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 the box are over - there's a horrifying wealth of scary movies available on streaming services like Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Prime Video.
Here, you'll find the Stuff team's pick of Netflix's selection. Whether you like your horror movies bloody, creepy, arty or with a twist of comedy, there's sure to be something in here that'll put the willies up you.
Searching for scares on a different streaming service? We've got you covered:
It Comes At Night
A creeping indie horror-thriller with very little gore, a tiny cast of characters and almost nothing in the way of clear explanation as to what’s going on or who’s to be feared, It Comes At Night won’t satisfy casual viewers looking for an easy hour and a half’s entertainment. Not only is this minimalist tale of an American family trying to survive in the wake of an unspecified pandemic almost unrelentingly bleak, it will almost certainly leave you with a sense of frustration and hopelessness – which is entirely the point. As a lean, powerful exploration of family and paranoia, there are few modern horror movies that can match it.
If you need proof that there’s more to Australian cinema than Crocodile Dundee, Wolf Creek introduces a character who’s far nastier than but just as memorable as Paul Hogan’s knife-buffalo-hypnotising, globe-trotting bushman. John Jarratt plays an Aussie backwoodsman who offers to help a trio of backpackers when car trouble strands them in the outback, but turns out to be far from the good Samaritan he initially appears.
If that sounds like a predictable, clichéd horror fare, it would be if Mick Taylor weren’t so terrifyingly deranged, or if it hadn’t been beautifully shot (for a film that descends into such horrific depravity). Not one for the faint-hearted.
This Oscar-grabbing genre-bender excels both as old-fashioned horror yarn and wry satirical exploration of modern racism – and, as you’d expect from a film written and directed by comedian Jordan Peele (more recently responsible for the similarly smart and scary Us), it’s not short on humour either.
Add in Daniel Kaluuya’s eye-catching lead performance as a black man about to spend a first weekend with his white girlfriend’s family and you can see why it attracted the Academy’s attention. But hey, who cares about Oscar’s seal of approval when you have Stuff’s?
The Thing (1982)
This movie’s titular parasitic extraterrestrial, unwittingly woken from an aeons-long icy slumber beneath the Antarctic permafrost, is able to assume human form, leading to near-unbearable suspense (who is still human, and who is the alien?) as the inhabitants of a remote US research station are preyed upon in gruesome fashion.
The cast, led by a luxuriantly-bearded Kurt Russell, does a fantastic job of portraying the paranoia and tension as they’re picked off by the creature one at a time. Wonderful stuff, masterfully directed by horror legend John Carpenter.
Netflix’s original horror movies have been a bloodbath – but perhaps not in the way the company intended. With the majority being savaged by the critics as low budget, low concept filler (we urge you to give Open House, one of the least cogent, least satisfying horror films we’ve ever seen, an extremely wide berth), we’ve come to expect very little from new additions to the library.
But newly-arrived Brit chiller The Ritual isn’t bad at all. Starring Rafe Spall as one of four lads enjoying a Scandinavian hiking trip that goes terribly, terribly wrong when the group decides to take a shortcut through a forest, it 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.
The Conjuring 2
With a burgeoning host of spin-offs set in the same spooky “cinematic universe”, James Wan has built The Conjuring into 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 demonic forces) without copious amounts of gore, swearing or sex.
In other words, The Conjuring 2 embodies a type of scary movie that practically anyone can watch. Accessibility doesn’t equal excellence, of course, and compared to masterful horror films 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 ghost busters Ed and Lorraine Warren travel to London to deal with the 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-serviced when it comes to supplying creepy vibes.
Very little suits the long, cold, quiet nights of winter better than well-told tales of restless spirits, and this Brit flick, directed by Andy Nyman (who also stars) and The League of Gentlemen’s Jeremy Dyson, offers a triple whammy of them.
Yes, this anthology of creepy tales, all framed as investigations by Nyman’s sceptical paranormal investigator, might not be particularly gory or shocking by modern horror standards, but it succeeds in delivering the old-fashioned feeling of discomfort and impending dread you expect of a British ghost story – and even manages to squeeze in an unforeseen twist here and there. Paul Whitehouse and Martin Freeman are among the supporting cast.
The Silence of the Lambs
The only horror film in history to bag Best Picture at the Oscars, The Silence of the Lambs introduced the wider world to Dr Hannibal Lecter, a renowned psychiatrist who also happens to be a cannibalistic murderer. And here’s the thing: Lecter – played here with delicious creepiness by Anthony Hopkins – isn’t even the film’s antagonist, but a young FBI agent’s main chance at stopping another serial killer.
While the horror here is more often psychological than visceral, there are more than enough shocking moments to keep slasher aficionados sated. And even those who normally dismiss horror movies as mere genre pictures will enjoy the craft on show, with fantastic performances from Hopkins and Jodie Foster, and a brilliant script full of memorable lines. You’ll never think of fava beans and a nice Chianti in the same way again.
It’s also worth noting that (at the time of writing) the other two movies in which Hopkins plays Hannibal Lecter, Red Dragon and Hannibal, are also available to stream on Netflix. So why not have a cannibal binge this weekend?
A Brit-made Netflix original film, Malevolent stars future superstar Florence Pugh as American student Angela who, along with her feckless older brother, scams bereaved families by pretending to be a psychic medium, putting their deceased relatives at peace for a fee.
The pair’s lucrative grift goes awry when they’re called to a remote Scottish house with a dark history and Angela discovers that her hitherto fake talent for clairvoyance turns out to be very real. It’s far from a classic, devolving into a rather ho-hum gore-fest after a promising first act – but it still makes for an unsettling watch on a dark night.
A lesson in tension-building, you might spend most of The Invitation wondering if it’s actually a horror movie, or simply wants you to believe it’s one. If it keeps its cards close to its chest, that’s because this drama, which concerns a group of old friends reunited for an unusual and uncomfortable dinner party in the canyons of Hollywood, relies on far more than sudden jumps and gore for its chills – it’s far more interested in keeping you on edge, and it does so masterfully until all is revealed in the final reel.
Paranormal Activity 3
There are seemingly dozens of Paranormal Activity movies out there and, given the hype (and, let’s face it, money) generated by the tiny-budgeted first movie, it’s not hard to see why. Most of them are, it has to be said, pretty forgettable, suggesting that the pressure to do more and go further than the first instalment proved too much for the filmmakers, even with more money and fancier CGI effects to play with, but Paranormal Activity 3 is actually the most enjoyably creepy of the later entries in the series.
Made by the team behind the viral “documentary” (and later MTV reality series spin-off) Catfish, it rewinds back to 1988 for a found footage bonanza concerning the childhood of the sisters who starred in the first two movies. You know the drill by now – malevolent entities, possessions and creepy obsessions with abducting babies abound – but on a quiet night, it can still deliver plenty of jumps.