Netflix Streaming can be overwhelming — so many options, yet so hard to actually find — and we here at Vulture have tried to make it easier for you with our weekly and monthly streaming video roundups. Now that Halloween is nigh, it seemed appropriate to weed through every single horror movie currently available to stream on Netflix and point out the good ones, the bad ones, the disturbing ones, and the just plain silly ones.
Everyone’s going to have differing opinions on what movies are great, but I think we can all agree that the ones below are more likely to fall in the plus column than the minus.
Scream and Scream 2: For many people under 30, these jokey yet scary Wes Craven deconstructions of the slasher film genre were the first real horror movies that they were allowed to see. The films still hold up, and the first movie’s use of the song “Red Right Hand” introduced me to Nick Cave, a worthy reason to love Scream on its own.
Carrie: Did you see the new film version of Carrie? Did you like it? Did you hate it? It doesn’t really matter, not with Brian De Palma’s 1976 original so easily accessible this Halloween. The movie manages to be both garish and sympathetic, balancing Sissy Spacek’s amazing performance with De Palma’s film geek split-screens and over-the-top use of color and music.
The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn: The first is an energetic and genuinely frightening low-budget gem. The second is sort of a sequel, sort of a remake, but bloodier and pitched as a semi-slapstick comedy. Together, they comprise the first parts of what should unofficially be known as the “Bruce Campbell Is a God” trilogy.
Cabin in the Woods: You can look at this one as a combination of Scream and the Evil Dead movies. Produced and co-written by Joss Whedon, the clever movie has the same basic plot as the latter (young people head to the forest) but with the joyful meta-ness of the former. I can’t really write about Cabin in the Woods without blowing it for you, but be assured, if you love horror movies and aren’t too self-serious about that love, this will be a delightful experience.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil: Not unlike Cabin in the Woods, a movie that completely flips the script, imagining those creepy redneck guys that always pop up in forest-adjacent horror movies as the nice ones, with the typically fragile college students as the aggressors. Witty and bloody.
Rosemary’s Baby: Along with The Exorcist, which came along five years later in 1973, this Roman Polanski film helped kick off the horror boom of the 1970s. It’s still all sorts of messed up. There’s a scene in which the lead character is raped by Satan, for Christ's sake. “This is no dream, this is really happening!”
Event Horizon: Not well received upon its release, I still have a soft place in my heart for this 1997 space-horror movie. Maybe it’s because it stars Sam Neill, who was still riding high in my eyes after Jurassic Park and In the Mouth of Madness. Or maybe it’s because it’s about a haunted spaceship that doubles as the portal to hell! There’s some great nasty, nearly subliminal imagery in this one.
Session 9: The first thing I mention whenever I bring this 2001 movie up is that it has a moment when David Caruso says “fuck you” as perfectly as anyone has ever said “fuck you” in a movie. The second thing is that the movie, about a potentially haunted abandoned insane asylum, is creepy as fuck. Choose whichever fucking reason you want.
The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers: Director Ti West’s movies might not be for the average horror fan. These two in particular are exercises in tension-building, experiments in how long you can “bore” your audience before pulling the trigger. I’d argue that it works better in House of the Devil than in The Innkeepers, but both featured a classical type of horror directing that is rare these days.
Paranormal Activity 3: Blame Netflix’s scattershot movie rights system, but only the third and fourth parts of this found-footage series are available to stream. This entry is the series prequel, directed by the two guys who had previously done Catfish, which fills in the backstory for the two women who can’t seem to shake those pesky demons. Using many of the same found-footage fright techniques from the previous two, this is the film that put a video camera on top of an oscillating fan base, to memorable results.
Let the Right One In: An innocent love story that just happens to be about a young boy and his equally young (if ageless) vampire friend, this 2008 Sweden-set bloodsucker tale, remade for U.S. audiences in 2010 as Let Me In, is a masterpiece that floats between cold Scandinavian storytelling and steaming hot-blooded genre violence.
Hellboy and Ghostbusters: Not normally (ever?) linked together, I’ll do so for the purposes of this Halloween column. Here are two horror comedies, one a superhero tale about a wisecracking demon fighting Nazis and supernatural monsters, the other a beloved Eighties comedy about a wisecracking Bill Murray fighting Walter Peck and supernatural monsters. Horror is a house with many rooms (horror/sci-fi, for example, though The Thing is sadly no longer available on Netflix Streaming) and funny movies take up one significant wing.
The Frighteners: Peter Jackon’s first real Hollywood movie, and the one he directed before setting off on his now decade-plus-long Lord of the Rings binge, 1996's The Frighteners is another horror comedy. This one, however, stars Michael J. Fox as a man who develops the ability to communicate with ghosts. Fox’s presence is no small thing, especially since it was his last major movie role. The special effects, impressive at the time, still charm.
The Host: No, not the movie based on the Stephenie Meyer book; that was no good. This is the 2006 South Korean sea monster movie directed by Joon-ho Bong, and it’s very entertaining. Also, it remains one of the highest-grossing South Korean movies ever.
Slither: Marvel gave director James Gunn its weirdest movie property — the upcoming adaptation of Guardians of the Galaxy, a comic book franchise that most people can’t yet get their heads around. (A talking raccoon? A tree creature?) They likely had noticed his sick sense of humor in 2010’s Super, which starred Rainn Wilson as a psychotic wannabe hero, but also might have taken note of the way he balanced comedy, horror, and science-fiction in his directorial review, 2006’s Slither. Starring Elizabeth Banks and Nathan Fillion, it’s about a town that gets invaded by nasty parasitic aliens. Just really nasty-looking things.
Re-Animator: There haven’t been that many great (or that many at all) H.P. Lovecraft adaptations on the big screen. Perhaps it has to do with the author’s creatures being so amazing-looking that they usually drive people who gaze upon them insane — a high barrier for any movie. But this one adapts one of Lovecraft’s less cosmically grand stories into a wacky and bloody tale about a medical student who just loves to bring dead things back to life.
Pet Semetary: But you really shouldn’t reanimate people, or pets, or anything dead. As Herman Munster himself says in this 1989 Stephen King adaptation, “Sometimes dead is better.” Nowhere near the best King adaptation, Pet Semetary nonetheless rises near the top half of the crop by sheer virtue of the fact that it’s not utterly atrocious.
V/H/S: The anthology film has long been a staple of the horror genre, but this movie had the genius stroke of tagging on to the latest stylistic boom and making all of its shorts found-footage stories. Each segment has a different director and therefore has a completely different style and feel and conceit — making V/H/S completely schizophrenic and all the better for it. Some critics called it out for its lack of cohesion, which seems to run counter to the purpose of an anthology film.
Some other good movies to check out:
Hellraiser (Clive Barker, puzzle box, pinhead); Land of the Dead (George Romero’s first zombie movie since Day of the Dead, starring John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper); The Bay (found-footage movie about a deadly parasite, directed by Barry Levinson!); Troll Hunter (another found-footage movie, this one a Norwegian mockumentary about the title creature); Night Watch and Day Watch (directed by Wanted’s Timur Bekmambetov, these are the first two entries in an insane supernatural saga — at the time of its release, Night Watch was the highest grossing Russian film ever released in that nation.)
THE CLASSIC CLASSICS
We know they’re all in black and white and a little slow going, but the Universal monster movies — Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man, and The Bride of Frankenstein (though not Frankenstein), are well worth watching. Same goes for the few silent horror films on Netflix Streaming, though I’m not going to try to convince you here that silent films are great (they are) — that’s for a whole other essay. Still, if you are in the silent mood, there’s the original big bad vampire, Nosferatu (as well as director F.W. Murnau’s Faust), the German expressionist dream film The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, and Lon Chaney’s spooky and sad The Phantom of the Opera. Finally, there’s the fun and cheesy 1959 Vincent Price flick House on Haunted Hill.
Favorite horror movie?