The best horror movies on Hulu

The best horror movies on Hulu

Clockwise from top left: The Host (Screenshot); Let The Right One In  (Screenshot); The Tall Man (Screenshot);The Nightingale (IFC Films); The Clovehitch Killer (Screenshot); Inside  (Screenshot);High-Rise (Screenshot)
Clockwise from top left: The Host (Screenshot); Let The Right One In (Screenshot); The Tall Man (Screenshot);The Nightingale (IFC Films); The Clovehitch Killer (Screenshot); Inside (Screenshot);High-Rise (Screenshot)
Graphic: The A.V. Club

Streaming libraries expand and contract. Algorithms are imperfect. Those damn thumbnail images are always changing. But you know what you can always rely on? The expert opinions and knowledgeable commentary of The A.V. Club. That’s why we’re scouring both the menus of the most popular services and our own archives to bring you these guides to the best viewing options, broken down by streamer, medium, and genre. Want to know why we’re so keen on a particular movie? Click the author’s name at the end of each passage for more in-depth analysis from The A.V. Club’s past. And be sure to check back often, because we’ll be adding more recommendations as films come and go.

Some titles on this list also appear on our best movies on Hulu, but we decided horror films deserved their own spotlight since they are often not included on our year-end lists as much as other genres. The criteria for inclusion here is that (1) the film is classified by Hulu as a horror film (so don’t shoot the messenger if you think something is misgenred here), (2) The A.V. Club has written critically about the movie; and (3) if it was a graded review, it received at least a “B.” Some newer (and much older) movies will be added over time as Hulu announces new additions to their library.

Looking for other movies to stream? Also check out our list of the best movies on Netflix, best movies on Disney+, and best movies on Amazon Prime. And if you’re looking to laugh, check out our list of the best comedy movies on Hulu.

This list was most recently updated Jan. 22, 2021.

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12 Hour Shift

12 Hour Shift

David Arquette
David Arquette
Screenshot: 12 Hour Shift

12 Hour Shift is not political, unless you want to count its grisly, madcap plot about a crew of night nurses and the organ-trafficking scam they’ve been running out of the back of an Arkansas hospital as a commentary on the American healthcare system. Mostly, it’s an ensemble comedy as black as a longtime smoker’s lungs, full of the kind of working-class gallows humor that gets you through a long night on your feet. 12 Hour Shift is Brea Grant’s second feature outing as a writer-director, but she’s best known as an actor. And that shows here: Although it boasts a large cast that includes David Arquette and wrestler Mick Foley, 12 Hour Shift hinges on the performance of May’s Angela Bettis as Mandy, the opioid-addicted nurse at the center of her small town’s black-market organ trade. The material is edgy and at times outrageously gory and chaotic, but Bettis gives Mandy an exhausted, fed-up quality that keeps the movie on track, even (or maybe especially) when she’s pissed off about having to do everything herself. [Katie Rife]

Available Feb. 4

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Arachnophobia

Arachnophobia

A spider!
A spider!
Screenshot: Arachnophobia

Amblin Entertainment co-founder Frank Marshall’s career as a director never quite took off, despite the fact that his first film, the creepy-crawly crowdpleaser Arachnophobia, suggested a talent for the kind of bright, brisk genre entertainment that made his regular collaborator, Steven Spielberg, the most commercially successful filmmaker in the world. Billed as a “thrill-omedy,” mostly because the marketing team wasn’t sure whether to play up its horror or comedy elements, Arachnophobia is a fun, self-aware throwback to the small-town creature features of the 1950s. Shortly after moving his family to a sleepy California community, Dr. Ross Jennings (a young Jeff Daniels) begins investigating a rash of sudden, inexplicable deaths. The culprit: a new species of Venezuelan arachnid that’s mated with a common house spider, creating an army of tiny, super-poisonous offspring. As in Gremlins—another Spielbergian horror hit that would have made a fine addition to this Watch This series—there’s a black-comic pleasure in seeing death and chaos creep its way into a setting so archetypically cozy and wholesome. (In a nice twist on urban-to-rural cliché, it’s the interloper, the big-city doctor, who teaches these country folk a thing or two.) [A.A. Dowd]

Stream it now (leaving Jan. 31)

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The Alchemist’s Cookbook

The Alchemist’s Cookbook

The Alchemist’s Cookbook
The Alchemist’s Cookbook
Photo: Oscilloscope

In many respects, The Alchemist Cookbook is a horror film, following the example of so many low-budget backwoods creepfests about ghouls and demons lurking among cracking branches and crinkly dead leaves. (Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead is the obvious reference.) As Sean, Gimme The Loot’s Ty Hickson gives what is very nearly a solo performance, ranting, guzzling soda, wolfing down Doritos, listening to The Smoking Popes and a warbly recording of “Jingle Bells,” sacrificing an unfriendly possum to evil forces. Like the protagonist of Buzzard, Sean is identified with George Miller’s Mad Max; he wears a stiff metal brace over his left leg, à la The Road Warrior. He is director Joel Potrykus’ poignant version of the loner in the wasteland, calling on unseen forces to get back at a world that is also unseen. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project

Illustration for article titled The best horror movies on Hulu
Screenshot: The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project opens with this epigram, written in elemental white-on-black typeface: In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary. A year later their footage was found. Genius. With a premise that good, making the movie almost seems superfluous. Indeed, between the film’s première as a buzzed-about midnight movie at Sundance in January and its official release in late July, the Blair Witch legend flourished on the website, which did nothing to suggest that the events described in that famous epigram weren’t real. The classic campfire yarn of a centuries-old witch still haunting the woods outside a Maryland town gained instant urban-legend status well before most people saw the movie. And I’m guessing that the website and the movie’s straight-faced verisimilitude had a handful of people believing that the footage they were seeing was going to be as real as the debris in Al Capone’s vault. After all, if three student filmmakers did disappear into Burkittsville’s fabled woods, and their equipment was discovered in a backpack a year later, then naturally you’d look to the footage to see what happened to them, yes? [Scott Tobias]

Stream it now (leaving Jan. 31)

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Body At Brighton Rock

Body At Brighton Rock

Body At Brighton Rock
Body At Brighton Rock
Photo: Magnolia Pictures

Horror movies are full of reminders to stay out of the woods. And even if the ancient curses and masked psychos don’t get you, there are plenty of more mundane terrors waiting out there in the wilderness. Body At Brighton Rock, the taut survival thriller from genre director Roxanne Benjamin (Southbound, XX), takes the latter path, eschewing supernatural menace in favor of more realistic but equally primal fears: Wild animals. Dead bodies. Rustling noises in the dark. With these minimalist elements, Benjamin casts a nerve-fraying spell, playing tricks on the audience by putting us into the head of a young woman who, like most of us, has no business being out there in the first place. [Katie Rife]

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The Cabin In The Woods

The Cabin In The Woods

Illustration for article titled The best horror movies on Hulu
Screenshot: A Cabin In The Woods

Where Scream put a postmodern twist on slasher films, The Cabin In The Woods takes on the whole genre and twists even harder. Director Drew Goddard, screenwriter of Cloverfield and a veteran of Lost and Alias, co-wrote the film’s script with Joss Whedon, who worked with him on Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. The script brings to the fore Whedon’s love of subverting clichés while embracing them and teasing out their deeper meaning. [Keith Phipps]

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The Clovehitch Killer

The Clovehitch Killer

Dylan McDermott
Dylan McDermott
Screenshot: The Clovehitch Killer

Not enough attention has been paid to The Clovehitch Killer, directed by first-timer Duncan Skiles, from a script by Cop Car co-screenwriter Christopher Ford, starring Dylan McDermott as a beloved small-town scoutmaster who may be a serial rapist and murderer. Lean On Pete’s Charlie Plummer plays the man’s son, in a story that unfolds in three distinct parts, each asking two unsettling questions: What if this seemingly upstanding, conservative Christian community leader is actually a dangerous criminal? And what is it about who he is and where he lives that might let him get away with something truly heinous? The Clovehitch Killer takes an unusually slow-paced and experimental approach to mystery and suspense, but it’s also a cogent critique of how “the culture wars” can provide a cover for someone whose sins are far beyond what his neighbors can imagine. [Noel Murray]

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Coherence

Coherence

Emily Foxler
Emily Foxler
Screenshot: Coherence

The minimalist sci-fi mindbender Coherence boasts a scenario as tried and true as the walking dead: Bickering individuals hole up in a house during a crisis, discovering that the threat looming beyond their walls may pale in comparison to the conflict happening within them. There’s a wrinkle in the design this time, however, and it’s that the characters are their own worst enemies not just in a figurative sense, but in a literal one, too. Confused? Writer-director James Ward Byrkit has the answers, and he’s not stingy about providing them. What separates his film from other exercises in Twilight Zone trickery is its refusal to play coy with a high concept. Unlike, say, the feature-length rug-pull The Signal, Coherence doesn’t get off on withholding. It would rather milk its premise for all it’s worth than stockpile secrets. The result is an uncommonly clever genre movie, reliant not on special effects—of which there are basically none—but on heavy doses of paranoia. [A.A. Dowd]

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Goodnight Mommy

Goodnight Mommy

Illustration for article titled The best horror movies on Hulu
Screenshot: Goodnight Mommy

Squirming just below the surface of Goodnight Mommy, a nerve-shredding thriller from far-flung Austria, is an almost comically predictable plot twist. Moviegoers hip to the true identities of Tyler Durden and Keyser Söze should figure it out by the end of the first reel, when the filmmakers have already begun to show their hand. But you don’t go to a midnight movie to have your mind blown. You go to have your stomach churned, your hairs put on end, your fingers forced over your eyes. And by that base criteria, this elegantly nasty little potboiler should satisfy those brave enough to brave it. They might see the big reveal coming, but that won’t help them unsee the horrors leading up to it. Nearly all of the film takes place in a secluded country house, surrounded by an idyllic forest and vast cornfields, perfect for frolicking and fleeing. This is the new home of 9-year-old twins Elias (Elias Schwarz) and Lukas (Lukas Schwarz), as well as their mother (Susanne Wuest), an anchorwoman who’s just undergone cosmetic surgery. To these troublemaking boys, there’s something not quite right about Mommy: Beyond her strange, frightening appearance—a pair of bloodshot eyes peeping out from behind a mask of bandages—she just seems different. For one thing, she’ll barely acknowledge Lukas’ existence, addressing only Elias and providing the boys with a single dinner, one set of clothes in the morning, etc. Soon, the brothers begin to wonder if it’s someone else entirely under all that gauze—if, in fact, their mother has been replaced by a malevolent imposter. [A.A. Dowd]

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Gretel And Hansel

Gretel And Hansel

Gretel And Hansel
Gretel And Hansel
Photo: Orion Pictures

Gretel And Hansel comes from Oz Perkins, the cult director who made a name for himself on the strength of two films, The Blackcoat’s Daughter and I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House. This was Perkins’ first film to receive a wide theatrical release, and so perhaps it’s to be expected that it would also be his most commercial one to date. Sort of. Though it moves at a much brisker clip, “commercial” is a relative term for a film where the camera lingers on a character pulling a lengthy tress of child’s hair from the back of her throat. The balance Perkins strikes in Gretel And Hansel is reminiscent of another contemporary arthouse horror director, Robert Eggers, whose films aren’t impossibly dense but are too slow for a decent chunk of the horror audience. In fact, screenwriter Rob Hayes borrows a favorite technique of Eggers’, employing stylized dialogue that takes a few minutes to get used to but eventually helps the viewer sink into the film’s world. Sophia Lillis stars as a teenage Gretel, whose name is put in front of her brother’s in the title for reasons that become clear later on. As the film opens, Gretel is looking for work as a servant, and nearly takes a job with a foppish landowner in makeup and sock garters until he asks her if her “maidenhead” is intact. This is the first of a handful of nods to the dangers of moving through the world in a female body, a theme that’s handled surprisingly well considering the film has both a male director and a male screenwriter. It’s also important to what happens after Gretel and her little brother, Hansel (Sammy Leakey), are sent away by their mother, who’s both unwilling and unable to feed them any longer. As in the fairy tale, they fall into the clutches of a sinister witch after nearly starving to death in the woods. But this witch (Alice Krige) lives in a wooden house instead of one made out of gingerbread and gumdrops. She also shows a special interest in Gretel, who seems to have an inborn talent for magic. [Katie Rife]

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High-Rise

High-Rise

Tom Hiddleston
Tom Hiddleston
Screenshot: High-Rise

High-Rise, a darkly funny adaptation by cult English director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, A Field In England) of the J.G. Ballard novel of the same title, preserves the book’s ’70s setting, steeping its vision of a toppling society in retro decadence. Dr. Laing (Tom Hiddleston, very good), a bachelor physiologist from apartment 2505, watches as the titular building regresses into a Mad Max-esque wasteland of garbage barricades, raiding parties, and literal class warfare following a few blackouts and a problem with the trash chute—a descent into collective madness that High-Rise underplays and elides to surreal (and audience-defying) effect. Wheatley’s use of ellipses and his overall refusal to do anything that might suggest a point of view or invite identification skirt incoherence. As in Ballard’s novel, the building isn’t just a dystopian microcosm of alienation and stratification, with the wealthiest living at the top. It also seems to create a new reality of its own: a killer cocktail of claustrophobia, stylishness, and oblique irony. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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The Host

The Host

Illustration for article titled The best horror movies on Hulu
Screenshot: The Host

Bong Joon-ho’s vastly entertaining creature feature The Host shattered box-office records in its native South Korea, which counts as an encouraging sign that Hollywood has lost its monopoly on effects-heavy escapism. But even that achievement sells short the film’s specific virtues, like a daylight monster attack that could stand toe-to-toe with anything in Spielberg’s oeuvre or the playful mix of tones that made Bong’s previous film, Memories Of Murder, so distinctive. It can also be appreciated as a sweeping metaphor for America’s toxic intervention abroad, though never to the point where it could be accused of high-mindedness. Most of all, The Host functions as a popcorn movie par excellence, loaded with the most familiar conventions, but shot through with such conviction and visual panache that even its clichés seem invigorating. [Scott Tobias]

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Inside

Inside

Illustration for article titled The best horror movies on Hulu
Screenshot: Inside

Inside tells the heartwarming Yuletide tale of a single mother near the end of a pregnancy who spends her Christmas Eve fleeing a deranged woman who wants to cut the baby out of her stomach and claim it as her own. So far, so good. Not to all tastes, granted, but a perfectly hooky premise for the new breed of French horror movies, which thrive on intensity and provocation. While having an involuntary C-section performed with a blood-spattered pair of scissors creates a degree of risk for the baby, it’s important to keep in mind that both women are interested in a healthy delivery. Their dispute is over who should be the baby’s mother. And settling such disputes with sharp implements is what slasher movies are all about. [Scott Tobias]

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Let The Right One In

Let The Right One In

Illustration for article titled The best horror movies on Hulu
Screenshot: Let The Right One In

In the Stockholm suburb of Let The Right One In, terrible things can happen just out of sight. Kåre Hedebrant, a 12-year-old child of divorce, knows this well; he frequently falls victim to a pack of bullies in empty bathrooms or deserted hallways between classes. His new neighbor Per Ragnar knows it too. He uses the dark woods to drug passersby and drain them of blood while headlights flash on a nearby street. In the dark, victims and victimizers find common ground.

Hedebrant has another new neighbor in Ragnar’s apartment, 12-year-old Lina Leandersson, who introduces herself to Hedebrant with the words, “I can’t be your friend,” then proceeds to spend every evening with him in the halfhearted park outside their apartment complex. Sometimes she smells bad and looks haggard. At other moments, she looks like a girl in the flush of youth. Meanwhile, residents keep disappearing, and Hedebrant starts to put two and two together about why he never sees his new friend in daylight. [Keith Phipps]

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The Lodge

The Lodge

The Lodge
The Lodge
Photo: Neon

The stranded family of The Lodge are locked in a cold war even before the harsh weather strands them indoors. Teenage Aidan (It’s Jaeden Martell) and his younger sister, Mia (Lia McHugh), give a chilly reception to their father’s new fiancé, Grace (Riley Keough). Their resentment runs deeper than the usual reluctance to warm to a surrogate parent; it stems from a trauma The Lodge inflicts early, the tragedy and unspeakable loss—a jolt of shattering violence—that sends the plot into glacial motion. Grace, as it turns out, has deep wounds of her own. Her father was the leader of a radical Christian cult whose entire congregation committed suicide when she was 12, leaving her the only survivor. The first real glimpse we get of her is in the front seat of a car, back to the camera, eyes in the rearview mirror. They want to appear friendly. They mainly look haunted. [A.A. Dowd]

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Lords Of Chaos

Lords Of Chaos

Lords Of Chaos
Lords Of Chaos
Photo: BFI London Film Festival (Vice Films

The true-crime elements of the Norwegian black metal scene have been extremely well documented over the past 25 years, in documentaries (Until The Light Takes Us), podcasts (Disgraceland and Last Podcast On The Left, among others), innumerable magazine articles, and the Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind book from which Lords Of Chaos takes its name. And that’s understandable, because from a morbid fascination standpoint, this story has everything: suicide, murder, satanism, church burnings, even (rumored) cannibalism. Lords Of Chaos begins with the first of those, as Euronymous (Rory Culkin) and his deeply troubled roommate, Dead (Jack Kilmer), bang out brutal-but-sloppy black metal for their friends in theatrical live shows at the run-down country house where they live—that is, until Dead’s obsession with suicide culminates with his self-inflicted death by shotgun. Euronymous finds the body, and in a revealing moment, decides not to call the police. Instead, he takes a picture of his friend’s corpse and uses it as the cover of a live bootleg album. (Don’t click this link if you’re squeamish in any way.) [Katie Rife]

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Mother

Mother

Illustration for article titled The best horror movies on Hulu
Screenshot: Mother

The best murder mysteries start small and build outward, becoming less about the crime and more about the community where the crime took place, and the evolving psyches of the investigators. Bong Joon-Ho’s Mother starts with the fairly pathetic case of a mildly developmentally disabled adult accused of killing a promiscuous teenage girl from an uncaring family. Then the movie expands to take the measure of the small South Korean town where the murder took place, and of the woman who sifts through clues in order to learn the truth. The woman (played by the remarkable Kim Hye-Ja) is the mother of the accused, and seeking more than vindication for her boy. She brought this kid into the world and taught him how to conduct himself, and if he actually killed somebody, then maybe he’s merely the murder weapon, and she’s the culprit. [Noel Murray]

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My Friend Dahmer

My Friend Dahmer

My Friend Dahmer
My Friend Dahmer
Photo: FilmRise

My Friend Dahmer, a coming-of-age drama tracing the struggles of an adolescent Jeffrey Dahmer to fit in at his high school, is going to make some viewers uncomfortable. Some may even lash out against the film, deeming it insensitive toward the families of the 17 men and boys Dahmer raped, murdered, and dismembered before he was apprehended in 1991. And the film does make a bold request of its audience: to try to understand, and even sympathize with, a teenage boy who, at times, seems like any other tortured adolescent—until you remember that he went on to murder 17 men and boys. If there wasn’t a Jeffrey at your high school, the movie implies, you may have been the Jeffrey. [Katie Rife]

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The Nightingale

The Nightingale

The Nightingale
The Nightingale
Photo: IFC Films

Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale is a Western revenge yarn of such heightened cruelty and suffering that it basically demands to be read as allegory. Westerns, as a rule, are violent, and that perhaps goes double for the Aussie ones, which tend to be more pitiless than their American cousins, stripping the genre of its romance and derring-do. Even by those standards, The Nightingale is tough to take. Set in the Oz of 1825, it confronts audiences with the full horror of colonialism, including enough scenes of sexual assault to warrant the trigger warning offered up before several screenings of the film. But while what we see and can never unsee over the course of a grueling two-plus hours is certainly extreme, it’s not gratuitous. That’s partially because Kent, who made the spectacular spookfest The Babadook, isn’t some B-movie shockmeister, rubbing our noses in ugliness for the sake of it. She’s pulled back the veil of awful history to find a cracked reflection of the modern world—and a corresponding, hard-won beauty in solidarity among survivors. [A.A. Dowd]

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Paranormal Activity 3

Paranormal Activity 3

Illustration for article titled The best horror movies on Hulu
Screenshot: Paranormal Activity 3

The first two Paranormal Activity movies referenced the past, when two sisters first encountered a hostile specter as children. Delving into a box full of VHS camcorder tapes, the third revisits that childhood in 1988, when “Toby,” an imaginary friend that isn’t so imaginary, begins tormenting the girls, their mother, and their stepfather in a California home. Paranormal Activity 3 also has one new technical wrinkle, and it’s brilliant: In addition to the cameras in the bedroom, Smith mounts a third to the base of a rotating electric fan, so it pans back and forth from the dining room to the kitchen and back again. Playing with action in and out of frame has been the series’ stock in trade—without an effects budget, the audience’s imagination will have to do—and Joost and Schulman exploit the rotating camera for all it’s worth, picking up disturbances that appear and disappear with each scan. The mythology behind the series feels all the more grafted-on this time around—and it presumably extends all the way back to the Lumière brothers—but the Paranormal Activity movies are built on fundamental horror concepts, and those fundamentals still hold. [Scott Tobias]

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Parasite

Parasite

Parasite
Parasite
Photo: Neon

The last time Bong Joon Ho made a parable of class warfare, he set it aboard one hell of a moving metaphor: a train looping endlessly around a frozen Earth, its passengers divided into cars based on wealth and status, upward mobility achieved only through lateral revolution. Parasite, the South Korean director’s demented and ingenious new movie, doesn’t boast quite as sensational a setting; it takes place mostly within a chicly modern suburban home, all high ceilings, stainless steel countertops, and windows instead of walls, advertising the elegant interior decoration within. But there’s a clear class hierarchy at play here, too; it runs top to bottom instead of front to back, vertically instead of horizontally. And though we’re watching a kind of warped upstairs-downstairs story, not a dystopian arcade brawler, Parasite races forward with the same locomotive speed as Snowpiercer, with plenty of its own twists and turns waiting behind each new door. [A.A. Dowd]

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Phase IV

Phase IV

Illustration for article titled The best horror movies on Hulu
Screenshot: Phase IV

Saul Bass—logo specialist, title sequence stylist, poster artist, and all-around 20th century graphic design icon—made several short films, and even won a Best Documentary Short Oscar in 1968. But he directed only one feature, a creepy sci-fi flick about super-intelligent ants called Phase IV. Bass doesn’t seem to have had much of a knack for directing actors, which would seem like a shortcoming in almost any other film, but plays into Phase IV’s sense of design. The movie belongs to a rare category: anti-humanist horror. It never attempts to get its audience to identify with its human characters, scientists who’ve holed up in a protective dome while investigating a hive-mind-like ant colony in the Arizona desert. Instead, they register as just another species, losing ground to a better-adapted foe. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

Available Feb. 1

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Possessor

Possessor

Andrea Riseborough in Possessor
Andrea Riseborough in Possessor
Photo: Neon

Possessor is a mindfuck without a safe word: a slick, nasty bit of science-fiction pulp that’s as interested in shredding nerves as buzzing the brain they’re attached to. The premise, a nightmare vision of bodies snatched and unwillfully weaponized, could have been extracted straight from the racing noggin of Philip K. Dick. But that author’s dystopian premonitions are just one aspect of its genre alchemy, a stylish mash-up of Ghost In The Shell, Inception, Under The Skin, and Olivier Assayas’ corporate-espionage thriller demonlover. And as it’s both written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, son of Canadian horror maestro David, it should probably come as no great shock that Possessor includes some truly gnarly mutilation of the flesh alongside the mental variety. [A.A. Dowd]

Available Feb. 1

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A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Nothing in his previous work behind the camera suggested that John Krasinski was any kind of master craftsman. But maybe the nine sitcom seasons he spent emoting directly to the camera taught the Office-drone-turned-director something about nonverbal storytelling, as he does wordless wonders with this taut suspense contraption about an Earth hushed into silence by blind, echolocating monsters. The sleeper hit of the year, A Quiet Place smuggled some pure visual filmmaking into the multiplex, getting moviegoers to sit still (and, yes, maybe even shut up) for a nearly dialogue-free portrait of a family in mourning. The monsters helped, of course. [A.A. Dowd]

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Shirley

Shirley

Shirley
Shirley
Photo: Hulu

Suffering has long been characterized as a woman’s lot, canonized in the form of Catholic saints and celebrated in literature and art. (Pablo Picasso merely made it explicit when he said, “Women are suffering machines.”) To defy this edict will bring further misfortune, leaving only two choices: either smile and let your soul die piece by indignant piece, or embrace the darkness and learn to enjoy it. Josephine Decker’s Shirley is about a woman who opted for the latter: Shirley Jackson (played here by Elisabeth Moss), author of high-school staple “The Lottery” and the oft-adapted The Haunting Of Hill House.  Mocked by her peers, mistreated by her husband, and burdened by mental illness, Jackson lived with the psychic evils that lurk in her writing. But for Decker, what’s important about Shirley’s misery is how she used it to fuel her work. [Katie Rife]

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Southbound

Southbound

Southbound
Southbound
Screenshot:

Heartless evildoers receiving their ironic comeuppance have been a horror staple since the days of EC Comics. The indie horror anthology Southbound puts a contemporary spin on this tradition, presenting five tales of irreversible decisions and their gruesome consequences. Sometimes the lessons in these mini-morality plays are ploddingly obvious—especially when Larry Fessenden explicitly explains them in his cameo role as a radio DJ—but then again, the same can be said for Tales From The Crypt. Set against the bleak landscape of the Southwestern desert, the segments overlap on several levels. Besides the Monty Python-style transitions, in which characters from one episode appear in the next, the movie also maintains a certain stylistic consistency throughout, which has its pluses (the segments share a timeless feel, à la Bates Motel) and minuses (shaky hand-held camerawork is an unfortunate constant). Regardless, that cohesion is a credit to the creative forces behind the film, and a welcome change from the wild inconsistencies of horror anthologies like the ABCs Of Death series. [Katie Rife]

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The Standoff At Sparrow Creek

The Standoff At Sparrow Creek

Illustration for article titled The best horror movies on Hulu
Photo: RLJE Entertainment

It’s impossible to make a movie about a militia without at least a faint aroma of the political. It’s not even an “...in the age of Trump” issue; heavily armed right-wing paramilitary organizations of the type depicted in The Standoff At Sparrow Creek have been hovering in the background of the American cultural consciousness since at least the ’90s, when the Ruby Ridge standoff of 1992 brought these sorts of white male terror cells to the fore. Of course, depiction is not the same as endorsement, and although someone with the same paranoid mindset as the characters in The Standoff At Sparrow Creek might undoubtedly find romance in the film’s apocalyptic masculinity, writer-director Henry Dunham keeps the specifics of the group’s politics vague. Aside, anyway, from their intense hatred of police and a belief in an ambiguous-yet-imminent apocalypse. But rather than defanging the story, sanding down The Standoff At Sparrow Creek’s political implications foregrounds its exceptional dialogue and strong performances, revealing the lean, punchy, beautifully shot ’70s-style thriller underneath the controversial premise. [Katie Rife]

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The Tall Man

The Tall Man

Jessica Biel
Jessica Biel
Screenshot: The Tall Man

With his notorious debut feature, Martyrs, French director Pascal Laugier made the torture-porn movie to end all torture-porn movies, not only because it could hardly be more extreme—only the risible A Serbian Film ups the ante in that department—but because it acted as a meta-commentary on the subgenre. Laugier does not try to top himself in The Tall Man, his peculiar follow-up, and it seems at first that he’s sublimating his darker instincts for a conventional English-language horror movie. But Laugier is a sly devil, and just like Martyrs, The Tall Man turns on a well-planted twist that leaves horror behind for psychological intensity and a much larger and more ambitious plot mechanism. It doesn’t try for anything like the first film’s shock value, but it’s novel, thought-provoking, and defiant of genre expectations. [Scott Tobias]

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Tragedy Girls

Tragedy Girls

Illustration for article titled The best horror movies on Hulu
Screenshot: Tragedy Girls

Finally, millennials have a Heathers of their very own. Actually, that’s not quite right: Imagine instead a Heathers that gleefully goes all the way past the point of nihilism, and ends up in a warped funhouse mirror reflection of society that blends camp and satire in equal measure (with a heaping dose of gore liberally applied throughout). Reimagining high school murderers for the age of Instagram, Tragedy Girls casts Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse) and Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool) as social media-obsessed high schoolers who kidnap a serial killer—not to kill him, but to learn how to more effectively stage their own attacks, the better to boost the numbers on their YouTube show. And that’s just the first five minutes of this nastily effective comedy-horror, which takes genre clichés and runs them through a candy-coated ADHD wringer, leaving you bloodied and smiling at the end. [Alex McLevy]

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You’re Next

You’re Next

Sharni Vinson
Sharni Vinson
Screenshot: You’re Next

A cost-effective merging of The Strangers, Straw Dogs, and the original Scream, Adam Wingard’s You’re Next adds a bracing dose of eccentricity to the home-invasion thriller. What the film lacks in originality it mostly makes for in personality—a quality fatally lacking from too many contemporary extreme-horror offerings. The setup, too, is novel: Aussie nice-girl Sharni Vinson accompanies her bearded professor boyfriend (AJ Bowen) to his childhood home, where the whole family is gathering for his parents’ 35th wedding anniversary. Were it not for the film’s opening bloodbath, as well as hints of something menacingly amiss in the old country house, it would be possible to confuse this early passage for the opening act of an indie farce—especially once filmmakers Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies) and Amy Seimetz (Sun Don’t Shine) join the party. Yet just as the dinner table has erupted into a flurry of argument, a razor-sharp arrow pierces the group’s sitcom bubble—and the soft eyeball of one of its guests. [A.A. Dowd]

Available Feb. 12

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