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Sunday, April 14, 2024

The 15 Best Horror Movies to Stream This Halloween

Suffice to say, this year’s Halloween is on ice. Costume parties are being postponed until 2021, and even the most adventurous kids might balk at putting a mask over the one they’re already wearing. But while most of 2020’s Halloween traditions are being paused by Covid-19, there’s still one that a global pandemic can’t take away: the right to spend the holiday lying on the couch with a bag of fun-sized candy bars and all the werewolves, vampires, and mermen you can handle. From old favorites to new classics, here are 15 of the best horror movies to put you in the Halloween spirit, all of which you can stream right now.

The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man helped strengthen H. G. Wells’ reputation as the Father of Science Fiction when it was first published in 1897. And while it’s been adapted a number of times in the 120-plus years since, it took Leigh Whannell (the man behind Saw and the Insidious movies) to put a simple but brilliant spin on the well-worn story: a feminist edge. Instead of devoting the bulk of The Invisible Man’s screentime to the titular big bad, it’s his estranged wife (Elisabeth Moss)—who has suffered abuse at the hands of her scientist husband for too long—who turns out to be the hero. Moss turns in a great performance, as per usual, and the spectacular effects only add to this worthy—and worthwhile—update.

Where to stream it: HBO Max

An American Werewolf in London

Horror-comedy is not an easy genre to pull off—especially when a movie like John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London has been around for comparison for nearly 40 years. American pals David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) get slightly lost as they backpack their way through England and end up being attacked by a werewolf. While Jack is torn to bits, David survives but wakes up weeks later in a London hospital with little recollection of what happened. Fortunately, his old pal Jack—looking very much worse for the wear—shows up to warn David that a full moon is coming and if he doesn’t kill himself before it arrives, he too will transform into a flesh-craving canine. Landis expertly balances laugh-out-loud humor with genuinely terrifying frights—most of them courtesy of special effects makeup wizard Rick Baker, who won a much-deserved Oscar for his work on the film (the werewolf transformation scene is iconic for a reason). Throw in a killer soundtrack and one of cinema’s most satisfyingly efficient endings and you’ve got a horror-comedy for the ages.

Where to stream it: HBO Max


After years of being beloved for his comedic work as the cocreator of Key and Peele, Jordan Peele turned to the horror genre for his first foray behind the camera as the writer-director of Get Out (2017)—a movie that spoke to audiences because of its deft combination of horror, humor, and social commentary. (Peele became the first Black writer to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for his work.) So the pressure was on Peele when it came to his sophomore effort, and Us did not disappoint. When Adelaide (Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o) and Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) take their kids to the waterfront home where Adelaide grew up, she can’t shake the feeling that something’s not right. Sure enough, her instincts are spot-on—as they realize when their home is invaded by a group of masked strangers … who they later learn are their own doppelgängers. But it’s not just the Wilsons who are being stalked by their own doubles; it’s a worldwide problem. And Adelaide’s determined to figure out what they want and why they’re there. What she finds is too good a twist to divulge here.

Where to stream it: HBO Max


Jaws is to horror movies as Star Wars is to sci-fi films. It’s just hard to believe there are people out there who haven’t seen it. Still, whether you’ve never seen it or have watched it at least 100 times (Steven Soderbergh claims to have seen Jaws 28 times in theaters alone!), the story of a water-phobic police chief living on an island who sets off to sea in pursuit of a ginormous great white shark that’s killing his residents and scaring off the tourists never gets old. It’s also a masterclass in less-is-more filmmaking—even if that approach was more the result of a perpetually busted machine shark than anything else.

Where to stream it: HBO Max

Ready or Not

Ready or Not is as much a description of the mindset you should go into this blood-soaked horror-comedy with as it is its actual title. It takes a tonal shift you won’t really see coming, and the movie wastes no time in throwing you right into the plot: Grace (Samara Weaving), who grew up in foster homes, is marrying Alex (Mark O'Brien) at the ultra-posh estate of his family, whose members aren’t doing a great job at hiding the fact that they think Grace is beneath them. But since she’s now part of the family, which made its fortune as the owners of a game-making company, she’s been invited to take part in their traditional wedding “game night” ritual—which involves a range of deadly weapons. Between Ash vs. Evil Dead, Netflix’s The Babysitter (another fun horror-comedy), and Ready or Not, Samara Weaving is making a serious run at the title of Hollywood’s top scream queen. She also knows how to rock a pair of bright-yellow Chuck Taylor high-tops and a fancy, lacy wedding dress.

Where to stream it: HBO Max

The Evil Dead

Twenty years before he was reinventing the comic book movie for a new generation of fans with Spider-Man, Sam Raimi was honing his skills on a shoestring budget with The Evil Dead. But this isn’t your average no-budget horror movie from the early '80s: Raimi’s eye for detail and willingness to spend his limited budget in the areas where it mattered the most—namely, the cutting-edge special effects makeup and stop-motion animation—make this flick a cut above the rest. The Evil Dead also introduced audiences to Raimi’s distinctive sense of humor, his love of gore (those who are offended by tree rape: consider yourselves warned), and his childhood buddy Bruce Campbell, who is still playing the movie’s hero Ash (most recently in the Starz series Ash vs. Evil Dead). While 1987’s Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn is more of a polished version of the original than a bona fide sequel, there’s something very raw and amazing about The Evil Dead, as it allows you to witness the birth of a modern-day master of horror.

Where to stream it: Netflix


One year after becoming an instant horror icon with “that scene” in Hereditary, Ari Aster applied his slow-burn approach to Midsommar, an unsettling, two-and-a-half-hour journey into a (thankfully fictional) traditional Swedish summer festival that only happens every 90 years. When a group of American college students, including not-so-happy couple Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor), are invited to take part, what they’re imagining will be a folksy good time turns into something far more brutal and terrifying. The less you know going into Midsommar, the more effective it will be (and by “effective” we mean “disturbing”).

Where to stream it: Amazon Prime

Night of the Living Dead

Had George A. Romero only ever cowritten and directed this one movie, his feature directorial debut, he’d still go down in history as a horror pioneer. Because even though the word zombie is never uttered in Night of the Living Dead, it's clear to the audience that that's what his half-living monsters are. It all kicks off when siblings Barbra (Judith O'Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner) pay a visit to their father’s gravesite and are subsequently attacked by a strange man. Barbra, seeing a farmhouse nearby, runs there for help—only to discover the dead body of the home’s owner—and many slow-walking creatures coming her way. That’s when the ever-resourceful Ben (Duane Jones) shows up to help. Though many critics of the time attempted to declare Night of the Living Dead DOA because of its extreme gore, its reputation as a game-changer in the genre has given it continued life, with several sequels and even a couple of remakes, including Tom Savini’s 1990’s redux, with Tony Todd in the role of Ben.

Where to stream it: Amazon Prime


Speaking of Steven Soderbergh: As an early adopter of seemingly every new tool that comes along, he went back to his indie roots for Unsane—which he shot with an iPhone. It’s a move that could come off as totally gimmicky in a lesser filmmaker’s hands, but Soderbergh’s cinematic mastery makes it seem as if there was no better choice. Unsane’s dark composition and sometimes shaky style are a perfect complement to the story, a B-movie-esque psychological thriller in which a woman (The Crown’s Claire Foy) is involuntarily committed to a mental facility in the midst of dealing with a stalker. When she comes to believe that it’s her stalker who has set up her placement there, she begins to break down—making it hard for the audience to discern what’s real and who’s telling the truth at all.

Where to stream it: Amazon Prime

Nosferatu The Vampyre

Over the course of his near-60-year-long career, Werner Herzog has proven that there’s nothing he can’t or won’t at least try to do for the love of filmmaking (eating his own shoe included). Over the years, he has long maintained that F. W. Murnau’s original Nosferatu is the greatest film to ever come out of his native Germany. So on the very day that Bram Stoker’s Dracula entered the public domain, Herzog set about creating his own version of the film—one that, unlike the 1922 original, could legally use parts of Dracula without any legal headaches. What Herzog did, however, was create one of the most human versions of the legendary bloodsucker we’ve ever seen, as portrayed by Klaus Kinski. In Herzog’s mind, Dracula’s immortality and vampirism are burdens that make him a more sympathetic character. “He cannot choose and he cannot cease to be,” Herzog told The New York Times in 1978. If you want to expand your understanding of Dracula’s cinematic arc, pair this with a screening of Murnau’s original Nosferatu (which is on Prime and The Criterion Channel, and available to rent elsewhere). Then take it one step further by adding to the mix with My Best Fiend, Herzog’s 1999 documentary about his tumultuous relationship with Kinski. (Rent it on Amazon, YouTube, and Google Play).

Where to stream it: Amazon Prime

The Cabin in the Woods

Much like Scream before it, Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods—which the then-newcomer directed and cowrote with Joss Whedon—takes a meta approach with its material, turning what could otherwise be a by-the-numbers horror movie into an immensely clever take on the “a group of attractive twentysomethings end up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere that just so happens to be surrounded by malevolent forces” sub-genre. All of the standard tropes are set up—the weird old townie who tries to warn the kids off, a creepy old basement filled with bizarre and ominous paraphernalia, etc.—though maybe they’re set up just a little too perfectly. The Cabin in the Woods is a loving wink to serious horror movie fiends and goes off in surprising directions that you’ll never see coming.

Where to stream it: Hulu

Fright Night

We’ve been through enough vampire crazes over the years that there are times when some moviegoers would happily agree to never see another bloodsucker in their lives. Then they remember Fright Night. Tom Holland’s iconic love letter to the golden age of horror movies and late-night television schlock jocks who entertained us with tales of blood and guts is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. But like Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon)—the glowing-eyed vampire in serious need of a manicure living next door to teenager Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale)—Fright Night doesn’t really seem to age. It still stands out as a perfectly subtle horror-comedy with just the right balance of both genres to make it as seductive as Vampire Jerry on the dance floor.

Where to stream it: Amazon Prime

The House of the Devil

In 2002, Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever brought the horror genre back to its 1980s heyday. Ti West managed to successfully recapture that same spirit at the end of the decade with The House of the Devil, which sees a broke college student (Jocelin Donahue) in need of cash to pay her rent reluctantly agree to “babysit” an allegedly frail old lady for a few hours. You know something’s going to happen, but you’re not quite sure what: Is the house haunted? Is there someone outside stalking the babysitter? Is it all in your head? Is it all of the above? While you wait for the other shoe to inevitably drop, West takes advantage of his very clear time frame—the satanic-panic-ravaged '80s—to showcase a treasure trove of horrifying cultural relics of the past, including one particularly high-waisted pair of jeans.

Where to stream it: Amazon Prime

The Host

South Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho became a household name, and a force to be reckoned with, last year when he stormed the Oscars with Parasite. If that was your first introduction to his work, you should immediately seek out all of his previous films, including The Host. Like Parasite, it’s a horror movie with a social message. In this case, more of an eco-minded one where the pollution in Seoul’s Han River leads to the creation of a gigantic sea monster with a taste for humans.

Where to stream it: Hulu, Amazon Prime

Let the Right One In

Having a vampire as a BFF just might be the greatest thing a bullied kid could wish for. But the relationship that picked-on tween Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) builds with his neighbor Eli (Lina Leandersson)—who does just happen to crave human blood—is much deeper than a simple revenge fantasy in this Swedish slow burn. In fact, Eli being a vampire is really secondary to the story. Like Werner Herzog with Nosferatu, Tomas Alfredson puts character-building first and paints Eli with a kind of sadness, which is what connects her with Oskar. Sure, it’s bloody, but it’s also kind of sweet.

Where to stream it: Hulu

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