Maybe you’ve been watching a ton of TV and movies this year because of “stay at home” orders. But there’s good news: It’s (basically) fall, and that means Halloween season! Most of us who love Halloween — and horror movies — have decided that the season starts with September, which couldn’t be more fitting in our time-bending, COVID-19 era.
And there’s more good news: There’s plenty of horror available on streaming platforms. Here’s a list of 10 recommendations for the next time you’re browsing Netflix and can’t decide what to watch.
Quick Synopsis: Jenn (Kiersey Clemons) washes up on the shore of a remote island after a boating accident. She’s completely alone, and she has to learn to survive on the tropical island using only her surroundings. Making matters worse, there also appears to be a monster that comes ashore each night to feed — and Jenn has to avoid being its next victim.
More Information: Clemons is amazing here, carrying pretty much the entire film herself. You’d think watching one person onscreen the whole time would get old, but it really doesn’t in “Sweetheart.” Director and co-writer J.D. Dillard created a film that’s a perfect blend of sci-fi, thriller, adventure and horror — with some not-so-subtle themes exploring how people treat Black women. It’s only his second film, and it’ll make you look forward to more from him.
Quick Synopsis: One day, Ig (Daniel Radcliffe) wakes up with horns sprouting from his head. This mysterious occurrence followed another: the death of his girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple). He tries to figure out what’s going on, especially since a lot of people seem to think he’s responsible for Merrin’s death.
More Information: This is based on a novel by Joe Hill, and while there are plenty of differences between the book and the film (of course), it’s a pretty great adaptation of a weird story. This one definitely leans into fantasy elements, and it’s a dark comedy as well. It was directed by French filmmaker Alexandre Aja, who has created (and remade) some great horror films, including the recent creature feature “Crawl.” Obviously, Radcliffe’s movie choices post-“Harry Potter” have been interesting, and this was one of the first instances of him going down that path.
Quick Synopsis: A punk band gets a gig at a club in the Pacific Northwest; little do they know they’re playing a club full of white supremacists. They play their set (including a rendition of “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” by Dead Kennedys), and try to go on their way. But then they witness a crime, and the white supremacists surrounding them are determined not to let them leave alive. One of the club regulars, Amber (Imogen Poots), decides to help the band try to escape.
More Information: This A24 thriller —written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier — is a tense and gory siege narrative. The band is made up of Tiger (Callum Turner), Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat) and Reece (Joe Cole). Not only are they believably a struggling indie punk band but they’re also close friends who have each others’ backs, even in literal life-or-death situations. If you’re looking for something dark and gritty, this is definitely one to watch. And, of course, it’s one of the last roles we got to see Anton Yelchin play (R.I.P.).
“Tucker and Dale vs. Evil”
Quick Synopsis: Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are two hillbillies going to fix up their vacation home in the mountains. Along the way, they run into a group of college kids who are in the area on a break. As the college kids start dying, Tucker and Dale are suspected of being killers — but really they’re just nice guys who don’t understand why these 20-somethings are dying left and right.
More Information: If you’re looking for some lighter fare this Halloween season, “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” will hit the spot. It’s still got plenty of gore, but it’s not over-the-top, and it’s an incredibly funny horror comedy. It takes all of the tropes of a slasher movie and turns them on their heads. This one is also great for rewatching; the jokes don’t really get old, and it’s a smartly done film.
Quick Synopsis: A group of friends who love to take adventurous trips together go to the forest for a big hike to honor one of their friends who was violently killed. While there, one of the group hurts his ankle, and their shortcut back to civilization exposes them to someone — or something — that stalks them through the woods.
More Information: This is a Netflix original based on a book by Adam Nevill. I haven’t read the book, so I can’t compare the two, but I can say that the movie is plenty frightening. If you love supernatural movies, horror stories that take place in a remote forest or anything to do with secretive cults, this should be up your alley. I don’t want to give too much away, but this film also has one of the best, most original creatures I’ve ever seen.
“Under the Shadow”
Quick Synopsis: A mother (Narges Rashidi) and daughter (Avin Manshadi) must survive 1980s Tehran — not just the terrors of war, but also the terrors of what seems to be a djinn in their home.
More Information: I guess you can skip this one if you hate subtitles, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice. Writer/director Babak Anvari created a movie that melds the horrors of real life with supernatural horror without ever feeling overdone. If you’re like me, you’ve never been to Iran (especially not in the late 1980s), but you will understand the fears of this family all the same. It’s a powerful movie that goes beyond the surface level.
Quick Synopsis: Grad student Helen (Virginia Madsen) is researching the urban legend of Candyman (Tony Todd), a serial killer with a tragic backstory and a hook for a hand. She unwittingly brings him to life, which creates deadly terror for the residents of Cabrini Green.
More Information: Because the ’70s and ’80s are so well-known for their horror offerings, the ’90s (especially pre-“Scream”) are known as a dry spell for the genre. But “Candyman” is one of the most terrifying slashers in existence — and it’s not without its social commentary. Prepare for the eventual release of Nia DaCosta’s “spiritual sequel” by watching the original.
“As Above, So Below”
Quick Synopsis: A group of people go into the parts of the Paris catacombs that tourists are not allowed in, and they uncover plenty of things that they may never have wanted to see.
More Information: You may think you don’t like found footage, but you should give this movie a try. As the group delves deeper into the catacombs, you’ll feel fear based not only on the surrounding human remains but also on the claustrophobia experienced by these explorers. There are some great jump scares in this one, but they’re not cheap; they’re earned, which is why they’re effective. This movie will stick with you for a while.
Quick Synopsis: A meek young boy (Judah Lewis) with a crush on his babysitter (Samara Weaving) decides to stay up one night to spy on her and her friends. But it’s a choice he’ll regret, as they’re not simply playing Truth or Dare and Spin the Bottle — but something much, much darker.
More Information: Another horror comedy, this movie is where a lot of people first saw Weaving, though she got more accolades in another genre blender, “Ready or Not.” There’s no shortage of gore in this Netflix original, and you may find yourself wondering if any of the characters will even end up surviving the night. It’s fun but tense, and you can watch it prior to the sequel, “The Babysitter: Killer Queen”, which is out September 10 on the streaming service.
Quick Synopsis: Jess (Carla Gugino) and Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) go to a cabin in the woods to try to bring some life back into their strained marriage. But when Gerald unexpectedly has a fatal heart attack, Jess is left handcuffed to the bed with no escape — and no one nearby to help.
More Information: “Gerald’s Game” is based on a Stephen King novel that was probably not expected to ever be adapted to screen. But with a knockout performance by Carla Gugino and typically stellar directing by Mike Flanagan (“The Haunting of Hill House”, “Doctor Sleep”), this story comes to life. Jess’s story is a tragic one, and what she endures over the course of the film is something to behold. This is a haunting film that’s unlike any you’ve ever seen before.
Do you have any go-to horror movies that are your favorites for this time of year? Share your recommendations with us, and let us know what you think of these 10 picks too!
Originally hailing from Pennsylvania, Jackie has called Austin home since choosing to attend the University of Texas, where she graduated with a degree in multimedia journalism. She loves spending time with her dogs, writing about pop culture in all its forms and spending time with friends – eating, drinking and doing trivia.