Netflix and Thrill: 19 horrors to stream this Halloween

Staying in this Halloween? There's plenty of scares to be had on your laptop – here are 19 horrors to check out across Amazon and Netflix

Article by Jamie Dunn | 30 Oct 2019
  • Hereditary

Horror films to stream on Netflix

The Invitation

Dir. Karyn Kusama

This creepy chamber-piece sees a tight-knit group of friends assemble at a remote home in the Hollywood Hills for a dinner party to celebrate an estranged pal's recent wedding, although the atmosphere that builds throughout the reunion is far from congenial. Director Karyn Kusama develops the tension expertly; you may get an inkling of where it’s all heading (particularly when the terrifying John Carroll Lynch turns up) but it’s toe-curling fun watching it get there.

Happy Death Day

Dir. Christopher Landon

Can we claim that classic Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day has its own genre now? The live-die-repeat the same 24 hours premise has been deployed pretty effectively as a sci-fi action movie (Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow) and an existential New York comedy show on Netflix (the acerbic Russian Dolls starring Natasha Lyonne), and this spiky little gem shows the premise works wonderfully effectively in the horror context too.

Despite the lack of consequence to Happy Death Day’s violence – every time our heroine (Jessica Rothe), a wise-arse sorority girl, get’s stabbed by her stalker in a creepy plastic mask, she wakes up several hours earlier in her college dorm – Christopher Landon’s setpieces are pleasingly vicious and full of suspense. The film also acts as a nifty metaphor for being a teenager, a time when you have the chance to fuck up over and over again until you get it right.

Calibre

Dir. Matt Palmer

Calibre's plot could be written on the end of the .22 bullet that causes all the trouble in this sinewy thriller. It goes like this: two friends go to the woods, do something stupid, pay dearly for it. Like all good genre films, the complexity of the dilemmas the characters face more than compensates for the fat-free setup. Man-versus-nature classic Deliverance is the obvious touchstone, but director Matt Palmer’s stripped-back style shoots for naturalism over John Boorman’s romanticism. Romanian cinematographer Márk Györi, meanwhile, clearly relishes the dark greens and browns of Scotland’s great outdoors, creating crisp wide shots and menacing dissolves, but he’s not afraid to go handheld and in close on the characters in their more panicked moments.

Insidious

Dir. James Wan

James Wan is the master of jack-in-the-box frighteners, and this tale of a young suburban family being haunted is particularly pants-pooping. The twist here is that it’s not the young couple’s family home that’s been invaded by an evil spirit – they do what nobody ever does in horror movies, and move house as soon as things start to go bump in the night – but their eldest son. The build up is slow, but when the shocks come it’s a deluge.

Lifeforce

Dir. Tobe Hooper

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre director Tobe Hooper throws everything at this bonkers sci-fi horror about alien vampires terrorising London. Not all of it sticks, but you’ll never be bored as we follow a British-American space mission as they discover a spaceship full of bloodsuckers and bring three back home for observation, with deadly results. There’s so much to enjoy here, from the cognitive dissidence of seeing seedy 80s Britain be the setting for a slick Hollywood production, to a deliciously camp turn from the at-the-time little-known Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart and an explosive finale that sees most of London up down in flames.

Hush

Dir. Mike Flanagan

In this lean, nail-biting thriller, a deaf author living in a remote house in the woods is unaware that a psychopathic killer is trying to break into her house. Director Mike Flanagan milks this simple home invasion setup for all it’s got, and the author proves far more resourceful than she first appears as the intruder tries to take advantage of her disability.

Orphan

Dir. Jaume Collet-Serra

This sickly pleasurable piece of schlock concerns a well-off Connecticut couple with two children who adopt a third: a nine-year old Russian girl called Esther who dresses like a haunted Victorian doll. We know there’s something not quite right with her. But what is it? We won’t ruin the macabre surprise, but even if you’ve guessed it there are still plenty of pleasures here, from Esther’s sadistic war of attrition with her new mother to the deliciously salty dialogue: “I’ll cut your hairless little prick off before you even figure out what it’s for,” is how Esther puts her bratty new brother in line.

Cabin in the Woods

Dir. Drew Goddard

If horror movies aren't really for you, this is just the ticket. It's a laugh-out-loud comedy disguised as a cliched teen slasher, and director Drew Goddard squeezes every last drop of comic potential out of his intriguing setup. To reveal that setup might spoil some of the film's macabre fun, but even if you've seen Cabin in the Woods before, it's so dense in gags it's worth another look. 

Horror films to stream on Amazon Video

Hereditary

Dir. Ari Aster

Something is off with the family at the heart of Hereditary, even before multiple heads are decapitated and satanic figures appear smiling at the edges of the frame. The film begins with Toni Collette’s Anne giving a less-than-loving eulogy at her mother's funeral, but she has even harsher words for her high school stoner son (Alex Wolff), both in real life and during her somnambulistic fever dreams. Anne’s younger daughter, meanwhile, is into creating creepy dolls out of flotsam and jetsam. Her handicraft clearly comes from her mother’s side: Anne makes a living by creating scale models of traumatic events in her life. Like the best Polanski movies, this is a queasy chamber piece first, horror film second, although when the gore does come, it’s by the bucketful.

Night of the Living Dead

Dir. George A Romero

The granddaddy of all modern horror films, Romero’s gritty, low-budget shocker sees a group of strangers holed up in a remote farmhouse and under siege from walking corpses. It may be almost five decades old, but the blunt force of the filmmaking is as potent as ever, and the ending remains a gut punch no matter how many times you’ve seen it.

House on Haunted Hill

Dir. William Castle

One of the classic “it was a dark and spooky night” films from William Castle, horror’s great showman. Vincent Price plays an eccentric millionaire who offers a group of people $10,000 to spend a night in his haunted mansion. In the original theatrical run, Castle would fly a skeleton through the audience, scaring the bejesus out of them at key moments. Without all the theatrics, though, House on Haunted Hill stands up six decades later. 

Eaten Alive

Dir. Tobe Hooper

Everyone knows The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, of course, but Hooper’s little-seen, more goofy but still deeply disturbing follow-up, Eaten Alive, deserves some attention. Based loosely on the legend of serial killer Joe Ball, aka The Alligator Man, a hotelier who used to feed his guests to his pet alligators, the film is heavy on Southern gothic atmosphere and grizzly setpieces. Old western stalwarts Neville Brand is terrifically creepy as the film’s Ball surrogate.

Horror films to stream elsewhere

It Follows

Dir. David Robert Mitchell

Simply put: David Robert Mitchell's dreamy slasher is about a sexually transmitted curse. Like a game of tag, the terrifying “It” of the title, a shuffling, shape-shifting ghoul, is transferred from character to character whenever they have sex. What makes this thin but delicious story hum is its sophisticated visuals. The film's full of unsettling long takes and voyeuristic tracking shots. It Follows' slow zooms and 360 degree pans will make your hairs stand on end; film grammar has never been so terrifying. On BBC iPlayer

The Fall

Dir. Jonathan Glazer

To the surprise of pretty much everyone, Jonathan Glazer dropped this creepy short film on BBC 2 last week. Inspired by the images of Donald Trump's gormless sons posing with a dead leopard during a big game hunting trip, Glazer's film opens on a dark forest, where a mob of masked figures have chased a man who’s now cowering up a tree. They proceed to shake him down like he’s a coconut. A queazy analogy for mob mentality, cruelty and violence, The Fall fairly surprised viewers who were tuning into BBC 2 to watch Live at the Apollo. On BBC iPlayer

Prevenge

Dir. Alice Lowe

Alice Lowe, best known for her work on the brilliant Sightseers, makes her directorial debut with this twisted comic gem about a pregnant mother who goes on a killing spree at the behest of her unborn demon seed. The film is singular and blackly funny, and a welcome addition to the demonic pregnancy sub-genre. On All4

Suspiria (both of them) / Psycho (both of them)

MUBI has an interesting prospect for subscribers this month: a double bill season of originals v remakes. They've picked a couple of corkers, that are particularly interesting because the remakes take completely different approaches. For his 1998 remake of 1960's Psycho, Gus van Sant went for verisimilitude, slavishly aping Hitchcock's camera moves, edits and music cues; the experiment is rather unsettling, like seeing a corpse reanimated, its heavy slap of makeup not disguising the fact it's very much dead – a bit like Norman's attempts to keep Mrs Bates alive. 

With his Suspiria remake, Luca Guadagnino takes the opposite tact: abandoning Dario Argento's eye-popping set design and use of colour, splitting the protagonist role between two actors (Dakota Johnson and Mia Goth) and embedding the film in Berlin's turbulent political climate. Some people loved the remake, others were miffed. Decide for yourself. On MUBI

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