For those who love the deliciously unsettling, tightness-in-the-stomach, hey-wait-what-was-that-noise-outside feeling that a scary movie can bring — here are 10 recommendations from the current century, all of which scared me silly (or made me giggle). Happy Halloween!
"The Babadook" (2014): Like so many great horror films, Australian director Jennifer Kent's masterfully creepy debut calls to mind Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw" (and the excellent 1961 horror film made from it, "The Innocents"): a dark house, a haunted child, a young woman who may or may not be succumbing to madness. Somebody please turn the lights on. (Streaming on Amazon Prime, Vudu)
"The Conjuring" (2013): It's just a haunted-house movie — but oh, what a house. James Wan, known for the "Saw" franchise, here shows he can craft an impeccable old-school "Amityville Horror"-meets-"The Exorcist" horror flick, in which a family moves into a remote farmhouse and terrible things promptly happen. (Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Vudu)
"Crimson Peak" (2015): If you, like me, like your thrillers with a touch of Gothic, feast your eyes on this red-underlined dream from Guillermo del Toro, where the ghosts seem to be made of equal parts smoke and black lace. Set in a crumbling mansion more than a century ago, it's a movie both delicate and wildly over-the-top — as if a classic Gothic horror film exploded, leaving blood on the floor. (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu)
"Get Out" (2017): You probably saw Jordan Peele's wickedly smart debut when it came out a few years ago, but "Get Out" is the sort of movie that rewards re-watching — the better to ponder its layers. This story of a young Black man visiting his white girlfriend's very strange family will scare you, make you laugh and, in its examination of race, make you uncomfortable — but trust me, you won't want to get out, not until the final frame. (Amazon Prime, Vudu)
"The Invitation" (2016): Karyn Kusama's film is a haunted-house movie — but the house is a smart modern pile in the Hollywood Hills, and the ghosts aren't exactly bump-in-the-night sorts. Watch as a dinner party goes horribly wrong, and as Kusama ratchets up the tension so expertly that suddenly everything seems like an evil omen. You might wish you could leave before dessert. (Amazon Prime, Vudu)
"The Orphanage" (2007): This gorgeously creeped-out thriller from Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona is another haunted-house tale, but this time the house is a former orphanage, and the child at its center is a frail little boy with imaginary friends. It's a movie that understands the terror behind the idea of a child who never grows up — and, in Belen Rueda's remarkable performance, the enormity of a mother's grief. (Starz, Amazon Prime, Vudu)
"Shaun of the Dead" (2004): I've rewatched this zom-rom-com many a time, and it never fails to hit its mark — a wonderfully deadpan blend of dark comedy and zombie horror. Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a regular London bloke, and what makes Edgar Wright's film work so well is how it treats a zombie invasion as just one more thing Shaun needs to deal with in a life full of obstacles. Watch for a scene-stealing performance by Penelope Wilton (better known now as Cousin Isobel on "Downton Abbey") as Shaun's sandwich-making mum. (Amazon Prime, Vudu)
"Them" (2007): No one paid much attention when it came out, possibly because of the very generic title. But I remember having the daylights scared out of me by this short, snappy thriller from French filmmakers David Moreau and Xavier Palud, in which a couple moves to a remote country house where it soon becomes clear that someone — or something — is stalking them. How do you say "brrrrr" in French? (Amazon Prime, Vudu)
"Under the Skin" (2014): Horror or science fiction? Jonathan Grazer's film expertly straddles both genres, leaving its viewer both intrigued and chilled. Scarlett Johansson plays a bloodthirsty alien who looks like, well, Scarlett Johansson, luring unsuspecting men to violent ends. It's an eerie, disorienting film, complete with screechy violins on the soundtrack and an overwhelming sense of utter darkness. (Showtime, Amazon Prime, Vudu)
"What We Do in the Shadows" (2015): Let's wind this list up with some laughs, shall we? Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement directed and star in this mockumentary that's basically a reality show in which vampires complain about their flatmates — an inspired idea that's now an FX series. "Just leave me alone to do my dark bidding on the internet!" Clement's character pouts. Indeed. (Amazon Prime, Vudu)
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