12 Best Horror Movies You Can Watch Exclusively On Netflix, Shudder, And More
Once upon a time, "straight-to-video" wasn't a positive term. It typically referred to a movie that wasn't good enough to get a theatrical release. If a film went right to the video store on VHS--and eventually DVD--without hitting theaters, it was a well-deserved fate.
In 2020, things are very different. The rise of streaming has meant that the different platforms are now fighting for viewers and subscribers, and one way they can do this is by offering original, exclusive content. By financing their own movies and buying acclaimed titles from film festivals, streaming platforms are releasing movies that have never seen the inside of a movie theater. The idea of judging a movie because it has gone "straight-to-video" no longer exists.
Horror has, in particular, benefitted from this. The genre has long thrived on home entertainment formats--in the '80s, the big franchises like Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th found many fans via VHS. Today, many of the best horror movies head straight to streaming.
While Netflix led the pack when it came to releasing streaming exclusives, they are only part of the story now. AMC launched the horror-focused platform Shudder in 2015, and it has become a must-subscribe service for many fans. While it started by hosting content from other distributors, it has increasingly moved into picking up movies from festivals and presenting its own exclusive content. Hulu has also moved into this area, picking high profile festival horror hits and giving them stream-exclusive releases
There are new horror exclusives hitting the streaming services all the time, so we've picked some of the best from the past few months on Netflix, Shudder, and Hulu. All can be streamed right now, and reveal just what an exciting time it is right now to be a horror fan.
And speaking of things you should be watching, consider listening to GameSpot's weekly TV series and movies-focused podcast, You Should Be Watching. With new episodes premiering every Wednesday, you can watch a video version of the podcast over on GameSpot Universe or listen to audio versions on Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, and Apple Podcasts.
12. Blood Quantum
Zombie movies are everywhere these days, so it takes an interesting spin on the familiar formula to stand out from the pack. The Canadian film Blood Quantum is set on a First Nations reserve, where the indigenous residents have found that they are immune to the zombie virus. This leads to confrontations with white refugees who are looking to shelter on the reserve. Blood Quantum follows the tradition set down by George Romero by using the background of an undead apocalypse to deal with thought-provoking and topical social issues.
This Netflix chiller sounds like a big snake movie along the lines of Anaconda, but it's actually a far less over-the-top proposition. The story involves a woman called Katrina who is driving across the country with her daughter; when their car breaks down in the middle of the desert, Katrina's kid is bitten by a poisonous snake. A mysterious woman offers to help her--and things get very weird from there. It's not as good as director Zak Hilditch's last Netflix movie, the Stephen King adaptation 1922, but is still an intriguing mystery.
10. 3 From Hell
It's fair to say that musician/filmmaker Rob Zombie's directing career has been a divisive one to date, with movies such as Lords of Salem, 31, and the Halloween remakes splitting critics and fans. However, many agree that 2005's grindhouse homage The Devil's Rejects is his strongest movie, and the belated sequel 3 From Hell will definitely keep his fans happy. Degenerate killers Otis B. Driftwood (Bill Moseley) and Vera-Ellen "Baby" Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie) escape from prison, team up with Otis's half-brother "Foxy" Coltrane (Richard Brake), and head to Mexico for more gory mayhem.
Director Babak Anvari made one of the best horror movies of recent years with his brilliant Tehran-set ghost story Under the Shadow, and Wounds is his English-language debut. It's a very different affair, and takes influence from body horror master David Cronenberg, as well as Japanese horror classics such as Ring. It focuses on a bartender who finds strange messages on a phone left in his bar, from someone who claims something or someone is following him. What starts as an unpredictable and weird nightmare gets a bit silly after a while, but the movie is consistently entertaining, and features an A-list cast (Armie Hammer, Zazie Beetz, and Dakota Johnson).
8. In the Tall Grass
Based on the novella by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill, In the Tall Grass is about a group of people who are trapped--you guessed it--a field of towering grass. It's a claustrophobic mystery, directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice, Westworld), with an enjoyably over-the-top bad guy performance from Patrick Wilson. Like many movies adapted from short fiction, it does feel a bit padded at times, but at its best this is a suspenseful and stylishly-shot addition to the ever-growing roster of King adaptations.
7. The Furies
From the classic Wake in Fright to more recent shockers like Wolf Creek and The Loved Ones, Australia has a grand tradition of gruelling terror. The Furies is another spin on the familiar set-up that started with The Most Dangerous Game in the 1930s, and was used more recently with the controversial The Hunt, in which innocent victims are hunted down for sport. In this case, kidnapped women must fight off mutant psychos in the Outback, while sick viewers watch their ordeal online. It's a very entertaining throwback to '80s horror, with kickass female leads and some spectacularly gruesome gore effects.
6. Daniel isn't Real
This psychological chiller focuses on a troubled young man named Luke who is revisited by his dormant imaginary childhood friend Daniel. Daniel is now an adult, and it doesn't take long before he is leading Luke into some very dark places. Daniel Isn't Real has been compared to the likes of Fight Club and Donnie Darko, and features a breakout performance from Patrick Schwarzenegger, son of everyone's favorite Austrian action icon.
Martin Freeman is best known for more comedic-leaning roles in The Office, Fargo, Sherlock, and the Hobbit movies, but in Cargo he gives an intense performance as a father attempting to get his family to safety in a post-apocalyptic Australia overrun with zombies. The gimmick is that being bitten by a zombie gives you 48 hours before you turn, leading characters to wear electronic devices with their time ticking down and to moral questions about what to do with those last two days. Cargo is tense and scary when it needs to be, but it's also a moving road movie and with a powerful ecological message.
This freewheeling psychedelic mindf*** is recommended for horror fans who find much of the genre a bit too safe and predictable. Dora Madison gives an impressive performance as Dezzy, a struggling artist who starts taking an experimental drug to help her creativity and finish her latest work. As Dezzy's reality becomes more and more fractured, director Joe Begos ramps up the heavy metal sound, colors, and bizarre imagery to disorientating levels.
3. Little Monsters
Little Monsters was the second of two horror movies that Lupita Nyong'o starred in in 2019, but while it didn't have the profile of Us, it's well worth a watch. It's a lighthearted undead comedy in which Nyong'o plays a schoolteacher who must protect her class during the onset of a zombie apocalypse. It also features Josh Gad (Frozen) as a bungling kids entertainer. In his review for GameSpot, Rafael Motamayor said that while "zombie comedies are nothing new, Little Monsters stands out by not only providing great laughs but being infectiously adorable."
2 . Satanic Panic
The debut movie from director Chelsea Stardust, Satanic Panic takes the usually-very-serious cultist movie and injects some much needed laughter. In this case, it's a cult compromising suburban housewives who are in need of a virgin sacrifice, into whose midst comes unlucky pizza delivery girl Sam (Hayley Griffith). It's a fast-moving and often ridiculous movie, with some unexpected twists and a great performance from former X-Men star Rebecca Romijn as the ruthless cult leader.
1. The Head Hunter
This fantasy chiller is one of the most impressive low-budget debuts to arrive for some time. It runs just 72 minutes and features only two actors, but presents an entirely convincing fantasy world, in which a lone warrior hunts monsters on his quest to find the creature responsible for his daughter's death. Director Jordan Downey makes full use of some spectacular Norweigan and Portuguese locations, while the cinematography, sound design, and practical makeup effects are at a level of movies that cost 100 times as much.
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