19 scary movies to take your mind off real-world horrors

Logan Browning and Allison Williams in “The Perfection.” Netflix

A horror film? In these times? It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes it’s helpful to channel real-life fears into fictional stories. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best scary movies you can stream right now.

– If you like horror paired with social commentary

“The Platform” (2019)

This Spanish sci-fi thriller garnered buzz for its timely commentary on inequality. Director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia sets his allegory in a vertically stacked prison where inmates on the lower tiers are starving and forced to rely on scraps of food from the upper-tier counterparts. – B.B.

“Us” (2019)

Jordan Peele proved he had a knack for horror with “Get Out,” which earned the writer-director an Oscar for best screenplay. Peele doubles down on the genre in this thriller, which finds a family confronted with doppelgängers. The film is filled with thought-provoking symbolism (you’ll never look at rabbits or scissors the same way), and is elevated by Lupita Nyong’o’s stunning dual performance. Fans were not pleased that she went unrecognized by the major awards shows last year. – B.B.

“The Perfection” (2018)

In this Netflix thriller from director Richard Shepard, Allison Williams (“Get Out”) plays a former cello prodigy who reconnects with her mentors years after abandoning her musical dreams – only to find her former instructors taken with another star student (“Dear White People’s” Logan Browning). At first, “The Perfection” seems like a familiar tale about jealousy and obsession, but the controversial film proves it has much more to unpack. Come for the twists; stay for top-notch acting by Williams and Browning. Take caution if you’re squeamish; there are a few unsettlingly gruesome scenes. – B.B.

“Midsommar” (2019)

On the heels of a horrific tragedy, an American couple (Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor) test their flailing relationship abroad, in Sweden, where an intriguing midsummer festival takes truly unexpected turns. “Midsommar” relies less on the supernatural than director Ari Aster’s critically acclaimed feature debut, “Hereditary”; it also got decidedly more mixed reviews. Both are on Amazon Prime, so go ahead and make it a double feature. – B.B.

“The Invitation” (2015)

What makes Karyn Kusama’s movie about a dinner party thrown by recent converts to a death-worshiping cult so affecting is that the true horror underpinning the story has nothing to do with the danger anyone might be in. Instead, it’s in the daily, grueling work of dealing with the loss of a child – something Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) deal with in strikingly different ways after losing their daughter. Worse yet is the reveal toward the end of the movie that they might not be the only ones trying to find peace after experiencing one of the worst tragedies a parent can imagine. Watch it on Netflix. – T.M.A.

“Candyman” (1992)

Few horror movie villains linger as long as “Candyman,” the thought of whom resurfaces just about anytime we see a mirror in a dark room. Writer-director Bernard Rose examines race and class through an urban legend that originated in a short story by British scribe Clive Barker. Now is the perfect time to watch the hair-raising movie on Netflix – ahead of Nia DaCosta’s forthcoming reboot, which was co-written and produced by Peele. – B.B.

“Night of the Living Dead” (1968)

Long before “The Walking Dead,” George A. Romero proved that zombies have a lot to tell us about humanity. His gory directorial debut set the standard for zombie flicks while offering commentary about the darker aspects of society. Watch it on Amazon Prime. – B.B.

– If you like horror as a metaphor for real-life fears

“The Babadook” (2014)

A sinister presence haunts a grieving woman and her young son in this Australian horror film, which critics loved for its emotionally stirring undercurrent, lush visuals and thoughtful exploration of a mother-son relationship. “I think where horror excels is when it becomes emotional and visceral,” writer and director Jennifer Kent explained to the Guardian after the film’s release. “It was never about, ‘Oh I wanna scare people.’ Not at all. I wanted to talk about the need to face the darkness in ourselves and in our lives.” Watch it with a Showtime subscription. – B.B.

– If you live for suspense

“The Lodge” (2019)

A malevolent presence complicates the already tense relationship between a woman (Riley Keough) and her soon-to-be stepchildren in this slow-burning thriller from Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. Watch it on Hulu. – B.B.

“A Quiet Place” (2018)

John Krasinski channels the ambient power of silence in this innovative thriller, which follows a couple (played by Krasinski and his real-life wife, Emily Blunt) trying to protect their children in a post-apocalyptic society overrun with extraterrestrial creatures that can hear even the slightest noise. The tension is elevated by the fact that their daughter Regan was born deaf and is unable to hear the creatures that threaten her family’s existence. Watch it with an HBO subscription while you wait for the sequel, currently slated for a fall release. – B.B.

“The Witch” (2015)

Before directing “The Lighthouse,” a delightfully divisive film about two men losing their minds on a small island, Robert Eggers told the story of a Puritan family trying to survive in the New England wilderness. While the overarching story of a potential witch in the woods might feel familiar, Eggers keeps the audience second-guessing their own eyes up until the final frames. The movie, which announced a powerful new voice in horror, expertly builds slowly and meticulously, leaving your spine shivering for hours after the credits roll. Watch it on Netflix. – T.M.A.

“Jaws” (1975)

Generations of children have had nightmares induced by Steven Spielberg’s iconic thriller (based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel of the same name) about a great-white shark that terrorizes a summer resort town. Watch it (again) with an HBO subscription. – B.B.

– If you like your horror with a sense of humor

“Ma” (2019)

Octavia Spencer is brilliantly unnerving as a lonely middle-aged woman who befriends a group of opportunistic teenagers in this psychological thriller from Tate Taylor. And if that’s the only reason you see this movie, it will still be time well spent. Watch it with an HBO subscription. – B.B.

“Happy Death Day” (2017)

The pitch seems so obvious, you can’t help but wonder how a film that is “Groundhog Day” meets slasher movie didn’t already exist. On her birthday, a supremely selfish college student wakes up in a stranger’s bed, only to be murdered by the end of the night … at which point, she wakes up and repeats the day, which perpetually ends in her death. The movie has all the jump scares and deep mystery you might expect from such a premise, but the real draw is the overarching humor and sweetness as she and the stranger begin navigating this bizarre loop together, and she realizes that maybe there’s still time for self-improvement. (That the same premise works again in the sequel “Happy Death Day 2 U” underscores how successful the film proves to be.) Watch it with an HBO subscription. – T.M.A.

“The Cabin in the Woods”(2011)

Perhaps no movie on this list better understands the genre than Drew Goddard’s directorial debut, which begins like any typical B-movie might: A group of college kids heads to a (you guessed it!) cabin in the woods for a weekend of debauchery. Soon enough, they’re being haunted and hunted by any number of strange beings, none of whom seem like they belong in the same film. Once the equally hilarious and terrifying movie, co-penned by Joss Whedon, explains why, it has so turned the conventions of horror inside out you might never see a scary movie the same way again. Watch it with a Hulu subscription. – T.M.A.

“Child’s Play” (1988)

After debuting atop the box office in the late 1980s, this slasher earned a cult following. If you’re a fan of the homicidal, red-haired doll known as Chucky, you can watch his origin story (and several sequels) on Netflix. – B.B.

– If you appreciate the classics

“Friday the 13th” (1980)

This good old-fashioned slasher film plays on our collective summer camp nostalgia to deliver simple (but effective) chills and thrills. The movie, which launched a popular franchise, isn’t available on any of the major streaming services, but it’s free to watch on Crackle or with a subscription to Shudder. Hockey mask optional. – B.B.

“The Exorcist” (1973)

William Peter Blatty’s terrifying tale about a young girl possessed by the devil is a timeless and defining entry in the horror classics genre. The film won two Academy Awards and earned nominations in major categories such as best picture and best director (for William Friedkin). Watch it with a Cinemax subscription. – B.B.

“Rosemary’s Baby”(1968)

A newlywed woman (Mia Farrow) is convinced there’s something very wrong with her unborn child in Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Ira Levin’s popular novel. Spoiler alert: There is. The horror movie staple is available to stream on CBS All Access. – B.B.



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