I spend most of my fall season lavishing in the cute, cozy, ghostliness of Halloween. But sometimes the need hits for a really good scare. This list is here to deliver you a selection of legitimately terrifying movies that will shock, creep, and disgust. There’s no warm witches here; these are the kind of films that make even the bravest among us watch from behind our fingers.
Joko Anwar is a horror powerhouse. Thanks to Shudder, you can watch his terrifying take on haunted houses, familial curses, and the horror of small town life right now. Impetigore centers on Maya (Tara Basro), who, after a vicious attack in a stunning opening sequence, discovers she may have inherited a huge home in a rural town. With her best friend tagging along, the pair head off on a fact-finding mission only to uncover something far more horrifying than they could have ever expected. Anwar is a master of atmosphere and style but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect a few truly gruesome and grotesque moments that will haunt you.
You can stream Impetigore on Shudder now.
Alexandre Aja exploded onto the horror scene with this gnarly 2003 slasher about two young women who travel to a family country home only to be waylaid by a brutal killer. This one is not for the fainthearted, as it packs some gory kills and a devastating third act. But if you want a horror film that will keep you on the edge of your seat and shock you at every turn, High Tension (a.k.a. Switchblade Romance) is a must watch this Halloween.
You can stream High Tension on Tubi now.
Austrian auteur Michael Haneke might not be the first person to come to mind when you think of nightmare-inducing horror. But with his chilling 1997 social satire, he created just that. You might have seen the director’s own American remake—which is surprisingly good—but if not, all you need to know is this is one of the most affecting home invasion movies ever made. A happy family is tormented over one long night by two young, wealthy, and intelligent men who want nothing more than to destroy their victims for fun.
You can stream Funny Games on HBO Max now.
Netflix’s newest K-Horror offering centers the abject terror of being alone in the midst of a massive zombie outbreak. The lone survivor in a huge apartment building tries to find a way out, and is shocked to discover another living person inside. An unexpected friendship blooms as they communicate across the vast space between them. But when one of them is threatened by their undead neighbors, they have to team up to escape. Thrilling, cool, and unique, this is a must-watch for anyone looking for a spooky treat.
You can stream #Alive on Netflix now.
A young boy comes of age in a small town by the sea, in a world ruled by women and a shady institute that experiments on the boys who live there. Don’t come to this haunting French flick looking for easy answers. But if you want an atmosphere piece that will make your skin crawl and your mind warp ,then you’ll likely leave sated and filled with an unsettling fear.
You can stream Evolution on AMC+ now.
Tigers Are Not Afraid
Issa López’s beautiful horror flick made waves at film fests in 2017 and ’18, and is now available to watch thanks to Shudder. Estrella lives in Mexico City, fighting to survive the gang war and crime she’s surrounded by. But she eventually becomes haunted by something other than the violence around her. This is an enchanting take on the contemporary ghost story that stands out in the realm of modern horror for its authentic vision and unrelenting dedication to character and atmosphere.
You can stream Tigers Are Not Afraid on Shudder now.
Inventive zombies movies are a rare breed, but we’re lucky enough to have three on this list. Ojuju is a micro-budget Nigerian offering from 2014 that offers pure terror in a raw and tight package. Dedicated to authenticity over the Hollywood supernatural, director C.J. Obasi creates a zombie movie that feels even more bone-chilling in 2020. During the 95-minute runtime you can easily forget you’re watching a movie at all. Instead, you’ll find yourself lost in a dynamic and sometimes humorous quest for survival in the slums of Lagos.
You can stream Ojuju on Kweli TV now.
May the Devil Take You
Timo Tjahjanto should already be at the top of your favorite genre directors list. But if not, his gory homage to flicks like The Evil Dead should secure his spot. The story centers on Alfie, who arrives at her estranged dad’s deathbed to find out she’s inherited his sprawling villa. But of course, there’s a heavy price to pay. The film’s favorite themes are the sins of the father and how our parents often leave a legacy we don’t want. May the Devil Take You is a wild ride through B-movie horror and once again showcases Tjahjanto’s impressive genre chops.
You can stream May the Devil Take You on Netflix now.
Train to Busan
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This Korean zombie movie took the horror scene by storm a couple of years ago and it was for a very good reason. A smart and emotional take on the trapped-room subgenre, the movie is set on a moving train as a group of survivors try to make it to their destination while defeating the hordes of undead on board. Stylish, frightening, and ultimately heartbreaking, this is one of the best horror movies of the last decade and one of the best zombie films of all time.
You can stream Train to Busan on Tubi now.
One of the few films in my life that I could never watch again, this movie comes with a huge “only for the most hardcore horror hounds” warning. If you can face that very visceral and prolonged kind of horror then check out this New French Extremity offering. It follows the story of a young woman, imprisoned and tortured as a child, who seeks vengeance only to find more pain and depravity. This is a controversial cult flick that still splits horror fans down the middle. But if you can face extreme gore, then Martyrs does have a lot of interesting things to say and isn’t easy to forget.
You can stream Martyrs on Shudder now.
Audition is a horror classic for a reason. Takashi Miike’s skin-crawling story about a wealthy man who finds a wife by auditioning a selection of suitors. But as he soon finds out, his new paramour hides a dark secret. Featuring one of the most notorious cinematic torture scenes of all time, Audition is a truly terrifying treatise on societal concepts of love, trust, and obsession.
You can stream Audition on Amazon Prime Video.
The Queen of Black Magic
This frightful flick recently debuted at Fantastic Fest and blew this reviewer away. When Hanif takes his family to the orphanage where he was raised, things quickly go wrong. The strange staff and an unsettling lack of children are just the beginning. Soon, they uncover a shocking secret that will put everyone connected to the orphanage at risk. A creepy exploration of vengeance, unsettled spirits, and the ghosts of the past, Kimo Stamboel and Joko Anwar team up for this delightfully dark offering.
The Queen of Black Magic is available on Shudder.
Originally published October 8, 2020.
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