The 40 Best Horror Movies on Netflix Right Now (Feb. 2024)

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The 40 Best Horror Movies on Netflix Right Now (Feb. 2024)

Assessing the quality of offerings available from Netflix in 2023, it quickly becomes clear that their horror library is a real mixed bag. As competing services, and especially genre-specific ones such as Shudder, continue to expand their horror movie collections, it’s harder and harder for Netflix to project any sense of comprehensiveness, and its library becomes more static and reliant upon Netflix Originals on a monthly basis. At various points in the last few years, for instance, Netflix could boast movies like The Shining, Scream, Jaws, The Silence of the Lambs or Young Frankenstein, along with recent indie greats like The Witch or The Descent. All of those films are now gone—usually replaced by low-budget, direct-to-VOD films with suspiciously similar one-word titles, like Demonic, Desolate and Incarnate.

Still, there are quality films to be found here, typically of the modern variety, from comedies like The Babysitter, to more obscure (and disturbing) titles such as The Wailing, It Follows, Apostle or newer films like His House and the Fear Street trilogy. Don’t expect to find many franchise staples in the mold of Halloween or Friday the 13th, but don’t sleep on The Haunting of Hill House, Cabinet of Curiosities or Fall of the House of Usher, either. They’re not technically movies, but they’re impossible to leave off this list. If there’s one horror area where Netflix has excelled, it’s in limited series.

We invite you to use this list as a guide. The lowest-ranked films are of the “fun-bad” variety—flawed, but easily enjoyable for one reason or another. The highest-ranked films are obviously essentials.

You may also want to consult the following horror-centric lists:

The 100 best horror films of all time.
The 100 best vampire movies of all time.
The 50 best zombie movies of all time.
The 50 best movies about serial killers.
The 50 best slasher movies of all time
The 50 best ghost movies of all time.
The best horror movies streaming on Amazon Prime.
The best horror movies streaming on Hulu.
The best horror movies streaming on Shudder.


1. The Wailing

Year: 2016
Director: Na Hong-jin
Stars: Kwak Do-won, Hwang Jung-min, Chun Woo-hee
Rating: NR

Watch on Netflix

The U.S. title of Na Hong-jin’s film, The Wailing, suggests tone more than it does sound. There is wailing to be heard here, yes, and plenty of it, but in two words Na coyly predicts his audience’s reaction to the movie’s grim tableaus of a county in spiritual strife. Na trades in doubt and especially despair more than in what we think of as “horror.” He isn’t out to terrify us. He’s out to corrode our souls, much in the same way that his protagonist’s faith is corroded after being subject to both divine and infernal tests over the course of the film. The Wailing unfolds in Gokseong County, an agricultural community nestled among South Korea’s southern provinces. It’s a lovely, bucolic setting that Na and his cinematographer, the incredible Hong Kyung-pyo, take fullest advantage of aesthetically and thematically. The hushed serenity blanketing The Wailing’s opening images creates an atmosphere of peace that Na is all too happy to subvert (similar to how he subverts Bible verses). The film’s first full sequence shatters the calm as Sergeant Jeon Jong-gu (Kwak Do-won, turning in a knockout performance) is called to the scene of a savage multiple murder. When Jong-gu shows up, all is bedlam; people are screaming and crying, emergency workers litter the area like ants at a gory picnic, and the killer sits in a stupor, unaware of neither the mayhem nor the vicious boils coating their skin. This is an incredibly creepy and oft-unsettling film, but Na finds the tug of disbelief far more upsetting than the sight of bodies cut apart and blood splattering the wall. What do you do when your holy authority figures fail you? What do you do when you can’t trust your perception? Na has made these ideas, though hardly new in the horror canon, his film’s full purpose, and his conclusions are devastatingly bleak. When The Wailing arrives at its final, spectacular half hour, you’ll vow never to ask these questions about your own life, ever. You may not leave the theater scared, but you will leave it scarred, which is by far a more substantive response than naked fear. —Andy Crump


2. It Follows

Year: 2015
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Stars: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary
Rating: R

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The specter of Old Detroit haunts It Follows. In a dilapidating ice cream stand on 12 Mile, in the ’60s-style ranch homes of Ferndale or Berkley, in a game of Parcheesi played by pale teenagers with nasally, nothing accents—if you’ve never been, you’d never recognize the stale, gray nostalgia creeping into every corner of David Robert Mitchell’s terrifying film, but it’s there, and it feels like Metro Detroit. It Follows is a film that thrives in the borders, not so much about the horror that leaps out in front of you, but the deeper anxiety that waits at the verge of consciousness—until, one day soon, it’s there, reminding you that your time is limited, and that you will never be safe. Forget the risks of teenage sex, It Follows is a penetrating metaphor for growing up. —Dom Sinacola


3. The Babadook

Year: 2014
Director: Jennifer Kent
Stars: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman
Rating: NR

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Classifying Jennifer Kent’s feature debut, The Babadook, is tricky. Ostensibly this is a horror film—freaky stuff happens on an escalating scale, so qualifying Kent’s tale of a single mother’s fractious relationship with her young son with genre tags seems like a perfectly logical move. But The Babadook is so layered, so complex and just so goddamned dramatic that categorizing it outright feels reductive to the point of insult. There’s a grand divide between what Kent has done here and what most of us consider horror. You’ll spend your first week after the experience sleeping with the lights on. You will also come away enriched and provoked. Australian actress-turned-filmmaker Kent has made a movie about childhood, about adulthood and about the nagging fears that hound us from one period to the next. There’s a monster in the closet—and under the bed, and in the armoire, and in the basement—but the film’s human concerns are emotional in nature. They’re not aided by the ephemeral evil lurking in the dark places of its characters’ hearts, of course; going through personal trauma is enough of a chore when you’re not being stalked by the bogeyman. —Andy Crump


4. Train to Busan

Year: 2016
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Stars: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Su-an, Kim Eui-sung, Choi Woo-shik, Ahn So-hee
Rating: N/A

Watch on Netflix

Love them or hate them, zombies are still a constant of the horror genre, dependable enough to set your conductor’s watch by. And although I’ve probably seen enough indie zombie films at this point to eschew them from my viewing habits for the rest of my life, there is still usually at least one great zombie movie every other year. In 2016, that was Train to Busan, a film that has since been added to our list of the 50 Best Zombie Movies of All Time. There’s no need for speculation: Train to Busan would undoubtedly have made the list. This South Korean story of a career-minded father attempting to protect his young daughter on a train full of rampaging zombies is equal parts suspenseful popcorn entertainment and genuinely affecting family drama. It concludes with several action elements that I’ve never seen before, or even considered for a zombie film, and any time you can add something truly novel to the genre of the walking dead, then you’re definitely doing something right. With a few memorable, empathetic supporting characters and some top-notch makeup FX, you’ve got one of the best zombie movies of the past decade. —Jim Vorel


5. His House

his-house-2020-poster.jpgYear: 2020
Director: Remi Weekes
Stars: Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu, Matt Smith
Rating: NR

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Nothing sucks the energy out of horror than movies that withhold on horror. Movies can scare audiences in a variety of ways, of course, but the very least a horror movie can be is scary instead of screwing around. Remi Weekes’ His House doesn’t screw around. The film begins with a tragedy, and within 10 minutes of that opening handily out-grudges The Grudge by leaving ghosts strewn on the floor and across the stairs where his protagonists can trip over them. Ultimately, this is a movie about the inescapable innate grief of immigrant stories, a companion piece to contemporary independent cinema like Jonas Carpignano’s Mediterranea, which captures the dangers facing immigrants on the road and at their destinations with brutal neorealist clarity. Weekes is deeply invested in Bol and Rial as people, in where they come from, what led them to leave, and most of all what they did to leave. But Weeks is equally invested in making his viewers leap out of their skins. —Andy Crump


6. The Haunting of Hill House

haunting of hill house poster (Custom).jpgYear: 2018
Director: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Henry Thomas, Michiel Huisman, Carla Gugino, Elizabeth Reaser, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel, Victoria Pedretti

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The aesthetic of The Haunting of Hill House makes it work not only as horror TV, but also as a deft adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s classic novel. The monsters, ghosts, and things that go bump on the wall are off-screen, barely shown, or obscured by shadow. The series even goes back to some of the first film adaptation’s decisions, in terms of camera movement and shot design, in order to develop uneasiness and inconsistency. Well, maybe “inconsistency” is the wrong word. The only thing that feels truly inconsistent while watching it is your mind: You’re constantly wary of being tricked, but the construction of its scenes often gets you anyway. By embracing the squirm—and the time necessary to get us to squirm rather than jump—The Haunting of Hill House is great at creating troubling scenarios, and even better about letting us marinate in them. —Jacob Oller


7. The Fall of the House of Usher

Year: 2023
Director: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Bruce Greenwood, Mary McDonnell, Carla Gugino, Kate Siegel, Henry Thomas, Zach Gilford, Carl Lumbly, Mark Hamill

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No one else in this space is doing what Mike Flanagan does, mining our deepest emotional fears and unspoken desires for the sort of real-life nightmare fuel that’s much, much scarier than any monster under the bed. Through stories that wrestle with everything from questions of faith and belief to falling in love and what it means to truly die, Flanagan’s deeply human horror universe is truly something beautiful to behold.

Though The Fall of the House of Usher is primarily grounded in Edgar Allan Poe’s titular short story of the Usher siblings, Flanagan deftly mixes in elements from many of the author’s other famous works, including “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Raven,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Black Cat,” and more. Episodes are freely littered with Poe references large and small, from character names to full-on poetry recitations, and the series’ larger story reflects the author’s lifelong fascination with themes of guilt, death, paranoia, obsession, and delusion. One part horror-tinged Succession knockoff and one part modern day morality play, The Fall of the House of Usher is both a darkly comedic excoriation of the uber-rich and a slow-moving emotional car crash that explores the dysfunction at the heart of a family that’s losing its members one by one. —Lacy Baugher Milas


8. Midnight Mass

midnight-mass-poster.jpgYear: 2021
Director: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Zach Gilford, Kate Siegel, Kristin Lehman, Samantha Sloyan, Henry Thomas, Hamish Linklater

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On Midnight Mass’ Crockett Island, every islander feels rife with misfortune. The recent oil spill nearly annihilated the fish supply, tanking the island’s local fishing economy. Their homes splinter and peel in neglect to the ocean’s elements. The majority of residents have fled the island for lack of opportunity, leaving a paltry few behind. Only two ferries can take them to the mainland. Hope runs in short supply—and a major storm brews on the horizon.

Everything beyond that for this seven-episode series is a true spoiler, but what can be said is that even with its dabblings in the supernatural, Midnight Mass (created by The Haunting’s Mike Flanagan, in his most recent collaboration with Netflix), is a show that burrows inwards instead of outwards. With both the physical claustrophobia of Crockett’s setting and the internal suffering of characters placed in center stage, Midnight Mass concerns itself with horrors within: addictive tendencies, secret histories, and questions of forgiveness and belief. At one glance, it’s a series that’s mined Catholic guilt for gold. In another, it’s a measured, yet spooky take on group psychology, the need for faith in sorrow, and the ethics of leadership with such vulnerable followers, weighing whether these impulses represent human goodness, evil, or simply nothing at all.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Midnight Mass offers a chance for anyone to be doubting Thomas or true believer. What difference is a miracle from a supernatural event, anyway? —Katherine Smith


9. Creep

creep poster (Custom).jpgYear: 2014
Director: Patrick Brice
Stars: Mark Duplass, Patrick Brice
Rating: R

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Creep is a somewhat predictable but cheerfully demented little indie horror film, the directorial debut by Brice, who also released this year’s The Overnight. Starring the ever-prolific Mark Duplass, it’s a character study of two men—naive videographer and not-so-secretly psychotic recluse, the latter of which hires the former to come document his life out in a cabin in the woods. It leans entirely on its performances, which are excellent. Duplass, who can be charming and kooky in something like Safety Not Guaranteed, shines here as the deranged lunatic who forces himself into the protagonist’s life and haunts his every waking moment. The early moments of back-and-forth between the pair crackle with a sort of awkward intensity. Anyone genre-savvy will no doubt see where it’s going, but it’s a well-crafted ride that succeeds on the strength of chemistry between its two principal leads in a way that reminds me of the scenes between Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina. —Jim Vorel


10. X

Year: 2022
Director: Ti West
Stars: Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Brittany Snow, Owen Campbell, Kid Cudi, Stephen Ure, Martin Henderson
Rating: R

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X is a remarkable and unexpected return to form for director Ti West, a decade removed from an earlier life as an “up and coming,” would-be horror auteur who has primarily worked as a mercenary TV director for the last 10 years. To return in such a splashy, way, via an A24 reenvisioning of the classic slasher film, intended as the first film of a new trilogy or even more, is about the most impressive resurrection we’ve seen in the horror genre in recent memory. X is a scintillating combination of the comfortably familiar and the grossly exotic, instantly recognizable in structure but deeper in theme, richness and satisfaction than almost all of its peers. How many attempts at throwback slasher stylings have we seen in the last five years? The answer would be “countless,” but few scratch the surface of the tension, suspense or even pathos that X crams into any one of a dozen or more scenes. It’s a film that unexpectedly makes us yearn alongside its characters, exposes us (graphically) to their vulnerabilities, and even establishes deeply sympathetic “villains,” for reasons that steadily become clear as we realize this is just the first chapter of a broader story of horror films offering a wry commentary on how society is shaped by cinema. Featuring engrossing cinematography, excellent sound design and characters deeper than the broad archetypes they initially register as to an inured horror audience, X offers a modern meditation on the bloody savagery of Mario Bava or Lucio Fulci, making old hits feel fresh, timely and gross once again. In 2022, this film is quite a gift to the concept of slasher cinema. —Jim Vorel


11. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

im-thinking-of-ending.jpgYear: 2020
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Stars: Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, David Thewlis
Rating: R

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Many viewers will think of ending I’m Thinking of Ending Things not long after it’s started. A cross-dissolve cascade of crude shots details the interior of a farmhouse or an apartment, or the interior of an interior. A woman we have not yet seen is practically mid-narration, telling us something for which we have no context. It feels wrong, off-putting. Something is not right. This is not how movies are supposed to work. Finally we see the woman, played brilliantly by Jessie Buckley. She is standing on the street as puffy snowflakes start to fall, like we’re within a 3-D snow globe with her. She looks up at a window a couple stories up. We see an old man looking down out of a window. We see Jesse Plemons looking down out of a window. We see Jesse Plemmons in the next shot picking up Jessie Buckley in his worn car. The movie music twinkles and swirls. Jessie Buckley’s Lucy or Lucia or Amy is thinking of ending things with Jesse’s Jake. Things aren’t going to go anywhere good, seems to be the reasoning. Jake drives the car and sometimes talks; his behaviors seem fairly consistent until they’re not, until some gesture boils up like a foreign object from another self. Louisa or Lucy is forthcoming, a fountain of personality and knowledge and interests. But sometimes she slows to a trickle, or is quiet, and suddenly she is someone else who is the same person but perhaps with different memories, different interests. Sometimes she is a painter, sometimes a physicist, sometimes neither. Jessie and Jesse are great. Their performances and their characters are hard to describe. The best movie of 2020 is terrible at being a “movie.” It does not subscribe to common patterns, rhythms, or tropes. It doesn’t even try to be a great movie, really, it simply tries to dissect the life of the mind of the other, and to do that by any cinematic means possible. The self-awareness of the film could have been unbearable, except awareness (and our fragmentary experience of it) is so entirely the point of everything that the film is wrapped up within and that is wrapped up within it. To say the film accepts both the beauty and ugliness of life would be a platitude that the film itself rejects. To say that “love conquers all,” even moreso. But these false truths flit in and about the film’s peripheral vision: illusions or ghosts, but welcome ones. —Chad Betz


12. Crimson Peak

crimson-peak-movie-poster.jpgYear: 2015
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska
Rating: R

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Crimson Peak follows the traditions of gothic romance by design: “I made this movie to present and reverse some of the normal tropes, while following them, of the gothic romance,” del Toro says on the Arrow Blu-ray’s audio commentary track, a note made during the introduction between his protagonist, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), and her first of two love interests, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a baronet come to the U.S. to win over her father, the magnate Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), and obtain financial backing for his very own clay-mining contraption. The exchange between Thomas and Edith in this scene is crucial to what the film’s trying to accomplish: “I’m sorry,” he says to her, the manuscript on her desk having caught his eye. “I don’t mean to pry, but this is a piece of fiction, is it not?”

It is. It’s her fiction, in fact, a piece she’s written for publication in the pages of The Atlantic Monthly. With a glance, the story has ensnared him. “Ghosts,” he remarks, an inscrutable smile on his lips. Edith goes on defense, stammering, “Well, the ghosts are just a metaphor, really,” but Thomas isn’t finished: “They’ve always fascinated me. You see, where I come from, ghosts are not to be taken lightly.” Thomas means this as flattery and not admonition, and flattered is how Edith reacts, excitement spreading across her face at encountering a kindred spirit to accompany the actual spirits she’s yet to meet. Thomas gets it. When she speaks with him, Edith doesn’t need to compromise her fondness for ghost stories, as she must with her peers. She can openly appreciate them on their own terms. And so can Crimson Peak. Del Toro adores the production components of the gothic romance; he’s enamored with the pomp, the circumstance, the costumes. They give him a veil of propriety, because Crimson Peak doesn’t pull its punches. The audience finds out what kind of film it is from the opening shot of Edith’s face, decorated by open wounds, and from the follow-up sequence, in which young Edith (Sofia Wells) is visited in dead of night by her late mother’s blackened osseous specter. Crimson Peak doesn’t care about catering to taste or achieving universality. It cares about freaking its viewers the hell out. After all, if “horror” as a genre acts as a massive umbrella sheltering all manner of aesthetics and approaches, the exercise should always be about sending an audience away with a powerful need to sleep with the lights on. —Andy Crump


13. Cabinet of Curiosities

cabinet-of-curiosities-poster.jpgYear: 2022
Directors: Guillermo Navarro, David Prior, Jennifer Kent, others
Stars: Tim Blake Nelson, Andrew Lincoln, Essie Davis, F. Murray Abraham, others
Rating: NR

Watch on Netflix

In first approaching Netflix’s new Cabinet of Curiosities, it’s natural to wonder how much of a Guillermo del Toro project this really is. The horror anthology series is volunteered by the streaming service as “a collection of the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s personally curated stories, described as both equally sophisticated and horrific,” and del Toro steps into the host role himself, pulling forth trinkets from the titular cabinet to introduce each tale. But can the actual segments stand up to their association with a beloved director? Are the two episodes that GDT had a hand in writing enough to put his stamp on the series? And can the artistry of those other episodes reflect a similar level of virtuosity?

To get right to the point: I needn’t have worried. Cabinet of Curiosities is a genuinely gorgeous collection of tales, featuring some of the most impressive visuals, production design and general cinematic craftsmanship that has been seen in the streaming world in recent memory. Its tales are often on the somewhat conventional side, but they succeed through sheer filmmaking talent and professionalism, guided by the hands of some of the genre’s very best talents. This is the rare case where an anthology series can tell me that the luminary of a host/producer personally approved of the output of all of these filmmakers, and I truly believe it. Watching these episodes, I can imagine del Toro smiling in approval. —Jim Vorel


14. Creep 2

creep-2-movie-poster.jpgYear: 2017
Director: Patrick Brice
Stars: Mark Duplass, Desiree Akhavan, Karan Soni
Rating: N/A

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Creep was not a movie begging for a sequel. About one of cinema’s more unique serial killers—a man who seemingly needs to form close personal bonds with his quarry before dispatching them as testaments to his “art”—the 2014 original was self-sufficient enough. But Creep 2 is that rare follow-up wherein the goal seems to be not “let’s do it again,” but “let’s go deeper”—and by deeper, we mean much deeper, as this film plumbs the psyche of the central psychopath (who now goes by) Aaron (Mark Duplass) in ways both wholly unexpected and shockingly sincere, as we witness (and somehow sympathize with) a killer who has lost his passion for murder, and thus his zest for life. In truth, the film almost forgoes the idea of being a “horror movie,” remaining one only because we know of the atrocities Aaron has committed in the past, meanwhile becoming much more of an interpersonal drama about two people exploring the boundaries of trust and vulnerability. Desiree Akhavan is stunning as Sara, the film’s only other principal lead, creating a character who is able to connect in a humanistic way with Aaron unlike anything a fan of the first film might think possible. Two performers bare it all, both literally and figuratively: Creep 2 is one of the most surprising, emotionally resonant horror films in recent memory. —Jim Vorel


15. Fear Street Part 1: 1994

fear-street-1994-poster.jpgYear: 2021
Director: Leigh Janiak
Stars: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger, Maya Hawke
Rating: R

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The first film in Netflix’s trilogy of R.L. Stine Fear Street adaptations quickly announces itself as a far more vicious and bloody beast than any of the family friendly Goosebumps installments of recent years, successfully carving out its own place in the modern meta-slasher canon while hinting at an exciting conclusion to come. 1994 garbs itself in slasher history, being particularly referential of Scream while also including numerous allusions to much more obscure ‘80s slashers such as Intruder, but it simultaneously (and cleverly) distracts the audience from some of its deeper mysteries, to be explored more fully in Fear Street: 1978 and Fear Street: 1666. What we’re left with is a film that lays its mythology out nicely, buoyed both by engaging supporting characters and cinematic violence that is significantly more grisly than audiences are likely to expect. Suffice to say, the kills of Fear Street aren’t messing around, and once that bread slicer makes an appearance, your jaw is likely to drop. Sequels 1978 and 1666, meanwhile, keep up just enough momentum to complete the ambitious trilogy. —Jim Vorel


16. Gerald’s Game

geralds game list poster (Custom).jpgYear: 2017
Director: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood
Rating: N/A

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Director Mike Flanagan’s Gerald’s Game trims fat, condenses and slims, stripping away some of the odder quirks of Stephen King’s novel to get at the heart of themes underneath. The result is a tense, effective thriller that goes out of its way to highlight two strong actors (Bruce Greenwood and Carla Gugino) in an unfettered celebration of their craft. This is nothing new for Flanagan, whose recent output in the horror genre has been commendable. It’s hard to overlook some of the recurring themes in his work, beginning with 2011’s Absentia and all the way through the wildly imaginative Oculus, Hush and Ouija: Origin of Evil. Every one of these films centers around a strong-willed female lead, as does Gerald’s Game. Is this coincidence? Or is the director drawn to stories that reflect the struggle of women to claim independence in their lives by shedding old scars or ghosts, be they literal or figurative? Either way, it made Flanagan an obvious fit for Gerald’s Game, an unassuming, overachieving little thriller that is blessed by two performers capable of handling the lion’s share of the dramatic challenges it presents. —Jim Vorel


17. Oats Studio – Vol. 1

blomkamp-rakka-poster.jpgYear: 2017
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Carly Pope, Dakota Fanning, Steve Boyle
Rating: NR

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Originally released on YouTube throughout 2017, this is a collection of experimental (but well budgeted) sci-fi and horror short films from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, all of which seem like seeds for potential feature film projects. Oats Studio was a project conceived by Blomkamp to do practical VFX testing while also fleshing out some of his crazier ideas, and each one of the major projects within it is very impressive in its own way. Sci-fi feature Rakka imagines an Earth overrun by telepathic reptilian aliens, as human survivors carry on a desperate and seemingly futile resistance, while Firebase pits a soldier against a reality warping “River God” in a southeast Asian military conflict. The true star of the show, though, is perhaps the pure horror of Zygote, in which Dakota Fanning plays a researcher on the run from a truly hideous creature that has taken over her facility, with heavy vibes of The Thing and last year’s PC game Carrion. The creature of Zygote, with its dozens of borrowed human limbs, is perhaps one of the most demented monsters we’ve seen in the horror world in recent memory, which means this short film really deserves to be seen by a bigger audience. —Jim Vorel


18. Apostle

apostle-movie-poster.jpgYear: 2018
Director: Gareth Evans
Stars: Dan Stevens, Lucy Boynton, Mark Lewis Jones, Bill Milner, Michael Sheen
Rating: NR

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After the first two entries of The Raid made him a monolithic figure among action movie junkies, Apostle functions as the wider world’s introduction to the visceral filmmaking stylings of Welsh director Gareth Evans. Where his first films almost had the aesthetic of a videogame come to life—they’re about as close to a big screen adaptation of Streets of Rage as you’re ever going to find—Apostle might as well represent Evans’ desire to be taken seriously as a visual director and auteur. To do so, he’s explored some well-trodden ground in the form of the rural “cult infiltration movie,” making comparisons to the likes of The Wicker Man (or even Ti West’s The Sacrament) inevitable. However, Apostle forces its way into the year-end conversation of 2018’s best horror cinema through sheer style and verve. Every frame is beautifully composed, from the foreboding arrival of Dan Stevens’ smoldering character at the island cult compound, to the fantastically icky Grand Guignol of the third act, in which viscera flows with hedonistic abandon. Evans knows exactly how long to needle the audience with a slow-burning mystery before letting the blood dams burst; his conclusion both embraces supernatural craziness and uncomfortably realistic human violence. Gone is the precision of combat of The Raid, replaced by a clumsier brand of wanton savagery that is empowered not by honor but by desperate faith. Evans correctly concludes that this form of violence is far more frightening. —Jim Vorel


19. The Platform

the-platform-2019-poster.jpgYear: 2019
Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Stars: Iván Massagué, Zorion Eguileor, Antonia San Juan, Emilio Buale Coka, Alexandra Masangkay
Rating: NR

Watch on Netflix

The Platform benefits immensely from the strength of its simple, high-concept premise and all the superfluous information that is withheld from the viewer. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know why exactly people are placed into this diabolical, vertical prison structure, in which the only sustenance arrives once a day in the form of a steadily descending, increasingly gross stone slab piled high with perishables. Nor do we really need to know how this apparent social experiment operates, although the repeated glimpses we get at cooks slaving over perfect dishes to be sent down to the doomed convicts is no doubt designed to needle at our curiosity. What matters is that we observe the differences in human reaction to this plight—the ways that different personalities react to adversity with an “us or them” mentality, or a predatory hunger, or a spontaneous drive toward self-sacrificing altruism. The fact that the position of the prisoners is constantly in flux is key—it gives them both a tangible reason to be the change they want to see in their world, and an almost impossible temptation to do the exact opposite out of distrust of their neighbors. One expects a nihilistic streak here, and you won’t be disappointed—but there’s a few glimmers of hope shining through the cracks as well. Just enough, perhaps, to twist the knife that much deeper. —Jim Vorel


20. 30 Days of Night

Year: 2007
Director: David Slade
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Mark Boone Junior
Rating: R

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With sparkly, emo vampires being all the rage amongst tweens and slash/fic enthusiasts at the time, the big screen adaptation of Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s comic book miniseries, 30 Days of Night, could easily be seen as something of a balm for true horror fans. There are no tragic or misunderstood monsters as far as the guyliner’d eye can see; the vampires here—led by Danny Huston’s vicious Marlow—are savage, pitiless, bloodsucking ghouls. Despite the unfortunate blank space in the center of the film where town sheriff Josh Harnett’s command of the screen should be, the movie faithfully captures the source material’s terror of a small Alaskan town falling prey to ravenous creatures, and dawn is an entire, excruciating month away. Rarely does a horror setting seem quite so hopeless as it does here. —Scott Wold


21. The Strangers

Year: 2008
Director: Bryan Bertino
Stars: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman
Rating: R

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When it arrived in 2008, some horror fans were perhaps a bit too eager to anoint The Strangers as an instant classic of the genre. A decade and one belated, uninspired sequel later, it’s easier to see the film for what it is: A well-crafted home invasion thriller that stands out for its less-is-more approach to building tension. Our characters, such as they are, are stand-ins for anyone in polite society–a man and a woman, in a failing relationship. They’re hardly unique, and that’s the point. Likewise, as opposed to the likes of Funny Games–to which The Strangers is often compared–we really don’t get a sense of the psyche of our antagonists. This is ultimately the scariest thing about them; their faceless blankness and simple, “because you were home” motivation. These people don’t proselytize to their victims; they just kill them because it’s fun. The film ultimately can’t quite sustain genuine fear into the third act, but its midpoint is pretty masterfully calculated–especially the scene in which Liv Tyler nervously paces the kitchen while an intruder lurks unseen in the background, completely silent. There’s a reason this is the enduring image that most fans remember from The Strangers today. —Jim Vorel


22. Malignant

Year: 2021
Director: James Wan
Stars: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White
Rating: R

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There’s no denying that writer/director James Wan’s first feature, 2003’s Saw, was a horror phenomenon. The movie was so popular it spawned nine-plus nasty sequel installments and went on to become one of the most well-known entries in the genre. Then he did it again with the Insidious franchise–and again with the Conjuring universe. What I’m saying is, the man knows horror. So it came as no surprise to me that by the time the credits rolled on his new terror trip Malignant, I was grinning and nodding my head Joker-style. The film ends up playing like the horror version of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas:” It has been several years since Wan wrote, directed and produced a genre piece and it’s hard not to love having him back under the morbid mistletoe–even if the material is a little wackier and weirder than before. Malignant tells the story of Madison (Annabelle Wallis), a pregnant woman rattled by a particular bout of abuse from her husband. The incident sets in motion a series of events which begins with consistent yet unexplained bleeding from the head and culminates in paralyzing visions of murder that are, shocker, actually real. This is a film you don’t spoil–once the pieces of the puzzle start coming together, you’ll find it was worth staying in the dark–so I won’t. Admittedly, the film has a bit of a slow start. In fact, in the first half, I was wondering if I was going to end up hating it purely on pace alone. But around the 40-minute mark, I found myself subconsciously settling into the plotline of a film I was happy to write off in the beginning. The first chunk comes off a bit muddled and beckons you to keep up with what little exposition it gives you. That did sour me, I’ll admit, but like any good game, it paid dividends after the wait. Things became clearer, loose ends tied up–and the whole thing goes zero to 60 incredibly quickly. As proven time and time again within the Saw franchise, Wan is all about a balls-to-the-wall twist and Malignant throws one at us intended to splatter us in the face. There is a lot of homage in Malignant–was it just me or was there a hard electro remix of “Where Is My Mind” by the Pixies playing over nearly every kill?–but mostly, the film ends up being a writer/director’s love letter to his past. To the early days of his career, to his roots. At this point, he deserves to pat himself on the back, and I’m happy that the result is a return to form. To know Wan is to (mostly) love him, and Malignant is no exception…as long as you’re willing to stick it out.–Lex Briscuso


23. Vivarium

vivarium-poster.jpgYear: 2020
Director: Lorcan Finnegan
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots
Rating: R

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A quirky real estate story, where first-time homeowners Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and Gemma (Imogen Poots) get a lot more than they bargained for, Vivarium is a low-key sci-fi nightmare of the mundane in the vein of early David Cronenberg. Director Lorcan Finnegan’s film also functions as a relationship allegory, where Tom and Gemma find themselves stuck in a trendy neighborhood of cookie-cutter homes where starting a family isn’t just an expectation but something foisted upon them. It isn’t as grisly as something like Shivers, but more affecting in its surreal design and hopelessness. Eisenberg and Poots own the screen as a disintegrating couple coping in distinct ways to their newfound terrarium where they are observed, manipulated, and—perhaps most disturbingly of all—objectively provided for by unseen and undefinable forces. Its 2020 release feels especially fitting as repetition and hopelessness become permanent residents of the couple’s home. Genre elements seep into the film, accelerating in hiccups and starts that are as arresting as the film’s intentionally artificial design. Startling sound dubbing, odd colorizing, and a few genuine “Oh shit” moments make Vivarium a tight, nasty fable that would fit in with the best Twilight Zone episodes. —Jacob Oller


24. Cargo

cargo-movie-poster.jpgYear: 2018
Directors: Yolanda Ramke, Ben Howling
Stars: Martin Freeman, Simone Landers, Anthony Hayes, David Gulpili, Susie Porter, Caren Pistorius
Rating: NR

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We’ve had enough takes on worldwide zombie apocalypses to last undead enthusiasts long through, well, a worldwide zombie apocalypse. Of those takes, few are inspired, a few more are watchable though workmanlike and most are dreck, whether in TV or movie form. Cargo, a collaborative directing effort between Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling, falls somewhere in between “inspired” and “workmanlike,” which is to say it’s well worth seeking out on Netflix if you’ve a powerful need to watch twitching, walking corpses menace a family trying to survive while isolated in Australia’s Outback. Martin Freeman plays Andy, stubborn husband to his wife, Kay (Susie Porter), and loving dad to their daughter, Rosie; he’s piloting a houseboat to safer shores, or that’s the hope. Then Kay takes a zombie bite, forcing a change of plans and setting them down the path to ruin and tragedy. For a certain kind of horror purist, Cargo denies the expectations of the genre. It’s not an especially scary movie. It is, however, a moody, atmospheric movie, replacing scares with a nearly overwhelming sense of sadness. If that’s not enough for you, then at least be sated by the excellent FX work. Here, zombies present as victims of debilitating illness: A waxen, carious fluid seeps from their eyes and mouths, which is suitably nauseating in the stead of workaday splatter. All the same, Cargo is never half as stomach-churning as it is simply devastating. —Andy Crump


25. Under the Shadow

under the shadow poster (Custom).jpgYear: 2016
Director: Babak Anvari
Stars: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi, Ray Haratian, Arash Marandi
Rating: PG-13

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For most of the film, Babak Anvari is crafting a stifling period drama, a horror movie of a different sort that tangibly conveys the claustrophobia of Iran during its tumultuous post-revolution period. Anvari, himself of a family that eventually fled the Ayatollah’s rule, has made Under the Shadow as statement of rebellion and tribute to his own mother. It’s a distinctly feminist film: Shideh (Narges Rashidi) is cast as the tough heroine fighting back against greater hostile forces—a horror movie archetype that takes on even more potency in this setting. Seeing Shideh defy the Khomeini regime by watching a Jane Fonda workout video, banned by the state, is almost as stirring as seeing her overcome her personal demons by protecting her child from a more literal one. —Brogan Morris


26. Cam

cam-movie-poster.jpgYear: 2018
Director: Daniel Goldhaber
Stars: Madeline Brewer, Patch Darragh, Melora Walters, Devin Druid, Imani Hakim, Michael Dempsey
Rating: NR

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As so many films in 2018 have shown us, the identities we create online—that we digitally design, foster and mature, often to the detriment of whatever we have going on IRL—will inevitably surpass us. The horror of Daniel Goldhaber’s Cam, based on the Isa Mazzei’s script (in turn, based on her real experiences as a sex worker), is in this loss: that no one is ever truly in control of these fabricated identities; that the more real they become, the less they belong to the person most affected. Welcome Alice (Madeline Brewer), an ambitious camgirl who compensates for the exhausting rigor of online popularity (and, therefore, economic viability) with gruesome stunts and a rigorous set of principles dictating what she will, and won’t, do in her capacity as female fantasy. She’s successful, tossing funds to her mom (Melora Walters) and brother (Devin Druid) without being totally honest about her job, but she could be more successful, trying whatever she can (within reason) to scale the ranking system enforced by the site she uses to broadcast her shows. With dexterous ease, Mazzei’s script both introduces the exigencies of camgirl life while never stooping to judge Alice’s choice of employment, contextualizing an inevitable revelation to her family not as one of embarrassment, but as an impenetrable morass of shame through which every sex worker must struggle to be taken seriously. So much so that when someone who looks exactly like Alice—who operates under her screen name but is willing to do the things Alice once refused—gains leaps and bounds in the camgirl charts, Goldhaber and Mazzei derive less tension from the explanation and discovery of what’s really going on rather than the harsh truth of just how vulnerable Alice is—and we all are—to the cold, brutal, indifferent violence of this online world we’ve built for ourselves. —Dom Sinacola


27. The Ritual

the ritual poster (Custom).jpgYear: 2017
Director: David Bruckner
Stars: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton
Rating: NR

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A prime example of what might be termed the “bro horror” subgenre, The Ritual’s characters are a band of lifelong mates united in mourning a friend who has recently been killed in a brutal liquor store robbery. Luke (Rafe Spall) is the member of the group who shoulders the greatest burden of guilt, being the only one who was in the store at the time, paralyzed with indecision and cowardice while he watched his friend die. The other members clearly blame Luke for this to varying degrees, and one senses that their decision to journey to Sweden for a hiking trip deep into the wilderness is less to honor their dead friend’s memory, and more to determine if their bond can ever be repaired, or whether the recrimination stemming from the death is insurmountable. Where The Ritual excels is technically, in both its imagery and sound design. Cinematographer Andrew Shulkind’s crisp images and deep focus are a welcome respite from the overly dark, muddy look of so many modern horror films with similar settings (such as Bryan Bertino’s The Monster), and the forested location shots, regardless of where they may have been filmed, are uniformly stunning. Numerous shots of tree clusters evoke Celtic knot-like imagery, these dense puzzles of foliage clearly hiding dire secrets, and we are shown just enough through the film’s first two thirds to keep the mystery palpable and engaging. Director David Bruckner, who is best known for directing well-regarded segments of horror anthologies such as V/H/S, The Signal and Southbound, demonstrates a talent here for suggestion and subtlety, aided by some excellent sound design that emphasizes every rustling leaf and creaking tree branch. Unfortunately, the characters are a bit thin for what is meant to be a character-driven film, and the big payoff can’t quite maintain the atmosphere of the film’s first two acts. Still, The Ritual is a great-looking film, and one that features one of the more memorably “WTF!” monster designs in recent memory. It’s worth a look for that alone. —Jim Vorel


28. Fear Street Part Three: 1666

fear-street-1666-poster.jpgYear: 2021
Director: Leigh Janiak
Stars: Kiana Madeira, Ashley Zukerman, Gillian Jacobs, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Darrell Britt-Gibson
Rating: R

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The first two entries in Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy from director Leigh Janiak have been widely described (and widely praised) within the bounds of language often devoted to slasher movies—as solid “popcorn entertainment” and “simple fun” that represents, in this case, a welcome divergence from the more serious streak of arthouse horror we’ve been experiencing of late. And although it is true that there’s nothing “elevated” or pretentious about any of these three Fear Street entries, to simply think of them as slasher films isn’t quite right either, despite their gory flair. They’re not even really meta-slashers in the mold of Scream, which was relentlessly name-checked by critics as they appraised first entry Fear Street: 1994 in particular. Rather, the real meat of this trilogy is a metaphysical, supernatural mystery that spans across lifetimes and centuries—it’s a story that uses the trappings of slasher cinema in two different eras, the ‘90s and ‘70s, in order to get at eventual themes of scapegoating, privilege and corrupted history. This is the bigger message that final entry Fear Street Part Three: 1666 attempts to deliver, albeit in a clumsier manner than its previous time jump, in a more difficult setting to truly capture. Three movies in, the little absurdities of this series are beginning to mount, but it at least manages to remain briskly entertaining and pretty damn bloody. —Jim Vorel


29. We Have A Ghost

Year: 2023
Director: Christopher Landon
Stars: David Harbour, Jahi Winston, Anthony Mackie
Rating: PG-13

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Few genre filmmakers seem to be having as much fun these days as Christopher Landon, a horror-comedy maestro who’s spent the last six years delivering instant classics like Happy Death Day and Freaky while mastering the balance between high-concept fun and emotional impact. That balancing act has won him plenty of fans while allowing him to keep playing in different horror sandboxes, stretching his abilities to see how far his style and narrative dexterity can really go. We Have a Ghost is a test of that dexterity, an expansive take on the ghost story that packs the filmmaker’s signature blend of humor, horror and heart into an ambitious two hours of spooky fun. And while it’s a test the filmmaker mostly passes, We Have a Ghost also feels like a case of narrative overreach, a movie that tries to juggle too many things at once and drops a few balls along the way. —Matthew Jackson


30. Ravenous

ravenous 2017 poster (Custom).jpgYear: 2017
Director: Robin Aubert
Stars: Marc-André Grondin, Monia Chokri, Brigitte Poupart, Luc Proulx, Charlotte St-Martin
Rating: NR

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Genre geeks didn’t seem to take a lot of notice of Ravenous, beyond its Best Canadian Film award at the Toronto International Film Festival—perhaps the result of an “indie zombie drama” subgenre that seems to have run its course through films such as The Battery, and perhaps because it’s performed in French rather than English. Regardless, this is a competently crafted little drama thriller for the zombie completist, full of excellent performances from no-name actors and an intriguing take on the results of zombification. The infected here at times seem like your standard Romero ghouls, but they’re also a bit more: lost souls who have hung onto some kind of strange, rudimentary culture all their own. These aspects of the zombie plague are always hinted at, never extrapolated, but it enhances the profound feelings of loss and sadness present in Ravenous. —Jim Vorel


31. Ouija: Origin of Evil

ouija-origin-of-evil-poster.jpgYear: 2016
Director: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso, Henry Thomas
Rating: PG-13

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While the first Ouija was a workmanlike, paint-by-numbers cash grab without a single original touch, its prequel, directed by tried-and-true horror fan and prolific genre filmmaker (with three quality releases in 2016 alone) Mike Flanagan, bears the aesthetic of ’60s horror. From the use of the era’s Universal logo to a faded, sepia-pastel look, Origin of Evil bears witness to Flanagan having fun with the creative possibilities of the project. As intriguing as all that stuff is for genre purists and cinephiles, the whole thing would still crumble if the overall tone and performances didn’t match Flanagan’s ambitions. Thankfully, he delivers a wholly satisfying piece of PG-13 horror that deftly mixes the modern sensibilities of the genre with tried-and-true stylistic approaches from its, er, origins. —Oktay Ege Kozak


32. The Pope’s Exorcist

Year: 2023
Director: Julius Avery
Stars: Russell Crowe, Alexandra Essoe, Daniel Zovatto
Rating: R

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The Pope’s Exorcist is red meat for the weeknight horror cinema crowd, an unabashedly formulaic and conventional supernatural horror story anchored around a well-cast central lead who turns in a performance that makes everything fall into place around him. Based on several books by famously self-aggrandizing Catholic priest and prolific exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth, who once inspired a documentary by The Exorcist’s own William Friedkin, the film imagines the priest in the mid-1980s as something of a rogue police detective in an action film of the era, spurned by the “modern” church but acting at the behest of the Pope himself to root out evil. The possession story that brings Amorth to Spain is about as by-the-book as it gets, unfortunately wasting the talents of horror luminary Alexandra Essoe, who has little to do in comparison with incredible past performances in films such as Starry Eyes. Crowe, however, manages to really salvage the whole thing with his relentlessly confident, almost Peter Venkman-esque characterization of Amorth as a demon-fighting rapscallion. Whenever he’s chewing the scenery, The Pope’s Exorcist is a cheesy good time. —Jim Vorel


33. The Babysitter

the babysitter poster (Custom).jpgYear: 2017
Director: McG
Stars: Samara Weaving, Judah Lewis, Hana Mae Lee, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne
Rating: NR

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The Babysitter is a little guileless in its overt desire to be lovingly described as an ’80s slasher homage, but simultaneously effective enough to earn a good measure of that approval it craves. With twists care of Fright Night and Night of the Demons, it’s at its best not when trying to slavishly recreate a past decade, but when letting its hyper-charismatic teenage characters run wild. Stylish, gory and profane to a fault, The Babysitter features a handful of bang-up performances, like Judah Lewis as a late-blooming 12-year-old, Robbie Amell as a nigh-invincible football jock and Samara Weaving as the title character, the girl of Lewis’s dreams—right up until she tries to sacrifice him to the devil. Fast-moving (only 85 minutes!) and frequently hilarious, it’s probably the best unit of popcorn horror entertainment that Netflix has managed to put out so far. —Jim Vorel


34. Verónica

veronica horror poster (Custom).jpgYear: 2017
Director: Paco Plaza
Stars: Sandra Escacena
Rating: NR

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Paco Plaza, the Spanish director of landmark 2007 found footage horror film R.E.C., has largely delivered diminishing returns via R.E.C. sequels. Verónica, therefore, has been received as a welcome venture into a new concept for the director, even if the results are decidedly on the derivative side. A spirit/demonic possession movie in the vein of Witchboard, the film follows a 15-year-old Spanish student (Sandra Escacena) who unwittingly invites evil into her home while conducting a ouija seance with her school chums. Where the movie shines best is largely on the presentation side: It looks great whenever its images aren’t too dark, capturing an interesting moment in history by setting the film in 1991 Spain. Charismatic performances from multiple child actors serve to bolster a story that unfortunately feels frustratingly familiar, recycling elements of Ouija, The Last Exorcism and practically every possession film ever written. This is very well-trodden ground, but Verónica is at the very least more than competent, even if it’s not the revelation for which we were hoping from the director. —Jim Vorel


35. 1922

1922.jpgYear: 2017
Director: Zak Hilditch
Stars: Thomas Janes, Neal McDonough, Molly Parker
Rating: NR

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A chameleonic performance from Thomas Jane anchors this understated, gothic story set in Depression-era Middle America, told in the style of a confession by the husband (who we can tell right from the get-go is haunted by some horrible crime). When his wife (Molly Parker) insists on selling the land she’s inherited rather than work it, Jane’s unsophisticated field hand harangues their son (Dylan Schmid) into becoming an accomplice in her grisly murder. As with every Grand Guignol tale, though, we already know that the worst part isn’t the act of killing, but the endless paranoia of living with it. In the case of the movie’s guilty narrator, that means a vengeful and inevitable haunting filled with all the foreboding and creepy imagery you came to see. Stephen King adaptations have their hits and their misses, but this is a straightforward story that gets by on the power of a dread-steeped plot and some compelling performances by good character actors you’ll most likely always be happy to see get screen time. —Kenneth Lowe


36. Little Evil

little evil poster (Custom).jpgYear: 2017
Director: Eli Craig
Stars: Adam Scott, Evangeline Lilly
Rating: NR

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Seven years after he gave us Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, one of the best horror comedies in recent memory, director Eli Craig has finally returned with an exclusive for Netflix, Little Evil. An obvious parody of The Omen and other “evil kid” movies, Little Evil wears its influences and references on its sleeve in ways that, while not particularly clever, are at least loving. Adam Scott is the sad-sack father who somehow became swept up in a whirlwind romance and marriage, all while being unfazed by the fact that his new step-son is the kind of kid who dresses like a pint-sized Angus Young and trails catastrophes behind him wherever he goes. Evangeline Lilly is the boy’s foxy mother, whose motivations are suspect throughout. Does she know that her child is the spawn of Satan, or as his mother is she just willfully blind to the obvious evil growing under her nose? The film can boast a pretty impressive supporting cast, from Donald Faison and Chris D’elia as fellow step-dads, to Clancy Brown as a fire-and-brimstone preacher, but never does it fully commit toward either its jokes or attempts to frighten. The final 30 minutes are the most interesting, leading the plot in an unexpected direction that redefines the audience’s perception of the demon child, but it still makes for a somewhat uneven execution. Tucker & Dale this is not, but it’s still a serviceable return for Craig. —Jim Vorel


37. Fear Street Part Two: 1978

fear-street-1978-poster.jpgYear: 2021
Director: Leigh Janiak
Stars: Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, Ryan Simpkins, McCabe Slye, Ted Sutherland, Ashley Zukerman, Jordana Spiro, Gillian Jacobs, Kiana Madeira, Benjamin Flores Jr.
Rating: R

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That’s pretty much Fear Street Part 2: 1978 in a nutshell. This second entry of director Leigh Janiak’s ambitious R.L. Stine adaptation trilogy for Netflix hits the ground running, with plenty of momentum provided by the surprisingly visceral Fear Street: 1994, and although it follows through on that film’s lively visuals and gruesome deaths, it finds itself hurting somewhat for compelling characters and variety in what it’s able to offer. Bound by its retro summer camp theming and the obvious horror allusions that theming implies, 1978 is a more lightweight diversion that occasionally finds itself spinning its wheels, although it does redeem itself with a startling transition into the jumping off point for final entry Fear Street: 1666. Nevertheless, it feels like middle child syndrome has likely come into play in this second chapter. —Jim Vorel


38. #Alive

alive-zombie-movie-poster.jpgYear: 2020
Director: Cho Il-hyung
Stars: Yoo Ah-in, Park Shin-hye
Rating: NR

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Fans of zombie cinema were hotly anticipating at least one South Korean zombie feature this year: Peninsula, the sequel to the much-loved Train to Busan was heavily hyped, but ultimately fell far short of the original. Thankfully, though, there was another Korean zombie flick waiting in the wings to step into its place, in the form of the significantly more successful (if modest) #Alive. Fans of the original World War Z novel will certainly find this story familiar, as it’s suspiciously similar to one of that book’s better-loved passages, about a young gamer/hacker in Japan who is so deeply engrossed in the web, he fails to notice the world descending into a zombie apocalypse around him, before finally being forced to unplug and go on the run. Here, the same basic premise is simply transplanted to South Korea, where the introverted protagonist must rappel down the side of his apartment building to avoid the prowling dead, while also looking for other survivors hiding among the carnage. It’s a much tighter, more neatly executed story than the disappointing excesses of Peninsula, perfect for pandemic-era viewing. —Jim Vorel


39. Day Shift

day-shift-netflix-poster.jpgYear: 2022
Director: J.J. Perry
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco, Karla Souza, Meagan Good, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Snoop Dogg
Rating: R

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Day Shift is a successful directorial debut for long-time stunt coordinator J.J. Perry. It isn’t a revelation, but it’s mirthful and violent and feels like everyone involved had fun making it while taking their jobs seriously. Streaming is essentially the contemporary version of straight-to-video, and for some movies (like Prey) that feels like a major distribution-side miscalculation. Day Shift isn’t quite at that franchise-affirming level, but I’d have loved to have seen it in a theater. Part of me wishes it was a grimier, rougher film released on Shudder, with the same cast and creative team more directly evoking 1970s exploitation over 1980s action-comedy-horror, but, if you spent the early 2000s wishing Blade crossed over with Bad Boys or Lethal Weapon, Netflix has got your ticket. —Kevin Fox Jr.


40. The Invitation

the-invitation-2022-poster.jpgYear: 2022
Director: Jessica M. Thompson
Stars: Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Stephanie Corneliussen, Alana Boden, Hugh Skinner, Sean Pertwee
Rating: PG-13

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It’s rough work trying to remix a classic like Bram Stoker’s Dracula when there’s been 125 years of others endlessly giving it a go on paper, stage and screen. As such, when an attempt does hit some fresh angles, it’s to be commended—as is the case with The Invitation. Coming at the mythology with a female lens is director Jessica M. Thompson, writer Blair Butler and actress Nathalie Emmanuel, who execute some unexpected choices that manage to slightly subvert their full goth approach to the material. However, The Invitation takes way too long getting to its most interesting ideas, leaving us with the distinct feeling of “too little, too late.” —Tara Bennett

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