The 60 Best Horror Films Streaming on Netflix (April 2016)

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The 60 Best Horror Films Streaming on Netflix (April 2016)

This is the third time I’ve compiled a list of the 60 best horror films streaming on Netflix, and in that time, I’ve come to a realization. It goes something like this: If things keep trending the way they’re trending, every one of these lists is going to begin with an indictment of the state of Netflix’s streaming library. When I did this in Oct. 2015, the Netflix library had a better overall group of horror films than it does today. And when I did this in April 2015, it had a better overall horror selection than it did six months later. You can chart it in a direct, downward line, and the quality continues to wane as Netflix focuses less on variety in streaming content and more on their own original programming. This was only more clearly illustrated when I recently ranked the 70 best horror films on Shudder, the horror-only streaming service that can now beat Netflix on selection while charging half the price. It forms a clear narrative: When it comes to genre movies, dedicated streaming services are the way of the future.

Perusing the Netflix horror selection today, you’ll note a few general principles. It leans toward modern films rather than classics, even when those classics are cheaply (or freely) available, meaning that you won’t see Night of the Living Dead on Netflix despite the fact that the movie is in the public domain. You also won’t see much in the way of classic franchises such as Halloween or Friday the 13th. What Netflix does do semi-well is provide a venue for watching critically praised modern indie horror, but even that selection is scanty. The library is primarily propped up and inflated in numbers by ultra-cheap, zero-budget indies of a much more pedestrian nature, the kinds of films that you find in 12-movie variety packs in a Walmart $5 despair bin—movies with titles that are either mind-numbingly generic (such as Animal) or hilariously specific (Abandoned Mine). The rest consist of sequels and remakes that no one has ever wanted to see—lord knows that we’d prefer to watch the 2005 remake of The Fog rather than John Carpenter’s original, right?

Here are a few of the horror films that have been removed from Netflix since the last time I compiled this list: The Omen, Day of the Dead, The Silence of the Lambs, Rosemary’s Baby, The House of the Devil, American Psycho, Scream, The Monster Squad and more. Those are all gone. Suffice to say that although I found some good movies to replace them, there’s not much that can replace classic George Romero, Wes Craven or Roman Polanski.

But given that the quality of the Netflix library has decreased, I suppose that means a guide through the morass of crap is now more necessary than ever. Here, then, are 60 horror films on Netflix that you should still watch for one reason or another.


60. The Brainiac (El Baron del Terror)

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Year: 1962
Director: Chano Urueta
I honestly wish Netflix had more films in the library akin to The Brainiac, and less of the modern horror trash. Seeing this weird old gem of ’60s Mexican zero-budget horror makes me curious how exactly it ended up on the streaming service—what’s the story behind how this random film, about a sorcerer who returns from the dead as a brain-sucking ape man, was deemed worthy? Did someone from Netflix actually watch it at some point, or was it accidentally uploaded as part of a package deal of some kind? Who cares? It’s a film that looks like it could very well have been shot by a young Roger Corman, featuring some guffaw-inducing monster costumes and delightfully incompetent performers. All that it’s missing is a luchador hero, but you can’t have everything. — Jim Vorel


59. Zombeavers

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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. — J.V.


58. The ABCs of Death

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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. — J.V.


57. Dead Silence

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Year: 2007
Director: James Wan
This film actually has a small if significant fanbase among the horror community—you’ll often see people citing it as “underrated,” possibly because it comes from Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring maestro James Wan. It is, however, Wan’s weakest film, one that feels somewhat like a perfunctory follow-up to Saw, which is pretty much exactly what it is. Screenwriter Leigh Whannell has said as much; that it was a film he was essentially made to write as quickly as possible to capitalize on the success of Saw. It is, however, a very different movie than the former—a combination of ghost story and Twilight Zone-like urban legend/morality tale about an evil ventriloquist who returns from the dead to stalk a family through dolls—but she can only kill you if you scream, hence the title. Wan’s signature visual style goes a long way toward making Dead Silence interesting, but the plot and characters seem closer to something you’d see in a FearNet or Syfy television movie. There are kernels of an interesting film here, but the best work of both Wan and Whannell was still yet to come. — J.V.


56. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead

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Year: 2014
Director: Tommy Wirkola
The sequel to Dead Snow (and there’s a third coming, by the way), Red vs. Dead completely abandons the true horror elements of the first film in favor of straight-up camp and horror comedy, a shift that I always take as a sort of admission—“We can’t legitimately frighten you with this, so let’s make it funny instead.” The resulting film is fun and colorful, bringing back the nazi zombies of the first installment for mayhem that becomes more over the top and gory, in the style of say, Dead Alive/Braindead. The main character from the previous film has had a zombie arm stitched onto him, which grants him both super strength and the ability to raise his own zombie army of dead Russian soldiers, i.e. the “Red” of the title. It’s ridiculous and full of action, which is great, but is slowed down throughout by thudding comic relief characters who you’d rather see eaten than speaking more lines. But in terms of being a splatter spectacle? Both Dead Snow films are great at that. — J.V.


55. The Awakening

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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. — J.V.


54. Last Shift

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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. — J.V.


53. Would You Rather

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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. If this movie had been made in 1985, perhaps it would have been a minor classic. — J.V.


52. The Faculty

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Year: 1998
Director: Robert Rodriguez
It’s sort of easy to forget that The Faculty is a Robert Rodriguez movie, given its more conventional setting—more John Hughes than the pulpy backdrops that usually accompany Rodriguez films. But if you actually go back and rewatch the movie today, wow is it a colorfully cheesy spectacle. The cast is a bunch of guilty pleasures—young Elijah Wood and Josh Hartnett as dopey high school students, Jon Stewart as a nerdy science teacher, Famke Janssen, Salma Hayek and T-1000 Robert Patrick as aliens masquerading as teachers, it’s just absurd from top to bottom. It combines elements of both effective sci-fi horror films such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and John Carpenter’s The Thing with the sexualization of bargain bin trash such as Species, while simultaneously capturing the mid-’90s teen movie aesthetic of Can’t Hardly Wait or I Know What You Did Last Summer. Rodriguez just dumps it all into the blender and hits puree. — J.V.


51. Proxy

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Year: 2013
Director: Zack Parker
If the measuring stick for a “horror film” is that it makes you feel vaguely unnerved the entire time it’s playing, then Proxy is certainly successful. Zack Parker’s unconventional debut feature feels in brief stretches like some kind of bizarre masterwork of squirm-inducing, uncomfortable imagery, but it eventually unravels into an overly confusing, portentous morass. It’s a film about many things—motherhood, relationships, mental illness and concepts that are almost too abstract to grasp in a conventional horror movie plot. The acting is uneven, but there’s some really disturbing, fascinating stuff in there, all beginning with the shocking opening scene, which I won’t spoil for you. But suffice to say, it’s one of the hardest-to-watch sequences on this entire list, something that will stick with you for a long time. —J.V.


50. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

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Year: 1985
Director: Jack Sholder
The second entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street series is often considered the worst of the original series of Freddy movies, at least until 1991’s Final Nightmare, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an absolutely fascinating film. As a horror movie, it’s one of the least inspired uses of Freddy Krueger, but the subtext … that’s an entire book in the making. Often referred to as perhaps the “most gay” mainstream horror film ever made, it was written with a layered and not-at-all subtle homosexual subtext for its main character, Jesse—who, by the way, can be considered a very rare male variant on the “final girl” trope. Screenwriter David Chaskin admits as much in the Nightmare on Elm Street documentary Never Sleep Again, which also happens to be on Netflix streaming right now. This is a film that features both a literal trip to a leather bar and a naked shower towel-whipping scene, making it quite an unusual addition to a series that otherwise has a virginal young woman being menaced in every film. Personally, I also will love this film forever because it features one of the most insane scenes in Nightmare history, when Freddy somehow causes the family parakeet to go beserk before EXPLODING IN MID-FLIGHT. Father’s explanations? “Bird rabies? Maybe it’s that cheap seed you’ve been buying.” Amazing. — J.V.


49. Dust Devil

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Year: 1992
Director: Richard Stanley
Dust Devil is a truly strange, unique horror “western” of sorts, a British/Australian film that takes place in southern Africa and blends the aesthetic of Italian spaghetti westerns with African mysticism and a Cronenbergian penchant for extreme violence and exploding heads. Dreamlike and orange-saturated, it trails a “dust devil,” a possibly supernatural or demonic killer as he stalks the landscape and is hunted by a young woman. The plot is loose and not particularly well-explained, and the film’s gritty look is not easily digestible, but there’s some kind of weird x-factor here. It’s a poetic, weirdly grandiose film despite its low-budget limitations, with complexities you would never expect, reflective of its director Richard Stanley, who had a penchant for biting off more than he could chew. It looks like something grindhouse, but it’s essentially anti-grindhouse—a sort of low-budget art horror that is only partially successful. The last line spoken by the narrator suggests what a dense little mystery it is: “And beyond the dim horizon, a tapestry unfolding of the avenues of evil, and all of history set ablaze.” — J.V.


48. Children of the Corn

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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


47. The House at the End of Time

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Year: 2013
Director: Alejandro Hidalgo
I earlier made the mistake of thinking this film was part of the prolific Spanish indie horror market, which has given us the likes of Nacho Vigalondo and Guillermo Del Toro, but The House at the End of Time is actually Venezuelan in origin. It’s ambitious but somewhat messy, a story about a family that undergoes a traumatic, fracturing event and its fallout over the course of 30 years. The eventual revelation of the twist pushes the story into more of a “sci-fi horror” direction, and feels somewhat inspired by the prime-era films of M. Night Shyamalan in execution. The film simply isn’t quite as profound as it would like to think it is, and the visual fidelity holds back its “cinematic” quality slightly, but it gets the most out of a strong central performance from its lead. If you get on a South American horror kick, you’ll end up watching it eventually. —J.V.


46. Stage Fright

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Year: 2014
Director: Jerome Sable
Stage Fright came and went pretty quickly last year, as indie horror flicks do unless they happen to catch that rare wave of critical acclaim enjoyed by The Babadook or It Follows. This one certainly didn’t stand out like those, even as a “comedy horror musical,” which isn’t exactly a combination one sees every day. Set in the ultra-competitive world of summer theater camp, it manages to do everything pretty well—it’s funny without being hilarious, musically inclined without being mind-blowing and features impressive gore and physical effects without being truly frightening. It feels like an attempt to put a slightly different spin on the meta-horror instincts of Scream, without the burden of having a bunch of characters constantly discussing the tropes of the horror genre. It could be a good choice to watch if you want to see something that’s horror in name without making much of an attempt to keep you up at night. — J.V.


45. Bad Milo!

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Year: 2013
Director: Jacob Vaughan
Bad Milo! is a silly, enjoyably stupid exercise in b-horror comedy, the exact sort of premise that Troma would have been happy to make, except here it’s handled slightly (emphasis on “slightly”) more tastefully. It tells the story of a harried man named Duncan, who is beset by stressors both at home and the office, and the extremely unusual way his body responds as a coping mechanism. The titular “Milo” is a small demon that literally lives up Duncan’s rectum—and it emerges to wreak a terrible vengeance whenever stress pushes him over the edge. You know what you’re getting here: A mostly funny gross-out comedy, but one with an above-average cast that includes Gillian Jacobs, Stephen Root, Peter Stormare and Patrick Warburton, among others. The puppet is suitably icky—it’s like if the baby from Dinosaurs grew a bunch of sharp teeth and was rubbed with Vaseline. But really, this is the kind of movie where you should probably be able to tell before even turning it on if it’s the kind of thing you’re likely to enjoy. — J.V.


44. The Prophecy

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Year: 1995
Director: Gregory Widen
If you’re anything like me, then you sometimes wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night wondering why Christopher Walken has never made a horror flick—but he has! Technically. The Prophecy exists in a weird limbo between horror and supernatural religious fantasy, the story of the renegade angel Gabriel (Walken) who has led a second insurrection of the heavenly host who are pissed off that God favored mankind over his winged forebears. The MacGuffin involves everyone searching for an evil human soul that could tip the balance of power in favor of Gabriel’s crew, but the real scene-stealing revelation is Viggo Mortensen whenever he appears as Lucifer. It may very well be the single most disturbed, chilling portrayal of Satan in movie history—seriously. Mortensen absolutely knocks it out of the park in this movie, and it’s worth watching just to see his (very short) scenes. Stay clear of the increasingly stupid sequels, which venture uncomfortably into the terrible sequelitis of the Hellraiser series. —J.V.


43. Witching & Bitching

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Year: 2013
Director: Alex de la Iglesia
Witching & Bitching is a strange, rambling Spanish horror comedy that was showered with awards at the 2013 Goyas, the Spanish equivalent of the Academy Awards—just imagine a horror film of any description being able to say the same in America. For the first 30 minutes, you wouldn’t even know that it’s technically a horror film—instead it starts out as a heist comedy, as a gang of men in ridiculous costumes attempt a Point Break-inspired theft at a cash-for-gold store. On the run from the law, they finally end up in a backwoods Spanish town controlled by … yep, witches. The performances are solid and the jokes are frequently funny, but Witching & Bitching never really attempts to achieve anything substantive. It’s a lightweight diversion that hardly seems like horror-comedy at all—that is, until the last 20 minutes or so, when shit really hits the fan in a big way. What it makes for is a film that is uneven but fun, as long as you can stand watching a comedy with subtitles. — J.V.


42. Monsters

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Year: 2010
Director: Gareth Edwards
The last few times I put this list together, I left off Monsters only because I couldn’t decide if it truly qualified on any level as “horror” despite being subcategorized as such on Netflix. It is, however, a well-made little film that gave the world its first look at director Gareth Edwards, who parlayed his micro-budget success (budget under $500,000) into a chance to direct blockbusters Godzilla and now Rogue One: A Star Wars Story—an incredible leap forward in prominence in the film community. Monsters, on the other hand, is almost like a sci-fi relationship drama, a film about a journalist tasked with escorting a tourist across a dangerous, quarantined zone of Central America that has become home to alien lifeforms. Edwards skillfully makes the most of on-location shooting and very limited FX to evoke a sense of how the aliens are changing the planet, and of how their arrival changed everything for mankind. Ultimately, though, you’re watching this film for the performances and subtle interplay between its characters rather than any kind of spectacle. Go in looking for a scary movie or action romp, and you’ll be disappointed. You need to take it for what it is: A realistic story about what it might be like for two average people with complicated emotional baggage being thrust into a challenging scenario. Whatever you do, just don’t see the 2014 sequel in name only, Monsters: Dark Continent. — J.V.


41. Wolfcop

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Year: 2014
Director: Lowell Dean
Wolfcop is full-on horror comedy, but it’s delirious good fun. When an alcoholic small-town Canadian cop gets cursed and turned into a werewolf, he retains all of his human faculties—above all, a respect for the LAW. Using his newfound werewolf superpowers, he opposes the local cabal of reptilian shapeshifters. Yep. That’s your film. It’s one of those carefully calculated modern, indie horror-comedies that was created explicitly in the hopes of someday being labeled “cult classic,” but it does its job better than most. It feels at times a bit like the neo-grindhouse aesthetic of Hobo With a Shotgun, perhaps thanks to the gore effects, although it’s nowhere near as nihilistic. More than anything, you feel a very genuine love for the utter ridiculousness of the premise. It’s a film that people clearly enjoyed the hell out of making, which makes that fun infectious to the viewer. — J.V.

40. Teeth

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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. — J.V.


39. V/H/S/2

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Year: 2013
Directors: Various
Try getting through a review of a horror anthology without the word “uneven” coming up—it’s not easy. Regardless, V/H/S/2 is probably the best of the found-footage “VHS” series—a bit steadier overall than the first installment, and much better than the disappointing V/H/S: Viral from last year. At the very least, this one contains 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. — J.V.


38. Europa Report

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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. — J.V.


37. Dead Snow

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Year: 2009
Director: Tommy Wirkola
You’d be surprised just how many nazi zombie movies there truly are out there—it’s a subtype of the zombie film that was first made in the ’70s with films like Shock Waves and has never stopped being made since, but the highest profile version from recent years was Dead Snow and its ridiculous sequel from last year, Red vs. Dead. The first Dead Snow, though no masterwork, is the better film because it at least partially tries to hit the horror audience instead of abandoning it for full-on horror-comedy camp. A group of students camp out in a remote, snowy cabin in Norway and unwittingly revive a regiment of Nazi zombies by appropriating their Nazi gold—pretty standard stuff for the genre. The attempts at humor and characterization are so-so, but the FX and action work are top-notch for an indie feature, with great costuming for the zombies and lots of explosive bloodletting. Go in with low expectations and just enjoy the blood ’n’ guts. —J.V.


36. Nightbreed

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Year: 1990
Director: Clive Barker
Nightbreed is an odd duck of a movie, stranded somewhere between legitimate horror film and dark fantasy story. Clive Barker directs, only a few years after Hellraiser, but here his ambition perhaps got the best of him. It’s pretty clear that he wanted Nightbreed to be something akin to a horror epic, a movie with a profound message about identity, acceptance and community. In execution, though, it has a hard time picking what tone it’s supposed to be emanating. Sometimes it’s darkly humorous. Sometimes it’s legitimately spooky. Other times you’re not sure whether you’re supposed to be taking the action on screen seriously or not. One thing that is spectacular throughout is the art direction, sets, costuming and makeup. Some of the character designs may come off as “silly,” but just as many of them are likely to end up in your nightmares. Nightbreed is a mixed bag, a would-be inspiring story about monsters trying to build a safe community to peacefully live their lives, but lacking the iconic nature of Barker’s most famous creations. —J.V.


35. The Taking of Deborah Logan

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Year: 2014
Director: Adam Robitel
This recent spin on the extremely crowded possession genre is the real definition of a mixed bag. Its initial premise is solid, as it follows a college film crew documenting a senior citizen (Deborah Logan) who is battling Alzheimer’s disease. What they don’t realize is that someone or something else may have been welcomed into Deborah’s mind as her mental faculties weaken. The film gets points for stylishness on a budget, and especially for the chilling, nuanced performance by Jill Larson as Deborah, but it’s eventually unable to sustain itself in the last third, becoming increasingly divorced from logic. There are moments of great, disturbing imagery, but that’s counterbalanced by characters who act incredibly irrationally—even for a horror film. It becomes more and more difficult to find reasons for any of the story being filmed at all, which leads to an ending that some might label a cop-out. But with that said, it’s still a far cry better than most entries in either the found footage or possession subgenres. —J.V.


34. From Dusk Till Dawn

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Year: 1996
Director: Robert Rodriguez
I can’t help but wonder, watching From Dusk Till Dawn, what the film might have looked like if Robert Rodriguez wrote it as well, rather than Quentin Tarantino. Would the Mexican vampire element have been introduced before the halfway mark? Probably. But there’s Tarantino for you, not content to tell one story—instead, he delivers what almost becomes two entirely separate movies starring the same characters. In the first half we get a crime dramedy about a pair of sociopathic brothers on the lam, taking hostages down the Mexico. When they finally get there, the switch flips and it turns into a gory vampire western. Both halves are entertaining in their own way, although genre purists who went in expecting a vampire film were probably perplexed by the lead-in to the payoff. That payoff is satisfyingly pulpy, though, and there’s a certain pleasure in going back to see the earlier era of George Clooney, when he thought the idea of fighting Mexican vampires seemed like a good career move. — J.V.


33. John Dies at the End

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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 tax the lengths of the imagination. An oftimes crude and farcical combination of horror, drug culture and philosophy, it’s a film you won’t entirely grasp until you’ve seen it for yourself. Central is a drug known as “soy sauce” that causes the user to see outside the concept of linear time, existing at all times at once in a way that almost reminds one of the alien beings from Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Also appearing: Phantom limbs, an alien consciousness known as “Shitload,” a heroic dog and an evil, interdimensional supercomputer. No drugs necessary—the film will make you feel like you’ve already ransacked your medicine cabinet. — J.V.


32. The Fly

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Year: 1958
Director: Kurt Neumann
David Cronenberg’s 1986 Fly remake with Jeff Goldblum is great (it’s not on Netflix streaming), but it’s much more visceral in tone from the camp of the 1958 original. In fact, the original probably isn’t quite the film you might expect it to be—the camp and ’50s sci-fi charm is indeed there, but there are also some solid performances and an intriguing structure. In many ways, the film is more of a mystery than the sci-fi or horror it purports to be, revolving around the police investigation of why a woman killed her husband with a hydraulic press. Eventually it’s revealed that it’s the only thing there was left to do after he developed a bad case of fruit fly-head, but the build to that reveal is both effective and suspenseful. It’s one of the finest and most rewatchable films in the 1950s sci-fi/horror canon more than half a century later. Also: Vincent Price is there, so we rest our case. You can’t go wrong. —J.V.


31. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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Year: 2014
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
“Horror” more in the conventions it borrows than its actual content, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night styled itself as the “first Iranian vampire western” when it was released last year—can you believe nobody had pulled that off before? It follows a young woman vampire in long, billowing robe/cape, simply labeled as “The Girl,” and inspects the lonely life of the undead and a potential romance that strikes up along the way with a young, idealistic man trying to take care of his addict father. The story is extremely simple, but it’s really not a film about plot. Reflecting influences from decades earlier in both Expressionism and noir filmmaking, its seemingly simple, black & white color scale takes its time and dawdles in beautiful contrasts. In the same vein as last year’s Only Lovers Left Alive, it uses vampirism as the launching point to a fairly simple dramatic story, but one beautifully shot and presented. It’s a “horror movie” to watch with film students rather than a date you’re attempting to frighten. — J.V.


30. Honeymoon

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Year: 2014
Director: Leigh Janiak
The cool thing about horror is that if you just have the vision, you can make something like Honeymoon with no more resources than an empty cabin and a few weeks of spare time. The film only has four actors, and two of them barely appear, leaving everything on the shoulders of the two young stars, Rose Leslie and Harry Treadway. This is the right decision to make: If you’ve got a few solid, young actors, why not let the film just become a statement of their talents? The story is extremely simple, with a newlywed couple going on their honeymoon in a remote cabin in the woods. When Bea, the wife, wanders away one night and has some kind of disturbing event in the woods, she comes back changed, and it begins to affect both her memory and sense of identity. The next hour or so is a slow-burning but well-acted and suspenseful journey for the two as the husband’s suspicions grow and the warning flags continue to mount. By the end, emotions and gross-out scares are both running high. —J.V.


29. The Sacrament

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Year: 2013
Director: Ti West
Unlike his friend and peer in horror filmmaking Adam Wingard, Ti West’s last few features have seemed to reach for a more cerebral scary movie experience. The Innkeepers (not on Netflix streaming) took the “ghost story” and put it in a perspective of very real-seeming, average Joes, and The Sacrament sort of approaches the idea of living within a Jim Jones-style cult in the same way. I’ve described some horror films on the list with words like “fun,” but there’s nothing fun at all in The Sacrament—it’s an ultra-sober, all-too-realistic imagining of a scenario that has played out in the real world on many occasions. The main criticism against it is that it’s very slow and meandering in the path it takes to reveal the darkness within, but for the savvy viewer who’s willing to put in the time for characterization, it only makes the eventual pay-off a bit more effective. The portrayal by actor Gene Jones in particular as the mesmerizing cult leader “Father” is one of the more chilling single performances in a horror movie in recent memory—eye-catching enough that Tarantino decided to cast the guy in The Hateful Eight. I doubt that’s a coincidence. —J.V.


28. Cujo

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Year: 1983
Director: Lewis Teague
Cujo is a very modest, intimate horror film, as sad as it is potentially frightening. There’s something really tragic in the degradation of Cujo the St. Bernard after he contracts rabies, the way his eyes and mental state begin to crumble in the face of the disease. He’s made into a monster, but it’s an unwilling transformation from his normally friendly state, a stripping away of non-sentient good-naturedness—one might call it a metaphor for the corrupting power of evil in society. It’s well-structured to lead itself to a long, tense stand-off between a mother, her young son and the dog, as they sit trapped in their car in the broiling heat, trying to make a decision between heatstroke or the vicious dog waiting for them outside. As if it needs to be said, you shouldn’t watch this if you’ve ever had any doubts about the loyalties of the family pooch, as it will only exacerbate them. — J.V.


27. Hush

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Year: 2016
Director: Mike Flanagan
Mike Flanagan’s Oculus was a pleasantly ambitious surprise for horror fans when it landed a wide distribution release in 2013, so looking at his new Netflix-exclusive Hush, one sort of wonders if he’s taking a step back by directing a fairly classical home invasion thriller with limited cast and locations. There are, however, just enough twists on this especially trope-laden subgenre, starting with our heroine, who is deaf. That one disability, coupled with her remote residence in the woods, makes for a uniquely frightening handicap in repelling the masked intruder who comes calling. Unavoidably evoking The Strangers and Funny Games in particular, Hush nevertheless carves out its own spot in the niche. Our lead is an unusually intelligent, resourceful (but realistic) protagonist for this sort of setting, and her reactions to each new horror ring with truth. The stakes and tension rise in a palpable, organic way that has no need to resort to further gimmickry or a third act twist. It’s simply a battle for survival, featuring a character who is impressively well developed, considering that she never “speaks” a word. — J.V.


26. Troll Hunter

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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


25. The Nightmare

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Year: 2015
Director: Rodney Asher
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. — J.V.


24. Housebound

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Year: 2014
Director: Gerard Johnstone
New Zealand’s Housebound describes itself as a horror-comedy, but this is the unusual case where that label is actually fairly light on “comedy” and leans a touch more on horror. It’s an interesting, well-plotted film that initially seems a little slow: A troubled woman is sentenced to house arrest in her childhood home, which her mother believes is haunted. When unexplained phenomena begin stacking up and the house’s sordid history comes out, though, it kindles an intriguing mystery. The third-act twists in particular send the story hurtling forward into delightfully unexpected territory in ways that are alternatingly emotional, scary, gory, funny and uniformly entertaining. The film does a great job of establishing our heroine as genuinely unlikable at first before slowly and thoroughly transforming her without dropping the core of her surly, acerbic personality. On some level, it’s almost more “horror dramedy” than “horror comedy,” and that’s not a bad thing. — J.V.


23. Late Phases

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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. — J.V.


22. Oculus

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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-suckingly bleak ending, which leaves the door wide open to all sorts of future possibilities if Flanagan ever wants to revisit the concept. — J.V.


21. Here Comes the Devil

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Year: 2012
Director: Adrián García Bogliano
This indie Mexican horror film from a couple years back hasn’t been seen quite enough yet, and deserves a wider audience for its legitimate shocks and hopeless tone of evil that corrupts innocence in daily life. It suffers just a bit from its low-budget video look, and there’s an almost ridiculous amount of sometimes gratuitous nudity, but the story is simple, effective and downright chilling in its best moments. When a pair of parents on vacation allow their two pre-teen children to go exploring on cursed ground, the children come back … different. Full of not-at-all subtle sexual imagery, Here Comes the Devil has very little regard for anyone’s idea of what might be taboo. It leans into and gathers strength from its own perversion in scenes that approximate reality before throwing the audience headlong into a world of insanity when things take a turn for the supernatural. It’s a genuinely creepy flick on multiple levels. —J.V.

20. Creep

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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. — J.V.


19. Mad Ron’s Prevues From Hell

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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. — J.V.


18. The Host

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Year: 2006
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Before he was breaking out internationally with tight action films such as Snowpiercer, 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 creature in this film looks sort of like a giant tadpole with teeth and legs, which is way more awesome than it sounds. The real heart of the film is a superb performance by Song Kang-ho (also in Snowpiercer) 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. It’s not a coincidence that it became one of the most successful Korean films of all time. —J.V.


17. Scream 2

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Year: 1997
Director: Wes Craven
It was going to be hard to follow up the original Scream for plenty of reasons: Aside from it being one of the more innovative, self-aware horror films in years, Wes Craven killed off all of its bad guys in the final scenes of the movie. Here’s where Scream 2—a respectable follow-up and one that sets the stage for all of the film’s lesser sequels—comes into play. It follows a new string of “ghost face” murders, this time centering around the creation of Stab, a film based upon the Woodsboro murders. As always, the film is painfully critical of the horror movie genre while still scaring the pants off audiences in voice-morphed, quizzical phone calls and Ghost Face pop-ups. It remains the only Scream sequel to approach the original in terms of overall quality, thanks to its ability to turn over new leaves in examining the conventions of film sequels. —T.K.


16. We Are What We Are

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Year: 2013
Director: Jim Mickle
Jim Mickle’s remake of the 2010 Mexican film of the same name is a brooding, tense blend of thriller and horror, the story of a seemingly normal (if stuffy) rural family that harbors a dark secret of religious observances based around yearly acts of cannibalism. When a family member dies and the long-held tradition is threatened, allegiances come into question, familial ties crumble and the younger generation faces an extremely difficult decision in potentially breaking away from the customs that have bound the family together for many generations. It’s part crime story, part grisly, gutsy horror, and features Michael Parks in a role that is about 100 times better than what he was sentenced to do in Kevin Smith’s Tusk. In particular, the conclusion and final 20-30 minutes of We Are What We Are is shocking in both its brutality and emotional impact. It’s a supremely intimate case study of family dysfunction driven by the changing times and impracticality of archaic, sustaining traditions. —J.V.


15. American Mary

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Year: 2012
Directors: Jen and Sylvia Soska
The best work to date from the promising directorial duo of Canadian sisters, Jen and Sylvia Soska, American Mary is a cool, gutsy horror story that tackles a topic I’ve never really seen elsewhere in a horror flick—extreme, unregulated body modification surgery. The lead character, played by Katharine Isabelle of teen horror classic Ginger Snaps (not on Netflix streaming), is a young surgical student who leaves school and supports herself by doing the kind of back-room (although technically proficient) plastic surgeries that decent hospitals just won’t do. Unsurprisingly, this brings her into some very shady, weird circles, from criminals needing life-saving operations to her best friend, who has paid a fortune to freakishly resemble ’30s cartoon character Betty Boop. The tone incorporates a subtle charge of black humor, but it’s still undoubtedly horror at heart, with a fine leading performance by a talented actress, plenty of blood and more than a little titillation. The Soskas now appear to be making cheapo horror and action for WWE studios, but hopefully they focus on their own projects again sometime soon. —J.V.


14. Pontypool

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Year: 2008
Director: Bruce McDonald
A quick plot summary of Pontypool makes it sound like just a rehash of Orson Welles’ 1938 The War of the Worlds broadcast with zombies in the place of aliens, and although it’s certainly more than a little bit indebted to that work, that would be giving the film far too little credit. The movie instead draws thematic inspiration from the words of its radio broadcast and recasts the zombie disease as verbal, a product of mindless repetition and meaningless phrases in the English language. Pontypool’s clever script is superbly acted, and the film manages to take the zombie genre in a different direction without going the route of ironic deconstruction. In the end, they’re not truly “zombies,” but our insistence upon the term is part of the point the movie is trying to make. It’s a horror film where the horror is the shallowness of modern society. —S.G.


13. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

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Year: 2014
Director: Kiah Roche-Turner
It’s nearly impossible to discuss Wyrmwood without making the immediate and obvious Mad Max comparisons. Like George Miller’s seminal genre classic, this film arrives from a young Australian director with no shortage of style, but in addition to its car-focused post-apocalyptic leanings, the movie also features several other welcome twists on the zombie formula. You’d be forgiven for expecting yet another “gritty,” low-budget zombie film without any real ambition, but each minute propels Wyrmwood forward into unexpected territory, from the discovery that zombie blood can be used to power vehicles to the second-half revelations revolving around the character of Brooke and the development of latent psychic powers. The movie is many things at once: Scary without being dour, emotional without feeling pompous and gory without completely descending into the violent slapstick of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive or Bad Taste. It features surprisingly compelling characters and develops them without relying on exposition—Brooke becomes one of the biggest stars of the film despite being a bound and gagged captive for almost an hour. In general, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is the kind of genre idea that many directors could have tackled, but few could have pulled off so stylishly or entertainingly on this kind of budget. — J.V.


12. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

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Year: 1994
Director: Wes Craven
By 1994, 10 years had passed since the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Wes Craven had watched a cavalcade of directors run wild with Freddy Krueger in both good (Dream Warriors) and terrible (Final Nightmare) sequels. When he decided to return to the series, the horror visionary therefore came up with a very “proto-Scream” idea—he set the film in the “real world,” casting himself, Robert Englund and the original film’s “final girl,” Heather Langenkamp, as themselves—movie industry people making yet another Freddy sequel. Except this time, the malevolent spirit of Freddy—or perhaps the idea of Freddy, starts jumping out into the real world. It’s a concept that perfectly encapsulates the idea of memetics and how it’s applied today on the Internet in particular. The actual horror scenes can’t quite match up to the best stuff in parts 1 and 3, but unfortunately those films aren’t on Netflix. What New Nightmare does do really well is rein in the cartoonishness that the series had drifted into in order to make Freddy more clever (and frightening) once again. By approaching it from a new angle, Craven was able to reclaim some of Nightmare’s tarnished dignity. —J.V.


11. The Canal

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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. — J.V.


10. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

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Year: 1920
Director: Robert Wiene
Good luck understanding the concept of German Expressionism without seeing The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari at least once. The quintessential work of an entire cinematic style, it was described by Roger Ebert as the “first true horror film,” although a modern viewing is understandably unlikely to elicit chills. Still, in the same vein as Nosferatu, its fantastical visual palette is instantly iconic and sticks in the memory forever. Buildings are canted in impossible angles and light plays strange tricks—are those shadows real, or painted directly onto the set? The story revolves around a mad hypnotist who uses a troubled sleepwalker as his personal assassin, forcing him to exterminate his enemies at night. The astonishingly creative and free-thinking designs have had an indelible influence on every fantasy landscape depicted in the near-100 years since. You simply can’t claim an appreciation for the roots of cinema without seeing the film. — J.V.


9. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

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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. I Saw the Devil

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Year: 2010
Director: Kim Ji-woon
I Saw the Devil is a South Korean masterpiece of brutality by director Kim Ji-woon, who was also behind South Korea’s biggest horror film, A Tale of Two Sisters (not on Netflix streaming). It’s a truly shocking film, following a man out for revenge at any cost after the murder of his wife by a psychopath. We follow as the “protagonist” of the film makes sport of hunting said psychopath, embedding a tracker in the killer that allows him to repeatedly appear, beat him unconscious and then release him again for further torture. It’s a film about the nature of revenge and obsession, and whether there’s truly any value in repaying a terrible wrong. If you’re still on the fence, know that Choi Min-sik, the star of Park Chan-Wook’s original Oldboy, stars as the serial killer being hunted and turns in another stellar performance. This is not a traditional “horror film,” but it’s among the most horrific on the list in both imagery and emotional impact. — J.V.


7. Hellraiser

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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 they’re 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 the film version of Hellraiser, an icky story of sick love and obsession. —Rachel Haas


6. Starry Eyes

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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. —J.V.


5. Stake Land

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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. —J.V.


4. The Babadook

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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. —J.V.


3. Re-Animator

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Year: 1985
Director: Stuart Gordon
Ironically, the most entertaining take on H.P. Lovecraft is the least “Lovecrafty.” Stuart Gordon established himself as cinema’s leading Lovecraft adaptor with a juicy take on the story “Herbert West, Re-Animator,” about a student who concocts a disturbingly flawed means of reviving the dead. Re-Animator more closely resembles a zombie film than Lovecraft’s signature brand of occult sci-fi, but it boasts masterful suspense scenes, great jokes and Barbara Crampton as a smart, totally hot love interest. Jeffrey Combs is brilliant, establishing himself as the Anthony Perkins of his generation as West, a hilariously insolent and reckless genius whom he played in two Re-Animator sequels. The actor even played Lovecraft in the anthology film Necronomicon. The film is a near-perfect crystallization of best aspects of ’80s horror, from its delight in perversion to its awesome practical effects. —Curt Holman


2. Let the Right One In

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Year: 2008
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Vampire stories are plastered all over American pop culture these days (True Blood, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries), but leave it to the Swedes to reclaim an entire genre by producing a vampire film that manages to be both sweet and frightening. The friendship between Oskar, a scrawny, 12-year-old outcast, and Eli, a centuries-old vampire frozen in the body of an androgynous child, is a chilling but beautiful story to behold. It gets maximum creep factor out of its minimalism and builds to a stupendous conclusion. The American remake from 2010, Let Me In, (not on Netflix streaming) has been unfairly derided by film fans sick of the remake game, but it’s another solid, very faithful take on the same story that even handles a few aspects of the story slightly better. Ultimately, though, if you’re seeing only one, you need to make it the Swedish original for the strength of its two lead performances. —Jeremy Medina


1. The Exorcist

1. the exorcist (Custom).jpg
Year: 1973
Director: William Friedkin
The Exorcist is a bit of a safe pick, but I wrestled with the idea of whether there was any horror film currently streaming on Netflix better, more influential or just plain scarier than this movie, and there’s simply not. The film radiates an aura of dread—it feels somehow unclean and canted, even before all of the possession scenes begin. Segments like the “demon face” flash on the screen for an eighth of a second, disorienting the viewer and giving you a sense that you can never, ever let your guard down. It worms its way under your skin and then stays there forever. The film constantly wears down any sense of hope that both the audience and the characters might have, making you feel as if there’s no way that this priest, not particularly strong in his own faith, is going to be able to save the possessed little girl. Even his eventual “victory” is a very hollow thing, as later explored by author William Peter Blatty in The Exorcist III. Watching it is an ordeal, even after having seen it multiple times before. The Exorcist is a great film by any definition. —J.V.


Jim Vorel is Paste’s news editor, and his DVD plan from Netflix remains firmly intact. You can follow him on Twitter.