince), escaping the house that Jesse (Ethan Embry), his wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and his daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco) subsequently move into, not fully aware of the extent of the supernatural horrors contained within. And with Ray first seen playing loud chords on an electric guitar to drown out the voices in his head, and with Jesse characterized as a long-haired artist with a predilection for heavy metal, the film initially appears like it will play around with that connection between metal music and devil worship, with which many have often decried that particular musical genre. The Devil’s Candy turns out to be more complicated than all that, though, in ways that are genuinely fascinating. Byrne’s film turns out to be less about heavy metal or even Satanism than about the psychological perils of artistic obsession. 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 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 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


22. The Final Girls

the-final-girls-poster.jpg Year: 2015
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Stars: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Adam DeVine, Thomas Middleditch, Alia Shawkat, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 91 minutes

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It’s rather difficult for a genuine slasher film to be “sweet,” but this horror comedy manages that odd distinction. The Final Girls is about a young woman named Max (Taissa Farmiga), whose deceased mother was a scream queen actress known for her role in an ’80s Friday the 13th parody called Camp Bloodbath. While attending a screening of Camp Bloodbath with some friends, a mysterious incident leads to Max and company being somehow sucked into the movie, where she’s reunited with her mother … and the film’s Jason-esque killer. Thus, The Final Girls presents the unique scenario of a group of teens being aware of the fact that they’re in a slasher movie, who are thus armed with the knowledge of the genre’s tropes, attempting the flip the script on how it will all play out. Frequently clever, but surprisingly heartfelt, The Final Girls benefits more than anything from a stellar supporting cast of comedic actors, from Malin Åkerman and Alia Shawkat to Thomas Middleditch and Adam DeVine, who all elevate what could easily have been an overwhelmingly chintzy premise into a genuinely enjoyable (if lightweight) horror comedy romp. The Final Girls isn’t the kind of film that will ever be hailed as a cult classic in its own right, but as genre parodies go, it’s among the best that slashers have to offer. —Jim Vorel


23. The Dead Zone

the-dead-zone-1983-poster.jpg Year: 1983
Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom, Anthony Zerbe, Colleen Dewhurts, Martin Sheen
Rating: R
Runtime: 103 minutes

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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


24. WolfCop

wolfcop poster (Custom).jpg Year: 2014
Director: Lowell Dean
Stars: Leo Fafard, Amy Matysio, Jonathan Cherry, Sarah Lind, Jesse Moss
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 79 minutes

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Wolfcop is full-on horror comedy, and delirious good fun. When an alcoholic small-town Canadian cop (Leo Fafard) gets cursed and turned into a werewolf, he retains all of his human faculties—above all, a respect for the LAW. Using his newfound werewolf superpowers, he opposes the local cabal of reptilian shapeshifters. Yep. That’s your film. It’s one of those carefully calculated, modern, indie horror-comedies that was created explicitly in the hopes of someday being labeled “cult classic,” but it does its job better than most, dipping a bit into the neo-grindhouse aesthetic of Hobo With a Shotgun, perhaps thanks to the gore effects, although it’s nowhere near as nihilistic. More than anything, you will undoubtedly feel a very genuine love for the utter ridiculousness of the premise. —Jim Vorel


25. Sputnik

sputnik-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Egor Abramenko
Stars: Oksana Akinshina, Fyodor Bondarchuk, Pyotr Fyodorov, Anton Vasiliev
Rating: NR
Runtime: 113 minutes

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The good news is that, three years later, at least one of Alien’s descendants have figured out that borrowing from its forebear makes far more sense than lazily aping Scott, which explains in part why Egor Abramenko’s Sputnik works so well: It’s Alien-esque, because any film about governments and corporations using unsuspecting innocents as vessels for stowing extraterrestrial monsters for either weaponization or monetization can’t help evoke Alien. Abramenko has that energy. Sputnik’s style runs somewhere in the ballpark of unnerving and unflappable: The movie doesn’t flinch, but makes a candid, methodical attempt at making the audience flinch instead, contrasting high-end creature FX against a lo-fi backdrop. Until the alien makes its first appearance slithering forth from the prone Konstantin’s mouth, Sputnik’s set dressing suggests a lost relic from the 1980s. But the sophistication of the creature’s design, a crawling, semi-diaphanous thing that’s coated in layers of sputum equally audible and visible, firmly anchors the film to 2020. Let the new pop cultural dividing line be drawn there. —Andy Crump


26. I Trapped the Devil

i-trapped-devil-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Josh Lobo
Stars: A.J. Bowen, Scott Poythress, Susan Burke, Jocelin Donahue, Chris Sullivan
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 82 minutes

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Merry Christmas! Have some family dysfunction and possibly an untimely visit from the Prince of Darkness. The man locked up in Steve’s (Scott Poythress) basement might well be Satan himself. He might also be an innocent man, or at least a man innocent of being the devil, but Steve’s brother, Matt (AJ Bowen) and sister-in-law Karen (Susan Burke) don’t really know what to make of Steve’s situation. Is he deluded, or still grieving a loss that at first goes unspoken and later is made explicit? Or does he really genuinely have Old Scratch imprisoned in his home? Director Josh Lobo toes the slow-burn line, doing very little at the start to meaningfully terrify viewers, but he rapidly layers I Trapped the Devil with mood and dread, his finger looped through the pin of a grenade in every interaction Steve has with Matt and Karen, as if at any moment their tentative atmosphere could descend into straight-up chaos. The film’s central question hangs over all until, at long last, Lobo gives an answer, but the answer is so chilling that we might wish he’d kept us in the dark all along. —Andy Crump


27. The Blair Witch Project

blair-witch.jpg Year: 1999
Directors: Eduardo Sánchez, Daniel Myrick
Stars: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel
Rating: R
Runtime: 146 minutes

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Where Scream reinvented a genre by pulling the shades back to reveal the inner workings of horror, The Blair Witch Project went the opposite route by crafting a new style of presentation and especially promotion. Sure, people had already been doing found footage movies; just look at The Last Broadcast a year earlier. But this was the first to get a wide, theatrical release, and distributor Artisan Entertainment masterfully capitalized on the lack of information available on the film to execute a mysterious online advertising campaign in the blossoming days of the Internet age. Otherwise reasonable human beings seriously went into The Blair Witch Project believing that what they were seeing might be real, and the grainy, home movie aesthetic captured an innate terror of reality and “real people” that had not been seen in the horror genre before. It was also proof positive that a well-executed micro-budget indie film could become a massive box office success. So in that sense, The Blair Witch Project reinvented two different genres at the same time. —Jim Vorel


28. The Wretched

the-wretched-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Directors: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce
Stars: John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones, Zarah Mahler, Azie Tesfai, Kevin Bigley, Blane Crockarell, Ja’layah Washington
Rating: NR
Runtime: 96 minutes

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Ben’s (John-Paul Howard) summer has started out on the wrong foot: His parents are in the middle of a separation that’s calcifying into a divorce, and he’s been sent to live with his father, Liam (Jamison Jones), for the season, working at the local marina in lakeside Michigan and taking shit from hyper-privileged brats. He also has the attention and affections of cool girl Mallory (Piper Curda), and the couple renting the house next door to his dad’s leave the light on when they screw, so it’s not all bad, except for the ancient flesh-eating witch lurking in the woods. Save for minor details like smartphones and Google image searches, Brett and Drew T. Pierce’s The Wretched could be mistaken for an unseen 1990s flick dug up like a lost relic of its era. The film shares in common DNA with classics like The Faculty, in which wolves skulk among the herd and only the kids are open-minded enough to realize it, but The Wretched doesn’t fetishize its cultural touchstones, or function only as genre nostalgia. Practical FX work and creature design help, too, as essential to what distinguishes The Wretched from its influences as the Pierce brothers’ writing. They build tension and avoid playing coy: Something sinister is in the woods, they let their viewers know upfront, and they have a blast dropping clues and hints for Ben to decipher while Liam loses himself in a relationship with his new girlfriend, Sara (Azie Tesfai). The Wretched’s gore quotient likely will fall on the low side for splatter addicts, but the film understands when viscera is called for and when withholding is better. Its best scares tend to involve a glance into the darkness, where nothing should be but in which evil lurks, or through binoculars, which throws the malevolent presence lingering at The Wretched’s edges into sharp relief. The movie can go to gross places and brings appropriate sobriety to sequences of little kids being consumed by the slimy beldam posing as their mother, but the Pierce brothers’ prevailing tone is “haunted house ride”: Even at its most gruesome, The Wretched stays light on its toes. —Andy Crump


29. XX

xx.jpg Year: 2017
Directors: Roxanne Benjamin, Annie Clark, Karyn Kusama, Jovanka Vuckovic, Sofia Carrillo
Starring: Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Breeda Wool, Christina Kirk
Rating: R
Runtime: 80 minutes

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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


30. Overlord

overlord-poster.jpg Year: 2018
Director: Julius Avery
Stars: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro
Rating: R
Runtime: 110 minutes

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Overlord generated a fair bit of attention during its production due to reports that it was meant to be an entry in the Cloverfield cinematic universe, but the WWII zombie actioner was eventually shunted off into its own self-contained realm, likely for the best. This is a solid, if unremarkable, piece of genre workmanship, often feeling familiar for anyone who played Wolfenstein as a kid, or watched other Nazi zombie movies like Dead Snow. Here, a squad of hardy American G.I.s is attempting to sow chaos behind enemy lines in advance of the D-Day invasion, before they run up against superpowered Nazi soldiers who threaten to tip the balance toward the Axis powers. Similar in vibe to Frankenstein’s Army but lacking its memorably nutso production design, Overlord compensates with a quick pace, easy to digest story and no shortage of blood and guts. Not particularly inspired, perhaps, but a competent popcorn muncher for those who love either zombies or WWII movies. —Jim Vorel


31. The Field Guide to Evil

field-guide-to-evil-poster.jpg Year: 2018
Directors: Ashim Ahluwalia, Can Evrenol, Severin Fiala, Veronika Franza, Katrin Gebbe, Calvin Reeder, Agnieszka Smoczynska, Peter Strickland, Yannia Veslemes
Stars: Birgit Minichmayr, Claude Duhamel, Jilon VanOver, Fatma Mohamed, Niharika Singh
Rating: R
Runtime: 117 minutes

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Most horror anthologies benefit from having some kind of unifying theme tying their stories together, and The Field Guide to Evil can boast an attractive central conceit: It’s a set of eight tales that are all grafted together from folklore and the campfire warnings of eras past, in locations all around the globe. It makes for a haltingly effective assembly of pastoral folk nightmares, unfortunately undone to some extent by its inconsistency. Still, there are properly unnerving sights here, as well as some beautifully cinematic ones. In Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s “The Sinful Women of Höllfall,” the Austrian countryside is itself a star, as the dark and morose short (which really describes this anthology as a whole) features some incredible forested scenes, benefiting greatly from some superb location scouting in the telling of its tale of a conservative society punishing aberrant attractions among the local youth. So too is Can Evrenol’s minimalist “Al Karisi” segment likely to stick in one’s mind, as a young woman fears her newborn child will be abducted by a Turkish childbirth demon. Shockingly brutal in spurts, in violence both overt and implied, the dread induced by “Al Karisi” feels very much like the product of the same mind that gave us Baskin. —Jim Vorel


32. NOS4A2

nos4a2-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Stars: Ashleigh Cummings, Zachary Quinto, Jahkara J. Smith
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 10 episodes

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With a plot that includes mediums, supernatural happenings and a place called “Christmasland,” I was surprised NOS4A2 was even adapted from Joe Hill’s novel of the same name. The book felt almost too weird to make into a TV show, where you can’t leave a world to the imagination and it must be shown on screen. But summertime is the perfect time to premiere a genre show with a slightly complex mythology that reminds people to be grateful for warmth instead of a lifetime of winter. And NOS4A2 is a solid TV show that’s ripe to watch when you need a day inside to take a break from the heat. It’s refreshing in a TV landscape full of complicated antiheroes that the characters with the most interiority in NOS4A2 are the good guys. The hero of this story is Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings), and she has a big heart, and big sad eyes. She has complicated relationships with her family and friends, and her choices and relationships are treated with surprising nuance. In her personal life, there is no one who is all good or all bad, and yet she loves them anyway. —Rae Nudson


33. Stir of Echoes

stir of echoes poster (Custom).jpg Year: 1999
Director: David Koepp
Stars: Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Dunn
Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Stir of Echoes is one of those movies where any discussion of it always tends to revolve around another film from the same year that received far more attention—in this case, The Sixth Sense. Because it had the misfortune of hitting theaters a month after M. Night Shyamalan’s ghost thriller set box offices ablaze, and because it contains several of the same elements—including a young boy who can communicate with the dead—Stir of Echoes was widely derided at the time as knowingly derivative, but that assessment was never really fair. Unlike The Sixth Sense, which leans so heavily on atmosphere and tension, Stir of Echoes is more of a true popcorn thriller, a supernatural whodunit that sees Kevin Bacon descending into frothing hyperactivity after having the doors of his perception thrown wide open during a botched hypnosis session. Today, the film’s growing fandom seems to be trying to reclaim its status as an underrated horror classic, but the reality is that Stir of Echoes is an effective potboiler full of themes that have been common in ghost movies for as long as we’ve had ghost movies, complete with the warm likability of Kevin Bacon. —Jim Vorel


34. Odd Thomas

odd thomas poster1.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Stephen Sommers
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Willem Dafoe, Addison Timlin, Nico Tortorella
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 93 minutes

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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, 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


35. Anna and the Apocalypse

anna-apocalypse-poster.jpg Year: 2017
Director: John McPhail
Stars: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Marli Siu, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux
Rating: R
Runtime: 98 minutes

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This sometimes confusing, sometimes endearing genre mish-mash is one part zombie comedy and one part high school musical, but has a tendency to throw itself entirely into one or the other until you’ve forgotten quite what it is you’re watching. Anna (Ella Hunt) is a British teen looking to toss her “uni” plans aside and live abroad for a while—plans that are derailed by the sudden holiday arrival of what certainly seems to be a zombie apocalypse. Peppered with hyperkinetic song-and-dance numbers that have a decidedly Broadway vibe, the film starts a bit slow, feeling for all intents and purposes like a lost entry in Disney’s High School Musical series before it blooms in its second and third acts into a surprisingly satisfying (and plenty gory) zombie-slaying farce. Capable of more pathos than you’d give it credit for, Anna and the Apocalypse tosses most character archetypes aside and can boast a few genuinely toe-tapping numbers, especially once the world has gone to hell. It’s a film you may need to warm up to, but Game of Thrones fans will enjoy the presence of Paul Kaye, one Thoros of Myr, as the school’s draconian principal. —Jim Vorel


36. Mom and Dad

mom and dad poster (Custom).jpg Year: 2018
Director: Brian Taylor
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur
Rating: R
Runtime: 83 minutes

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In Mom and Dad, Nicolas Cage whimpers, explodes, hollers, spasms, grins, gurns and weeps. Each line he lets escape from his mouth as if he’s exploring every crevice of every word, ultimately settling on an emotion or tone somehow slightly off from the way any typical person would use language. He brandishes power tools (“Sawzall…saws…all,” he repeats, mantra for no one) and breaks out in stab wounds like he’s solely composed of rubbery flesh and blood; he is an anthropomorphic double-take; he is finally embracing his male-pattern baldness. Though, with the exception of Mandy, Cage’s appearance in a film is never as rare or as compelling as it was when last he worked with writer-director Brian Taylor on 2012’s Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance—he is a punchline to a good joke we’ve willingly forgotten—Cage is still an American (er, National) treasure, a Hollywood actor who no longer makes any sense as a Hollywood actor. Mom and Dad does nothing to refute that. About a case of mass hysteria breaking out in an upper class suburb, causing parents to viciously attack and murder their children, the film is surprisingly tame considering the pedigree it promises. Cage plays Brent Ryan, an office drone suffering a mid-life crisis, spending most of his time avoiding his wife Kendall (Selma Blair), falling asleep while watching porn at work and refusing to sell the Trans Am gathering dust in his garage. Their daughter, aimless rebel Carly (Anne Winters), steals money from her mom to buy designer drugs, generally hating everything about her family despite her mom’s pleas to be more thoughtful. Carly’s younger brother Josh (Zackary Arthur) is of indeterminate age, young enough to idolize his dad but old enough to seemingly understand that Brent is probably one beer away from snapping and murdering everyone at his office. Being a parent is hard: You love your kids, you hate your kids, you repress your dreams and desires so completely that they metastasize, primed to destroy your life from the inside out. You do the Hokey Pokey, turn yourself around, and then you smash the pool table you just built to bits with a sledgehammer. —Dom Sinacola


37. Ghost Stories

ghost stories 2018 poster (Custom).jpg Year: 2017
Director: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
Stars: Martin Freeman, Andy Nyman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther
Rating: NR
Runtime: 98 minutes

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Ghost Stories, a joint directorial effort by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson, who adapted the movie from the successful stage play they wrote together back in the late 2000s, isn’t workaday horror hackery. For most of its duration, it’s confidently made, atmospheric and deliciously macabre, a movie that feels like a throwback to yesteryear’s horror without consciously acting like a throwback. Those acquainted with horror history might detect echoes of Nicolas Roeg, Robin Hardy, Michael Powell and the productions of Hammer Films, that beloved British outlet of all things gothic and spooky, but even knowledgeable horror geeks must trace Ghost Stories’ influences on a molecular level. They’re ingrained instead of inserted. It’s the difference between knowing homage and unconscious referencing. Nyman and Dyson love horror. You can sense that love in Ghost Stories’ embrace of classic multi-narrative structure, wrapping a triptych of horror subcategories around the labors of its lonely hero, Professor Phillip Goodman (Nyman), a man who tasks himself with exposing paranormal charlatans. (Think John Edwards, Theresa Caputo, or Ed and Lorraine Warren.) It’s tough being the guy who charges the stage during televised psychic readings to rain on the audience’s parade, but that’s Goodman’s life. Then he gets a letter from Charles Cameron, a famed paranormal investigator and Goodman’s boyhood idol. Now decrepit and living alone in a van by the ocean, Cameron challenges Goodman to explain three supernatural cases he couldn’t solve himself. We’re off to the races, but we always come back to sad sack Goodman, who throughout his investigations can’t help noticing weird phenomena in between visiting subjects (notably recurring and increasingly abrupt encounters with an ominous parka-clad figure). He’s haunted, too, but mostly by his memories of growing up with his rigid, borderline abusive and presently deceased father. That’s the hook on which Ghost Stories hangs its ghastly musings, the thing we expect the film to circle back to once Goodman completes his inquiries and renders his verdict on the authenticity of each incident. As an abstraction, that sounds like a stairway leading to Frank Capra levels of sentimentality: By wrestling with his skeptical biases, Goodman will confront his buried feelings about his dad and reconcile with his past. Maybe it’s for the best that the movie never goes there. —Andy Crump


38. The Lodge

the-lodge-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Directors: Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala
Stars: Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Richard Armitage
Rating: R
Runtime: 108 minutes

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Franz and Fiala share a wonderful eye for composition and spooky imagery, as well as a strong head on their joined shoulders for casting. Riley Keough, their lead, along with co-stars Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh, perform nicely under the genre’s conditions, sustaining their sense of discomfit in The Lodge’s meticulously curated visual design. This is the kind of horror movie that looks so physically, tangibly real that you might feel like reaching through the screen and brushing your fingers on the fireplace mantle, or lying down in the snow to make angels. Lacking the sturdy architecture of equally meticulous storytelling, details like these give The Lodge structure. If nothing else, they make it easier to overlook weird script-level choices. Ultimately, The Lodge flirts with too many conceits before deciding on the least interesting of the bunch, which makes any build-up feel like wasted effort. —Andy Crump


39. The Haunting

55. the haunting (Custom).jpg Year: 1999
Director: Jan de Bont
Stars: Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, Lili Taylor, Bruce Dern, Virginia Madsen
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 114 minutes

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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


40. Children of the Corn

48. children of the corn (Custom).jpg Year: 1984
Director: Fritz Kiersch
Stars: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton
Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes

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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, Nebraska, led 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 axe. 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 society, man, 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). —Tyler Kane

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