It's hard being a human. Not only do we have an endless range of movies and TV shows to consume, we now have a busy field of streaming services to choose from, too. But when it comes to horror movies, I reckon Netflix is the queen bee. With an overwhelming array of films – some better than others – I decided it would be in the Australian public’s best interest to definitively rank the 30 best, just in time for Halloween season. (My couch now has an ass-groove.)
Here is that list.
This film is mainly worth watching to see Paul Blart: Mall Cop (less commonly known as “Kevin James”) play a neo-nazi gang leader. Green Room is better.
The pursuit of online fame drives an unstable young man to live-stream a rampage of his own making. Apparently playing CoD doesn’t cut it anymore? Stranger Things' Joe Keery commits to this dark satire of influencer culture.
28. The Perfection
The Perfection is a guilty pleasure that tries to do a lot of things and is successful at none of them. But director Richard Shepard works very hard to keep the story original, and it is! Watch it once for the maze of genre-bending plot twists. No, it’s not perfect, but it’s unexpected, and that’s rare in a genre built by tropes.
27. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
The meta-entry of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise puts its thang down, flips it and reverses it, so to speak. As the name suggests, this instalment brings something a little different to the table by subverting the story all horror fans are familiar with.
26. The Frozen Ground
I tend to dismiss movie claims to be “based on a true story” as hyperbole. But The Frozen Ground closely matches the real events that unfolded in 1983 with the capture of serial killer Robert Hanson. If you're a true crime addict, this one’s for you. Oh, and Nick Cage is in it… giving a surprisingly restrained performance??
25. Final Destination 2
Face your own mortality in the loudest way possible – it’s Final Destination, but with big sequel energy! You can run, but you can’t escape the sweet release of death. FD2 outdoes its predecessor in every way. Excellent choice for a watch party with friends. Add alcohol for extra existential fun.
Little orphan Esther is taken in by a kind couple, but there is more to this storybook-looking child than meets the eye. Orphan, which came out in 2009, marked the end of iconic noughties horror. Scary movies made between 1999 and 2009 loved a blue tint moment and a good plot twist, and look: Orphan nails this criteria. The twist is a cracker and the variety of blue tones is truly impressive. (Just see below!)
23. His House
The Majurs, a refugee couple from South Sudan, share a lot of past trauma. In their appointed government rental, which they are to live in during their ‘probation’ period, the couple face new supernatural terrors. The scares and special effects in His House are genuinely effective.
22. Lights Out
Lights Out is adapted from the heart-pounding two-minute-forty-two short film of the same name. The short’s instant success (reaching 15 million views on YouTube since it’s initial upload) paved the way for the feature. In it’s 90-minute form, Lights Out will make you keep the lights on. The frights come fast and furious – just the shake down you need if you’re stuck in the depths of lockdown.
21. Don't Breathe
In a semi-abandoned Detroit, three no-good-kids go about robbing the house of a poor, blind veteran. They quickly learn this seemingly vulnerable man is up to more than binge-watching The Office. The pacing is on point. Don’t Breathe serves up a hot load of action, tension and bodily suspension.
#Alive is an inventive zombie flick that proves the genre still has fresh stories to tell. Two strong lead performances by Ah-In Yoo and Shin-Hye Park keep the blood-frenzied plot in check.
She’s living a double life. Then her double life starts living a double life.
Cam is a solid internet-based thriller; probably because it was written by Iza Mazzeli who used to be a cam girl.
Cam doesn’t preach to or underestimate viewers, it simply presents the lifestyle of cam girls without judgement. Mazeli’s script shows the realities of camming, not only the dangers, but the sheer relentlessness of the daily grind.
18. Svaha: The Sixth Finger
A pastor who seeks out mysterious religious cults, crosses paths with a police captain investigating a murder. This is a real whodunit pleaser in the style of Se7en, but far more chaotic.
17. Interview With The Vampire
Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt make a diabolical pair of vampires in the classic Anne Rice adaptation that rivals the book. A little homo-erotic and a lot entertaining.
16. The Bone Collector
As the title suggests, this bad guy isn’t collecting stamps... The year is 1999 and you’ve just written a race-against-time thriller. Who else do you cast but Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie and Queen Latifah? The ultimate 90s power throuple unite to stop a diabolical killer.
15. The Dead Don't Die
Jim Jarmusch’s all-star horror comedy is a strange delight, the kind of film that needs to marinate in your brain for a few days before you really appreciate it. The Dead Don’t Die has tons of style and will appeal to the tastes of your film-school friends, if you know what I mean.
You know that trouble's afoot when your titular character holds a seance in a basement, during a solar eclipse. Just when you think that it can’t get anymore foreboding, Veronica cuts her finger and drips blood on the ouija board! Demons go crazy on this poor girl, who seems to have the worst luck when it comes to occult dabbling. She tries to reverse the actions of the first seance... with a second seance, but oh no – her little brother accidentally draws the protective runes upside down! Now the spirits are REALLY MAD!
But all the “spiritual butter-fingers” moments aside, Veronica is genuinely very scary.
13. The Forest Of Love
Don’t let the title fool you: never has a film been so blood-lustful and disturbing. Based on the murders committed by real-life Japanese serial killer Futoshi Matsunaga, The Forest of Love is a slow-burner. But when it burns, it burns hot.
12. The Lighthouse
Is it just me, or does does Willem Dafoe get hotter with age? The Lighthouse’s numerous fart sequences will squelch your desire but pique your intrigue. Robert Pattinson and Dafoe are more than the sum of their farts and act their hearts out, resulting in a masterpiece that exceeds both as a horror movie and an arthouse one.
AKA Ted Cruz’s biopic! This is such a good Christmas eve watch with family. It goes for three hours, is considered ‘high-brow’ enough for non-horror lovers and Robert Downey Jr’s presence will please your Mum. I mean it’s David Fincher, so can’t go wrong with this one.
10. Gerald's Game
When her husband’s kink leaves her bound to a bed (and him dead on the floor), Jessie (Carla Gugino) soon becomes delirious and is forced to face traumas from her past. Stephen King adaptations are very hit or miss, but Gerald’s Game succeeds in evoking the mood of the book.
9. Bone Tomahawk
Bone Tomahawk shows no mercy to its characters or the audience. This is the kinda movie that makes you wanna wear flannel and chop firewood. It’ll make a man outta you! Brutality rules in this savage western about a sheriff (played by Kurt Russell) and his posse on a journey to rescue friends from a tribe of cannibals. Pour yourself a whiskey and watch a man get split like a Kit Kat.
8. The Babadook
You don’t get to see characters like the one Essie Davis plays here, very often. She’s a single mum, grieving the loss of her husband and pushed to the point of madness by her difficult son and his very active imagination. You can feel the weight of this movie as the darkness closes in around them. Unforgettable.
7. & 6. Creep 1 And Creep 2
The Creep films are minimalist horror masterpieces, mainly due to the tour de force performance given by Mark Duplass. We meet 'Josef' when an out-of-work videographer responds to an ad and travels to his remote home. Let’s just say – nobody plays a creep like Mark Duplass. His depiction of the antagonistic central character is totally unpredictable but consistently terrifying. The seemingly good natured Josef goes from telling a joke to dropping an odd or alarming comment at the drop of an axe!
A top team of specialists (including Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh) is assembled to investigate a mysterious “Shimmer” that mutates anything it interacts with. This visceral sci-fi thriller made Obama’s top movies of 2018 list. It’s a highly original and imaginative study of alien assimilation.
4. The Ritual
The story is not so important here, but the style and execution of The Ritual is what moves it so far up the list. The special effects and creature designs unite with brilliant cinematography to achieve a masterful nightmare against the Northern Swedish landscape.
3. The Call
(PSA: NOT THE 2013 MOVIE STARRING HALLE BERRY. THAT IS A BAD MOVIE.)
The Call stands out because it explores time-travel under the lens of a horror movie; and to great effect. Yes, you have to suspend some belief in time-travel scenarios, but this film does a pretty good job at sticking to the rules it makes. Set in one house and book-ending twenty years, two young women become friends after discovering their home phones can call each other across time. But the friendship sours and that’s when this top-notch thriller sets off. The implications of a psychopath having access to your child self is horrifying and keeps the stakes high at every turn.
2. Blood Red Sky
A group of mercenary soldiers hijack a plane bound for NYC. But some of the passengers are not who… or maybe what, they appear to be. Blood Red Sky is original, emotional and absolutely packed with relentless violence. It's exciting when a film takes a familiar premise and completely (forgive the pun) revamps it. Highly recommend this one.
1. The Exorcist
It would be rude not to give the top spot to one of the all-time-greats. One that crab-walked into our hearts and remained there, haunting our souls, evermore. It’s telling that The Exorcist is the oldest film on this list and still reigns supreme.
But maybe it’s been a while since you’ve seen it? Or maybe you’re looking for something to play in the background of your next Zoom job interview? Either way, it’s on Netflix.
Written by Sophie Chandler. More from her here.