[Ghostface voice] Do you like scary movies? [Slightly less Ghostface voice] Do you, like 203 million other human beings on the planet Earth, have a Netflix account? Then, logically, you’ve probably found yourself scrolling around, looking to find the best horror movies on the service. Unlike Jamie Kennedy in Scream, we have answers.
But rather than wade through that ever-shifting glut of films pouring in and out of the service every month trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve got you covered with a list of our own written and curated by Polygon’s own resident horror aficionados.
We’ve slashed our way through the horror offerings on Netflix to find you a heap of movies worth an evening … alone … with the lights off … and surely … no one watching you … through the window … right now …
Fans of the classic 1973 horror movie The Wicker Man (let us not speak of the 2006 Nicolas Cage version and its beeeeeees) should be warned: The Raid director Gareth Evans’ 2018 movie Apostle deliberately starts in the exact same place, and then takes the same scenario to much bloodier and more graphic ends. Set in 1905, it opens with addled addict Thomas (Legion and The Guest star Dan Stevens) getting a letter that says his sister is being held prisoner by a cult on a distant island. So he fakes his way into what looks like a quaint religious community, but is actually the kind of place where people routinely leave bowls of their own blood in front of their doors at night, and something is audibly crawling around under the floorboards. Tense, gory, and in places almost ludicrously over-the-top, Apostle has a lot to say about the nature of religious fanaticism, both for the obedient flocks doing whatever their leader says God wants, and for the manipulators that weaponize whoever they can find who’s willing to be led. But this isn’t just Wicker Man redux — it’s a creative, relentless spin on the same idea, leading to its own unique horrors. —Tasha Robinson
As Above, So Below
As Above So Below follows a group of urban explorers sneak into the roped off parts of the Paris Catacombs — a massive underground ossuary that holds the bones of over six million people — to explore just how deep the tomb goes. Turns out, it goes deep. Maybe all the way to hell itself. The premise and setting alone should be enough to convince you to watch the movie, but in case it’s not, it helps that the movie is genuinely scary.
This film is the last dying gasp of the found-footage era and it makes the most of its perspective. The first half is full of intensely claustrophobic moments. Watching the intrepid explorers squeeze themselves through piles of human skulls or get stuck in a tangle of bones is undeniably creepy and the film’s nearly first-person perspective adds an extra layer of tension and dread. In the second half the spaces open up and the movie shifts gears into something stranger and more supernatural, but no less effective. —Austen Goslin
The Blair Witch Project
Many have tried to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was The Blair Witch Project, but the truth is, today’s video technology just looks too damn good!! But in the 1990s, scrappy video was in its heyday, and directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s mockumentary easily passed as the real thing. The black-and-white vérité approach keeps The Blair Witch Project timeless; Heather, Mike, and Josh, the doomed film students who hope to get the witch on tape, develop an instant relationship with the audience through mumble-speak and curiosity. Today’s YouTubers would kill for the kind of parasocial chemistry on display. It’s all in service to the classic beats of haunted house movie, except somehow even creepier because they’re in the woods. The endless woods… —Matt Patches
This Australian post-apocalyptic tale, which finds Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, The Office) with 48 hours to live and miles of outback to cross, is even more terrifying if you’re a new parent. After a zombie bite turns his wife into an undead husk, and her rabid jaws rip a chunk out of his arm, Andy (Freeman) heads into the wilderness with his 1-year-old daughter to find an antidote. As in The Road, the traveling pair encounter a handful of helpful and ignoble survivors, all looking for a way out of the living nightmare. But it’s Thoomi (Simone Landers), an indigenous girl kidnapped by a zombie-baiting hunter, who may be able to save them. Taking advantage of lush environments down under, grappling with Australia’s history of racial tension and capitalizing on the continued peril of a defenseless child, Cargo takes a typical outbreak scenario and raises the stakes. —MP
The Conjuring 2
James Wan’s follow-up to 2013’s The Conjuring takes place six years after the original, following paranormal investigators Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) travel to London to aid Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor), a mother of four children who believes that she and her family are being haunted by preternatural forces that take hold of their home. The Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullian wrote in his 2016 review, “[The Conjuring 2] manifests a canny understanding of what modern audiences expect from a ghost story, delivering slowly mounting dread, punctuated by alternating bursts of terror and laughter.” —Toussaint Egan
Creep & Creep 2
Leave it to indie darling Mark Duplass and his regular collaborator Patrick Brice (The Overnight) to keep the found-footage horror movie kickin’ 15 years after The Blair Witch Project. In Creep, Josef (Duplass) recruits Aaron (Brice), a videographer, off Craigslist with the intention of filming a goodbye letter to his unborn son. Josef is dying … at least, that’s how he convinces his new buddy Aaron to spend the night in the woods drinking whiskey with him. The batshit revelations are best left unsaid, and just how Creep 2 picks up the story, with Girls actress Desiree Akhavan front and center as a hopeful YouTube star, is even more of a hoot. Creep is the deranged, internet-friendly horror franchise we deserve. —MP
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s 2012 indie horror movie Resolution is a nifty little gem that starts out as a two-person isolation drama and develops into an eerie puzzle-movie with the creeping dread of The Blair Witch Project. It isn’t strictly necessary to watch Resolution before watching Benson and Moorhead’s follower Endless, but boy, it sure makes a whole lot more sense if you do — and the tension works much better, too. In The Endless, Moorhead and Benson (who also directed, with Benson scripting and Moorhead as DP) play brothers drawn back to visit the commune where they grew up, which one of them remembers as a nurturing place, and the other as a crazy UFO-obsessed death cult. Weird phenomena abound and escalate, but most of the explanation is in Resolution rather than Endless, so Endless may just play as eerie and unfathomable in a Lovecraftian way as a standalone feature, and the crossover characters in particular may baffle people who haven’t seen both. As a double feature, though, the films are compellingly weird and immersive, unsettling and with enough big shocks to keep the audience in the moment. —TR
There is a scene in Eli Roth’s grueling cannibal exploitation horror film The Green Inferno that almost made my 100-minute investment in the film feel worth it: A group of protestors, held captive by native people after their plane crashes in the jungle, are fed a mysterious meal. Upon realizing that they are consuming their recently departed friend Samantha, the lone vegan in the group slashes her own throat. Immediately following her death by suicide, one of her fellow protestors concocts a plan to stuff her stomach with his weed stash, hoping that their captors will get so stoned when they cook her, that the prisoners will be able to escape amid the confusion. Yet another protestor decides this is an opportune moment to masturbate, which he justifies as a release to clear his mind. Disgusted, a third protestor starts to strangle the wanker, leading to the inspired closed captioning description “[tugging intensifies].”
It is an ugly, bewildering scene that skyrockets The Green Inferno into wild, text-your-friends “you seeing this shit?!” absurdist territory. I can’t necessarily recommend The Green Inferno, a brutally gory and smug reproach of “slacktivism,” but if you’re interested in watching this particular scene, it takes place approximately 69 minutes into the film. —Mike McWhartor
It feels a little late for new horror movies as we move further away from Halloween and into more cheer-focused holidays, but it’s never too late for a movie as intensely relevant as His House, which turns the trials of immigration into a shock-filled ghost story. Gangs of London’s Sope Dirisu and Lovecraft Country’s Wunmi Mosaku play a Sudanese couple seeking asylum in Britain, where they encounter supportive but not exactly friendly social workers (including former Doctor Who star Matt Smith) who can’t accept that the home they’ve been given is haunted. Caught between the ghosts at home and an inflexible system ready to send them back to a war-torn country, the couple struggle with their past and their highly questionable future. —TR
Is there anything more Halloween-ish than turning every other holiday into a horror-fest? That’s the goal of the anthology film Holidays, and it’s hard to choose which segment is the most successful. Those who liked the unsettling atmosphere of It Follows may be drawn to “Father’s Day,” while monster fans will find terror in “Easter.” From the body horror of “Mother’s Day” to the (literal) torture-porn of “Halloween,” every short, potent story hits its mark and doesn’t overstay its welcome. So even if you don’t like one, another holiday is just around the corner. —Jenna Stoeber
The home invasion movie gets a fresh spin from The Haunting of Bly Manor creator and Doctor Sleep director Mike Flanagan in Hush, a lean, mean feature that centers on a deaf-mute woman’s fight against a would-be killer. Maddie (Kate Siegel, who also co-wrote the film) lives on her own in the woods, and becomes the focus of a man (John Gallagher Jr.) after he chases and kills one of her friends, discovering through Maddie’s failure to notice that she cannot hear anything. It’s a terrific modern slasher, and even got the seal of approval from Stephen King. —MP
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
“A house with a death in it can never be bought or sold by the living. It can only be borrowed by its ghosts.” The playful, poetic terror of I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, from Oz Perkins, son of Psycho star Anthony Perkins, plays like a short story from Alvin Schwartz’s classic In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories. So do the spooky camera compositions that string the story together; as Lily, the live-in nurse to aging horror author Iris Blum, actress Ruth Wilson tiptoes through the wooden hallways of a 19th-century New England manor, hears creaks in the floor and feels the ominous presence of a woman thought to be fictitious. Perkins barely lifts a finger to render his ghost tour with macabre beauty, but when it pops — an ectoplasmic echo, a murmuring cue in his brother Elvis Perkins — I Am the Pretty Thing will take your breath away. —MP
It Comes At Night
A24 took a liking to director Trey Edward Shults after his dizzying, Thanksgiving tragedy Krisha, and bought directly into his follow-up: a post-apocalyptic nightmare in which the horrors of humanity come into focus through eroded psyches. The movie’s premise could easily be a $100 blockbuster: After deadly virus reverts mankind to the days of the American Frontier — ha, nothing close-to-home about that… — every sole survivor fights to protect their families and themselves. Paul (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and their teenage son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) have their log-cabin lives interrupted by the appearance of Will (Christopher Abbott) and his family, and the question of their motives comes instantly under question. What does it take to survive? And what to make of Trevor’s bloody, paranormal visions? With a cosmic sense of dread, Shults slow burns his way through every frame, striking the terrifying balance of what we know and what we don’t. —MP
The glory days of Mel Brooks and Airplane! brain trust ZAZ are behind us, but a few determined filmmakers (no, not the guys behind Date Movie) still find ways to thread spoof through more traditional plots. Little Evil, from Tucker & Dale vs. Evil director Eli Craig, is a recent, ridiculous heir to the throne: Adam Scott (Parks & Recreation) stars as the newly married Gary, who quickly realizes that his stepson Lucas is the Antichrist. The movie nods to nearly every pillar of the horror genre — a clever cutaway to two Shining-esque twins elicits both a shriek and a spit take — but it’s the whirlwind of Scott’s in-over-his-head performance, and the steady glowering of his demonic 5-year-old, that sucks up the jokes into a cohesive, and often frightening, whole. Like Shaun of the Dead or Cabin in the Woods, Little Evil is a horror-comedy that balances the act. —MP
The Mist is director Frank Derabont’s third Stephen King adaptation. The movie’s tense horror was a big change of pace from Darabont’s more sentimental work on Shawshank Redemption and Green Mile, but it was also undeniably great and remains one of the best and most under-appreciated adaptations of King’s work.
The Mist starts out like a classic people-are-the-real-monsters horror movie But the tone and style shift as the movie reveals what really lurks in the menacing fog. The movie takes all the tension it spent the last 90 minutes building, and lets loose with a harrowing barrage of scares that leads up to one of the best and most haunting endings of any recent horror movie. —AG
Even in our post-Cabin in the Woods world, there are still opportunities for clever filmmakers to spook us with creepy-shack-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-why-the-hell-would-you-go-in-there-what-was-that-in-the-shadows-no-no-no-no-no stories. The Ritual follows four friends who trek along northern Sweden’s Kungsleden trail as a tribute to a fifth friend, who was recently murdered in a convenience store. The death especially weighs on Luke (Prometheus’ Rafe Spall), whose drunken belligerence put his buddy in harm’s way in the first place. Luke is also the member of the group who realizes that, after discovering a wooden deer altar in an abandoned house along their unadvised detour, the group is being haunted by more than memories. Like a unique mix of Euro-horror and The Hills Have Eyes, The Ritual twists a familiar journey with creature-feature instincts to keep the genre fresh. —MP
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s debut film is an eye-popping wonder, a memorable and horrible metaphor for wealth inequality that also works as a pure science-fiction dystopian yarn. A good-natured scholarly type (Ivan Massagué) wakes up in a concrete cell with a sneering old crank (Zorion Eguileor), but there are no bars or doors holding them in — there’s just an endless stack of cells atop each other, with a yawning rectangular void connecting them all. Once a day, a floating platform holding a sumptuous feast descends through all the levels of the prison — but people in the cells below are doomed to eat whatever the people on the levels above them reject. The kicker: every month, everyone in the system is gassed and moved to a different level, where they might get to the feast earlier or later. Gaztelu-Urrutia spins a lot of horror and surprises out of that simple setup, from grim, hilarious humor to startling violence. —TR
Under the Shadow
During a string of Iraqi airstrikes in late-1980s Tehran, the Iranian government bars medical student and political activist Shideh (Narges Rashidi) from continuing her studies. She retreats to her family’s apartment, and despite her husband’s wishes, remains with her young daughter in the war-torn capital — this is her home, and she’s not leaving. But when a missile blasts directly through her building, the normal life Shideh and her daughter knew becomes marked by an invisible, nefarious presence. Is it a djinn? Much like in The Babadook, first-time director Babak Anvari allows the question of the supernatural to orbit the action of Under the Shadow as he captures the erosion of his plain, main set, and Shideh’s very existence. —MP