If you want to find good scary movies to watch, the streaming service is a great platform for a meat-cleaving marathon. From ghosts to vampires, zombies, and monsters, just about every morbid fantasy your demented mind can conjure has representation in the scariest films available. Forget Googling all the choices in the horror menu — we’ve already watched the best horror movies on Netflix right now, and here they are ranked from beastly to blood-curling. Now, sit back, heat up some pizza, and ignore the ghoul standing ominously at the end of your driveway with the scariest movies available.
Clive Barker has one of the darkest minds in horror. (It’s not currently on Netflix, but you should go out of your way to see Midnight Meat Train, based on one of his Books of Blood short stories.) This follow-up to Hellraiser, his directorial debut, was originally a bit of a mess due to rampant studio edits. Netflix has Barker’s preferred cut, which first officially surfaced in 2014, and it’s drastically better than the theatrical version, thanks to a greater emphasis on the characters.
This Canadian horror film traps several employees of a radio station at work as their broadcast shifts from entertaining the residents of a small Ontario town to trying to save them — and themselves. As a virus begins to spread through language itself, forcing the townspeople to commit horrific acts, host Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) rushes to find a cure before everyone is consumed by it. Pontypool works as a clever low-budget film, a smart take on the zombie genre, and an allegory portraying the power of language and mass communication.
This Norwegian horror-comedy makes no effort to provide anything but an entertaining roller coaster ride set on a track of bones and blood. There’s plenty of gore for those who enjoy their scares spiced with entrails, but what makes this film enjoyable is its ability to stay self-aware while still delivering on the out-there premise of Nazi zombies.
What really needs to be said about this? Director William Friedkin and screenwriter William Peter Blatty crafted what is arguably the scariest movie ever made, because of the perfect creative combination of an agnostic and a devout Catholic. With a writer adapting his own fictional book from purported events and phenomenon that he believes in, and a director who feels compelled to push the premise to the point where he could abandon skepticism in lieu of true spiritual Evil, this is a film of malicious intent; it’s a documentarian’s 1970s aesthetic and a novelist’s patience marrying for the shared goal of shaking the apathy out of you. Yes, The Exorcist features spinning heads, projectile green soup, and the most horrific use of a crucifix prop in movie history. But it’s the insidious slow boil build toward these heinous set-pieces that creates a sense of authenticity and verisimilitude; you’re not watching a horror movie, you’re watching a little girl suffering, bleeding, dying, and the doctors cannot tell you or her mother why! …. Because the truth is too vile to admit. By the time the priests show up, it’s a godsend even to the audience’s loudest atheists. That, plus a top-notch cast, is the secret to this film’s enduring terror.
When Animals Dream
Overlooked upon its release, Danish filmmaker Jonas Alexander Arnby’s entry in the teenage-girls-coming-of-age-via-werewolf-transformation subgenre (see Ginger Snaps) contrasts the folkloric atmosphere of a seaside town with the frustrating reality of an outcast girl in a small population. Often lovely and lyrical, this symbolically loaded horror movie treats its lead’s lycanthropic condition not as beast within, but an empowering development and a message to ostracized teen girls everywhere: “You do you.”
Speaking of Del Toro: The filmmaker called this divisive, overlooked gem by documentary filmmaker Carol Morley (Dreams of a Life) one of the top three most complex genre films of late, and the man’s not wrong. Set in 1969 at an English girls’ school experiencing a mysterious epidemic of fainting sickness, The Falling is a haunting psychological thriller about burgeoning female sexuality, taboo, repression and mass hysteria. Imagine The Crucible meets The Virgin Suicides by way of Picnic at Hanging Rock, and you’re almost there; patience and repeat viewings may be required to fully appreciate its enigmatic charms, but the pay-off is huge.
Can an incredibly scary slasher flick also serve as a post-modern treatise on the very nature of the film image? David Robert Mitchell’s indie-frightfest phenomenon is predicated on the fact that a zombie-like state can be passed on by sexual contact from one person to the next, like a chain letter or a haunted J-horror videotape. (You may insert your think piece on social-issues symbolism here.) And the killer can often be anybody lurking somewhere in the background; once possessed, they start walking towards you, often in a straight line from the depths of the frame. It’s like the very medium is revolting against us: Wes Craven meets Luigi Pirandello. But perhaps what makes Mitchell’s film so effective isn’t just its novel scares but its surprisingly well-drawn characters. For once, we actually don’t want to see anybody die on screen, and by tempering our own bloodlust, the film ups the ante on our terror. This is a movie we’ll be talking about for years to come.
Reaching back into the classic horror archives once more brings out “Phantasm”, a 1979 horror movie featuring a mysterious figure known intriguingly as the Tall Man. This sinister figure steals bodies from funeral homes for his own creepy purposes which are slowly revealed as the movie unfolds. Nobody seems to know who the Tall Man is, where he comes from or how to defeat him as he appears to be impossible to kill. This mysterious movie will suck you in and keep you hooked right until the very end. It is a wonderful example of independent filmmaking that managed to raise its entire budget from local sources. Most of the actors that appear in the movie are amateurs or inexperienced performers. This makes the film all the more impressive as it certainly holds its own against Hollywood productions from the same era. Writer and director Don Coscarelli funded most of the movie through donations from friends, family and local businesses and enlisted the help of friends to do most of the production work. The film opened to mixed reviews but went on to earn a Saturn Award and a Special Jury Award at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival. Yes, it is creepy, but it is also captivating. Give it a try!