There is no shortage of horror films currently streaming on Netflix, so it can be difficult to know exactly what to stream as Halloween has us in a creepy mood. There are nine horror subgenres on the service, ranging from creature features to cult favorites, each with dozens of choices. There are plenty of must-see classics, such as Jaws, Hellraiser, and Re-Animator available, but we’ll assume you’ve seen those. Their catalog of recent flicks is just as impressive [you might need to wade through Sharknado and The Human Centipede, but the gems are easy to find]. The list is too deep to only give five recommendations, so here are a few extras to consider as you completely indulge in the Halloween holiday: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, They Look Like People, Trollhunter, Monsters, Honeymoon, Stake Land, Dead Snow 2, and many, many more. But before you binge all of those, make sure you’ve seen these five deliciously scary films:
The Babadook [Jennifer Kent, 2014]
One of the most critically acclaimed horror films in recent years, The Babadook is a fantastic blend of monster movie and psychological drama. The film follows a single mother who is struggling to care for her emotionally troubled son after the death of her husband. The title monster, which is summoned from a twisted children’s pop-up book [one of the greatest film props ever] becomes a wonderful metaphor for her trauma and mental break down. Essie Davis is phenomenal in the lead role, at times desperately sympathetic and at others completely unhinged. The monster is creative and wonderfully created on screen with simple special effects. The mileage of The Babadook’s scariness may vary from thoroughly tense to never-sleep-again terrifying, but there is more than enough in this smarter than your average horror flick to be a must see for any genre fans. If you have held off the praise and not watched The Babadook, this is the perfect season to correct that.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night [Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014]
Another breakout horror film of 2014, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Like a Jim Jarmusch tribute vampire-western set in Iraq, it is insanely cool and creepy. As you can tell, it is a pretty crazy genre mix, and still Ana Lily Amirpour directs her debut film with complete control. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night never feels superfluous or pretentious. In the film, a young woman [Sheila Vand] walks the nighttime streets of Bad City stalking men for their blood. When she comes across a handsome and hip man named Arash, their romance speaks sharply to their differences and gender inequality in Iraq. One of the most stylish and confident debut films, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is perfect for horror fans with artistic interests. Amirpour recently released her next film, Texas-set cannibal film The Bad Batch, starring Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey, onto the festival circuit—I’m dying for that one to come to theaters.
The Nightmare [Rodney Ascher, 2015]
A documentary is one of the best horror films of the last 10 years? Damn right. Rodney Ascher, who previously made the commentary on The Shining film Room 237, delves into the strange and terrifying world of sleep paralysis. For those who [luckily] don’t know, sleep paralysis is an unexplained phenomenon where certain people have a sort of waking sleep where they cannot move or speak, but see haunting visions happening in their room. As Ascher talks with a number of unconnected people about their experiences, many of the same details of their dreams begin to surface—a fact the leads many researchers and sleep paralysis victims to rethink what is happening to them, wonder if there is something supernatural going on here. If that isn’t creepy enough, many of the described dreams are recreated on screen and are much more terrifying than the boring dreams your friends and family insist on telling you.
The Invitation [Karyn Kusama, 2015]
One particular subgenre of horror that has become increasingly popular are cult films. From Kevin Smith’s Red State to Ti West’s The Sacrament, you can clearly see why—the strange communities, the dynamic leaders, the sinister underbellies are all fascinating to explore. Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation is a bit different, in part because it isn’t immediately clear that we’re dealing with a cult. In the film, a group of people are invited to a simple dinner party. Among the guests is the ex-husband of the host [Logan Marshall-Green], even though their relationship ended under tragic circumstances. The film’s script is tight and the atmosphere is tense. Information comes out slowly and the complex mysteries change over time. It leads to a fantastic finale, one of the most intense and unpredictable scenes of the year. The Invitation isn’t a traditional horror film like the others on this list, but it is an unsettling experience in the most incredible way.
Hush [Mike Flanagan, 2016]
Though he is still under-the-radar for most, Mike Flanagan has already established himself as a new hotshot horror filmmaker with the twisty Oculus and Ouija: Origin of Evil. Flanagan has shown he can take a silly premise or a terrible franchise and make a surprising product; with Hush, he takes on a well-worn genre and simple narrative. Earlier this year, the home invasion film quietly [see what I did there?] appeared on Netflix to little fanfare, even among horror fans, but it definitely shouldn’t be ignored. Kate Siegel stars as a deaf woman who goes into the secluded woods to work on her next novel and finds herself in a struggle to survive an attack by a strange man equipped with a mask and crossbow. Because of the character’s nature, much of the film spins along silently, creating an ultra tense atmosphere. Hush is a slimmer version of the home invasion plot, but no less intense. As Flanagan continues to get bigger and more innovative projects, it’s a good idea to buy your stock now.