Love it or loath it, horror can be one of the most innovative and effective genres out there – so long as you get a good horror film that is.
Luckily Netflix has plenty – with their expansive catalogue boasting new blockbusters such as Las Vegas zombie heist Army of the Dead as well as classics such as the original 1992 Candyman.
Musical and horror fans alike will get a kick out of Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, while younger viewers can get their first taste of the genre with dark family fantasy Nightbooks.
Netflix has been investing in horror heavily this last year, so there’s always the chance to catch up on the experimental Fear Street trilogy, as well as I’m Thinking of Ending Things and His House.
The RadioTimes.com experts have picked out some of the very best streaming scares available on Netflix (and are updating the list every week) which will at least remove the horror of having to scroll through the options for hours.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
If you’re a fan of musical theatre and lots of gore, then Tim Burton’s film adaptation of horror musical Sweeney Todd needs to be your next watch.
Starring Johnny Depp as the titular killer barber, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street follows the Victorian hairdresser as he murders his customers, before their corpses are baked into pies by Todd’s accomplice Mrs Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter). A tragic slasher film with an award-winning soundtrack from Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler, Sweeney Todd is a terrifying, blood-splattered musical experience, with fantastic performances from its all-star ensemble.
The Descent (2006)
Some of the best horror films make great use of inherently scary locations, and that’s certainly the case with this 2005 film directed by British filmmaker Neil Marshall. Following six women who find themselves fighting off terrifying creatures after becoming trapped in a cave system, this certainly isn’t one for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia.
The film boasts some great performances from the cast (including Shauna Macdonald and Natalie Mendoza), some genuinely creepy creature design, and an unforgivingly nightmarish atmosphere, and sits among the very finest horror flicks to have been released in the 21st century so far.
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
You can’t consider yourself a true horror fan until you’ve seen the ridiculous cult phenomenon that is Snakes on a Plane – and when it comes to the title, this film doesn’t exactly what it says on the tin.
Starring Samuel L ‘I’ve had it with these mother-f**king snakes on this mother-f**king plane’ Jackson as Neville Flynn, this action thriller follows the FBI agent as he accompanies Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) on a flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles so he can testify against gang boss Eddie Kim. Of course, Eddie has other plans and decides to bump Sean off by – you guessed it – releasing a crate full of venomous snakes on the plane with Sean onboard.
Despite the completely implausible scenario and dubious dialogue, Snakes on a Plane is a campy riot, featuring the likes of Bobby Cannavale, Kenan Thompson, Rachel Blanchard, David Koechner and Elsa Pataky in the cast. If you’re looking for something entertaining with a horror twist to watch, then Snakes on a Plane is guaranteed to leave you in hiss-terics.
Blood Red Sky (2021)
Not one for those with a fear of flying – or vampires for that matter – Blood Red Sky has a similar premise to the previously mentioned Snakes on a Plane, but swaps out the campy fun for a deadly serious and delightfully gory thrill-ride, as well as exchanging snakes for equally bitey vampires. The German horror follows Nadja (Peri Baumeister), a mysteriously ill woman who boards a transatlantic flight to New York which gets hijacked by terrorists. However, it’s the terrorists who should be worried, as Nadja unleashes a monstrous secret to protect her young son – launching a tense game of cat-and-mouse in the pressurised cabin as the clock ticks down to sunrise…
Flying straight to the no.1 spot on Netflix’s top ten on release, Blood Red Sky takes inspiration from horror hits such as Train to Busan and From Dusk Till Dawn to deliver a claustrophobic and high stakes thriller in a confined environment, with danger coming from vampires, terrorists, a potential plane crash and even sunlight. However, it’s a family drama at heart – showcasing the lengths a mother will go to to protect her child from danger, even when that includes herself. Baumeister is the star performer here, but she has excellent support from Legends of Tomorrow actor Dominic Purcell and Castlevania‘s Graham McTavish.
Moving into a new house that turns out to be haunted is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but Aftermath keeps things fresh by adding the horror of a collapsing relationship also. Natalie and Kevin are a couple on the brink of breaking up who in a last-ditch effort to save their relationship move in together after being offered an amazing deal for a house. However, Natalie begins to realise why the property was so cheap after hearing disturbing noises and finding unexplained markings around the house – if only someone would believe her.
You can’t beat a good old-fashioned haunted house story, and Aftermath adds to the creepiness by reportedly being based on a true story. Perhaps one of Aftermath’s greatest strengths however is the examination of a failing relationship, with the eerie occurrences not just being used for scares but amplifying the heartbreak of couples’ counselling and potential affairs.
X-Men star Shawn Ashmore stars as the disbelieving Kevin, while Twilight veteran Ashley Greene plays his long-suffering girlfriend Natalie.
American Horror Story’s Sarah Paulson stars in this psychological thriller from Searching’s Aneesh Chaganty as Diane, a woman whose teenage daughter Chloe (Kiera Allen) suffers from paralysis from the waist down. When Chloe becomes suspicious about the medication her mother has been giving her, she begins to uncover some of Diane’s deep dark secrets that she’s kept from her for years.
A nail-biting rollercoaster of a horror, Run is a stressfully suspenseful 90 minutes with a terrific script from Judas and the Black Messiah producer Sev Ohanian. Paulson and Allen shine as a dysfunctional mother-daughter duo in this thriller, which became the most-watched original film in Hulu’s history upon its release last year.
Things Heard & Seen (2021)
Amanda Seyfried and James Norton give us a new spin on the haunted house horror in Netflix’s Things Heard & Seen – a film from Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini.
Set in 1979, the Netflix thriller follows married couple Catherine (Seyfried) and George (Norton) as they move into a large New York farmhouse. As Catherine begins to feel increasingly isolated in the new home, she starts to suspect that there’s a ghostly presence lurking.
Featuring a star-studded cast, including Stranger Things actress Natalia Dyer, Better Call Saul’s Rhea Seehorn and Roseanne’s Michael O’Keefe, Things Heard & Seen takes its source material – Elizabeth Brundage’s All Things Cease to Appear – and turns it into a tense terror-filled two-hours, shining a haunting light on Catherine and George’s toxic relationship through the lens of a ghostly tale.
Fear Street Part 1: 1994 (2021)
The slasher genre is one that rose and then fell in popularity in the 1990s – but this film trilogy is heading right back to its glory days with a multitude of knife-wielding masked murderers. First film Fear Street Part 1: 1994 makes the most of the era with several 90s rock tracks serving as the backdrop as a group of teenagers discover a curse that has caused violent murders in their town for over 300 years – and they very well may be the next targets.
Part 1: 1994 is the first part of a trilogy, with the subsequent films – Part 2: 1978 and Part 3: 1666 – released every Friday over a period of three weeks in a streaming first. The films have also received comparisons to fellow nostalgic Netflix horror Stranger Things – with the two even sharing a few stars, including Maya Hawke in Part 1 and Sadie Sink in Part 2: 1978.
Army of the Dead (2021)
It was with a zombie movie that Zack Snyder first entered the spotlight in 2004, when his Dawn of the Dead remake was released, and the divisive filmmaker returns to the genre for his first Netflix film. But there’s a twist – this isn’t just a zombie film – it’s a zombie heist film – so there’s plenty of fun to be had along with all the scares and thrills you’d expect from the genre.
The ensemble cast of Army of the Dead includes Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, with the film following a group of mercenaries who attempt to stage a daring heist in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Expect blood and guts with a side order of political commentary in this two-and-a-half-hour epic.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Few horror films of the last 25 years have created quite as much of a splash as this found-footage gem did when it was first released in 1999 – with many viewers genuinely believing that they were watching real footage at the time. Telling of three student filmmakers who travelled deep into the woods to shoot a documentary about the eponymous local legend, the films taps into the primal fears and makes brilliant use of its locations to create a genuinely terrifying work. It spawned something of a craze for found-footage horror, but few of the works inspired by it achieved anywhere near the same success.
A horror option for all the family – or just the faint of heart – Nightbooks is proof that scary films don’t necessarily need a high age rating for a chillingly good time. Based on the children’s book of the same name by J.A. White, Nightbooks follows Alex, a young boy from New York with a talent for writing scary stories who gives up his hobby after being teased. However after an evil witch kidnaps him and demands a new spine-tingling tale every night, Alex must embrace what makes him unique in order to save himself and fellow prisoner Yasmin.
Nightbooks may not be the most unpredictable film out there, but makes an excellent first foray into horror for young viewers – and may even inspire them to read the book. It helps that Krysten Ritter (Marvel’s Jessica Jones) is on scene-stealing form here, just chilling enough in her interpretation of witch Natacha without going far enough to induce nightmares. Family fun with the usual life lessons, wrapped up in a creative horror-fantasy perfect for older kids.
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This iconic slasher from the early ’90s is getting a spiritual sequel with the same title later this year – and so now is the perfect time to give the original a watch. Like all the very best horror films, Candyman includes not only terrifying scares but also some astute social commentary – not to mention a brilliant performance from Virginia Madsen in the lead role and a chilling one from Tony Todd as the titular spirit.
The Babysitter (2017)
Rising star Samara Weaving who has recently made great impressions in both Ready or Not and Bill and Ted Face the Music shows in 2017’s The Babysitter why she has gone on to be such a popular face in the movie world.
The Babysitter is a very different film from the others that appear on this list and it is one that puts its focus on style – giving it a sense of fun running alongside all the horror elements that come into play as the story progresses. And isn’t it nice to have the trope of the babysitter being a victim turned on its head in such an exciting way? There was also a sequel, also on Netflix, that is also worth a watch, despite not hitting the heights of the original.
His House (2020)
One of the most recent films on this list, His House is the debut of filmmaker Remi Weekes, and expertly blends kitchen-sink realism with horror tropes for an affecting and supremely terrifying haunted house movie.
Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù and Wunmi Mosaku turn in outstanding performances as a couple who flee their home in war-torn South Sudan to seek asylum in the UK – tragically losing their daughter on the perilous journey. Upon arrival in the UK, they are given a run-down house in which to stay, but this is anything but the end of their troubles. The couple soon find themselves fighting the cruel bureaucracy of the asylum-seeking process, prejudice from their unwelcoming neighbours, and perhaps most terrifyingly a which that has followed them from their home.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)
Charlie Kaufman has established a track record as one of the most innovative writer/directors in Hollywood, and his latest – adapted from Iain Reid’s novel of the same name – is a nightmare journey into the psyche of a young woman who is taken by her boyfriend to meet her family in a secluded farm.
With a terrific cast that includes Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette and David Thewlis, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is about as unconventional as it gets but will be sure to leave you both haunted and scratching your head.
Gerald’s Game (2017)
Countless Stephen King novels have been adapted into films in recent years, and one of the best recent examples is this chiller from The Haunting of Hill House director Mike Flanagan. The film follows a woman who goes on holiday with her husband when he suddenly dies during a sex game – while she is handcuffed to her bed.
With little possibility of rescue, the woman begins hearing strange voices and seeing unsettling visions as she attempts to survive. The film – and Carla Gugino’s lead performance – both rightly attracted significant praise, with its haunting and hypnotic atmosphere ensuring it’s one of the best Netflix original horror films on offer.
The Conjuring (2013)
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Horror mastermind James Wan directs this creepy thriller, based on the real-life cases of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played here by Patrick Wilson (Aquaman) and Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) respectively. This first entry in The Conjuring franchise sees the duo come to the aid of the Perron family, who have been experiencing terrifying phenomena in their remote Rhode Island home.
Wan is at the top of his game here, utilising the same skills that made Saw and Insidious so frightening, while the strong performances do a lot to make this story resonate emotionally too. The Conjuring would spawn not only a direct sequel, but also a number of spin-offs including Annabelle and The Nun.
Can’t decide whether to be excited for Halloween or Christmas? This creepy offering caters for both, telling a darkly comedic story of a bickering family terrorised by the eponymous folklore figure who punishes those who misbehave.
While there have been many ill-judged attempts at bringing this story into the modern mainstream, 2015’s Krampus stands head and shoulders above with its tense atmosphere, sharp script and stellar cast, which includes Toni Collette (Hereditary), Allison Tolman (Fargo), and Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation).
Crimson Peak (2015)
Academy Award-winning director Guillermo del Toro is behind this gothic romance, which is brimming with his usual sumptuous visual style and intricate attention to detail.
Set in 1901, the story follows young author Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), who falls in love with charming Englishman Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and moves to his grand, but unloved, family home. However, there are restless spirits that roam its corridors at night and dark secrets that must be confronted if she is to escape with her life.
While not your standard jumpscare-ridden haunted house movie, Crimson Peak is an elegantly crafted tale that easily stands out in this crowded genre.
Ethan Hawke stars as a true-crime writer who moves into a new house desperate for a bestseller in this effective chiller from Doctor Strange filmmaker. Things seem to take a promising turn in the writer’s investigation when he discovers the existence of a snuff film showing the deaths of a family, but things take a turn for the worse when suggestions of a supernatural force begin to rear their head.
The film perhaps relies on one too many horror movie tropes and becomes a little generic as it reaches its final act, but there are some brilliant scares, while an accomplished performance from the reliably excellent Hawke also lends the film a human edge.
Wrong Turn (2021)
A reboot of the long-running Wrong Turn franchise – this is technically the seventh installment since 2003 – this 2021 film adds a few fresh twists to the usual formula of lost college students being stalked in the woods. Unlike the original films which followed cannibals hunting people in West Virginia, Wrong Turn introduces us to ‘The Foundation’, a self-sufficient community who have lived in the Appalachian mountains for hundreds of years. But when a group of hikers intrude on their land, they’ll use deadly force to protect their way of life…
Wrong Turn knows viewers are here for gory kills and the survival horror certainly delivers on that front, with the franchise’s signature booby traps on full display here. But there’s also plenty of interesting ideas hidden behind the bloodbath, as the film attempts to explore America’s social divides with this culture clash between millennial hipsters and old-fashioned men of the earth.
Dan Stevens and Michael Sheen star in this brutal horror from The Raid director Gareth Evans set in early twentieth century London. Apostle concerns a man who has returned home to discover his sister is being held captive by a cult – and he must pay a substantial ransom in order to free her.
The man makes the journey to an idyllic island that homes the cult, where he infiltrates the community and discovers that though the cult claim to have left behind the corruption of mainland society, it is still more than present in their ranks. As he learns more and more about the cult he uncovers one particularly evil secret. This film has clear links back to iconic folk horror film The Wickerman, and contains an uneasy atmosphere of dread.
Child’s Play (2019)
2019 brought us a reboot of the Child’s Play franchise with this updated version of the murderous doll that is far more high-tech than what we are used to. Somewhat confusingly, the original timeline of the films is still going but this can be watched with no knowledge of those entries in the franchise and is a terrifyingly good time – although we still aren’t sold on the new look Chucky.
While the original Child’s Play is not on Netflix at the time of writing, you can get your traditional Chucky fix on the streamer with both The Seed of Chucky and The Bride of Chucky both available to watch right now.
The Dead Don’t Die (2019)
Another zom-com, The Dead Don’t Die adds a silly, satirical take to the oversaturated genre with a standout deadpan performance from Bill Murray. The end of the world has never been so absurd or inconvenient for three police officers who are now tasked with protecting a town and its quirky residents from zombies, who still enjoy the same hobbies and drinks from when they were alive.
Bill Murray (Ghostbusters), Adam Driver (Star Wars) and Chloë Sevigny (American Horror Story) play the three lead cops who are partial to dry humour, but boast an excellent supporting cast including Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Selena Gomez, Rosie Perez and Carol Kane. Oh, and look out for an undead Iggy Pop craving coffee!
Don’t be fooled by all the promotional posters showing Black Widow star Florence Pugh surrounded by lots of summery flowers – this film is anything but country fun in the sun. A modern cult classic that is actually about a cult, Midsommar follows a young couple who head to a fabled Swedish midsummer festival in an effort to mend their relationship. However, the event is far from the idyllic retreat the two were hoping for – and they soon find themselves in the hands of a violent and bizarre pagan cult.
From acclaimed indie studio A24 and director Ari Aster – who also directed Hereditary – it is perhaps unsurprising that Midsommar has been one of the best-reviewed horrors of recent years. A great cast helps also – as well as rising star Pugh, Jack Reynor (Sing Street), William Jackso Harper (The Good Place) and Will Poulter (The Maze Runner) are also experiencing some summer scares.
The Visit (2015)
After a career pause, director M Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) kicked off his comeback with this neat little horror flick, which sees two young siblings stay at their grandparents’ house for a week. Of course, The Visit wouldn’t be on this list if that was all there is to it. The kids soon notice some odd goings on around the house, later stumbling on some dark secrets, but to say any more than that would risk spoiling the film’s surprises. Deanna Dunagan (August: Osage County) and Peter McRobbie (Daredevil) shine as the mysterious Nana and Pop Pop.
Director Ari Aster made a big impression on movie buffs with this directorial debut, which follows the ill-fated Graham family as they are terrorised by a mysterious presence following the death of their grandmother. Not for the faint-hearted, Hereditary packs some truly disturbing scenes, but stands out as one of the most suspenseful horror movies of the past decade. Toni Collette gives an incredible performance as Annie, a troubled mother pushed to breaking point by unthinkable loss. If you’re a fan of the genre, this is quite simply a must watch.
Another movie that is a bit more of a lighthearted watch that some of the other choices here, 2009’s Zombieland was a refreshingly fun take on the zombie story that had Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin as an unlikely group who are looking to survive.
The violence in this is heightened and there is always a tongue in cheek feel to what is happening but the horror still feels real and the stakes still feel high. And Zombieland builds up to a stelar finish that throws countless zombies at our heroes and it is every bit as tense as it is a spectacle.
American Psycho (2000)
A lean and mean modern horror must-watch, American Psycho perfectly dissects American yuppie culture of the 1980s. But that’s not the reason to watch this 101-minute cult classic. The movie is carried by lead Christian Bale, who serves up a horrifying and hilarious performance as New York investment Patrick Bateman, a man obsessed with status and style. Oh, and violent murder too.
Based on the 1992 novel of the same name, the movie follows Bateman as he dives deeper into his hedonistic fantasies – all the while hiding his psychopathic alter-ego from his co-workers.
Gradually becoming more surreal, this darkly hilarious satire of Manhattan business culture unfolds into a bloody crescendo you won’t forget in a hurry. Already seen it? We promise a re-watch will be worth it: American Psycho carries so many hidden details you’ll spot something new with every viewing.
Under the Shadow (2016)
This 2016 Persian-language release from British-Iranian filmmaker Babak Anvari is a classic example of the way horror films can often act as allegories for serious and relevant themes and issues. The film follows a mother, Shideh and daughter living in war-torn 1980s Iran, whose apartment building is hit by a missile. A superstitious neighbour claims that the missile was cursed, carrying malevolent Middle-Eastern spirits – and this suspicion leads Shideh to believe that her daughter is being possessed.
What follows is a chilling, powerful films works both as a piece of horror fiction and an update on the haunted house genre, but also as a prescient social commentary on conflict in the Middle East. Under the Shadow includes some genuinely brilliant performances from its cast and was selected as the UK’s submission for the foreign language film award at the 2017 Oscars – although it did not get nominated by the Academy.
The Nightingale (2018)
Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent made quite an impression with her debut feature film The Babadook in 2014, and two years she returned for another slice of contemporary horror with the chilling thriller The Nightingale, starring Aisling Franciosi and Sam Claflin.
The film follows Clare, a young Irish convict, who chases a British officer through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness bent on revenge. Her journey sees her enlist the services of an Aboriginal tracker who is marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past. Warning: this is not a film for the faint-hearted.
The Cabin in the Woods (2010)
Our strongest advice for this one? Go in as dark as possible. Avoid trailers, avoid any form of plot synopsis, just check straight in to The Cabin in the Woods.
Have you gone now? No? OK then, we’ll try to keep this vague. Five token friends journey to a remote, dark cabin in the woods and it doesn’t go well. Your first impressions of this one are not going to be positive ones, you’ve seen this before in every. single. B-movie. ever. Expect eye rolling and face-palm moments as Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard drag out every horror cliche imaginable before ripping the rug straight out from under your feet in this subverting horror flick.
Chris Hemsworth – fresh from big breaks in Star Trek and Thor – is joined by Kristen Connolly and Anna Hutchison for The Cabin in the Woods. Prepare yourself. Whatever you think is going to happen, probably won’t.
Madeline Brewer steals the show in this gritty psychological thriller set in the salacious world of online webcam pornography. Her character, Alice, becomes increasingly obsessed with being Number 1, and resorts to increasingly daring and extreme measures to climb the ranking system, culminating with a fake suicide broadcast that proves enough to nudge her into the top 50. Soon after, her identity is copied by a mysterious doppelgänger, leading to an intense hunt for the culprit.
Screenwriter Isa Mazzei – a former cam girl herself – drew on her own experiences of exploitation in the industry as she crafted the story. Originally imagined as a documentary, Mazzei felt a horror movie was the only way to portray the underbelly of the industry, with numerous cries for help to the police and other authorities going unheeded and written off due to the nature of her career. Cam is a truly modern horror for modern audiences.
James Wan’s work creating the Saw franchise put him on the map in the slasher genre, but Insidious saw the Malaysian director successfully tread deeper down true horror lines than previously. He took on the Insidious project in a bid to prove his capabilities outside of blood and guts horror, and managed to produce a blockbuster with some genuinely chilling moments.
Insidious is a haunted house ride. It stays on a steady track, but the film is packed with a variety of demonic forces that always have you scanning the screen for the next scare. There’s little reliance on gore, but less is more here. The film does a fantastic job of ramping up the paranoia with constant suggestions that you might have seen something in your peripheral vision, and occasionally you will. This sustains the threat throughout the movie, coupled with an atmospheric score and cast led by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne.
Spanish film Veronica was released to much fanfare in 2017 with some critics and many on social media branding it “the scariest movie of all time”. Director Paco Plaza had already built a cult following after his successful creation of the [Rec] trilogy, but Veronica caused a storm once it landed on Netflix.
The story follows Veronica (Sandra Escacena) who uses a ouija board during a total eclipse of the sun, a time when dark prevails over light, and events on Earth are believed to reflect that mantra. The glass smashes, she passes out, and seemingly recovers, but the girls’ experience changes Veronica. The rest of the films consists of relentless psychological warfare. How much is reality? How much is in Veronica’s head? The whole things gets crazy.
Oh, and it is loosely based on true events from a tragic case of Estefanía Gutiérrez Lázaro in 1991. A girl died in Vallecas under mysterious circumstances after using a ouija board. Sleep well.
Back in the mid-00s’, “torture porn” movies were all the rage and you do not get much more brutal than Eli Roth’s terrifying and unnerving Hostel. Focusing on three students who head on a trip to Slovakia, they soon realise that they would have been better off staying at home.
They are all kidnapped by unseen forces and help against their will where they are subjected to some of the most vivid torture that you will see in a mainstream movie. There are actually three Hostel movies, all mostly unrelated, and while the second one is missing from the Netflix line-up, the third is there to watch.
This Stephen King adaptation set in the titular year follows the story of a farming family in Nebraska with the father Wilf James (Thomas Jane) citing the mantra “a man’s pride is his land” as a rule to live by. His wife Arlette (Molly Parker) wants out, however. She intends to move to the city, upgrade, leave the tough slog of farm life behind. In response, Wilf conspires to kill Arlette with the help of son Henry (Dylan Schmid).
1922 is a bleak tale, certainly not one for the rat-haters in your life, but it is transferred very well from page to screen by Zak Hilditch with many critics hailing it as one of the best efforts at replicating King’s work on screen. Much of the trauma throughout stems from the guilt ebbing away at Wilf’s consciousness, a slow chipping away of his resolve, and while there’s little cheer to go around, it’s a worthy Netflix production.
Alex Garland follows up his stellar directorial debut Ex Machina with this sci-fi horror oddity. Lena (Natalie Portman) is a US army soldier who joins a squad tasked with the terrifying mission of entering a strange alien zone (known as the Shimmer), from which a number of exploratory teams have never returned. Upon entering the surreal place, she and her squadmates encounter some truly macabre and nightmarish beasts, but push on to the lighthouse where they hope to find answers.
Portman gives a brilliant performance in the lead role, with Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) and Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok) all giving memorable supporting turns. Its ending proved a little divisive when the film was first released, but the journey Annihilation takes you on is more than worth your time, boasting gripping tension and striking visuals throughout.
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The Purge (2013)
The Purge franchise has come a long way since it began, with four(!) sequels – including 2021 release The Forever Purge – and even a spin-off TV series following the original 2013 movie. However, the first film is still one of the best, introducing the still intriguing concept – what if all crime was legal for a 12-hour period? Ethan Hawke (Sinister) and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) bring some star power to the first instalment, playing a wealthy couple who become the target of a murderous gang after taking in a wounded man.
The what if? nature of the film’s premise lends itself well to social allegory and moral conundrums, so it is perhaps unsurprising the franchise has stretched itself into several films. It is, of course, suitably scary as well – the movie’s use of masks is enough to put you off Halloween for good. Sequel The Purge: Anarchy is available on Netflix also, though the following three films are not yet on the streaming service.
Before she took the world by storm in The Queen’s Gambit, Anya Taylor-Joy’s breakout role first came in this 2016 horror. Signalling a return to form for director M. Night Shyamalan after a series of poorly received blockbusters, Split sees a man with 23 different personalities kidnap three girls. The teenagers must find a way to escape before the kidnapper unleashes an infamous 24th personality – The Beast.
The psychological thriller is an acting masterclass from James McAvoy (His Dark Materials), who had to portray personalities such as dominant organiser Dennis, elderly caretaker Patricia and nine-year-old boy Hedwig. The ending also revealed the film to be a stealth sequel to Shyamalan’s 2000 superhero thriller Unbreakable – setting up 2019 crossover Glass.
Alligators are an underutilised foe in horror films, and they’re on full fearsome display in this recent hit starring Skins star Kaya Scodelario. Scodelario plays aspiring swimmer Haley Keller, a university student who travels back to her hometown after being unable to contact her father during a category 5 hurricane. She soon eventually finds her father unconscious in the family home’s basement as the floodwaters start rising – and they’re not alone…
Featuring the double whammy of the horror of a hurricane and a swarm of angry alligators, Crawl certainly gave the sofa critics of Celebrity Gogglebox a shock once the film was added to Netflix. Much of the film takes place in the crawl space in the family basement, effectively combining a claustrophobic setting with the ticking clock of rising floodwaters and the sheer terror of an alligator attack. Just to make matters worse a dog is along for the ride – we know who we’re rooting for to make it out alive…
In the mood for something less frightening? Check out our lists of the best movies on Netflix and best series on Netflix, or visit our TV Guide to see what else is on. Want to see what’s on the other streaming sites? Take a look at our best Disney Plus shows guide or best Disney Plus movies.
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