June 21, 2024

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Horror movies come in all shapes and sizes.

You’ve got your comedy horrors, your psychological horrors, your tense thriller-y horrors — and, of course, your genuinely scary horrors.

I’m not just talking about your run-of-the-mill, yikes-that’s-a-bit-creepy kind of films, here, either. I’m talking about the truly terror-inducing — the type of movies you wake in the dead of night thinking about, and which stay with you for a long, long time after the credits have rolled. The horribly twitchy, sleep-with-the-lights-on-and-avoid-all-mirrors kind of movies.

Streaming platform Shudder has a lot to offer in this regard.

We’ve combed through the archives of the service (which is chock-full of horror, sci-fi and thrillers of all kinds) to track down the most terrifying films we could — from jumpy classics like Ring to Demian Rugna’s aptly named Terrified. If you’re unable to deal with jump-scares, these are not for you.

Cushions to hide behind at the ready…

The Unheard

A woman stands in a dark room, looking cautious and curious.


Credit: Shudder

What’s it about?

After undertaking an experimental procedure to restore her hearing, a woman staying in her childhood home experiences auditory hallucinations that may have something to do with her mother’s disappearance.

Why should you watch it?

“As you might have guessed from that description, [director Jeffrey A.] Brown’s movie is a bit of a genre mish-mash,” I wrote in my review for Mashable. “The setup sounds like a Black Mirror episode, the hallucinations and isolation are straight-up horror, and the disappearances blend it all together with a kind of mystery/crime/thriller element. It’s a combination that could easily start tripping over itself, but somehow it keeps a steady, confident footing. Between Brown’s perfectly unnerving direction, a tight script from Michael and Shawn Rasmussen and a well-acted story, The Unheard crackles through its two-hour runtime with scares and tension aplenty.”

How to watch: The Unheard is streaming now on Shudder.

Skinamarink

A blurry TV screen is visible in a dark room.


Credit: IFC Films/Shudder

What’s it about?

Given how experimental Kyle Edward Ball’s movie is, this one’s sort of hard to summarise. But it’s essentially about two siblings who can’t find their dad and are trapped in a dark house by themselves with only a whispering voice for company.

Why should you watch it?

“It totally and entirely wants to terrify us,” writes Jason Adams for Mashable in his explainer. “Skinamarink wants us to become children trapped in our beds again. It wants the very concept of the dark to be foreign, filled with questions and strangeness and terror. Forcing us back to when we were little and we didn’t know more than what was right in front of us, when what lay beyond our hallway or, God forbid, our front door might as well be the edge of the flat earth, falling off into nothingness.”*

How to watch: Skinamarink is streaming now on Shudder.

The Power

A woman in an old nurse's uniform stands in the dark holding a lantern.


Credit: Shudder

What’s it about?

In 1974, Val (Rose Williams) starts a new job as a nurse in a London hospital. But she soon discovers that the oppressive hierarchy and rolling blackouts aren’t the only horrible things she’ll have to confront.

Why should you watch it?

“It’s the perfect setup for building a creeping sense of dread […] and [writer/director Corinna] Faith does this with a deft hand,” I wrote in my review for Mashable. “There are plenty of jump scares, too, but these never feel gratuitous — like all the best scary films, The Power‘s horror is used to draw out the movie’s main themes, rather than wielding them for mere shock value.

“All in all, the film is pretty hard to fault. The performances are excellent all-round, with Rose Williams showing off incredible range in the central role.”

How to watch: The Power is streaming now on Shudder.

Satan’s Slaves

What’s it about?

After the strange death of their mother, a family begins to suspect that her presence may not have entirely left the house.

Why’s it so scary?

Indonesian director Joko Anwar knows how to make a creepy film. It’s apparent during the opening scenes in Satan’s Slaves, when Rini (Tara Basro) makes a grim discovery in her mother’s bedroom, and it only gets clearer from there on out. The movie has a solid mixture of slow build, bumps-in-the-night style tension, and outright jump-scares, putting you on edge early and offering little by way of reprieve.

For fans of Ring (which features further down on this list), there’s even a very creepy well…

How to watch: Satan’s Slaves is streaming now on Shudder.

Ring

Two people look serious while staring at a television.

Stay away from those unmarked video tapes.
Credit: Omega/Kadokawa/Kobal/Shutterstock

What’s it about?

A journalist attempts to get to the bottom of a cursed video tape, which supposedly kills the viewer a week after they’ve watched it.

Why’s it so scary?

Hideo Nakata’s 1998 horror classic not only kick-started a global franchise, but it also proved you don’t necessarily need high-tech special effects and intense music to generate scares. By today’s standards, Ring may not provide as many jump-scares as some as the other films on this list, but there are still plenty of nightmare-inducing scenes and images (and you probably won’t ever look at a well, or a grainy TV set, in quite the same way again).

How to watch: Ring is streaming now on Shudder.

The Dark and the Wicked

What’s it about?

A brother and sister return to their parents’ farmhouse to help their mother care for their dying father. But after things take a sudden, tragic turn, they realise something more sinister is going on.

Why’s it so scary?

Creaky old remote farmhouses are already the ideal setting for jumps, but Bryan Bertino’s chiller is extra effective because of its use of sound — whether it’s jangling horseshoes placed to ward off evil, a jagged background score or simply yawning, empty silence. The jumps in this one are unexpected and genuinely terrifying, and the story is unremittingly bleak.

How to watch: The Dark and the Wicked is streaming now on Shudder.

Host

What’s it about?

Unable to meet in person due to the coronavirus lockdown, a group of friends decide to try out a seance over Zoom.

Why’s it so scary?

One word: realism. The premise of the story, its Zoom setting, and the very natural dialogue all conspire to make Host feel horribly realistic. It’s like you’re watching the recording of an actual Zoom call between friends, and that makes it all the more unnerving when things begin to go really, really wrong.

Oh, and if you’re worried that the movie’s set-up might be limiting in terms of scares, don’t be: the jumps in this one are frequent, and — thanks to the creativity of director Rob Savage — always inventive.

How to watch: Host is streaming now on Shudder.

What’s it about?

A group of paranormal investigators examines some disturbing goings-on in a neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Why’s it so scary?

Rather than just having one scary monster or theme, Demián Rugna’s Terrified has a whole bunch of them — from IT-style voices gurgling away in the drain to the unmoving corpse of a dead child, returned home from the grave to sit stiffly at the dinner table.

Basically, the film is a trick box full of scares, and if one thing doesn’t get to you, chances are something else certainly will.

How to watch: Terrified is now streaming on Shudder.

Hell House LLC

What’s it about?

After the opening of a haunted house tourist attraction results in death, a fictional documentary crew tries to uncover what really happened.

Why’s it so scary?

Like all the best found-footage horror movies, Stephen Cognetti’s Hell House LLC uses realism to amp up its fear factor, splicing shaky camera shots with moving mannequins and half-glimpsed figures in the night. The tourist attraction setting could easily have come across as cheesy in this one, but luckily the movie’s prop department sourced some genuinely creepy-looking clowns for the occasion (one of which provides more than a few nasty jumps).

How to watch: Hell House LLC is streaming now on Shudder.

Z

What’s it about?

A mother grows increasingly worried about her eight-year-old son after he gets a new imaginary friend called “Z.”

Why’s it so scary?

If the likes of The Babadook and Hide and Seek have taught us anything, it’s that children having imaginary friends (at least in the context of a horror movie) is never a great thing. Brandon Christensen’s Z takes this concept and gives it a fresh twist, putting us in the shoes of Beth (Keegan Connor Tracy) as she grows increasingly disturbed by her son’s behaviour.

The thing that makes Z so unnerving isn’t so much the creepy child aspect as it is the unknowable monster — the lingering idea of “Z,” this unseen creature that dominates every scene with its absence. The fear of seeing something is often more disturbing than the thing itself, and this is an idea that the movie understands perfectly well — and uses to nail-biting effect.

How to watch: Z is streaming now on Shudder.

*This blurb appeared on a previous Mashable list.



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