With only a few horror movies slated for October release in theaters, your best bet for spooky thrills is to stay home and stream until you scream. Here are the five most horrific films we could find in the respective movie libraries of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. And if you have more than one streaming service, that just means more time to chill... or be killed.
The Fury (1978) After Carrie, Brian De Palma made this tense thriller about a pair of young psychics whose powers are being exploited by an evil CIA agent (John Cassavetes). Kirk Douglas plays the father of one of the psychics, whose abilities have been manipulated beyond his control, which is where the film’s title comes in. The dramatic score is by John Williams.
Hellraiser (1987) Clive Barker adapted his own work for his directorial debut, an awesomely depraved tale of obsession, human sacrifice, skin-flaying, S&M, and this sharp-dressed fellow:
Jaws: The Revenge (1987) “This time, it’s personal,” the tag line announces, and indeed “the revenge” in the title refers to a shark which seeks personal revenge against the Brody family, including Chief Brody’s widow, by following them to the Bahamas. If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it absolutely is, and it’s made even better by the presence of Michael Caine, hamming it up as a pilot living the Caribbean dream. Also ridiculous: Netflix didn’t bother adding many new horror movies for October, yet the stubbornly non-scary and unintentionally hilarious Jaws: The Revenge is yours for the taking.
Re-Animator (1985) This H.P. Lovecraft-inspired cult classic is distinguished by its surreal sense of humor, Jeffrey Combs’ fully committed performance as mad medical student Herbert West, and maybe the most unforgettably disturbing “giving head” scene in cinematic history.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010) Back in August, we made some Netflix recommendations and a number of commentators gave the nod to this overlooked horror comedy, so we’re including it this time around. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine play a pair of good ol’ boys who somehow get caught up in a classic backwoods slasher-movie scenario—in which everyone thinks, quite incorrectly, that they’re the bad guys. It’s essentially a one-joke movie, but the joke is abundantly clever, and it goes the distance.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) Wes Craven’s last entry in his Nightmare series was also his most personal; the film imagines that Freddy Krueger isn’t just a horror-movie character, but an actual demon that could break out of fiction and into the real world. It’s a high-concept idea that doesn’t always work, but it’s still well worth watching—especially for the scene in which Wes Craven plays “Wes Craven,” a filmmaker haunted by his own creation.
The Witch (2016) One of the best films of 2016 is now available for viewing while you live deliciously, perhaps even while nibbling on a stick of butter.
The Witches (1990) Go for a witch-themed double feature with this very darkly whimsical Roald Dahl adaptation about a kid who realizes witches are real and gets turned into a mouse (courtesy of Jim Henson productions) for his trouble. Anjelica Huston nails it, naturally, as the head witch bitch.
Final Destination (2000) The long-running series later went way out of control—at one point, bringing the idea of a killer roller coaster to the table—but the original, about kids who narrowly miss riding a doomed airplane flight, has some spark to it. It also introduces the idea of Tony “Candyman” Todd as a mortician who knows a lot more about death than even his job description would suggest.
Goodnight Mommy (2015) This Austrian import about two boys whose mother returns from plastic surgery with her face wrapped in bandages and not acting like herself is full of weird imagery and mindfuckery that lingers.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 40th Anniversary (1974) Forget greatest horror movies of all time—this is one of the greatest movies of all time, in any genre. Tobe Hooper’s cautionary tale about never going off the main road, never picking up hitchhikers, never poking around seemingly abandoned property in Texas, and never trusting a guy in a skin-mask with a chainsaw got the 4k digital treatment and sparkling new sound mix a few years back, and it’s never looked or sounded better (or scarier).
The Amityville Horror (1979) The year is especially important here, because Hulu also has the weaksauce Ryan Reynolds remake. Make sure you’re watching the movie about the haunted, evil-eyed house that contains Margot Kidder and James Brolin—and Rod Steiger as the priest who’s warned to “GET OUT.” The true story might be a total hoax, but this version of the tale is genuinely distressing.
The Others (2001) Released just two years after The Sixth Sense, Alejandro Amenábar’s ghost story may have suffered a bit at the time, with its similar-but-not-quite plot twist. But it’s held up rather well; aside from being gorgeously shot, it boasts a wonderfully brittle performance from Nicole Kidman, as well as a more sinister yet nuanced turn from Fionnula Flanagan. And if you’ve seen it before, it’s fun to play spot-the-clues leading up to that last-act reveal.
The Descent (2005) Hulu’s description—“Female friends lost in a cave system are assaulted by strange creatures”—is accurate, but it doesn’t reveal how much depth Neil Marshall’s film actually contains. The characters all feel like real people, which makes their journey into hell all the more alarming. And while the “strange creatures” are absolutely teeth-rattling, they aren’t the only source of terror in the film. Not by a long shot.
M (1931) Hulu’s partnership with Criterion brings us this chilling psychological thriller about a child murderer, masterfully played by Peter Lorre, who learns the meaning of street justice. It was the first sound film from German directing legend Fritz Lang (Metropolis); both director and star fled Germany soon after M’s release and found success in Hollywood.
Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) Everyone always goes on about Poltergeist’s scary clown doll, but the most terrifying thing the series ever produced is Julian Beck’s performance as Rev. Henry Kane. Period. The movie has some problems otherwise, particularly relating to its hokey “shaman” subplot, but the Reverend lives on forever and ever in our nightmares.