In a season full of color changes, the fall is perhaps best known for one hue in particular: Darkness. Orange pumpkins and yellow leaves are neat, but they pale in comparison to having the lights go off in a crowded theater right before the latest horror movie comes on. This anticipation of being frightened is a universal feeling that other forms of entertainment just can’t seem to replicate, and it’s the same reason why we return to this genre every single year at this time: We want to be pushed to the edge of our comfort zone only to exhale a sigh of relief when the rollercoaster finally ends.
While spooking audience members is the main attribute of any great horror film, Halloween has inspired decades worth of content that go beyond the cheap thrills derived from watching masked killers stand behind doors or unwitting protagonists enter haunted houses. In other words, scary movies have adapted to audience expectations. It’s not just about getting you to jump out of your seat at the first appearance of Michael Myers; rather, it’s about not being able to sleep for hours after the final credits roll.
Horror movies certainly have a pervasive way of sticking in our collective consciousnesses and, with the advent of streaming giants like Amazon and Netflix, they are more part of daily lives than ever before.
With Halloween three weeks away, here are 21 horror movies and shows to watch over the next 21 days in preparation for October 31.
We can’t go very far if we don’t pay tribute first to this timeless classic starring Jack Nicholson as tormented writer Jack Torrance who spends an isolated winter with his family at the Overlook Hotel. This film introduced us to many tropes that have long since been borrowed and re-used in later horror movies and shows. Some notable ones: Claustrophobia, isolation, and evil spirits invading the physical bodies of real people. Has Jack been trapped at the Overlook all this time? Stanley Kubrick certainly gives us plenty to mull over when this one ends. REDRUM! Available to stream on Netflix.
Some horror movies stay with you long after the final credits; others make you tense up in the lower back as you watch the magic unfold. It Follows certainly falls into the later category. Director David Robert Mitchell uses one of the genre’s earliest tropes — sex leads to bad things happening — to create a simple plot where a shape-shifting, boogeyman-type villain haunts a cursed teenager named Jay. She can’t sleep, she can’t stand still, and, most important, she can’t trust anyone she does not know. The evil spirit embodies strangers who stalk Jay and look to kill her at any time and any place, albeit at a slow pace. It makes for a fun ride and is a must watch for a fan of thrillers. Available to stream on Netflix.
American Horror Story: Murder House
This anthology series has lost some steam since it premiered back in 2011 but let’s not overlook one of the best horror seasons television has ever produced. Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton play Ben and Vivien Harmon, a Boston couple, who move to Los Angeles in hopes the change of scenery will solve their marital problems. What they uncover about themselves — and their new home — is disturbing to say the least. Come for the infidelity with Rooney Mara, stay for the Rubber Man scenes. Available to stream on Amazon Prime.
The Blair Witch Project
This supernatural horror movie grabbed the nation’s attention two decades ago, and for good reason. It introduced us all to the found-footage technique that was later borrowed by other thrillers like it, such as Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield. While it has been mocked unrepentantly since its debut in 1999, there are still plenty of scenes that still make you jump out of your seat — even when you know the characters are actors and not real people who went missing investigating the mystery behind a local legend. For a moment though, we all thought this was very, very real. Credit to directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. Available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Netflix has made about 200,000 movies and shows since entering the content game in the earlier part of this decade. This story about four friends who go on a backpacking trip to commemorate the last wishes of their dead friend is by far their best entry into the horror genre. Similar to The Blair Witch Project, this Swedish-based film uses its woodsy-setting to taunt its characters and its audience. It’s one that will keep you glued to your couch. Available to stream on Netflix.
Let The Right One In
This Swedish scary movie focuses on a 12-year-old boy named Oskar who spends his night reading about murderers. As he plots his revenge on a bunch of school bullies, Oskar meets the blood-thirsty Eli. A bond is formed, and the hunt is on. Available to stream on Hulu.
If you haven’t realized by now, sex and horror go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly. In this sultry Stephen King adaptation about a couple’s getaway that goes horribly wrong, there’s a little bit of everything: seduction, bondage, and hallucination. Without spoiling the plot too much, let’s just say this tight psychological thriller only has two actors and takes place in a single location: a remote location. Does it get any better? Available to stream on Netflix.
OK, so we’re stretching the definition of horror a bit here. But we promise there are few shows that’ll get you more in the Halloween mood than this David Fincher crime series focusing on a pair of FBI agents who are on the ground floor — or basement, in their case — of the bureau’s behavioral science unit that studies the mind of serial killers. The goal is to extract knowledge from these murderers that could solve ongoing cases. Let’s just say in season protagonist Holden Ford gets a little too close with one of his subjects. Available to stream on Netflix.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Besides the original Halloween, no film has had a greater impact on the horror genre than Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The story centers around a group of friends who are road tripping through Texas. This isn’t Dallas though. In director Tobe Hooper’s vision, The Lone Star State is painted as sun soaked, overgrown and desolate. This isolation is pervasive throughout the film and paralleled how a lot of Americans were feeling in the 1970s with our country’s failure in Vietnam and corruption running amok in the nation’s capital. Available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Similar to Mindhunter, one could dismiss this series as German crime drama built around some sort of psychological mystery. And that’s fine. But you’d be missing out on the second best show to debut in 2017. The best? Well, that would Mindhunter. Seriously, you have some binge-watching to get going on. Dark was made to be watched at this time of the year. Available to stream on Netflix.
Director James Wan’s best horror movie. Yes, Saw fans, you read that right. The film follows Ed and Lorraine Warren, a pair of paranormal investigators. The couple visit an old farmhouse in Rhode Island where strange events have plagued previous owners. One point for the original setting, two point’s for Wan’s incredible camerawork. The film’s score is also incredible. Not since Kubrick’s The Shining has sound played such a vital role in a horror movie. Available to stream on HBO and Netflix.
Like sex, one of the common themes of this list are stories that take place in unfamiliar places. In this South Korean-set horror film, a mutant fish — not zombies or vampires — is at the center of the devastation. Who’s to blame for creating such a hideous and destructive? American military scientists, of course. When in doubt, always blame those guys. Available to stream on Netflix.
True Blood is not an easy sell to most guys because it was marketed as something of a vampire romance when it was first released but there’s a lot more going on here than sex scenes between Anna Paquin and Joe Manganiello. While the show lost steam in its later seasons, the first three seasons are must watch TV. It’s the perfect mix of supernatural and horror. And nothing quite beats a few hours in the fictional setting Bon Temps, Louisiana. You can get lost down there, and that’s the point. Available to stream on Amazon Prime and HBO.
People coping with death — tragic and unforeseen death — is a staple of the horror genre as we’ve seen with a few other films on this list. The Babadook is no different. Protagonist Amelia is struggling to raise her son after the death of her husband. To bond with the child, she reads him a disturbing pop-up book about a creature who goes by Mister Babadook. Suddenly the creature is in both of their lives in a disturbingly intimate way. Available to stream on Netflix.
Some might say that the plot of this movie — a man goes to dinner party hosted by his ex and an unsettling affair reopens old wounds — sounds like a drama, but we can assure you this is definitely a scary movie. In case you missed this theme with any of the previous entries: Sex doesn’t lead to anything good and should avoid it at all costs! Do not give into temptation and you’ll be alright! Until humans learn this truth, we’ll continue to be haunted. Available to stream on Netflix.
It Comes At Night
Part suspense, part horror this apocalyptic survival story follows two families who are forced to share a home with each other as outside evil threatens. Of course, the claustrophobic setting leads to tensions between the two sects. It’s an inevitability but the film dares to ask: Why can’t two groups share a place together in order to survive? And why is it our instinct to always try to remove “the other?” Available to stream on Amazon Prime.
The Devil’s Rejects
You thought we’d do this list without mentioning Rob Zombie’s name? Come on! Sometimes you have to save the best for last. This sequel to House of 1000 Corpses was named the sickest and most twisted movie of the year in 2005 by critic Richard Roeper. He also called it the most deranged movie he’d ever seen. High praise? We think so. Available to stream on HBO.
Texas is one scary place, even when Matthew McConaughey is around. This film tracks a serial killer — named the God’s Hand Killer — who draws the attention of the FBI. Agent Fenton Meiks (McConaughey) is on the killer’s trail but he’s not as close as thinks. He’s got to first relive his own family’s sinister secrets before finding his man. While presented as a suspenseful cat-and-mouse game, don’t be fooled: This is most certainly a horror movie. Available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Bad things happen when humans try to conquer nature. Remember that when you put on this 2006 horror class about a group of young women who go spelunking into a North Carolina cave. Not only do the girls lose their way, they encounter a supernatural being that wants to, well, kill them all. Usually the monster in the cave does want to be left undisturbed, can you blame it? This terrifying labyrinth is the sister film of The Ritual. Available to stream on HBO.
Like a lot of other show recommendations on this list, the first season was a lot better than season two. With that said, the second season does pay an awesome tribute to Halloween early in its run. You can’t help yourself from loving those kids showing up to school dressed as the Ghostbusters only to realize they’re the only ones in costume. This is a show that was built to be consumed around this time of the year because of its monsters and its small-town setting. Available to stream on Netflix.
Ah, the newest horror entry from Netflix. Right in time for Halloween 2018. This one dropped last Friday, Oct. 5, and is about a brother and sister who run a ghostbusting racket that swindles old people out of their money. This paranormal hypocrisy runs them into trouble when they’re hired to investigate a haunted old foster home. Supernatural terrors ensue. Available to stream on Netflix.