The 50 Best Horror Movies on Tubi Right Now (Nov. 2022)

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The 50 Best Horror Movies on Tubi Right Now (Nov. 2022)

Diving headfirst into the horror library of Tubi is a dizzying, potentially nauseating experience, not just for the gory horror films you’ll find there, but for the sheer haphazardness of the journey. As a free, ad-supported streaming service, Tubi has one major thing going for it: Pure scale. Their horror library is utterly massive, with close to 1,000 films available, but the functionality and ability to browse those films in a logical way is practically nonexistent. It’s a library that eclipses other streamers—much bigger than Netflix, and bigger even than the likes of a genre-specific streamer like Shudder. But man, what a clumsy UI.

You’ll notice this as soon as you tell Tubi to show you the results of a particular genre. Choose “horror movies,” and there’s no way to further refine that selection of almost 1,000 films. You can’t reorder the list alphabetically. There are no subgenres, or further categories. Dubs and different language cuts of the same film appear multiple times throughout the list, nowhere near each other. It appears to have been arranged in completely random order.

That’s why our guide to the best horror found on Tubi is so important—do you really want to scroll through 1,000 movies looking for something to watch? Or do you want to go straight to the cream of the crop? Check out our picks for some of Tubi’s hidden gems below, and then check out our lists of the best horror content available on a bevy of other streamers.

The 40 best horror movies on Netflix
The 40 best horror movies on Hulu
The 40 best horror movies on Amazon Prime
The 50 best horror movies streaming on Shudder
The 50 best horror movies on HBO Max


1. The Changeling

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Year: 1980
Director: Peter Medak
Stars: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas, John Colicos
Rating: R
Runtime: 107 minutes

George C. Scott tempers his natural irascibility to play a melancholy composer grieving for his recently deceased wife and daughter in Peter Medak’s conflation of haunted house movie and supernatural whodunit. Dubbed one of the scariest movies of all time by Martin Scorsese, The Changeling deals the terror out in spades, with Medak playing up the tightening fear of the unknown with the precision of a horror maestro. (Indeed, it’s amazing Medak had never even been near the genre before.) Having moved into a new home, a century-old manor also occupied by the restless spirit of a young boy, Scott’s John Russell digs to discover the tale of an institutional cover-up, and of power wielded monstrously in the name of financial gain. The Changeling may be a showcase for an effortlessly magnetic veteran lead, but it’s also a mystery thriller that engrosses as it frightens. What begins as another haunted house story ends as a commentary on the history of America: a nation built not just on hard work, but also on blood and not-always-heroic sacrifice. —Brogan Morris


2. Suspiria

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Year: 1977
Director: Dario Argento
Stars: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bose, Barbara Magnolfi
Rating: R
Runtime: 99 minutes

Dario Argento’s 1977 Suspiria is the director’s best-loved movie, but it’s also his most atypical work. Unlike the rest of his peak-era filmography (its direct, uneven 1980 sequel Inferno excepted), it’s not strictly a giallo—the lurid murder mysteries Italian directors churned out in the mid-20th century—but instead an abstraction of the genre, removing the procedural narrative layer to replace it with pure aesthetic wonder. Plenty of giallo, like Mario Bava’s formative, drum-tight 1964 Blood and Black Lace, were gorgeous, but the occult-tinged Suspiria makes gorgeousness its primary concern. In that sense, in spirit, it’s closer to the gothic languor of French master Jean Rollin than any contemporary proto-slasher. From the film’s hypnotic opening sequence, which follows Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper) as she takes a cab ride through a perfectly Grimm forest, the audience is bludgeoned with Goblin’s demented, baroque score and Luciano Tovoli’s phantasmagorical lensing. He and Argento used imbibition Technicolor film stock (unusual even in 1977) and innovative lighting techniques to achieve the film’s singular, Disney-inspired washes of red, yellow, blue and green—colors which become “the monster” of the film, a visible manifestation of the supernatural. Tellingly, when Suzy comes face-to-face with the film’s antagonist, the witch Helena Markos, Markos is invisible. Only her rattling, pained breathing marks her physical presence, but her insidious influence is everywhere, in every frame, drowning the world around her. Argento similarly corrupts the film’s formal structure: Goblin’s score wavers between diegetic and non-diegetic, while murder scenes become spiraling jump-cut departures from reality. Argento would go on to film sharper mysteries, and burrow further into self-reflexive madness, but Suspiria endures as his purest, most singular aesthetic statement. As such, it’s absolutely essential. —Astrid Budgor


3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

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Year: 1974
Director: Tobe Hooper
Stars: Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, Gunnar Hansen
Rating: R
Runtime: 83 minutes

One of the most brutal mainstream horror films ever released, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, based on notorious Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, resembles art-house verité built on the grainy physicality of its flat Texas setting. Plus, it introduced the superlatively sinister Leatherface, the iconic chainsaw-wielding giant of a man who wears a mask made of human skin, whose freakish sadism is upstaged only by the introduction of his cannibalistic family with whom he resides in a dilapidated house in the middle of the Texas wilderness, together chowing on the meat Leatherface and his brothers harvest, while Grandpa drinks blood and fashions furniture from victims’ bones. Still, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre might not be the goriest horror film ever made, but as an imaginal excavation of the subterranean anxieties of a post-Vietnam rural American populace, it’s pretty much unparalleled. Twisted, dark and beautiful all at once, it careens through a wide variety of tones and techniques without ever losing its singular intensity. (And there are few scenes in this era of horror with more disturbing sound design than the bit where Leatherface ambushes a guy with a single dull hammer strike to the head before slamming the metal door shut behind him.) —Rachel Haas and Brent Ables


4. Day of the Dead

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Year: 1985
Director: George A. Romero
Starring: Lordi Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joe Pilato, Richard Liberty
Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes

Although Dawn will probably always have more esteem, and is significantly more culturally important, Day of the Dead is my personal favorite of George Romero’s zombie films, and I don’t think it ever quite gets the respect it deserves. It comes along at a sort of sweet spot—bigger budget, more ambitious ideas and Tom Savini at the zenith of his powers as a practical effects artist. The human characters this time are scientists and military living in an underground bunker, which for the first time in the series gives us a wider view of what’s been going on since the dead rose. This film reintroduces the science back into zombie flicks, finally making one of the main characters a researcher (Matthew “Frankenstein” Logan) who has had some time to study the zombies in the relative safety of a lab. As such, the movie redefines the attributes of the classic Romero ghoul—they’re dumb, but not entirely unintelligent, and some of them can even be trained to use tools and possibly remember certain aspects of their previous lives. That of course brings us to “Bub,” maybe the single most iconic zombie in Romero’s oeuvre, who displays a unique level of personality and even humor. Day of the Dead ultimately takes a monster that audiences thought they knew pretty well at this point and suggests that perhaps they were only just scratching the surface of zombies’ potential. —Jim Vorel


5. Ginger Snaps

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Year: 2000
Director: John Fawcett
Stars: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche, Mimi Rogers
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 108 minutes

Ginger Snaps is a high school werewolf story, but before you go making any Twilight comparisons, let me state for the record: Where Twilight is maudlin, Ginger Snaps is vicious. A pair of death-obsessed, outsider sisters, Ginger and Brigitte, are faced with issues of maturation and sexual awakening when Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) is bitten by a werewolf. As she begins to become bolder and more animalistic in her desires, the second, meeker sister (Emily Perkins) searches for a way to reverse the damages before Ginger carves a path of destruction through their community. Reflecting the influence of Cronenberg-style body horror and especially John Landis’s American Werewolf in London, Ginger Snaps is a surprisingly effective horror movie and mix of drama/black comedy that brought the werewolf mythos into suburbia in the same sort of way Fright Night managed to do so with vampires. It also made a genre star of Isabelle, who has since appeared in several sequels and above-average horror flicks such as American Mary. Even if the condition of lycanthropism is an obvious parallel to the struggles of adolescence and puberty, Ginger Snaps is the one film that has taken that rich vein of source material and imbued it with the same kind of punk spirit as Heathers. —Jim Vorel


6. Re-Animator

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Year: 1985
Director: Stuart Gordon

Ironically, the most entertaining take on H.P. Lovecraft is the least “Lovecrafty.” Stuart Gordon established himself as cinema’s leading Lovecraft adaptor with a juicy take on the story “Herbert West, Re-Animator,” about a student who concocts a disturbingly flawed means of reviving the dead. Re-Animator more closely resembles a zombie film than Lovecraft’s signature brand of occult sci-fi, but it boasts masterful suspense scenes, great jokes and Barbara Crampton as a smart, totally hot love interest. Jeffrey Combs is brilliant, establishing himself as the Anthony Perkins of his generation as West, a hilariously insolent and reckless genius whom he played in two Re-Animator sequels. The actor even played Lovecraft in the anthology film Necronomicon. The film is a near-perfect crystallization of best aspects of ’80s horror, from its delight in perversion to its awesome practical effects. —Curt Holman


7. The Invitation

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Year: 2016
Director: Karyn Kusama
Stars: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, Emayatzy Corinealdi, John Carroll Lynch
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 100 minutes

The less you know about Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation, the better. This is true of slow-burn cinema of any stripe, but Kusama slow-burns to perfection. The key, it seems, to successful slow-burning in narrative fiction is the narrative rather than the actual slow-burn. In the case of The Invitation, that involves a tale of deep and intimate heartache, the kind that none of us hopes to ever have to endure in our own lives. The film taps into a nightmare vein of real-life dread, of loss so profound and pervasive that it fundamentally changes who you are as a human being. That’s where we begin: with an examination of grief. It’s remarkable for its foundation, for all of the substantive storytelling infrastructure that Kusama builds the film upon in the first place. The film starts in earnest as Will (Logan Marshall-Green in top form) arrives at a dinner party his ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard), is throwing at what once was their house. He has brought his girlfriend, Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi), along with him. But something is undeniably off at Eden’s place, and because Will is the lens through which Kusama’s audience engages with the film, we cannot tell what that something is. There is oh so much more to be said about The Invitation, especially its climax, where all is revealed and we see Will’s fears and Eden’s spiritual affirmations for what they are. Until then you’ll remain on tenterhooks, but to Kusama, jitters and thrills are sensations worth savoring. Where we end is obviously best left unsaid, but The Invitation is remarkable neither for its ending nor for the direction we take to arrive at its ending. Instead, it is remarkable for its foundation, for all of the substantive storytelling infrastructure that Kusama builds the film upon in the first place. —Andy Crump


8. 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

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


9. Goodnight Mommy

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Year: 2014
Directors: Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala
Stars: Susanne Wuest, Elias Schwartz, Lukas Schwartz
Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes

We begin by joining twin, tow-headed nine-year-old brothers Lukas (Lukas Schwarz) and Elias (Elias Schwarz) as they explore the rural paradise of their new home, swimming in azure-pure lakes and casually spelunking through nearby caves ostensibly untouched for centuries. Though the twins seem to be perfectly content letting their Edenic nature occupy them, a near-ineffable pall of tragedy hangs over the film from the start. It’s unexplainable but slightly pungent, as if at any moment one of the boys will fall down a ravine or stumble into a hornet’s nest. Maybe it’s because they bow to seemingly no adult supervision—that is, until their mother (Susanne Wuest) returns to their ceaselessly modern home after going away for a surgery of some sort. Her face covered in bandages, her eyes red-rimmed and limned with a shadow of dread, “Mommy” greets her boys with reticence and anxiety. Gradually, of course, the boys suspect that something is up with their mommy, especially when, as a form of punishment for their suspicious behavior (as well as, we assume, behavior and transgressions we have yet to understand), she pretends that Lukas doesn’t exist. Goodnight Mommy, for all of its familiar notions, isn’t exactly a traditional horror film, more in tune with the eerie, silent moral plays of Carl Theodor Dreyer than with the Grand Guignol schlock of an Eli Roth in heat. In fact, you may be able to figure out the “twist” by the end of the first act; while the filmmakers do nothing to bury the lede, they still take great pains to juggle their high-minded concept with an eye for burrowing certain notions about the very fabric of our human race within the subcutaneous folds of our most firmly held beliefs about how life—family, love, trust—should work. The true horror of Goodnight Mommy isn’t about who she is, but what happens to her—how easily we can set fire to the bedrock of even our basest notions of what it means to be human. And there really is nothing scarier than that. —Dom Sinacola


10. 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

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


11. Sator

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Year: 2021
Director: Jordan Graham
Stars: Michael Daniel, Rachel Johnson, Aurora Lowe, Gabriel Nicholson, June Peterson
Rating: NR
Runtime: 85 minutes

There’s something in the forest. But at the same time, there’s nothing much at all. A man, a cabin and maybe—maybe—something more. Sator, a mumblecore horror somewhere between a modern-day The Witch, The Blair Witch Project and Lovecraft, is a striking second feature from Jordan Graham. It’s the kind of horror that trades jump scares for negative space, one that opens with imagery your typical A24 beast saves for its finale. Sator’s dedication to its own nuanced premise, location and tense pace makes it the rare horror that’s so aesthetically well-realized you feel like you could crawl inside and live there—if it wasn’t so goddamn scary. Sator is a name, an evocation, an entity. He’s first described, by Nani (the late June Peterson, excellent), as a guardian. Nani’s known Sator (whatever he may be) for a long time. The film represents shifts in time, and the physical transportation to places soaked in memories, with an aspect ratio change and a black-and-white palette. Nani’s lovely longhand script is practiced well from a lifetime of automatic writing, with the words—including some of the opening company credits, which is a great little joke—pouring from her pen and claiming a headwater not of this world. That same paranormal river flows to her grandson Adam (Gabriel Nicholson), that aforementioned man in the woods, whose relationship with the voices in his head is a bit less comfortable. It’s a stark, bold, even compassionate film—which offers imperfectly planted details of a battered and bruised family at its core—with plenty to comprehend (or at least theorize about) for those brave enough to venture back into the forest for a rewatch. As scary as it is, Sator is an experience with enough layers and craftsmanship that its alluring call will rattle in your head long after you’ve turned it off.—Jacob Oller


12. Hellraiser

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

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


13. We Are What We Are

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Year: 2013
Director: Jim Mickle
Stars: Bill Sage, Julia Garner, Ambyr Childers, Kelly McGillis
Rating: R
Runtime: 105 minutes

Jim Mickle is the best horror director to consistently get left out of discussions of “best horror directors.” His remake of this 2010 Mexican film of the same name is a brooding, tense blend of thriller and horror, the story of a seemingly normal (if stuffy) rural family that harbors a dark secret of religious observances based around yearly acts of cannibalism. When a family member dies and the long-held tradition is threatened, allegiances come into question, familial ties crumble and the younger generation faces an extremely difficult decision in potentially breaking away from the customs that have bound the family together for many generations. It’s part crime story, part grisly, gutsy horror, and features Michael Parks in a role that is about 100 times better than what he was sentenced to do in Kevin Smith’s Tusk. In particular, the conclusion and final 20-30 minutes of We Are What We Are is shocking in both its brutality and emotional impact, an intimate case study of family dysfunction driven by the changing times and the impracticality of the archaic traditions that sustain us. Look too closely, and you’ll end up questioning your own familial routine. —Jim Vorel


14. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

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

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


15. Lake Mungo

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Year: 2008
Director: Joel Anderson
Stars: Talia Zucker, Rosie Traynor, David Pledger
Rating: R
Runtime: 89 minutes

And speaking of found footage, here’s another entry in the genre that has had considerably more positive critical attention. Lake Mungo could scarcely be more different from something like Grave Encounters—there are no ghosts or demons chasing screaming people down the hall, and it’s chiefly a story about family, emotion and our desire to seek closure after death. You could call it a member of the “mumblegore” family, without the gore. It centers around a family that has been shattered by a daughter’s drowning, and the family’s subsequent entanglement in what may or may not be a haunting, and the mother’s desire to determine what kind of life her daughter had been living. Powerfully acted and subtly shot, it’s a tense (if grainy) family drama with hints of the supernatural drifting around the fraying edges of their sanity. If there’s such a thing as “horror drama,” this documentary-style film deserves the title. —Jim Vorel


16. Honeymoon

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Year: 2014
Director: Leigh Janiak
Stars: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway
Rating: R
Runtime: 87 minutes

The cool thing about horror is that if you just have the vision, you can make something like Honeymoon with no more resources than an empty cabin and a few weeks of spare time. The film only has four actors, and two of them barely appear, leaving everything on the shoulders of the two young stars, Rose Leslie (Ygritte from Game of Thrones) and Harry Treadway. This is the right decision to make: If you’ve got a few solid, young actors, why not let the film just become a statement of their talents? The story is extremely simple, with a newlywed couple going on their honeymoon in a remote cabin in the woods. When Bea, the wife, wanders away one night and has some kind of disturbing event in the woods, she comes back changed, and it begins to affect both her memory and sense of identity. The next hour or so is a slow-burning but well-acted and suspenseful journey for the two as the husband’s suspicions grow and the warning flags continue to mount. By the end, emotions and gross-out scares are both running high. —Jim Vorel


17. Stake Land

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Year: 2010
Director: Jim Mickle
Stars: Nick Damici, Connor Paolo, Michael Cerveris, Sean Nelson, Kelly McGillis, Danielle Harris
Rating: R
Runtime: 98 minutes

Starting with his debut work Mulberry Street, Jim Mickle has become one of the leading auteurs of low-budget horror, still striving for ambitious ideas, and Stake Land is all about ambition rather than exploitation. Lord knows how many cheapo zombie movies have been made in the last decade, but Mickle essentially makes a post-apocalypse zombie film, except with vampires. Still, Stake Land’s greatest achievement is inarguably its wonderful design and evocative landscapes, easily standing up to more obviously expensive productions. It’s a genius work of minimalism, to be able to suggest such a fleshed-out universe, where small pockets of humanity survive in barricaded cities and barter for goods with the teeth of dead vampires. Our characters and story are extremely simple—a veteran hunter (Nick Damici) and young protege (Conor Paolo) travel across the wasteland looking for safe refuge—but it’s exactly what the film needs to be: a sober-minded film that accomplishes so much with so little. —Jim Vorel


18. Opera

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Year: 1987
Director: Dario Argento
Stars: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini, Daria Nicolodi, William McNamara
Rating: R
Runtime: 107 minutes

Giallo is not the kind of genre in which directors end up receiving a lot of critical aplomb—with the occasional exception of Dario Argento. He is to the bloody, Italian precursor to slasher films as, say, someone like Clive Barker is to more westernized horrors: an auteur willing to take chances, whose gaudy works are occasionally brilliant but just as often fall flat. Opera, though, is one of Argento’s most purely watchable films, following a young actress (Cristina Marsillach) who seems to have developed a rather homicidal admirer. Anyone who gets in the way of her career has a funny way of ending up dead, and her constant nightmares hint at a long-buried connection to the killer. Essentially the giallo equivalent of Phantom of the Opera, Opera’s canvas is splashed with Argento’s signature color palette of bright, lurid tones and over-the-top deaths. If you love a good whodunnit, and especially if you have an interest in cinematography, Opera is a primer in horror craftsmanship. —Jim Vorel


19. Southbound

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Year: 2016
Directors: Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath
Stars: Chad Villella, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Fabianne Therese, Hannah Marks, Larry Fessenden
Rating: R
Runtime: 89 minutes

Tricksters and demons, vengeful spirits and serial killers, the hope of salvation and the lingering presence of Satan: These are the things that anthology film Southbound is made of. The film has a single vision but is built on a wide variety of grim and ghoulish horror tropes, all the better to satisfy the hungers of even the most niche genre connoisseurs. Best of all, though, the wild variations from one section of the picture to the next enhances rather than dilutes the viewing experience. It helps that there are common themes that run across the film—loss, regret and guilt make up a repeated refrain—and that the sum of its parts adds up to an examination of how people unwittingly architect their own suffering. But Southbound is first and foremost a work of velocity, a joyride through Hell well worth buckling up for. —Andy Crump


20. 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

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


21. Triangle

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Year: 2009
Director: Christopher Smith
Stars: Melissa George, Michael Dorman, Rachael Carpani, Henry Nixon, Emma Lung, Liam Hemsworth
Rating: R
Runtime: 99 minutes

Time-loop films are hard. In a sub-genre of comedy and horror utterly defined by comparisons (mostly to Groundhog Day), it’s a tall task to justify any new time-loop movie’s need to exist. At the very least, a modern film with the time-looping mechanism at its core requires some kind of hook, some kernel of uniqueness; a way to approach the scenario from a perspective or angle we haven’t seen a dozen times before. This is where 2009’s underrated Triangle shines—it not only manages to present a serious, time-looping horror film with a unique setting that never descends into self-parody or comedy, but it does it with a character whose motives for participating in “the loop” have never really been explored before. If you’re going to draw a comparison this time, the best is almost certainly Nacho Vigalondo’s indie sci-fi classic Timecrimes from 2007, but Triangle is much more informed by American slasher sensibilities, and it’s more purely entertaining to boot. Melissa George shines as a viewpoint character whose archetype we think we know from the start, but Triangle will mess with your certainties in short order. —Jim Vorel


22. The Canal

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Year: 2014
Director: Ivan Kavanagh
Stars: Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Rupert Evans, Steve Oram
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 92 minutes

This indie Irish horror film announces Ivan Kavanagh as a serious talent and remarkably skilled director—I watched it for the first time recently and it blew all my expectations away. Nominally a “ghost story” of sorts about a man who discovers a century old grisly crime that occurred in his house, it is actually much more of a psychologically intense minefield—the sort of film that Polanski would have made, if he was shooting a ghost story. Combining elements that remind one of The Shining’s superb sound design with the the red-and-blue color palette of a film by Dario Argento, it is impeccably put together and beautiful to look at. The story, unfortunately, gets just a little bit too literal and wraps things up a bit neatly in the last 15 minutes, but the movie crafts an extremely effective web of dread and genuine fear through its entire runtime. Here’s hoping that we see another horror film from Kavanagh very soon. —Jim Vorel


23. 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

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


24. The Old Dark House

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Year: 1932
Director: James Whale
Stars: Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Gloria Stuart, Charles Laughton, Lilian Bond, Ernest Thesiger
Rating: NR
Runtime: 72 minutes

Given the name, you’d be forgiven for assuming that this long-forgotten and then rediscovered James Whale classic had created the genre we colloquially refer to as “old dark house” movies, but in reality, the Frankenstein director seems to have been making a sly commentary on the familiar Hollywood tendency toward endless repetition. In reality, old dark house films replete with burglars, monsters and secret passageways had been all the rage in the American film industry through the 1920s and the end of the silent era, but as with so many other genres the arrival of sound created a talkie revival, with The Old Dark House as a new ur-template: One part parody and one part sincere thriller, expanding upon the elements of films like The Cat and the Canary while attaching major stars of the day (Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton) to a familiar story. The classic tropes are all there: A dark and stormy night; a group of strangers in a mansion; mistaken identities; disfigurement; a family secret. Elevating those elements is Whale’s considerable directorial talent, employing the same Expressionist-inspired use of darkness and shadow so often praised in the better-known Frankenstein or Bride of Frankenstein. The Old Dark House, in fact, seems like a film tailor-made for Whale’s beautifully atmospheric black-and-white visuals, all the more impressive now with modern restoration. —Jim Vorel


25. Stage Fright, a.k.a. Aquarius

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Year: 1987
Director: Michele Soavi
Stars: David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Mary Sellers, Giovanni Lombardo Radice
Rating: NR
Runtime: 86 minutes

Stage Fright is what it looks like when Italian giallo films inform the American slasher genre, and then American slasher films return the favor by inspiring Italian imitation. Michele Soavi, perhaps better known in horror circles for 1994’s truly unique Cemetery Man, created this fusion of Argento-esque Italian horror (he was second unit director on Tenebrae and Argento’s similar film Opera) and American “escaped maniac on the loose” movies as an imaginative, gory dreamscape, and one that stands out as much for its ethereal visuals as it does for its shocking gore factor. Set overnight in a theater, where a troupe of actors is working overtime to premiere a new show about a homicidal killer, life of course ends up imitating art. The killer stalks the various nubile young actors dressed in an unusual owl costume, increasingly mottled with blood in its feathers as he impales or disembowels them. There’s a fantastical quality to Stage Fright that is its signature—a painterly quality to its beautiful set pieces that elevates it beyond the gratuitous violence. Although it takes a while to get going, once the killings begin, Stage Fright becomes a waking nightmare. —Jim Vorel


26. 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

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


27. Late Phases

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Year: 2014
Director: Adrian Garcia Bogliano
Stars: Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Lance Guest
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 95 minutes

Late Phases is a limited but kind of brilliant take on the werewolf movie, featuring a truly outstanding performance by screenwriter-turned-actor Nick Damici (from Stake Land) as an elderly, blind Vietnam veteran who moves to a retiree community currently being menaced by a lycanthrope. After beginning with a bang, it unfolds slowly, developing the strained relationship between the protagonist and his son, the difficulties presented by his blindness and the search for the werewolf’s identity. The characterization of the embittered protagonist is very well developed, and the film shines with lots of the “little things”—great sound design, great dialog, well-cast minor roles. It even features a pretty awesome werewolf transformation scene that, if not quite in American Werewolf in London territory, is one of the best I’ve seen in quite a while. The actual werewolf costumes, it must be noted, look just a little bit ridiculous—like a man in a wolf-bat hybrid suit, and nowhere near as good as say, Dog Soldiers—but the blood effects are top notch. It’s far above most indie horror films in terms of performances, though, and even tugs at the heartstrings a bit with some effective drama. If werewolves are your movie monster of choice, it has to vault up your must-see list. —Jim Vorel


28. Trollhunter

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Year: 2010
Director: André Øvredal
Stars: Otto Jespersen, Hans Morten Hansen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Johanna Mørck, Knut Nærum, Robert Stoltenberg
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 104 minutes

There’s no denying that at its beginning, Trollhunter seems like another Blair Witch Project knock-off. The first 20 minutes show us a young camera crew investigating some unexplained bear deaths and a suspicious man who may be poaching them. But rather than drawing out the mystery, it takes a sharp turn and tells us matter-of-factly that of course it was trolls killing the bears, and not only that, here’s one of them ready to bonk you on the head. The titular Troll Hunter extraordinaire is played by the affable comedian Otto Jespersen, who brings the entire monster premise to an entirely different level through his nonchalant attitude. In every sense, Trollhunter lives up to its ridiculous name and premise, delivering both surprising humor and extremely effective CGI on a budget. —Sean Gandert


29. Sleepaway Camp

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Year: 1983
Director: Robert Hiltzik
Stars: Felissa Rose, Mike Kellin, Katherin Kamhi, Paul DeAngelo, Jonathan Tiersten
Rating: R
Runtime: 84 minutes

Of all the camp-based Friday the 13th rip-offs, Sleepaway Camp is probably the best one that isn’t The Burning. Our main character is Angela, a troubled girl who absolutely everyone picks on for no good reason. Seriously—it’s one of those ’80s era movies with a main character who is an “outsider” constantly harassed by dozens of people, but without any impetus or explanation—it’s just Angela’s lot in life. Everyone who meets her immediately hates her guts and subjects her to cruel taunting. But soon, the people at the camp who were mean to Angela start getting knocked off. The movie seems calculated to come off as a straight horror film, but the death scenes are often so outlandish that it veers pleasurably into horror comedy, as well. Highlights include the lecherous camp cook, who gets a giant vat of boiling water dumped on his face, or the kid who gets a beehive dropped into the outhouse with him. If you love classic slashers, it’s a must-see, especially for the ending. I won’t spoil anything, but Sleepaway Camp can proudly lay claim to one of the most shocking, WTF endings in slasher movie history. —Jim Vorel


30. Intruder

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Year: 1989
Director: Scott Spiegel
Stars: Dan Hicks, David Byrnes, Elizabeth Cox, Renee Estevez, Bruce Campbell
Rating: R
Runtime: 88 minutes

The slasher genre was winding down and becoming increasingly silly and comedy inflected by the time Intruder arrived in 1989, but this supermarket-based tale instead hews very much to the mold set earlier in the decade—it’s thoroughly conventional, makes a legitimate attempt to be scary, but mostly stands out for the sheer brutality of its death sequences and gory kills. Directed by longtime Sam Raimi associate and Evil Dead II co-writer Scott Spiegel, Intruder has a somewhat scraped-together feel to it, but it benefits from its unique grocery store setting, as the entire production was filmed in the evenings in an actual supermarket. Both Raimi brothers are here on screen, both destined to become corpses, and even Bruce Campbell pops in for a brief cameo. What makes Intruder stand out, after a fairly tepid opening (and obvious red herring setups), is its incredibly gross and over-the-top deaths, which are delivered via practical effects that are genuinely disturbing. If you’re a seasoned slasher buff, you’ve probably seen things like a head being crushed, or a man’s face being sawed in half, but you probably haven’t seen it shot in nearly such a gross and unflinching way as it is here, I assure you. How Intruder ultimately bore an “R” rather than “X” rating is anyone’s guess, but it remains an underrated entry among late 1980s slashers that is far more brutal than most of the competitors of this particular moment in the genre’s history. —Jim Vorel


31. American Mary

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Year: 2012
Directors: Jen and Sylvia Soska
Stars: Katherine Isabelle, Tristan Risk, Antonio Cupo
Rating: R
Runtime: 102 minutes

The best work to date from the directorial duo of Canadian sisters, Jen and Sylvia Soska, American Mary is a cool, gutsy horror story that tackles a topic I’ve never really seen elsewhere in a horror flick—extreme, unregulated body modification surgery. The lead character, played by Katharine Isabelle of teen horror classic Ginger Snaps, is a young surgical student who leaves school and supports herself by doing the kind of back-room (although technically proficient) plastic surgeries that decent hospitals just won’t do. Unsurprisingly, this brings her into some very shady, weird circles, from criminals needing life-saving operations to her best friend, who has paid a fortune to freakishly resemble ’30s cartoon character Betty Boop. The tone incorporates a subtle charge of black humor, but it’s still undoubtedly horror at heart, with a fine leading performance by a talented actress, plenty of blood and more than a little titillation. —Jim Vorel


32. Housebound

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Year: 2014
Director: Gerard Johnstone
Stars: Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru
Rating: NR
Runtime: 106 minutes

New Zealand’s Housebound describes itself as a horror-comedy, but this is the unusual case where that label is actually fairly light on “comedy” and leans a touch more on horror. It’s an interesting, well-plotted film that initially seems a little slow: A troubled woman is sentenced to house arrest in her childhood home, which her mother believes is haunted. When unexplained phenomena begin stacking up and the house’s sordid history comes out, though, it kindles an intriguing mystery. The third-act twists in particular send the story hurtling forward into delightfully unexpected territory in ways that are alternatingly emotional, scary, gory, funny and uniformly entertaining. The film does a great job of establishing our heroine as genuinely unlikable at first before slowly and thoroughly transforming her without dropping the core of her surly, acerbic personality. On some level, it’s almost more “horror dramedy” than “horror comedy,” and that’s not a bad thing. —Jim Vorel


33. Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum

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Year: 2018
Director: Jung Bum-shik
Stars: Wi Ha-joon, Park Ji-hyun, Oh Ah-yeon, Moon Ye-won, Park Sung-hoon, Yoo Je-yoon, Lee Seung-wook, Park Ji-a
Rating: NR
Runtime: 91 minutes

Watch on Amazon Prime

With the rise of social media and other technological advancements came a revitalization of found footage horror, with Gonjian: Haunted Asylum taking a unique approach for a new age. The film follows a horror YouTuber who, upon learning of the disappearance of two amateur ghost hunters after they visited an abandoned psychiatric hospital, pays the facility a visit and livestreams it. Much like some of the other films in the genre, the fake scares planted by channel owner Ha-Joon are no match for the real horror within the hospital’s walls as it consumes each member of his crew. The film does its best to address found footage gripes, by explaining professional camerawork through the characters’ backgrounds as well as utilizing an impressive arsenal of equipment ranging from drones to night vision cameras. Each hospital room becomes more familiar with each scene until it becomes etched into your brain, and as the real threat of these entities becomes clear, it is easy to pinpoint each character’s growing disgust with the voyeuristic premise as they start to wonder what is and isn’t staged. At Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum’s heart is a lesson about greed which definitely welcomes multiple eye rolls, but it is nonetheless an ambitious and effective entry into the genre that balances its self-awareness with genuine fear. —Jade Gomez


34. The Void

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Year: 2016
Directors: Steven Kostanski, Jeremy Gillespie
Stars: Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Daniel Fathers, Kathleen Munroe, Ellen Wong
Rating: NR
Runtime: 90 minutes

Viewers should grade writer-directors Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie’s The Void on a curve: While the low-budget Canadian production earns an “A” for ambition, its mélange of The Thing-inspired body horror, ‘80s nostalgia and Lovecraftian cosmic terror doesn’t quite cohere into a satisfying whole by the time its chief antagonist peels away his skin to reveal a bodysuit that looks like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ Lord Zedd. The first half of the film demonstrates much more restraint, building tension as triangle-branded cultists isolate a mismatched group of (mostly) innocent people—led by Aaron Poole as an out-of-his-depth small-town cop—in a (mostly) vacant hospital. Kotanski and Gillespie build in too many potentially conflicting twists—who, exactly, is impregnated with what?—but the grotesque practical effects and descent-into-Hell structure at times pass for a solid Silent Hill adaptation. Some of horror’s most recent, popularly memorable features (say: It Follows, The Babadook) have wisely employed relatively narrow scopes. Instead, The Void attempts to push audiences into another dimension, but manages at least a few successful frights along the way. —Steve Foxe


35. The Innkeepers

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Year: 2011
Director: Ti West
Stars: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis
Rating: R
Runtime: 101 minutes

When you’re working in indie horror, a big part of success is learning how to turn your budgetary limitations into a positive—to rely less heavily on effects and setting and more on characterization and filmcraft. Ti West understands this better than most, which is part of what made his earlier House of the Devil so effective. The Inkeepers has some of the same DNA, but it’s rawer and more “real,” following the mostly unremarkable exploits of two friends as they work in a dingy old bed & breakfast and conduct nightly paranormal research in their place of business. They’re well-cast and feel like two of the most “real people” you’re likely to see in a horror film—West, feeling in moments like a horror Tarantino, enjoys lingering on them during their conversations and small-talk, which builds a sense of casual camaraderie present between long-time co-workers. Of course, things do eventually start going bump in the night, and the film ratchets up into a classically inflected ghost story. Some will accuse it of being slow, or of spending too much time dawdling with things that are unimportant, but that’s “mumblegore” for you. Ultimately, the reality imbued into the characters justifies the time it takes to give them characterization, and you still get some spooky “boo!” moments in the final third. It succeeds on the back of strong performances. —Jim Vorel


36. Doctor Sleep

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Year: 2019
Director: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis
Rating: R
Runtime: 152 minutes

That Doctor Sleep is a sequel to The Shining, adapted from King’s own novel, is almost its undoing. Every beat or reference that hearkens back to Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece has either no narrative purpose or needlessly re-contextualizes a work of art. Do we really need an on-the-nose monologue handholding the audience through Jack Torrence’s motivations behind being an alcoholic? Did we really need to know that the ghosts in The Overlook had the power to cross into the land of the living because then-five-year-old Danny Torrence’s super telekinetic shining midichlorians were so off the roof that the evil spirits fed off of his spiritual essence, referred to as “steam” without a hint of self-aware humor? “Redrum,” the blood torrent from the elevator and various other references are only that; a supporting character’s office is designed to look exactly like the office from the beginning of the original for no discernible reason. A “famous” ghost from The Shining is not only referenced in dialogue, but later shown delivering his catchphrase —just in case you forgot. When it lays its own path is when Doctor Sleep, well, shines. That is, at least as a schlocktacular bit of horror/adventure goofiness about the adult Danny Torrence (Ewan McGregor) and a teen (Kyleigh Curran) with even more extra supreme shining powers battling a coven of child murderers who stay immortal by ingesting children’s “steam.” As seen in The Haunting of Hill House, writer/director Mike Flanagan knows how to blend spectacle with in-depth character detail, and Rebecca Furguson has a blast imitating an old school Disney villain as the leader of the “steam” addicts. As a Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep is embarrassing. If approached as a standalone batshit crazy Stephen King epic, you can do a whole lot worse. —Oktay Ege Kozak


37. 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

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


38. Bad Moon

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Year: 1996
Director: Eric Red
Stars: Mariel Hemingway, Michael Paré
Rating: R
Runtime: 80 minutes

May we present what is arguably the most underrated werewolf movie of all time: Bad Moon. From the premise, which revolves around a single mom and her precocious little boy living out in the woods when their werewolf uncle comes to visit, you might for a moment think that this film will be treating its subject with kiddie gloves, but man would you be mistaken. This is made clear enough within the opening minutes, which not only includes a fairly explicit sex scene but then features a camp full of people being torn limb from limb by a werewolf before its head is blown off with a shotgun. It’s a fist-pumping, Peter Jackson-esque “FUCK, YEAH!” moment that sets the tone for what is a campy, stupid but very fun feature. In some sense, the actual main character is the family’s overgrown and defensive German shepard, who is the only one to suss out the werewolf’s identity, pitting dog vs. wolf in a battle of wits. Featuring a whole lot of bloodletting, Bad Moon is entertaining despite (or perhaps because of) its melodramatic performances, and it also happens to feature one of the best physical werewolf suits you’ll ever see. Why the filmmakers used any of the atrocious CGI you’ll see in the transformation scene is beyond me, given how spectacular the actual suit looks. Don’t sleep on Bad Moon—it’s the best werewolf movie you’ve never heard of. —Jim Vorel


39. Absentia

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Year: 2011
Director: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Katie Parker, Courtney Bell, Dave Levine
Rating: R
Runtime: 91 minutes

Before he became Netflix’s go-to guy for horror, in projects such as Gerald’s Game and The Haunting of Hill House, Mike Flanagan completed his first feature, Absentia, which may very well be the best horror film you’ll ever see that raised its initial budget on Kickstarter. The film’s most notable achievement, though, is just how little it happens to be constrained by the extremely meager budget—at least until the third act gets a bit overambitious. Still, Absentia is a really impressive piece of indie filmmaking, with steady direction and fantastic performances from actresses Courtney Bell and Katie Parker, the former playing a woman who is finally going through the steps of declaring her husband dead after he went missing seven years earlier. Only now, she seems to be seeing him everywhere she looks. Part psychological thriller and part urban legend fantasy, it hinges almost entirely on the skillful, naturalistic performances of its leads and a collection of well-timed, unexpected scares that are sprung on the viewer when you’re least expecting them. Only in the big finale does its reach exceed its grasp, which makes us wish that perhaps Flanagan could remake Absentia someday, complete with the budget it needs. —Jim Vorel


40. Better Watch Out

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Year: 2016
Director: Chris Peckover
Stars: Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould
Rating: R
Runtime: 89 minutes

Attractively directed and shot, but wonkily scripted, Chris Peckover’s Better Watch Out puts a twist on the tropes of home invasion horror while simultaneously lashing itself to the Christmas holiday as an additional framing device. Its central twist and gimmick display a fair bit of promise, which I won’t spoil here, except by saying that it’s a challenging role for young actor Levi Miller, who can’t quite match leading lady Olivia DeJonge as the resourceful babysitter-in-peril. It’s also clearly intended as a rather searing portrait of toxic masculinity, latent sociopathy and the internet era’s caricature of the so-called “nice guy” archetype, which it doesn’t exactly handle with much subtlety. At its weakest, the contrived plans of Better Watch Out’s antagonist have a tendency to beggar belief in their overwrought complexity, but when it’s able to simply let its characters bounce off each other, it proves surprisingly effective. That goes doubly for when the blood starts flowing in disturbingly realistic fashion. A tonal upheaval by design, the film is not always on point, but it’s easy to admire the effort, particularly when the gore is appropriately visceral. —Jim Vorel


41. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2

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

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


42. Terror Train

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Year: 1980
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Stars: Ben Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hart Bochner
Rating: R
Runtime: 97 minutes

The executive producer of Terror Train reportedly instructed his crew to make “Halloween on a train,” and although you can at times feel the effort being made, John Carpenter this ain’t. Without the atmosphere provided by one of horror’s greats at the helm, this film instead has to rely on concept, location and casting—namely, the presence of scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis as the lead, right after she had finished shooting the very similar Prom Night. Today, this mostly run-of-the-mill slasher is buoyed by several oddities: First, by the fact that magician David Copperfield is present, literally playing a magician red herring; and secondly by the novel concept of a masked killer who is regularly switching masks throughout the movie, leaving the characters guessing. If you’ve seen it, you know there’s something about a killer in a Groucho Marx mask that is oddly mesmerizing. —Jim Vorel


43. 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

Watch on Amazon Prime

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


44. Hell Night

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Year: 1981
Director: Tom DeSimone
Stars: Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Peter Barton
Rating: R
Runtime: 101 minutes

1981 was almost certainly the most prolific single year of the early 1980s slasher boom, but already by this point some of the films were getting a bit on the derivative side. Hell Night is one that stands out mostly for its oddities—a “college hazing” story that feels like the result of a producer wondering what would happen if you mixed the emergent slasher genre with older horror film styles, like Hammer gothic horror films and American “old dark house” films of the 1930s-1940s. Consequently, the cast of young college students spending the night in abandoned “Garth Manor” are dressed in frilly period clothing, which gives an odd flavor to a film about these teens being stalked by the still-living, deformed monster known as “Andrew Garth.” Designed as a star vehicle for Linda Blair (in full-on Jamie Lee Curtis mode), 8 years after The Exorcist, it’s a bit uncomfortable to watch a grown-up Regan rocking some gaudy cleavage, but her performance really isn’t as bad as contemporary audiences made out—certainly not deserving of the Razzie Award for which she was nominated, anyway. The direction and production design, meanwhile, are actually quite good, taking advantage of the unusual slasher film setting with some atmospheric lighting and moody set-ups. As for “Andrew Garth,” he’s a pretty stock slasher villain of the day, with little motivation besides “kills people who come to Garth Manor,” but at least he gets a memorable denouement. —Jim Vorel


45. 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

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


46. Galaxy of Terror

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Year: 1981
Director: Bruce D. Clark
Stars: Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston, Taafe O’Connell, Robert Englund
Rating: R
Runtime: 81 minutes

At first blush, Galaxy of Terror looks like your basic early ’80s Star Wars rip-off, quite a bit like executive producer Roger Corman’s own Battle Beyond the Stars from one year earlier. In reality, though, Galaxy of Terror is ever so much stranger (and grosser) than being a cheap imitation of anything, although there’s certainly some influence from Ridley Scott’s Alien involved … influence that would be revisited when James Cameron (production designer on Galaxy of Terror) directed Aliens five years later. As for this film, though, it’s an icky, squirmy mishmash of sci-fi and body horror elements, which sees a crew of oddball spacefarers (including Rob Zombie collaborator Sid Haig and a pre-Nightmare on Elm Street Robert Englund) crash-land on a planet, where they’re stalked and picked off by demonic creatures born of their own fears. The film’s low-budget FX are, for the most part, on the right side of endearing, but it’s the surprising amount of gore and strange death scenes that really make it memorable. Anyone who’s seen Galaxy of Terror will know that the “worm scene” in particular has gained a special sort of infamy, in a way that only implied sexual assault by a 12-foot worm monster can. In terms of recognition, Galaxy of Terror is still firmly in the cult camp, likely because it’s just too damn weird to ever escape it. —Jim Vorel


47. 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

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


48. Wolf Creek

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Year: 2005
Director: Greg McLean
Stars: John Jarratt, Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi
Rating: R
Runtime: 99 minutes

Instantly infamous upon release, and readily lumped into the emerging group of neo-splatter films of the mid-2000s that became indelibly associated with the derogatory label of “torture porn,” Wolf Creek is a film that has seen considerable reevaluation over the years for the way it dispenses with storytelling convention and brazenly depicts events inspired by several of Australia’s most notorious crimes. Fusing a true crime aesthetic with cinematography that evokes the era of found footage without actually restricting itself by fully committing to it, Wolf Creek is the story of a group of young, urban backpackers who venture into the Australian outback, where they meet a seemingly genial man who turns out to be a prolific serial killer. Veteran Australian TV actor John Jarratt was impeccably cast as that man, Mick Taylor, a disturbingly human villain who first seems to challenge the group’s prejudices and preconceptions about the depiction of “backwards” rural dwellers, before then transforming into a living and breathing indictment of the dark, xenophobic underbelly of Australian society. His performance remains one of the most starkly terrifying depictions of a serial killer, bereft of all the aggrandizing, romanticized character traits western audiences so frequently associate with fictional masterminds. It’s a bleak, doom-wreathed film that casts aside characters who seem to fall into conventional slasher molds, shattering audience expectations as it instead attempts to accurately and hyper realistically portray the fear and harrowing psychological ordeal that would have been experienced by the victims of such a crime. Suffice to say, it remains not for the faint of heart. —Jim Vorel


49. Terrifier

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Year: 2016
Director: Damien Leone
Stars: Jenna Kanell, Samantha Scaffidi, David Howard Thornton
Rating: NR
Runtime: 86 minutes

It’s really no easy feat to put together a modern slasher movie with retro inspiration, walking the delicate line between genre parody and loving homage. Too many have tried exactly this and ended up with a result that spends all its time winking at genre tropes, rather than simply delivering the goods. Terrifier is one of the few that at least partially works in the spirit in which it was intended, thanks to its depraved attitude, stylish bloodletting and key central performance. This movie hinges entirely around the quality of David Howard Thornton’s performance as “Art the Clown,” elevating it from what could be perceived as simply a riff on Stephen King’s It to a genuine genre effort of merit. Much of that just boils down to Thornton’s terrific facial expressions as Art, and his stellar costuming and design—he is tailor made to be a recurring slasher film character, and had this series first cropped up in 1982, we probably would have seen half a dozen Art the Clown sequels. The rest of the production is on the cheap side—it often feels like they’re going for the degraded film stock look of Tarantino’s Death Proof, but can’t quite pull it off—but there’s more than enough gore to satisfy any horror fan’s hunger. If killer clowns are your thing, it’s essential. —Jim Vorel


50. Last Shift

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Year: 2014
Director: Anthony DiBlasi
Stars: Juliana Harkavy, Joshua Mikel, J. LaRose
Rating: R
Runtime: 87 minutes

Last Shift doesn’t really aspire to much, other than to cheaply hit all the notes the director believes it’s supposed to hit. Essentially a one-woman, one-location show, it follows a rookie police officer on her first day on the job, working the overnight shift in an old police station that is about to be shuttered. Unfortunately for her, the various atrocities and bits of violence committed at the location over the years have made this station somewhere between “paranormal hotspot” and “portal to hell dimension.” We’re given some minor exposition about a cult who met a grisly end around the premises, but the majority of the film is simply a procession of well-worn tropes, as our heroine wanders the office, makes terrible choices and observes spooky phenomena. One can at least say that Last Shift looks quite nice for its budget, and there are a handful of effective jump scares sprinkled throughout, but it has a definite air of “bargain bin” about it. —Jim Vorel