I have a confession to make: I'm a total wimp. When it comes to gore, I can hang with the best of them, but a really good jump scare will keep me awake for weeks. After I watched Saw, I forced my roommate to check every closet in our apartment to make sure there weren't any murderers just chilling with our coats and shoes because the scene where Zep Hindle emerges from Diana Gordon's closet shook me to my core. Still, I force myself to enjoy a good horror film when the opportunity presents itself because I have horrible FOMO because the horror genre is the most captivating and inventive genre in film.
As a simultaneous horror fanatic and paranoid scardy cat, I am hands-down the best person to tell you which (actually good) horror films you can watch even if you got scared watching Scary Movie 3. Grab some popcorn, keep the lights ON, and have a fun horror movie night with a dozen of your closest friends — remember, there's strength in numbers.
There are some spoilers ahead, don't @ me.
Where To Stream: YouTube ($3.99), Amazon Prime ($3.99)
Happy Death Day and its sequel, Happy Death Day 2U follows sorority girl Tree Gelbman on her birthday as a mysterious masked killer dubbed Babyface murders her again and again and again at UCLA a fictional university.
Tree gets stuck in a time loop, so every time she gets murdered, she wakes up in the same random dude's bed and has to live the day all over again until she's inevitably murdered, *again*. Tree and the random dude decide to solve the mystery of who's trying to kill her, and Tree becomes a better person along the way or whatever. It's like 50% slasher flick, 30% rom-com, 20% ABC Family's Greek. The super low stakes of no one ever staying dead means the jump scares don't hit that hard and the psychological torture is basically negligible, but it's still a fun watch. TBH, the scariest part of this movie is star Israel Broussard's tweets.
Where To Stream: Vudu, YouTube ($3.99), Amazon Prime ($3.99)
You're Next seems like it's going to be hella scary. Home intruders wearing animal masks? I'm out. But the freaky trailer is deceptively deceiving. You're Next has all of the most fun aspects of horror films like jump scares, dinner parties, and inventive murders (spoiler: someone gets murdered via blender to the head, and it's awesome), but it is not scary. There's a good ~reason~ why it's not scary, but if you don't want to be spoiled don't read on.
Hopefully, no one is reading this because *spoilers* but basically the reason You're Next is such a good horror gateway drug is because in the film's third act you find out the scream queen grew up in a survivalist compound and can kick some serious ass. It's less scary when the murderers are the ones getting murdered, but just as fun.
People that complained about Get Out not being scary enough are the reason Jordan Peele made Us. Thanks, assholes. Also, people who don't think that Get Out is scary don't realize that systemic racism is the scariest thing of all, so they're probably white and therefore definitely a little racist.
Anyway, if traditional horror films are the last thing you want to see, you'll probably be fine watching Get Out. It's creepy AF, but there's no gore, barely any jump-scares, no chainsaws. Just the horrifying realities of being black in America with a bit of a twist.
Where To Stream: Netflix, Amazon Prime ($3.99)
Speaking of gory, if your main issue with horror films is the blood and guts of it all, stop reading. Skip this. Go watch something else. This sh*t is nasty. If you just don't like the idea of psychos breaking into your house, hiding under your bed, and stabbing you in your sleep and whatnot, consider giving Raw a try.
This French-Belgian movie follows a lifelong vegetarian who eats meat once and develops an insatiable desire for human flesh. Yeah, no, it sounds pretty funny as a concept. The thing is, while the cannibalism is so, so (so, so, so) gross, it's not necessarily violent. It's pretty casual, TBH. The denouement makes this film one of the scarier on this list, but it's really more of a symbolic deconstruction of erotic hunger and the dichotomy of being female than it is torture porn.
Where To Stream: Amazon Prime ($5.99), YouTube ($7.99)
Another film that's more metaphor than anything is It Follows. This movie has one of the scariest, darkest trailers, and the movie just did not deliver on its promise. It's still definitely good and deserves all of the hype that was loaded onto it in 2015, but it's one of those movies where the villain just walks really slowly the whole time. Doesn't really lend itself to "scary." Plus, the creepiness of the killer is lessened when you learn that this movie was made as a metaphor for AIDS. Like, yes, AIDS is legitimately scary. A grandma slowly walking towards you to kill you in some vague, unexplained way is less legitimately scary, which is probably why no one took The Visit too seriously.
Where To Stream: YouTube ($3.99), Amazon Prime ($3.99)
Two words: Killer unicorn. That should give you a good idea of The Cabin In The Woods's general tone. It spends so much time dismantling and making fun of horror tropes that people still aren't 100% sure if it was supposed to be scary in the first place. On the bright side, if you've seen Cabin In The Woods, you've seen every horror movie ever. This is like Scream-lite, a love letter to something the director (in this case, Joss Whedon) may or may not actually hate. Except, Scream is actually scary. Still, Cabin is almost a classic.
Where To Stream: Starz, Amazon Prime ($2.99), YouTube ($2.99)
It can be hard to properly evaluate the scariness of a lot of older movies, especially the classics because everything was a bit tamer then. Movie sex was less sexy, SFX was pretty primitive, and people were less desensitized to violence, so there needed to be an extremely solid concept (like Sleepaway Camp) or atmosphere (IE: anything by Alfred Hitchcock) for the film to still land. Rosemary's Baby, honestly, has both, so if you're currently with child, it has the potential to freak you out. If you don't think pregnancy will be on your mind anytime soon, the stakes in Rosemary's Baby will be so foreign to you that you'll be able to enjoy it as the masterpiece it is without clutching your uterus anytime someone says "tannis root."
Where To Stream: Starz, YouTube ($3.99)
Note: I did not say The Evil Dead. An important distinction to make if you want to sleep tonight. Evil Dead II is another film that makes Quentin Tarantino movies look understated, but its slapstick gore is actually what makes it watchable for wimps like us. It's filled with in-jokes and Easter Eggs, the SFX has aged fine-ish, and it originally was supposed to follow Ash as he accidentally traveled back into the Middle Ages. A lack of budget caused Sam Raimi to pivot towards the more conventional continuation of the story, but the OG plot gives you a good idea of how seriously to take this one. The best part of this movie is when Ash has to remove his possessed right hand and replaces it with a chainsaw.
Where To Stream: HBO
This can honestly apply to either the 2017 movie It or the 1990 miniseries, but It seems scarier than it really is. If you're currently in the middle of one of those weird creepy clown epidemics that hit every couple of years, wait until it's a little less #relevant to check out Stephen King's murderous clown movie. I give you this advice from personal experience. Otherwise, plot points in the films undermine the real-life scariness of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. SPOILER: The clown is an alien.
The book is scarier than the movie because it is way more messed up. (Seriously, is Stephen OK?) Y'all can probably handle hottie Bill Skarsgård in a clown suit for an hour.
Where To Stream: HBO Go, HBO Now, YouTube ($3.99)
Another movie that is a little too dated to be truly scary is The Lost Boys. It is so '80s, it almost *becomes* scary again. Male crop tops? Check. Glam metal haircuts? Check. A bunch of dudes calling a slutty Judd Nelson impression scary? Triple check. We're all about this pre-Twilight vampire flick, where a dude falls in love with a vampire and has to fight her evil vampire boyfriend, Kiefer Sutherland. Twilight has made vampires significantly less scary just by existing, so The Lost Boys is a very safe bet.
Where To Stream: Netflix, YouTube ($1.99), Amazon Prime ($1.99)
This is one of the few films on this list I haven't actually seen, but the internet seems to agree that it isn't really scary. Basically, the movie is just generally creepy until the last fifteen minutes, when sh*t goes *down*. It's basically just Jonestown if no one actually wanted to drink the Kool-Aid, ja feel? The Invitation is an interesting look at depression with slow burn creepies, and it takes the dinner party of death trope to a sad place.
Where To Stream: Netflix, YouTube ($2.99), Amazon Prime ($2.99)
Do we really think Silence of the Lambs would have been the first (and only) horror movie to win Best Picture if it was actually ~scary~ scary? Silence of the Lambs is a masterful suspense thriller with some truly creepy moments, but if you can watch CSI, SVU, NCIS, or TBH, even Castle or the Yin-Yang killer episodes of Psych, you can handle this one. It's a must see both for historical/pop cultural significance reasons and because it's just that good.
Where To Stream: Amazon Prime ($3.99), YouTube ($3.99)
See if you can read this sentence without laughing: Jennifer Aniston accidentally frees an evil leprechaun that just wants its gold back. Yup, Jen's film debut is about as campy as it gets and it predates Friends by about a year. This is a great way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day if your real fear is drunk white dudes in "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" t-shirts. It also has progressively worse sequels with titles like Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood, where the creators really just gave up I guess.
Where To Stream: Showtime, YouTube ($3.99), Amazon Prime ($3.99)
The scariest thing about The Blair Witch Project is how scary good its marketing campaign was. But, like, deadass, if that campaign didn't legitimately trick people into believing that this found-footage documentary might be ~actual~ found-footage, something that could only have been done during the early days on the internet, it probably wouldn't hold the prime spot in horror history that it does. Now, we can do a quick Google and see that these kids are alive and kicking, but in 1999, people weren't so sure. The atmosphere is amazingly crafted and the fear is authentic, but so little actually happens that you can probably stomach it.
Where To Stream: Netflix, Amazon Prime ($2.99), YouTube ($2.99)
TBH, *I* think that I Know What You Did Last Summer is scary. I was scared. But the internet seems to disagree with me, and I love watching Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. act together, so why not? The moral of this story is drive safely and stay away from beauty pageants, which is something everyone needs to hear at least once. It also taught us to always check for a pulse. Sarah, Freddie, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Ryan Phillipe (aka the hottest people in 1997) hit a homeless dude on the way back from a pageant and throw him into the sea, then they still go back to that same pageant the next year and assume everything is going to be fine. Yeah, not so much.
Where To Stream: Netflix
What's scarier, Bella Thorne's meme account or The Babysitter? The correct answer is: The Babysitter.
Bella is dope in a crazy, not-showering way, and the best part of The Babysitter is remembering how hot she is when she washes her hair. The villains in this film are so hot and the visuals are so sleek that it undermines its ability to be scary. It's also just kind of mediocre, which also undermines its ability to be scary. I'm not saying it's *good* but I might be calling it so-bad-its-good, like The Kissing Booth but with murder and no romance.
Stage 6 Films
Where To Stream: Amazon Prime ($2.99), YouTube ($3.99)
American Horror Story has made Taissa Farmiga our generation's one true scream queen, and Final Girls just cements her regal status. It's weird that this movie isn't better known since literally everyone in it is famous enough that teens should have cared more. Taissa's character Max and her friends get transported into a 1986 summer camp slasher film, Camp Bloodbath, which her dead mom had starred in when she was Max's age. It's funny, and it shows how difficult it can be for meta-humor horror films to make their scares land.
Where To Strem: Netflix, Amazon Prime ($3.99)
Like Blair Witch, The Witch's marketing was scarier than it's actual film, which is really a testament to A21's stellar campaigns for all of its movies and its willingness to take risks on interesting concepts. A21 and Blumhouse are the absolute horror GOATs, which is ironic because this movie is all about an evil goat. So, there's that. Genre films like The VVitch can be more spooky than scary a lot of the time for some reason, and this film creates a great atmosphere (with special care to avoid anachronisms, which is wild) with some decent "omg please stop that" visuals, but it drags on a little and is more of a slow burn than a shocking scare-fest.
Where To Stream: Amazon Prime ($2.99), YouTube ($2.99)
Cloverfield is great because everyone in it except Lizzie Caplain is so annoying that you're just rooting for them to die anyway. The Cloverfield monster is the real protagonist here because it saves us from having to listen to Hud talk anymore. It's about as scary as Godzilla because it's just Godzilla but with a bunch of weird sequels and the Statue of Liberty. It's intense and, like its found-footage predecessor The Blair Witch Project, it created a lot of buzz through marketing, so it's worth a watch even if you're rooting for the monster.
20th Century Fox
Amanda Seyfried is awesome. Megan Fox is awesome. Diablo Cody, shocker, is also awesome. Did I watch this movie because I'm in love with Adam Brody? Sure. But it was entertaining. Yet another film where the comedic aspect gets in the way of the scary aspect and the scary aspect stops it from being that funny, it's a feminist horror movie made by the same bad b*tch that created Juno and a cult classic, so if you hate this movie, you hate women. Sorry, I don't make the rules.