This article is brought to you by Warner Archive.
As we once again enter the Halloween season, there are more services than ever that cater to scary season programming. In fact, there are almost too many macabre programming blocks to choose from. While there are many available streams out there—and a true horror savant will utilize multiple services to consumer as much content as possible—the ever-growing Warner Archive offers up a robust lineup of material. Whether this Warner Bros. service has been on your radar or not, it’s time to take it seriously because it covers a wide array of horror-friendly films. In order to assure that you spend more time watching horror films than you do searching for them, here’s a carefully curated list of the Warner Archive’s top 20 horror titles.
20. Body Snatchers (1993)
So of the many versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers that are out there, the 1993 take is definitely one of the more forgettable takes on the classic tale. The film offers the same impact of some of the other takes on this story, but Body Snatchers uses the AIDS epidemic as a timely counterpoint and still finds something original to say. The movie still provides creepy, cocoon-y visuals and it knows when to pay homage to its predecessors. At the end of the day, some Body Snatchers is still better than no Body Snatchers.
19. Innocent Blood
Innocent Blood is basically Dexter with vampires, but pre-Dexter. The John Landis film tells the story of a vampire with a conscience who chooses to only suck blood from criminals. Fortunately, this vampire is amidst the gang-heavy streets of Pittsburgh where acceptable victims are all over the place. Before this altruistic vampire knows it, she accidentally turns a vicious mob boss and unless she teams up with an undercover cop, vampire gangsters will take over the city. John Landis has a knack for transformation stories and post-modern takes on horror, and while Innocent Blood is far from his best work, it’s madness that still should be seen in order to be fully appreciated. Plus, it’s got Don Rickles as a vampire. What else do you need?
18. Dolores Claiborne
Dolores Claiborne isn’t strictly horror, but with that being said, this is a Stephen King adaptation, so what are we going to do: not include it on this list? The story has much more the tone of a Gothic nightmare murder mystery, but it’s still a moody, unnerving experience. Kathy Bates plays Dolores Claiborne, a housekeeper, and when her wealthy employer mysteriously dies, she’s looked at as the primary suspect. This complicated situation brings Claiborne’s estranged daughter (who’s also a journalist) to her defense and begins to investigate. The film offers incredible performances from both Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who plays her daughter Selena. If you were addicted to HBO’s Sharp Objects this year, then you’ll probably get a kick out of Dolores Claiborne.
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17. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark has a humble origin as a made-for-TV movie that aired on ABC back in the ‘70s, but it’s left a strong impression on audiences and still carries a cult following to this day. The horror film looks at a couple that moves into a spooky old mansion that turns out to be inhabited by tiny demons. Even though Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is more of a dark fantasy that’s geared towards children than a vicious horror film, it’s still the type of movie that disturbs and traumatizes kids for many years into the future. The film’s premise still has enough of a creep factor that the story was recently remade in 2010 as a straight up horror film, but the movie that started it all is still worth a look.
16. Demon Seed
Demon Seed isn’t a terribly well-known horror film, but it should be. It’s a very busy blend of horror and science fiction that comes from a script courtesy of Dean Koontz. The movie plays with the idea of tainted children and corrupt artificial intelligence, and combines them in a terrifying way. Demon Seed basically culminates with an artificial intelligence system jealously trying to impregnate his creator’s wife and produce some unimaginable offspring. The film starts at an exaggerated place and only keeps upping the stakes. It’s the perfect kind of schlocky B-horror fare for a rainy day.
15. A Return to Salem’s Lot
A Return to Salem’s Lot isn’t exactly a satisfying follow-up to its predecessor, but it’s such a baffling, unusual sequel that it deserves to be seen and gawked at with an audience. A Return to Salem’s Lot pretty much carries on the same vampire shenanigans from the original picture, but with some less interesting visitors who move into the titular town this time around. Most people don’t even know this film exists, so it’s worth watching out of sheer fascination, and the more obvious fact that the original Salem’s Lot is not available.
14. The Mangler
The Mangler certainly has all of the ingredients to be a good horror film—it’s based on a Stephen King short story and it’s directed by Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s Tobe Hooper, but boy is this film a mess. What do you expect from a film that’s about a haunted laundry-folding machine? Robert Englund’s also around to chew some scenery in a very over-the-top performance that makes Freddy Krueger look like an introvert. Thankfully, The Mangler easily falls into the “so bad it’s good” category so it’s still very much worth your time, especially if you’re with a crowd and have plenty of “candy” to relax with.
Deathtrap is the very best kind of psychological thriller that clicks on absolutely every level. After a struggling playwright’s most recent play bombs, he mysteriously receives a brilliant manuscript from a former student. As pressure and desperation mounts, the playwright and his wife slowly devise a plan to lure in the manuscript’s writer, murder him, and take credit for his work. There’s an extremely tight story that’s told here, but it also doesn’t hurt that the masterful Sidney Lumet is in the director’s chair and the film sees Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve going at it. Definitely one of the headier horror films that the Warner Archive has available, it’s impossible to not watch Deathtrap and completely give into its unpredictable plot that tries to trick the audience at every turn.
Wolfen begins with what looks like a cut and dry werewolf film, but it actually becomes something much deeper and more complex. A number of vicious murders in New York City bring up a lot of red flags that leave a detective and a criminologist certain that frenzied animal attacks are the answer. As the team continues to investigate, some sage Native Americans introduce the idea that wolves and Native Americans can actually exchange spirits. The film gets a whole lot crazier from that point, but it deserves a lot of credit for how it continually bucks the norm of typical werewolf films. It’s not the best lycanthropy movie out there, but it’s certainly one of the most unique.
11. From Beyond the Grave
From the Beyond the Grave goes back to the era of those old Hammer films and Amicus productions. The British horror film uses an antiques store as its backdrop as it presents four short stories that tie back to the store. Of the many Amicus anthology horror films that are out there, From Beyond the Grave falls squarely in the middle, but it’s also one of the few anthology movies in the Warner Archive. Sometimes you just need to kick back to a collection of stories with a common theme, and at least Warner indulges in that to some degree. And yes, Peter Cushing is in this.
10. The Guyver/The Guyver 2
Live action anime adaptations are still huge risks that often don’t quite properly come together. They’re ambitious projects that only the most skilled of directors can take on, yet all the way back in the early ‘90s, The Guyver and its sequel put forward incredible American takes on the Japanese staple. The Guyver is named after a powerful cybernetic suit that fuses to its wearer, kind of like a cyborg symbiote. Such a powerful creation naturally results in some equally powerful renegade aliens out to retrieve it and what follows is an unforgettable epic that features mind-boggling special effects. Nowhere else will you see Luke Skywalker get turned into a grotesque cockroach-like monstrosity and for that, we thank The Guyver and all of its gonzo glory.
9. Bad Ronald
Bad Ronald is a gritty, disturbing look at a deranged serial killer that will make you feel dirty after you watch it. The ‘70s horror film has gained quite the reputation from midnight movie screenings and it presents a seriously frightening scenario. A happy, picturesque family moves into a pristine new home with inspiring hopes about the future. The only thing that they didn’t anticipate is that a perverse, psychopath would be living within the walls of their house. Bad Ronald begins from that scary place and only becomes more disturbing when the secret man in the walls begins to form an obsession with the daughter of the family. Bad Ronald operates with a bluntness that horror movies often shy away from, but it makes this one stand out for the uncomfortable experiment that it is.
Sometimes the most enjoyable disasters are from acclaimed storytellers who just went too far with their power. Michael Crichton is most famously known for penning the novels for Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and Westworld, but it’s only unnatural that he’s also responsible for some duds. Looker is a ridiculous sci-fi thriller that continually grows more elaborate. It involves the beautiful patients of a plastic surgeon turning into victims and when the surgeon digs into the conspiracy, he learns that a computer company called Digital Matrix are the ones responsible. Buckle in for verbose madness with plenty of titillation, but Looker’sham-fisted nature is why it’s such a fun time.
7. Night School
Night School (also known as Terror Eyes) has quite the notorious reputation in the United Kingdom where it was brandished a video nasty upon its release. The slasher picture is quite unrepentant about its violence and its plot revolves around a slew of beheadings that rock a college campus in Boston. A professor and his teacher’s aide quickly become the suspects, but Night School moves with a ferocious tempo and is sure to shock some of the even more seasoned horror viewers. Even though this film was initially savaged by the critics, it’s gained a loyal following over the years and is a good pick to impress your horror buff friends.
6. Killer Party
Killer Party is a big, gory expendable slasher film from the mid-1980s, and it’s nice to see that the Warner Archive offers a title for fans of silly slasher rampages. Killer Party tries to play into the genre as much as possible as it presents a story about a bunch of sorority sisters who find themselves in trouble at a haunted frat house on April Fool’s Day. It’s entertaining to watch these hazing rituals morph into something much more sinister. The film provides plenty of carnage, it knows to not take itself too seriously, and it even packs in a few genuine surprises towards the end.
5. Village of the Damned (1960)
Believe it or not, but there was a time when the concept of eerie, killer children wasn’t overdone and derivative. Arguably the archetypal take on the horror subgenre, 1960’s Village of the Damned, pits adults against children with some poignant, terrifying results. John Carpenter would later go on to remake this classic and provide his own slant on the film, but there’s something to be said when the original can still go head-to-head with Carpenter’s remake. These guys help originate the evil kid canon, but they also knock it out of the park on the matter too.
4. Wait Until Dark
Wait Until Dark is one of the best examples of how all you need to enrapture an audience is a strong story. This film tells the tale of some burglars who break into a blind woman’s home (played by Audrey Hepburn, no less) to steal drugs from her that’s she’s mistakenly acquired. There’s tremendous tension in the mere fact that the protagonist is blind and cannot see her assailants, including a young and terrifying Alan Arkin. Hepburn’s in deep trouble but has no idea as to why, and it causes the thieves to work in a particularly unusual manner as well. This is a film that doesn’t stoop to flashy measures or heaps of gore. It just puts smart, charismatic characters in a clever scenario and lets the story do its magic.
It’s hard to go wrong with Alfred Hitchcock and even if this was the director’s worst film, it’d still likely make the list because Hitchcock is just that good. Luckily, Suspicion is one of Hitchcock’s more cerebral thrillers. It’s a film that chronicles a very traditional scheme where a woman becomes worried that her husband (an unflappable Cary Grant) may be up to unscrupulous business and that her life might even be on the line as a result. In spite of the story’s familiar beats, Hitchcock knows how to keep it fresh and have the tension mount throughout the picture. It’s the perfect sophisticated counterpoint to a silly, messy slasher. It wouldn’t hurt for the Warner Archive to feature more Hitchcock masterpieces, but Suspicion at least makes for a solid start.
2. Crash (1996)
Crash harkens back to the sweet spot in David Cronenberg’s career where he was still surprising people with how deranged he could be. Crash tells a story that deliciously fits with the body horror director’s sensibilities as it looks at a group of people who are sexually attracted to car crashes. There are all sorts of icky love scenes, some unforgettable imagery, and some brave performances from both James Spader and Holly Hunter. It’s without a doubt the best film that you’ll see about car crash fetishists!
1. Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III
Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is an undisputed horror masterpiece, but those that give its many sequels a chance will tell you that Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III is the hidden gem in the franchise. The film truly centers around Leatherface in the way that the others do not, it introduces some truly insane new members to an already crazy murder family, and it goes for broke in a way that the other films don’t. Plus, there’s a budding Viggo Mortensen acting his ass off here, which is worth the price of admission alone.