The best horror movies of 2020 to watch online right now

We're all staying home this year, so here's a list of scary movies to fill the chilly October nights.


Like literally everything else in 2020, Halloween is going to be different.

Parties are cancelled, trick-or-treating is complicated and costumes are exclusively for Instagram. But if we’re all staying home this year, that just gives us more time to watch scary movies. So I made you a list of 10 new horror movies (including one recent re-release) worth streaming on a chilly October night – or beyond.

We’ve had seven months to redefine our collective concept of what’s scary; here’s what I think still works. These are the best new horror movies to watch in 2020 (so far).

Cure

It may have been released in 1997, but Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s unnerving thriller has been out of circulation for more than a decade, only recently returning to circulation in a new digital restoration. On paper, it’s another of the dozens of serial-killer procedurals made after Seven supercharged the subgenre, with Koji Yashuko and Tsuyoshi Ujiki as a police detective and psychologist trying to figure out why random strangers are committing similar murders all over Tokyo. But Kurosawa refuses to release any of the story’s mounting tension with chases or jump scares. He just structures a series of enigmatic conversations that drape the entire film in an illogical, unrelenting anxiety that makes you feel like the whole world is sliding slowly into madness. (Korean director Na Hong-Jin tried something similar 20 years later in The Wailing, if you’re looking for a double-feature of ambiguous menace.)

Streaming on The Criterion Channel; The Wailing is streaming on Amazon, Hoopla and Shudder.

Cranked Up Films

Extra Ordinary

Not every Halloween movie needs to be straight-up scary. Extra Ordinary, written and directed by Irish filmmakers Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, is a dead charming supernatural comedy in the vein of Ghostbusters or The Frighteners. Maeve Higgins stars as Rose, a somewhat withdrawn driving instructor who can see ghosts, but would prefer not to… until she’s enlisted by a single father (Barry Ward) to rescue his daughter from the clutches of a has-been rock star (Will Forte) who plans to sacrifice her to restart his stalled music career. It’s silly and sweet, and trust me: after the year we’ve had, that’s a lovely change of pace.

Available on digital and on demand, and streaming on Crave and Hoopla

Courtesy of Shudder

Host

A jokey lockdown Zoom séance among a bunch of friends unleashes something very real and very angry in Rob Savage’s Shudder exclusive, which uses the restrictions of isolation (and the self-involvement of its young protagonists) to give a familiar supernatural-revenge narrative an unpredictable contemporary energy. It owes a debt to the Unfriended movies, but Savage finds a sly streak of humour in the way the mayhem mounts, and uses lockdown as a subtle way to reinforce the mounting terror: there may be a malevolent spirit stalking you from inside your laptop, but the world outside is just as scary.

Streaming on Shudder

Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

Random Acts Of Violence

If you’re looking for a horror movie to talk about with your roommates for the rest of the night, try Jay Baruchel’s second directorial effort, about a comic-book creator (Jesse Williams) whose road trip with his girlfriend (Jordana Brewster) and colleagues (Niamh Wilson, Baruchel) is derailed by a string of murders somehow connected to his nightmarish creation, a serial killer called Slasherman. The premise is comfortingly familiar, but the execution is anything but, depicting the brutality of physical violence as ugly, frenzied and cruel. Baruchel refuses to slot his movie into a recognizable genre framework, steering the action into messier, nastier territory and dragging the viewer along with him.

Available on digital and on demand

Relic

Dementia is enough of a horror without adding paranormal elements into the mix, but that’s the thing that gives Natalie Erika James’s insidious creeper about a mother (Emily Mortimer) and daughter (Bella Heathcote) who slowly realize they’re dealing with something much more unsettling than the cognitive decay of a parent (Robyn Nevin). An understandable hit at Sundance, it plays just as well at home.

Available on digital and on demand

Courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky

Sea Fever

Neasa Hardiman’s nautical riff on the isolation horror of Alien and The Thing – with the crew of an Irish trawler picking up an infestation that’s killing them one by one, and a marine biologist (We Hunt Together’s Hermione Corfield) insisting they have to quarantine themselves to avoid bringing it back to shore – feels like a pandemic movie, even though it played the festival circuit last fall. Dread ferments, I guess.

Available on digital and on demand

Courtesy of Shudder

Aya Cash and Josh Ruben have a secret in Scare Me.

Scare Me

What other movie offers both a rock-opera riff on American Idol and the story of an office worker tempted to murder by a goblin that lives in the air ducts? Two strangers (Aya Cash and writer/director Josh Ruben) pass a stormy night in a remote cabin trading scary stories in this fun little indie, which is as much about embracing the creaky clichés of the genre as it is about the horrors of writer’s block. The stories are “illustrated” with sound effects and camerawork more than anything else, so most of the film is just the two leads performing for one another… and laying the groundwork for a finale that pays off on the psychology Ruben’s created for his characters.

Streaming on Shudder

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Sweetheart

J.D. Dillard’s inventive spin on the survival thriller stars Kiersey Clemons of Hearts Beat Loud and Easy as a young woman who survives a shipwreck to find herself alone on a tiny island. Except that she’s not alone: every night, a ravenous monster rises out of the ocean in search of its next meal. As concerned with the day-to-day mechanics of staying alive as it is with its horror elements – and with Clemons carrying almost the entire picture by herself – Sweetheart is one of those little gems that you almost certainly missed when it went directly to VOD last year. So get caught up.

Available on digital and on demand

Courtesy of Shudder

Tigers Are Not Afraid

There’s a reason Guillermo Del Toro got behind Issa López’s compelling debut feature when it opened theatrically last year: it’s practically a companion piece to his own ghost stories. Set in present-day Mexico City, where “ghosts are made every day,” it follows a little girl (Paola Lara) who falls in with a tribe of orphans targeted by vicious cartel thugs .. but that’s not the only thing going on. It’s a powerful metaphor for troubled adolescence, with fairy-tale touches that reveal how desperate its young hero is to avoid a tragic future. But fairy tales can be scary too.

Streaming on Shudder, and available on digital and on demand

Courtesy of IFC Films

The Wretched

One of the films that led the return to drive-in cinema earlier this year, this affectionate riff on the 80s classic Fright Night stars John-Paul Howard as a teenager who can’t get anyone to believe his neighbour (Piper Cuda) has been possessed by an ancient witch. Michigan filmmakers Brett and Drew Pierce know exactly what they’re doing, nodding to classic horror tropes while still finding ways to juice their scares for a modern audience.

Streaming on Netflix

@normwilner

Comments (1)

  • Karah Mathiason October 17, 2020 10:16 AM

    The Beach House should be on the list

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