There’s a treasure trove of excellent horror movies to stream on Prime Video. Critic Travis Johnson has found the best of the best.
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Katharine Isabelle’s broke medical student finds herself performing backyard surgery for the extreme body modification subculture in this boundary-pushing feminist flick, from Jen and Sylvia Soska. American Mary flips the body horror formula on its head, giving us a tale in which the weirdos are sympathetic and its privileged straight men who are the real villains.
The uncanny arrival of the titular picture book cranks the tension between a harried single mother (Essie Davis) and her troubled son (Noah Wiseman), but who’s really the danger here? In her debut film, Jennifer Kent tips the ‘creepy kid’ genre on its head, using the form to examine a regrettably common dysfunctional family dynamic. A modern Australian genre classic.
During the medieval plague, a knight (Sean Bean) and a novice monk (Eddie Redmayne) lead a group of soldiers to a remote village to uncover why it has not been afflicted. As is the way of such things, they find a pagan cult, much backwoods horror, and a test of faith that not all of them will pass. If you can imagine a Middle Ages Wicker Man, you’re on the right track.
Champion swimmer Kaya Scodelario goes to make sure her Florida Man dad Barry Pepper is taking shelter from a gnarly hurricane, only to be confronted with a house full of hungry alligators. French director Alexandre Aja (High Tension, Piranha 3D) delivers the goods in this toothy crowd-pleaser.
A group of strangers awaken to find themselves in a mysterious prison: a series of identical cubes, each containing a different, deadly trap. They must work together to make their way through this surreal landscape, but why are they here in the first place? Cube’s allegorical ambitions falter in the end, but director Vincenzo Natali’s visual verve carries the day, using a single set over and over again to excellent and imaginative effect.
Re-Animator director Stuart Gordon (RIP) adapts HP Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmout, sending a yachtful of doomed protagonists to a remote Spanish seaside village, whose inhabitants are a little too fond of fresh fish. Obviously shot on a low budget, this nonetheless captures much of the tone of Lovecraft’s best works, giving us cosmic horror on a quotidian scale.
Suffering delusions and growing more and more adrift from reality, a disturbed high school student with surgical aspirations decides the best way to earn her parents’ affections is by curing her little sister’s cystic fibrosis with an at-home double lung transplant. This lurid tale of suburban horror is criminally underappreciated, but its commitment to the point of view of its unhinged central character is admirable.
Bank-robbing brothers George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino and their hostages, including Harvey Keitel and Juliette Lewis, find themselves trapped in a Mexican bar full of vampires and have to survive *points to title*. A love letter to B-grade monster movies, this combo of writer QT’s dapper tough guy dialogue, director Robert Rodriguez’s visual flair, and the KNB Effects Group’s audacious artistry never fails to please. Also ground zero for the onscreen representation of Tarantino’s foot fetish; you’ll know it when you see it.
A London cop feigns mental illness in order to investigate a psychologist he suspects of murder…or does he? Or is he the victim of an occult conspiracy? This ultra-low budget 2016 effort offers no easy answers, but it does present a remarkably sustained tone of subtle unreality that steadily grows to subsume both the protagonist and the viewer in horrifying insanity.
This 1922 silent Danish examination of medieval witch hunts was an absolute scandal on initial release, and still retains the power to disturb today. Partly based on the witchfinder’s manual The Malleus Malleficarum, it’s a lurid tale of torture, madness, pagan rites, idolatry, murder and more, all done in a pseudo-documentary style. If you think you’ve seen it all, this may prove you wrong.
Kicking off immediately after the events of the first film, the best of the Hellraiser sequels sees the Cenobite Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his fellow BDSM demons invade the psychiatric hospital where poor Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) has been sequestered after the recent horrors. Smartly expanding the first film’s mythology, this is a worthy follow up to writer turned director Clive Barker’s landmark debut film. Shame about what came after, though.
The best of the various adaptations of Richard Matheson’s incredible novel I Am Legend, this black and white Italian film from 1964 sees horror icon Vincent Price as the eponymous lonely survivor struggling to make it through the night in a world where everyone else is a vampire. Gets closer to the bleak, shocking final reveal of the novel than any other version since.
Bickering couple John Hargreaves and Briony Behets take off for a weekend camping trip, only to find nature itself seemingly turning against them in an escalating series of ‘accidents’. Allegorical ecological horror is the name of the game here, with director Colin Eggleston never quite letting the audience know exactly what’s going on.
A lone woman comes under supernatural attack while vacationing in an isolated cabin in this unsettling piece of Australian Gothic. Director Donna McRae does a lot with a little, turning invisible assaults into a potent metaphor for domestic violence.
The dead rise from the grave to consume the living, and a mixed group of survivors hole up in an abandoned farmhouse to try and live through the night. George A. Romero’s black and white original 1968 low budget masterpiece spawned an entire subgenre—you owe it to yourself to find out why. Also available in colour, for no justifiable reason.
Doughty American commandos, including Wyatt Russell and Jovan Adeppo, parachute into Nazi-occupied France for a little demolition work, only to find themselves at the sharp end of SS Captain Pilou Asbæk’s zombie experiments. Essentially Wolfenstein: The Movie, Overlord mixes shock and awe with schlock and gore, pitting dogged dogfaces against Nazi monsters to the delight of horror fans everywhere.
Sometimes dead is better, but sometimes remakes are too. Starry Eyes directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer smartly spruce up Stephen King’s resurrection potboiler, with Jason Clarke as the bereaved father who plants his dead daughter in the sour earth of the titular graveyard, only to pay a terrible, terrible price. Should have kept the Ramones theme tune, though.
When the winged god Quetzalcoatl starts terrorising New York City, a small time criminal (Michael Moriarty) realises he can hold the town to ransom after he discovers its nest. It’s another high concept, low budget slice of fried gold from the late Larry Cohen, and as such is simply unmissable.
Russel Mulcahy brings music video verve to this tale of a man-eating pig terrorising the outback, and what could have been a rote schlocker becomes artier, weirder, and often downright mesmerising. The plot is pretty much Jaws on trotters, but this Ozploitation gem punches well above its weight in terms of sheer filmmaking nous and visual style.
A Nightmare on Elm Street director Wes Craven revitalised the slasher subgenre with this smart entry, which sees a mixed bag of photogenic teens (Neve Campbell, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Drew Barrymore et al) stalked by a masked killer. The fresh wrinkle is that they’ve all seen Halloween and everything after, and so know how this whole thing is supposed to play out. Tongue in cheek but still effective, it changed the genre forever. The sequels? Not so much.
Troubled rich teen Billy Warlock discovers his alienation from his high society family and friends is not rooted in class consciousness, but in the fact that they are inhuman monsters that literally eat the lower classes. You have to wade through a lot of soap opera-level nonsense in this satire by Brian Yuzna to get to the grand slam climactic scene but, holy hell, is it worth it.
When distant relatives front up to a decaying mansion to try and wrest control of the family fortune from the three disturbed siblings who dwell there, murder and madness inevitably ensues. This 1968 curio has achieved cult status thanks to its gonzo approach, switchback tonal shifts and appearances from genre legends Lon Chaney, Jr. and Sid Haig.
A blue collar guy (Kevin Bacon) is hypnotised at a party, and afterwards finds himself having visions of a local girl who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Adapted from the legendary Richard Matheson’s novel, Stir of Echoes smartly uses its supernatural trappings as cover for an investigation into the mundanity of human evil.
Arthouse darling Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) tackles Dario Argento’s giallo classic and, miraculously, manages to pull it off. Dakota Johnson is the ingenue who arrives at a German dance academy run by Tilda Swinton, who finds herself caught up in a power struggle among a coven of witches. But is she their victim or their messiah? This is a remake done right, using the bones of the original to do something new and transgressive.
An abusive family patriarch (Sean Bridgers) captures a feral woman and tries to ‘civilise’ her, not knowing she is the last survivor of a backwoods cannibal clan. Lucky McKee adapts Jack Ketchum’s pitiless novel with an adroit eye for both gore and gender politics, with McIntosh giving a performance that is ferocious in every sense.