Horror is alive and inescapable right now. Just how we like it. The first new Exorcist film in nearly 20 years has already banked $107 million on a $30 million budget and there are at least two more in the works. The Nun II remains in the top 10 after seven weeks of release. This weekend's Five Nights at Freddy's is on pace to open on top of the box office, with a projected $40 million — the second-best haul of the fall, behind only Taylor Swift's The Eras Tour. This year has also seen the latest installments in the Scream, Insidious and Saw franchises, while critics have gushed over the chilling Stephen King adaptation The Boogeyman and the breakout indie phenomenon Talk to Me.
You’ve probably already seen — or at the very least heard of — those movies. But if you are looking for even more cinematic scares, here are nine killer recent films that probably snuck by your radar but are worth a
scream stream in time for Halloween.
When Evil Lurks
The most original demonic-possession movie in ages, When Evil Lurks features images incredibly upsetting and taboo, and doubles down and lingers on all its most deranged moments. Imagine something with the darkly funny nastiness of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead but pitched more bleak, in the vein of a John Carpenter apocalypse-trilogy flick.
The movie is so impressive and exciting in how it unfolds: terrific pacing with genuine world-building that patiently doles out information and an entire set of rules, teasing out the threat and revealing that the characters know far more than we do. The less said the better, as the movie just throws you right into things with no explanation. You’ve been warned!
When Evil Lurks is in theaters now and available to stream on Shudder/AMC+.
It’s a shame this terrific pairing of iconic screenwriter Kevin Williamson, known for Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, and DTV action director legend John Hyams, was unceremoniously dumped on Peacock, because it would've played great in a packed theater!
It’s a movie set at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and is very much about the anxieties we all felt during that very specific time period, but that’s all simply window dressing for a taut, pared-down slasher movie that riffs on Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer while charting its own path.
The tactical way Hyams shoots the stalk-and-kill sequences is intense and thrilling and visceral. There’s at least one genuinely terrific horror set piece within this movie, which itself is mostly just one long horror set piece. Even the jump scares feel earned. As you’d expect from Williamson, it packs a satirical punch on top of all the thrills.
Sick is now available to stream on Peacock and can also be purchased on digital platforms and DVD (yes, just DVD, no Blu-ray).
How far would you go to save your child? That’s just one of the many questions posed by Birth/Rebirth, a sort-of riff on Frankenstein or Re-Animator that’s more a darkly funny two-hander about pregnancy and motherhood, anchored by a couple of fantastic performances in Judy Reyes and Marin Ireland. A mom and a morgue technician reanimate the body of a young girl. What could go wrong? The movie’s got nasty body horror and subversive ideas about the female body, and there’s a clever reversal at the end that I’m still thinking about months later.
Birth/Rebirth will be available to stream on Shudder/AMC+ on Friday, November 10th, and can be rented or purchased on digital platforms now.
Influencer has to be the first truly great social media horror movie: think The Talented Mr. Ripley for the influencer generation, with an absolute terrific and terrifying lead performance and a thoroughly compelling protagonist — or is she the antagonist? It’s got a clever set-up with an early reveal that’s genuinely unpredictable and informs the rest of the movie. And, best of all, it’s not afraid to get super mean-spirited. Another one where the less said here, the better.
Influencer is now available to stream on Shudder/AMC+ and can also be rented or purchased on digital platforms.
Soft & Quiet
Taking place in real time, an elementary school teacher organizes a mixer of like-minded women, but an altercation between someone from her past and the group leads to a volatile chain of events. You’ll appreciate the vague description after the opening reveal, I promise.
This movie legitimately gave me a stomachache. It’s relentlessly horrific, which is clearly the point, but it’s sure to alienate and piss off most people who endure it for that reason. It’s a harrowing sit that locks the viewer into a hideously ugly POV and doesn’t relent. The rare case of a “one-take” gimmick that actually feels like it aids the material.
Soft & Quiet is an effective work and definitely achieves what it sets out to do which is to shine a light on festering white supremacy and how it’s manifesting out in the open everyday in ways both big and small, visible and invisible.
Soft & Quiet is now available to stream on Netflix and can also be purchased on digital platforms.
In The Harbinger, a woman leaves her family quarantine to help a friend who’s suffering from terrible nightmares, but she learns too late that the bad dreams are contagious. It’s genuinely scary stuff and easily the best COVID-related movie I’ve seen, transcending that label in an ambitious way. Helmed by genre stalwart Andy Mitton, The Harbinger taps into the uncertainty and the dread and the fear of that time and is quite unsettling; the atmosphere is so creepy, that it legitimately feels like you’re experiencing somebody else’s nightmare. An unnerving watch that will stick in your bones.
The Harbinger is now available to stream on Tubi and can also be purchased on digital platforms.
This is barely a horror movie, but it screened at the Brooklyn Horror Festival and became one of my very favorite films of the year, so damn it, it makes the list anyway. Directed and co-written by actress Charlotte Le Bon, this French-language film is a typical coming-of-age story on paper: A shy boy on summer vacation experiences the joy and pain of young adulthood when he forges an unlikely bond with an older girl. In execution, though the movie is haunted by a presence you don’t quite understand at first. It’s a loss-of-innocence narrative told in the form of a ghost story, and the movie itself unfolds like a memory. After the big reveal at the end, you may be tempted to watch it over again with new eyes. An understated and deeply beautiful film, with just enough of a ghostly tinge to call it horror.
Falcon Lake is now available to be purchased on digital platforms.
This one’s for those who find The Blair Witch Project to be the scariest movie ever made — if you don’t vibe with found-footage horror, stay far away! It’s your typical found footage set-up: We’re watching the lost tapes of a group of kids who went missing in the Mojave desert. The budget is practically nonexistent, but somehow the movie manages to be absolutely terrifying solely through suggestion and sound design. It’s horror of the cosmic, Lovecraftian variety made all the more impressive due to its DIY constraints. It won’t work for everyone, but those that love it will really love it. Watch it late at night with headphones.
Thankfully MGM dumped this movie I’d never heard of on VOD just in time for Halloween because it is absolutely perfect seasonal fodder. Based on the 2006 novel of the same name, set in a small Midwestern town, a deadly annual ritual unfolds when the mythical nightmare Sawtooth Jack rises from the cornfields and challenges the town’s teenage boys in a bloody battle of survival.
It’s a '60s period piece with big broad performances and archetypes that manages to be charming due to its commitment to the bit, which involves a Pumpkin-headed, candy-stuffed monster who scalps the town’s children once a year for reasons to be explained later. The creature design is inspired, there’s plenty of blood, and director David Slade’s visual prowess shines through, as the movie has a unique and honestly beautiful look. Small town lore has never been this fun!
Dark Harvest is now available for rent or purchase on digital platforms.
For more new release horror recommendations, as well as deep dives on iconic horror franchises, interviews with filmmakers, and genre box-office and industry news, check out The New Flesh podcast!