It's Halloween week, and as a horror movie connoisseur, it's one of my favorite times of the year! I'm watching scary stuff all year long, but only during October do I get to ring my friends into my spooky movie marathons. I've learned that a good rule of thumb for picking a Halloween-esque movie is to really read the room, because some people barely like jumpscares, while others want to push their limits to the max.
In order to help you sift through trailers and IMDB pages, I've curated a list of my favorites for all scare levels plus where to stream them, so you can get straight to the screen!
Level One: Slightly Spooky
The Messengers, 2007 (Vudu) - One of my old favorites; a ghost story about a protective sister. None of the ghosts are too scary, although there are definitely some spooky moments, albeit tame for a horror movie lover. Good plot, plus young Kristen Stewart does a good job as our lead!
Coraline, 2009 (YouTube, Vudu and Prime for $2.99) - A family-friendly (kind of) claymation that's colorful and interesting, but some of the themes are a little dark. This is one of my comfort movies, but I have friends who won't watch this twice, so take that as you will.
Jennifer's Body, 2009 (Prime) - A teenager gets sacrificed to help boost a band's success, but things don't exactly go to plan when she comes back to life...but she's different. There's some bloody and NSFW language moments in this film, but it's a blast of a watch if you've got the right audience for it. It's funny and smart, and it's one of my absolute favorites.
Level Two: Heart-Racing
Drag Me to Hell, 2009 (Hulu, Sling, Fubo and Prime Premium; Showtime) - A supernatural film about a woman who gets on the wrong side of a witch and has to undo her curse. Not for children per say as it has some good scares and a couple intense moments, but you'll likely sleep fine afterwards.
Rosemary's Baby, 1968 (Hulu, Prime and Sling Premium, Starz) - This one isn't necessarily scary by modern standards, but it's still deeply unsettling. Rosemary is ready to extend her family, and when she falls pregnant, she's ecstatic. But things start going wrong, and her neighbors are oddly nosy. I come back to this movie frequently for its uncomfortable weirdness. NSFW and please look up trigger warnings if you need them.
His House, 2020 (Netflix) - This movie is so unexpected, and it's one of my absolute favorites from 2020. It starts as a haunted house story with a refugee couple at its heart, but as the movie continues, it's clear that there is so much more going on here than just a lingering ghost. This movie is haunting more than scary, and it's truly unforgettable and sincere.
As Above, So Below, 2014 (Prime) - You may disagree with me on this one, but I love this movie. We enter the French catacombs, and some freaky stuff starts happening. It's another found footage piece, and while it starts innocent enough, there's some hell-ish stuff that starts happening once they're underground.
Level Three: Will Make You Jump
The Babadook, 2014 (Sling and Prime Premium) - The style of this movie will have you on edge, and so will the music, and so will the annoying British child. This movie is interesting and cold and terribly uncomfortable in the best way, plus the monster is pretty damn creepy.
The Blair Witch Project, 1999 (Hulu and Sling Premium) - As one of the first found footage-style films, I feel like this one leaves a blueprint for the rest. It starts out slow, but once signs of something else being in the woods is apparent, things pick up fast. The ending is addicting, and this film knows how to suck you in until you're convinced this is real life.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe, 2016 (Sling and Prime Premium) - This movie was a curveball for me! I was expecting a pretty average supernatural story, but there's a really nice build that brings this movie to a screaming finish. A strange body comes in to a coroners office and they're struck by the strangeness of her corpse. I don't find it overwhelming, but it's a worthwhile scare.
The Descent, 2005 (Tubi, Pluto, Vudu, Prime) - If you're claustrophobic, this might be a level four for you. A group of friends go on a climb together, but end up in the wrong place...which leads to some tight crawls and the discovery of some mysterious creatures. It's a bit bloody and gory at times, but all around a good watch that'll keep your heart racing the entire time.
The Ritual, 2017 (Netflix) - Based on a novel, The Ritual is a culty type of story that takes a second to figure out. Some friends get sidetracked hiking in Sweden, and start to notice things are off. It's in the ballpark of The Blair Witch Project, but it really gets funky towards the end, plus our main character is hashing out some trauma along the way.
The Taking of Deborah Logan, 2014 (Prime) - Demon-possession movies are hard to do, because there's a repetitiveness in their structure. This is a faux-documentary where our filmmakers are taking a look at the progression of Alzheimers in Deborah who might have something different going on.
Goodnight Mommy, 2014 (Tubi, Pluto, Vudu, Prime) - Another strange arthouse film that'll take a little bit of patience. Mom has just gotten facial cosmetic surgery, and her bandages are weirding her young twins out. Then she starts acting strange, and the boys decide to do something about it. Creepy and disturbing more than scary, but don't underestimate it going in.
Level Four: Good Luck Sleeping
Oculus, 2013 (Starz, Hulu, Sling and Prime Premium) - This movie is very cool, and while it isn't terrifying, it is certainly a mind trip. There are some ghostly elements, but the idea is that there is a mirror that brings people to madness, and throughout the film we're drifting between present and past. There's a jaw-dropping finale, and it's a movie you'll have to see a couple times.
Sinister, 2012 (Hulu, Sling, Fubo and Prime Premium) - This one scared the hell out of me the first time I watched it. It's kind of a haunted house story, but there's also so much more to it, and the entire time you're trying to figure out the puzzle of these creepy films that our main character finds in the attic. It's nightmarish, dark, and the score is so horrifyingly atmospheric.
Hereditary, 2018 (Hulu, Sling, Fubo and Prime Premium, Showtime) - This A24 film has a cult following for its amazing performances, shock factor, and overall WTF-ness. It's a gorgeous film, and there are truly points that will have you yelling. It's psychologically terrifying and perhaps the scariest part is the family dynamics...and well, that one other part. I'll make my friends watch this and videotape their reactions. Gore warning.
Antichrist, 2009 (Sling) - This one's weird. Very experimental and arthouse, Antichrist isn't for everyone--it's visually beautiful and very disturbing at the same time. A couple is laden in grief after the death of their child, so they go to a cabin in the middle of a forest for immersion therapy. Tread lightly with this one, because it's definitely going to stick with you for a while.
Level Five: Extreme
The House That Jack Built, 2018 (Hulu, Prime and Sling Premium) - Me and my friends had to watch funny animal videos after this movie. It's so so good, but I also never want to watch it again. Our main character is a serial killer, and we never get a break from how horrific his kills are. It's artistic and well-done, but good God, this movie is very disturbing. Gore warning.
Suspiria, 2018 (Prime) - This movie is super cool, and if you're a Radiohead fan, Thom Yorke did the soundtrack for this creepy masterpiece. We join a ballet company in Berlin, and white it feels like a piece of the intensity of being a dancer, it evolves into something much, much stranger. The last few scenes really had me out of my chair with my mouth open. It's artsy and also horrifying. Gore warning.
Raw, 2016 (Netflix, Prime Premium) - Raw is so deeply uncomfortable in a way that made me want to turn it off. The main character is a vegetarian, but as she goes off to college, she's thrown for a loop when all of her values get flipped on their head. As I'm sure you can assume from the title of the film, she doesn't stay vegetarian for long. Gore warning.