With all the great Halloween-related movies currently streaming, it can be determining which horror movies to watch during the holiday season.
However, looking at all the fantastic horror movies that are now available to view on HBO Max at the moment, a serious argument can be made definitively naming it the best streaming platform for all your Halloween-related viewing choices.
Offering a wide array of movies, ranging from darker family-friendly movies like Little Shop of Horrors to more recent, completely chilling horror movies like The Conjuring and It, you can likely watch a horror movie on HBO Max now until the end of the month and still have some films to watch even after Halloween has come and gone.
To help guide you through HBO Max's impressive collection of horror movies, we decided to make a list of the absolute best horror movies currently available on the streaming platform.
In the past, there have been plenty of adaptations based on horror icon Stephen King's many, many, many novels and short stories. After early hits with films like Carrie and The Shining, the '80s and '90s were rife with Stephen King adaptations. Most of them, unfortunately, failed miserably to translate the original source material onto the Big Screen. (The Night Flier, The Langoliers, Thinner, Maximum Overdrive, Silver Bullet, etc.)
In 2017, the long-awaited adaptation of It, arguably King's scariest novel, was finally released, with audiences holding their breath to see if it would manage to follow earlier successes like Carrie and The Shining, or sink in the same manner as 2017's The Dark Tower. Luckily, It would prove to be an overwhelming hit, becoming one of the most successful Stephen King adaptations of all time, and—unadjusted for inflation—becoming the highest-grossing horror movie of all time.
In a storyline that more or less faithfully follows the novel, It follows a group of bullied preteens plagued by a mysterious, shapeshifting, demonic entity (Bill Skarsgård) that preys on children, taking the form of their worst fears.
There are some slight changes from King's novel (including some plotting differences and shifting the story from the 1950s’ to the ‘80s), but the movie still captures the original spirit and tone of the novel, updating it for modern audiences and managing to deliver such a large number of scares throughout, you'll be physically exhausted by the time it's over.
Broken into parts, the 2019 sequel, It Chapter Two, was fairly decent, but it was the first film that won acclaim from critics and moviegoers alike, all of whom praised the movie for its faithfulness to the source material, atmosphere and tone, and the amazing performances of Skarsgård and the child actors involved (especially Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, and Jack Dylan Grazer).
If you're interested, you can also catch the three-hour-long 1990 miniseries that aired on ABC based on the same novel.
Few horror franchises have remained as consistently entertaining as The Conjuring series. Composed of eight (soon to be 10) feature-length films, as well as five short films and a comic book, the series has performed well in terms of both box office and critical reception over the years, building a fresh, frightening shared universe full of demons, ghosts, and possessed individuals.
While nearly every movie in the hit horror series has its merits and strong points, ultimately, it's the inaugural film that started the entire franchise, 2013's utterly horrifying The Conjuring, that may be the series’ best entry.
Loosely based on the real life investigations of paranormal experts Ed and Lorraine Warren (whose reports also served as the basis for The Amityville Horror and several other films), The Conjuring follows the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) as they attempt to work with a family who has begun experiencing increasingly disturbing instances of paranormal activity in their Rhode Island farmhouse.
Probably one of the scariest movies released in the past decade, The Conjuring was a huge success upon release, winning acclaim for the tone, atmosphere, performances, and direction. It featured numerous memorable scenes—the basement “clapping” scene and that chilling wardrobe scene, for example—that made for an effectively tense horror movie from start to finish—one that had audiences holding their breath and shifting uncomfortably in their seats.
It's an ingeniously made, ceaselessly terrifying movie, and one that we highly recommend viewing with friends or family (it's way too scary to view on your own).
Body horror (movies that depict disturbing physical transformations and a heavy emphasis on gore) is not everyone's thing—in fact, one can make a case that it's a serious red flag if it is someone's favorite subgenre of horror.
But if there is one director that knows how to make a decent—albeit disgusting—body horror film, it's the man that put the genre on the map, David Cronenberg.
In this 1981 Canadian horror film, a security and weapons company, ConSec, recruits individuals with psychic abilities (known as “scanners”) for their defense program. When a powerful rogue scanner (Michael Ironside) attempts to lead an underground movement fighting for scanners' world domination, ConSec sends another powerful scanner (Stephen Lack) to stop him.
A film fairly early on in Cronenberg's career, Scanners marked a growing maturity in the young director's work. He'd previously made a name for himself with horror movies like Rabid and The Brood, but it was Scanners that began to show the director was capable of balancing numerous ideas and thematic points of interest in his films, ranging from familial troubles (The Brood) to government conspiracies (Scanners).
Cronenberg's talent as a director was always mixing the psychological aspects of his characters with the body horror subgenre he was responsible for creating. Whereas other body horror films might go for cheap, gross-out effects to disturb the viewer, Cronenberg has always excelled in going deeper, exploring his characters’ troubled, balancing his visceral on-screen horror with an introspective psychological aspect as well.
While his films might be difficult to watch at times, Cronenberg has since gone on to achieve notable cult status—especially for his early work throughout the '80s and early '90s, such as this brilliant sci-fi horror film.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
In case you're wondering, yes, you should probably see the original Twin Peaks before you watch this 1992 prequel to the series.
One of the most popular series of its time—and one of the most influential shows ever made—director David Lynch and showrunner Mark Frost's Twin Peaks combined the surrealism found in so much of Lynch's work with a story rooted in local North American folklore and small-town communities. It’s an incredible series that directly parodies the campy, melodramatic tone of numerous soap operas, and brilliantly combines it with the more disturbing elements found in horror and mystery fiction.
In Fire Walk With Me, the film details the last few days of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), a popular, albeit deeply troubled, high school student whose murder sparks the events of the first season and a half of the series.
Like all of director David Lynch's work, it can be tough to accurately describe Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me in a few simple sentences. As was the case for the original series, it's a dark, comedic, strange, and foreboding work that has more than a few scenes that will have you lifting your eyebrow, wondering what the hell you just saw.
Maintaining the offbeat deadpan humor of the series as well as the mysterious, surrealist elements that made the show so popular, Fire Walk With Me manages to expand the story of Laura Palmer and the world of Twin Peaks, both in terms of the fictional setting but also the strange, supernatural elements of the series as well.
28 Days Later
If you love zombie movies, you have to watch 28 Days Later. It's required viewing for every zombie fan out there, and—what's more—is probably one of the absolute best, most original entries in the horror subgenre ever.
Waking up from a coma that he’s been in for nearly a month, bicycle courier Jim (Cillian Murphy) finds that he is seemingly the only person left alive in London. When he is nearly killed by a group of people infected by a virus that turns them into rage-filled, murdering cannibals, he subsequently joins with a small group of survivors (including characters played by Naomie Harris and Brendan Gleeson) traveling to a military-run safe haven in the countryside.
An overwhelming critical success upon release, 28 Days Later received heaps of praise from critics and horror fans for its inspired approach to the traditional zombie film. The film's positive reception was particularly focused on the performances of the cast (including the three main leads and their co-star, Christopher Eccleston), the fantastic script by Alex Garland, and Danny Boyle's wonderful direction.
It's the movie that reignited the public's interest in zombie films, paving the way for numerous movies, comics, and video games within the subgenre (Shaun of the Dead, the Dawn of the Dead remake, Dead Rising, The Walking Dead, Left 4 Dead, and a whole bunch of other titles with the word “dead” in it).
The less critically acclaimed sequel starring Jeremy Renner, 28 Weeks Later, is also on HBO Max.
Little Shop of Horrors
Admittedly, Little Shop of Horrors may be more rooted in comedy than it is horror, but either way, this 1986 cult classic has probably one of the darkest plots of any musical comedy out there.
Based on the 1982 off-Broadway show of the same name (itself based on a Roger Corman horror-comedy), the plot of the film follows a meek, mild-mannered florist, Seymour Krelboyne (Rick Moranis) who finds a strange plant that quickly makes him a star celebrity of his New York neighborhood. When the plant becomes sentient and begins demanding that Seymour feed him humans to satisfy his seemingly insatiable appetite, Seymour realizes how dangerous his beloved plant truly is.
Little Shop of Horrors is an odd, off-kilter movie that manages to blend dark comedy with horror extremely well. The movie never truly delves into full-on “horror” like other musical horror movies (Sweeney Todd, for example), instead relying on light-hearted jokes that poke fun at the B horror and sci-fi movies of the 1950s'.
The real charm of the film lies with its great soundtrack, complete with a “Greek chorus” of talented singers (Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks, and Tisha Campbell) who provide much of the narration and framing of the film. Other stand-out performances include Moranis's nerdy protagonist, and Steve Martin's hilariously sadistic dentist, who shares a memorable scene with a masochistic patient played by Bill Murray.
It's a great time to be a fan of horror. With the numerous entertaining horror movies currently streaming, there is no shortage of horror films well worth your time watching. When it comes to the streaming service to look on, there is no better platform out there that offers such a wide selection of fantastic horror movies than HBO Max right now. From comedic takes on slasher films to brilliant science fiction horror adaptations, HBO Max is currently streaming some of the best horror movies available online right now.
For other horror film recommendations that you can find currently streaming on HBO Max, we also highly suggest seeing the original Amityville Horror, The Brood, Poltergeist, and slightly less scary “family-friendly” spooky movies, The Witches (one of the most intense children's movies ever) and Tim Burton's Corpse Bride.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.