With the long dark nights drawing in and Halloween taking place today, what better time to dim the lights and scare yourself to death?
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox star as father and son coroners who examine the body of an unidentified woman, inadvertently unleashing supernatural forces as they investigate her mysterious death.
The film was directed by Norwegian Andre Ovredal, who hoped to prove he was more than a one-trick pony after making his breakthrough with the found-footage horror Trollhunter (2010). He succeeded.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Francis Ford Coppola’s all-star interpretation of the much-filmed vampire novel has plenty of faults, not least in its casting, with Keanu Reeves preposterously wooden as Jonathan Harker and Anthony Hopkins at his hammiest as Van Helsing.
But it’s a work of supreme style – drawing on the German expressionism of Nosferatu (1922) and oriental shadow puppetry – and is worth seeing for Eiko Ishioka’s stunning costumes and Wojciech Kilar’s terrifying choral score alone.
Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Chris Hemsworth is among the unsuspecting teens finding themselves subjected to oddly-familiar trials of terror while Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins are hilarious as the bored control room staff overseeing their plight.
Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995)
Although it lacks the surprise, unease and jarring editing of Bernard Rose’s original 1992 slasher, there’s still plenty to enjoy in this Candyman sequel from Bill Condon.
Relocating the action from the ghettos of Chicago to the spooky voodoo atmosphere of New Orleans was a smart choice and Kelly Rowan does well in the lead but, as with the first film, it’s all about Tony Todd’s towering, elegant turn as the hook-handed ghoul and the agonising mock-innocence of Philip Glass’s music box score.
Concerning a troubled high school student (Sissy Spacek) pushed to the brink of sanity by bullying classmates and the cruelty of her Christian fundamentalist mother (Piper Laurie), Carrie portrays puberty and adolescent self-consciousness as the stuff of nightmares.
Another stunning King dramatisation is this from John Carpenter – the story of another bullied pupil whose life changes when he takes ownership of a vintage cherry red Plymouth Fury with a mind of its own.
King fans might also enjoy Rob Reiner’s masterful Misery (1987), Sometimes They Come Back (1991), Sleepwalkers (1992), A Good Marriage (2014) or Netflix’s own Gerald’s Game and 1922 (both 2017), all currently available to stream.
Mark Duplass co-produced and co-wrote this independent found-footage shocker in which he also stars as the deranged Josef.
Apparently suffering from a brain tumour, Josef hires a young filmmaker to shoot a video diary of his life to be given to his unborn son, only to terrorise the videographer with ever-more unhinged stunts.
Don’t Breathe (2016)
Fede Alvarez and producer Sam Raimi reunited after their 2013 reboot of the latter’s Evil Dead series for this inspired subversion of the home invasion sub-genre.
Three Detroit housebreakers get their comeuppance when they attempt to burgle the home of a blind war veteran, their dreams of escaping post-industrial poverty quickly descending into a nightmarish battle for survival.
Also known as The Blackcoat’s Daughter, this chiller from Oz Perkins – son of Anthony, Norman Bates himself – finds Emma Roberts heading to an isolated Catholic school in the dead of winter, where two stranded students (Kiernan Shipka and Lucy Boynton) were haunted by an obscure and malevolent force.
With echoes of both Suspiria (1977) and The Shining (1980), this is evocative, atmospheric stuff.
Freddy vs Jason (2003)
No masterpiece – and perhaps not as good as the best entries from the two franchises from which its killers spring – Ronny Yu’s horror crossover still has plenty to recommend it and the novelty of seeing Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees together on screen is an irresistible thrill for any genre fan.
A timely return to founding principles after the meta games of Scream (1996) and its sequels, Freddy vs Jason gets on with the business of two experienced slayers slashing at each other. Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child is in it and comes to a memorably abrupt end.
From Beyond (1986)
Director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna reunited with stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton after the cult classic that was Re-Animator (1985) for another, equally gruesome HP Lovecraft adaptation.
Concerning a pair of scientists who develop a device known as the Resonator that enables them to see into other dimensions, From Beyond quickly descends into the sort of grotesque body horror mutations that would make David Cronenberg turn green.
Fan boy turned filmmaker Eli Roth followed Cabin Fever (2002) with this lurid “torture porn” spectacle, which did untold damage to Slovakia’s tourism industry.
For all its graphic violence, there’s a fairytale morality at play here: Roth’s narrative is openly critical of First World backpackers who blunder into the unknown with little respect for local customs and clearly enjoys seeing them punished for their entitlement.
For masochists, the film’s 2007 sequel is also up there.
James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the team behind Saw (2004), found a new spin on the haunted house genre with Insidious and launched another new horror franchise.
Suburban couple Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne turn to a medium for help when their son falls into a coma after investigating a creaking sound in the attic of their new home. Her suggestion that the boy is being used as a conduit for malevolent spirits from the astral plane opens a door to terror.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
If you liked last year’s It, you can’t go wrong with this self-explanatory cult classic from Stephen Chiodo. If you suffer from coulrophobia, do not press play.
The good folks of sleepy Crescent Cove, California, have to fend off an alien invasion after a sinister spaceship lands in the woods resembling a circus ring top, its inhabitants hell-bent on capturing earth specimens in cocoons of cotton candy.
Speaking of It, that film’s director Andy Muschietti made his American debut with this sinister ghost story about two girls discovered alone in a forest cabin after their stockbroker father loses his mind.
Adopted by foster parents Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, the children continually make reference to a guiding spirit watching over them known as “Mama”. But are the phantom’s intentions entirely benign?
Not up to speed on your French-Canadian zombie horrors? Now's your chance.
Robin Aubert's thoughtful take on the well-used genre is superbly made and features an engrossing central performance from Monia Chokri.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Tobe Hooper returned to the scene of his masterpiece for an eccentric black comic spin on the redneck cannibal scene, with added lunacy from Dennis Hopper. The film divided fans but has its champions.
Keen for more? Netflix also currently offers the recent prequel Leatherface (2017) and the same director's nutty vampires-in-space horror Lifeforce (1985).
Under the Shadow (2016)
Babak Anvari's Iranian ghost story must rank among one of the most accomplished debut features of recent times.
Channelling J-Horror and early Guillermo del Toro, particularly The Devil's Backbone (2001), Under the Shadow concerns a mother and daughter plagued by an ancient evil in Tehran as war rages all around them.
Terrifyingly, Paco Plaza's Spanish supernatural chiller claims to be based on real events: the case of Estefania Gutierrez Lazaro, who died in Vallecas in 1991 after using a ouija board to contact the afterlife.
Other notable titles among Netflix's haul of foreign language horror films include South Korean plague drama The Wailing (2016) and the Basque language folktale Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (2018)
Wake Wood (2009)
Aidan Gillen and Eva Birthistle star as grieving parents in Northern Ireland who turn to the occult to bring their child back from the dead after a tragic accident.
Touching on Don't Look Now and The Wicker Man (both 1973), David Keating's film helped relaunch Hammer Films after 30 years in the doldrums.