Scariest movies streaming as noted philosopher Danny Elfman once wrote(opens in a new tab), “Tender lumplings everywhere / Life’s no good without a good scare.” But why stop at just one good scare? We want scares spilling on us like blood rain(opens in a new tab), especially here in the abundant days of home-streaming services. We live in a world where with the push of a single button we can switch from sightless cave-dudes swinging off stalactites to Broadway veteran Tammy Blanchard wielding a butcher knife like nobody’s business.
Indeed whether your preference is for slasher-killers or devil-girls or something uncannily in between, there’s too much blood-curdling content to choose from nowadays. So we’ve gone and sliced and diced the crowd down for you. Narrowing the entirety of what’s available to one unforgettable collection of spine-tinglers, this list here has got something ghoulish for every soul — as long as you’re ready to not sleep tonight… or ever again!
1. Scariest movies streaming – The Descent
Experiencing Neil Marshall’s spelunking nightmare The Descent in the cinema was truly a singular experience, especially if you had no idea you were in for a nasty little thriller about six female friends who reunite one year after a tragedy to explore a underground cave system together — as you do — only for it all to go terribly horribly wrong — as it does! The theater walls themselves seemed to close in on you as the film grew tighter, more constricted and claustrophobic, and that was even before any of those creepy crawlers showed up.
However, even at home, the film still plays like gangbusters. Just wrap a blanket over your head and turn off all the lights, and you will feel like you’re right there in the Bava-esque(opens in a new tab) underground alongside former besties Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) and Juno (Natalie Mendoza), third-wheel Beth (Alex Reid), sisters Rebecca (Saskia Mulder) and Sam (MyAnna Buring), and who could forget the smidge too enthusiastic Holly (Nora-Jane Noone), as the walls close in and the blackness starts blinking, then biting, back.
2. The Queen of Black Magic
Some of the best horror happening in the world right now is coming out of Indonesia. While I don’t want to say it’s all due to one man, you would be remiss not knowing the name Joko Anwar. Two of his recent directorial efforts, Satan’s Slaves(opens in a new tab) from 2017 and Impetigore(opens in a new tab) from 2019, are streaming on Shudder, and they’re both highly recommended — the latter has one of the greatest, freakiest opening sequences to a horror film I’ve seen in some time. But for sheer scare factor, I’m recommending instead a movie that Anwar only wrote the script for, with Kimo Stamboel directing.
The Queen of Black Magic is a rollicking rollercoaster of a horror flick about a group of relatives and friends who’ve gone home to the rural orphanage where they were raised to say their goodbyes to their sickly caretaker, only to find that things at the orphanage have gone a little haywire. It’s the sort of bonkers throw-out-all-the-stops ride that brings to mind Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films or Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s Hausu(opens in a new tab). It throws everything at you, and I do mean everything. By the time a character starts stuffing fistfuls of furry caterpillars into their mouth, you’ll be the one crawling up the walls to escape.
3. Scariest movies streaming – Threads
There are loads of legitimately terrifying TV movies from back in the heyday of the format. (Ghostwatch and Salem’s Lot both pop straight to mind!) But none will leave you shuddering in the corner in shock quite like 1984’s BBC-produced nuclear war horror Threads.
Directed by Mick Jackson, the man who also somehow gave the world the scarf-light pleasures of The Bodyguard and L.A. Story (human beings sure contain multitudes, huh?), Threads dropped on the unsuspecting populace of Great Britain on September 23, 1984, like, well, several megaton bombs. And it’s been melting our faces off ever since. Aiming for as much realism as they could achieve at the time, what the film lacks in modern whizz-bang special effects it more than makes up in dire nihilism, despair, and oodles of unrelenting cruelty piled on every single character that it spent its first hour kindly introducing. (Mum!) It’s a disaster movie for those who snark at the outrageously unlikely happy endings that the genre typically embraces — Threads ain’t playing around.
4. The Blair Witch Project
There were plenty of found footage horror films before Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s The Blair Witch Project, like Cannibal Holocaust(opens in a new tab), The McPherson Tape(opens in a new tab), and the aforementioned Ghostwatch. But this wicked indie is very much the line in the sand, the Anno Domini come-to-Jesus moment for the genre if you will. It’s not even for me the widely celebrated extra-textual elements, like the website and word-of-mouth about its filmmakers, Heather and Josh and Mike, really being missing people.
The scares are right there onscreen, starting with the willowy whispers about horse-hair-fingers(opens in a new tab) from interviewee slash legendary weirdo Mary Brown; the screams echoing in the forest in the middle of the night; the children’s handprints up and down the hallways of that fateful shack in the woods. Images that have haunted viewers for decades now, and still unsettle when they suddenly start popping up on social media timelines come Halloween-time.
Mileage obviously varies on this film. Lots of naysayers see nothing scary about snot and little piles of twigs. But for those who are disciples of found footage, this is where lots of us learned how to worship the ways of the shaky cam. Bow down to that feisty Blair Witch!
5. Scariest movies streaming – Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
The greatest serial killer movie of all time is Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, and that movie is streaming on Amazon Prime(opens in a new tab) right now. Have at it. But the scariest serial killer movie of all time is another beast altogether — with the sincerest apologies to Buffalo Bill and his lil Precious.
This dubious honor belongs to John McNaughton’s relentlessly bleak Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, which is inspired by the real-life gruesome twosome Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole. It is Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange with all of the humor and the sheen lasered off, leaving a simple bloody pit of filth and despair in its wake. Turning the viewer themselves into Henry’s ride-or-die, it’s like the shower clean-up scene from Psycho stretched out to one hour and 23 minutes. How far is the audience willing to empathize and commiserate with a cold-blooded psychopath? No matter how far you make it, we can only promise you that you’ll feel worse about yourself in the morning. \