Zeitgeist horror classics such as The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby prevail as some of the most seminal and iconic films in the history of horror. From genuinely terrifying plotlines and creepy jump scares to an overwhelming paranoia and anxiety in the film, these horror films have had a distinguished legacy, serving as an inspiration for decades. While it is difficult to find films that can be compared to the greatness of these classics, it is pertinent to note that the definition of the horror genre has changed considerably over years. Rather than spatial horror, people seem to be terrified even more by atmospheric and psychological horror plays.
Curiosity killed the cat and this is something that the protagonists of horror films continuously fail to realise. They either venture into the darkest and quietest cabins for shelter or follow eerie sounds at night even when their common sense clearly forbids them to. Netflix offers a variety of horror films that include certain current classics such as The Conjuring, Train to Busan, Insidious etc., Netflix has been building up a solid base by showcasing some of its genuinely terrifying Originals, namely shows such as The Haunting of Bly Manor, The haunting of Hill House, Marianne and more.
It is difficult to pinpoint the scariest horror flick on Netflix, however, we have listed the ten best horror films on Netflix that shall be skin-crawlingly terrifying and force the viewers to keep their lights switched on at night. Happy spooking!
The 10 scariest films on Netflix:
10. Annabelle (John R.Leonetti, 2014)
A doctor named John Form gifts his heavily pregnant wife, Mia, a vintage porcelain doll for their child’s nursery, their neighbours, Higgins is murdered during an invasion. Soon, Mia is haunted by a demonic presence of malevolent forces in the house which manifest in form of the creepy looking doll; the attackers of Higgins are identified as their daughter Annabelle and her boyfriend who are loyal to a satanic cult.
The film plays on our general fear and repulsion to creepy looking dolls. One might wonder what prompted the father to buy a vintage doll instead of a cute soft toy or something different. The creepy and eerie atmospheric horror is heightened by the presence of the eponymous doll.
9. Pet Sematary (Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer, 2019)
The film is a second adaptation to Stephen King’s seminal eponymous 1983 novel. The film focuses on Louis Creed, an ER doctor, who moves to a small town in Maine with his wife and young children, Ellie and Gage as well as their cat. Their cat, Church, is tragically killed by a truck and soon they discover disturbing truths, including a mysterious graveyard which also leads to various other sinister revelations.
While the 1989 adaptation was definitely far more superior and even scared the master of horror, King, himself, the 2019 adaptation is one of the scariest Netflix horror films out there. The dark and sinister themes revolving around death and the inevitability of the same are dealt with deft ease. It has decent scares and the characters are quite interesting as well.
8. 1922 (Zak Hilditch, 2018)
Based on Stephen King’s eponymous novella, the film focuses on the Hames family living on a Nebraska farm in 1922 where the couple Will and Arlette are at loggerheads with each other over their financial crisis. Despite several losses, Will wants to stay back on the farm while Arlette wants to move to Omaha to provide a better life for their son Henry. Will manages to convince Henry to join him in murdering Arlette, following which Henry runs off with his heavily pregnant girlfriend. As time passes, Will is haunted by apparitions of Arlette and seemingly loses his mind, followed by her memories irrespective of where he goes.
It is considered one of the more bearable Stephen King adaptations due to the director’s patient and nuanced storytelling. Performances are top-notch and the overall setting is claustrophobic, disturbing and somewhat illusory. The protagonist’s tortured suffering makes one empathise with him yet actively wish for his downfall due to the cold-blooded killing of his wife.
7. Veronica (Paco Plaza, 2017)
15-year-old Veronica plays Ouija with her classmates in the basement of her school during a solar eclipse, each of them hoping to connect with a deceased one close to their hearts. However, the seance goes horribly wrong and Veronica is soon haunted by various paranormal occurrences. Frightened, she goes to the basement once again where a blind nun tells her that an evil force has latched onto her and she must protect her siblings. Veronica, determined to save her younger siblings from harm, takes up a lot of precautions to prevent them from getting attacked.
This Spanish film was reportedly based on true events. The story is relatively simple and predictable, yet the director manages to add skin-crawling thrills, making it scary and effective in its own right. The unsettling horror does not merely reside in the jump scares, claw marks, frenzied camera movements or the seance-gone-wrong trope; however, the psychological horror emanates from the complexities of the sibling relationship as well as the inner conflict that plagues Veronica from within.
6. The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015)
A Puritan family in 1630s New England is banished from their colony over a trifling religious dispute. They relocate to a farm amidst a secluded forest. Suddenly, they are haunted by the sinister forces and a fabled witch who starts eating away at their family, one by one. The film is an engrossingly stoic journey chronicling a family’s struggle with faith, religion, nature and the supernatural, constantly combatting the evils being hurtled their way.
The well-fitting music and nuanced cinematography help heighten the diabolical nature of the prevalent themes that make Eggers’ film a rich horror classic. The atmospheric horror does not require mere jump scares to lure in horror aficionados. Instead, they focus on providing an insight into the complexities of the human mind and the relentlessness of emotions and torment that drive in the frantic and frenzied climate of the film.
5. Us (Jordan Peele, 2019)
Adelaide Wilson decides to take a vacation at their beach house and decide to spend time with the Tyk family. Adelaide, who is plagued by past trauma, is paranoid about supposedly bad things that might happen. Soon this becomes a reality when four masked intruders enter the house and compel them to fight for survival. Soon they encounter horrifying doppelgangers who look like their more grotesque versions.
Playing on the darker truths pertaining to the human condition, the film oozes pure horror, both spatial and psychological. It is terrifying yet poignant, looking closely at the American privilege in terms of race and class, driving in the paranoia of the Other. According to Peele, “one of the central themes in Us is that we can do a good job collectively of ignoring the ramifications of privilege”.
4. His House (Remi Weekes, 2020)
A refugee couple from war-ridden South Sudan, Bol and Rial lose their daughter while trying to escape the pernicious clutches of poverty and war. When they are assigned a dilapidated house by the government when on probation, they encounter hatred, malice and racist comments from their neighbours. However, afraid of deportation, they try to adjust to their new life. Soon, they are forced to come to terms with the inherent evil that lurks within their house, learning that people can be haunted by the evil that resides in their memory as well.
In his directorial debut, Remi Weekes offers a good horror film where he manages to emphasize both the harrowing escape of the immigrants and their subsequent suffering and survivor’s guilt well. The film is peppered with a good amount of jump scares as well as the overbearing atmospheric anxiety of the omnipresent evil. Weekes did a brilliant job of using powerful imagery, straying away from the conventional haunted house films genre, giving us a fresh perspective of the same.
3. #Alive (II Cho, 2020)
Oh Joon-woo, a gamer, loses his family to a zombie outbreak. Depressed and dejected, he tries to hang himself when he discovers another lone survivor across his apartment, Kim Yoo-bin with whom Joon-woo starts communicating. They build a zip line via which they exchange supplies and desperately try to stay alive amidst the raging apocalypse.
Released during the Covid-19 pandemic that had forced people into home quarantine, the film hit the right note with the stay-at-home horror that engulfs the audience senses. Although Train to Busan prevails as the best South Korean zombie film, #Alive comes quite close to it with its overall atmosphere of paranoia, panic, frenzy, anxiety, isolation and loneliness. It is nearly tailormade for the time when it was released and is indeed a brilliant reflection of the millennial generation trapped within the four walls of their home with nothing but the technology to seek solace in.
2. Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)
Annie Graham lives with her husband Steve, her teen son Peter and her 13-year-old daughter Charlie. Annie shared a difficult relationship with her deceased mother and at a grief support programme reveals how a certain mental illness consumed each of her family members. Charlie, who was close to her deceased grandmother, is decapitated by a pole when peter tries to drive her home from a party. Guilt-ridden, Peter starts hallucinating and increasingly sinister events start occurring within the house which is related to demonic presence, namely Paimon who needs to inhabit a male host to thrive.
Aster did not want to call the film a horror film on the surface, describing it instead as a family tragedy that culminated into a nightmare. His film is a harrowing psychological analysis of the effects of grief and loss. The breakdowns and quarrels are as scary as the claustrophobic and ominous atmosphere that will keep the viewers awake at night. The sheer brilliance of Aster has helped the film climb up the ranks and be associated with zeitgeist horror classics including Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist.
1. The Conjuring (James Wan, 2013)
Ed and Lorraine Warren are esteemed demonologists who are beseeched by Caroline Perron to come and take a look at the new farmhouse she had moved into with her family after being lagged by a series of sinister events. The Warrens delve deeper into the history of the house and stumble upon shocking facts that show how the house is haunted by an evil spirit and is feeding off the mother to harm the children. The Warrens desperately try to protect the family against all harm but find themselves attacked as well.
The ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren exist in real life and the story is supposedly based on true events as well. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson reprised their role as the demonologist couple throughout the Conjuring-verse. “I didn’t just want to make another ghost story or another supernatural film”, said Wan, while talking about the film. “One thing I had never explored was the chance to tell a story that’s based on real-life characters, real-life people. So those were the things that led me to The Conjuring.”