35 Actually Terrifying Scary Movies to Watch for Halloween
It's Halloween, and that means it's time for scary movies. Thanks to streaming video services, there are now almost as many ghoulish and gory options as pumpkin snacks to easily consume. But too many offerings are of a cheesy, B-movie grade. For a truly terrifying time, the classics are the way to go. In this spirit, we present 35 surefire bets and how to watch them right now.
A group of teens is stalked—and slowly picked off, one by one—by a masked and hooded killer who just happens to have an obsession with horror movies. Sure, it's partially a postmodern satire of '80s slasher movies with a crew of '90s heartthrobs, but at its core Scream is still one of the scariest movies ever made thanks to the direction from horror master Wes Craven.
In Jennifer Kent's gothic Australian thriller, a young widow is burdened with her troubled six-year-old son. But it only gets worse for the beleaguered mother when the titular character of her son's picture book—the tall, top hat-wearing spook named the Babadook—begins to creep beyond the pages of his book and wreaks havoc on the mother and son.
Six adventurous women go into the dark depths of a unmapped cave in North Carolina, hoping for a fun trek through the darkness. But their mountain vacation is disrupted when they discover that they aren't the only ones in the cave, which also happens to be full of flesh-eating humanoid monsters who hunt them women down.
Annie thinks she's found a nice guy in her new boyfriend, but after they have sex he reveals that he's being stalked with an unnamed evil—which will now hunt her down until she can pass "it" onto the next person she sleeps with. The moody, retro-inspired horror film is a modern classic with an unsettling, unimaginable monster that our heroine must outsmart.
A young black photographer (Daniel Kaluuya) joins his perky white girlfriend (Allison Williams) for a visit to her Obama-supporting parents' home and discovers that liberals can't be trusted any more than Ku Klux Klan members.
It's hard to pull off the children-from-hell movie, which makes it all the more remarkable how beautifully this Austrian thriller unspools the mystery of twin boys (who for some unknown reason are always wearing matching tank tops) and their mother whose face is disguised in bandages and may not be their mother.
Eyes Without a Face
In the very literally titled French art-horror classic, a famous and unhinged surgeon kidnaps beautiful women and tries to transplant their faces onto his daughter who is, yes, missing a face.
Last House on the Left
Craven was one of a few masters of horror who plumbed the depths of America's Vietnam War-era cultural divides in this grimy, arty thriller about two teenage girls who encounter escaped prisoners in the big city—and how the tables get violently turned.
In the most disturbing allegory for childbearing gone wrong, Mia Farrow's Rosemary becomes increasingly panicked about her painful pregnancy and the mysterious neighbors in a building with a history of Satanism.
The House of the Devil
A college student (Jocelin Donahue) reluctantly accepts a babysitting job from a total creep (great character actor Tom Noonan), only to find that everything is wrong in his house.
Nicole Kidman lives in a country house shielded from sunlight with her kids, who say they've seen ghosts. Soon she starts seeing things, too, but not quite what you expect.
William Friedkin's demonic-possession masterpiece is beautifully made, well acted, and scary as hell. Simply put, there's no better film to watch—for the first time, or for the 100th—very late at night, with the lights off, by yourself.
Night of the Living Dead
It created the modern zombie genre, and its fondness for sociopolitical echoes. But even more than that legacy, George A. Romero's low-budget black-and-white original proved that you don't need money to create a horror classic; you just need braiiiiiiiins.
John Carpenter's bogeyman slasher nightmare spawned a legion of inferior sequels that couldn't diminish the ominous power of his original, about a psychopath who returns to his hometown years later to don a misshaped William Shatner mask and stalk Jamie Lee Curtis.
Arguably the scariest film of all time, Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's bestseller generates terror from its meticulous filmmaking. And, courtesy of Jack Nicholson's turn as a murderous paterfamilias, it also features the most memorable horror-movie performance in the past few decades.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
The story of a child molester who returns from the dead to prey upon his killers' children in dreams, Wes Craven's seminal shocker recognizes that you're never more vulnerable than when asleep.
Its sequel may boast grander man-vs.-beast action, but Ridley Scott's gorgeous 1979 outer-space saga about a group of astronauts battling against a malevolent extraterrestrial is still the franchise's most deeply frightening installment.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Ignore all the remakes, remake sequels, and remake prequels, and stick with Tobe Hooper's original 1974 grindhouser, about a slightly unhinged hippie-hating family with a house notable for its giant meet hooks, human bone furniture, and slammable slaughterhouse metal doors.
A cautionary tale about the perils of stealing from your boss—and, also, about staying at roadside motels run by mamma's boys—Alfred Hitchcock's 1961 gem still retains its power to get under the skin.
Christian Bale is a yuppie with a taste for axe-wielding mayhem in Mary Harron's wicked black-comedy adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel, which, among other things, recognizes that nothing is quite as bloodcurdling as the sound of Huey Lewis and the News.
The Evil Dead
Its sequel may improve upon its gonzo-insanity attitude, but Sam Raimi's 1981 indie debut—about a group of kids who unleash demonic forces while staying at a remote cabin in the woods—produces greater anxiety.
The only thing scarier than facing off against a hideous intergalactic monster is facing off against one that has the ability to shape-shift into human form—a who's-the-creature scenario that director John Carpenter employs for intense suspense (with some great, gross special effects).
Japanese director Takeshi Miike is infamous for pushing the boundaries of good taste, though he's rarely delivered more extreme tension than with this 1999 film about a man who discovers that dating can be a deadly affair.
Let the Right One
In A young outcast boy meets, and falls in love with, a young immortal bloodsucker in this superb 1980-set Swedish vampire romance from Tomas Alfredson, which climaxes with an unforgettable pool sequence
Do not take other people's children as your own, and then name them Damien. And if you do, always remember to check their scalps for "666" birthmarks. These and other life lessons are offered up by The Omen, a return-of-Satan story that's as scary as it is educational.
Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho's 2006 film is a fantastic, Spielbergian tale of a South Korean family under siege from an extraordinary foe—namely, a giant sea monster created from toxic dumping.
Blending horror and comedy with aplomb, this Stuart Gordon adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's famous short story concerns a medical student (the great Jeffrey Combs) determined to perfect the science of resurrection.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Michael Rooker is a serial killer whose crimes don't warrant much attention from the powers that be in John McNaughton's cold, clinical, harrowing character study (partly based on real events).
Brian De Palma's adaptation of Stephen King's novel is an unbearably disturbing portrait of youthful alienation and fury, with one of the genre's most unforgettable fire-and-brimstone endings.
Don't Look Now
A couple (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) grieving from the death of their daughter become convinced that she's trying to contact them from beyond the grave in Nicolas Roeg's profoundly unnerving thriller. You'll never look at little girls in red coats the same way again.
The movie that for a brief time in the early aughts made everyone afraid of their TV. Naomi Watts plays a journalist investigating why people keep dying from watching a certain video tape. And just like all of the best scary movies, it's got a creepy kid.
This Steven Spielberg-penned film is about a crew of invisible ghosts who terrorize a family. It also has one of the most iconic lines in the history of scary movies, "They're here."
The Blair Witch Project
When The Blair Witch Project originally came out in 1999, people didn't know whether it was real or fiction. Advertised as "found video footage," it tells the story of three students who travel to a small town to investigate a murder, and eventually get terrorized in the woods.
The archetype of all chained-up in dirty bathroom movies, Saw is about two people who must compete a series of horrific puzzles to live.
The moral of this story, and in fact many horror films, is don't move your family into a creepy secluded farm house. The Conjuring is about two paranormal investigators who try to figure out why a family's house has become haunted.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.