Given the, you know, [waves hands helplessly] state of the world, the folks over at horror streaming service Shudder are offering a free 30-day trial with the promo code SHUTIN. What a blessing for those of us who need fictional horror to distract from all this real-life horror. Shudder very helpfully offers a number of curated collections around various topics, but if you’d like some more personal recommendations, here’s what I’m watching (or rewatching):
We’re big fans of psychedelic Nic Cage horror movies here at Nightfire, and Mandy is the apotheosis of the form. This larger-than-life, awesome-in-the-original-sense production is light on dialogue, heavy on trippy, gory imagery, and features the performance of a lifetime from Cage.
Directed by Panos Cosmatos
This much-lauded documentary traces the history of the horror genre through the lens of Black history, from the racist propaganda of Birth of a Nation to Ben, the desperately competent protagonist of Night of the Living Dead, and more recent, nuanced depictions in films such as Attack the Block and The Girl With All The Gifts. Featuring interviews with Jordan Peele, Tananarive Due, Tony Todd, and many more, this is a can’t-miss for horror fans.
Directed by Xavier Burgin
Classics are classics for a reason, and this John Carpenter throwback is just as spine-tingling as it ever was. On the 100th anniversary of a devastating shipwreck just off the coast of a California town, the ghosts of the dead mariners are back, and they’re not leaving before they take six lives in payment for what they lost.
Directed by John Carpenter
A scary fairy tale in the vein of Pan’s Labyrinth, Tigers Are Not Afraid follows a group of children orphaned in Mexico’s drug wars as they try to find justice in a cruel world and evade the clutches of a crime boss at the head of a human trafficking ring. Estrella, whose mother is missing, has three enchanted pieces of chalk, and can use each piece to make a wish – but wishes have consequences.
Directed by Issa López
The Wailing (곡성)
In a rural Korean village called Gokseong, illness and murder are cutting a swath through the population. Locals point to the recent arrival of a Japanese stranger to the village, directing their blame and fear at him – but is he a scapegoat, or is something more at play? Universally lauded for its smart, ambiguous storytelling, strong performances, and deeply unsettling atmosphere, The Wailing won’t disappoint.
Directed by Na Hong Jin
If you watched Mandy and need more of that 80s-inflected maximalist visual style, The Void is here to scratch that itch. When a killer cult surrounds a rural hospital, a small group of survivors must try to hold out against a grief-maddened man who’s trying to break down the barrier between life and death. Lots of tentacles and flaying here.
Directed by Jeremy Gillespie & Steven Kostanski
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is an Iranian vampire movie full of sex, drugs, death, and bloodsucking. More atmospheric and existential horror than anything else, it’s moody and unsettling, perfect for a rainy day.
Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
This universally-acclaimed Korean zombie action-horror film should be at the top of your list if you haven’t already seen it. An infected woman manages to board a high-speed train from Seoul to Busan, and the virus quickly spreads through the passengers aboard. A small group of survivors, including Seok-woo and his young daughter Su-an, must battle their way to the front of the train, where the other healthy passengers are sheltered. By turns heart-pounding, heartbreaking, and disgusting, this is pitch-perfect filmmaking. And if you enjoy it (you will), Shudder also has Seoul Station, the animated prequel.
Directed by Sang-ho Yeon
If you liked The Witch, do not pass go: watch Hagazussa immediately. In the 15th century, a young woman, treated as a pariah by her neighbors and haunted by her abusive mother descends into a miasma of madness and revenge. Style and imagery are more important than plot here, but oh, what style it is.
Directed by Lukas Feigelfeld
Another classic that’s still not for the faint of heart 40+ years later – in the Nevada desert, a wayward family of tourists are hunted and tormented by a family of savage cannibals. Pulpy, hyperviolent, and dripping with carnage, this is sure to satisfy any horror craving.
Directed by Wes Craven
If you saw The Lighthouse but thought it needed more fish monsters, well, you’re in luck. A meteorologist arrives at a lighthouse on a remote island in the Southern Atlantic, with only the hostile caretaker for company – or so he thinks. Almost immediately, he realizes they’re not alone: by night, dozens of aquatic-humanoid creatures emerge from the sea and attack, and what follows is a bloody, claustrophobic base-under-siege scenario that’ll make you want to move as far inland as you can.
Directed by Xavier Gens