There’s a universal thrill in being scared – especially 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 cue up a horror movie?
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 Video’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 on: fill your boots on scary flicks.
Stephen King’s long-awaited sequel to The Shining gets a diverting movie adaptation by horror maestro Mike Flanagan. It stars Ewan McGregor as a grown-up Danny Torrance, an alcoholic who drinks to block out the trauma (and the ghosts) of the Overlook Hotel. But when he discovers a young girl with a “gift” even more powerful than his own, and finds out that she’s being tracked by a gang of vicious psychic killers, he realises he can’t run from his past forever.
Jaws remains one of the most iconic, most influential and best-loved summer blockbusters of all time – but it’s also one of the most effective horror films ever made.
As a killer shark stalks the New England coast and terrorises the residents of tourist hotspot Amity Island, director Steven Spielberg cranks up the tension through expert use of perspective and sound. There’s very little actual gory or graphic violence, but the viewer is kept constantly on edge. Thankfully, Spielberg takes pains to occasionally release the pressure with comedic moments.
More than four decades on, Jaws remains a brilliantly entertaining movie – but do yourself a favour and swim well clear of the dodgy sequels.
Shaun of the Dead
Edgar Wright’s horror-comedy may be more concerned with guffaws than gore, but it’s not without moments of graphic violence or involving drama.
Shaun (played by co-writer Simon Pegg) is a London shop assistant who’d rather be gaming or boozing with his best mate Ed than proving to his girlfriend that he’s serious marriage material. When a bust-up prompts him to change direction, it happens to coincide with a London-wide zombie outbreak – meaning he must traverse a ghoul-infested wasteland to rescue his loved ones.
Packed with smart references, sight gags and scorching one-liners, Shaun of the Dead adds up to far more than your average horror-comedy film. There’s a real heart and soul to it too, and it’s easy to see why Pegg and Wright are such hot Hollywood properties today.
Interview with the Vampire
Neil Jordan’s lavish 1994 movie made a child star out of Kirsten Dunst and further established Brad Pitt as a bona fide Hollywood A-lister, but it’s Tom Cruise playing against type as ruthless, decadent vampire Lestat who steals the show.
Based on the novel by Anne Rice, it’s fair to say that Interview with the Vampire did much to establish the “sexy, angst-ridden vampire” trope that has since become a staple of film and TV – for better or worse, there’d be no Twilight or True Blood without it. But this isn’t just some romanticised goth-friendly depiction of the conflicted, beautiful children of the night; it’s also a horror film with some creepy and outright shocking scenes.
I See You
A clever modern horror film that plays with the genre’s tropes and viewers’ expectations, I See You is one of those under-the-radar, straight-to-streaming movies that may never get the attention it deserves. We can’t say too much without risk of ruining the fun, but it involves creepy, unexplained goings-on around Helen Hunt’s house while she struggles to keep her family together and local children are going missing in strange circumstances. If it sounds like a lot to follow, rest assured everything comes together satisfyingly in the end.
Written and directed by Crispian Mills, perhaps better known as the former frontman of mid-90s Britpop also-rans Kula Shaker, this breezy horror-comedy is set in a posh but dysfunctional boarding school. Despite featuring a number of familiar faces (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Michael Sheen and Margot Robbie), the film actually centres on a gaggle of pupils who find themselves in a battle for their lives after a sinkhole begins spewing hellish monsters into the school grounds. It’s not particularly smart and not especially scary, but if you want a horror film that lays on the laughs you could do a lot worse.
Horror doesn’t have to be played dead (no pun intended) straight to work, as evidenced by the silly, camp and somewhat tongue-in-cheek Jeepers Creepers – a film that’s not short or gore or scares but steadfastly refuses to take itself too seriously. A brother and sister, driving home from college, endure a threatening encounter with an old truck – and later witness its driver dumping what seems to be a dead body into a sewer pipe. Choosing to investigate rather than immediately calling the police is their first mistake, but thankfully for us the decision sparks off a life-and-death chase with the apparent killer.
Whistle and I’ll Come to You
Originally made for the BBC and written by Neil Cross (best known as the creator of Luther) this creepy TV movie comes in at under an hour, making it an ideal ghost story for the nights when you don’t have lots of time to spare.
A modernised (and loose) adaptation of the classic M.R. James short story, it stars the late John Hurt as a retired academic who, after placing his dementia-stricken wife in a residential care home, takes a solo walking trip to a quiet English coastal town – a place the couple frequented in their younger days. In the midst of loneliness, guilt and regret, the staunch rationalist starts to see and hear things he can’t comfortably explain, but who or what is it that’s haunting him – and why?
A lot of the most memorable horror movies are memorable precisely because there’s some kind of killer (literally) gimmick in place, and that’s very much the case with Don’t Breathe. When a trio of teen tearaways decide to burgle the house of an elderly blind man, they don’t count of him being a ruthless ex-soldier with world-class hearing, a vicious guard dog and a burning desire to keep the contents of his basement a secret – so when he locks the doors and cuts the power, they quickly go from predator to prey. Cue 90 minutes of frantic cat and mouse tension in the gloom.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
The second in George Romero’s series of zombie classics, this is one of the most iconic and influential horror movies of all time, despite its low budget. When an epidemic of undead starts to unravel society from within, four survivors decamp to a giant abandoned shopping mall in a bid for safety – only to discover that the shambling hordes also find themselves drawn to this palace of consumerism.
You’d have to be braindead to miss Romero’s satire (no pun intended) but there’s so much else going on here that it hardly matters. Zack Snyder’s 21st-century reimagining isn’t a patch on this for atmosphere, and the practical effects and synth score give it an eerie atmosphere you just don’t get with modern horror flicks.
Writer-director Rose Glass’s startling debut film wears the clothes of a horror movie but might instead be viewed as an exploration of loneliness and its dangers. Born-again Christian Maud is a private nurse, assigned to a cancer-stricken former dancer after leaving her previous job under a cloud. As she gets to know her new charge, she is informed that her purpose is not only to ease her pain, but save her immortal soul – but is it really God talking to her, or something else?
This horror comedy hits the ground running with a refreshingly self-aware opening credits sequence that lays out the ground rules for survival in a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested America. Jesse Eisenberg’s lily-livered Columbus stays alive by following those rules to the letter but his travelling companion Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) is an impetuous killing machine on a quest for the last remaining Twinkie. Sharp, witty and blessed with one of the most memorable cameo appearances ever, this is a zombie movie with lots of brains.
Genres get sliced and diced as much as the unfortunate characters in S. Craig Zahler’s brutal debut, which starts out like a Western but gradually unfolds into a nightmarish horror flick – albeit one with some great comedic dialogue and character moments.
Kurt Russell heads a killer cast as the upstanding sheriff who assembles a small posse to track down tribe of cannibalistic kidnappers. There’s an old-school nastiness about Bone Tomahawk not often seen in modern movies, not to mention a refreshing tendency to take its time, allowing you to get properly acquainted with its characters and its world.
Scanners might be best known for that famous shocking scene early on (if you’ve seen it, you’ll know the one), but David Cronenberg’s psychological (and psychic) thriller is a great piece of early 80s cinema, all bad haircuts and doom-laden synths. A shady corporation seeks to turn “scanners” – a growing number of powerful psychics – into living weapons, but somebody appears to be murdering them just as fast as they can be found. When one particularly powerful scanner goes on a killing spree, the corporation sends its latest recruit to hunt him down – but things don’t go to plan.
“If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.” Honestly, this Australian indie flick is going to stick with you for some time. In addition to all the thrills and chills you’d expect from a standard horror movie, The Babadook has something extra hidden in its basement under the stairs: smarts.
Yes, this film will fray your nerves like wool dragged across a barbed wire fence, but it’s also a powerful meditation on loss and trauma. Can single mother Amelia finally lay the repressed memory of her dead husband to rest and save her son Samuel in the process? You’ll simply have to watch this modern classic to find out.
Stir of Echoes
This 1999 supernatural thriller was overshadowed by the thematically similar The Sixth Sense at the time of its release but 21 years later Stir of Echoes is still a suspenseful and creepy watch – while The Sixth Sense has become “that film with the twist ending everybody knows about”.
Kevin Bacon puts in a great shift in the leading role, a lower-middle class family man feeling disillusioned with his unexceptional life. That all changes when a bit of light-hearted late night hypnosis unlocks something in his mind, opening a channel to an unquiet spirit seemingly tied to his house.
Made on a budget that would barely get you a Ford Focus and running with the ‘found footage’ angle that was already long in the tooth by its release in 2009, Paranormal Activity will nonetheless put the willies up all but the hardiest viewer.
The story centres on a young couple, one of whom claims to have been haunted by some kind of presence since her childhood. A psychic cautions the pair against attempting to communicate with said presence, which turns out to be good advice, given that when they don’t take it the entity goes on to torment everyone throughout the remainder of the film. Cue minor creepy occurrences captured on grainy night vision video, gradually ramping up to the point that you’ll be sleeping with the lights on.
Let Me In
Hollywood movie remakes are often about as welcome as a set of razor-sharp fangs to the neck, and while we wouldn’t say Let Me In comes close to matching the frost-bitten brilliance of Swedish horror flick Let the Right One In, it’s one of the few remakes that does stand up in its own right.
Kodi Smit-McPhee plays a boy tormented by bullies, who befriends a female vampire in 1980s New Mexico. While it lacks the same level of childlike innocence found in the original, it makes up for it with plenty of tension. If you really can’t handle subtitles (or you’re just a horror completist), Let Me In is well worth sinking your teeth into.
Luca Guadagnino’s stylish reimagining of the Dario Argento classic is bound to divide audiences. Ponderously paced and tottering under the weight of more themes and ideas than it knows what to do with, this is peak arthouse horror – and some might find the eventual gory payoffs too little reward for the investment.
Others will appreciate the movie’s strong sense of place (late 1970s Berlin, a divided city riven by political turmoil) and the way it builds an atmosphere of oppressive discomfort throughout with its use of sound effects, strange camera angles and Thom Yorke’s krautrock-inspired score. Dakota Johnson stars as an unworldly young dancer joining a prestigious all-female company that just might be a coven of witches, while Tilda Swinton excels in three separate roles.
What We Do in the Shadows
Outstanding horror-comedies are few and far between – for every American Werewolf in London, there are five Scary Movies – but this low-budget Kiwi mockumentary (directed by and starring Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi) about a house of dysfunctional vampires succeeds in hitting the spot.
With plenty of laughs mined from the awkwardness of being a neurotic immortal living in the modern world, it’s certainly leaning more towards the comedy side on the spectrum, but it’s not without genuine moments of creepiness. If you’re a fan of This Is Spinal Tap as well as Salem’s Lot, it’s one to get your teeth into.