There's a universal thrill in being scared - particularly when there's no actual danger involved.
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 streaming services.
Here, you'll find the Stuff team's pick of Amazon Prime's horror movie selection. There's sure to be something in here that'll put the willies up you.
You can sign up here for a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime video: so, go fill your boots on scary films.
The Torrance family takes up residence in an isolated hotel for the winter, primarily to cure father Jack of his writer's block. But Jack’s young son Danny is haunted by disturbing visions, and the hotel's old ghosts worry away at the author's fraying sanity as 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 nasty temper – but is the hotel exerting a malign influence over him, or is his potential for evil there from the outset?
Kubrick's only foray into the horror genre feels safe and familiar at first – its iconic scenes blunted by a thousand parodies and college-dorm posters – but its uniquely unsettling qualities quickly make themselves known. The Shining looks like no other horror film: Kubrick dwarfs its 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 transformed into a hag. The images linger long after the credits roll.
The Conjuring 2
With a burgeoning host of spin-offs set in the same spooky “cinematic universe”, James Wan has built The Conjuring into nothing less than a franchise, and this, the second main instalment, is a fine distillation of why: it ticks all the horror boxes (creeping dread, jump scares, people getting possessed by evil demonic forces) without copious amounts of gore, swearing or sex. In other words, The Conjuring 2 embodies a new type of mainstream horror movie that practically anyone can watch.
Being accessible doesn’t mean being great, of course, and compared to masterful horror movies like The Shining or understated, thought-provoking ones like Let the Right One In, Wan’s brand of popcorn-friendly chiller – in which Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s real life-inspired 1970s ghost busters Ed and Lorraine Warren travel to London to deal with the real life-inspired Enfield poltergeist – feels somewhat shallow and hackneyed, with more than its fair share of dodgy Lahndan accents. But it’s hard to deny that it’s well-paced and well-served with creepy vibes.
Responsible for putting an entire generation of moviegoers off skinny dipping for life, Jaws remains one of the most influential and most beloved films of all time.
The premise is simple: a New Jersey seaside resort is terrorised by a giant Great White shark with a taste for swimmers, so the local police chief decides to hunt it down. But it’s the film’s presentation, script, direction and its iconic John Williams score that make it so iconic.
Director Steven Spielberg cranks up the tension through expert use of perspective and sound, keeping the viewer on edge, but isn’t afraid to season its scares with memorable beats of levity and comedy. It’s still a gripping watch more than 40 years after its release (but best do yourself a favour and dodge the subpar sequels).
Let the Right One In
A young girl – or is she? – befriends a bullied boy in this inventive Swedish vampire film. It turns the genre on its head, the vampire haunting a snowy housing estate merely providing a backdrop (albeit one with bloodsucking and murder) against which the children’s relationship plays out.
Like every successful foreign-language film, it was immediately remade by the Americans – and for once the remake isn’t all that bad, either. But since Amazon has just put the original on Prime in the first time since we can remember, we suggest you grab your reading glasses and settle down for some sublime subtitle-accompanied indie horror.
Under The Skin
An alien takes the form of Scarlett Johansson and travels across Scotland, seducing men to harvest their flesh. The premise is simple enough for a low-budget indie flick but, as the title implies, there's much more than meets the eye here. Rarely has there been a bolder piece of cinema. And by that we mean it unapologetically screws with your head.
To classify this as sci-fi or horror would be a gross oversimplification. It starts off like a straight-up predator movie but morphs into a coming-of-age/road-trip story told from the alien's perspective.
This is an aggressively artsy experiment. Director Jonathan Glazer mixes heavily stylised visuals with hidden-camera footage. Much of the film doesn't appear to make sense, but that doesn't matter. It's chilling enough to command attention and the sense of unease is so gripping it will affect you regardless of your understanding. Johansson's performance, meanwhile, is disturbing and mesmerising.
It'll certainly polarise opinions, but if you're open to something different it's a singular and utterly compelling experience.
This 2017 Brit chiller stars Rafe Spall as one of four old friends enjoying a Scandinavian hiking trip that goes terribly, terribly wrong when the group decides to take a shortcut through a creepy pine forest. The Ritual succeeds in balancing the requisite jump scares and creepiness with a level of self-awareness that’s become all too rare in today’s humour-free, self-important horror flicks.
Horror films for kids do exist – and The Witches is proof positive. Based on Roald Dahl’s beloved book, this tale of wickedness hidden in plain sight hits the perfect level of scariness for an eight- or nine-year old, and it’s so well-made that their parents won’t mind watching along too.
When a young boy and his grandmother visit the seaside for a holiday, he uncovers evidence that the annual meeting of the RSPCC, apparently taking place in their grand hotel, is actually a cover for something far, far more sinister.
One notable bullet point in Ben Wheatley’s rise to Brit cinema wunderkind, Kill List is an indie film with real flair and punch; a blend of genres that’s drenched with a jarring atmosphere and mood that’ll keep your eyes locked to the screen until the jaw-dropping final reel.
Like your horror films disconcertingly strange? Put Kill List on your watchlist.
Proof that Aussie cinematic characters go further than Mick “Crocodile” Dundee, Wolf Creek introduces a bloke who’s easily as memorable and far nastier than the knife-wielding, globe-trotting bushman.
John Jarratt plays another Mick, an outback roughneck who offers to help a trio of teens after car trouble causes leaves them stranded in the national park that gives the film its name. Sounds like a predictable, clichéd slasher movie, right? It would be if Mick Taylor wasn’t so terrifyingly deranged, and it hadn’t been shot with such rare beauty for a film that descends into such horrific depravity. Not for the faint hearted.
Train to Busan
A South Korean zombie flick with almost no guns, set almost entirely on a high-speed train? Where do we sign up?
While Train to Busan doesn’t really do anything to break the zombie movie mould, it’s an enjoyably fraught tale of a father and daughter (and a small group of other survivors) trapped in a confined space with a bunch of fast-moving, vicious and utterly relentless infected. If you’re sick of Western horror movies and fancy something a little different, it’s well two hours of your time.
Night of the Living Dead
George Romero’s recent death has reminded the world of the director’s pioneering genius. This man almost single-handedly invented both the zombie movie genre (heck, he essentially invented the pop culture zombie full-stop) and the horror-film-as-allegory, and he did so with this 1968 movie – which was also one of the first films to feature a black actor in the leading role. Without Night of the Living Dead, there’d be no Walking Dead, no World War Z, no Resident Evil… you get the idea.
The film’s plot is deceptively simple: as the dead begin to return to life as mindless, flesh-hungry ghouls, a disparate group of survivors barricade themselves inside a house in an attempt to make it through the night. But, as is often the case with zombie apocalypse tales, it quickly transpires that the biggest danger to their lives may not be the shambling hordes of undead, but human nature itself…
This Austrian indie movie’s chills come more from its relentlessly creepy atmosphere than gore or jump scares, as twin boys in a remote house react to the return of their mother – apparently from some kind of reconstructive surgery. But is it really her under those bandages?
If you prefer your scares served cold, with a side order of existential dread, Goodnight Mommy deserves a spot on your Amazon Watchlist.
I Saw the Devil
Asian cinema revitalised horror in the 1990s and 2000s with a slew of shocking, grotesque and insanely creepy movies such as Ringu, Audition, and Ichi the Killer – and the Far East is still churning out stomach-churning films for those that like having their sensibilities messed with. Korean movie I Saw the Devil is one such picture, the story of a serial killer and a cop and their entrance into a kind of symbiotic cycle of violence. Is the price of revenge against evil worth becoming a monster yourself?