But bad scary movies are just the worst -- particularly those lame splatter porn movies that substitute gore and shock for artful suspense. When queuing up a scary movie night at home, you want the good stuff.
Luckily, if you're a subscriber to Netflix' online streaming service, you can get to a remarkably generous back catalog of quality horror films instantly. Here are 10 of the best scary movies, in my slightly obsessive opinion, currently in the Netflix "Watch Instantly" library. Some of these are acknowledged classics, but several are unappreciated gems from the vaults, or just interesting variations on the theme.
The single best horror film of the last five years, as far as I'm concerned, this Swedish freakout tells the story of Eli, a child vampire in suburban Stockholm. Equal parts horror, drama and prepubescent Gothic romance, the film's tagline rather says it all: “Eli is 12 years old. She's been 12 for over 200 years. And she just moved in next door.”
Director Brian de Palma's 1976 horror classic still holds up after all these years, thanks to two of the creepiest performances in scary movie history -- Sissy Spacek as the titular teenage pyrokinetic, and Piper Laurie as her fervently psychopathic mother. Not a lot of scary things actually happen in Carrie, until the end anyway, but the whole film is steeped in weird ambient dread. Highly recommended.
A scary and satisfying terror-in-space story (think Solaris or Alien) Event Horizon concerns the fate of a spaceship crew who encounter a portal to another dimension. Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne headline, but the real fun is in the way the story crosses the sci-fi movie with the haunted house movie by way of a malevolent, telepathic spaceship. This one tanked on theatrical release, but has since built a significant cult following.
It's hard to describe what actually happens in this bonkers horror-comedy without giving too much away. But it's safe to say the filmmakers have cooked up a playfully bloody project that's both a satirical attack on lame torture porn movies and a notional reboot of the old-school slasher films that predated them. Why settle for a single boogeyman when you can have a hundred?
Director Sam Raimi's original cabin-in-the-woods goof is actually more of a remake than a sequel to the original Evil Dead, and in any case it's much more fun than this year's attempted reboot. Bruce Campbell provides just the right comedy/horror attitude as hero Ash, who fights off ancient demons with disarming (heh) nonchalance and great one-liners.
British actress Rebecca Hall (Iron Man 3) can do no wrong in my book, and here she plays a kind of low-tech ghostbuster trying to rid a 1920s boarding school of a troublesome spirit. The film combines the best elements of the ghostly whoduit and the old haunted-house-on-the-moors story. A good choice if you prefer mood and atmosphere over scares and shocks.
The House of the Devil
For a nostalgic horror movie night, The House of the Devil is an explicitly old-school horror movie designed to look, sound and feel like an 1982 direct-to-video cult classic. Cult is the operative term here – Devil is directly inspired by the early 1980s media mini-craze for stories of Satanic cults preying on America's teenagers.
Recovering addict Molly Reynolds (Getchen Lodge) has just moved back into her childhood home, with her new husband and her tenuous sobriety. When hubby has to leave for a truck driving job, Molly must confront her demons – figurative and otherwise. Lovely Molly takes elements of the haunted house story and the demonic possession story, then folds in the intriguing addiction angle.
Six years after an alien space probe crash, giant tentacled monsters roam a walled-off “infected zone” in northern Mexico. Things get bloody when a pretty rich girl and a jaded photojournalist find themselves in the wrong place at the wrongest of times. The microbudget Monsters is lean, efficient and packed with tension. Like Jaws, the film follows the less-is-more rule of special effects. The aliens are only seen in glimpses until the eye-popping final scenes.
Truly a cult classic, Re-Animator (1985) stars Jeffrey Combs in a mad scientist story for which the term "gratuitous gore" was seemingly invented. (Legend has it that Re-Animator holds the record, in gallons, for the amount of fake blood used on a movie set.) Based on the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, this is high camp horror of the b-movie variety, recommended if you're looking for something goofy.
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