There’s nothing better than watching a scary movie in a packed theater.
The collective breath holding. The nervous laughter. The occasional, and hopefully clever, laugh line from the guy or gal sitting behind you.
And, in the best cases, the blood-curdling screams if the horror movie is firing on every possible cylinder.
None of that is possible at home, unless your clan resembles “The Brady Bunch” on steroids. Size matters when it comes to horror movie watching. The more, the scarier.
Then again, a trip to the cineplex will set you back plenty, assuming your popcorn fix can’t be denied. Babysitters aren’t cheap, either.
Good thing there are a gaggle of fine horror movies on Netflix from which to choose. It’s not the theatrical experience, but in a pinch it’ll more than do.
A few of the following horror movies you may know by heart (but won’t mind seeing again). Here’s betting most titles will be unfamiliar to all but the serious horror hound. Some mix belly laughs in with the fear factor. Others are just so unsettling they make turning off the lights a dicey proposition.
Suspense matters for gore hounds, and these films pack plenty of thrills.
Let’s start with the least, but still worthy, horror movie option. Kevin Smith’s oddball shocker isn’t a classic by even the most lenient standards. It still does what you crave in a shock flick. It leaves you feeling queasy.
Justin Long stars as an arrogant podcaster looking to score a good yarn for his show. He finds that, and more, with a crazy old man (Michael Parks) with a curious fixation. The title is the giveaway.
it’s impossible to watch “Tusk” and not recall “Sssssss.” That 1973 thriller proving similarly shocking despite its lo-fi effects. Smith’s horror comedy arrives with oodles of flaws like its spiritual predecessor. The less said about Johnny Depp’s Canadian cop, the better. Still, “Tusk’s” final images will linger all the same.
FAST FACT: Smith came up with the “Tusk” story from an ad seeking a man to dress up like a walrus for free rent. The ad was later exposed as a hoax.
The Girl with All the Gifts
Sick of zombie movies? The minds behind this indie thriller have your back. Even better, they’ve assembled an impressive cast for this shrewd spin on the undead genre.
Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton and Paddy Considine star in a film that suggests not everyone bitten becomes a mindless ghoul. The kiddies featured here shouldn’t be left alone, but at times they seem as precious as any pre-teens.
What follows is smart, surprising and occasionally gripping. Plus, the top flight talent means we’re actually invested in the characters who may end up as zombie food. That’s always a plus with the genre.
FAST FACT: Close’s sister in law adores zombie movies. So she used her family ties to score a cameo -- as a zombie, of course.
This Netflix original proves some of the best horror movies offer the easiest gimmicks. Here, it’s a deaf woman trying to stay one step ahead of a home intruder.
Think about it. We’ve seen dozens of similar stories before. Here’s the ingenious twist: what if our heroine couldn’t hear the villain’s footfalls, let alone a creaking door or shattered glass? Death seems inevitable for a hearing impaired Final Girl, no?
“Hush’s” gimmick ups the ante on the home invasion genre, something director Mike Flanagan milks in scene after scene.
FAST FACT: “Hush” star Kate Siegel is not only married to director Flanagan but she also co-wrote the film’s script.
Sometimes the most intriguing horror films flow not from the supernatural but from our own twisted psyches. Take this slow burn shocker from director Karyn Kusama (“Jennifer’s Body”).
The story involves a former couple still tortured by the death of their child. The evening, an expansive dinner party, offers hope of reconciliation. A darker threat is lurking all the same, one leading to infighting and much more.
This is arthouse horror, no doubt, but the drip, drip drip of dread transforms it into a bona fide thriller.
FAST FACT: Kusama said the production’s three-day rehearsal proved essential to making the most of the movie’s tight space demands.
Imagine “The Hangover” took a turn for the macabre.
This indie treat follows four friends eager for a once in a lifetime bachelor party. Naturally, they get far more than they bargained for. No, Mike Tyson doesn’t show up. The title character does, though, and that’s when things get interesting.
Director Gregg Bishop (“Dance of the Dead“) shows a knack for bro chemistry without missing the essential horror beats. What follows is slick and satisfying, with an ending sure to crawl under your skin.
FAST FACT: Bishop introduced Lili (Hannah Fierman), the entertainer the friends unleash in “Siren,” in his “V/H/S” contribution, “Amateur Night.”
Train to Busan
This South Korean import is the best zombie film since George A. Romero’s infamous “Dead” series. Heck, it’s actually better than all of them, even if we still give the maestro credit for building the genre from scratch.
A divorced dad’s attempt to reunite his daughter and ex-wife gets sandbagged by a zombie outbreak. These are “fast” zombies, but that hardly captures their ferocity. Simple, effective makeup mixed with bravura staging makes these monsters as frightening as any committed to celluloid.
The movie is nearly two hours long and it never, ever lets up. (The sequel, sadly, is a dramatically different story)
FAST FACT: Director Yeon Sang-ho started out in animation but found his greatest success with “Busan.” The film cracked his country’s list of Top 10 box office hits of all time.
Here’s another excellent horror film with a singular flaw: too much hype.
We’re living at a time when saying, “it’s the best [fill in the blank] ever” is required to slice through the cultural noise. So too many folks dubbed this Spanish import the scariest movie ever.
It’s still a fine fright-fest, featuring relatable characters and a gripping final reel. The story follows a teenage girl (Sandra Escacena, excellent) who attempts a seance with disastrous consequences. The teen’s efforts to protect her siblings saving her own skin are both admirable and touching.
FAST FACT: “Veronica” narrative drew from a 1991 case involving a dead teen with an alleged interest in Ouija boards.
Blame “Blair Witch Project’ for the found footage wave. That 1999 film proved micro-budget horror could draw a crowd while making a mint.
Naturally, dozens of copycats followed, including the bold 2015 film “Creep” and now its sequel. Mark Duplass is back as the mysterious man you’re better off avoiding at all costs. We now know all about his odd proclivities. The filmmakers still squeeze something fresh, and deadly, out of the character’s plight.
The found footage angle feels more organic here than in the first movie. The sequence of chills is different too. The original back-loaded the shocks by choice. The sequel takes it from there, setting up a curious tension and then teasing it out over the film’s running time.
Desiree Akhavan stars as a struggling videographer who agrees to shoot one creepy subject for an entire day. What could go wrong?
FAST FACT: The inspiration for ‘Creep 2’ came from video artist Laurel Nakadate who dressed in alluring outfits and visited the homes of men who approached her in public. [Warning: video link leads to news clip with nudity]
Some ’80s classics don’t deserve their reputations. Memories fade. Mediocrities often look far better in the rear view mirror. Think the “Friday the 13th” franchise as a prime example.
Good ol’ Chucky stands the test of time.
Director Tom Holland uncorked two excellent shockers in the ’80s -- “Child’s Play” and “Fright Night” (his directorial debut). Sadly, his film resume grew “thinner” as time went on, but we can still enjoy his tale of a ginger doll gone wild.
The 2019 “Child’s Play” remake proved so pathetic it only made the original shine brighter by comparison.
We all remember the great horror comedy hybrids, from “American Werewolf in London” to “Shaun of the Dead.” The sub-genre’s duds still far outnumber the hits. Think “Life After Beth,” “The Dead Don’t Die” and “Yoga Hosers” to name a few.
The key to nailing the formula? Never let them see you sweat. And that’s precisely why “Tremors” rocked us back in 1990.
Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward square off against subterranean critters in this tense, tongue in cheek romp. The film spawned a gaggle of sequels, with the usual diminishing results. Still, the original stands tall as a thriller with fine comic chops.
FAST FACT: Kevin Bacon flirted with a return to the “Tremors” universe, but his SyFy pilot wasn’t picked up.
Can you stand yet another zombie movie? You might if it’s more of a character study than the latest wave of brain chompers.
Some of the best undead films have a serious message to share. The unofficial granddaddy of the genre, 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead,” spoke quietly about the horrors of racism. That didn’t deflate the scares, though.
Here, beyond a bizarre jab at fracking, Martin Freeman strikes a blow for parenthood. He plays a suddenly single father left to care for his very young child … during a zombie apocalypse. Suddenly your child’s school pick up routine doesn’t sound so frightening.
FAST FACT: The Netflix original sprang from a seven minute Aussie short similarly dubbed “Cargo.”