For horror junkies, it's always the perfect time to bully your nearest and dearest into streaming some spooky flicks. I've rounded up the strangest, squirmiest and most terrifying films you can stream on Netflix.
Editors' note: This guide contains movies with sexually explicit (or strong) language and imagery that aren't suitable for readers under 18.
The Nightmare (2015)
Big red flag warning to the scream junkies, this isn't your typical horror film. The Nightmare is actually a horror documentary that focuses on the experiences of eight different people who suffer from sleep paralysis. If you didn't think a documentary could give you bad dreams, try watching a film about other people's night terrors. Both the interviews and the recreations of what people experience during sleep paralysis are pretty bone chilling.
Scream 2 (1997)
This slasher sequel is new to Netflix for May. Now, I've heard arguments made that the Scream films are comedies and not horror films. But my rule of thumb is that if my roommate is too freaked out to watch it, it's definitely a horror film. Scream 2 follows Scream's Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) off to college, and shockingly the murdering continues. While it doesn't capture the satirical, yet mildly terrifying, magic of the first film, Scream 2 holds its own. Plus it's a fun watch down 90s memory lane.
The Descent (2005)
Chances are high that 12 years ago all of your friends were trying to convince you to see The Descent. Some of your thinner-skinned pals might have gone so far as to say it's the scariest movie they'd ever seen. OK, it's not the scariest movie I've ever watched, but it's way up there. And if you've been putting it off for a decade, congratulations, because the gods of Netflix are blessing you with a night of true unpleasantness! Enjoy! (And stay out of caves!)
All right fine, it's technically a crime thriller! But Seven (also know as Se7en, 7, or 6+1) is a truly freaky movie and a worthy addition to this list. David Fincher's film follows two detectives as they investigate a serial killer targeting victims who embody the seven deadly sins. Visually, the film is fairly graphic and definitely not for the squeamish. Isn't it time you finally found out the answer to the age-old question "What's in the box?"
The Ritual (2018)
Horror junkies tend to be divided when it comes to big bads; some really appreciate the nuance of a metaphorical evil and others want a tangible creature to terrify them. (Feel free to debate among yourselves where non-corporeal ghosts land.) The Ritual uses that divide to its advantage, starting off with some intentional misdirection, and, without giving too much away, delivering a satisfying ending for actual monster lovers. Plus anything set in a forest is just super creepy, right?
Dig Two Graves (2017)
After her brother drowns, the young Jacqueline is confronted by three strange men who offer to help bring her sibling back to life for a steep price. This eerie film weaves together the past and present and tells a chilling tale of family secrets and blood vengeance. Dig Two Graves is beautifully shot given its low budget, and a quick, easy watch. You can add it to the growing list of independent films that prove you don't need jump scares to get that lurking, chilling feeling after you watch them.
Beyond the Gates (2016)
I don't know when or where we'll actually hit peak nostalgia. I'm not even sure it's a threshold that can be reached. So you may as well enjoy this '80s throwback, Beyond the Gates, which follows two brothers who've returned home to clean up their missing father's VHS rental store. There, they find a VCR board game their father was playing before he disappeared. It's a bit like Jumanji meets a neon-lit slasher film, though you might want to mitigate your expectations a bit. It's not the best-performed horror film I've ever seen, but there's a lot of violent bloody fun to be had.
The Conjuring (2013)
Folks who love classic, impeccably made horror films like The Shining or Rosemary's Baby are always looking for the next iconic addition to the genre. The Conjuring is a strong contender for one of the best horror films this decade, with director James Wan consistently proving to be spine-tinglingly skillful. I was lucky enough to catch this one in theaters (where I watched from under my jacket), but I'm sure you'll find it just as terrifying from your couch (while watching from under a blanket). Also, Annabelle. (This is me shuddering at my desk.)
The Transfiguration (2016)
Just give it five minutes, and I promise you'll be hooked from the first scene. The film follows Milo, a teen obsessed with vampires, and his new friendship with Sofei. Michael O'Shea's directorial debut moves at a slow, haunting pace and feels masterfully put together. Some might find the horror secondary to the powerful dark themes, but if Eric Ruffin's portrayal of Milo doesn't chill you to the bone there may be no hope for you.
A Dark Song (2016)
In some ways, A Dark Song is unlike any film I've ever watched. It follows a woman who recently lost her son and the occultist she hires to help her contact dark spirits. The two characters lock themselves in an isolated house for months performing repetitive, traumatic rituals. Both actors give raw, aggressive performances that anchor this chilling, must-watch horror film.
After viewing this film, you might just have a new favorite female director in Julia Ducournau. Raw follows Justine, a vegetarian in her first year of veterinary school, who caves to peer pressure, eats raw meat and winds up with a rash all over her body. The film tackles questions of identity in a viscerally powerful and symbolic way, and is a must-see from Netflix's indie bench.
Train to Busan (2016)
In this Korean zombie thriller, a man and his daughter are trapped on a train during a zombie outbreak. The rules of the world are clearly established, the zombie action is packed and the film includes some harsh socio-economic observations. Just because zombies are mindless doesn't mean zombie films need to be as well.
If you're looking for further proof the Duplass brothers are actually evil, here's an easy sell. Patrick Brice (also the director and co-writer) plays a videographer answering a Craigslist ad for Josef (Mark Duplass), who wants to make a movie for his supposed unborn child. I typically enjoy horror films that rely on performances to unnerve you, because they're incredibly difficult to pull off. And I've got to give it to Mark Duplass. He is, in fact, super creepy.
It Follows (2014)
It's been three years, so you might as well get your act together and finally check this one out. After Jay sleeps with her boyfriend, she comes down with a deadly curse only passed on through intercourse. If you're like me and thought, "Hey, I'll just read the Wikipedia summary," don't bother. The summary doesn't do justice to how unnerving the thing slowly "following" Jay constantly moves. It's deeply unsettling.
A terrific November addition to Netflix's horror bench, Oculus follows two siblings who believe an evil mirror murdered their parents a decade earlier. I first saw Oculus at a drive-in, and maybe it was just the spookiness of watching a film late at night in the middle of parking lot, but my expectations were met. Oculus has some solid jump scares and is one of the few "heart pumping" horror films on this list.
The Babadook (2014)
Conflicting opinions surround The Babadook. Some people hated it, while many critics believed it was a near masterpiece. The few naysayers were probably looking for more literal monsters, but I tend to prefer a psychologically horrific film. Maybe I just find it easier to relate to deep internalized phobias, but let's not read too much into that theory. Anyway, this Australian film about a single mother struggling to raise her nightmarish 6-year-old son delivers some knockout performances and was one of my favorite films of the last decade.
The Invitation (2015)
In The Invitation, Will (Logan Marshall Green) attends a dinner party at his ex-wife's house and begins to believe something about the party is amiss. Maybe it's just me, but I always find something sinister about a dinner party. Why does anyone need that much silverware? But I digress. The Invitation delivers on suspense, with a slow build that actually pays off.
The Wailing (2016)
Anyone skimming this list looking for a truly exceptional horror film should stop here and go put on The Wailing. This dark Korean film about mysterious murders in a small rural village may be on the long side, but it's an incredibly thoughtful tale about xenophobia. If you need a harder sell, I'll just mention the warring shaman and assume you'll now check it out immediately.
This is probably the most under-the-radar film of on this list, but it's absolutely worth your time. Co-writer Katie Siegel plays a deaf author living in isolation. One night a masked killer appears in her window and begins toying with her. At the very least it's worth checking out if you appreciate the competence of director Mike Flanagan's other horror films, which include Oculus and Gerald's Game.
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