What horrifies me most is that HBO’s streaming app can’t settle on a name.
Seriously, it’s more horrifying than the downward spiral that is And Just Like That. There was HBO. Then there was HBO Go. Then there was HBO Max. And now it’s just … Max. What lobotomized marketing executive thought of that? Max makes me think of a late night porn station that I’d find while flipping channels at a Best Western. Max does not have the clout, the grandeur, the je ne sais quoi of Home Box Office. I’m not gonna find prestige drama on Max. I’m gonna find myself staring into a bleached anus. And I would prefer to do that WITHOUT turning on the Roku.
Speaking of horrors, here are the best horror movies currently available to stream on Max.
Hereditary is Ari Aster’s feature film debut and stars Toni Collette as an artist and mom navigating the loss of her mother—and the potential upheaval of her surviving family by a demonic force. The film is essentially a parable about grief, and how unresolved negative feelings rip families apart. Emotionally, in the real world, but more literally in this film. –Jack Doyle
Diablo Cody is back with a new horror comedy this year—Lisa Frankenstein—which makes now a great time to watch (or revisit) Jennifer’s Body. Directed by Karyn Kusama and written by Cody, the film follows Needy (Amanda Seyfried), a dorky teen unable to shake her lifelong codependent friendship with hot girl Jennifer (an impeccably cast Megan Fox). The pair’s friendship grows increasingly toxic when Jennifer is possessed by a demon, forcing Needy into a long-overdue confrontation. It didn’t make a huge splash at the box office at the time, but Jennifer’s Body has rightfully become a cult classic. –Britt Hayes
Before M3GAN became That Girl, Akela Cooper wrote another totally bonkers horror movie: Malignant. This throwback to ’70s horror stars Annabelle Wallis as Madison, a woman plagued by visions from the POV of a brutal killer and unable to remember her mysterious childhood. The two are related, of course, but to say anything more would spoil this bananas movie, in which director James Wan proves he still has some fun tricks up his sleeve in the horror genre. –BH
Eraserhead is a great entry point for newcomers to David Lynch. The filmmaker’s first feature, released in 1977, is a black-and-white odyssey through the anxious mind of Henry (Jack Nance). When a former fling turns up pregnant on his doorstep, Henry decides to commit to the relationship, but his anxieties grow increasingly surreal and nightmarish once the baby—which looks strange and inhuman—arrives. Believe me when I say that Eraserhead is easily one of Lynch’s most accessible movies. –BH
It Comes at Night
It Comes at Night takes a familiar genre narrative—a family living in isolation to avoid an apocalyptic plague—and gives it a little more depth with great performances from Joel Edgerton, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough, and Christopher Abbott. In his follow-up to the nerve-wracking Thanksgiving drama Krisha, Trey Edward Shults delivers a quietly elegant film about the horrors of humanity and our inability to avoid the inevitable. –BH
Body at Brighton Rock
If you love Christopher Pike’s teen horror novels, you’ll really dig Body at Brighton Rock. The 2019 film follows Wendy (Karina Fontes), a part-time state park worker who volunteers for one of the trickier trail assignments at the end of the summer. Determined as she is to prove herself to her friends, Wendy finds herself lost and without a working radio—and face to face with a dead body. Directed by Roxanne Benjamin (V/H/S, There’s Something Wrong With the Children), Body at Brighton Rock is a super effective and simple thriller with a satisfying conclusion. –BH
You can follow It Comes at Night with The Lodge, and have yourself a little Riley Keough horror movie double feature. Keough plays Grace, a woman whose Christmas getaway with her fiancé (Richard Armitage) at his rural winter lodge takes a turn when he has to head back into town for work—and leaves Grace alone with her future stepchildren (Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh). As a blizzard rolls in, Grace’s past comes back to haunt her and things with the children grow increasingly tense. –BH
The ultimate DON’T GO IN THE BASEMENT flick, Zach Cregger’s Barbarian tells the story of a young woman who rents a house on a dilapidated street in a seedy neighborhood in Detroit. When she gets to the door of the rental, she finds a man inside who says that he also reserved the place. While she mistrusts him at first (because he’s played by Bill Skarsgard, horror’s fave villain), she eventually realizes that it is an honest mistake … or is it? While exploring the house, the woman finds a creepy hidden door the leads to an even creepier staircase that leads to the creepiest of all basements. And she begins to suspect that something is living down there. We’ve already said too much. –JD
It’s a classic for a reason. William Friedkin’s The Exorcist famously scared the pants off moviegoers when it was released in 1973, thanks in part to some clever effects, eerie cinematography, and a haunting score. The Exorcist follows Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), a single mother whose daughter Regan (Linda Blair) begins displaying disturbing behaviors no doctor can explain. Desperate for help, Chris turns to a priest, who believes Regan is possessed by a demon and summons an exorcist. –BH
Directed by Robert Eggers, The Witch tells the story of a young Puritan girl (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her descent to the dark side. After being excommunicated from their village, a family of Puritans attempt to survive the brutal New England wilderness in the 1630s. When the family’s baby goes missing while under the eldest daughter’s care, the fanatically devout matriarch of the family begins to accuse her daughter of being a witch. She ain’t wrong, there is definitely a witch running around in them woods. The family is set upon by dark, supernatural forces that tear them apart and beckon to the eldest daughter to join them. –JD
James Wan’s The Conjuring tells the story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) who are called to help a family living in what they suspect to be a haunted lakeside manor. Thankfully, these ghost hunters are the REAL DEAL. One of them is a bonafide psychic! As the hauntings intensify, the couple has to figure out a way to quell the spirits of the restless dead before they really end up hurting someone. Because these spirits are trying REAL HARD. The Conjuring is especially good for those who enjoy spooky/scary films but aren’t into the excessive gore, violence, and death that comes with them. Don’t get me wrong, there are PLENTY of scares, but no one is getting hacked to pieces. –JD
Stephen King adaptations are rarely good, but when a filmmaker gets it right, they really get it right. Such is the case with Brian De Palma’s Carrie, which was released in 1976—just two years after King’s debut novel hit shelves. Sissy Spacek gives an iconic performance as the eponymous teen, a shy, repressed high schooler bullied by her peers and abused by her religious zealot mother (the late Piper Laurie). Carrie soon discovers a burgeoning telekinetic ability that emerges in response to her suppressed rage, just as school heartthrob Tommy asks her to prom—as a prank.
Co-starring Amy Irving, P.J. Soles, John Travolta, and Betty Buckley, Carrie culminates in a wildly satisfying climax followed by one of the great scares in cinema history. –BH
Released in 1977, the Japanese horror film House (a.k.a. Hausu) is totally out of its mind. Back in the ’70s, eager to produce a hit similar to Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster Jaws, Toho—the studio that gave us Godzilla—asked Nobuhiko Obayashi to write a script. Obayashi turned to his tween daughter for ideas, and House was born. The film follows a group of schoolgirls who travel with a friend to her mysterious aunt’s home only to be killed off by strange supernatural forces. Also, the house eats them. And there’s a really cute cat. House features some of the most surreal and unique imagery and effects ever put to screen, and makes for an excellent group-watch. –BH
Under the Skin
With The Zone of Interest, Jonathan Glazer is now four for four; the guy hasn’t made a bad movie. 2013’s Under the Skin, Glazer’s third, stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien who uses a conventionally attractive human shell to lure men back to her home, where she turns them into husks and harvests their insides to feed the inhabitants of her planet. That description is misleading, in a sense, because Under the Skin has little to do with the basic premise. Glazer’s film is a harrowing study of what it means to be a human woman and all the attendant horrors that come with it. –BH
Directed by Mark Mylod, The Menu is about a group of wealthy fine diners who book dinner reservations at an exclusive restaurant run by a world class chef on a remote island. As the diners settle in to the multi-course meal, they begin to realize that something is a little … off about the head chef, played by Ralph Fiennes. His culinary creations are oddly specific, and many of them just so happen to reference his dinner guests’ numerous misdeeds. The story gets complicated when the chef realizes that one of the diners (Anya Taylor-Joy) isn’t supposed to be there; she was brought in last minute. And she might be the only one canny enough to make it off the island alive. –JD
(featured image: Toho / 20th Century Studios / A24 / Warner Bros.)
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