The 50 Best Horror Movies on Hulu Right Now

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The 50 Best Horror Movies on Hulu Right Now

In terms of comparing the major streaming services, it’s easy to think of Hulu as “the TV-focused one,” but that’s not entirely fair—the service also has a healthy number of movies at any given time, although its overall library is nowhere near the size of Netflix’s or (especially) Amazon Prime’s. Still, horror geeks who happen to have a Hulu subscription actually have access to a pretty decent library of quality films.

Kudos to Hulu for actually creating a horror-specific genre subcategory since the last time we compiled this list, when they confusingly had “horror and suspense” jumbled together into one category that contained the likes of both The Babadook and Snowden. Now at least everything you see when you visit the “horror” tab makes sense being there. They’ve also added a considerable number of worthwhile titles to the library since last we checked, drawing into a dead heat with Netflix. Unfortunately, as we head into October/Halloween of 2019, Hulu has lost some classic titles they had access to as recently as last month, including An American Werewolf in London, Let the Right One In and Se7en.

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 60 best horror movies on Amazon Prime
The 50 best movies about serial killers
The 50 best slasher movies of all time
The 50 best ghost movies of all time
The 50 Best Horror Movies Streaming on Netflix
The 50 Best Movies About Serial Killers

So without any further ado, here are the 50 best horror movies streaming on Hulu:


what we become poster (Custom).jpg 50. What We Become
Year: 2015
Director: Bo Mikkelson
The thing that limits a film the likes of What We Become is its familiarity. A tight-knit family drama zombie movie, it follows a single family unit as they experience the tropes we’ve seen in nearly every “serious” indie zombie film of the last 15 years. Even the title is taken directly from one of the trade paperbacks of The Walking Dead comic, whose modern, Romero-esque outlook feels like heavy inspiration for the film. It’s not to say that it isn’t effective—it’s just a question of what still remains to be said with a film about a small family trapped inside their home by zombies that hasn’t already been said. What We Become is well shot and handles its minimal story effectively, but it struggles somewhat to justify its own existence. Its third act, thankfully, does ratchet up both the tension and action, paying off in some effective bloodletting, though it takes a bit too long to arrive. It’s a film that is very indicative of the state of modern indie zombie films, both in the U.S. and abroad: competent, fairly entertaining, but struggling for purpose. —Jim Vorel


the amityville horror poster (Custom).jpg 49. The Amityville Horror
Year: 1979
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
The original Amityville Horror might be one of the least striking or unique films to ever inspire more than a dozen follow-ups—seriously, there are to date 16 films that have been made with “Amityville” in the title. Its story is basic and primordial—family moves into a new house, but things go bump in the night. Every haunted house trope is well-represented, from secret rooms and unseen hands to disembodied voices and spiritual possession. If anything, the film overloads itself with concurrent, dueling reasons for the haunting, ranging from “Indian burial ground” to “site of Satanic rituals,” never really settling on a central theme. It’s just a pure popcorn haunting picture, famous for its blood-oozing walls but otherwise merely competent as your standard bit of October distraction. Perhaps it was the iconic shape of the house itself that seared itself into the cultural consciousness? No matter the reason, The Amityville Horror has been hard to shake, and has given us five new “Amityville” films in the last three years alone. —Jim Vorel


species-poster.jpg 48. Species
Year: 1995
Director: Roger Donaldson
Rarely has a genre movie been marketed and structured around the physical assets of a single actress more than Species was with model Natasha Henstridge. The screen debut of Henstridge certainly made a pop-cultural splash in the mid-1990s, during a downturn in classical horror cinema when crossovers with other genres (here it’s science fiction and more than a little of exploitation cinema) were one of the only viable ways to push horror into the mainstream. Species, in fact, was a bonafide box office smash, taking home more than $100 million as viewers (presumably male, for the most part) crowded cinemas to see Henstridge embody “sexy alien” Sil. Some 25 years later, the deeply ‘90s sensibilities of the film have turned it into something of a camp classic; one to be enjoyed especially for the seeming randomness of its supporting cast of character actors, which includes everyone from Forest Whitaker and Michael Madsen to Alfred Molina and a 15-year-old Michelle Williams. The FX haven’t quite held up, but at least the bad fashion will never die. —Jim Vorel


ghost stories 2018 poster (Custom).jpg 47. Ghost Stories
Year: 2017
Director: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
Ghost Stories, a joint directorial effort by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson, who adapted the movie from the successful stage play they wrote together back in the late 2000s, isn’t workaday horror hackery. For most of its duration, it’s confidently made, atmospheric and deliciously macabre, a movie that feels like a throwback to yesteryear’s horror without consciously acting like a throwback. Those acquainted with horror history might detect echoes of Nicolas Roeg, Robin Hardy, Michael Powell and the productions of Hammer Films, that beloved British outlet of all things gothic and spooky, but even knowledgeable horror geeks must trace Ghost Stories’ influences on a molecular level. They’re ingrained instead of inserted. It’s the difference between knowing homage and unconscious referencing. Nyman and Dyson love horror. You can sense that love in Ghost Stories’ embrace of classic multi-narrative structure, wrapping a triptych of horror subcategories around the labors of its lonely hero, Professor Phillip Goodman (Nyman), a man who tasks himself with exposing paranormal charlatans. (Think John Edwards, Theresa Caputo, or Ed and Lorraine Warren.) It’s tough being the guy who charges the stage during televised psychic readings to rain on the audience’s parade, but that’s Goodman’s life. Then he gets a letter from Charles Cameron, a famed paranormal investigator and Goodman’s boyhood idol. Now decrepit and living alone in a van by the ocean, Cameron challenges Goodman to explain three supernatural cases he couldn’t solve himself. We’re off to the races, but we always come back to sad sack Goodman, who throughout his investigations can’t help noticing weird phenomena in between visiting subjects (notably recurring and increasingly abrupt encounters with an ominous parka-clad figure). He’s haunted, too, but mostly by his memories of growing up with his rigid, borderline abusive and presently deceased father. That’s the hook on which Ghost Stories hangs its ghastly musings, the thing we expect the film to circle back to once Goodman completes his inquiries and renders his verdict on the authenticity of each incident. As an abstraction, that sounds like a stairway leading to Frank Capra levels of sentimentality: By wrestling with his skeptical biases, Goodman will confront his buried feelings about his dad and reconcile with his past. Maybe it’s for the best that the movie never goes there. —Andy Crump


55. the haunting (Custom).jpg 46. The Haunting
Year: 1999
Director: Jan de Bont
The superior 1963 original is of course not available on this service, leaving us with the 1999 remake that you may simply remember for starring Catherine Zeta-Jones at the height of her powers. Although not particularly well remembered at this point, it’s at the very least competently shot and brisk. A pretty accurate representation of a wide-release, PG-13 horror flick from the late ’90s, it features some nice art direction and production values to tell a throwback haunted house story about a group of people locked in a remote location overnight, dealing with vengeful spirits. The performances are competent—certainly better than the House on Haunted Hill remake from around the same time—and although the CGI now looks terribly dated, it’s all in good fun. You can do far, far worse as far as PG-13 horror movies from this time period go. And at least there’s plenty of Catherine Zeta-Jones, which might have you looking for that old DVD of Entrapment afterward. —Jim Vorel


48. children of the corn (Custom).jpg 45. Children of the Corn
Year: 1984
Director: Fritz Kiersch
It’s not often that the adults should be the ones afraid to watch a horror movie with kids, but it would be hard not to look at kids differently after 1984’s Children of the Corn, one of the higher-profile entries in horror’s “kids kill all the adults” subgenre. The film focuses on a cult in a fictional Gatlin, Nebraska, led by child preacher Isaac, who is convinced by an entity called He Who Walks Behind the Rows that all adults over 18 should get the axe. We see Burt and Vicky (played by Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) struggle to escape the small town after driving through and hitting a young, dying boy with their car. There’s plenty of slasher scares and creepy visuals, but like any good horror movie, it’s a commentary on society, man, and like Lord of the Flies before it, this Stephen King-based story looks toward our kids to point out the oddities of our culture (including an obsession with religion). —Tyler Kane


51. proxy (Custom).jpg 44. Proxy
Year: 2013
Director: Zack Parker
If the measuring stick for a “horror film” is that it makes you feel vaguely unnerved the entire time it’s playing, then Proxy is certainly successful. Zack Parker’s unconventional debut feature feels in brief stretches like some kind of bizarre masterwork of squirm-inducing, uncomfortable imagery, but it eventually unravels into an overly confusing, portentous morass. It’s a film about many things—motherhood, relationships, mental illness and concepts that are almost too abstract to grasp in a conventional horror movie plot. The acting is uneven, but there’s some really disturbing, fascinating stuff in there, all beginning with the shocking opening scene, which I won’t spoil for you, but it’s one a hard-to-watch sequence that will stick with you for a long time. —Jim Vorel


mom and dad poster (Custom).jpg 43. Mom and Dad
Year: 2018
Director: Brian Taylor
In Mom and Dad, Nicolas Cage whimpers, explodes, hollers, spasms, grins, gurns and weeps. Each line he lets escape from his mouth as if he’s exploring every crevice of every word, ultimately settling on an emotion or tone somehow slightly off from the way any typical person would use language. He brandishes power tools (“Sawzall…saws…all,” he repeats, mantra for no one) and breaks out in stab wounds like he’s solely composed of rubbery flesh and blood; he is an anthropomorphic double-take; he is finally embracing his male-pattern baldness. Though by now, in 2018, Cage’s appearance in a film is never as rare or as compelling as it was when last he worked with writer-director Brian Taylor on 2012’s Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance—he is a punchline to a good joke we’ve willingly forgotten—Cage is still an American (er, National) treasure, a Hollywood actor who no longer makes any sense as a Hollywood actor. Mom and Dad does nothing to refute that. About a case of mass hysteria breaking out in an upper class suburb, causing parents to viciously attack and murder their children, the film is surprisingly tame considering the pedigree it promises. Cage plays Brent Ryan, an office drone suffering a mid-life crisis, spending most of his time avoiding his wife Kendall (Selma Blair), falling asleep while watching porn at work and refusing to sell the Trans Am gathering dust in his garage. Their daughter, aimless rebel Carly (Anne Winters), steals money from her mom to buy designer drugs, generally hating everything about her family despite her mom’s pleas to be more thoughtful. Carly’s younger brother Josh (Zackary Arthur) is of indeterminate age, young enough to idolize his dad but old enough to seemingly understand that Brent is probably one beer away from snapping and murdering everyone at his office. Being a parent is hard: You love your kids, you hate your kids, you repress your dreams and desires so completely that they metastasize, primed to destroy your life from the inside out. You do the Hokey Pokey, turn yourself around, and then you smash the pool table you just built to bits with a sledgehammer. —Dom Sinacola


midnight-meat-train-poster.jpg 42. The Midnight Meat Train
Year: 2008
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Considering that Star is Born Oscar nomination, Bradley Cooper probably looks back on the likes of The Midnight Meat Train in the same way that Jennifer Anniston views her young self in Leprechaun, although if we’re being honest, Cooper has considerably less to be embarrassed about. This is a competent adaptation of the classic short story from author Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, concerning an investigative photographer who stumbles onto a series of serial killings that seem to occur in New York City’s subway system. Soon he’s tailing the killer, an effectively blank and stone-faced Vinnie Jones, through atmospheric subway set-pieces as he tries to figure out why this guy is hanging late-night subway passengers from meathooks. Featuring strong performances that bolster a simple premise, The Midnight Meat Train takes a last-minute left turn into inanity, but that’s on Barker more than director Kitamura. You might find the conclusion a little absurd, but it’s a ride worth taking, especially as part of a Bradley Cooper retrospective. —Jim Vorel


odd thomas poster1.jpg 41. Odd Thomas
Year: 2013
Director: Stephen Sommers
2016 was a year we lost numerous Hollywood icons, but the loss of Anton Yelchin is especially bitter, as he was only 27. The Star Trek star had already put together one hell of an incredible portfolio, and he radiated an innate likability that could well have made him an A-list leading man in Hollywood. With that said, Odd Thomas isn’t exactly his best film, but Yelchin is most definitely the best thing in this movie, playing the title character of “Odd,” a young man with abilities to both see and fight restless ghosts and malevolent spirits. The script is jumbled and has a tendency to loop back in on itself repeatedly, but Yelchin is charming, and it’s buoyed by a fun supporting role from Willem Dafoe as the unusually open-minded town sheriff—refreshing, given that this type of character almost never is helpful to the protagonist. It’s not without its problems, but it deserved better at the American box office than the “bomb” status it earned. —Jim Vorel


cooties-poster.jpg 40. Cooties
Year: 2014
Directors: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Cooties, for whatever reason, didn’t get a lot of play and attention when it was released in 2014—perhaps in the five years since Zombieland, the market had just come to regard zom-coms with a degree of “been there, done that.” But it deserves a look for the remarkably strong cast alone—Elijah Wood as your lead, a substitute teacher who is backed up by The Office’s Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer of 30 Rock and Allison Pill of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The bevy of teachers run afoul of a swarm of pint-sized zombies, students who have been turned into the undead by a food-borne virus in their cafeteria chicken nuggets. The jokes, then, do tend to boil down to the unusual nature of seeing children as the aggressors and adults running for their lives, or hacking their way through a crowd of zombies who come up to their navels. One thing Cooties does right—its zombies retain a degree of their own innate personalities, which means they on some level still act like kids. Which means that we get zombie children frolicking on the playground halfway through the film, playing jump rope with someone’s intestines. It’s an uneven comedy, but one that builds to a pretty satisfying conclusion. —Jim Vorel


splinter 2008 poster (Custom).jpg 39. Splinter
Year: 2008
Director: Toby Wilkins
Splinter begins with a strong, though bordering on cliché, hook. Two (naturally, young) people driving from a campsite spot a woman in the road and are soon carjacked by her hick cohort. When forced to drive away, they hit and kill something monstrous in the road, quickly combining both the “something’s in the woods” theme with the less politically correct but frequently more frightening “rednecks are serial killers” concept. From here, though, the film becomes less interesting, as the cast ends up locked into a gas station, fighting to escape If Splinter incorporates a third type of horror film, it’s the zombie movie. Whenever the monster strikes someone with its quills (which, incidentally, should’ve been the title for the movie: Quills), the victim becomes a creature as well. The film especially emulates the disembodied hand concept of Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, and with some good reason. For how low-budget the production clearly is, the design on the monster is inspired and doesn’t look like anything else out there. It’s a case of better-than-average production design elevating a film out of forgettable territory. —Sean Gandert


field-guide-to-evil-poster.jpg 38. The Field Guide to Evil
Year: 2018
Directors: Ashim Ahluwalia, Can Evrenol, Severin Fiala, Veronika Franza, Katrin Gebbe, Calvin Reeder, Agnieszka Smoczynska, Peter Strickland, Yannia Veslemes
Most horror anthologies benefit from having some kind of unifying theme tying their stories together, and The Field Guide to Evil can boast an attractive central conceit: It’s a set of eight tales that are all grafted together from folklore and the campfire warnings of eras past, in locations all around the globe. It makes for a haltingly effective assembly of pastoral folk nightmares, unfortunately undone to some extent by its inconsistency. Still, there are properly unnerving sights here, as well as some beautifully cinematic ones. In Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s “The Sinful Women of Höllfall,” the Austrian countryside is itself a star, as the dark and morose short (which really describes this anthology as a whole) features some incredible forested scenes, benefiting greatly from some superb location scouting in the telling of its tale of a conservative society punishing aberrant attractions among the local youth. So too is Can Evrenol’s minimalist “Al Karisi” segment likely to stick in one’s mind, as a young woman fears her newborn child will be abducted by a Turkish childbirth demon. Shockingly brutal in spurts, in violence both overt and implied, the dread induced by “Al Karisi” feels very much like the product of the same mind that gave us Baskin. —Jim Vorel


poltergeist 2 poster (Custom).jpg 37. Poltergeist II: The Other Side
Year: 1986
Director: Brian Gibson
From the start, Poltergeist II has a couple of things working in its favor, and a few balancing detractions working against it. The entire cast of the original return, along with the first film’s screenwriters, but lost are the dynamic direction of Tobe Hooper and the overseeing eye of Steven Spielberg, which strips it of a bit of its verve. Still, you can’t fault this sequel for being boring—if anything, Poltergeist II is even weirder and more zany than the original, which wasn’t exactly shy about being off the wall. The infusion of native American mysticism into the sequel is a bit of an odd touch, to the point that you can almost empathize with Craig T. Nelson’s constant doubting and bemoaning of his lot in life, but it’s the faces of this film that really leave a lasting impression. In particular, character actor Julian Beck is haunting as the film’s antagonist, the Rev. Henry Kane, his taut skin and ghoulish features being only amplified by the fact that Beck was tragically wasting away from cancer in real life during filming. The evidence of his passing, like that of child star Heather O’Rourke during Poltergeist III, continue to cast a shadow of unease over the series to this day. Overall, The Other Side isn’t quite as spooky as the original Poltergeist, but the presence of Beck in particular makes up for a lot. —Jim Vorel


saw-2004-poster.jpg 36. Saw
Year: 2004
Director: James Wan
The original entry in the Saw franchise can be seen as a progenitor of the splatter horror substyle that eventually ended up being derogatorily referred to as “torture porn,” although the original film in the series doesn’t truly feel like it deserves that label—not in the same way as the Saw sequels, or the films they inspired such as Hostel or Wolf Creek. Rather, the original Saw plays more like a fiendish mystery, of the type that might once have starred Boris Karloff as a mad scientist subjecting a group of people to a series of sadistic games of survival. Even more so than the series it directly leads into, however, the most important contribution of Saw to the modern horror landscape is likely director/super producer James Wan, who would go on to define the look and feel of 2010s supernatural horror films in the Insidious and The Conjuring series. —Jim Vorel


mother-movie-poster.jpg 35. mother!
Year: 2017
Director: Darren Aronofsky 
Try as you might to rationalize Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, mother! does not accept rationalization. There’s little reasonable ways to construct a single cohesive interpretation of what the movie tries to tell us. There is no evidence of Aronosfky’s intention beyond what we’ve intuited from watching his films since the ’90s—as well as how often Aronofsky loves to talk about his own work, which is usually worth avoiding, because Aronofsky likes thinking the movie is about everything. The most ironclad comment you can make about mother! is that it’s basically a matryoshka doll layered with batshit insanity. Unpack the first, and you’re met immediately by the next tier of crazy, and then the next, and so on, until you’ve unpacked the whole thing and seen it for what it is: A spiritual rumination on the divine ego, a plea for environmental stewardship, an indictment of entitled invasiveness, an apocalyptic vision of America in 2017, a demonstration of man’s tendency to leech everything from the women they love until they’re nothing but a carbonized husk, a very triggering reenactment of the worst house party you’ve ever thrown. mother! is a kitchen sink movie in the most literal sense: There’s an actual kitchen sink here, Aronofsky’s idea of a joke, perhaps, or just a necessarily transparent warning. mother!, though, is about everything. Maybe the end result is that it’s also about nothing. But it’s really about whatever you can yank out of it, its elasticity the most terrifying thing about it. —Andy Crump


blade 1998 poster (Custom).jpg 34. Blade
Year: 1998
Director: Stephen Norrington
History seems to have forgotten that the modern gold rush of “serious” Marvel comic book movies didn’t begin with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in 2002, or even Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000. In 1998, screenwriter David Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy) and director Stephen Norrington (uhh… The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), brought a Marvel property to the big screen, and took full advantage of a hard-R rating. Likely because of not being one of the comic giant’s better-known characters, the filmmakers were able to make significant changes to the Daywalker, upping his coolness level since his debut in 1973’s Tomb of Dracula by about, say, a thousand-jillion percent—starting with casting Wesley Snipes, who absolutely crackles with badass-ness. This version of the half-vampire is the ultimate predator or predators who, along with his guru/weaponsmith Whistler (the awesomely grizzled Kris Kristofferson), slices and stakes his way through the secret vampire society. The history of this world’s vampires and their various castes is well-explored—and strangely believable. While they do clandestinely rule from the shadows, they unfortunately are (un)dead meat to our titular dhampir, and look nowhere as stylish wearing shades. —Scott Wold


open-water-poster.jpg 33. Open Water
Year: 2003
Director: Chris Kentis
Open Water is just about the most simplistic and effective horror premise there is—you’re stranded in a place that is completely alien and inhospitable to human life, and you have no idea what to do about it. To be left behind by a scuba diving boat, as the protagonists here are, is the ultimate oceanic nightmare—not only are they now exposed to the elements, they don’t even have the faintest idea of which way they might somehow go to reach land. And that’s not even raising the spectre of the sharks, who begin circling shortly thereafter. It’s the ultimate cinematic portrayal of sheer, utter powerlessness—if the sharks decide that you’re dying today, then what are you reasonably planning on doing about it? A masked killer might be overcome. The entire ocean? Good luck with that. —Jim Vorel


shivers.jpg 32. Shivers
Year: 1998
Director: David Cronenberg
Shivers is quintessential David Cronenberg, the first in a long series of films that had audience members asking “What the hell is wrong with this guy, anyway?” Everything that freaks him out has just been ripped from the director’s subconscious and placed on screen—powerlessness, apathy, invasion of the body by outside forces. This nihilistic horror story revolves around a parasite that drives its hosts wild, causing first uncontrollable sexual desire and then extreme violence. The film is quite literally an orgy of violence, shot in a dark, grainy, unclean visual aesthetic that Cronenberg made into a signature. It’s as icky as it is captivating. As the narrator says in the closing moments of Shivers’ original trailer, “If this picture doesn’t make you scream and squirm, you’d better see a psychiatrist.”—Jim Vorel


31. tales from the darkside (Custom).jpg 31. Tales From the Darkside: The Movie
Year: 1990
Director: John Harrison
The spiritual successor to the first two Creepshow films was the Tales from the Darkside feature film, also an anthology. The stories are a bit ridiculous and cartoonish, even moreso than Creepshow, but fun in their own zany way. The highlight is probably “Cat From Hell,” a segment that was originally supposed to be featured in Creepshow 2 about a seemingly evil cat tormenting and stalking a wheelchair-bound old man to punish him for his past misdeeds. Although honestly, my favorite aspect of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is the anthology framing story, which involves a child chained up in the kitchen of a witch (none other than Blondie herself, Debbie Harry) who is planning on cooking him for dinner. Like some take on The Thousand and One Nights, the kid plays Scheherazade and distracts the witch by telling horror stories until he can engineer his escape. It’s like something from an overgrown episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?Jim Vorel


blair-witch.jpg 30. The Blair Witch Project
Year: 1999
Directors: Eduardo Sánchez, Daniel Myrick
Where Scream reinvented a genre by pulling the shades back to reveal the inner workings of horror, The Blair Witch Project went the opposite route by crafting a new style of presentation and especially promotion. Sure, people had already been doing found footage movies; just look at The Last Broadcast a year earlier. But this was the first to get a wide, theatrical release, and distributor Artisan Entertainment masterfully capitalized on the lack of information available on the film to execute a mysterious online advertising campaign in the blossoming days of the Internet age. Otherwise reasonable human beings seriously went into The Blair Witch Project believing that what they were seeing might be real, and the grainy, home movie aesthetic captured an innate terror of reality and “real people” that had not been seen in the horror genre before. It was also proof positive that a well-executed micro-budget indie film could become a massive box office success. So in that sense, The Blair Witch Project reinvented two different genres at the same time. —Jim Vorel


stir of echoes poster (Custom).jpg 29. Stir of Echoes
Year: 1999
Director: David Koepp
Stir of Echoes is one of those movies where any discussion of it always tends to revolve around another film from the same year that received far more attention—in this case, The Sixth Sense. Because it had the misfortune of hitting theaters a month after M. Night Shyamalan’s ghost thriller set box offices ablaze, and because it contains several of the same elements—including a young boy who can communicate with the dead—Stir of Echoes was widely derided at the time as knowingly derivative, but that assessment was never really fair. Unlike The Sixth Sense, which leans so heavily on atmosphere and tension, Stir of Echoes is more of a true popcorn thriller, a supernatural whodunit that sees Kevin Bacon descending into frothing hyperactivity after having the doors of his perception thrown wide open during a botched hypnosis session. Today, the film’s growing fandom seems to be trying to reclaim its status as an underrated horror classic, but the reality is that Stir of Echoes is an effective potboiler full of themes that have been common in ghost movies for as long as we’ve had ghost movies, complete with the warm likability of Kevin Bacon. —Jim Vorel


26. event horizon (Custom).jpg 28. Event Horizon
Year: 1997
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
It’s weird to think that Paul W.S. Anderson, the auteur of shitty, big-budget videogame adaptations (not to mention 2011’s The Three Musketeers) was also the director of one of the more imaginative sci-fi horror films of the ’90s, but it’s true. Event Horizon follows a rescue crew boarding a derelict experimental ship that they learn has traveled between dimensions—and suffice to say, it hasn’t been to friendly places. The evil presence on the ship then tests all the crew members with disturbing visions of the beyond, succeeding in possessing the ship’s designer, played by Sam Neill. This gives you the best, craziest aspect of the film; a Sam Neill villain who has gouged his own eyes out, melodramatically lecturing members of the crew about how he’s going to take them all back to the hell dimension. Neill is seriously way over-the-top in this one, and it’s simultaneously funny and scary and gross as hell, while seemingly being a clear inspiration on future videogame franchises such as Dead Space. —Jim Vorel


i-trapped-devil-movie-poster.jpg 27. I Trapped the Devil
Year: 2019
Director: Josh Lobo
Merry Christmas! Have some family dysfunction and possibly an untimely visit from the Prince of Darkness. The man locked up in Steve’s (Scott Poythress) basement might well be Satan himself. He might also be an innocent man, or at least a man innocent of being the devil, but Steve’s brother, Matt (AJ Bowen) and sister-in-law Karen (Susan Burke) don’t really know what to make of Steve’s situation. Is he deluded, or still grieving a loss that at first goes unspoken and later is made explicit? Or does he really genuinely have Old Scratch imprisoned in his home? Director Josh Lobo toes the slow-burn line, doing very little at the start to meaningfully terrify viewers, but he rapidly layers I Trapped the Devil with mood and dread, his finger looped through the pin of a grenade in every interaction Steve has with Matt and Karen, as if at any moment their tentative atmosphere could descend into straight-up chaos. The film’s central question hangs over all until, at long last, Lobo gives an answer, but the answer is so chilling that we might wish he’d kept us in the dark all along. —Andy Crump


wolfcop poster (Custom).jpg 26. WolfCop
Year: 2014
Director: Lowell Dean
Wolfcop is full-on horror comedy, and delirious good fun. When an alcoholic small-town Canadian cop (Leo Fafard) gets cursed and turned into a werewolf, he retains all of his human faculties—above all, a respect for the LAW. Using his newfound werewolf superpowers, he opposes the local cabal of reptilian shapeshifters. Yep. That’s your film. It’s one of those carefully calculated, modern, indie horror-comedies that was created explicitly in the hopes of someday being labeled “cult classic,” but it does its job better than most, dipping a bit into the neo-grindhouse aesthetic of Hobo With a Shotgun, perhaps thanks to the gore effects, although it’s nowhere near as nihilistic. More than anything, you will undoubtedly feel a very genuine love for the utter ridiculousness of the premise. —Jim Vorel


ravenous poster (Custom).jpg 25. Ravenous
Year: 1999
Director: Antonia Bird
Ravenous is an odd duck of a film, and it’s no wonder that the esteem it receives from certain audiences these days is of a decidedly “cult” variety. Caught between genres, it’s a blend of serious-minded historical fiction, cannibal horror and a strong streak of black comedy, although I’d hesitate to truly refer to it as a “horror comedy” outright. The film carries itself with too much gravitas for that moniker, despite the presence of David Arquette. Guy Pearce plays a Dances With Wolves-style soldier protagonist who is haunted by the horrors of war, but there are much worse fates to come. Your true reason for watching Ravenous ought to be the wonderful Robert Carlyle, who is stupendous as a cannibalism survivor with more to him than “meats” the eye (I’m so, so sorry for that one). It all builds to a conclusion that is almost Tarantino in tone, a Resevoir Dogs standoff in which the loyalties of thieves are put to the test and Pearce’s character must decide just how badly he wants to survive. It would probably be a fun movie to watch while preparing a standing rib roast. —Jim Vorel


mimic poster (Custom).jpg 24. Mimic
Year: 1997
Director: Guillermo del Toro 
It’s so very tempting to want to write a revisionist history of a film such as Mimic, 20 years after it was initially released to mixed and negative reviews. Just about any film from Guillermo del Toro, after the likes of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water, will attract a few impassioned defenses as a “lost classic” if you look hard enough—even this one, about giant, mutated cockroaches in the New York sewers who have evolved to blend in among humans. The truth is, though, that Mimic does not represent a fully formed del Toro as the auteur we know him today—the film contains some of his stylistic flourishes and fascination with the macabre, but he was by no means given free rein to create the derelict insect society that no doubt haunted his dreams. Mimic is a studio potboiler, and a decent little thriller, with a better than average cast who are let down by a script that feels like its first priority is appeasing the multiplex crowd, wrapping itself up in a neat little package in the process. If you let del Toro produce the same film today, it would surely have ended up as something far more esoteric, and ultimately more memorable. —Jim Vorel


blade 2 poster (Custom).jpg 23. Blade 2
Year: 2002
Director: Guillermo Del Toro 
Leave it to gothic horror extraordinaire Guillermo del Toro to take our unstoppable vampire hunter and crank the style past 11 as he plays up the comic book craziness to the tilt. Arguably even more enjoyable than its predecessor, Blade II sees a fragile alliance between Blade (Wesley Snipes) and the Bloodpack—basically, the Dirty Dozen of vampires—as they face off against Reapers (super-vampires who enjoy them some tasty vampire blood). Not only are there great new characters in the ’pack, but as this is a del Toro joint, there’s 100% more Ron Perlman. Fang-tastic. —Scott Wold


we are what we are 2010 poster (Custom).jpg 22. We Are What We Are
Year: 2010
Director: Jorge Michel Grau
This 2010 Mexican horror thriller was remade in the U.S. in 2013 by the talented Jim Mickle—and I have to admit, the American remake is the stronger of the two stories. Still, the original We Are What We Are sows the seeds of a compelling film. It follows a close-knit family of cannibals secretly maintaining their way of life in an urban setting. When the patriarch of the family drops dead, presumably from the cannibalism-related disease kuru, the family unit is thrown into disorder and the two teenage sons suddenly inherit the responsibility of obtaining fresh meat for the family’s ritualized cannibalism. What follows is a somewhat awkward, very dour and morbid series of misadventures as they try to maintain their way of life. The film is both creepy and gory, but it lacks the strength of characters and relationships that are established in the American version, which delves deeper into the psyche of each family member. You can see why Mickle took an interest in the premise, though. — Jim Vorel


33. Antiviral (Custom).jpg 21. Antiviral
Year: 2012
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
When you’re the son of David Cronenberg, you have a lot to live up to in a horror film debut, and Brandon Cronenberg does an admirable job in his cerebral and icky horror flick Antiviral. Although it can be a little slow and portentous, the setting and ideas are spectacular. The film imagines a near-future, sci-fi tinged world where obsession with celebrity lives has replaced nearly every other facet of the arts. People are so celebrity-obsessed, in fact, that a booming genetics business has developed to cater to disease hounds—people who literally want to be injected with specific strains of diseases, such as STDs, that have been harvested from various starlets. Elsewhere, people stand in line at meat markets to buy muscle tissue grown and cultivated from celebrity donors. Cronenberg may lay the social commentary on a little thick, but the results on screen are chilling. If the characters were a little bit more vivacious and interesting to follow, Antiviral could have been a modern classic, but it’s still an impressive debut for the younger Cronenberg. — Jim Vorel


childs play poster (Custom).jpg 20. Child’s Play
Year: 1988
Director: Tom Holland
Child’s Play is one of those late ’80s gimmick slashers where it’s all too easy to feel as if you’ve already seen the film, without actually having sat down to watch it. Killer doll, very cheesy, plenty of one-liners, right? Well yes, and no. The original (and pretty obviously best) entry in the Child’s Play series is the most serious-minded (at least slightly) and grounded of the movies, and it goes out of its way to humanize its iconic killer Chucky—or the spirit within him, that of serial killer Charles Lee Ray—more than one might expect. If you’ve never seen a film in the series, ask yourself this: Did you know that the plot of Child’s Play is technically all about voodoo? Because it is. In the end, though, its greatness and inherent watchability boils down to the charms of the wonderful Brad Dourif, who found in Chucky the vessel he needed to become a genre legend forevermore. Like Robert Englund did with Freddy Krueger, Chucky becomes the most beloved aspect of the series because Dourif’s voiceover just oozes charisma and character—he’s more alive than any of the flesh-and-blood characters in this series could ever be. It’s just one of those sublime moments of perfect casting—it’s easy to imagine that no one would remember the Child’s Play series today if that one aspect had been different. —Jim Vorel


41. Grabbers (Custom).jpg 19. Grabbers
Year: 2012
Director: Jon Wright
A surprisingly well-acted Irish/British indie sci-fi horror flick, Grabbers is unabashedly goofy but wholly professional and charming in spades. The story follows an alcoholic police officer who has to face a new threat to a sleepy seaside community when octopus-like aliens begin emerging from the sea and killing townspeople. These “Grabbers,” as they’re quickly dubbed, have only one weakness: Human blood is fatal to them if it’s over a certain percentage alcohol. Therefore, to combat the monsters and make themselves unpalatable, the police and townspeople have an obvious choice to make: Get totally hammered and grab a bunch of weapons. That may sound rather close to the summary of a direct-to-video movie by The Asylum, but Grabbers is surprisingly intelligent, witty and well-written in such a way that it easily escapes a fate in DVD bargain bin hell. —Jim Vorel


my bloody valentine 1981 poster (Custom).jpg 18. My Bloody Valentine
Year: 1981
Director: George Mihalka
Practically every holiday of note got their own quasi-slasher film in the wake of Friday the 13th, but it’s the Valentine’s Day entry that stole our hearts. This film is the archetype for just about every early ’80s slasher from top to bottom: “Anniversary of the day it all happened” setting, wronged antagonist returning decades later, masked killer, horny teens, and red herrings aplenty. It was infamous at the time for its gore, but audiences never knew the half of it in 1981—if you watch this film today, it’s imperative that you obtain the 2009 uncut version (not the 2009 remake), which adds back in a ton of footage from the gory death scenes, especially the bit in the showers when one particularly unfortunate girl gets her head impaled by a spout, which then gets turned on. Suffice to say, it’s not pretty. Beyond the gore, there’s something inherently likable about My Bloody Valentine’s particular brand of familiarity—it feels like the cinematic equivalent of a letter in the mail from an old friend. This is basically slasher comfort food—the good kind. —Jim Vorel


quiet-place-movie-poster.jpg 17. A Quiet Place
Year: 2018
Director: John Krasinski 
A Quiet Place’s narrative hook is a killer—ingenious, ruthless—and it holds you in its sway for the entirety of this 95-minute thriller. That hook is so clever that, although this is a horror movie, I sometimes laughed as much as I tensed up, just because I admired the sheer pleasure of its execution. The film is set not too far in the future, out somewhere in rural America. Krasinski plays Lee Abbott, a married father of two. (It used to be three.) A Quiet Place introduces its conceit with confidence, letting us piece together the terrible events that have occurred. At some point not too long ago, a vicious pack of aliens invaded Earth. The creatures are savagely violent but sightless, attacking their prey through their superior hearing. And so Lee and his family—including wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and children Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe)—have learned that, to stay alive, they must be completely silent. Speaking largely through sign language, which the family knew already because Regan is deaf, Lee and his clan have adapted to their bleak, terrifying new circumstance, always vigilant to ensure these menacing critters don’t carve them up into little pieces. As you might expect, A Quiet Place finds plenty of opportunities for the Abbotts to make sound—usually accidentally—and then gives the audience a series of shocks as the family tries to outsmart the aliens. As with a lot of post-apocalyptic dramas, Krasinski’s third film as a director derives plenty of jolts from the laying out of its unsettling reality. The introduction of needing to be silent, the discovery of what the aliens look like, and the presentation of the ecosystem that has developed since their arrival is all fascinating, but the risk with such films is that, eventually, we’ll grow accustomed to the conceit and get restless. Krasinski and his writers sidestep the problem not just by keeping A Quiet Place short but by concocting enough variations on "Seriously, don’t make a noise" that we stay sucked into the storytelling. Nothing in his previous work could prepare viewers for the precision of A Quiet Place’s horror. —Tim Grierson


28 weeks later poster (Custom).jpg 16. 28 Weeks Later
Year: 2007
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
28 Weeks Later is an often interesting, often scary, often powerful and often frustrating film for zombie/horror genre geeks. As a sequel to 2002’s supremely influential 28 Days Later, it’s a partial success. It does a wonderful job of transplanting that film’s nihilistic, hopeless streak of terror and what one person is willing to do to survive—especially in the masterful opening scene, where Robert Carlyle’s character abandons his wife while fleeing from zombies in a soul-crushing chase across the fields of England as tears of guilt stream down his face. On the other hand, the film’s true main characters, his children, aren’t nearly as interesting—nor is the collection of military suits who have locked down England in the post-Rage virus cleanup. The film also violates one of the unwritten rules of zombie cinema, which is, “There shouldn’t be a ‘main zombie.’” In this case, when Robert Carlyle’s Don becomes infected and escapes, it hurts the story’s ability to be legitimately suspenseful, as we know the kids aren’t in any real danger during any of their encounters with the infected, because zombie Don is still unaccounted for. If the audience knows that the script will require this one infected person to be present for a conclusion, then it robs all the other infected of being perceived as legitimate threats. Still, despite all that, 28 Weeks Later is well-shot and full of shocking, gritty action sequences. It’s not without its flaws, but certain scenes such as the opener are so powerful that we’re willing to forgive a lot. —Jim Vorel


the-beyond-poster.jpg 15. The Beyond
Year: 1981
Director: Lucio Fulci
It’s hard to describe Fulci’s The Beyond in absolutes. Some would contend that it isn’t a “zombie movie.” Which isn’t to say there aren’t any zombies in it, but it’s not a Romero-style zombie movie, as Fulci pulled off in Zombi 2. The Beyond is the middle entry in Fulci’s “Gates of Hell” trilogy, and takes place in and around a crumbling old hotel that just happens to have one of those gates to hell located in its cellar. When it opens, all hell starts to break loose in the building, in a film that combines a haunted house aesthetic with demonic possession, the living dead and ghostly apparitions. As with so many of the other films in this mold, it’s not always entirely clear what’s going on … and honestly, the plot is more or less irrelevant. You’re watching it to see zombies gouge the eyes out of unsuspecting innocents or watch heads being blown off, and there’s no shortage of either of those things. Thinking back to Lucio Fulci movies after the fact, you won’t remember any of the story structure. You’ll just remember the ultra gory highlights, splattering across the screen in a way that continues to influence filmmakers to this day. Modern horror films such as We Are Still Here show heavy inspiration from Fulci, and The Beyond in particular. It’s one of the most stylish of the Italian, zombie-featuring horror flicks.


clovehitch-killer-movie-poster.jpg 14. The Clovehitch Killer
Director: Duncan Skiles
Life in small-town Christian America can have a stultifying effect on a person, sucking out all personality and vitality, replacing all individual identity with better living through dogma. In The Clovehitch Killer, director Duncan Skiles replicates this bait-and-switch through cinematographer Luke McCoubrey’s camera. The film is shot stock-still, the camera more or less fixed from one scene to the next, as if affected by the vibe of routine humming throughout its setting of Somewhere, Kentucky. Almost none of the characters we meet in the movie have a spark; they’re drones tasked with maintaining the hive’s integrity against interlopers who, god forbid, actually bother to be somebody. Caught up in this dynamic is Tyler (Charlie Plummer), awkward, quiet and shy, the son of Don (Dylan McDermott), a handyman and Scout troop leader, which brings no end of unexpressed consternation to Tyler as a Scout himself. On the surface, Don looks and acts like an automaton, too, with occasional hints of humor and warmth in his capacity as father and Scoutmaster. Beneath, though, he’s something more, at least so Tyler suspects: The Clovehitch Killer, a serial killer who once tormented their area with a horrific murder spree long completed. Or maybe not. Maybe Don just has a real kink fetish and keeps rope around for fun in the bedroom. Either way, fathers aren’t always who or what they appear.

Horror movies  are all about the squirm, the nerve-wracking build-up of tension over time that, done properly, leaves viewers crawling out of their skin with dread. In The Clovehitch Killer, this sensation is wrought entirely through craft instead of effects. That damn camera, motionless and unstirred, is always happy to film what’s in front of it, never one to pan about to catch new angles. What you see is what it shows you, but what it shows you might be more awful than you can stomach at a glance. This is a devilish movie that does beautifully what horror films are meant to—vex us with fear—through the most deceptively simple of means. —Andy Crump


castle rock poster (Custom).jpg 13. Castle Rock
Year: 2018
Director: Various
Castle Rock is easy to love if you’ve already given yourself up to Stephen King’s brand of campfire story, with all the hokey chuckles and midnight palm-sweating that comes with it. I know I have—I just finished enjoying King’s latest, The Outsider—which makes me a prime target (though, I suspect, not the only target) for Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason’s Hulu original series, based on King’s mythos. Michael Uppendahl directs the solid pilot, which pushes artistry and literary fidelity into its compellingly sketched mystery, and the hooks only sink in deeper over the rest of season one. The plot and environment (because one is inevitably entangled with the other) use the stories of Stephen King as their knitting fiber, intertwining both meta- and textual characters and themes into the afflicted town of Castle Rock (home of Cujo and The Dead Zone). Along with It’s Derry and the oft-abbreviated Jerusalem’s Lot, Castle Rock makes up the Bermuda triangle of fictitious Maine haunts that King keeps coming back to. King’s work loves a polluted system, and towns work just as well as prisons or hotels. The atmosphere works because the series’ thematic and artistic construction do each other plenty of favors. For example, the show treats religion and the supernatural as forces that aren’t necessarily on equal footing, but are certainly enabling each other, like a father pushing his child higher and higher on the swing set. Which is which never stays the same. There’s misguided righteousness, dangerous excitement, and legitimate goodness caught up in the battle for Castle Rock’s soul, which is an exciting spin on the conventional Exorcist-like binary questioning of faith. —Jacob Oller


the monster squad poster (Custom).jpg 12. The Monster Squad
Year: 1987
Director: Fred Dekker
There’s really only one word for The Monster Squad: “Fun.” For lovers of Halloween, lovers of classic horror, lovers of the Universal monster movies, the film is simply a joy. The mere idea of such a club—a bunch of preteen kids hanging out in a treehouse and devoting their time to Frankenstein and the Wolf-Man—makes me want to step into a de-aging machine so I can put in my application. Sometimes described as being like “The Goonies with monsters,” that’s really not a bad way to sum it up. There’s a colorful energy in the script by Lethal Weapon’s Shane Black, and a definite adult streak that makes this film just as enjoyable today as it was in the late ‘80s. Directed by Fred Dekker, who was also responsible for the much more adult, gory/funny 1986 classic Night of the Creeps, it follows this band of child adventurers as they oppose the evil plans of Dracula and his various monster minions—The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc, etc. It treads an expert line between adventure, humor and light scares. It’s the perfect Halloween party movie, especially for nostalgic ‘80s and ‘90s kids. —Jim Vorel


southbound poster (Custom).jpg 11. Southbound
Year: 2016
Directors: Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath
Tricksters and demons, vengeful spirits and serial killers, the hope of salvation and the lingering presence of Satan: These are the things that anthology film Southbound is made of. The film has a single vision but is built on a wide variety of grim and ghoulish horror tropes, all the better to satisfy the hungers of even the most niche genre connoisseurs. Best of all, though, the wild variations from one section of the picture to the next enhances rather than dilutes the viewing experience. It helps that there are common themes that run across the film—loss, regret and guilt make up a repeated refrain—and that the sum of its parts adds up to an examination of how people unwittingly architect their own suffering. But Southbound is first and foremost a work of velocity, a joyride through Hell well worth buckling up for. —Andy Crump


body-snatchers-1978-movie-poster.jpg 10. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Year: 1978
Director: Philip Kaufman
There’s no real need for the film’s credit-limned intro—a nature-documentary-like sequence in which the alien spores soon to take over all of Earth float through the cosmos and down to our stupid third berg from the Sun—because from the moment we meet health inspector Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) and the colleague with whom he’s hopelessly smitten, Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams), the world through which they wander seems suspiciously off. Although Philip Kaufman’s remake of Don Siegel’s 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers begins as a romantic comedy of sorts, pinging dry-witted lines between flirty San Franciscan urbanites as Danny Zeitlin’s score strangely lilts louder and louder overhead, Kaufman laces each frame with malice. Oddly acting extras populate the backgrounds of tracking shots and garbage trucks filled with weird dust fluff (which we eventually learn spreads the spores) exist at the fringes of the screen. The audience, of course, puts the pieces together long before the characters do—characters who include Jeff Goldblum at his beanpole-iest and Leonard Nimoy at his least Spock-iest—but that’s the point: As our protagonists slowly discover that the world they know is no longer anything they understand, so does such simmering anxiety fill and then usurp the film. Kaufman piles on more and more revolting, unnerving imagery until he offers up a final shot so bleak that he might as well be punctuating his film, and his vision of modern life, with a final, inevitable plunge into the mouth of Hell. —Dom Sinacola


evil-dead.jpg 9. The Evil Dead
Year: 1982
Director: Sam Raimi 
Infamously pieced together from $350,000 and an exceptional amount of goodwill, The Evil Dead, when looking back at it, seems to have created a kind of horror unto itself. Sam Raimi’s debut, of course, is notable for so much more than that: like how it was edited by Joel Coen; or how Stephen King’s rabid interest caught the attention of a major studio, giving Raimi and close bud Bruce Campbell the chance to pour everything they knew about slashers, slapstick, camp, pulp, and fantasy into Evil Dead II, a kind of sequel/reboot hybrid. But the real gauge of The Evil Dead’s tenor is perhaps best exemplified by the fact that its 2013 remake was something of a sickening feast for gore-hounds. For those familiar with Evil Dead II and the even sillier Army of Darkness, the fact that the original film was more of a straightforward genre affair feels somehow off; behold cognitive dissonance in full effect. And yet, somehow this rudimentary story of five Michigan State students who unwittingly unleash ancient demons in a cabin in the woods is still surprisingly, mercilessly skin-crawling. Leave it to Sam Raimi to stretch a dollar so far the sound of it snapping has the same effect on our stomachs as a classic bump in the night.—Dom Sinacola


baskin poster (Custom).jpg 8. Baskin
Year: 2016
Director: Can Evrenol
It is telling that the single scariest image in Baskin emphasizes creeps over carnage. It’s a shot of a boy standing alone in his living room, illuminated only by the static glow of his family’s television set, which has inexplicably turned itself on in the middle of the night. Nothing about the scenario is overtly terrifying—at least until he shuts the TV off—but it is memorably real in a film where it’s difficult to distinguish what is and isn’t imagined. Grand guignol-level spectacle where every character in the frame is streaked with viscera? That’s one thing. Domestic peculiarities that invoke nocturnal aberrations, though, are another thing entirely. The film evokes the artistic sensibilities of both Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento with its lurid color palette, but it carves a gore-streaked path all its own. —Andy Crump


36. honeymoon (Custom).jpg 7. Honeymoon
Year: 2014
Director: Leigh Janiak
The cool thing about horror is that if you just have the vision, you can make something like Honeymoon with no more resources than an empty cabin and a few weeks of spare time. The film only has four actors, and two of them barely appear, leaving everything on the shoulders of the two young stars, Rose Leslie (Ygritte from Game of Thrones) and Harry Treadway. This is the right decision to make: If you’ve got a few solid, young actors, why not let the film just become a statement of their talents? The story is extremely simple, with a newlywed couple going on their honeymoon in a remote cabin in the woods. When Bea, the wife, wanders away one night and has some kind of disturbing event in the woods, she comes back changed, and it begins to affect both her memory and sense of identity. The next hour or so is a slow-burning but well-acted and suspenseful journey for the two as the husband’s suspicions grow and the warning flags continue to mount. By the end, emotions and gross-out scares are both running high. —Jim Vorel


the canal poster (Custom).jpg 6. The Canal
Year: 2014
Director: Ivan Kavanagh
This indie Irish horror film announces Ivan Kavanagh as a serious talent and remarkably skilled director—it’s the kind of film you might watch on a streaming service with zero expectations, only to be completely blown away. Nominally a “ghost story” of sorts about a man who discovers a century old grisly crime that occurred in his house, it’s actually much more of a psychologically intense minefield—the sort of film that Polanski would have made, if there actually were ghosts in Repulsion. Combining elements that remind one of The Shining’s superb sound design with the surrealist, red-and-blue color palette of a film by Dario Argento, it is impeccably put together and beautiful to look at. The story, unfortunately, gets just a little bit too literal and wraps things up a bit neatly in the last 15 minutes, but the movie crafts an extremely effective web of dread and genuine fear through its entire runtime. Here’s hoping that we see another horror film from Kavanagh at some point. —Jim Vorel


the-orphanage-poster.jpg 5. The Orphanage
Year: 2007
Director: J.A. Bayona
It seems safe to say that director J.A. Bayona was more than a little influenced by Guillermo Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone when he laid out The Orphanage, but the film also channels a more stately, gothic brand of horror rather than the dusty, dingy realism of Del Toro’s Spanish Civil War ghost story. Here we have something with a bit more grandeur—a crumbling, seaside mansion that would look out of place if it didn’t have a ghost. Belén Rueda is fantastic as Laura, a woman who moves into the orphanage where she grew up with her husband and young son, before being drawn into the secret history of both the house and the other former orphans who once lived there alongside her. Deep-seated emotion and the impossible desire to protect loved ones from the inevitable permeate the film, but once the home’s restless spirits become active, it’s also quite chilling. Tomás (Oscar Casas), the sack-masked young boy you’ll no doubt see on the DVD cover of The Orphanage, cuts an iconic figure among child ghosts, but it’s the things left unseen that make The Orphanage chilling. The scene featuring a reprise of the knock-knock game once played by the orphans is almost unbearably tense. —Jim Vorel


12. hellraiser (Custom).jpg 4. Hellraiser
Year: 1987
Director: Clive Barker
The head villain/eventual hero (there’s a sickening number of terrible Hellraiser sequels) behind Clive Barker’s Hellraiser franchise is the Cenobite Pinhead, sent from the pits of his own personal hell dimension to drag you down into the depths with him. Where he tortures you. For eternity. All because you opened a fancy Rubik’s Cube. Pinhead has zero remorse, looking you dead in the eye as he delivers a deadpan promise to “tear your soul apart.” Oh yeah, and they’re indestructible. Personally, it turned me off to puzzle boxes forever. As in his fiction, Barker’s obsessions with the duality of pain and pleasure are on full display in the film version of Hellraiser, an icky story of sick love and obsession. —Rachel Haas


annihilation-poster.jpg 3. Annihilation
Year: 2018
Director: Alex Garland
Annihilation is a movie that’s impossible to shake. Like the characters who find themselves both exploring the world of the film and inexplicably trapped by it, you’ll find yourself questioning yourself throughout, wondering whether what you’re watching can possibly be real, whether maybe you’re losing it a little yourself. The film is a near-impossible bank shot by Ex Machina filmmaker Alex Garland, a would-be science fiction actioner that slowly reveals itself to be a mindfuck in just about every possible way, a film that wants you to invest in its universe yet never gives you any terra firma on which you can orient yourself. This is a film that wants to make you feel as confused and terrified as the characters you’re watching. In this, it is unquestionably successful. This is a risky proposition for a director, particularly with a big studio movie with big stars like this one: a movie that becomes more confusing and disorienting as it goes along. Garland mesmerizes with his visuals, but he wants you to be off-balance, to experience this world the way Lena (Natalie Portman) and everyone else is experiencing it. Like the alien (I think?) of his movie, Garland is not a malevolent presence; he is simply an observer of this world, one who follows it to every possible permutation, logical or otherwise. It’s difficult to explain Annihilation, which is a large reason for its being. This is a film about loss, and regret, and the sensation that the world is constantly crumbling and rearranging all around you every possible second. The world of Annihilation looks familiar, but only at first. Reality is fluid, and ungraspable. It can feel a little like our current reality in that way. —Will Leitch


evil-dead-2-poster.jpg 2. Evil Dead 2
Year: 1987
Director: Sam Raimi 
On the surface, Evil Dead 2 is essentially a remake of the first 1981 Evil Dead: Sam Raimi going back to an idea he clearly enjoyed with a bigger budget and more experience to “get it right” by upping the ante of the original. But Raimi also offers up some tweaks that fundamentally alter the nature and tone of the first film, changing the recipe from “horror with occasional moments of black comedy” to a more even mix of both that still doesn’t skimp on scares or guts. Bruce Campbell as Ash goes from being almost a passive “final girl” character in the first film to a much more capable, wisecracking hero right from the get-go, and significantly more of the film features him in a tour-de-force solo performance, which helps make Evil Dead 2 one of the most tightly paced horror films ever. It wastes no time, going straight into its comic violence within the first 10 minutes and never letting up. It’s a film indicative of the changing attitude toward zombies—at this point in the late ’80s it’s becoming rare that zombies are ever treated as simply “scary.” More and more frequently, they’re instead incorporated into madcap comedies and action films à la Evil Dead, and this is a trend that continued through the ’90s. —Jim Vorel


rosemarys-baby.jpg 1. Rosemary’s Baby
Year: 1968
Director: Roman Polanski
The banality of evil isn’t a concept new to the horror genre—look to recent shock-plagued entries like The Eyes of My Mother, or, say, Mickey Keating’s interminable Psychopaths to watch bad things happen for no other reason than that they can—but in Roman Polanski’s troubled hands, that banality is an unadulterated expression of a deep-seated, institutionalized horror, one so ingrained in our society it becomes practically organic. With Rosemary’s Baby, the body of young Rosemary (Mia Farrow) is the institution through which Satan’s malice gestates, a body over which everyone but Rosemary herself seems to have any control. At the mercy of her overbearing neighbors (played by a pitch-perfect Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer), her Ur-Dudebro husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), and the doctor (Ralph Bellamy) recommended by her high society cadre of new friends, Rosemary is treated as if she’s the last person who knows what’s best for her and her fetus—a position she accepts as a matter of fact. She’s only a woman, a homemaker at that, so such is her lot. Of course, the worse she feels and the more fraught her pregnancy becomes—as well as the recurring flashes of a ghastly dream she can’t quite shake—the clearer Rosemary begins to suspect she’s an unwilling pawn in something cosmically insidious. She is, is the absurd truth: She is the mother of Satan’s offspring, the victim of a coven’s will to worship their Dark Lord much more fruitfully. More than the director’s audacious Hollywood debut, not to mention the omen of what New Hollywood would be willing to do to tear down tradition, Rosemary’s Baby is a landmark horror film because of how ordinary, how easy, it is for everyone else in Rosemary’s life to crush a woman’s spirit and take her life. “It’s alive!” Rosemary screams, echoing Frankenstein with outsize aplomb, her declaration hardly one of triumph, but of disbelief that such a nightmare is the life she’s just going to have to accept. —Dom Sinacola

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