We Value Your Privacy

This site uses cookies to improve user experience. By continuing to browse, you accept the use of cookies and other technologies.


This Animated Horror Is Strictly for Adults 

These cartoons are not for children.

black and white sketched man looking over his shoulder in fear
  • camera-icon
  • Photo Credit: Prima Linéa Productions

If there’s one thing I know (and love) about the horror genre, it’s that it enjoys warping what we believe to be untarnishable innocence into something deeply troubling and nightmarish. Animated films and series are often associated with happy, playful storylines created specifically with kids in mind.

These feel-good stories leave us with an overwhelming sense of joy and hope after their credits roll. But then horror creators began to realize an opportunity—an underutilization of a medium that could take their scares to another level: animated horror.  

And no, I’m not talking about amazingly creepy animated films like Coraline or Monster House, which might freak out very young kids but can be recommended in good conscience to older children who’ll enthusiastically welcome the scares.

No. I’m talking about the foulest, most depraved, grotesque animated horror that is only suitable for the eyes of adults (and even then, certain grownups should watch at their own risk).  

From animated horror that misleads viewers by using our perception of animation against us by utilizing bright colors, calm settings, and endearing, harmless-looking protagonists, to animated horror that reveals from the get-go the dread-inducing imagery that awaits, these seven movies and series are must-sees for those who seek terror.  

Just remember to watch these once the kids are fast asleep.   

The Grimm Variations 

We tend to forget that our beloved fairytales come from way darker source material than Disney would have us believe. This six-episode Netflix anime anthology is a clever reinterpretation of the more warped and twisted Brothers Grimm stories, including well-known favorites like Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood and lesser-known gems like The Elves and the Shoemaker.  

Each episode begins amidst a stunning watercolor storybook backdrop that features the Grimm brothers, who discuss the moral of one of their stories with their sweet younger sister Charlotte before presenting the much more mature version of the tale to the audience.

This serene introduction is a stark contrast to the rest of the episode that follows, which includes elements of psychological horror and, at times, intense gore and sexual violence.  

Although I’d highly suggest letting the little ones skip this show, adults will appreciate the skillful way this series not only reimagines the traditional fairytale plot to shock and frighten us but also impels the audience to contemplate the deeper meaning behind each episode—presenting warnings that we would be wise to take to heart to avoid ending up like certain unfortunate characters.  

Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre 

Acclaimed Japanese horror manga artist Junji Ito’s disturbing tales have been adapted into this 12-episode Netflix anthology horror series directed by Shinobu Tagashira for our viewing pleasure. Episodes range from slightly unnerving to downright terrifying and feature a broad range of characters. 

From a creepy family of siblings with a fascination with seances to a young boy whose innocent desire for ice cream transforms into a demented compulsion to a heartbroken woman who yearns to rid herself of her long hair after a breakup, especially once she finds a dead rat tangled in her tresses.

This eery, shocking surreal series takes you into a universe where strange, unthinkable horrors occur—one that we can’t help but become completely engrossed within.   

The House 

This 2022 stop-motion animated anthology film comprises three separate unsettling stories, all set within the same house but within vastly different worlds. Each tale explores the anxieties that arise when owning property and while trying to maintain a house. And how our worst selves become apparent when spurred by materialism, greed, and an unrelenting drive toward an unattainable goal.  

The first centers around a poverty-stricken family of four who are provided a miraculous offer—they can own an extravagant new mansion for free but must leave all their old possessions behind in their previous abode. Unfortunately, when a deal sounds too good to be true, it’s usually because it is.

The second story follows a rat developer who, after much exertion and turmoil, finally garners interest in the house he hopes to quickly sell; however, the potential buyers are an extremely odd couple.  

Last but not least, the final eerie short film introduces us to a cat landlord who dreams of fixing up her property with the help of her two tenants amid an apocalyptic watery landscape that threatens to slowly submerge the house.

The intricate gothic cloth animation style adds to the overall creepy atmosphere of each narrative, while the brilliant storytelling leaves viewers with an important reminder: Understand the vital difference between a house and a home.     

Mad God  

This highly experimental, surreal horror film uses both stop-motion animation and live-action filmmaking to immerse audiences in a truly horrendous hellish landscape. It is regarded as legendary VFX artist and film director Phil Tippett’s magnum opus, which took him 30 years to complete due to on-and-off-again production.  

With zero dialogue and a loose plot that features a few characters, such as a figure in a gas mask credited as the Assassin, the Surgeon, the Alchemist, and the Last Human, you’d think that Mad God might be a confusing, jumbled mess of a film (and for some, it very well might be too disjointed for their liking), but for the rest of us, Phil Tippet keeps us thoroughly enthralled with menacing creatures and scenes of relentless violence that establish the overwhelming feeling of sheer hopelessness that permeates the film.  

We blindly follow the Assassin as the solemn, yet determined, figure ventures deeper into the underworld with only a suitcase, a map and a task to complete that isn’t explicitly divulged to the audience.

Director Phil Tippett encourages us to make meaning from the chaos and endless cycle of suffering, which can be interpreted as a critique of humanity’s indifference toward the misery of others—a type of disinterest that only transforms into concern when the pain begins to affect our own personal existence.   

The Wolf House  

The Wolf House is a Chilean stop-motion animated film influenced by the real-life horrors of Colonia Dignidad, a post-World War II colony located in Chile and led by German-Chilean religious fanatic Paul Schäfer that became well-known for its human rights abuses despite propaganda efforts that asserted the colony was filled with blissful, hardworking residents. 

The film begins with clips of a supposedly idyllic colony and informs the viewer that a “disobedient” young girl named Maria has fled the community after allowing three pigs to escape from their pen, avoiding her punishment. Desperate for safety, after hearing a wolf’s howl, she finds comfort in an abandoned house with two piglets already inside that eventually slowly morph into human children.  

Despite its simple plot, the film forces viewers to remain in a persistent state of unease due to the house’s constantly changing milieu. As Maria’s mental state alters, her surroundings change accordingly, and as a result, the audience witnesses unnerving images like paintings on walls that move physical objects in the room and clay-animated pigs that start to grow human hands.

This masterful cinematic feat explores how guilt and isolation can be used as manipulation tactics by utilizing some of the most exceptionally disconcerting animations you’ll ever experience. 

Madoka Magica  

Upon watching the first two episodes of this anime, you might be fooled into thinking it’s an adorable, lighthearted show about young witches learning to use their newfound powers for good, but those who’ve already watched know that it takes a disturbingly dark turn in its third episode that completely changes the tone of the 12-episode show moving forward.

Upon its release, Madoka Magica transformed the magical girl anime genre by lulling viewers into a false sense of safety by using common tropes and then abruptly subverting expectations, becoming one of the most beloved psychological horror thriller anime around. 

The story follows a middle school girl named Madoka Kaname who meets an innocent-looking cat-like creature named Kyubey while with her best friend Sayaka Miki. Kyubey offers them a chance to have any wish they want granted, but in exchange, they will be turned into magical girls who must use their powers to fight witches.

Simple enough—but Madoka starts to learn that becoming a magical girl comes with sacrifice, a steep cost that outweighs all benefits.

Horror fans will appreciate this evocative anime that has compelling fight sequences depicted using a unique blend of animation styles that include paper-mâché and delves into themes of friendship, identity, and the nature of power. 

Fear[s] of the Dark  

Fear[s] of the Dark is a French animated horror anthology written and directed by six animators who express their interpretation of fear through short films with varying styles made cohesive through a black-and-white color scheme.

The shorts are punctuated by two recurring segments that feature a woman’s disembodied voice as she confesses her fears to an interviewer and a separate story that depicts a sadistic old marquis who allows his four devilish hounds to attack strangers as they stroll through the countryside.  

Each story has a distinct style that further adds to the spine-chilling nature of each tale, including a 2D anime-inspired design and a type that looks entirely comprised of pencil sketches. Audiences will witness stories about a man looking for companionship who finds a seemingly perfect partner, a young girl who’s been suffering from nightmares, a boy whose friend suddenly disappears, and a man who seeks shelter in an abandoned mansion during a blizzard.

Prepare yourself—the haunting images of each legend will surely contribute to your list of phobias.