The best horror films to watch

Get ready to scream louder than the noise of Diwali firecrackers.

Diwali is all about lights but let's turn the lights off and take a twisty turn to welcome Halloween, where our thoughts turn to the macabre: ghosts, ghouls, things that go bump in the night.

And what better way to indulge your taste for the pants-fillingly frightening than to dim the lights, curl up on the couch and watch a horror film? Thankfully, the days of having to venture out to the video shop or cross your fingers that something suitable is on are over - there's a horrifying wealth of scary movies available at your fingertips on Amazon India and Flipkart and also on streaming services like Netflix.

Here, you'll find the Stuff India team's pick of horror movies available for you to watch. There's sure to be something in here that'll put the willies up you.

Searching for scares on a streaming service? We've got you covered:

The best horror movies on Netflix India

The Thing

Deep and crisp and even it may be, but the Antarctic snow of John Carpenter’s cult horror classic is far from pure. The movie’s eponymous parasitic extraterrestrial, unwittingly woken from an icy slumber beneath the permafrost, is able to assume human form, leading to near-unbearable suspense – who is human, and who is the alien? - as the inhabitants of a cut-off research station are preyed upon in gruesome fashion.

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The Birds

In a world of Saws, Hostels and Human Centipedes, Hitchcock’s The Birds might seem awfully quaint. What’s scary about a flock of crows hanging out in a playground? Hasn’t anyone who’s ever eaten a chip by the seaside received some unwelcome attention from a seagull?

It’s exactly this supposed lack of menace that the master of suspense turns into a threat, cleverly eschewing music completely to instill an unsettling sense of dread. Without The Birds, we’d also never have had Big Train’s brilliant ‘The Working Class’ sketch – and for that we must be eternally grateful.

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28 Days Later

Years before The Walking Dead made zombies cool and terrifying again, 28 Days Later reinvigorated the genre. Idiots release a virus that causes people to get all snarly and bitey, who infect anyone daft enough to get close. Unfortunately for Jim, who’s been in a coma, he awakens to find an eerie, deserted London, before soon finding himself pursued by the surprisingly sprightly infected.

Although this tale of survival horror goes off the boil in the final act, it’s a compelling and exciting ride – and a lesson for Rick Grimes and co., who should think themselves lucky. Sure, they’ve the odd problem with psychos armed with baseball bats, but at least their zombie foes don’t take after Usain Bolt.

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28 Weeks Later

With the infected dying off, American-led NATO forces wade into the UK. The Isle of Dogs becomes a heavily guarded safe zone, into which returning Brits are crammed, presumably wishing they’d extended their holidays indefinitely. However, given that this is a horror film and not 100 minutes of grumpy Brits in tiny bunks, one tiny oversight rapidly leads to gore o’ clock.

It’s safe to say that this is an action-packed sequel, frequently brutal and with plenty going for it. 28 Weeks Later is comparatively lacking in the smarts department, though, and is rather heavy-handed on the occupation angle. Still, it ends well, and you’ll be hankering for 28 Months Later – which has been rumoured for ages, but at this rate will probably take 28 years to show up.

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The Shining

The Torrance family take up residence in an isolated hotel for the winter, to cure father Jack of his writer's block. But Jack's son Danny is haunted by disturbing visions, and the hotel's old ghosts worry away at the author's fraying sanity.

Director Stanley Kubrick trims back Stephen King's haunted-house story into a study in ambiguity. Jack Nicholson's Torrance is a mean drunk, with a temper – but is the hotel exerting a malign influence over him, or is his potential for evil there from the outset?

Kubrick's one foray into the horror genre may feel safe and familiar at first – its iconic scenes blunted by a thousand parodies and college-dorm posters – but its unsettling qualities quickly become apparent. The Shining looks like no other horror film. Kubrick dwarfs the characters with his trademark wide, symmetrical shots of architecture, and tracks them through a maze of corridors with lingering steadicam shots. The atmosphere is heightened by flashes of disturbing tableaux – a gore-drenched elevator, a beautiful woman who turns into a hag. The images linger long after the credits roll.

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Carrie

No matter how bad your school years were, console yourself with the thought that at least you weren’t Carrie White. A late-blooming wallflower raised by a mother who locks her in the cupboard and quotes Bible verse at her, she’s easy prey for high-school bullies.

But Carrie is based on a Stephen King novel, so there’s a twist in the tale; Carrie’s growing pains are accompanied by developing supernatural powers. The teenagers who bully and provoke her don’t realise they’re playing with fire – and when Carrie’s finally pushed to breaking point, the whole town is going to suffer.

Brian De Palma’s adaptation makes monsters of everyone, from the banal cruelty of the teenage cliques who torment Carrie, to the bloody climax where she lashes out at guilty and innocent alike.

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Maggie

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Wade, a man whose daughter has been bitten by a zombie, but allowed home on the condition that she’s quarantined for painful, drug-induced euthanasia before she starts to turn. That means The Governator must deal with his most challenging enemy yet: emotions.

The progress of the infection that turns Maggie (the excellent Abigail Breslin) into a flesh-hungry zombie is glacial in comparison to the instantaneous transformations seen in 28 Days Later and the like, which gives first-time director Henry Hobson plenty of time to squeeze out all of Arnold’s big, manly tears. We meet other infected neighbours, including a boy Maggie’s age, and for a short while the film becomes a surprisingly touching undead teen drama.

Hobson previously directed the opening sequence to The Last Of Us, so some similarities are to be expected, but this is a story with a macro focus on a single home in a small town in Missouri, not a cross-country epic quest.

Maggie is far from textbook Arnie. It isn’t a film about fighting for survival, it’s about fighting with the choices faced when a miserable death becomes inevitable for a loved one, and while the ending is something of an anticlimax and a missed opportunity to push Schwarzenegger even further, the performances of its father/daughter leads are anything but lifeless.

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Rosemary's Baby

To say too much about Rosemary’s Baby would spoil it but let’s be very clear, it’s not all antenatal classes and choosing which colour to decorate the nursery. When young couple Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her husband Guy (John Cassavetes) move into a new apartment block they decide to start a family, despite warnings about the building’s murky past.

Farrow’s BAFTA-winning performance is a masterclass in how to shock and unsettle an audience without resorting to the blood, guts or projectile vomiting that films like The Exorcist relied on.

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Saw

The Saw series may have been diluted by the endless sequels, but the original is a psychological roller coaster without the painful tropes that litter the genre.

The true genius of the film is that the villain isn’t your typical axe wielding maniac. Far from it. He actually sees himself as some kind of hero, despite leaving his victims in traps that encourage self-mutilation. If someone manages to escape, they occasionally become a better person for it, despite some horrific scars. And if they don’t escape? Let’s just say it’s game over.

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Crimson Peak

Mexico’s master of horror Guillermo Del Toro swaps the giant robots of Pacific Rim for a good old-fashioned ghost story. After marrying an English inventor (Tom Hiddlestone) aspiring author Edith (Mia Wasikowska) encounters baddies both living and dead in a wonderfully imagined old mansion.

Fans of The Shining (there are various nods to Kubrick’s classic) and Del Toro’s earlier films (The Devil’s Backbone and Cronos in particular) will find a lot to love here, although perhaps not a lot particularly new.

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IT FOLLOWS

It might adhere to one of the main horror movie rules outlined in Scream – having sex more often than not ends in your grisly demise – but It Follows is anything but formulaic. Its curse stalks victims slowly but incessantly, disguised as a normal passerby, family member or friend, and that gives It Follows an almost constant sense of helpless dread which doesn’t let up until the credits roll.

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THE EXORCIST

Young Regan MacNeil is acting strangely – talking to imaginary friends, stealing, predicting the death of party guests, shaking the bed to pieces… wait, what? Time to call in the exorcists.

Director William Friedkin previously shot The French Connection, and he brings some of that film’s documentary quality to this supernatural chiller. His methods included slapping reactions out of his cast and filming scenes on a set built inside a freezer so that the actors’ breath showed up on camera.

That authentic touch results in an eerily plausible tale of demonic possession. Friedkin crafts a humdrum domestic setting that makes the intrusion of the powers of darkness seem all the more jarring. By the time Regan’s head is spinning around on her shoulders, you’ve completely bought into the film’s world – one in which the fate of a child’s soul rests on the faith of a priest.

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I AM LEGEND

You know it’s a bad day in the office when you’re close to curing cancer but end up wiping out the majority of humanity instead. That day becomes a quite literal nightmare when a number of those who survive actually mutate into nocturnal monsters.

Luckily, Will Smith is among the 1% of the world’s population that survived without being turned into a mutant. Unluckily, Will Smith is all alone in a post-apocalyptic New York. Alone, that is, except for the horde of hostile mutants. Cue an extremely tense, occasionally terrifying film with the kind of solo performance that will make you forget all about The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

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