The coronavirus pandemic may have closed movie theaters across the country, but thankfully for genre fans, the flow of new horror movies to streaming services never stopped. (In fact, some even debuted at drive-ins at the same time they became available on VOD.) It’s no surprise that Shudder, the AMC Networks-owned horror-dedicated streaming service is home to many of the best recent releases, but there are also plenty to watch on Netflix — including an impressive horror debut by wrestler and UFC fighter, CM Punk — Hulu and Amazon Prime. And there are also a few that are worth that $6.99 on-demand rental fee.
Here are Yahoo Entertainment’s picks for the 12 recent underrated and unknown horror films that you can — and should — stream right now.
Alone is a minimalist cat-and-mouse thriller that takes a familiar premise and exceeds expectations simply through incredible direction by prolific action filmmaker John Hyams. The plot is simple: A recently widowed woman is stalked and kidnapped by a cold blooded killer, and then escapes into the wilderness where she is forced to battle against the elements even as her pursuer closes in on her. It’s about as stripped-down as a movie could possibly be and yet, it’s probably the year’s most suspenseful and tense piece of filmmaking.
The Beach House
The Beach House is a low-budget indie drama that stands a cut above similar genre fare for getting straight to the point, and delivering some gasp-inducing (and gross) Lovecraftian horror. A romantic getaway for two troubled college sweethearts turns into a struggle for survival when unexpected guests, as well as the surrounding environment, exhibit signs of a mysterious infection. Viewing Jeff Brown’s debut feature while in quarantine adds another layer of creepiness.
The Beach House is available to stream on Shudder.
The Deeper You Dig
The less said about The Deeper You Dig the better. But here’s a small taste of the set-up: In the aftermath of a roadside accident, the line between the living and the dead collapses for a mother, her daughter and a stranger. This is an incredibly well-crafted and surreal film that proves you don’t need any budget at all, as long as you have skilled storytellers like directing team John Adams and Toby Poser behind the camera.
The Deeper You Dig is available to stream on Shudder.
Girl on the Third Floor
Former WWE wrestler and UFC fighter Phil Brooks, aka CM Punk, delivers a deranged performance that has deservedly garnered comparisons to Bruce Campbell in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise. The movie revolves around a man trying to renovate a dilapidated house for his growing family, only to learn that the house has other plans. This incredibly solid directorial debut from Travis Stevens has a lot bubbling under the surface, and is also gorgeous to look at — you’ll never look at the electrical sockets in your home the same way again.
Girl on the Third Floor is available to stream on Netflix.
Rob Savage’s Host is so good, it’ll make you believe every movie should be 56 minutes long. Part of a sub-genre of movies that takes place entirely within a computer screen — see also Searching and the two Unfriended films — the movie has the added peg of taking place during COVID-19 quarantine. Six friends gather together during lockdown for their weekly zoom call, and the group decides to perform a seance... you know, for fun! You can probably guess what happens next, but it’s still super-effective and super-scary.
Host is available to stream on Shudder.
The Mortuary Collection
Horror anthologies are a dime a dozen, but The Mortuary Collection is a rare bird: a decidedly old-fashioned throwback to nostalgic favorites like Tales from the Crypt and Creepshow, complete with wonderful practical effects and a fun wraparound story. Director Ryan Spindell lends each segment its own distinct look and feel, and provides another example of how you can make a great film with a limited budget.
The Mortuary Collection is available to stream on Shudder.
One of two IFC Films that dominated the drive-in box office this summer, Natalie Erika James’s feature is a genuinely upsetting and scary take on the family-as-horror sub-genre spearheaded by Ari Aster’s 2018 hit, Hereditary. It’s stylish, elegantly shot and occasionally very creepy, managing to make a sequence involving a washer-dryer horrifying. The story builds towards a satisfyingly unexpected conclusion, aided by great performances from Emily Mortimer, Bella Heathcote and Robyn Nevin.
J.D. Dillard’s Sweetheart is way more fun than it sounds on paper: A shipwrecked survivor on an uninhabited island must fend off a malevolent force that surfaces each night. The director takes a “less is more” approach with the horror elements, and the movie is all the more effective for it. It’s also a terrific showcase for Kiersey Clemons, who made a big impression in the indie music drama Hearts Beat Loud. The movie plays like Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek meets Robert Zemeckis’s Cast Away — put that on the poster!
Sweetheart is available to stream on Netflix.
The Vast of Night
Andrew Patterson’s low-budget summer streaming hit is definitely more science-fiction, but it’s framing device and aesthetic is straight out of Rod Serling’s sci-fi/horror hybrid, The Twilight Zone, so we’re counting it. In 1950s-era New Mexico, a young switchboard operator and a radio disc jockey discover a mysterious audio frequency that could be extraterrestrial in origin. Besides its Twilight Zone allusions, the film also plays like a good old-fashioned radio drama.
The Vast of Night is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
A-listers Dakota Johnson and Armie Hammer headline the first English-langauge feature from Iranian filmmaker Babak Anvari. (His debut film, Under the Shadow, is also terrific and also on Netflix now.) When a New Orleans bartender (Hammer) picks up a phone left behind at the bar, mysterious and disturbing things begin to happen. Wounds is super avant-garde, devolving into total chaos as it unfolds, but if that’s how you like your horror, you’ll get a kick out of it.
Wounds is available to stream on Hulu.
IFC’s other drive-in horror hit follows a rebellious teenage boy (John-Paul Howard) who is already struggling with his parent’s imminent divorce. Things get worse when he encounters a terrifying evil after his next door neighbor is possessed by an ancient witch that feasts on children. Sibling directors the Pierce Brothers aren’t shy about paying homage to their horror inspirations (especially the 1985 classic Fright Night), but The Wretched more than holds its own.
When Brandon Christensen’s Z works, it really works. A family finds themselves terrorized by their eight-year-old son’s imaginary friend... and that’s pretty much all there is to it, plot-wise. But the movie has at least one genuinely shocking moment that’ll leave your mouth agape. This is above-average straight-to-Shudder fare.
Z is Available to stream on Shudder.
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