The 40 Best Horror Movies on Amazon Prime Video Right Now (Feb. 2023)

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The 40 Best Horror Movies on Amazon Prime Video Right Now (Feb. 2023)

After drawing up huge rankings of the best horror movies on Netflix and the best horror movies on Hulu, it’s safe to say we’ve gotten used to the challenge of diving through the refuse of a streaming service and searching for the gems. But we’ve never really experienced a library with just as much junk and treasure in it as the Amazon library. If you’ve been paying attention, then you know this is only compounded by the fact that the “browse” function on Amazon Video is completely and utterly broken.

That said, Amazon subscribers have access to a wealth of riches, many of them hiding in plain sight. Slowly but surely, they’ve built one of the biggest (and most random) horror streaming libraries. The trick is realizing those movies are there at all. Sure, it’s no surprise that something like Train to Busan or The Black Phone is now on Amazon Prime, but the service is also packed with more obscure 1980s slashers than you can wave a machete at.

Therefore, fall back on our list of films that are worth your time for one reason or another—just don’t expect to find them via browsing.

You may also want to consult the following horror-centric lists:

The 100 best horror films of all time.
The 100 best vampire movies of all time.
The 50 best zombie movies of all time.
The 50 best movies about serial killers
The 50 best slasher movies of all time
The 50 best ghost movies of all time
The best horror movies streaming on Netflix
The best horror movies streaming on Hulu
The best horror movies streaming on Shudder


Here are the 40 best horror movies on Amazon Prime:

1. Let the Right One In

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Year: 2008
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Stars: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Ika Nord, Peter Carlberg
Rating: R
Runtime: 114 minutes

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Vampires may have become cinema’s most overdone, watered-down horror villains, aside from zombies, but leave it to a Swedish novelist and filmmaker to reclaim frightening vampires by producing a novel and film that turned the entire genre on its head. Let the Right One In centers around the complicated friendship and quasi-romantic relationship between 12-year-old outcast Oskar and Eli, a centuries-old vampire trapped in the body of an androgynous (although ostensibly female) child who looks his same age. As Oskar slowly works his way into her life, drawing ever-closer to the role of a classical vampire’s human “familiar,” the film questions the nature of their bond and whether the two can ever possibly commune on a level of genuine love. At the same time, it’s also a chilling, very effective horror film whenever it chooses to be, especially in the absolutely spectacular final sequences, which evoke Eli’s terrifying abilities with just the right touch of obstruction to leave the worst of it in the viewer’s imagination. The film received an American remake in 2010, Let Me In, which has been somewhat unfairly derided by film fans sick of the remake game, but it’s another solid take on the same story that may even improve upon a few small aspects of the story. Ultimately, though, the Swedish original is still the superior film thanks to the strength of its two lead performers, who vault it up to become perhaps the best vampire movie ever made. —Jim Vorel


2. The Wailing

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Year: 2016
Director: Na Hong-jin
Stars: Kwak Do-won, Hwang Jung-min, Chun Woo-hee
Rating: NR
Runtime: 156 minutes

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The U.S. title of Na Hong-jin’s new film, The Wailing, suggests tone more than it does sound. There is wailing to be heard here, yes, and plenty of it, but in two words Na coyly predicts his audience’s reaction to the movie’s grim tableaus of a county in spiritual strife. Na trades in doubt and especially despair more than in what we think of as “horror.” He isn’t out to terrify us. He’s out to corrode our souls, much in the same way that his protagonist’s faith is corroded after being subject to both divine and infernal tests over the course of the film. The Wailing unfolds in Gokseong County, an agricultural community nestled among South Korea’s southern provinces. It’s a lovely, bucolic setting that Na and his cinematographer, the incredible Hong Kyung-pyo, take fullest advantage of aesthetically and thematically. The hushed serenity blanketing The Wailing’s opening images creates an atmosphere of peace that Na is all too happy to subvert (similar to how he subverts Bible verses). The film’s first full sequence shatters the calm as Sergeant Jeon Jong-gu (Kwak Do-won, turning in a knockout performance) is called to the scene of a savage multiple murder. When Jong-gu shows up, all is bedlam; people are screaming and crying, emergency workers litter the area like ants at a gory picnic, and the killer sits in a stupor, unaware of neither the mayhem nor the vicious boils coating their skin. This is an incredibly creepy and oft-unsettling film, but Na finds the tug of disbelief far more upsetting than the sight of bodies cut apart and blood splattering the wall. What do you do when your holy authority figures fail you? What do you do when you can’t trust your perception? Na has made these ideas, though hardly new in the horror canon, his film’s full purpose, and his conclusions are devastatingly bleak. When The Wailing arrives at its final, spectacular half hour, you’ll vow never to ask these questions about your own life, ever. You may not leave the theater scared, but you will leave it scarred, which is by far a more substantive response than naked fear. —Andy Crump


3. Night of the Living Dead

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Year: 1968
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Judith O’Dea, Duane Jones, Marilyn Eastman, Karl Hardman, Judith Ridley, Keith Wayne
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 96 minutes

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What more can be said of Night of the Living Dead? It’s pretty obviously the most important zombie film ever made, and hugely influential as an independent film as well. George Romero’s cheap but momentous movie was a quantum leap forward in what the word “zombie” meant in pop culture, despite the fact that the word “zombie” is never actually uttered in it. More importantly, it established all of the genre rules: Zombies are reanimated corpses. Zombies are compelled to eat the flesh of the living. Zombies are unthinking, tireless and impervious to injury. The only way to kill a zombie is to destroy the brain. Those rules essentially categorize every single zombie movie from here on out—either the film features “Romero-style zombies,” or it tweaks with the formula and is ultimately noted for how it differs from the Romero standard. It’s essentially the horror equivalent of what Tolkien did for the idea of high fantasy “races.” After The Lord of the Rings, it became nearly impossible to write contrarian concepts of what elves, dwarves or orcs might be like. Romero’s impact on zombies is of that exact same caliber. There hasn’t been a zombie movie made in the last 50-plus years that hasn’t been influenced by it in some way, and you can barely hold a conversation on anything zombie-related if you haven’t seen it—so go out and watch it, if you haven’t. The film still holds up well, especially in its moody cinematography and stark, black-and-white images of zombie arms reaching through the windows of a rural farmhouse. Oh, and by the way—NOTLD is public domain, so don’t get tricked into buying it on a shoddy DVD. —Jim Vorel


4. Train to Busan

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Year: 2016
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Stars: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Su-an, Kim Eui-sung, Choi Woo-shik, Ahn So-hee
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 118 minutes

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Love them or hate them, zombies are still a constant of the horror genre in 2016, dependable enough to set your conductor’s watch by. And although I’ve probably seen enough indie zombie films at this point to eschew them from my viewing habits for the rest of my life, there is still usually at least one great zombie movie every other year. In 2016, that was Train to Busan, a film that has since been added to our list of the 50 Best Zombie Movies of All Time. There’s no need for speculation: Train to Busan would undoubtedly have made the list. This South Korean story of a career-minded father attempting to protect his young daughter on a train full of rampaging zombies is equal parts suspenseful popcorn entertainment and genuinely affecting family drama. It concludes with several action elements that I’ve never seen before, or even considered for a zombie film, and any time you can add something truly novel to the genre of the walking dead, then you’re definitely doing something right. With a few memorable, empathetic supporting characters and some top-notch makeup FX, you’ve got one of the best zombie movies of the past decade. —Jim Vorel


5. Hellraiser

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Year: 1987
Director: Clive Barker
Stars: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence
Rating: R
Runtime: 93 minutes

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The head villain/eventual hero (there’s a sickening number of terrible Hellraiser sequels) behind Clive Barker’s Hellraiser franchise is the Cenobite Pinhead, sent from the pits of his own personal hell dimension to drag you down into the depths with him. Where he tortures you. For eternity. All because you opened a fancy Rubik’s Cube. Pinhead has zero remorse, looking you dead in the eye as he delivers a deadpan promise to “tear your soul apart.” Oh yeah, and the Cenobites are indestructible. Personally, it turned me off to puzzle boxes forever. As in his fiction, Barker’s obsessions with the duality of pain and pleasure are on full display in Hellraiser, an icky story of sick hate and sicker love. —Rachel Haas


6. We Need to Talk About Kevin

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Year: 2012
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Stars: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller
Rating: R
Runtime: 112 minutes

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We Need To Talk About Kevin concerns the experience of a mother (Tilda Swinton) struggling with the aftermath of a school massacre carried out by her son (Ezra Miller). In its narrative construction, it draws upon two key tropes: that of the “whydunnit” thriller, in which the mystery of the perpetrator’s motivations are a driving factor, and that of the family horror, in which some dark element tears a traditional household apart. Indeed, the real horror is not that a teenager chose total negation over the banality of normative family life—it’s that these appeared to be the only two choices available. Tilda Swinton is brilliant in the starring role as a mother who grapples with guilt about what her son has done and reflects on his childhood, wondering what, if anything, could possibly have been done differently when one gives birth to a “bad seed.” The heartbreaking nature of the film is perfectly encapsulated by the scene wherein Kevin as a child briefly drops his sociopathic tendencies while ill, giving Swinton’s character a brief chance to feel like a cherished mother, only to emotionally shut her out again as soon as his physical health returns, dashing her hopes that some kind of breakthrough had been made. —Donal Foreman


7. We Are Still Here

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Year: 2015
Director: Ted Geoghegan
Stars: Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensening, Larry Fessenden, Lisa Marie, Monte Markham
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 84 minutes

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The film is a Lucio Fulci throwback, though that word does the Italian director’s work a slight disservice. We Are Still Here doesn’t bother covering up its roots, either. Like the specters that haunt Geoghegan’s protagonists, the presence of the Italian maestro can be felt in each of We Are Still Here’s frames. But there’s homage, and then there’s lazy homage, and Geoghegan has made the former—though in fairness his influences range from Fulci to Dan Curtis and Stuart Rosenberg. Geoghegan has even called on H.P. Lovecraft to supply his fictional setting. We Are Still Here does not lack for pedigree. It’s traditional in the horror genre that running away from personal tragedy tends to beget more personal tragedy. So, when Anne (Barbara Crampton) and Paul (Andrew Sensenig) Sacchetti move from “the city” to Aylesbury, Massachusetts after the death of their college-aged son, Bobby, they shack up in a century-old farmhouse so isolated that their new neighbors don’t notice anybody’s home for a whole two weeks. While Anne is wrapped up in the fantods, Paul tries stoically to assuage his wife’s grief (as well as his own) without tipping off his incredulity over her claims that she can “feel” Bobby in the house with them. We Are Still Here’s first half feels like a slow burn in comparison to its second, where all hell is erumpent and cinematographer Karim Hussain frantically but steadily sprints from one room to the next, capturing as much peripheral carnage as possible. In a lesser film, Geoghegan’s climax would be a signal to the viewer to wake up. In We Are Still Here, it provides an unexpected burst of escalated, gory furor. But Geoghegan handles the transition smoothly, from the story of running away from tragedy We Are Still Here begins as to the bloodbath it becomes. There’s no sense of baiting or switching; the director flirts with danger confidently throughout. Plus, there’s that New England winter to add an extra layer of despair. The elements forebode and forbid in equal measure. The weather outside is frightful … and the carbonized wraiths in the basement even more so. In the end, this is one haunted house that won’t be denied. —Andy Crump


8. House on Haunted Hill

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Year: 1959
Director: William Castle
Stars: Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Elisha Cook, Carolyn Craig, Alan Marshal, Julie Mitchum, Richard Long
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 75 minutes

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Every William Castle movie has its own campy charms, but House on Haunted Hill is the guy’s masterpiece. It’s got it all: Vincent Price at his goofiest, a big spooky house, a mystery and a profoundly non-frightening walking skeleton. The gimmick this time around was referred to by Castle as “Emergo,” and it amounted to a plastic skeleton on a pulley system being flown over the audience—not his most creative, but shameless enough that only Castle would stoop so low. To me, this is the quintessential 1950s horror film, even though it comes at the end of the decade. It’s totally tame by today’s standards but has some fun, over-the-top performances, a bit of witty dialog and a large helping of cheese. I can watch this thing over and over without ever getting tired of it. It’s like horror comfort food. The colorized version is even more fun, replacing the static black-and-white original with an unrealistic palette of brightly color-coded characters who will remind you of the cast of Clue. —Jim Vorel


9. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Year: 2010
Director: Eli Craig
Stars: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss
Rating: R
Runtime: 89 minutes

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Let’s face it, hillbillies and their ilk have been getting the short end of the pitchfork in movies since the strains of banjo music faded in 1972’s Deliverance. And whether due to radiation (The Hills Have Eyes) or just good old determined inbreeding (Wrong Turn and so, so many films you’re better off not knowing about), the yokel-prone in film have really enjoyed slaughtering innocent families on vacation, travelers deficient in basic map usage skills, and, best of all, sexually active college students just looking for a good time. But fear not, members of Hillbillies for Inclusion, Consideration & Kindness in Screenplays (HICKS)—writer/director Eli Craig has your hairy, unloofahed back. His film, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, answers the simple question: What if those hillbillies are just socially awkward fellows sprucing up a vacation home and the young college kids in question are just prone to repeatedly jumping to incorrect, often fatal, conclusions? Think Final Destination meets the Darwin Awards. —Michael Burgin


10. REC

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Year: 2007
Director: Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza
Stars: Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terraza, Jorge-Yamam Serran
Rating: R
Runtime: 78 minutes

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2007 was a breakthrough year for post-Blair Witch found-footage horror, including the first Paranormal Activity and Romero’s own Diary of the Dead, but it wasn’t only in the U.S. that people were effectively employing that technique. The best of all the found-footage zombie films is still probably REC, another film on this list that exhibits some playfulness in redetermining exactly what a “zombie” is or isn’t. The Spanish film follows a news crew as they sneak inside a quarantined building that is experiencing the breakout of what essentially appears to be a zombie plague. The fast-moving infected resemble those of 28 Days Later and are later revealed to be demonically possessed in a way that moves through bites, ably blending traditional zombie lore and religious mysticism. It’s a capable, professional-feeling film for its low budget, and there are some excellently choreographed scenes of zombie mayhem that feel all the more claustrophobic for being filmed in a limited, first-person viewpoint. Zombie horror seems to go hand-in-hand with the found-footage approach more naturally than some other horror genres—perhaps it’s the fact that in the digital age, we’d all be compelled to document any such outbreak on our phones or other devices? Regardless, it’s not nearly so forced as some entries in this particular horror subgenre, and gives an excellent sense of what it might be like if you were just an average person locked in a huge apartment building filled with zombies. —Jim Vorel


11. Candyman

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Year: 2021
Director: Nia DaCosta
Stars: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, Tony Todd, Vanessa Estelle Williams
Rating: R
Runtime: 91 minutes

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The problem with writing about Candyman is that you will inevitably have to write “Candyman” five times. What if my monitor suddenly craps out, leaving me to see a paranormal entity rocking a full-length shearling behind my dark reflection? Unlike many of the white Chicagoans in writer/director Nia DaCosta’s slasher sequel, I’m not foolish enough to tempt the Bloody Mary of the Near North Side. I am, however, still drawn to her update of the legend, which manages to pick up the original film’s pieces and put them back together in a compelling, reclamatory collage. Ignoring the rest of the Candyman series in favor of a direct follow-up to Bernard Rose’s allegory-rich 1992 slasher, DaCosta introduces fancy-pants artist Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) to the same urban legend that consumed lookie-loo grad student Helen Lyle. The original story adapted Clive Barker to U.S. racism and wealth inequality—particularly in Chicago, and even more particularly in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green projects. Now its homes and high-rises have been demolished or abandoned. A massive Target overlooks its northwest border, where you can buy athleisure and grab an in-house Starbucks before heading to Panera Bread. Gentrification may have neatly plastered over history, but that history cannot be so easily erased. “A story like that—a pain like that—lasts forever,” says Colman Domingo’s long-timer laundryman Burke. “That’s Candyman.” DaCosta makes it clear that Anthony’s pulled by the legend, by history, more intimately than Helen ever was, and updates her scares in turn. The nightmarish apartments and putrid bathrooms Helen crawled through and photographed neatly reflected the entity haunting them; but the projects have been paved over, and Candyman persists. DaCosta shoots the city accordingly, either in dividing straight lines, or fully warped: You never notice how Marina City’s towers look like beehives until they’re flipped upside-down. Spurred on by Anthony’s interest, Candyman’s now an inevitability in every reflective surface. You can’t look away from DaCosta’s inspired compositions and layouts, your eyes led from one dark corner to the next with an Invisible Man-like mastery of negative space. One of these days, you think, she’s going to run out of ideas about how to shoot a mirror kill. Not so, especially in her world of omnipresent, physically and psychically painful self-reflection. While the kills, perpetrated by a being mostly just seen in mirrors, are sometimes a bit too obfuscated by their gimmick to be viscerally satisfying, they slot in perfectly with the film’s themes and aesthetic even when they’re not dumping cascades of blood. The power of martyrdom, the cycles of economic exploitation, the blood price expected for progress—even if these ideas are imperfectly engaged with, they’re so compellingly introduced as to solidify Candyman as a must-see horror and a must-discuss tragedy.—Jacob Oller


12. Exorcist III

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Year: 1990
Director: William Peter Blatty
Stars: George C. Scott, Ed Flanders, Jason Miller, Scott Wilson, Nicol Williamson, Brad Dourif
Rating: R
Runtime: 110 minutes

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Exorcist III, or Legion as it’s known in its director’s cut form, focuses on grizzled, sardonic police detective Kinderman, played in the film by George C. Scott and by Lee J. Cobb in The Exorcist. Kinderman was more of a bystander to the events of the original film, but they still haunt him, 15 years after the fact. The past comes roaring back with bloody vengeance—there’s a serial killer on the loose, and the murders seem to be connected to a mysterious patient locked up in a hospital psychiatric ward. And that mysterious patient just happens to look exactly like the deceased Father Damien Karras, one of the exorcists from the first film, who met an untimely end after launching himself out a window and tumbling down a particularly steep flight of stairs. What follows is a perpetually misunderstood and underrated horror film that is less a sequel to The Exorcist and more a channeler of the same disturbing spirit, complete with a few of the best jump scares in genre history. —Chris Evangelista


13. Daniel Isn’t Real

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Year: 2019
Director: Adam Egypt Mortimer
Stars: Miles Robbins, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Sasha Lane, Mary Stuart Masterson, Hannah Marks, Chukwudi Iwuji, Peter McRobbie
Rating: NR
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Everyone has their demons: Maybe they grew up neglected, or trapped between warring parents—or maybe they saw things they shouldn’t have before they had the tools to process them. Some of these people manage to grow up well-adjusted in spite of their trauma. Others grow up keeping those demons close to their heart. Mercifully, none of this is literal, but what if, Adam Egypt Mortimer’s Daniel Isn’t Real asks, those demons look like the dashingly handsome spawn of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver? Mortimer weaponizes Patrick Schwarzenegger’s pedigree and good looks, turning him into both the best imaginary friend a loner like Luke (Miles Robbins, also the son of Hollywood royalty: Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon) could ever hope to have, and the perfect catalyst for Luke’s transformation into an oily pickup artist at best and a true-to-form monster at worst. The subtext is on the surface—it’s a film about toxic masculinity—but Mortimer and his cast (which includes Sasha Lane, who takes the thankless role of “damsel trapped between hero and villain” and turns it into a performance of substance) shatter that surface, digging deep, then deeper, and then deeper still into the guts of that grossly overused pop psych phrase. What they find is thought-provoking insight into modern masculine identity. What they create with those insights is terrifying, a tactile smorgasbord of frights that wears its influences on its sleeve. (Would you guess that Mortimer loves Ridley Scott and Takashi Miike?) Those influences metastasize into one of 2019’s most memorable and original horror films. —Andy Crump


14. Night of the Demons

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Year: 1988
Director: Kevin S. Tenney
Stars: Cathy Podewell, Amelia Kinkade, Linnea Quigley, Hal Havins, William Gallo, Alvin Alexis
Rating: R
Runtime: 89 minutes

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Night of the Demons is one of the most purely enjoyable entries in the late ’80s horror subgenre of “a bunch of young people go to a spooky location and all wind up dead,” which arguably reached its zenith a year earlier in Evil Dead 2. Make no mistake, this film can’t compete with the slap-sticky wit of early Sam Raimi, nor are any of its performers a Bruce Campbell quip machine in the making, but Night of the Demons makes up for it with shameless raunchiness and a generally gleeful attitude toward the demise of its characters. These guys are broad, amusing pastiches of different archetypes in 1980s youth culture, in much the same way as the teens from Return of the Living Dead, right down to the presence of Linnea Quigley. Yes, she’s naked here, although it’s at least not for the majority of the film, as in ROTLD. Instead, come for the top-notch makeup effects and the sick, sophomoric sense of humor. This one makes for perfectly appropriate Halloween-season viewing, as its “let’s get together in a haunted house for a Halloween party” premise is just begging for a cadre of demons to run amok. And so they do, with gory aplomb. —Jim Vorel


15. Dead & Buried

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Year: 1981
Director: Gary Sherman
Stars: James Farentino, Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson, Dennis Redfield, Nancy Locke, Robert Englund
Rating: R
Runtime: 82 minutes

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Dead & Buried is a thoroughly unusual horror film that revolves around the reanimated dead, but in a way all its own. In a small New England coastal town, a rash of murders breaks out among those visiting the town. Unknown to the town sheriff, those bodies never quite make it to their graves … but people who look just like the murdered visitors are walking the streets as permanent residents. The zombies here are different in their autonomy and ability to act on their own and pass for human, although they do answer to a certain leader … but who is it? The film is part murder mystery, part cult story and part zombie flick, and it features some absolutely gross creature work and gore from the legendary Stan Winston. It’s just a movie with a feel all its own, and one notable for some unusual casting choices. That includes a pre-Nightmare on Elm Street Robert Englund as one of the possibly zombified town locals, and, in a major role, Jack Albertson (Grandpa Joe from Willy Wonka) as the eccentric, jazz-loving town coroner/mortician, who steals every scene he’s in. More people should see this weird little film. — Jim Vorel


16. Suspiria

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Year: 2018
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Angela Winkler, Ingrid Caven
Rating: R
Runtime: 153 minutes

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Dario Argento’s original synthesized his many experiments with the giallo form—the mid-century thrillers and violent crime stores much of Argento’s peers were churning out—into something essential. Gone were the questions of whodunit, the investigative layer of procedure litigating how such evil could make its way into this world, replaced by both a focus on the victims of this murder mystery and a sensual connection to the horrors flaying their young bodies apart. That the film takes place in Munich’s Tanz Dance Academy, though little dancing occurs, projects the film’s insinuated physicality onto the walls and floor as chimeric splashes of fairy tale color, especially (of course) red—we always remember the red—its vibrancy emphasized by Goblin’s monolithic score. Women, in Argento’s film, are vessels: for life, for gore, for art. Luca Guadagnino’s remake, and David Kajganich’s screenplay, simply tell the audience this—over and over and over. What Argento implied, Guadagnino makes literal. And so much of Guadagnino’s film is about transformation—how Germany had to reimagine itself to break the spell of its evil past; how art contorts oneself, irrevocably changes those who create it; how even the media in which the director works must adapt and mature and evolve to transcend the reluctance that a movie like Suspiria maybe should have been remade in 2018 at all. What Argento made subtext, Guadagnino reveals as text: As much as Suspiria explored the essence of giallo, Guadagnino explores the essence of Suspiria. Less fetishized, much less fantasized, the violence of 2018’s Suspiria is so much more harrowing than Argento’s, because Suspiria 1977 is its violence, and Suspiria 2018 wields its violence like an upsetting symbol, simultaneously too real and too absurd. Much of Guadagnino’s Suspiria feels beholden to nothing, indulgent and overwrought, existing only for itself. Art should never have to justify its own existence, but also: Why does this exist? What motivations conceived this film that seems to want very little—to maybe even dislike—the movie on which it’s based? And yet, it’s unforgettable, as ravishing as anything Guadagnino’s lazily captured in the Italian countryside, as disturbing as any horror film you’ve seen this year and, like the 1977 original, unlike anything you’ve ever felt helplessly drawn to before. —Dom Sinacola


17. Climax

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Year: 2019
Director: Gaspar Noé
Starring: Sofia Boutella, Kiddy Smile, Roman Guillermic, Souhelia Yacoub, Claude Gajan Maull, Giselle Palmer
Rating: R
Runtime: 96 minutes

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Gaspar Noé has been so openly confrontational and provocative for so long that it’s easy to forget just how powerful a filmmaker he can be. He is deliberately repulsive, sometimes to the detriment of his own films; I don’t care how structurally inventive Irreversible is, I am never, ever sitting through that goddamned movie again. But there is an undeniable hypnotic fervor to his movies, from the sordid (but also sort of lovely) kink of Love to the elliptical madness of Enter the Void. The immediate thrill of Climax, Noé’s newest and unquestionably best film, is how, for the first time, you see him letting go a little bit, releasing some of his notorious control, letting his films and (most important) his characters breathe a little bit—to be themselves. It opens with home-camera footage—the film takes place in 1996, for reasons that I’d probably understand a lot better if I were French—of a series of dancers, readying for a troupe tour of the United States, answering questions about their hopes and dreams, their desires, their fears, their basic motivations. It’s a slick, kind of cheap, but still incredibly effective way for Noé to give us just enough information about these dancers that we feel for them when they go through whatever Noé is about to put them through. (And you know he’s going to put them through something.) But it’s what comes next that’s most exciting: during rehearsal, a glorious dance routine featuring the entire crew, both meticulously choreographed and thrillingly improvised, expressing themselves the best way they know how. Noé’s camera swirls around in one long take, and the effect is breathtaking: It is as alive and electric as anything Noé’s ever done. Now you’re really invested in this crew…which, as Noé’s counting on, was your first mistake. It turns out, someone has spiked the sangria for the post-rehearsal part with LSD, and, apparently, a lot of it. Even if he puts all these people through the ringer—and oh, does he!—there is inspiration here: For the first time, it feels like the pain he’s putting everybody through is something he feels, too. It’s a most encouraging switch for Noé, and bodes well for him moving forward. It’s turned him into less of a Lars Von Trier geek show. Not to say that the ending doesn’t pack a wallop regardless. Noé, for all his newfound pseudo-humanism, isn’t going to send you home wanting for misery. But there is…well, not hope, exactly, but call it catharsis. He’s as uncompromising, and as resolutely himself, as ever. It’s just that there might be a little more shading and warmth inside Noé than maybe even he himself realized. Don’t misinterpret, though: This is Gaspar Noé Warmth, not normal human being warmth. Rest assured, his world remains no place for children. —Will Leitch


18. The Neon Demon

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Year: 2016
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Stars: Elle Fanning, Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks, Jena Malone
Rating: R
Runtime: 117 minutes

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If Nicolas Winding Refn—anthropomorphic cologne bottle; asexual jaguar—is going to make a horror film, Nicolas Winding Refn will make a horror film about the things that scare Nicolas Winding Refn most: asymmetry, sex, fatherhood. In The Neon Demon, every character is either someone’s daughter or a deranged daddy figure, both thirsty for the kind of flesh only Los Angeles can provide, the roles of predator and prey in constant, unnerving flux. Part cannibal-slasher movie and part endlessly pretty car commercial, Refn’s film about a young model (Elle Fanning) making it in the fashion industry goes exactly where you think it’s going to go, even when it’s trying as hard as it can to be weird as fuck. But despite his best efforts, Refn sustains such an overarching, creeping atmosphere of despair—such a deeply ingrained sense of looming physical imperfection, of death—that it never really matters if The Neon Demon doesn’t add up to much of anything more than a factory showroom of the many gorgeous skins it inhabits, violently or not. —Dom Sinacola


19. Grave Encounters

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Year: 2011
Directors: Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, “The Vicious Brothers”
Stars: Sean Rogerson, Ashleigh Gryzko, Mackenzie Gray, Juan Riedinger, Merwin Mondesir, Matthew K. McBride
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 95 minutes

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It’s hard to understand why Grave Encounters doesn’t have a better reputation among horror geeks, who largely seem to be aware of it but deride the found-footage movie as either derivative or cheesy. In our own estimation, it’s one of the best found footage offerings of the last decade, and certainly one of the most legitimately frightening, as well as humorous when it wants to be. It’s structured as a pitch-perfect parody of inane TV ghost-hunting shows, in the style of Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, and imagines the satisfying results of what might happen when one of these crews full of charlatans is subjected to a genuinely evil location. But Grave Encounters goes beyond what is expected of it—you hear that premise and expect some frantic, handicam running around and screaming in the dark, but it delivers far more. The FX work, on a small budget, is some of the best you’re ever going to see in a found-footage film, and the nature of the haunting is significantly more mind-bending and ambitious than it first appears. We’ll continue to defend this film, although you should steer clear of the less inspired sequel. —Jim Vorel


20. Vivarium

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Year: 2020
Director: Lorcan Finnegan
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots
Rating: R
Runtime: 97 minutes

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A quirky real estate story, where first-time homeowners Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and Gemma (Imogen Poots) get a lot more than they bargained for, Vivarium is a low-key sci-fi nightmare of the mundane in the vein of early David Cronenberg. Director Lorcan Finnegan’s film also functions as a relationship allegory, where Tom and Gemma find themselves stuck in a trendy neighborhood of cookie-cutter homes where starting a family isn’t just an expectation but something foisted upon them. It isn’t as grisly as something like Shivers, but more affecting in its surreal design and hopelessness. Eisenberg and Poots own the screen as a disintegrating couple coping in distinct ways to their newfound terrarium where they are observed, manipulated, and—perhaps most disturbingly of all—objectively provided for by unseen and undefinable forces. Its 2020 release feels especially fitting as repetition and hopelessness become permanent residents of the couple’s home. Genre elements seep into the film, accelerating in hiccups and starts that are as arresting as the film’s intentionally artificial design. Startling sound dubbing, odd colorizing, and a few genuine “Oh shit” moments make Vivarium a tight, nasty fable that would fit in with the best Twilight Zone episodes. —Jacob Oller


21. The Taking of Deborah Logan

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Year: 2014
Director: Adam Robitel
Stars: Jill Larson, Anne Ramsay, Michelle Ang, Ryan Cutrona
Rating: R
Runtime: 90 minutes

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This recent spin on the extremely crowded possession genre is the real definition of a mixed bag. Its initial premise is solid, as it follows a college film crew documenting the titular senior citizen, who is battling Alzheimer’s disease. What they don’t realize is that someone or something else may have been welcomed into Deborah’s mind as her mental faculties weaken. The film gets points for stylishness on a budget, and especially for the chilling, nuanced performance by Jill Larson as Deborah, but it’s eventually unable to sustain itself in the last third, becoming increasingly divorced from logic. There are moments of great, disturbing imagery, but that’s counterbalanced by characters who act incredibly irrationally—even for a horror film. It becomes more and more difficult to find reasons for any of the story being filmed at all, which leads to an ending that some might label a cop-out. But with that said, it’s still a far cry better than most entries in either the found footage or possession subgenres, with inherent style winning out over tight scripting. —Jim Vorel


22. Nightbreed


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Year: 1990
Director: Clive Barker
Stars: Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, David Cronenberg, Charlie Haid, Hugh Quarshie, Hugh Ross
Rating: R
Runtime: 99 minutes

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Nightbreed is an odd duck of a movie, stranded somewhere between legitimate horror film and dark fantasy story. Clive Barker directs, only a few years after Hellraiser, but here his ambition perhaps got the best of him. It’s pretty clear that he wanted Nightbreed to be something akin to a horror epic, a movie with a profound message about identity, acceptance and community. In execution, though, it has a hard time picking what tone it’s supposed to be emanating. Sometimes it’s darkly humorous. Sometimes it’s legitimately spooky. Other times you’re not sure whether you’re supposed to be taking the action on screen seriously or not. One thing that is spectacular throughout is the art direction, sets, costuming and makeup. Some of the character designs may come off as “silly,” but just as many of them are likely to end up in your nightmares. Nightbreed is a mixed bag, a would-be inspiring story about monsters trying to build a safe community to peacefully live their lives, but lacking the iconic nature of Barker’s most famous creations. —Jim Vorel


23. V/H/S

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Year: 2012
Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence
Rating: R
Runtime: 116 minutes

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We already mentioned that horror anthologies are, by nature, almost always uneven in terms of quality, but if there’s one constant, it’s usually that fewer stories is better than MANY stories. That’s one of the factors that helps V/H/S work better than, say, the unrestrained insanity of The ABCs of Death, along with a more coherent framing narrative. It features segments by some of the best young directors in horror such as Adam Wingard and Ti West, but it’s ultimately David Bruckner, who also directed the genre-bending 2007 horror flick The Signal, who steals the show with his segment, “Amateur Night.” That story, about a group of douchey guys who bring home a strange girl from the bar and get much more than they bargained for when she turns out to be a literal monster, is now getting the full-on feature film treatment under the title of Siren. As for which of the first two V/H/S entries is strongest, though, it’s a bit of a toss-up. Both of them have highlight segments and a few downers. The one thing there’s no doubt about is that both of them are fun, and MUCH better than the abortive 2014 second sequel, V/H/S: Viral. —Jim Vorel


24. A Quiet Place Part II

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Year: 2020
Director: John Krasinski
Stars: Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Djimon Hounsou
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 97 minutes

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Serving as both prologue and epilogue to the original film, flashing back to the day the sound-averse killer aliens landed on Earth, A Quiet Place Part II is an exercise in diminishing returns. As our Tim Grierson pointed out in his review of the first high-concept movie, “the risk with such films is that, eventually, we’ll grow accustomed to the conceit and get restless.” Even if much of A Quiet Place’s power didn’t come from its relatively restrained worldbuilding and potent use of its near-silent sensory gimmick, the years it took for this sequel to be released were a long time for its simple hook to live out in the pop cultural world. But thanks to the strengths of its core ensemble and returning director John Krasinski’s ability behind the camera, A Quiet Place Part II’s technical merits mostly drown out the franchise’s increasingly noisy flaws. That leaves A Quiet Place Part II to be a charmingly unambitious, ultimately enjoyable step down of a sequel: A controlled expansion where novelty fades to reveal technical prowess and contempt starts peeking out behind familiarity. Krasinski’s milked this franchise and its gimmicks to provide us with his two best showings behind the camera, but he—like its characters—needs to grow beyond it, or else be trapped as its returns finally disappear entirely. —Jacob Oller


25. Creepshow 2

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Year: 1987
Director: Michael Gornick
Stars: Lois Chiles, George Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour, Tam Savini
Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes

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Creepshow 2 is very much a 1980s horror sequel in the sense that it attempts to largely replicate what audiences enjoyed about the first film in its series without mucking around too much with the formula, and produces a good (but not quite great) effort in the process. Things are hurt a bit here by the reduction in overall stories from five to three, which puts more weight on each individual entry. “Old Chief Wood’nhead” and “The Hitch-hiker” each have their moments, the first feeling like an HBO Tales From the Crypt episode and the latter like a Twilight Zone entry, but it’s “The Raft” that is really worth the price of admission here. One of Stephen King’s most simple stories makes for superb anthology content, with a premise that just can’t be beat: A group of teens are trapped on a raft in the middle of a lake, stalked by a blob-like creature that dissolves everything it touches, with spectacularly gory results. It’s like the 1980s remake of The Blob from Chuck Russell, simply cutting out backstory and subtext to focus on pure, primal action. Will the kids survive, or will they all be reduced to a pile of bones at the bottom of the lake? —Jim Vorel


26. The Haunted Palace

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Year: 1963
Director: Roger Corman
Stars: Vincent Price, Debra Paget, Lon Chaney Jr.
Rating: NR
Runtime: 87 minutes

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Genuinely one of the finest films ever personally directed by B-movie kingpin Roger Corman, The Haunted Palace has an unusual air of sophistication and opulence in comparison with most of the films of Corman’s career—it’s clear that he’s working with a significantly bigger budget than usual, and he makes the most of it. The film came toward the end of the director’s so-called “Poe Cycle,” in which he was adapting Edgar Allan Poe Stories such as “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Pit and the Pendulum,” which led to the ever-resourceful Corman titling this movie after Poe’s poem “The Haunted Palace,” even though it’s actually a straight-up adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. This being the first big-budget adaptation of a Lovecraft work, it’s understandable why Corman assumed the name would have no marketing power. As for its execution, The Haunted Palace benefits greatly from some opulent set dressing and a classically spooky feel, being not far off from some lost American addition to the Hammer horror canon. Its greatest tool, however, is the presence of the iconic Vincent Price in its lead role as Charles, a man who travels to an ancient ancestor’s castle and finds himself slowly falling under the spell of centuries-old witchcraft. Reflecting the author’s common themes of genealogy and the corrupting influence of evil blood, The Haunted Palace becomes unmistakably Lovecraftian in short order. —Jim Vorel


27. Edge of the Axe

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Year: 1988
Director: Jose Ramon Larraz
Stars: Barton Faulks, Christina Marie Lane, Page Moseley, Fred Holliday, Jack Taylor, Patty Shepard
Rating: NR
Runtime: 91 minutes

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An eccentric late ‘80s slasher that is at once both formulaic and deeply strange, Edge of the Axe is a memorable watch in this day and age for its unexpected, tech-centric background in the early internet, which is not exactly what you’re expecting to see in a Spanish-U.S. co-production with the air of an evolved Italian giallo. The dialog comes off as absurd in a modern context, but the script for Edge of the Axe is actually shockingly tech-literate for 1988, and it applies this method of suspect interrogation in service of a masked slasher film with a true cornucopia of suspects and red herrings. This is ultimately the film’s best element—it has so many moving pieces and oddball characters that it keeps its true antagonist quite well hidden until the ludicrous finale, which is entertaining in the moment and impossible to make any sense of upon reflection, like so many other slashers of its era. The kills, sadly, are numerous but uninspired in their execution—if you could have added the likes of Tom Savini to this production, it could have been an idiosyncratic classic from an era when the slasher genre was heading into hibernation. As is, it’s the fusion of stalk-and-slash action with computer geekery that still makes this one stand out. —Jim Vorel


28. House

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Year: 1986
Director: Steve Miner
Stars: William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, Kay Lenz
Rating: R
Runtime: 93 minutes

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House is a legitimately odd film, and not an easy one to classify. I’ve read descriptions before that called it a “horror comedy,” but it’s not trying nearly hard enough to be funny to qualify on the “comedy” side of the spectrum—nor is it serious enough in most of its scares to be legitimately frightening. Instead, it’s trapped in some kind of limbo in between; memorable in spurts for its idiosyncrasies. Our protagonist is a Stephen King-like horror novelist who suffers traumatic flashbacks to both his time in Vietnam and the unexplained disappearance of his son. He moves into the old, crumbling manor of a recently deceased aunt, where he begins to experience terrifying nightmares and is attacked by a variety of creatures, which may or may not be in his head—think Jacob’s Ladder, but far goofier. George Wendt of Cheers makes an amusing appearance as the next door neighbor, but what most people remember about House (besides the iconic poster) is its unpredictability and Vietnam-inspired horrors. — Jim Vorel


29. Tales From the Darkside: The Movie

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Year: 1990
Director: John Harrison
Stars: Debbie Harry, Christian Slater, James Remar, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore
Rating: R
Runtime: 93 minutes

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The spiritual successor to the first two Creepshow films was the Tales from the Darkside feature film, also an anthology. The stories are a bit ridiculous and cartoonish, even moreso than Creepshow, but fun in their own zany way. The highlight is probably “Cat From Hell,” a segment that was originally supposed to be featured in Creepshow 2 about a seemingly evil cat tormenting and stalking a wheelchair-bound old man to punish him for his past misdeeds. Although honestly, my favorite aspect of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is the anthology framing story, which involves a child chained up in the kitchen of a witch (none other than Blondie herself, Debbie Harry) who is planning on cooking him for dinner. Like some take on The Thousand and One Nights, the kid plays Scheherazade and distracts the witch by telling horror stories until he can engineer his escape. It’s like something from an overgrown episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?Jim Vorel


30. The Burning

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Year: 1981
Director: Tony Maylam
Stars: Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer, Larry Joshua, Jason Alexander
Rating: R
Runtime: 91 minutes

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If Halloween codified many of the slasher conventions in 1978, then Friday the 13th opened the floodgates wide with its unexpected success and profitability in 1980. A slew of imitators and low-rent slashers poured into drive-ins and grindhouses in the decade that followed, but The Burning is one of the few to rise above the scrum. At first it seems just like one of the pale Friday the 13th imitators, aping the summer camp setting much in the same way as Sleepaway Camp would later do, but there’s an artistry and shocking quality to the violence and gore here that isn’t present in most of the copycats, which were more interested in titillation rather than genuine surprise. Drawing upon the New York urban legend/campfire story of “Cropsey,” which tells of a disfigured camp counselor returned from a presumed grave to seek vengeance on counselors, The Burning takes its time and lures the audience into a rather effective false sense of security through establishing a lighthearted tone and scenes of counselors scaring each other. That status quo is eventually shattered in one of the more amazing early-’80s scenes of slasher carnage, which occurs when Cropsey (Lou David) ambushes an entire raft full of counselors and campers and systematically dispatches them in the most grisly format imaginable. It must have had audience members excusing themselves to flee the theater at the time. —Jim Vorel


31. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2

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Year: 1988
Director: Tony Randel
Stars: Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Kenneth Cranham
Rating: R
Runtime: 93 minutes

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Hellbound is a somewhat divisive sequel among horror fans, but we can all at least agree on one thing: It’s much, much better than any of the approximately 57 additional Hellraiser sequels that followed, most of which will make you wish the Cenobites were gouging your eyes out with their rusty hooks. It’s actually a more ambitious, somewhat less intimate film than the first Hellraiser, greatly expanding upon the mythos of the series as Kirsty must journey to the hellish dimension of the demonic Cenobites to oppose an evil doctor whose dreams of power transform him into a Cenobite himself. The lovely Ashley Laurence returns as the protagonist, along with a young, emotionally disturbed girl who is adept at solving puzzles, which almost gives it the feel of a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel such as Dream Warriors. The Cenobites themselves get a little bit watered down from their nigh omnipotence in the original film, but the settings and effects are great for the meager budget and do as good a job as anyone could reasonably do of translating the twisted vision of Clive Barker to the screen. —Jim Vorel


32. The Deeper You Dig

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Year: 2020
Director: John Adams, Toby Poser
Stars: John Adams, Toby Poser, Zelda Adams
Rating: NR
Runtime: 95 minutes

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Call it a family affair. Husband and wife team John Adams and Toby Poser wrote and directed The Deeper You Dig together. Adams stars in the movie as Kurt, Poser as Ivy and their daughter, Zelda Adams, as Echo. Going into business with loved ones is a bad idea in nine out of 10 cases. Here, that bond functions like cement holding their movie together, giving real weight to The Deeper You Dig’s unadorned spartan aesthetic. Kurt’s renovating a rickety old home on his own, which is for the better because he’s not the social butterfly type. One evening, he goes out for drinks, has one too many, and in a terrible split second of distraction on a snowy ride back, he runs Echo down by accident. Immediately after, not at all by accident, he hides her corpse in his tub, and eventually goes so far as to dismember her and bury her in the woods. Meanwhile, Ivy, her mother, a medium who long ago lost her gift for communicating with the other side, desperately begins searching for her missing child and regains her spiritual talents in the process as Echo’s ghost begins haunting and taunting and maybe also possessing Kurt. The Deeper You Dig is uncomplicated in terms of craft. Adam and Poser find an angle and stick with it instead of mucking about with flashy nonsense. Theirs is a far more effective approach than any hyperkinetic and self-regarding form of filmmaking for a story like this, where the deliberately paced plotting reveals chills in their due time without vaulting ahead to force them on the audience well before it’s necessary. The Deeper You Dig’s austerity is only its second greatest strength, of course, the first being the Adams-Poser effect, but it’s still a strength worth celebrating. —Andy Crump


33. Hell House LLC

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Year: 2015
Director: Stephen Cognetti
Stars: Ryan Jennifer, Danny Bellini, Gore Abrams, Jared Hacker, Adam Schneider, Alice Bahlke
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 83 minutes

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This is just about as lean and minimalist a concept as you can choose for a modern found footage horror movie, but Hell House LLC is much more a practice in execution than imaginative settings. It’s the documentary-style story of a haunted house crew that picks a decidedly wrong location for their attraction, and boom—they all wind up dead. Very standard set-up for a “no one gets out alive” entry in the found footage genre, but Hell House LLC actually does have some inspiring scares and performances. It gets a whole lot out of very small set-ups and deliveries, such as the shifting positioning of props and the life-size (and appropriately horrifying) clown costumes, shooting scenes in what looks very much like “real time,” with no cuts. There’s a naturalistic air to the actors’ sense of frustration and unease as weird events start to mount, but of course it all goes quite off the deep end and into unintentional humor in the closing moments. Still, there are many islands of genuine, blood pressure-raising fear in this well-executed film. Certainly, it’s better than most found footage efforts in the post-Paranormal Activity landscape. —Jim Vorel


34. Killer Klowns From Outer Space

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Year: 1988
Director: The Chiodo Brothers
Stars: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, Royal Dano, John Vernon
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 88 minutes

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Stephen, Charles and Edward Chiodo are a trio of siblings who have spent most of their careers working in practical movie effects, on everything from Critters to Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, but to horror fans they’ll always be known as those guys responsible for Killer Klowns From Outer Space. The titular monsters are actually aliens—it appears to be a series of incredible coincidences that everything about them is related to clowns. As in, their spaceship is a giant circus tent. Or the fact that they turn people into cotton candy before eating them. Or the fact that they’re all wearing floppy shoes and red ball noses. Coincidences, beautiful coincidences. The movie is a darkly comic story that never legitimately attempts to frighten—it’s saccharine faux-horror fun as silly and colorful as the clowns themselves. Today, it’s mostly worth seeing for the impressive makeup and FX work that the Chiodos managed to pull off on a small budget. Particularly memorable is the “shadow puppets” sequence, wherein one of the clowns uses what can only be described as Clown Magic to create a shadow T-Rex that first entertains, then devours, a crowd of onlookers. —Jim Vorel


35. Saint Maud

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Year: 2019
Director: Rose Glass
Stars: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle
Rating: R
Runtime: 84 minutes

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When we meet Morfydd Clark’s Maud, she is returning to her job as a private carer for the infirm under the guidance of the Lord, with whom she regularly engages in one-sided communication amid her lonely daily life after a traumatic incident with a former ward. She’s convinced God has a larger purpose for her, which is an obvious part of the driving force behind her taking drastic action in the name of religion. But before Maud unearths that purpose—or before real-life folks who allow religion to drive their urges to dangerous heights uncover their passion for things like pro-life advocation, anti-gay marriage lobbying or attempting to overturn an election—she needs a reason to find it in the first place. Her new ward is the fiery Amanda, a 40-something retired dancer with spunk, a distaste for religion, and terminal cancer. Something about the woman compels Maud to protect Amanda’s soul from eternal hellfire at whatever cost, giving the devout Christian the grounds (in her mind) to go as far as necessary to achieve her cause. As they say, there will be blood—that of Maud and others. —Lex Briscuso


36. Odd Thomas

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Year: 2013
Director: Stephen Sommers
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Willem Dafoe, Addison Timlin, Nico Tortorella
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 93 minutes

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2016 was a year we lost numerous Hollywood icons, but the loss of Anton Yelchin is especially bitter, as he was only 27. The Star Trek star had already put together one hell of an incredible portfolio, and he radiated an innate likability that could well have made him an A-list leading man in Hollywood. With that said, Odd Thomas isn’t exactly his best film, but Yelchin is most definitely the best thing in this movie, playing the title character of “Odd,” a young man with abilities to both see and fight restless ghosts and malevolent spirits. The script is jumbled and has a tendency to loop back in on itself repeatedly, but Yelchin is charming, and it’s buoyed by a fun supporting role from Willem Dafoe as the unusually open-minded town sheriff—refreshing, given that this type of character almost never is helpful to the protagonist. It’s not without its problems, but it deserved better at the American box office than the “bomb” status it earned. —Jim Vorel


37. Chopping Mall

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Year: 1986
Director: Jim Wynorski
Stars: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, John Terlesky, Suzee Slater, Barbara Crampton, Russell Todd
Rating: R
Runtime: 95 minutes

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Calling Chopping Mall the best film by director Jim Wynorski isn’t saying much—at all—but it remains a minor ’80s horror/sci-fi classic despite that. The premise is irresistible pulp, dressed in ’80s neon teen fashion—a group of kids hide out in the mall past closing time so they can party (and score) in one of the furniture stores overnight. Little do they know, however, that the mall recently unveiled a new fleet of deadly efficient security robots that are, shall we say, more than a little twitchy. The cast gives us Kelli Maroney, who also appears in the similarly teen-inflected Night of the Comet, and Roger Corman regular Dick Miller as the janitor, once again playing his signature role: “that guy who gets killed in an ’80s horror movie.” It’s a desperate fight for survival as the kids face off against the robots like the zombies of Dawn of the Dead, except with much more gallows humor. Today, genre fans are likely to fondly remember Chopping Mall for the fact that it contains one of the greatest single practical effects of the era; the graphic explosion of Suzee Slater’s head, followed by the robot’s wry line of “Thank you, have a nice day.” You’ve gotta love it. —Jim Vorel


38. The Prowler

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Year: 1981
Director: Joseph Zito
Stars: Vicky Dawson, Christopher Goutman, Cindy Weintraub, Farley Granger
Rating: R
Runtime: 89 minutes

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The Prowler isn’t particularly well known, but it’s an excellent example of classical slasher fare from Joseph Zito, better known in horror circles for the well-regarded Friday the 13th IV: The Final Chapter. The setup is extremely familiar, echoing My Bloody Valentine’s “the first dance in ____ years” celebration as the impetus for the revenant of a long-gone killer to resurface. In this case, it’s the titular “prowler,” although “the soldier” might have been a better title, as the killer takes the form of a masked WWII G.I., which allows for some pretty memorable costuming choices. As a whole, the film is a very proficient, if familiar whodunit, highlighted by crisp cinematography, some good-looking chase sequences and some truly nasty bits of gore from Tom Savini. It’s the kind of movie that puts bayonets through people’s heads, and doesn’t skimp on showing you exactly what that might look like. And like all good slashers, it gets one last, good scare in before the end, when the audience is least expecting it. —Jim Vorel


39. Children of the Corn

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Year: 1984
Director: Fritz Kiersch
Stars: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton
Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes

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It’s not often that the adults should be the ones afraid to watch a horror movie with kids, but it would be hard not to look at kids differently after 1984’s Children of the Corn, one of the higher-profile entries in horror’s “kids kill all the adults” subgenre. The film focuses on a cult in a fictional Gatlin, Nebraska, led by child preacher Isaac, who is convinced by an entity called He Who Walks Behind the Rows that all adults over 18 should get the axe. We see Burt and Vicky (played by Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) struggle to escape the small town after driving through and hitting a young, dying boy with their car. There’s plenty of slasher scares and creepy visuals, but like any good horror movie, it’s a commentary on society, man, and like Lord of the Flies before it, this Stephen King-based story looks toward our kids to point out the oddities of our culture (including an obsession with religion). —Tyler Kane


40. C.H.U.D.

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Year: 1984
Director: Douglas Cheek
Stars: John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry
Rating: R
Runtime: 88 minutes

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It stands for “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers,” if you were wondering. C.H.U.D. is a product of its time, the sort of mid-’70s/early ’80s horror film that sets itself in street-level New York City when the Big Apple was renowned as the crime-ridden cesspit of the nation. Cynical as hell, it imagines a race of cannibal monsters created by toxic waste dumped into the New York sewers, where it transforms the local homeless population. In execution, it’s sort of like a Troma film that has a larger budget, maintaining a grimy and tasteless aesthetic that nevertheless has a memorable quality that is hard to define. I think the effects are a part of that—quite icky, but fleeting. I look at this scene of a C.H.U.D. being beheaded and can’t decide if it’s terrible, awesome or terribly awesome. C.H.U.D. has lived an entire second life as comedy material, with references ranging from The Simpsons to an April Fools prank from the Criterion Collection. — Jim Vorel