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 like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Now.
Here, you’ll find the Stuff team’s pick of Now TV’s horror movie selection. 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:
The Torrance family take up residence in an isolated mountain hotel for the winter. Dad Jack hopes the peace and quiet will be the ideal cure for his writer’s block, but young son Danny is haunted by strange visions and the hotel’s old ghosts seem to be worrying away at the author’s sanity. Director Stanley Kubrick pares back Stephen King’s haunted-house story into a study in ambiguity. Jack Torrance is a short-tempered drunk with a short temper, but is the hotel exerting a malign influence over him or is his potential for wickedness there from the outset?
Kubrick’s 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 lengthy 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.
Unmistakably a Tim Burton joint, Beetlejuice stars Michael Keaton as the eponymous ghost: a deranged and devious spirit summoned by a recently deceased couple to rid their home of its new inhabitants. It’s a kind of reverse-exorcism, in other words, and it’s the perfect setup for Burton’s brand of visually striking black comedy.
Christian Bale’s breakout role sees him don the Hugo Boss suit and Gucci oxfords of Patrick Bateman: financial trader in 1980s Manhattan, Phil Collins aficionado, handsome, wealthy – and a sadistic, sociopathic murderer. Or is he?
Based on Bret Easton Ellis’ seminal novel, this film is bloodcurdlingly violent, intensely disquieting – and very, very funny. It is, after all, more a pitch-black satire than it is a simple psychological thriller, and as a critique of the emptiness lying at the heart of the American dream it hits like an axe to the back of the skull.
An American Werewolf in London
When an American tourist is attacked by a strange animal on a Yorkshire moor, he realises that something inside him has changed – and that something bad is going to happen come the next full moon.
Perhaps best remembered for its ground-breaking transformation scene (courtesy of special effects legend Rick Baker) John Landis’ movie remains one of the most enjoyable horror-comedies ever – perhaps because it’s both extremely scary and drily amusing without either trait spoiling the other.
Hollywood legend has it Eli Roth came up with the concept for Cabin Fever (his directorial debut) after enduring a skin infection during a trip abroad – but the disease the characters come into contact with on their own rural vacation is slightly more severe than an itchy rash. Roth wallows in schlocky gore and crass humour as he pays homage to horror conventions, but even if Cabin Fever isn’t big or clever it’s certainly self-aware enough to remain brainlessly enjoyable.
I Know What You Did Last Summer
If we’re talking about classic teen horror flicks of the 1990s, I Know What You Did Last Summer has to be up there. Sure, it doesn’t have the post-modern smarts of Scream or the satirical bent of The Faculty, but it hits the mark if you like to see pretty people being stalked (and sometimes staked) by a seemingly invincible killer. In this case, the antagonist is a shadowy hook-wielder in a fisherman’s mac, who our bunch of well-scrubbed teens (Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr., Ryan Phillippe and Sarah Michelle Gellar) may or may not have hit with their car the previous summer.
Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson play lighthouse keepers tending the lamp on a remote, fog-bound island off the coast of New England in Robert Eggers’ punchy psychological horror. The tight 4:3 framing and high-contrast black-and-white cinematography gives the film a cramped, oppressive and out-of-time feel, as the pair’s isolation starts to wear away at their nerves and strain their relationship.
It’s hugely stylish and rich in creepy imagery, but don’t go in expecting a standard chiller with all the ends neatly tied up – this film pervading feeling of dread may come easily, but answers do not.
It’s nothing short of iconic – a film that well deserves its spot in the annals of modern horror, and one that spawned a gaggle of terrible sequels, a decent TV series and a bizarre shot-by-shot remake starring Vince Vaughn.
But does the black and white Psycho still have the power to shock and scare 60-odd years after it was first released? While the ketchup-like gore and brand of psychological horror may have lost their edge in this age of Saws and Hannibal Lecters, there’s still something enduringly creepy about Norman Bates, his ramshackle motel and his dear old mum. Not to mention Alfred Hitchcock’s use of misdirection, which may still wrong-foot modern-day audiences who’ve somehow managed to avoid spoilers.
The Invisible Man (2020)
This timely reworking of H.G. Wells’ classic sci-fi tale stars Elizabeth Moss as a woman who believes she’s being stalked by her abusive, controlling ex-boyfriend – a tech entrepreneur who claims to have invented a way to make himself invisible. With friends dismissing her experiences as trauma-triggered delusions, she must face down her imperceptible tormentor alone. A perfect psychological thriller for Halloween viewing, we say.
One of the few 90s horror movies that isn’t postmodern, teen-based or both, Candyman (loosely based on Clive Barker’s novel of the same name) is something of an elevated slasher flick, examining both class and racism while delivering plenty of frights.
Tony Todd is unnerving as the hook-handed title character, a mythical boogieman who’ll reportedly appear if you utter his name five times. When a college research student becomes fascinated with this urban legend, she discovers that some folk tales are best left unquestioned.
In a world of Saws, Hostels and Human Centipedes, Alfred 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 to instil an unsettling sense of dread.
Eli Roth’s film positively wallows in its nastiness. Part of an early noughties wave of provocative mainstream shockers, it’s a grim escalation of the classic horror setup: a bunch of travellers discover that foreign hospitality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Jay Hernandez and pals are young American backpackers experiencing all Europe has to offer – including a visit to a (we suspect zero star) murder hostel where the guests part with vast sums to torture and butcher hapless tourists.
Hostel is executive produced by Roth’s buddy Quentin Tarantino, but don’t expect any postmodern twists on the horror genre here: this is a big slice of bleakness, and all the more effective for it.
The Exorcist (1973)
Often called the best horror film of all time (and according to critic Mark Kermode, the best film full stop), The Exorcist‘s lurid depiction of a young girl’s demonic possession made it an instant cult classic upon its 1974 release. In fact, when it came to UK home video in the 1980s, the BBFC considered it too graphic for even an 18 certificate. It’s a decision that’ll seem bizarre to modern audiences – today its content comes across as tame compared even to 15-rated horror films.
That’s not to say The Exorcist is lacking in scares – it’s a deliciously unsettling movie with a fantastic cast, brilliantly directed by William Friedkin and rich in occult atmosphere. If you’ve yet to experience the events surrounding Regan McNeil’s possession, we suggest you add this to your watchlist post-haste. And save it for a dark, quiet night, of course.
Stephen King’s Pet Sematary
This shocker gave millions of 1980s kids sleepless nights and, while it might have lost its edge somewhat a few decades later, it’s still a lot scarier than the recent remake – a sign that some things are better left alone. That’s actually the main theme of the movie, in which a family moving to a house in a spooky forest discovers that things buried in the nearby pet cemetery don’t stay underground for long – and when they come back, they’re not quite the same as before…
To say any more risks dulling this film’s sharp edges, so if you haven’t seen it, do dive in.
I Am Legend
This film has been unfairly slighted, probably due to not living up to the iconic sci-fi novel upon which it’s based – but we reckon it’s still well worth a watch. It sees Will Smith playing the last man alive in a post-apocalyptic New York, and is imbued with the tense atmosphere and survival themes characteristic of zombie movies (even though the undead here are perhaps more vampire than ghoul). It stands out because it’s interesting, sad and hauntingly beautiful to see a lone survivor struggling both to outlive the horde as well as his own past.
This gore-glutted deep space shocker could easily be entitled Dead Space: The Movie if not for the fact that it came out 10 years before the horror-gaming classic. The plot bears a strong resemblance, with Sam Neill’s motley crew of space jockeys investigating a seemingly deserted craft on the outer reaches of the solar system and finding all manner of hellish horrors aboard.
So, just another unoriginal B-movie clinging on to Alien‘s coat-tails? Not exactly. The terrors on board the starship Event Horizon are grotesque enough to lift it above the many inferior rivals, making it a horror film set in space rather than a sci-fi film with a horror theme.
So don’t watch it on your own. Or just before boarding a deserted spaceship.