It can be far too easy to tune out of a horror movie, as so many have the same look, scares, and vibe, and can be indistinguishable from one another.
Luckily, the genre is also home to some of the more imaginative films ever made, such as these 25 ghoulish gems that’ll make you question what you think you might know about horror!
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From the director of The Blair Witch Project, Altered takes the subject of alien abduction literally, as a group of former abductees trap, kidnap, and attempt to exact revenge on the alien that had kidnapped them in their youth.
Where to Watch: You can rent Altered on Video-on-Demand platforms, including Amazon, YouTube, and AppleTV.
24. You’re Next
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For the first half of You’re Next, the stage is set for your run-of-the-mill, Us vs. Them home invasion slasher film, but the film turns the tables on its villains by introducing a final girl less interested in running and hiding and more devoted to fighting back and creating deadly traps from household items.
Where to Watch: You’re Next is currently streaming on Hulu and EPIX.
23. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
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Wes Craven first ventured into the world of meta-horror with New Nightmare, a film existing outside of the Nightmare on Elm Street universe and focusing on actor Heather Langenkamp (playing herself) as her personal and professional life is torn asunder by Freddy Krueger, whose popularity as a fictional character has fueled his transcendence into our “reality.”
Where to Watch: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is currently streaming on HBO Max.
22. Green Room
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Director Jeremy Saulnier put together the most terrifying siege film of all time by remaining committed to reality, as there’s no real need to suspend disbelief with the hyper-realistic depictions of disturbing real world violence, justifiable character decisions, and the stakes of the horror at hand.
Where to Watch: Green Room is currently streaming on Showtime.
21. Scream (1996)
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While Craven had sharpened his meta-horror teeth with the previously mentioned New Nightmare, the late, great filmmaker turned his sights to the horror genre as a whole with Scream, a self-referential slasher whose core concepts remain alive in its currently ongoing franchise.
Where to Watch: Scream is currently streaming on Paramount+.
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You’ve never seen a creature feature quite like Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Spring, a horror hybrid between Richard Linklater’s Before… trilogy and the cosmic terror of H. P. Lovecraft as a lonely man on holiday finds himself captivated by a beautiful local woman with a monstrous double life.
Where to Watch: Spring is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Tubi.
19. The Cabin in the Woods
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Bureaucracy kills in this clever send-up of the horror genre, as the film posits a secret conspiracy where an agency controls every aspect of a “horror movie” scenario that befalls a group of young adults… that is, until their sacrificial lambs fight back and throw their whole operation into chaos.
Where to Watch: The Cabin in the Woods is available for rent on Video-on-Demand platforms, including Amazon, YouTube, and AppleTV.
18. Maniac (2012)
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At the height of the found footage boom in the early 2010s, this exceptional remake of classic horror property embraced a whole different perspective on the subgenre, putting the audience almost entirely in the point-of-view of our delusional killer while stylishly finding ways to better embrace his “out-of-body” experiences.
Where to Watch: Maniac (2012) is currently streaming on AMC+.
17. Don’t Breathe
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Another somewhat recent thriller that spun the home invasion horror subgenre on its head, Don’t Breathe brilliantly subverts expectations by making the home invaders as the sympathetic victims against a brutal and resourceful blind man who will stop at nothing to keep his uninvited guests from discovering his nightmarish secret.
Where to Watch: Don’t Breathe is currently streaming on FXNow and can be rented on Video-on-Demand platforms, including Amazon, YouTube, and AppleTV.
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A brilliant modern ghost story from New Zealand whose twist is too good to spoil, Housebound not only works as a dysfunctional family comedy but a satirical twist on classic haunting story tropes.
Where to Watch: Housebound is currently streaming on Shudder and AMC+.
15. Tragedy Girls
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Asking “what if the killers from Scream got away with it?,” Tragedy Girls is an ultraviolent horror-comedy that follows a pair of budding social media influencers who decide to orchestrate a series of local killings to boost their likes, shares, and subscriptions. Cleverly skewering society’s obsession with true crime media, this decidedly demented flick simultaneously goes for the throat of the slasher genre.
Where to Watch: Tragedy Girls is currently streaming on Shudder, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, The Roku Channel, and Tubi.
14. Kill List
IFC Films / Courtesy Everett Collection
On the surface, Kill List starts as a crime drama about a pair of mercenaries who are hired to kill a number of seemingly random targets, but this slow-burn horror film descends into unpredictable madness by playing mind games with both the leads and the audience alike.
Where to Watch: Kill List is currently streaming on Shudder and AMC+.
13. The Devil’s Rejects
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In this acclaimed hit sequel to House of 1,000 Corpses, Rob Zombie brings the monsters from his directorial debut to center stage as the unlikely “protagonists” of this vicious road odyssey, allowing them to remain cruel and sadistic but adding moments of humanity and humor to make these sociopaths oddly sympathetic.
Where to Watch: The Devil’s Rejects is currently streaming on Tubi and Vudu.
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Damien Leone’s Terrifier resonated with horror audiences by not only delivering the goods in terms of jaw-dropping blood and guts, but by having its iconic killer, Art the Clown, break all of the rules of horror with a grin on his face, whether it’s breaking out a pistol when he’s on the losing end of a fight or utilizing dream logic to set the stage for a sequel, which is due any week now.
Where to Watch: Terrifier is currently streaming on Tubi, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, and the Roku Channel.
11. Sonny Boy
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In this knock-off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a family of small-town psychopaths live in a junkyard and raise their illicitly adopted child to be their personal attack dog, which is shocking and unsettling, but Sonny Boy has a surprisingly sweet side, whether it’s the naive innocence in the titular character’s voiceover or the protective embrace of select members of this bloodthirsty makeshift family.
Where to Watch: Sonny Boy is currently streaming on Tubi and Screenpix.
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Renowned as the crown jewel of the New French Extremity Movement of the 2000s, Martyrs is a shock to the system that most people won’t be able to handle but is far more philosophical and psychologically engaging than most films slapped with the “torture porn” label. Trust me: Wherever you think Martyrs may take you, I assure you that it does not, and you will not be prepared.
Where to Watch: Martyrs is currently streaming on Tubi and Shudder.
9. Come to Daddy
Firefly Films / Allstar Picture Library Ltd. / Courtesy Alamy
Elijah Wood headlines this unique horror-comedy about a family reunion that has some uninvited guests, leading to a series of outlandish and morally dubious scenarios that will have you alternating between gasping, laughing, and dry-heaving in equal measure.
Where to Watch: Come to Daddy is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
8. Dead and Buried
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Director Gary Sherman carved out this freaky cult classic by introducing a lowly detective investigating a series of seemingly random murders before jumping into a different subgenre altogether as the inventive twists keep coming until the film’s fantastic finale.
Where to Watch: Dead and Buried is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Tubi, and Vudu.
7. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
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In this gut-busting meta-horror mockumentary, Nathan Baesel brings to life the masked psycho-killer Leslie Vernon, a more soft-spoken and charismatic slasher that rolls with the cinematic punches, establishing — and subsequently breaking — a new set of horror movie rules for a new generation.
Where to Watch: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is currently streaming on AMC+.
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James Wan may be the most bankable director in the horror genre, having been responsible for such mainstream hits as Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring, but the filmmaker completely eschewed expectations with Malignant, a neo-giallo that has perhaps the most bonkers reveal in years and unabashedly revels in its over-the-top action.
Where to Watch: Malignant is currently streaming on HBO Max.
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Pet has all the makings of a run-of-the-mill “incel kidnaps woman” film that so often populates the video-on-demand marketplace, but this intriguing thriller pulls a satisfying and strange bait-and-switch that breathes new life into a tired subgenre.
Where to Watch: Pet is currently streaming on Tubi and Screambox.
4. The Witch in the Window
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Filmmaker Andy Mitton has made an impressive portfolio of horror pictures that defy convention, but perhaps none does as well to flip a subgenre on its head as The Witch in the Window, a ghost tale that not only tells a heart-wrenching story of fatherhood but uses that vulnerability to scare the pants off you in ways you won’t see coming.
Where to Watch: The Witch in the Window is currently streaming on Shudder.
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Todd Solondz meets John Carpenter in Ricky Bates Jr.’s sensational and disruptive fright film about a high school student with spectacular, colorful dreams of death and mutilation that happen to bleed over into reality through her budding medical aspirations and explosive high school drama.
Where to Watch: Excision is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Tubi.
2. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death
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Often considered one of the scariest films of its time, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death boldly places the film in the shoes of Jessica, a woman who is released from a mental institution who begins to suspect her new neighbors may have violent intentions for her and her husband. Part gaslighting thriller, part unrelenting psychological horror, this unorthodox 1971 film was way ahead of its years and remains effective with audiences more than 50 years later.
Where to Watch: Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is currently streaming on Shudder.
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Love never dies, but it does need a new body every now and then in Lifechanger, a modern body horror masterpiece about a parasitic alien that falls in love but must change into a fresh host every few days in order to stay alive. Not only does this dramatic horror film offer some stellar practical SFX and gross “change-over” sequences, but the movie also goes above and beyond to establish the emotional weight of the story, which truly sets it apart from many of its contemporaries.
Where to Watch: Lifechanger is currently streaming on Showtime.