Every October, Netflix expands its horror library to help viewers prepare for the Halloween season. To narrow your search, I have compiled a list of 10 great films available on the streaming service, in no particular order.
A diverse group of strangers is trapped in a circle. Every two minutes, someone dies... and the herd gets to pick who. After the wild success of films like Saw and Cube, the deadly puzzle trope needs a break, but Circle is an unexpectedly biting criticism of discrimination and ruthless self-preservation. Light on scares and violence, Circle is a disturbing work whose real horror lies in the characters themselves, characters whose selfishness and hypocrisy are uncomfortably familiar.
Haunted mirrors are nothing new, but Oculus wisely spends its run-time developing a story instead of assaulting the viewer with cliches. It’s not particularly scary, but clever screenwriting and creepy visuals create a constant sense of unease. The short film (Oculus: The Man with the Plan), available on YouTube, is also worth a viewing if you have 30 minutes to spare.
This film is in a class of its own. Though Australian, The Babadook has become something of an American icon due to its unusual direction and a rather unfortunate misclassification on Netflix. On a serious note, it’s also a layered and heavily symbolic story featuring a monster whose dreadful familiarity inspires goosebumps. Masterfully directed and frightening to the core, The Babadook is sure to get under your skin, so to speak.
Although a little long, the slow buildup justifies the extended run-time. It isn’t until the third act that things pick up, but when they do, the film becomes a non-stop thrill ride until its shocking conclusion. Strong performances from little-known actors and unexpectedly emotional subtexts make The Invitation an underappreciated gem.
It isn’t often a low-budget independent horror film with unknown actors wins 24 awards, brings in over 20 million dollars, and garners critical acclaim. It Follows relies on its writing and direction to frighten viewers instead of expensive CGI or jump scares, and the difference is palpable. If you can get past the unusual premise, It Follows is a quirky and original story guaranteed to leave you paranoid.
James Wan has a knack for creating really creepy dolls, and Dead Silence’s “Billy” the puppet is no exception. We’ve seen the haunted puppet motif before (from the same director, no less), but the eerie atmosphere, chilling soundtrack, and spooky storyline make Dead Silence a fun movie for the Halloween season.
The film isn’t perfect, but it is both original and ambitious. The director sets out to make a black-comedy satire of Hollywood hypocrisy, and while he doesn’t quite hit the mark in that regard, he does succeed in creating a fresh and genuinely disturbing criticism of modern selfishness and superficiality. It’s not a lighthearted movie, but it is thought-provoking, original, and reasonably short.
Set in South Korea under Japanese occupation, The Silenced follows the inhabitants of a girls’ boarding school who find themselves at odds with an administration that doesn’t have their best interests at heart. The plot becomes convoluted at times, but the gorgeous cinematography and interesting action scenes make up for the confusing story-line.
The Sixth Sense
After a slew of mediocre films, Shyamalan seems to be back to form with Split, but he has yet to direct anything on par with this 1999 ghost classic. Combining sleek cinematography with subtle screenwriting, nuanced acting, and a once-shocking twist--generally common knowledge nowadays, but still very effective--The Sixth Sense is still the definitive gold standard for horror movies. It’s even better the second time around.
If you enjoy nightmarish black-and-white psychological horror films, Darling might be for you. At times it becomes feverish to the point of incomprehensibility, but its chilling minimalism and rapidly spliced camera cuts are disorienting and truly unsettling. Imagine a one-woman, claustrophobic re-imagining of Hitchcock’s Psycho and you have the idea.