A white mask rises from the floor in the dark background. A friend’s long nails scratch at the window two stories up. A creature bursts from the chest of a crew mate. A wraith-like figure emerges from the shadows to enter the room of a sleeping woman. These are the movie moments that made me love horror as a kid. These are the kind of moments I celebrate during the Halloween season.
The scenes I listed above we’ve all seen—some of us dozens of times. They’re from Halloween, Salem’s Lot, Alien, and Nosferatu (1922). If you’re like me, you’re constantly looking for new signature scares. The good news is we’re in a golden age for horror and streaming services are making it easier than ever to watch something new this Halloween.
I scoured all major paid streaming services to find you the best recent (last five years) horror movies and one horror classic that’s ready for a revisit or a first watch. Please enjoy A Screamin’, Streamin’ Halloween: 2021 Edition.
His House (2020) – Sudanese refugees look for a fresh start in England. They’ve endured horrors in their homeland, but they haven’t escaped all horror in their lives. The likable couple make it easy to empathize with their struggle. You want them to be safe and secure. They’re not. Not in this house. And that’s what makes this movie so scary.
The Wind (2019) – A frontierswoman isolated in a 19th century cottage starts to think there’s more than just wind tormenting her each night. This movie is a bit of a slow burn. But if you put down your phone, turn out the lights, turn up the volume, and just let it smolder, you’ll start to feel those scares flickering from the screen and speakers.
The Ritual (2018) – Four friends on a hiking trip in Sweden find they’re being stalked by something evil. This is one of those movies that would be good if there were no horror elements. Lucky for us, it’s a creature feature that elevates the story to Halloween glory.
Fear Street (2021) – This movie trilogy was made for Halloween. It’s a witchy haunted slasher. The Fear Street movies are everything that American Horror Story is not—there’s a coherent story and the twists and turns effectively land. The three movies take you through the 90’s, 70’s, and 1600’s respectively. Each era has its own vibe—the 70’s summer camp is especially fun, though horror fans all have their favorite eras from the series. Grab three nights worth of snacks and enjoy these movies back-to-back-to-back.
Midnight Mass (2021) – Mike Flannagan is a modern master of horror. His recent limited series on Netflix, The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, take scary storytelling to new levels. His mastery of direction, pace, and delivering scares is virtually unrivaled today. Midnight Mass is about the return of hope to a small east coast fishing island, brought about by a new priest. But he didn’t come alone. This series feels like Stephen King’s greatest work come to life. Be patient with the long monologues and conversations. They’re setting up something. That something? You.
Hush (2016) – This is one of Mike Flannagan’s best movies. It’s about a deaf author who’s being stalked by a masked killer in her country home. But she’s not defenseless. She writes horror novels and knows all the tricks.
Malignant (2021) – You may know James Wan as the creator of the Saw, Conjuring, and Insidious movie series. He’s a prolific horror director who isn’t afraid to get a little weird. In Malignant, Wan gets WEEEEEEIIIIIIRD. And I’m happy he does. The final half hour really takes this to a special place that will have you horrified and cheering. Kuddos, James. Kuddos.
The Empty Man (2020) – A former detective investigates a string of murders. The story sounds familiar—and elements of The Empty Man are familiar—but it takes you places you weren’t expecting. There are supernatural tones from The Ring; bizarre moments extracted from Jacob’s Ladder; and there’s one scene that feels directly lifted from the ending of The Kill List—which is a favorite scene among horror aficionados. The Empty Man is long, but the film’s familiar horror elements make sure it’s never dull.
Underwater (2020) – Kirsten Stewart is far from the twilight of her career. She’s also far from the Twilight part of her career. In Underwater, Stewart is fighting for her life against an unearthly species and she’s miles from where anyone can hear her scream. But she’s not screaming. She’s taking care of business. You may be screaming from the suffocating set pieces and tasteful jump scares. Underwater is a creature feature that feels like a sibling of the Cloverfield movies. It’s fun and scary and barely more than 90 minutes.
Wellington Paranormal (2018-present) – Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement are behind this funny horror mockumentary series that feels like a mix of The X-Files and Reno 911. You may know their work from anything that’s good these days. Honestly. It feels like one of those two is attached to every project. Wellington Paranormal is about two small-town New Zealand police officers who investigate strange and horrific happenings. The stories and jokes are sharp. The characters are not sharp. That’s what makes it fun. You may recognize the lead characters from a scene in the movie What We Do in the Shadows—which was written and directed by…you guessed it, Waititi and Clement.
Onibaba (1964) – Get out of your comfort zone. Watch a little black-and-white, read some subtitles, and wait for the thrills to build. Onibaba is a horror classic that you will enjoy if you give it a chance. It’s about a mother and daughter surviving war-torn medieval Japan by robbing lost soldiers and dropping their bodies down a large, dark hole. A man eventually comes between the women. There’s conflict. A terrifying mask. And that hole. Be patient with this one. It pays off.
Spontaneous (2020) – Spontaneous is about young couple’s blossoming romance in a world where—BOOM—teens are inexplicably exploding. This is a one-of-its-kind combustible comedy with a charming story that continues to unfold despite—BOOM—the ticking time bomb that’s blasting teenagers to smithereens. I’m sure there’s a metaphor about the turbulence of puberty or the end of innocence mixed in there. What makes it so great for me is—BOOM!
The Vigil (2019) – FRAUD ALERT! I confess that I have not seen this movie yet. How can I recommend it? I have faith it will be great…based upon the reactions I’ve seen from people who have watched The Vigil. It’s about a Jewish man who must sit in vigil over a dead body as part of a religious custom. But he soon realizes that he’s in for a long night. Expect a movie full of high tension and polished scares. I may re-subscribe to Hulu just for this movie. Let me know what you think!
Pyewacket (2018) – A newly widowed mother forces her teenage daughter to leave her life and move to a country home to start afresh. After an argument the daughter summons a demon to kill her mother. The daughter later regrets dabbling in the occult. Yep. It sounds like it may be a little too heavy, right? Somehow it’s not. The story moves along at a good pace. The scares are scary. And there’s a demon on the loose. Plus, it’s just fun to say Pyewacket. Pye. Wacket. Pyewacket.
Crawl (2019) – This movie is a thrill-ride. We get right to the plot and the fun begins. A young woman drives into a growing hurricane to look for her dad at his home, which is quickly flooding. She finds more than just him there. A nest of gators has crawled in. And these aggressive little snappers are going to make you crawl in your seat for the next 90 minutes.
Possessor (2020) – This is more sci-fi than horror, but Possessor will still horrify you. Its director, Brandon Cronenberg, is the son of film icon David Cronenberg. His father was known for making impossible-to-make movies possible. The younger Cronenberg takes a complex idea with Possessor and turns it into a gritty but beautiful sci-fi classic. An assassin uses new technology to possess other people to finish her tasks. During one mission, she becomes stuck inside the brain of a target. He now sees her thoughts. Possessor will make your heart race. You’ll be disturbed, but also exhilarated.
Attack the Block (2011) – Creatures from space invade a south London neighborhood. But a street gang, led by a young John Boyega, stand their ground. I hope most of you have seen this movie. If you haven’t, then for the love of all that’s holy, go watch it now. But don’t do it alone. Not because it’s so scary—there are some tense monster moments—see it with friends because it’s so much fun to share this experience.
Hell House LLC (2016) – This may be the most Halloween movie on my list. It has micro-budget effects, micro-budget set design, and micro-budget costume design—but there’s nothing micro about the scares it generates. It’s a found footage film that gives us a look into a haunted house where everyone died except one woman. The movie has developed a cult following for a reason. It will scare you.
The Wailing (2016) – Another film with a cult following, The Wailing is part supernatural thriller, part police procedural, part buddy cop comedy, and all sorts of awesome. A mysterious infection is blamed on an outsider. An officer, who’s dealing with his own problems, leads the investigation. Like another modern Korean horror classic, Train to Busan, this horror movie is driven by its heart and charm. Give it a shot—you’ll forget about the subtitles in a few minutes.
Get Duked (2020) – Three hip hop-loving ruffians are teamed up with a nerdy do-getter to navigate the Scottish Highlands as part of a scholastic achievement program. Soon the teens find they’re being targeted by a killer and must figure out why. This one is just dips its toes into the horror genre to give you a good laugh—and it will have you laughing your arse off.
The Vast of Night (2020) – The nostalgic setting. The crisp dialogue. The crafty camerawork. How did they put this together for under a million dollars? The Vast of Night has that Amblin polish—you know, the production sheen that makes movies like E.T. and The Goonies so special. It’s about a young radio DJ in 1950’s New Mexico who discovers a strange frequency. Don’t go into this one expecting to see any aliens. This is a story about a community changed by one special night. And it’s told so well, you won’t miss the rubbery suits or string-hanging spaceships.
Lake Mungo (2010) – Is it a movie? Is it a documentary? I don’t know and I don’t care. I’m always glued to the screen watching this haunting mystery unfold. It’s about the death of a 16-year-old and what her parents uncover about her while seeking questions about how she died. The scares are never in your face. The dread you feel is coming from an image lingering in the background of a scene or just off camera. You blink and you’ll miss it.
Hostile (2018) – A woman survives a pandemic only to break her leg in an apocalyptic wasteland. While trapped outside one night, she sees a disturbing creature. I’ll be honest, I’m just trying to get you a recent Peacock recommendation that’s not It Follows. You’ll see below Peacock has focused on iconic horror this Halloween. That said, this movie does have a few chilling moments and it’s a tight 81 minutes.
Braids (2018) – This movie is bonkers. It’s not overtly horror, though like some others on my list, it has horror elements. Here’s the premise: Two young drug dealers on the run hide out with their eccentric rich friend, who draws them in to her world of make-believe. Can they survive her increasingly dangerous games? Maybe. Is this a great Halloween movie? Not really. But if you only have Peacock to stream this October or feel like watching something way off the beaten path, give Braids a shot.
There’s not a lot of good new horror on Peacock right now. The good news is, there are some amazing classics. Right now, Peacock has the cream of the crop from Universal Studios. That includes Dracula, The Bride of Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Invisible Man. Peacock also has all movies in the Nightmare on Elm Street, Saw, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw, Child’s Play, Gremlins, Psycho, and Phantasm series. If classics are your thing, Peacock has you covered this Halloween.
Host (2020) – The director and cast shot this movie over six weeks during the beginning of the pandemic. Shudder started streaming it a few weeks later. It caught on like fire and for good reason. The 56-minute movie is about six friends who get together for their weekly Zoom call. One of the friends accidentally summons a demonic presence that starts to terrorize the group. Director Rob Savage uses creative approaches to develop and execute his small screen scares. And they hit with a wallop. This is a fun scary movie that you may not want to watch alone.
Anything for Jackson (2020) – This movie starts hot. Two grieving grandparents abduct a woman to perform a reverse exorcism. Then the movie cools as the plot unfolds. But don’t turn it off just yet. This thing is about to really get going as the grandparents open the floodgates to evil-ville. You know the grandparents are terrible people and the woman is probably done for, but you keep watching because the acting is strong, and the characters are compelling. The director sets up some terrifying set pieces despite never leaving the house. You may not want to leave your house after this one either.
The Dark and the Wicked (2020) – Dark. Wicked. No two words better describe this movie. It will have you tensely grabbing the side of the couch. But don’t seek relief with the pause button. This is why you’re here. A son and daughter return to their family farm to take care of their ailing mother. They start to realize a dark presence has settled over the farm. This one is not for the weak. If you like the feeling of dread and unease, turn down the lights, settle in, and get a good grip on that elbow rest.
The Mortuary Collection (2020) – Not all horror has to be dark and wicked. The Mortuary Collection is no less horror but takes a different approach to scaring you. It’s about a young girl who seeks work at a mortuary. The eccentric mortician, played by the always-incredible Clancy Brown, hires her and takes her, through a series of stories about their small town’s history. This is a great Halloween movie. It’s fun, dark, weird, and will keep you guessing about where it’s going.
In Search of Darkness (2019) – I’m nostalgic for 1980’s horror movies. This documentary celebrates the era with clips, interviews, and inside stories from actors, directors, producers, critics, and film historians. The nearly four-hour doc is something you can watch in portions. It goes year-by-year through the eighties, looking at the era’s impact on moviemaking, themes from the era, and why we love the horror. In Search of Darkness is great to have on in the background anytime this Halloween season.
The Ghoul Log (2021) – A better option for October ambiance may be The Ghoul Log. Each year Shudder streams a recorded jack-o’-lantern sitting on a dark porch. Last year’s pumpkin had a few scary surprises in the background. From what I saw, this year’s stream is all pumpkin—making it about the only thing on Shudder that is family-friendly.
Deep Red (1975) – This is a definitive giallo—which is a subgenre of horror that rose to prominence during the 70’s, defined by its stylistic sets, music, killings, characters, and dime store plots. It’s fun stuff. Deep Red is about a psychic who reads the mind of her killer hours before it happens. A British jazz pianist, who sees the murder, sets out to discover who is behind it. This giallo stands out because of its clever kills, slick art style, and its kick-ass soundtrack from Italian prog rockers Goblin.
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If I’ve overlooked any new horror classics that are available now on these apps, please let me know on my twitter feed @temujinbk. There’s a chance I may have missed a gem.
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