I love horror movies. WOAH big shocker there, right? A horror author who loves horror movies, who’da thought. Anyway, even though I know there are some people out there who are essentially horror snobs — in that they only watch or enjoy the best of the best — and that’s one way to do it. But me, I like to experience it all. That’s why Netflix streaming is a beautiful divine gift from the gods and I love it so much I wish I could give it a hug.
Barring the terrifying less-than-one-stars that are prevalent throughout the category, I dabble in most of what Netflix has to offer in horror. And you know what? There are some real gems hiding out there! So that’s why I gathered them all here in a neat little pile — so you don’t have to search endlessly for a decent horror flick.
Walk with me, will you?
The Houses October Built
Fair warning here: you’re going to see a lot of found footage in this list. Why? BECAUSE I FRIGGIN LOVE IT. I don’t know what happened to this genre in the last 10 years but between “The Blair Witch Project” and now filmmakers have really stepped up their game. What used to be a lazy excuse to swing a camera around and scream has evolved into something far more interesting.
ANYWAY. Halloween is my jam (durrrr of course it is) and “The Houses October Built” is perfect to watch during that time of year because it’s all about a trip in October where five friends set out in an RV, cameras in hand, to explore the country in search of “extreme” haunted houses. They visit a handful and interview the workers, which — if any of this footage is real — is almost scarier than the plot itself. (What do you MEAN you don’t do background checks on the people I paid to terrify me in dark, tight spaces?!)
But the real hunt is for the most elite extreme haunted house of all: one so exclusive you need to follow a trail of clues and passwords to even find it. Sounds like a great idea, right? OF COURSE NOT IT’S A HORROR MOVIE YOU SILLY GOOSE.
This one is made all the better by the realistic dialogue and banter between the cast, not to mention that when they go through the haunts with their cameras it’s like a first-person experience — you’re going through, too, and oh BOY does it make me want it to be Halloween nowwwww.
ABCs of Death 2
Yeah, that’s 2, not the original, and there’s good reason for that. The first one was all sorts of garbage, kind of like the filmmakers didn’t take it seriously, but the second one is a big improvement.
“ABCs of Death 2” is an anthology (another of my favorite horror movie genres) made up of 26 different directors from all over the world. Each was given a letter, they chose a word and made a short horror film based around that word. Innovative, different — I love it.
They range from hilarious to terrifying to INCREDIBLY dark. (Jesus Christ, what even HAPPENS in “Z is for Zygote”?) My personal favorite is “R is for Roulette”, chiefly because it takes such a small amount of time/material/dialogue and tells a much larger story.
It’s a fun movie to watch with other horror fans because you can discuss each one as you go. Give it a chance, you won’t regret it!
Here’s another found footage movie — but it’s not found footage in the traditional sense, it’s more millennial-era-Apple-fueled found footage. It focuses on Liz, a young woman conducting an experiment to speak with as many people as possible through a random webcam site called The Den (a thinly-veiled parody of Chat Roulette, even though she doesn’t see nearly the amount of dicks as would be expected).
Things turn south quickly when a woman who claims her webcam is broken continues to stay in contact with Liz; suddenly her webcam turns on and Liz sees her brutally murdered. What follows is a nightmarish turn of events that actually had me pretty terrified. Why do I INSIST on watching these things alone in the dark?
The most interesting thing about “The Den” is HOW they utilize technology to tell the story. Everything goes through either a smartphone, a computer, GoPro technology, you name it… and the transition between them is pretty flawless. It’s such a great idea and probably why “Unfriended” promptly ripped it off. (cough cough)
This one isn’t as much “surprisingly good” as it is “of course I had to include it”. “The Babadook” was the horror darling of 2014, one of those elusive unicorns that proves just because horror is a genre full of crap doesn’t mean there can’t be a truly excellent horror film — and a truly excellent film in general.
“The Babadook” is about Amelia, a widow raising her troubled young son Samuel. One night he finds a pop-up book on his shelf and asks his mother to read it to him. The book is disturbing; it tells the story of the monster called Mister Babadook. Once you let him in, you can’t escape him.
Rightfully this scares the shit out of Samuel, who’s already a handful as is. But shortly after, weird stuff starts happening around the house and Samuel blames Mister Babadook. Of course it gets worse from there.
The direction in “The Babadook” is incredible (yay females in horror!) and the cinematography is fantastic. Within the first five minutes of the movie you HAAAAATE this kid right along with his stressed-out mom, and that’s the mark of a good film. If you haven’t already seen this one just GO DO IT RIGHT NOW please and thank you sorry I yelled.
“Jug Face” really surprised me, honestly. The title is intriguing but I probably saw it on my Netflix suggested row about 15 times before finally giving it a chance. I’m glad I did, however, because it’s a really interesting concept. If I had to give it a genre I’d call it “backwoods gothic horror”.
In a rural swamp-like community, Ada lives with her family who worships a pit with healing powers that contains a monster. She also has sex with her brother and makes very poor decisions (maybe I should’ve swapped those two).
The pit needs sacrifices, however, to keep the members of the community safe from the monster within. Basically, a man named Dawai creates jugs made from clay while in a trance. The jugs all end up with faces of members of the community and the person chosen must be the sacrifice.
Well, back to the bad decisions Ada makes, because she finds a new jug with her face and hides it. I mean, I get it, who wants to be monster-munchies but that sets off a whole domino effect of bad shit and… well, just watch for yourself. I’m so glad I live somewhere with wifi.
The Taking of Deborah Logan
I won’t spoil anything for you but this movie is the source of what is probably the creepiest gif on the Internet. “The Taking of Deborah Logan” is about a film crew doing a documentary on Alzheimer’s, the subject of which being the titular Deborah Logan. She doesn’t really want to participate but she and her daughter need the money so she goes through with it. What follows is a both heartbreaking and terrifying descent into madness.
Unsettling, strange, and well-shot, this one is a great found footage standard to watch on a boring Sunday afternoon. Also, it’s one of the few that made me yell “HOLY SHIT” and scare my dog off the couch.
I watched “Creep” most recently because OH MY GOD A FIVE STAR HORROR MOVIE ON NETFLIX THAT’S NOT “THE BABADOOK” WHAAAAAT! Another found footage beauty, Aaron answers an ad on Craigslist for a day’s worth of filming. At a vacation home in the woods, he meets Josef, who has hired him for the job.
Here’s what makes “Creep” so great: from the first moment you meet Josef, something is off, but you’re not sure. It’s not so much “bitch get out the house” vibe, but it’s enough to give you… THE CREEPS AAHHHHAHAHAHAHAHA
Sorry. Anyway, one of the most interesting things about “Creep” is the fact that everyone knows at least one person like Josef. I mean, maybe not to the full extent of what happens in the film, but we’ve all met someone that just feels off. Maybe they touch your arm too much or start inappropriate conversations but to ignore them or avoid them seems cruel, like you’re the one being rude. I don’t know. It’s just a very well-executed idea and I’m super happy to hear that it’s rumored to be a trilogy. Hooray! More “Creep” please!
“Starry Eyes” was a Kickstarter darling that’s a little hard to describe even though I think it’s fantastic. Let me try: Sarah wants to be famous, has shitty friends, there’s lots of body horror and gross-out moments but all-in-all it works. I actually watched it because one of my favorite authors, Chuck Palahniuk, kept tweeting about the project. And it makes total sense — this is right up his alley.
I don’t want to get too into the plot as it would spoil things but watch “Starry Eyes” if you’re looking less for jump scares or gore and more deep, somber horror. Good one for a rainy day.
All Cheerleaders Die
Lucky McKee is one of my favorites in the genre and he produced/wrote/directed the delightful “All Cheerleaders Die”. It’s just a fun romp, honestly — scary in places, hilarious in others, and the soundtrack is really fantastic. (Side note: “Look Out Young Son” by Grand Ole Party is now required to be played every time I enter a room.)
After the untimely death of her friend Alexis, Maddy joins the cheerleading squad (much to the dismay of her ex-friend Leena). She becomes part of their popular group while Leena, your typical Wiccan Goth outsider, watches from afar. But in case you can’t tell from the title the cheerleaders don’t fare too well in this movie, and it only gets crazier from there.
I feel like this one would be a great movie to watch with friends and invent a drinking game. Take a drink when you see panties! Take a drink when there’s a sick cheerleader burn! Take a drink when someone dies a horrible gory death! See, there’s a fun time to be had by all.
Funny story, I actually avoided watching “Grave Encounters” for a long time because the title screen looked like a cheap ripoff of the television show “Ghost Adventures”. Turns out it is — sort of — but while it does begin with a quite excellent parody of Zak Bagans (oh I just love you with your little gelled up hair and impossibly tight t-shirts and your penchant for calling ghosts “bro”) it quickly avalanches into a really scary found footage favorite.
The Grave Encounters team goes to an abandoned mental institution with a dark past (just like you’d see on “Ghost Adventures”) intending to do an overnight lockdown. However, unlike on “Ghost Adventures”, you see behind the scenes that the team doesn’t expect to find anything and are more than prepared to fake their way through an investigation. One of my favorite parts is when the Zak Bagans wannabe asks a landscaper if he’d ever seen a ghost; the gardener, with the last of the team’s petty cash in his pocket, points vaguely in one direction and says “Yes. Over there.”
But guess what, the asylum has other plans. When their lockdown is over, one of the crew members notices that while his watch reads 6am it’s still pitch dark outside. And also there’s no exit. And also HOLY FUCK SO MANY GHOSTS!
Watch this one in the dark. For real. It’s intense, the reactions are realistic, and while there are quite a few jump scares they’re actually well-executed. I made my husband watch it last summer for my birthday and he’s still mad at me for it.
Oddly enough I found “Dead End” from a YouTube video about little-known good horror movies after finding “Grave Encounters” and looking for more high quality films. The Harringtons are on a road trip to visit relatives for Christmas and it’s going just about as well as most stressful Christmas road trips go. And then things get much worse.
Frank, the patriarch, falls asleep while driving and nearly crashes head-on into another car. When they stop and get out there’s no one to be seen — no other car, no people, nothing. Then the Woman In White shows up and everything goes straight to hell.
Between the supernatural scares and the terrifying reality of traveling with your family, “Dead End” is a solid early 2000s horror movie that I consider one of my go-tos when I’m bored and need to kill some time.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a huge fan of Ti West. While I can obviously see that he’s bringing his A-game to the genre, most of his films just feel listless and rambling to me. There’s all this boring buildup, a huge crescendo, and then it falls flat.
Not with “The Sacrament”. Another found footage goodie, we travel with Patrick and his coworkers to Eden Parish, a drug-free utopian community accessible only by helicopter. Patrick’s sister Caroline has invited him out to do a story on their commune, ruled by a man they call Father. Cult City, population: you.
The pacing in “The Sacrament” is great and there’s a constant undercurrent of uneasiness. The man who plays Father just absolutely nails the charismatic cult-leader and had me googling Jim Jones and Jonestown for like four hours after I watched it. I can’t wait to see more from Ti West after this one, and I mean that.
It’s no secret that the VHS films are my favorite horror series (mostly because I won’t shut up about it). 1 and 3 are both fairly solid but 2 stands out to me in terms of consistency. If you don’t already know, the VHS series consist of found footage anthology pieces, separate stories found on VHS tapes. As I said before, found footage and anthology are my two favorite ways to do horror, so this is perfection for me.
I don’t want to spoil any of the segments so just watch for yourself. My favorite is definitely “Safe Haven” — you could do an entire movie on that part alone. Wait, what is it with me and cults lately? Did I join a cult on accident? I’ll get back to you on that.
“Mockingbird” is one of those great movies that ties together three different stories in the best way. Three different groups — The Family, The Woman, The Clown — all receive a camera on their doorstep along with a message stating they must complete a series of challenges in order to win a prize.
As you may have guessed, this is not good.
It’s so interesting to see the story unfold because it’s never in the way you think; portions of each story end up making sense in another and it’s just a very clever way to keep the viewer guessing. You watch, knowing these people are spiraling towards something awful, but neither you or them can stop it. Just enjoy it as it happens and be glad it’s happening to someone that’s not you.