For many of us, October is the most wonderful time of the year. With the smell of autumnal leaves turning red and golden hued, the sound of children’s laughter as ghosts and goblins walk down the street, and finally the sight of pumpkins everywhere you look—there’s no better month-long celebration than the wind up to Halloween. And did we mention the horror movies?
Oh yes! No October is complete without a cornucopia of chillers and thrillers, maybe even a laugher or two if it still stars a werewolf tearing the head off some poor bobby in Piccadilly Circus. With that said, the most popular streaming service on the planet, Netflix, failed to add any new horror movies to its catalogue this month. But fret not, there’s still plenty of good trick ‘r treats on the service if you know where to look. Hence the below list, which includes the best horror movies currently on Netflix… both in the U.S. and UK. You’re welcome.
An all star cast, including Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tessa Thompson, plus the quality direction of Alex Garland wasn’t enough to secure this horror sci-fi based on Jeff Vandermeer’s novel a theatrical release in the UK—or box office success in the U.S. Never mind that though. It just means you can watch it for free on Netflix. Portman joins a crew of women exploring the mysterious Area X where he husband ventured some time before and came back changed. It’s a weird, unfamiliar landscape of beautiful flora and terrifying fauna defying explanation until the strange, indelible finale (not sure what it means? Have a read of this explainer). And you can check out our review, too if you like.
U.S. and UK
Apostle comes from acclaimed The Raid director Gareth Evans and is his take on the horror genre. Spoiler alert: it’s a good one. Dan Stevens stars as Thomas Richardson, a British man in the early 1900s who must rescue his sister, Jennifer, from the clutches of a murderous cult. Thomas successfully infiltrates the cult led by the charismatic Malcom Howe (Michael Sheen) and begins to ingratiate himself with the strange folks obsessed with bloodletting. Thomas soon comes to find that the object of the cult’s religious fervor may be more real than he’d prefer.
U.S. and UK
Slightly bonkers Spanish horror thriller, this, which sees a bunch of strangers stuck in a busy Madrid cafe when snipers begin shooting anyone who tries to leave. Confusion and personality clashes abound in this economical single location chiller with a dark sense of humanity as the inhabitants slowly discover what’s going on, who’s responsible, and try to work out if and how they will survive.
The Blair Witch Project
It’s hard to believe how important this stone cold classic was when it was released in 1999. Not only did people believe it was real (due to a clever marketing campaign which involved the actors actually pretending to be dead), but even the ones that didn’t found themselves thrust into a nightmarish folk horror of documentarians lost in the woods, the deeper they go the more they lose their wits and their minds. And then there’s that ending. Though the movie has been much parodied and most people now know the plot, it’s lost none of its power. The Blair Witch Project gets right under your skin and even though you might not like the characters, the performances are so real it still feels like you’re watching people you know die.
The Cabin in the Woods
Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s love/hate letter to the horror genre felt like something of a game changer when it finally arrived (it was shelved for several years because of financial issue with distributor MGM). But it was worth the wait. Chris Hemsworth, Haley Bennett, and a delightfully meta Fran Kranz star in a double layer story about ordinary kids vacationing in a woodland cabin, with Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins as very particular kinds of bureaucrats up to something in the background. Who knew audience surrogates could be so stiff? No spoilers beyond that, however, just watch. Here’s our review.
U.S. and UK
Martin Freeman stars in this Netflix original developed from a short directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke. Set in the Australian outback, Freeman is a father trying to find someone to protect his child in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. More wistful and emotional than that sounds on paper, there’s a fascinating subplot about an Aboriginal girl mourning her father and the final set piece is unforgettable. Check out our review.
U.S. and UK
No, not the one set on the tube, this ‘mumblegore’ horror is far weirder than that. Director Patrice Brice plays Aaron, a videographer hired by Mark Duplass’ Josef to make a video for his kid to watch after he’s died of a terminal illness. Or did he? Playing on the power of politeness and the awkwardness of male relationships, this is a highly original, itchily uncomfortable watch. Creep 2 is also on Netflix, and also good!
U.S. and UK
We have a hunch we don’t have to do too much explaining about what The Conjuring is. One of the most successful horror films of the 2010s, James Wan’s genuinely kinetic chiller is to date the only horror movie in the 21st century to launch a major shared universe.
Whatever you think of the spin-offs though, we’re here to remind you the original film holds up as a crackling good-time. As Wan’s modern riff on the type of religious horror inspired by The Exorcist in the 1970s, this one is both a throwback and reinvention, turning spooky exorcisms into rollercoaster thrill rides. It’s easy to see how the filmmaker transitioned to franchise work like Fast and Furious and Aquaman after this, but this remains his strangely most endearing and heartwarming work thanks to the performances of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as you’re favorite pair of paranormal investigators. Here’s our review.
The Conjuring 2
Ed and Lorraine are back! Or at least their highly romanticized and lovable cinematic alter-egos are in the first (and still best) Conjuring sequel. That includes all the underwhelming spinoffs too. This movie takes significant artistic license while recounting the “true story” of the Enfield Poltergeist in northern London. Truthfully, it’s a slightly more urban and working class scenario for Wan to get up to his usual tricks, but thanks to a sharp script by Wan and Chad and Carey Hayes, as well as a great cast, it’s still a winning formula.
How many other horror movies win you over with the lead crooning Elvis songs? Exactly. Also, beware the painting of a “nun.”
Do you want to see people getting eaten by alligators? Then you want to see Crawl. Kaya Scodelario plays a swimmer who is trapped in a flooded building during a hurricane with her father (Barry Pepper) and a lot of alligators. Directed by Switchblade Romance’s Alexandre Aja, Crawl is a very efficient movie—slightly predictable perhaps but tense in all the right places. Scodelario and Pepper are charismatic and sympathetic, and crucially, we aren’t dealing with a two-person, one-alligator scenario here. Plenty of bystanders and bit part players get involved, so our alligator death quotient is just right. The perfect three-star movie.
Six women go caving in a movie which would surely dissuade anyone from ever going caving again. Neil Marshall’s very best movie is a claustrophobic nightmare, as well as a very scary creature feature as the women get lost in an enormous caving network. They’re soon also stalked by terrifying subterranean beings who live there. Packed with empathic characters and great performances, there’s depth here beyond the underground setting. The movie has a different ending in the UK than it does in the U.S.—the UK ending is far, far superior and also incredibly bleak.
The Exorcist III
We know what you might be thinking… there’s a good Exorcist sequel? The answer is, kind of. Technically, this should have been called Legion instead of The Exorcist III. That’s what author William Peter Blatty named his novel which inspired the film, and the movie is similarly its own beast despite starring a few of the supporting characters from that first story. Adapting his own text as the writer and director here, Blatty transfers many of his new spine-tingling ideas, even as he is saddled by the studio with an underwhelming resolution that’s forced him to trot out William Fredkin’s bag of tricks from 20 years earlier.
Nonetheless, The Exorcist III is an absorbing and disquieting mystery with an oppressively gloomy atmosphere. It stars George C. Scott as Kinderman as he investigates a Zodiac-like serial killer with actual supernatural powers. His faith, or lack thereof, is tested and the movie’s mood is relentless, with its few scares being downright unforgettable. It might not be a masterpiece like The Exorcist, but it’s still creepy good.
U.S. and UK
We are living in a renaissance for Stephen King adaptations. But while there have been many killer clowns and hat-wearing fiends getting major attention at the multiplexes, the best King movie in perhaps decades is Mike Flanagan’s underrated Gerald’s Game. Cleverly adapted from what has been described as one of King’s worst stories, Gerald’s Game improves on its source material when it imagines a middle-aged woman (Carla Gugino) placed in a terrifying survival situation after her husband (Bruce Greenwood) dies of a heart attack during a sex game.
Handcuffed to a bed in their remote cabin in the woods, Gugino’s Jessie must face the fact no one is coming to save her in the next week… more than enough time to die of dehydration or the wolf prowling about. Thus the specter of death hovers over the whole movie, seemingly literally with a monstrous shade emerging from the shadows to bedevil Jessie each night. A trenchant character study that frees Gugino to show a wide range of terror, determination, and finally horrifying desperation, the movie delves into the shadows of a woman haunted by trauma and demons almost as scary as her current situation. Almost.
Before Adam Wingard was the director of gonzo spectacles like Godzilla vs. Kong, he was one of the new and most exciting voices in modern horror, including for films like The Guest. A happily B and exploitative riff on the modern plight of American service veterans, the film stars Dan Stevens in his most bonkers role to date as David, a returning G.I. who is visiting a family that lost their own son/brother in the war…. things do not end peacefully. Read our review here.
If you haven’t seen this slice of trauma from debut director Ari Aster, you probably should. If you have seen it, you probably won’t want to again. Toni Collette stars as a woman whose controlling mother has just passed away, setting off a series of horrible events. Aster says the film was partly inspired by his own sense of his family being cursed—this a movie absolutely drenched in grief and pain with astonishing performances all around. It’s tough going, but it’s a masterpiece. Read our review.
U.S. and UK
Remi Weekes’ debut feature is a surprise gem which won him a BAFTA for Outstanding British Debut. It stars Gangs of London’s Sope Dirisu and Loki’s Wunmi Mosaku as a refugee couple who’ve been housed in a large but dilapidated property in a city outside London. The two have brought demons with them that inhabit the house while the horrors of the situation that brought them here, and the one they now find themselves in, loom large. It’s an intelligent critique of how we treat refugees at the same time as being a genuinely scary ghost story.
U.S. and UK
In his follow-up to the cult classic Oculus, Mike Flanagan makes one of the more clever horror movies on this list. Hush is a thrilling game of cat-and-mouse within the typical nightmare of a home invasion, yet it also turns conventions of that familiar terror on its head. For instance, the savvy angle about this movie is Kate Siegel (who co-wrote the movie with Flanagan) plays Maddie, a deaf and mute woman living in the woods alone. Like Audrey Hepburn’s blind woman from the progenitor of home invasion stories, Wait Until Dark (1967), Maddie is completely isolated when she is marked for death by a menacing monster in human flesh.
Like the masked villains of so many more generic home invasion movies (I’m looking square at you, Strangers), John Gallagher Jr.’s “Man” wears a mask as he sneaks into her house. However, the functions of this story are laid bare since we actually keep an eye on what the “Man” is doing at all times, and how he is getting or not getting into the house in any given scene. He isn’t aided by filmmakers who’ve given him faux-supernatural and omnipotent abilities like other versions of these stories, and he’s not an “Other;” he’s a man who does take his mask off, and his lust for murder is not so much fetishized as shown for the repulsive behavior that it is. And still, Maddie proves to be both resourceful and painfully ill-equipped to take him on in this tense battle of wills.
Insidious is the start of a multi-film horror franchise and a pretty good one at that. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne star as a married couple who move into a new home with their three kids. Shortly after they move in, their son Dalton is drawn to a shadow in the attic and then falls into a mysterious coma from which they can’t wake him.
It’s at this point that the Lamberts do what horror fans always yell at characters to do: they move out of the damn house! Little do they know, however, that some hauntings go beyond mere domiciles.
It Comes at Night
Surviving the apocalypse comes with a certain amount of questions. For starters, what do you do after you survive a global pandemic thanks to your secluded cabin in the woods…and then someone comes knocking? That’s the situation that the family consisting of Paul (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) find themselves in in It Comes at Night.
When Paul and his family come across another family in the woods seeking shelter and water, they hesitantly welcome them in. But this soon proves to be a dangerous decision. Having guests in the real world is annoying enough to deal with and it only becomes harder when you suspect that any one of them could be sick with a highly-contagious, utterly fatal illness.
Ari Aster’s follow-up to the traumatizing family horror Hereditary is a lighter affair. Or at least it is for a movie which still begins with a harrowing murder-suicide. Florence Pugh stars as Dani, a girl who has lost her parents and sister in said act, and who persuades her arsehole boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) to take her with him to a Swedish village where he is headed with his Swedish friend to partake in the Midsommar celebrations. Dani’s severe grief is then enhanced with psychedelics, which are snuck into her food, creating a truly nightmarish experience for her. That’s until maybe it isn’t.
Aster’s film takes place almost entirely in bright daylight, in an idyll dressed with multicoloured flowers, which pulse in time with Dani’s troubled mind. It’s beautiful, horrific, quite funny, and has an ending to die for.
U.S. and UK
This existential Spanish horror made a splash at the start of lockdown with it’s tale of prisoner trapped in an enormous vertical prison with a platform at it’s center, which delivers food to the inmate floor by floor starting at the top, so that each floor only gets what the floor above has left over. It’s political, allegorical, it’s clever, and it’s very violent.
The feature film debut from French director and writer Julia Ducournau lives up to its title and then some. Garance Marillier stars as Justine, a young vegetarian woman whose first semester at veterinary school takes a turn for the bizarre when she develops an insatiable craving for meat—and not just a burger at the local fast food joint. As with her latest, Palme d’Or-winning film Titane, Ducournau doesn’t go much for explanations in Raw, leaving the source of Justine’s cannibalistic tendencies ambiguous. But if you can sit through it, and it’s not an easy sit, Raw is a gripping meditation on primal female desires unleashed.
Shaun of the Dead
None is more British or super-influential than Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s zom-rom-com tribute to the movies of George A. Romero. The movie is funny, sweet, gruesome and spawned many zomb-alikes in its wake.
Pegg’s Shaun is a salesman living with his mate Ed (Nick Frost), who’s life is directionless until the zombie apocalypse arrives. Much of the humour comes from the idea that real people would take a pretty long time to come to the conclusion ‘zombies’ rather than assuming ‘drunk,’ but when Shaun gets the gist he’s on a mission to save his mum and win back his girlfriend. Good natured and featuring a fresh crop of Brit comedy talent, Shaun of the Dead is the first part of Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy—and arguably the strongest of the three.
U.S. and UK
Not everything is as it seems in Martin Scorsese’s most nefarious and foreboding 21st century film. A bit underrated, perhaps due to its pulpy roots yet elevated intentions, the flick stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo as a pair of 1950s detectives who’ve agreed to look into the case of a missing patient on Shutter Island, a private spot with an asylum for the criminally insane. Things don’t go by the book.
Featuring one of DiCaprio’s genuinely best performances as a gumshoe who’s a little high strung himself, this is brooding, tragic stuff with a haymaker of a finale. Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, it may have been more introspective than audiences wanted at the time, but it still holds up as an atmospheric journey into the heart of darkness.
U.S. and UK
One of the better Blumhouse chillers to come out of the 2010s, Sinister is the case of a brilliant elevator pitch meeting a superior pair of talents in director Scott Derrickson and star Ethan Hawke to bring it to life.
The setup of the movie is simple: There is a pagan demon god who will consume the soul of any nearby children whenever someone sees him. And not just him, but recreations of his image on walls. And wouldn’t you know it, true crime journalist Ellison (Hawke) just moved into a house with an attic full of home movies stuffed to the gills with Bughuul. And Ellison’s daughter is right downstairs. Uh oh.
The Strangers marked the directorial debut of Bryan Bertino, whose career has since taken some peculiar yet still interesting pathways. His flair for horror, however, was established early on with this thoroughly unsettling home invasion cult classic in which Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman’s overnight stay at his childhood vacation home is disrupted by three terrifying masked assailants. What makes the film so powerful to this day is that the strangers never reveal a motivation for their sadistic actions; “Because you were home” is the closest answer we get. The randomness and brutality of this rural horror gem make it still potent now.
Don’t let the name fool you, Sweetheart is very much a horror movie. What kind of horror movie, you ask? Well, after a boat sinks during a storm, young Jennifer Remming (Kiersey Clemons) is the only survivor. She washes ashore a small island and gets to work burying her friends, creating shelter, and foraging for food. You know: deserted island stuff.
Soon, however, Jenn will come to find that the island is not as deserted as she previously thought. There’s something out there – something big, dangerous, and hungry. Sweetheart is like Castaway meets Predator, and it’s another indie horror hit for Blumhouse.
Under the Shadow
U.S. and UK
This 2016 effort could not possibly be more timely as it sympathizes, and terrorizes, an Iranian single mother and child in 1980s Tehran. Like a draconian travel ban, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) and her son Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) are malevolently targeted by a force of supreme evil.
This occurs after Dorsa’s father, a doctor, is called away to serve the Iranian army in post-revolution and war-torn Iran. In his absence evil seeps in… as does a quality horror movie with heightened emotional weight.
No one is going to mistake Underworld for high art. That obvious fact makes the lofty pretensions of these movies all the more endearing. With a cast of high-minded British theatrical actors, many trained in the Royal Shakespeare Company, at least the early movies in this Gothic horror/action mash-up series were overflowing with histrionic self-importance and grandiosity.
Take the first and best in the series. In the margins you have Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen portraying the patriarchs of warring factions of vampires and werewolves, and a love story caught between their violence that’ shamelessly modeled on Romeo and Juliet. It’s ridiculous, especially with Scott Speedman playing one party. But when the other is the oft-underrated Kate Beckinsale it doesn’t matter.
The movie’s bombast becomes the movie’s first virtue, and Len Wiseman’s penchant for glossy slick visuals, which would look at home in the sexiest Eurotrash graphic novel at the bookstore, is its other. Combined they make this a guilty good time. Though we recommend not venturing past the second or third movie.
U.S. and UK
Loosely based on a true story, Veronica is set in Madrid in 1991 and follows a young woman who messes with a Ouija board who thinks she’s accidentally summoned an evil spirit. Director by Paco Plaza, one of the two directors behind [REC], the movie gained minor notoriety when it first landed on Netflix because of a few viewers finding it overly scary. It’s true that there are some seriously creepy bits (but you’ll be fine!).
What Keeps You Alive
U.S. and UK
Couple Jackie and Jules head to a remote woodland cabin to celebrate their first wedding anniversary but things go bad. Admittedly, this sounds like the most generic slasher in the world, but trust us it’s not.
Twists hit early on (that we’d hate to spoil), and the tension ramps up fast in a very effective cat and mouse chase with a female bent. This comes from Colin Minihan who made Grave Encounters—this isn’t similar but both have a disorientating sense of place. Read our review.