The 14 Best Scary Movies on Netflix Right Now

Vertigo Entertainment
Vertigo Entertainment

The psychology behind our love of horror films is pretty simple: We love the adrenaline rush, and we feel comparatively safe knowing that a hatchet-wielding clown isn’t lurking outside our window. (Probably. Feel free to go investigate.)

If you’re ever in the mood for those particular thrills without leaving the comfort of your couch, there’s an easy solution. Kill the lights and check out any one of the best scary movies on Netflix right now.

1. THE SHINING (1980)

The most celebrated adaptation of Stephen King's works next to 1994's The Shawshank Redemption remains a study in contemplative terror. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson, as unhinged as a rickety screen door) slips into insanity while snowbound at the Overlook Hotel; director Stanley Kubrick captures an unflinching look at the creeping despair of his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd), both trapped in the unraveling psyche of their patriarch. King himself isn't a fan, but he's in the minority.

2. EMELIE (2015)

A couple celebrates their wedding anniversary by inviting a babysitter named Anna to look after their three kids while they go out to dinner. Unfortunately for all parties involved, Anna isn't really Anna, and her motivations go far beyond picking up a few dollars. Emelie commits to one of the largest taboos in the horror genre: It's not afraid to pick on little kids.

3. SE7EN (1995)

A high-concept (serial killer stages his crime scenes with a Seven Deadly Sins theme) thriller, Se7en could have wallowed in the bargain bins of Blockbusters if not for the talent attracted to Andrew Kevin Walker's script. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are ostensibly the leads, but it's David Fincher's vision of a bleak, rain-soaked metropolis that elevates this from the downpour of clever-murderer movies in the 1990s. If you've somehow avoided details of the climax, know that this is not a movie that plays nice with its audience. Or with Pitt.

4. THE STRANGERS (2008)

Home invasion thrillers might be clogging up the streaming queues, but few do it better than The Strangers, a potently cruel and concentrated dose of domestic horror. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman star as a couple terrorized by a trio of killers who seem to have that most frightening of motivations: None at all.

5. IT FOLLOWS (2014)

Don’t look for costumed maniacs in writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s low-budget cult hit. The terror is an unseen entity that trails teenagers like a post-coital disease. The STI metaphor might seem a little on the nose, but the creeping dread is unsettling to the core.

6. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)

The pinnacle of M. Night Shyamalan's career is also one of the last times Bruce Willis seemed interested in carrying a movie. As a child psychologist treating a boy (Haley Joel Osment) who claims to see ghosts, Willis offers a compellingly subdued performance. If you haven't seen The Sixth Sense in a while, watching it with the knowledge of the Rod Serling-esque third-act twist is to appreciate Shyamalan's sleight-of-hand.

7. THE WITCH (2015)

This tale of a 1630s outcast Puritan family troubled by paranormal activity tends to be divisive. You'll either enjoy the methodically slow burn, or you won't. Give in to the movie's deliberate pacing and you'll likely find that it excels in delivering an unbearable sense of dread. And you'll never look at goats the same way again.

8. HELLRAISER (1987)

Horror icon Clive Barker made his feature directorial debut with this adaptation of his short story, “The Hellbound Heart,” and it is weirdness personified: An undead, skin-stripped man begs his onetime mistress for refuge while he tries to avoid the torturing hands of Pinhead, a Cenobite from the depths of hell who is summoned by a puzzle box. The skin-splitting practical effects are spectacularly disgusting.

9. THE CONJURING (2013)

While the real-life exploits of paranormal ghost hunters the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) may be in some question, there's no doubting this retelling of one of their famous haunted house cases is a chilling roller coaster ride.

10. GERALD'S GAME (2017)

A romantic weekend retreat with her husband turns into a claustrophobic struggle for survival for Carla Gugino after he drops dead and she's left handcuffed to their bed. This adaptation of a Stephen King novel is one of the rare films to do right by the author, preserving his psychological (and visceral) scares.

11. THE INVITATION (2015)

Fans of the slow burn should enjoy this potboiler about a man (Logan Marshall-Green) invited to his ex’s dinner party, which takes a turn for the weird. The last scene is a killer.

12. OCULUS (2013)

The haunted object subgenre of horror is a dependable source of scares. Oculus—about a mirror that threatens to undo the sanity of those who peer into it—is one of the better entries. Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) stars as Kaylie, a young woman looking to prove the mirror's paranormal abilities via a surveillance room. If things went as planned, we wouldn't be recommending the movie.

13. TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016)

A workaholic father and his daughter board a train bound for one of the few territories in South Korea not occupied by zombies. To get there, they’ll have to survive the infected passengers, who totally ignore their seat assignments and sanctioned dinner options.

14. THE NIGHTMARE (2015)

A documentary about sleep disorders doesn't sound all that unsettling, particularly when Freddy Krueger has the market cornered on the horrors of insomnia. But this examination of sleep paralysis (where sufferers are awake but can't move their bodies) chills thanks to dramatizations of the people, creatures, and things they sometimes see when immobilized.

Reminder: Netflix rotates their library of titles often, so our selection of the best scary movies on Netflix is subject to change.

7 Things You Might Not Know About Mario Lopez

Angela Weiss, Getty Images for Oakley
Angela Weiss, Getty Images for Oakley

While several of the actors featured in the 1990s young-adult series Saved by the Bell have fared well following the show’s end in 1994, Mario Lopez is in a class by himself. The versatile actor-emcee can be seen regularly on Extra, as host of innumerable beauty pageants, and as the author of several best-selling books on fitness. For more on Lopez, check out some of the more compelling facts we’ve rounded up on the multi-talented performer.

1. A WITCH DOCTOR SAVED HIS LIFE.

Born on October 10, 1973, in San Diego, California to parents Mario and Elvia Lopez, young Mario was initially the picture of health. But things quickly took a turn for the worse. In his 2014 autobiography, Just Between Us, Lopez wrote that he began having digestive problems immediately after birth, shrinking to just four pounds. Though doctors administered IV hydration, they told his parents nothing more could be done. Desperate, his father reached out to a witch doctor near Rosarito, Mexico who had cured his spinal ailments years earlier. The healer mixed a drink made of Pedialyte, Carnation evaporated milk, goat’s milk, and other unknown substances. It worked: Lopez kept it down and began growing, so much so that his mother declared him “the fattest baby you had ever seen in your life.”

2. HE STARTED ACTING AT 10.

A highly active kid who got involved in both tap and jazz dancing and amateur wrestling, Lopez was spotted by a talent scout during a dance competition at age 10 and was later cast in a sitcom, a.k.a. Pablo, in 1984. That led to a role in the variety show Kids Incorporated and in the 1988 Sean Penn feature film Colors. In 1989, at the age of 16, he won the role of Albert Clifford “A.C.” Slater in Saved by the Bell. By 1992, Lopez was making public appearances at malls, where female fans would regularly toss their underthings in his direction.

3. HE COULD PROBABLY BEAT YOU UP.

Lopez wrestled as an amateur throughout high school. According to the Chula Vista High School Foundation, Lopez was a state placewinner at 189 pounds in 1990. (On Saved by the Bell, Slater was also a wrestler.) He later complemented his grappling ability with boxing, often sparring professionals like Jimmy Lange and Oscar De La Hoya in bouts for charity. In 2018, Lopez posted on Instagram that he received his blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Gracie Barra Glendale instructor Robert Hill.

4. HE TURNED DOWN PLAYGIRL.

Lopez’s active lifestyle has made for a trim physique, but he’s apparently unwilling to take off more than his shirt. In 2008, Lopez said he was approached to pose for Playgirl but declined. The magazine reportedly offered him $200,000.

5. HE WAS MARRIED FOR TWO WEEKS.

Lopez had a well-publicized marriage to actress Ali Landry, but not for all the right reasons. The two were married in April 2004 and split just two weeks later, with Landry alleging Lopez had not been faithful. Lopez later disclosed he had made a miscalculation during his bachelor party in Mexico, cheating on Landry just days before the ceremony.

6. HE APPEARED ON BROADWAY.

Lopez joined the cast of Broadway’s A Chorus Line in 2008, portraying Zach, the director who coaches the cast of aspiring dancers. (It was his first stage appearance since he participated in a grade school play, where he played a tree.) His run, which lasted five months, was perceived to be part of a rash of casting choices on Broadway revolving around hunky performers to attract audiences. The role was thought to be the start of a resurgence for Lopez, who had previously appeared on Dancing with the Stars and has been a co-host of the pop culture newsmagazine show Extra since 2007.

7. HE BELIEVES HIS DOG SUFFERED FROM POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION.

In 2010, Lopez and then-girlfriend (now wife) Courtney Mazza had their first child, Gia. According to Lopez, his French bulldog, Julio César Chavez Lopez, exhibited signs of depression following the new addition to the household. Lopez also said he used his extensive knowledge of dogs to better inform his voiceover work as a Labrador retriever in 2009’s The Dog Who Saved Christmas and 2010’s The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation.

The Legend of Cry Baby Lane: The Lost Nickelodeon Movie That Was Too Scary for TV

Nickelodeon, Viacom
Nickelodeon, Viacom

Several years ago, rumors about a lost Nickelodeon movie branded too disturbing for children’s television began popping up around the internet. They all referenced the same plot: A father of conjoined twins was so ashamed of his sons that he hid them away throughout their childhood. (This being a made-for-TV horror movie, naturally one of the twins was evil.)

After one twin got sick the other soon followed, with both boys eventually succumbing to the illness. To keep the town from discovering his secret, the father separated their bodies with a rusty saw and buried the good one at the local cemetery and the evil one at the end of a desolate dirt road called Cry Baby Lane, which also happened to be the title of the rumored film. According to the local undertaker, anyone who ventured down Cry Baby Lane after dark could hear the evil brother crying from beyond the grave.

Cry Baby Lane then jumps to present day (well, present day in 2000), where a group of teens sneaks into the local graveyard in an effort to contact the spirit of the good twin. After holding a seance, they learn that the boys' father had made a mistake and mixed up the bodies of his children—burying the good son at the end of Cry Baby Lane and the evil one in the cemetery. Meaning those ghostly wails were actually the good twin crying out for help. But the teens realized the error too late: The evil twin had already been summoned and quickly began possessing the local townspeople.

MOVIE OR MYTH?

Parents were appalled that such dark content ever made it onto the family-friendly network, or so the story goes, and after airing the film once the Saturday before Halloween in 2000, Nickelodeon promptly scrubbed it from existence. But with no video evidence of it online for years, some people questioned whether Cry Baby Lane had ever really existed in the first place.

“Okay, so this story sounds completely fake, Nick would NEVER air this on TV,” one Kongregate forum poster said in September 2011. “And why would this be made knowing it’s for kids? This story just sounds too fake …”

While the folklore surrounding the film may not be 100 percent factual, Nickelodeon quickly confirmed that the “lost” Halloween movie was very real, and that it did indeed contained all the rumored twisted elements that have made it into a legend.

Before Cry Baby Lane was a blip in Nick’s primetime schedule, it was nearly a $100 million theatrical release. Peter Lauer, who had previously directed episodes of the Nick shows The Secret World of Alex Mack and The Adventures of Pete & Pete, co-wrote the screenplay with KaBlam! co-creator Robert Mittenthal. Cry Baby Lane, which would eventually spawn urban legends of its own, was inspired by a local ghost story Lauer heard growing up in Ohio. “There was a haunted farmhouse, and if you went up there at midnight, you could hear a baby crying and it’d make your high school girlfriend scared,” he told The Daily.

BIG SCARES ON A SMALL BUDGET

Despite Nickelodeon’s well-meaning intentions, parent company Paramount wasn’t keen on the idea of turning the screenplay into a feature film. The script was forgotten for about a year, until Nick got in touch with Lauer about producing Cry Baby Lane—only this time as a $800,000 made-for-TV movie. The director gladly signed on.

Even with the now-meager budget, Cry Baby Lane maintained many of the same elements of a much larger picture. In a bid to generate more publicity around the project, Nickelodeon cast Oscar nominee Frank Langella as the local undertaker (a role Lauer had originally wanted Tom Waits to play). All the biggest set pieces from the screenplay were kept intact, and as a result, the crew had no money left to do any extra filming.

Only two scenes from the movie ended up getting cut—one that alluded to skinny dipping and another that depicted an old man’s head fused onto the body of a baby in a cemetery. The story of a father performing amateur surgery on the corpses of his sons, however, made it into the final film.

The truth of what happened after Cry Baby Lane premiered on October 28, 2000 has been muddied over the years. In most retellings, Nickelodeon received an "unprecedented number" of complaints about the film and responded by sealing it away in its vault and acting like the whole thing never happened. But if that version of events is true, Nick has never acknowledged it.

Even Lauer wasn’t aware of any backlash from parents concerned about the potentially scarring effects of the film until The Daily made him aware of the rumors years later. “All I know is that they aired it once,” he told the paper. “I just assumed they didn’t show it again because they didn’t like it! I did it, I thought it failed, and I moved on.”

But the idea that the movie was pulled from airwaves for being too scary for kids isn’t so far-fetched. Though Cry Baby Lane never shows the conjoined twins being sawed apart on screen, it does pair the already-unsettling story with creepy images of writhing worms, broken glass, and animal skulls. This opening sequence, combined with the spooky, empty-eyed victims of possession that appear later, and multiple scenes where a child gets swallowed by a grave, may have made the film slightly more intense than the average episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?

IMPERFECT TIMING

Cry Baby Lane premiered at a strange time in internet history: Too early for pirated copies to immediately spring up online yet late enough for it to grow into a web-fueled folktale. The fervor surrounding the film peaked in 2011, when a viral Reddit thread about Cry Baby Lane caught the attention of one user claiming to have the so-called “lost” film recorded on VHS. He later uploaded the tape for the world to view and suddenly the lost movie was lost no longer.

News of the unearthed movie made waves across the web, and instead of staying quiet and waiting for the story to die down, Nickelodeon decided to get in on the hype. That Halloween, Nick aired Cry Baby Lane for the first time in over a decade. Regardless of whether the movie had previously been banned or merely forgotten, the network used the mystery surrounding its origins to their PR advantage.

“We tried to freak people out with it,” a Nick employee who worked at The 90s Are All That (now The Splat), the programming block that resurrected Cry Baby Lane (and who wished to remain anonymous) said of the promotional campaign for the event. “They were creepy and a little glitchy. We were like, ‘This never aired because it was too scary and we’re going to air it now.’”

Cry Baby Lane now makes regular appearances on Nickelodeon’s '90s block around Halloween, which likely means Nick hasn’t received enough complaints to warrant locking it back in the vault. And during less spooky times of the year, nostalgic horror fans can find the full movie on YouTube.

The mystery surrounding Cry Baby Lane’s existence may have been solved, but the urban legend of the movie that was “too scary for kids’ TV” persists—even at the network that produced it.

“People who were definitely working at Nickelodeon in 2000, but didn’t necessarily work on [Cry Baby Lane] were like, ‘Yeah I heard about it, I remember it being a thing,'" the Nick employee says. “It’s sort of like its own legend within the company.”

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