8 Essential Supernatural Horror Films for Halloween

Spooky season is upon us! It’s the perfect time to pour a cup of hot cider, nestle into a cozy couch and scare yourself silly with a creepy movie. Not sure where to begin? Here are eight essential supernatural horror films to scream—er, stream—this Halloween.

Slashers

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)

The slasher sub-genre is ruled by an unholy trinity of blade-wielding icons: Michael Myers (“Halloween”), Jason Voorhees (“Friday the 13th”) and Freddy Krueger (“A Nightmare on Elm Street”). But, as Michael and Jason are technically living human psychopaths (depending on which sequels you believe), only Freddy qualifies for this supernatural list. A kid-murdering janitor in life, Freddy (Robert Englund) was burned to death by a mob of angry parents…only to return in knife-fingered demon form to haunt the dreams of his killers’ teenage children. From the genre-defining mind of Wes Craven, “Nightmare” is a must-watch for horror historians, and its campy ’80s effects make it a fun ride even for scary-movie beginners.

Where to stream: HBO Max

“Candyman” (1992)

With a spiritual sequel, co-penned by Jordan Peele, currently in theaters and available to stream, now is the time to revisit the original “Candyman.” It follows a privileged grad student (Virginia Madsen) as she becomes entangled in the legend of Candyman—the hook-handed ghost of a Black 19th-century painter who was lynched for loving a white woman. Set in the real-life Chicago housing project of Cabrini-Green, this ahead-of-its-time fright fest tackles issues of gentrification and racism in ways few horror movies ever had before. Plus, Tony Todd’s sexy-scary performance as the title character deserves its own place in the Horror Hall of Fame.

Where to stream: Prime Video

Hauntings

“The Shining” (1980)

If we’re going to choose just one movie based on Stephen King’s sprawling canon of scary stories, it has to be Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” When struggling novelist Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) brings his family to an isolated mountain resort for the winter, it seems like a chance for a fresh start. A sinister force in the hotel soon worms its way into Jack’s mind, warping a repressed penchant for violence into full-blown homicidal psychosis. Come for the creepy ghost twins, blood-filled elevators and Nicholson’s mad-man antics, stay for Shelley Duvall’s subtle and sensitive performance as Jack’s wife, a soft-spoken victim turned survivor. Oh, and don’t forget the REDRUM.

Where to stream: HBO Max

“The Conjuring” (2013)

These days, there’s no shortage of haunted house movies stuffed with jump scares and saturated in eerie blue-gray hues. James Wan’s “The Conjuring” elevates the sub-genre with skillful tension building and creepy understated effects. An old-fashioned ghost story in the tradition of “The Amityville Horror” (1979), it claims inspiration from the “real life” case files of self-proclaimed demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). While skeptics may sneer, this framing device has become a lucrative springboard for an entire cinematic universe, including two direct sequels (“The Conjuring 2” and “The Devil Made Me Do It”) and a handful of companion films (the “Annabelle” series, “The Nun” and “The Curse of La Llorona”). None quite live up to the original, though, so stream your scares straight from the source!

Where to stream: HBO Max

Possessions

“The Exorcist” (1973)

One of the most influential—and controversial—horror movies ever made, “The Exorcist” opened the day after Christmas in 1973 to blockbuster ticket sales and a frothing wave of moral outrage. The story of a 12-year-old girl (Linda Blair) possessed by the Devil, it delivered a barrage of sacrilegious imagery rendered with graphic special effects, the likes of which moviegoers had never seen. Today, still, “The Exorcist” remains an eerie, thoroughly disturbing depiction of evil at its most primal.

Where to stream: Prime Video

“Hereditary” (2018)

Scaredy cats, be warned: This is varsity-level horror. Ari Aster’s buzzy prestige film owes a lot to possession movies of yore—most obviously 1968’s “Rosemary’s Baby.” But it freshens up the sub-genre with convention-thwarting twists and creepy camera tricks that leave you with a nagging sensation of wrongness from start to finish. Toni Collette cements her role as the unsung Scream Queen of our time (seriously, check out her IMDb to see how many horror movies she’s headlined), and newcomer Milly Shapiro gives one of the most unsettling performances of the last decade. You’ll never look at chopped walnuts the same way again.

Where to stream: Hulu

Creature Features

“The Descent” (2005)

This lesser-known gem delivers a harrowing viewing experience for which horror novices need not apply. It follows a group of adventuring friends as they embark on a spelunking expedition into an uncharted cave system. The first half of the movie is so claustrophobic and suspenseful that it’s almost a relief when the monsters show up. But fear not… or, fear plenty. Tight action sequences, nerve-jangling performances from the ensemble cast and refreshingly CGI-free special effects carry the movie through to a satisfyingly scary conclusion.

Where to stream: Prime Video

“It Follows” (2015)

Is it fair to call the shape-shifting monster that lumbers its way through “It Follows” a creature? Watch and decide for yourself! It all starts when a naive college student (Maika Monroe) goes all the way with a new suitor (Jake Weary), only to learn he’s given her a sexually transmitted curse. Now a mysterious force, appearing in various horrifying humanoid forms, will stalk and eventually kill her unless she passes it along to someone else. With its likable cast of kids next door and its John Carpenter–esque synth score, “It Follows” feels at once timeless and exceedingly modern. Whether you view it as a metaphor for the relational trauma we reenact on others, a parable about the myth of suburban security or simply a good old-fashioned creepfest, “It Follows”—much like the film’s murderous entity—will stay with you long after the lights come back on.

Where to stream: Prime Video

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