Whether you’re venturing out this Halloween or sheltering in place as the pandemic continues, there is no better way to celebrate the holiday than with some popcorn, a rubber skeleton, perhaps some cotton cobwebs, and a great scary movie or two.
For those watching their pennies, we’ve selected a wide range of slashers and moody, spooky chillers, all available to stream for free, either on ad-based services like Tubi, Vudu, Roku, Redbox, Pluto TV, and others, or the public library-based services Hoopla and Kanopy. Stay safe this Halloween, but also: be afraid… be very afraid.
Updated October 26 2021 with 15 additional movie recommendations now available on free streaming services. Our previous 15 picks—starting with Alice, Sweet Alice—follow immediately after.
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After Mario Bava and Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci is the third Italian horror master, and likely the goriest of the three. His movie The Beyond (1981) received a theatrical re-release in 1998 when Quentin Tarantino singled it out for his Rolling Thunder distribution wing, and it still packs a great, gory, nightmarish punch. It captures a strong sense of the unreal, helped in large part by the crazy score by Fabio Frizzi. The story concerns an old New Orleans hotel. Liza (Catriona MacColl) inherits it and decides to fix it up, but weird things keep happening, and people keep dying.
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Without giving away too much, it turns out that the hotel sits atop one of the doors to hell itself! There are gouged eyeballs and zombies, but also mysterious rooms and secret books; Fulci combines a kind of arty, creepy tone with his shocking, bloody, garish gore effects. Look for the director in two cameos; walking by, reflected in a large mirror, and in a library talking about labor issues and lunch breaks.
The Blair Witch Project
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In its day, it was a huge hit, much written-about, and has inspired a legion of hand-held, “found-footage” horror films that persist to this day. But Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s The Blair Witch Project (1999) is still a scary and inventive story about spooky stuff lurking in the dark. Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams play “themselves,” a trio of filmmakers heading out to the backwoods of Maryland to make a documentary about the infamous “Blair Witch.” The movie includes their black-and-white film from their “official” documentary, and color video of their quest. Unfortunately they get lost in the woods and can’t seem to find any landmarks. Sticks are mysteriously moved around, and other sinister signs of a malevolent presence turn up.
Part of the movie’s legend is that many people believed that what they were watching was real, though it’s certainly not. Truthfully, the movie is made more in the tradition of Val Lewton’s 1940s “B”-movie classics, wherein the horror is more suggested than actually seen, and our imaginations provide chills far more powerful than any camera lens could.
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Horror writer Clive Barker made huge waves in the 1980s with the release of his seminal three-volume collection of short stories, The Books of Blood, and it wasn’t long before movies based on his work followed. While the Hellraiser movies are the most notable, Candyman (1992) has also held up quite well, thanks to its sophisticated filmmaking and thoughtful casting, and especially its high-class music score by Philip Glass.
Virginia Madsen plays Helen Lyle, a sociology student researching urban legends. She goes to a graffiti-ridden housing project to investigate the legend of the Candyman; it is whispered that if you say his name five times while looking in a mirror, he will appear and kill you. Of course, someone tries it. Kasi Lemmons, who went on to become a director, plays Helen’s skeptical friend Bernadette, and Tony Todd has become something of a horror icon for his suave performance as the title character. (The 2021 remake is surprisingly good too!)
Curse of the Demon
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Many years after making his masterful horror films at RKO with producer Val Lewton, director Jacques Tourneur returned to monster movies with Curse of the Demon (1957); its original title was Night of the Demon, changed for the U.S. release, and it’s still listed under both titles. Based on a short story by M.R. James, the movie tells the story of American professor John Holden (Dana Andrews), who crosses paths with one Dr. Karswell (Niall MacGinnis); the latter is able to predict the date of a person’s death by passing a special parchment.
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According to legend, Tourneur didn’t want to show the title demon—who comes for anyone that has touched the parchment—but the creature in the movie is actually scary fun. Even better are Tourneur’s creepily atmosphere scenes (a children’s Halloween party) and images (the parchment blowing away and seeking the nearest fireplace). The wonderful Peggy Cummins (Gun Crazy) co-stars as Joanna, who becomes tangled up in the terror.
Day of the Dead
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George A. Romero was, of course, the father of the modern zombie film, but he was also a great talent; even his non-zombie films are worth seeking out. Here, however, is his third official “Dead” film, following Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978). Viciously underrated in its day, Day of the Dead (1985) takes place largely in a heavily armored underground military bunker, where trained soldiers uneasily share space with civilians and scientists. There is much arguing over staying safe or rushing into danger, and over studying the zombies or killing them.
Dr. Logan (Richard Liberty) experiments on a zombie called “Bub” (Sherman Howard), attempting to get him to recognize repeated behavior patterns. Romero always has a little something to say about the world in his zombie films, and this time the failings of the humans lead to a full-scale zombie invasion. John Harrison’s synthesizer score is a thing of true beauty and dread.
The Dead Zone
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Like Brian De Palma, Tobe Hooper, George A. Romero, John Carpenter, and Stanley Kubrick, the great director David Cronenberg once took a crack at filming a Stephen King novel. Christopher Walken stars, in one his best leading performances, as schoolteacher Johnny Smith, who is happily in love with Sarah (Brooke Adams). After a nasty car crash, Johnny falls into a coma and wakes up five years later. Not only is Sarah married to another man, but Johnny finds he has a new kind of psychic ability; he can see the future of anyone he touches. He tries to retreat into a life of quiet, but terrifying visions of an up-and-coming politician (Martin Sheen) begin to haunt him, and he decides to take action.
The Dead Zone (1983) is a solid piece of genre work, entertaining and highly effective, and perhaps even relevant in its political commentary. Even though it was a “job-for-hire” for Cronenberg, it was one of his most successful and acclaimed films.
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John Fawcett’s Ginger Snaps (2001) attempted to modernize the idea of the teenage werewolf, making it more nuanced and carnal. The Fitzgerald sisters are teen outcasts who love to stage bloody tableaus of carnage and photograph them. Older sister Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) gets her first period and is then bitten by a werewolf. So, paired with the changes already happening in her body, she must contend with new changes that include extra body hair (and a tail!).
Ginger also becomes more and more alienated from her younger sister Brigitte (Emily Perkins); Brigitte begins hanging around with a drug dealer, Sam (Kris Lemche), who may have an idea for a cure. The movie’s climax takes place on Halloween night—and Fawcett perfectly captures a crisp, autumn feeling—making it perfect seasonal viewing.
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It’s just not Halloween without John Carpenter’s innovative and startling masterpiece Halloween (1978), or at least without a blast from the legendary synthesizer score he composed himself (in, apparently, three days). Carpenter’s sinister widescreen cinematography takes advantage of the straight-cut suburban landscape, using tall shrubbery or clotheslines as deceptions, and its concept of a killer of pure, simple evil—known as “The Shape” as well as Michael Myers—still strikes a dark chord.
Jamie Lee Curtis is the iconic “final girl” Laurie Strode; Donald Pleasence is Dr. Loomis, full of foreboding; and P.J. Soles is the flirty Lynda. The film is essential viewing, and while its many sequels are not quite as essential, they do still offer a measure of fun. The twelfth movie in the series, Halloween Kills, is in theaters now. (Also recommended: Carpenter’s Christine, on Pluto TV, and Prince of Darkness, on Peacock.)
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Perhaps the best horror movie of 2018 was this debut feature by Ari Aster (whose 2019 Midsommar is also pretty great). Hereditary (2018) focuses on the Graham family, Annie (Toni Collette), her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), son Peter (Alex Wolff), and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro), after the death of Annie’s mother. Annie begins seeing strange things and sleepwalking, and, after a tragic accident, Peter does too. A mysterious woman (Ann Dowd) suggests a séance and things get even weirder.
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Aster directs this clammy, creeping movie with suggestions of classics like Poltergeist and Rosemary’s Baby, but goes in fresh directions, especially with the alarming sound design; you’ll never hear a simple tongue-click in the same way again. Annie’s elaborate miniature sculptures add to the sense of disorientation, and in the role, Collette gives a great, volcanic, panic-slicked performance. (She deserved, but was not nominated for, an Oscar.)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
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Even though this was a remake of a much-loved 1956 film, Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) is still considered a classic of its time, and one of the director’s best films. It’s also one of the very best films to be entirely shot in San Francisco. The movie is seen as a kind of farewell to the “peace-n-love” generation, and all the characters, as they try to avoid being turned into alien “pod people,” are slightly disreputable. Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams are health inspectors who find rat droppings in restaurant kitchens. Jeff Goldblum is a paranoid writer, and his wife (Veronica Cartwright) runs a mud bath health spa. None other than Leonard Nimoy plays a quack psychologist who tries to tell everyone that they’re imagining things.
Kaufman’s city is made of cold, inhuman plastic and metal, juxtaposed with the hideous living green of the pods. And screenwriter W.D. “Rick” Richter brilliantly explains the logic of the pod transformations without revealing the film’s underlying agendas. Look for Don Siegel and Kevin McCarthy, director and actor from the 1956 version, in cameos, as well as Robert Duvall as a priest.
The Mummy (1932)
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Its title and poster might conjure up images of a terrifying zombie-like monster, clad in bandages, shambling toward its victims and rending them to pieces. But the classic Universal monster movie The Mummy (1932) is instead a quiet, moody film, more of a romance. Boris Karloff, fresh from Frankenstein, stars as Imhotep, a disgraced 3,700-year-old thief who is brought back to life, and seeks to do the same with his true love, currently reincarnated as Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann).
Karloff is mostly seen in human form, with a subtle wrinkle effect on his face, and the actor gives a graceful, poetic performance, with just a touch of pity in it. (The movie’s main flaw is that the rest of the cast are dull next to him.) The director was Karl Freund, a legendary cinematographer on German Expressionist films like Metropolis, as well as on the earlier Universal monster movie Dracula. Freund’s elegant lighting and compositions create an eerie mood rather than shocks.
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One of the best-loved of all the “found footage” horror movies that have dominated the market in recent years, the Spanish language [REC] (2007)—short for “record,” as seen on a video camera—can easily make one seasick, or perhaps merely queasy. Manuela Velasco stars as the feisty, spunky journalist Angela—in pigtails and a white tank top—who, with her cameraman Pablo, is covering the night shift at a fire station for a documentary TV series.
They are called to help an old woman in an apartment building, and they soon find that they are trapped, quarantined for some mysterious reason. As the night drags on, the reasons become less mysterious as certain people start turning into zombies! Co-directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza unfold their story over a tight, tense 75 minutes, using the hand-held camera to create an atmosphere of immediacy, and never wasting an opportunity to ramp up the sense of panic, or provide a brutal scare. A big hit, it inspired an immediate American remake, Quarantine (2008), as well as several sequels.
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Dario Argento is probably the most famous of all the Italian horror directors, and Suspiria (1977) is arguably his masterpiece. Picking up where Mario Bava left off, Argento bathes his widescreen film in extremely bold, shocking colors, making everything seem like a vivid, pinwheel, lollipop nightmare. Jessica Harper plays the new girl, Suzy Bannion, at a prestigious German dance academy. Things don’t seem quite right, especially when maggots begin raining down from the ceiling. But that’s only the beginning.
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The great Joan Bennett (Scarlet Street) plays the director of the school (it was her last film), and Alida Valli (The Third Man) plays one of the teachers, while cult character actor Udo Kier is on hand as a psychologist. The band Goblin provided the astoundingly unsettling score, often considered to be one of the best horror soundtracks of all time. This was the first of a trilogy for Argento, called the “Three Mothers,” and including Inferno (1980) and Mother of Tears (2007).
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
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The late, great Tobe Hooper was unquestionably one of the masters of horror, but this, his best known film, is a masterpiece and a cultural landmark. Upon its release, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)—sometimes spelled with “Chain Saw” as two words—thrilled audiences and appalled many others. Some thought it signaled the beginning of a new era, while others believed it foresaw end of the world. It has lost little of its primal power.
A group of young people on a road trip pick up a weird and scary hitchhiker, then run low on gas and find a house in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, the house is occupied by a family of cannibals, including the famous Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen). Hooper uses bright sunlight to achieve a new kind of horror previously achieved by darkness and shadows. The sense of heat and even smell here is palpable. Additionally, his startling use of sound was a revelation at the time; star Marilyn Burns is still considered the greatest screamer in the history of movies.
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For his excellent feature debut, The Witch (2016), writer and director Robert Eggers did copious amounts of research, making sure that dialogue, sets, costumes, and everything else about his 17th-century tale were as authentic as possible. The result is not so much a feeling of being transported to another time, but to another state of mind. In this world, witches are believed to be real—no question. All horror cliches involving disbelief and carelessness are gone. These characters live in actual fear.
In New England, a Puritan family is banished and sets up their own isolated farm near a spooky woods. Life is already hard, and then one day, while eldest daughter Thomasin (the astonishing Anya Taylor-Joy) is looking after the baby, it suddenly disappears, possibly taken by a witch. More crazy things begin to happen, and the family members begin to suspect each other of being under the influence of witchcraft. The gloomy atmosphere and eerie music is more haunting than it is flat-out scary, but this fascinating movie still subtly suggests parallels to life today, and, unlike many horror films, it demands thinking about.
What follows are Jeff’s previous 15 best movies to stream for free this Halloween season.
Alice, Sweet Alice
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Alfred Sole’s Alice Sweet Alice (1976) should have catapulted its maker into the annals of horror, but the movie suffered from terrible luck. It was a flop when it was first released as Communion, and then actress Brooke Shields, who, at age 12 is in the movie for about 20 minutes, became a huge star for her blue jeans adds. So, the distributors changed the title and raised Shields’ name above the title, trying this gambit more than once; needless to say, viewers were nonplussed.
But Sole’s film, viewed in its restored director’s cut, is an incredible piece of work, a brilliantly sustained, canny use of color, sound, mood, and tension. There’s a mysterious killer in a yellow raincoat and a creepy, translucent mask, a little girl blamed for the killings, and a rash of very strange, off-kilter characters. Though Shields’ role is small, her angelic presence is important, given that she’s the kindest character in the story. (She’s the soul of the movie, really.) Enthusiastic critics and filmmakers at the time proclaimed Sole the next Hitchcock or Polanski, but he only made two more films after this.
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Spending most of his career on low-budget horror films, the Italian filmmaker Mario Bava was nonetheless one of the greatest stylists and one of the most intuitive directors in history. He began as a cinematographer, learning how to light and move the camera before making his directing debut with this exceptional horror film. Based, more or less, on a Nikolai Gogol story, and originally titled La maschera del demonio (The Mask of Satan), Black Sunday (1960) tells the story of a 17th century witch (Barbara Steele) who is sentenced to death, and a mask of spikes is hammered into her face. Two centuries later, two travelers (Andrea Checchi and John Richardson) accidentally revive her, and then meet the beautiful Katia (Steele again), who lives in a creepy castle nearby.
The plot, which eventually involves blood-drinking vampires as much as it does witches, isn’t exactly air-tight, but Bava’s incredible black-and-white moods and rhythms more than make up for it; many images from this film are not easy to forget. This is the English-language version, which is slightly different from Bava’s cut and contains a musical score by Les Baxter. (Also seek out Bava’s Black Sabbath, Blood and Black Lace, and Bay of Blood.)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
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Robert Wiene’s essential The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) is an unquestionable landmark in cinema, influencing everyone from Murnau and Lang to Hollywood filmmakers of the 1940s. Rather than attempting to capture “realism,” which was the general method of the time, Wiene went the opposite route, slathering the screen with forced perspectives and all kinds of bizarre diagonals and slants; there is hardly a right angle to be found in this film. It results in vivid, dreamlike logic and a terrifying lack of control.
Werner Krauss stars as the doctor, who enters a carnival with his main attraction, a somnambulist (Conrad Veidt) who predicts people’s deaths, and might well be the cause of same. When his best friend is found murdered, Francis (Friedrich Feher) immediately suspects Caligari and sets out to prove his hunch. A prologue and epilogue were apparently added over Wiene’s objections to lessen the overall impact of the film’s sheer, unrelenting madness.
Carnival of Souls
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This moody classic has fallen into the public domain, but at least some of the streaming services offer a nicely restored transfer. Director “Herk” Harvey had been a maker of industrial films when he decided to craft a horror feature in the style of Ingmar Bergman and Jean Cocteau, and Carnival of Souls (1962) was the result.
Shot in black and white with a sinister, nightmare-inducing, organ-driven music score, it tells the story of Mary (the method-acting-trained Candace Hilligoss), the only survivor of a terrible car crash, who accepts a job as a church organist. She begins seeing things, like a strange ghoul man standing outside her car window (while the car is moving) and other freaky things in an abandoned carnival. It’s more of a triumph of nightmare logic than of storytelling, but it’s unsettling and spooky enough to have established a cult following. Even George A. Romero was a fan; it inspired him to make Night of the Living Dead.
Dark Water (2002)
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Japanese director Hideo Nakata is perhaps best known for his 1998 Ringu (also available to stream free on Tubi), but his Dark Water (2002) is equally effective, if not more relevant (who’s afraid of a lil ol’ videotape these days anyway?). Based on a short story by Koji Suzuki, this ghost story begins when a mother, Yoshimi (Hitomi Kuroki), in the middle of a messy divorce, moves into a cheap apartment with her young daughter, Ikuko (Rio Kanno). Water stains appear on the ceiling and slowly grow worse. A mysterious red bag appears, and then re-appears. Then things get really scary.
Nakata plays with the idea of creeping, dripping water not as a life-giver or a cleanser, but as a deadly force; the film is like a darker, wetter Psycho shower scene. Jennifer Connelly starred in a 2005 American remake, which, it goes without saying, isn’t nearly as good.
Dead of Night
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Dead of Night (1945) was not the first horror anthology movie, but it is routinely cited as the best, and it has lost none of its power to terrify. Mervyn Johns plays a man who decides to spend a weekend in the country after being plagued by a nightmare. There, he is shocked to meet several people he has previously seen in his dream. They all begin telling stories, ranging from a silly one about two golfers, to two supremely spooky ones about a haunted mirror and a ventriloquist’s dummy. Another one takes place at a children’s Christmas party! There are five stories in all, plus the wraparound and a jaw-dropping ending.
Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Robert Hamer, and Basil Dearden, this English film has had a troubled past, with segments chopped out for various releases and falling out of print, but it has been recently restored to its full glory, with beautiful image and sound.
The Exorcist III
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The original author of The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty, wrote and directed this movie based on his own 1983 novel Legion. It has little to do with the original film—there’s no green vomit—and takes things in a new, more intellectual direction. It ignores the events of the ill-fated Exorcist II: The Heretic and follows a character from the original film, Lt. Kinderman (once played by Lee J. Cobb and now played by George C. Scott). He is investigating brutal beheadings that seem to have been committed by the executed “Gemini Killer” (based loosely on the real-life Zodiac Killer).
The clues lead Kinderman to an asylum and a mysterious, but familiar patient (Jason Miller), as well as one of the most memorable scares in recent movie history. Brad Dourif (the voice of “Chucky”) co-stars in another sinister role, and Samuel L. Jackson has a small cameo as a blind man. As with many horror movies, it was scorned upon its release, but is worthy of a second chance.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
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Ana Lily Amirpour’s amazing A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) was described as “the first Iranian vampire Western,” although it’s not like any vampire movie you’ve ever seen, it has only the most cursory elements of a Western, and it’s not actually from Iran. (Director Amirpour lives in the United States, but the film is presented in Persian with English subtitles.)
The story takes place in Bad City, which is populated with drug dealers and other shady characters. Handsome Arash (Arash Marandi), who wears a tight, white t-shirt and drives a 1957 Thunderbird, meets a mysterious girl (Sheila Vand), who glides spookily along the night streets on a stolen skateboard, with her long black hijab acting like a Count’s cape. Shot in black-and-white, some scenes go by wordlessly, or enhanced with pop songs; some scenes are funny or spooky or dreamy, and sometimes all three at once. This is the kind of movie that die-hard cinephiles used to discover and would dare their friends to see.
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In the 1980s, Clive Barker’s short story collections, the Books of Blood, left horror fans gobsmacked. It wasn’t long before he turned to movies, writing and directing this adaptation of his own 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart. His film Hellraiser (1987) proved that he was as imaginative and spellbinding behind the camera as he was on the page. There is a puzzle box, and if you solve it, you unleash monsters called the Cenobites. One of these is “Pinhead,” the movie’s most iconic character. A man (Sean Chapman) who has been captured by the Cenobites finds that when his family members accidentally spill blood on the floor of his home, he is restored to life. But he needs more blood to be brought back to normal. Unfortunately, at the same time, his niece (Ashley Laurence) has herself found the puzzle box.
Barker’s effort is serious, more inspired by Argento, Bava, and Fulci than by the more humorous or slasher-related efforts of the day, and it’s a powerful debut. After only two other features (Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions), Barker became disillusioned with the movie business and went back to writing.
The House of the Devil
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Written and directed by Ti West, The House of the Devil takes place in the 1980s, complete with feathered hair and Walkman radios. But it begins like a 1970s horror classic, with a grainy look, chilly autumn weather, and a freeze-frame title card. Yet the new film miraculously manages to avoid most of the formula horror chestnuts that have become prevalent since then. It starts relaxed and assured, with pretty Samantha (Jocelin Donahue), who needs cash to move into her own place. She finds a flyer for a babysitting job, but all is not as it seems. The job is actually looking after an old lady in a creepy house, while the owners (Tom Noonan, from Manhunter, and genre legend Mary Woronov) are away doing something related to a full lunar eclipse.
Almost nothing scary happens during the first two-thirds of The House of the Devil (2009), and yet it’s absolutely riveting, an expert building and layering of suspense out of little more than a blank slate. Dee Wallace, from E.T. and Cujo co-stars, as does future director Greta Gerwig.
The Love Witch
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Several movies lately have tried to pay tribute to that special kind of bold, pastel-colored European horror film of the 1970s, but only Anna Biller’s The Love Witch (2016) is so authentic it seems to have arrived as if via a time capsule. It’s so thoroughly steeped in its design that no hint of the modern day comes through (it was shot on honest-to-goodness 35mm film).
It’s a long movie, sometimes bizarre and unsettling, but frequently sexy and mesmerizing, thanks mainly to the presence of Samantha Robinson as Elaine, the title witch. She decides she wants to find her ideal mate, moves to California, rents a room in a Victorian house, and begins casting spells. But these prove too much for a teacher, a cop, and a married man to handle. The movie’s satirical look at male and female roles and mores is the only thing that seems out of the 21st century, but refreshingly so; Biller brilliantly uses the genre format to sprinkle her discourse with a little fun.
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Although its technology might be a tad outdated, this film from Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to Akira) is perhaps the most flat-out terrifying movie of the 21st century. In Pulse (2001)—also known as Kairo—a woman goes to the home of a colleague to find out why he has been missing work and to retrieve an important disc. She speaks to him, turns to his desk, turns back, and he’s suddenly dead. On the disc is an image of his computer desktop, telescoped into infinity. Later, another man tries to connect his computer to the internet for the first time, and is immediately taken to a website that asks, “Do you want to see a ghost?”
Before long, people begin seeing things or disappearing, while others seal their doors with red tape to block out malevolent forces. Kurosawa forgoes dumb jump scares and roots his horror in things that can exist—or hide—in a single frame; he’s a master of space and rhythm. He’s not interested in drawing a concrete conclusion to the terror, but would rather leave us with questions about connections between humans and/or computers. Kurosawa’s frequent leading man Koji Yakusho appears in a small role here. Beware the 2006 American remake with Kristen Bell.
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This great film, written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven, not only re-invigorated Craven’s career as a horror master, but it also kickstarted the entire horror genre, making it a box-office contender once again. The simple, yet brilliant idea behind Scream (1996) is that it’s set in a world where horror movies exist, and characters can learn from the mistakes of their fictional predecessors. And yet, surprises still await in the form of a new masked slasher (and it’s worth seeing more than once).
Drew Barrymore stars in the movie’s opener, quizzed on her favorite scary movies by an unknown caller, and then David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, and Neve Campbell as “final girl” Sidney Prescott, take over. The first two sequels, both worth seeing, are also available on Pluto TV for a horrific triple feature.
A Tale of Two Sisters
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This freaky chiller from Korea, directed by Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the Devil), will seriously mess with your head. Teen Su-mi (Im Soo-jung) is released from a mental institution and arrives home with her younger sister, Su-yeon (Moon Geun-young), their father (Kim Kap-soo) and their stepmother Eun-joo (Yum Jung-ah).
Su-mi immediately distrusts Eun-joo, having discovered that she was a nurse who took care of the sisters’ late mother. Worse, she begins to suspect that Eun-joo has been abusing her sister. But nothing is quite as it seems in A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), which keeps up its suspense in a series of unsettlingly weird, head-scratching scenes, featuring potential ghosts, a large bag stuffed with something bloody, a mysterious closet, and other puzzles. Avoid the 2009 American remake The Uninvited.
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This horror film from South Korea sports a daunting 156-minute running time, but once started, it establishes a fascinating rhythm that never lets up. The Wailing (2016) begins almost as a comedy, as a bumbling cop Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won) shows up at the scene of a gruesome murder; it seems to have been caused by a spreading sickness, possibly perpetrated by mushrooms, and a mysterious, reclusive Japanese man (Jun Kunimura) might also be connected to the crime.
Joon-goo finds a possible witness, a young woman, Moo-myeong (Chun Woo-hee), but she disappears. Then, his own daughter grows ill and begins behaving alarmingly. He hires a shaman (Hwang Jung-min), who begins performing rituals, but things only grow worse. Eventually, it becomes difficult to tell who is telling the truth, which forces are trying to help, and which are trying to harm. But the suspense of it is deliciously exciting. Director Na Hong-jin keeps a miraculous balance between tones; it’s more than just a typical horror movie. It has some monsters, ghosts, malevolent beings and spirits, and even some blood, but it’s more of a mystery, and a family crisis, with moments set aside for a few chuckles, and for reflection.