Directed and edited by Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House, Doctor Sleep) this Netflix original taps into every person's worst nightmare: being home alone at night and utterly unaware of the masked attacker lurking at your window. Hush, however, puts an extra spin on the home invasion trope.
The movie stars Kate Siegel as Maddie Young, a woman who lost her ability to hear and speak due to a severe case of bacterial meningitis she suffered as a teenager. A reclusive writer, she’s now living out every artist’s dream in a remote cabin in the woods—just her, her work, and her cat. When her solitude is breached by a predator credited only as “The Man,” Maddie must fight for her life and live through the night until help comes.
Written and directed by Mike Flanagan, this otherwordly horror stars Karen Gillian as the adult Kaylie Russell, a woman who's convinced that an antique mirror is responsible for the nightmarish misfortune that befell her family.
The mirror, which was purchased by Kaylie’s dad to spruce up his office in their new home, has a different effect on each family member. For Kaylie’s mother, it causes her to see herself as a corpse. For her dad, it brings about the apparition of a ghost named Marisol. As her parents descend further and further into madness under the influence of the mirror, Kaylie and her brother Tim are left to battle the supernatural forces tormenting them.
Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring) and Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids) star as Josh and Renai Lambert, a young married couple who move into a new home with their young sons and baby daughter. Any horror movie with this many children is primed for something truly nuts to go down, and Insidious does not disappoint.
Shortly after settling in, their son Dalton becomes obsessed with the attic and, after a particularly intense exploration of the space, falls into a mysterious coma. After a three month hospitalization, Dalton comes back to the house, and that’s when the trouble really begins.
You Should Have Left (2020)
This COVID-19-era first-run VOD picture stars Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried as Theo and Susanna Conroy, a married couple who, along with their daughter Susanna, look for rest and relaxation in an Airbnb in a remote part of the Welsh countryside. Once in the house, Theo discovers that the dimensions for the inside differ from those of the outside, and the building’s mind-bending offerings just get stranger from there.
Kevin Bacon is such an enjoyably nostalgic draw here, and this movie is like candy for the brain with its spooky, sparsely modern visuals, and Twilight Zone-esque twists and turns.
Black Christmas (2019)
Directed by Sophia Takal, and co-written by Takal and April Wolfe, Black Christmas follows a close-knit group of the most ass-kicking feminist sorority sisters to ever make their way past the elevator pitch. Led by Riley Stone (Imogen Poots) the women work together to thwart the culty frat boys, misogynistic professors, actual rapists, and masked killers who are closing in on them from all sides. There’s a message here, and it comes across loud and clear.
This 2018 release is the eleventh in the Halloween franchise and once again follows Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) as they continue to fight each other, nearly die, and then rise to fight each other again.
After being locked in an institution for forty years, Myers escapes while being transferred to a maximum-security prison. His latest killing spree begins the moment his feet hit the pavement, and he slices and dices his way straight to his favorite potential victim…Laurie. The original Michael Myers, Nick Castle, reprises his role for this film in one very exciting scene, and provides his signature creepy breathing throughout, which is a tremendously fun piece of trivia for superfans of the franchise.
This supernatural horror flew under the radar when it was originally released in 2012 but is definitely worth a watch. Ethan Hawke plays Ellison Oswalt, a true crime writer who uncovers a box of mysterious and disturbing home movies tucked away in the attic of his new home. Needless to say, the frightening clips put his family at risk, awakening something, well, sinister in the cursed abode.
The Hunt (2020)
Emma Roberts of American Horror Story fame, Betty Gilpin, and Hilary Swank round out a star-studded cast in this controversial horror thriller. Roberts’ character is hilariously credited only as “Yoga Pants,” and Swank shines in her role as avid hunter Athena Stone.
Primarily shot in New Orleans, the film was in theaters for only a week and then switched over to VOD once COVID-19 hit. Framed as a satire on the current political divide found in Trump’s America, The Hunt centers on a group of people who come together to hunt “deplorables,” which is the name given to the eleven captives who are held, and then dumped in a forest for the recreational thrills of their hunters. Not a subtle message here, and delightfully so.
The Invisible Man (2020)
Similar to The Hunt, this 2020 horror-thriller starring Elisabeth Moss and The Haunting of Hill House's Oliver Jackson-Cohen hit VOD streaming services months ahead of schedule in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. The movie follows Cecilia Kass (Moss), who's stunned to learn that her abusive ex-boyfriend, Dr. Adrian Griffin (Jackson-Cohen), has apparently killed himself and left her a hefty fortune. Yet disturbing events leave Cecilia rattled. Did Adrian really kill himself? Could he still be alive, having faked his own death and acquired the ability to become invisible to now stalk her every move? As the threat level rises, Cecilia must prove she's being hunted by someone no one else can see.
Paranormal Activity (2009)
The first in a long-running franchise, Paranormal Activity put Blumhouse on the map in 2009, and remains one of the best films in the found footage horror genre.
Katie and Micah, a young married couple, move into their new home in sunny San Diego. Katie warms the place by opening up to her husband about the evil spirit that’s been following her since her childhood. Probably something Micah would have liked to have known prior to their wedding. Nevertheless, he sticks by Katie well past the point of no return.
Once things start going bump in the night, Micah comes up with the great idea of setting up a camera in their bedroom to monitor what goes on while they’re sleeping. Readers, I urge you never to do this. Micah would tell you the same. This movie gets unlimited bonus points for one of the best final scenes in horror movie history.
The Purge (2013)
This 2013 release not only kicked off a successful franchise, but it introduced “the purge” into every day vocabulary.
Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey star as James and Mary Sandin, parents of two children who work together to live through “Purge Night,” a yearly government-mandated holiday where, for twelve hours, every violent crime is made legal, even encouraged, as a way for citizens to get unlawful desires out of their systems. What makes this scarier, years after it was released, is that it’s set in a dystopian 2022 that doesn’t seem all that improbable now, after everything 2020 has shown us so far.
The Visit (2015)
M. Night Shyamalan’s 2015 horror thriller about the worst ever trip to grandma and grandpa’s house didn’t get the respect it deserves from critics. In The Guardian’s review of the movie, critic Mike McCahill called it “dull, derivative and flatly unscary,” but I’m placing it on this list because, after first watching it in theaters in 2015, I’ve thought of The Visit at least once a month for five years.
Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie’s performances as “Nana” and “Pop Pop” are truly terrifying. Aside from the film’s surprise ending, which M. Night Shyamalan has made his signature move, there are handfuls of scenes that, in my opinion, are Exorcist-level scary. I can’t recommend this one enough.
The Bay (2012)
Barry Levinson, the Oscar Award-winning director of Rain Man and Good Morning, Vietnam, delivers a skin-crawlingly effective found footage horror movie in this creepy vision of ecological terror. On July 4, 2009, researchers discover shockingly high levels of toxicity in the waters near Claridge, Maryland, a Chesapeake Bay town nestled on the state's Eastern Shore. They try to alert the mayor, but just like the smarmy town official in Jaws, the mayor refuses to act for fear of triggering a panic during the summer season. Bad move, Mr. Mayor. It isn't long before a parasitic outbreak sweeps through Claridge, and this quaint community descends into plague-infested chaos.
Octavia Spencer is given full freedom to slowly develop the creepy "something’s not right"-ness of her character “Ma” in this 2019 horror thriller, resulting in one of the best Blumhouse releases in recent years.
Directed by Tate Taylor, whose direction for the film sprung from a desire to make “something fucked up,” according to an interview with GQ, Ma shows how loneliness and neglect, when left to smolder for years and years, can turn into a vengeful rage. What makes this film even more fantastic is that, as pointed out in a 2019 Cinema Blend article, Black characters in horror have historically been used as victimized tropes—but those days are over, and Ma is a prime example of a horror movie that leads the genre in the right direction.
“The first thing I did is I called Octavia,” Taylor reveals to Cinema Blend, talking about how the character was originally written for a white woman. “..I said, 'Would you want to be in a horror movie?' She's like, 'Am I the Black person who gets killed first?' I go, 'No, you get to kill the people.' She goes, ‘Yes.’"
Every so often a horror movie creeps along that’s so fun and fresh, it makes you feel a renewed appreciation for the genre. Creep (2015) was written and produced by Mark Duplass, who also stars as the film’s villain, Josef. Using a new take on the found-footage style, Creep takes the “don’t answer Craigslist ads” premise and really runs with it.
There are only two characters in this film, Josef, and Aaron (Patrick Brice), a doomed young man who answers Josef's call for a videographer. The tension and dread that build between them is gleefully demented. You know this won't end well, but you can't look away. Creep 2, the sequel to Creep, is also worth a watch.
Happy Death Day (2017)
Groundhog Day meets a slasher flick in this fun and inventive horror thriller starring Jessica Rothe. Rothe plays Tree Gelbman, a college student who must relive the day of her murder, from its most mundane details to its horrific end, until she unmasks her killer. You know those freaky baby masks you couldn't unsee a few Halloweens ago? Yep, it came from this movie. Happy Death Day inspired a sequel, Happy Death Day 2U, which ratchets up the dark laughs.
Fans of the stylized dystopian horror movies of yesteryear are sure to get a kick out of this jacked-up sci-fi horror starring The Invitation's Logan Marshall-Green. Marshall-Green plays Grey Trace, a man whose wife is killed during a mugging. The brutal episode leaves Grey paralyzed. Soon, however, Grey is approached by a billionaire inventor who offers an experimental cure: an AI implant that will "upgrade" Grey's current state, bestowing him with physical abilities beyond his wildest imagining. Grey signs on, only to discover yet another twist: the AI implant also offers Grey the ability to seek bloody vengeance on all those who murdered his wife and left him for dead.
Get Out (2017)
Throughout film history, horror has waxed and waned. The genre boomed in the 70s and 80s, with classics like Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Halloween, and Friday the 13th terrifying moviegoers everywhere. The 90s and early 2000s saw fresh hits like Scream, Candyman, and The Craft, and straight to DVD releases that are best left in the Blockbuster dustbin of history. Then, in 2017, Jordan Peele released Get Out, and we were reminded of all the possibilities the horror genre has to offer.
What Peele did with Get Out raised the bar for every horror director and producer to follow. The sound of someone clinking a teaspoon against the side of a teacup while stirring will, forevermore, produce a wholly new reaction after watching this.
Featured still from "Hush" via Blumhouse Productions