What better way to indulge your taste for the pants-fillingly frightening than to dim the lights, curl up on the couch, fire up your favourite streaming device and watch a horror film? Well, with our picks of the best horror films on Now TV and Sky, you can do just that this spooky season.
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.
So sit back, relax, grab a pillow to cower under and dive right in.
A lifelike, AI-powered robot best friend for your child, able to entertain, educate and empathise? It’d be the toy of the century, surely, as well a far more suitable babysitter than the stoner kid from next door. But what if this robot – let’s call her M3GAN – was protective to the point of psychosis, and capable of subverting its programming in order to deceive and ultimately kill?
This lightweight sci-fi horror is exactly what you expect it to be, but is no less entertaining for that. If you want to see a creepy, sassy robo-child dealing out death, it’s here in spades. Camp, fun and slightly satirical stuff.
Setting the standard for all other stalk ‘n’ slash horror movies with a creepy silent antagonist, the original Halloween’s seemingly normal suburban setting, creepy synth soundtrack (performed by director John Carpenter himself) and masterful ramping up of tension ensure it remains a brilliant watch 45 years after its release.
Jamie Lee Curtis delivers an unforgettable debut performance as babysitter-turned-serial-runner-away Laurie Strode while Donald Pleasance provides old-school gravitas as fanatical shrink Dr Loomis. But it’s the apparently motiveless murderer Michael Myers, a looming ‘shape’ clad in an expressionless white mask and blue boiler suit, who’s the most memorable character of all – and a true icon of the horror genre.
Jordan Peele’s spectacular Spielberg-esque thriller follows horse-wrangling siblings (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) whose remote California ranch is threatened by something abnormal in the sky. Meanwhile, their theme park-owning neighbour (Stephen Yuen) appears to be running a dodgy money-making scheme that doesn’t involve the standard rides and attractions
Ever the crafty, self-aware director, Peele plays with classic horror tropes and preconceptions to mould a clever and suspenseful movie that effectively turns the camera around and points it back at the viewer. Despite (or perhaps because of) that, Nope has proved a divisive film with audiences and critics alike, but few would dispute that its cinematography, sound design and visual effects are anything less than superb.
Stephen King was among the first to recognise the extremely high creepiness potential of clowns. In his infinite wisdom, King chose to propagate this concept via his classic novel It, here adapted by Andy Muschietti in a movie that comes off like a cross between The Goonies and Halloween.
Packed with Kingian tropes (childhood trauma, small town America, loss of innocence, friendship, ancient evil) and a warm homage to the 1980s, It is a fine piece of crowd-pleasing horror in which seven misfit schoolkids are stalked by an entity that takes the form of their worst fears – and yes, in some cases this is a clown. While it doesn’t attempt to redefine the genre, it works within horror’s confines to produce a film that’s as full of heart and soul as scares.
Smile is a relentless psychological thriller that, despite having a slightly silly central ‘gimmick’ (the film’s big bad entity manifests itself as a creepy grin on the face of an otherwise normal person), quickly establishes an atmosphere full of dread, paranoia and uneasiness that doesn’t relent until the end. It’s might not be the most inventive or stylish film of the genre, but anyone who wants a popcorn horror with added bite will end up sporting a strange smirk of their own by the time the credits roll.
Bodies Bodies Bodies
A group of privileged, obnoxious 20-somethings gathers at a palatial home with the intention of riding out an imminent thunderstorm in style – by consuming piles of drugs, necking gallons of booze and playing a murder in the dark-style party game. When the shenanigans get a little too real, it sparks off a fast-escalating flood of distrust and paranoia in which old grudges are renewed and fresh suspicions forged.
Working both as an enjoyable murder mystery horror flick and a venomous social satire on Gen Z’s tendency for victimhood and backstabbing selfishness, Bodies Bodies Bodies is one of the rare films that succeeds in being likeable despite having not one likeable character.
The Black Phone
Based on the novel by Joe Hill, Scott Derrickson’s movie hits all the right horror notes. A serial killer thriller, ghost story and affecting family drama rolled into one, it’s rich in Stephen King-esque tropes: small town, period setting, rowdy school, troubles at home and a villain (played by Ethan Hawke) who feels both supernaturally evil and terrifyingly real. That’s maybe not surprising, given that Joe Hill is King’s son. Anyway, it’s not often modern horror films feel as well-crafted and non-gimmicky as this, so our suggestion is to settle in on a quiet night and let it get its hooks into you.
Train to Busan
A South Korean zombie horror set almost entirely on a high-speed train? Where do we sign up? Train to Busanmight not do too much to break the zombie movie mould, but it’s an entertainingly tense tale of a father and daughter (plus a ragtag group of other survivors) trapped in a confined space with a bunch of fast-moving, vicious and utterly relentless undead monsters. If you fancy a break from Western horror movies and are in the mood for something a little different, it’s well worth a couple of hours of your time.
The first ever summer blockbuster, and a movie that discouraged an entire generation from skinny dipping, Jaws is one of the most influential, most copied and most beloved films of all time.
The premise is beautifully simple: when a New Jersey seaside resort is terrorised by a killer shark, the local police chief decides to hunt it down. But it’s the film’s direction and iconic score that make it so special. Director Steven Spielberg cranks up the tension through his use of perspective and sound, leaving the audience constantly on edge, but Jaws isn’t afraid to contrast its scarier moments (and make no mistake: this counts as a horror movie) with great beats of levity and comedy.
The end result is that it’s still an incredibly rewarding and riveting watch more than 40 years after its release. Just do yourself a favour: avoid the sequels.
The Saw series may have been diluted and dulled by an endless parade of needless sequels, but the original remains a psychological rollercoaster – minus most of 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 an avenging hero, despite leaving his victims in traps that encourage self-mutilation; if one manages to escape, they’ll become a better person for it, despite some horrific scars. And if they don’t escape? Well, in that case it’s game over.
The Cabin in the Woods
When a bunch of teenagers venture into the backwoods for a weekend away, we can all guess what’s going to happen – or can we? Much like Scream did back in the 1990s, The Cabin in The Woods plays with the audience’s expectations concerning the horror genre and its various tropes, leading to all manner of knowing nods, chuckles and more than one scare. It’s a postmodern horror film made to please horror-literate geeks, for sure – and little wonder, with Joss Whedon as co-writer and producer.
In a near-future USA, crime has been all but eliminated, the economy is flourishing and everybody lives together in productive harmony. For 364 days of the year, at least. During the annual “purge”, crime becomes legal for one night.
The purge is society’s safety valve: an opportunity to release a year’s worth of pent-up aggression in an orgy of violence before returning to your law-abiding normal life. But when one wealthy family finds their security shutters inadequate and a murderous gang at their door, they’re forced to question their former beliefs.
Interview with the Vampire
Neil Jordan’s lavish 1994 gothic horror made a star out of 12-year-old Kirsten Dunst and further established Brad Pitt as a bona fide Hollywood A-lister but it’s Tom Cruise, playing against type as decadent, ruthless 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 build up 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 creepy film with some outright shocking scenes.
From Dusk Till Dawn
Does horror get any schlockier than undead exotic dancers? It does when you don’t see them coming.
Robert Rodriguez’s endlessly enjoyable From Dusk Till Dawn starts out like a standard Tarantino crime caper (complete with an acting role from the motor-mouthed director himself): bank robbers, quotable dialogue, lots of swearing and Harvey Keitel. But before too long, things take a huge swerve to the left and the full-on vampire slaying begins.
Naturally, the cussing continues to an incidental soundtrack of gunfire and gruesome death. And the aforementioned vampiric stripping scene – an unforgettable appearance from Salma Hayek.
Shaun of the Dead
Edgar Wright’s blistering debut feature may be more concerned with delivering peals of guffaws than pails of gore, but at its core it’s still a horror film with plenty of bite.
Shaun (played by co-writer Simon Pegg) is a shop assistant who’d rather be loafing around with best mate Ed than proving himself serious marriage material to girlfriend LIz. When a bust-up prompts him to change direction, it happens to coincide with a London-wide zombie outbreak. Meaning Shaun must traverse a ghoul-infested suburban hellhole to rescue his loved ones.
Jammed with smart references, sight gags and killer one-liners, Shaun of the Dead adds up to far more than your average horror-comedy. As well as guts (lots of them, often spilling out messily), there’s real heart and soul in there too, and it’s easy to see why Pegg and Wright’s careers soared off this film’s back.
Nightmare on Elm Street director Wes Craven uses this teen horror movie to riff on the genre rules he himself helped write: in Scream, the masked killer sticks slavishly to the stalk-and-slash guidelines set by older scary movies.
What could have been a trashy parody works brilliantly on two levels: it’s both a creepy, tense slasher flick and an entertaining postmodern commentary on the horror genre, bolstered by a strong cast (the most famous member of which is bumped off in the first ten minutes), a bevy of killer twists and loads of quotable lines. It was followed by a raft of lesser sequels, a TV series and a full-on nostalgia-fuelled reboot (also streaming on Now if you’re keen), but for our money the original remains by far the best.
Based on a real-life case investigated by husband-and-wife ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring tells the story of a New England family troubled by a malevolent spirit – and comes with all the standard jump scares, whispering voices, flying furniture and general screaming that you’d expect from a modern-day horror movie.
Despite taking some liberties with the source material – the genuine Warrens weren’t as easy on the eye as stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, for one thing – it’s an entertaining, well-paced ride on the ghost train. It’s far from the most interesting horror movie in this list, but for those times you just want a good yarn to wrap yourself up in, it’s a solid watch.
Made with a budget that would barely get you a used Ford Focus and fully embracing the “found footage” trend that already felt outdated by its release, Paranormal Activity still has the potential to creep out all but the hardiest viewer. Its unsettling, homemade charm helped it to become a worldwide hit, championed by none other than Steven Spielberg, and eventually spawning a series of (mostly underwhelming) sequels.
The story centres on a young couple, one of whom claims to have been haunted by a strange presence since childhood. A psychic warns the pair not to try communicating with said presence, advice which is promptly ignored. Cue: creepy occurrences start being captured in grainy camcorder footage, gradually ramping up to the point where viewers might find themselves watching from behind the sofa.
The Fog (1980)
John Carpenter not only directed and co-wrote this rollicking supernatural slasher movie – he even composed and performed the evocative synth score. When a thick bank of fog rolls off the ocean, it’s not just low visibility that the residents of California coastal town Antonio Bay need to worry about. There’s also a band of hook-wielding revenant sailors residing in the pea-souper, and they have bloody vengeance on their minds.
Like so many horror films of its time, it’s since been rebooted (and badly rebooted at that), but the original remains an enjoyable watch – even if it never reaches the heights of Carpenter’s other early horror efforts The Thing and Halloween.