Few things are better than making some popcorn, turning off the lights, and letting a movie scare the heck out of you. But with so many streaming services out there, it’s hard to know where to best get your horror fix. Luckily HBO Max has a steep selection of horror titles for you to peruse. From classics to new entries, they have you covered. And the variety included offers choices whether you like your scares to come with a dose of humor, action, surrealism, or none of the above. Here are just some of the great horror titles HBO Max currently has on offer…
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers
Recommending The Shining to someone looking for a haunted house movie is like telling someone to watch The Godfather if they want a crime story. It’s so obvious it feels silly. But what can you do? Stanley Kubrick simply went ahead and made a horror film so iconic it basically became shorthand for the genre. An adaption of Stephen King’s scariest book, The Shining welcomes you to the secluded Overlook Hotel, where Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) has brought his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) as part of a caretaker position that ensures the family is completely alone for the winter. Unfortunately for the Torrances, the Overlook has a habit of swallowing people alive, and the restless souls who still populate its halls quickly starting worming their way into Jack’s troubled mind. King’s well-known criticism that Nicholson is off the rails from the opening scene has merit, but it doesn’t make the performance any less mesmerizing, or Kubrick’s surrealist imagery any less bone-chilling. The Shining is the perfect movie to throw on when your day has been all work and no play. –Vinnie Mancuso
Trick ‘r Treat
Writer/director: Michael Dougherty
Cast: Dylan Baker, Rochelle Aytes, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox
Besides John Carpenter‘s Halloween, there isn’t another movie that just feels more like Spooky Season than Trick ‘r Treat. Writer/director Michael Dougherty‘s interconnected anthology is a love letter to the holiday and all the folklore that comes with it, soundtracked by crackling leaves and touching on every corner of the campfire tale canon: Vampires! Serial killers! The walking dead! Brian Cox just screaming! Weaving throughout every story is little Sam, the pumpkin-headed trick or treater that ensures anyone disrespecting the sanctity of All Hallow’s Eve gets what is coming to them. Never fear not having Halloween plans, because there is always the option of throwing this movie on. –Vinnie Mancuso
House of Wax (2005)
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey Heyes
Cast: Elisha Cuthbert, Paris Hilton, Chad Michael Murray, Jared Padalecki, Jon Abrahams, Robert Ri’chard
Back in 2005, almost 100% of the marketing surrounding House of Wax revolved around the fact you were gonna’ see Paris Hilton die, which, yes, does happen in the film. But that was also unfair to the fact this (very loose) remake of the 1953 Vincent Price flick is a nasty blast of clever kills, gruesome makeup work, and unsettling production design. On their way to a college football game, a crew of friends played entirely by so-hot-right-now 2005 actors—Elisha Cuthbert, Paris Hilton, Chad Michael Murray, Jared Padalecki, Jon Abrahams, and Robert Ri’chard—run into car trouble in the odd backwoods town of Ambrose. It soon becomes abundantly clear something is horrifying is happening in the small community, all of it emanating from the seemingly abandoned wax museum up on the hill. Let the sour reputation of this fun little early-2000s gem melt away like, well, you know. –Vinnie Mancuso
Ouija: Origin of Evil
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writers: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso, Henry Thomas
Mike Flanagan had already built a reputation as a rock-steady horror filmmaker by 2016, but the sense of “holy crap, this guy can do anything” became set in stone once he took on a prequel to a critically-derided movie about an evil ouija board and made one of the scariest movies of the last decade. Ouija: Origin of Evil takes us to the 1970s, where fake psychic Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) and her two daughters, Lina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson), perform seances for paying customers in the wake of Alice’s husband dying. Doris, the youngest, spices up the act with the introduction of a ouija board, but the cursed item makes things all too real when it not only sends a dark spirit into the girl’s body but exposes the deep-seated evil ingrained in the Zander’s house. There is, to be very clear, absolutely no reason for Ouija: Origin of Evil to be good at all, so it’s a downright shock that it’s this horrifying and effective. And, because it’s Flanagan we’re talking about here, there’s also a potent dramatic heart beating underneath all those bumps in the night. –Vinnie Mancuso
The Return of the Living Dead
Writer/director: Dan O’Bannon
Cast: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Thom Matthews, Don Calfa
A punk rock zombie horror-comedy heavy on the practical guts and gore…how are you not already watching this movie? The Return of the Living Dead sees two bumbling warehouse workers crack open the military experiment being kept in the basement, unleashing a horde of the undead looking to feast on human flesh. Famously, this is the first zombie film to make it clear, specifically, that these creatures are interested in chomping on braaaaaaaaaains, but it’s also just a four-chord blast from start to finish. “They’re back from the dead and ready to party” is the official tagline, and I’m not sure why I’d need to tell you much more than that. –Vinnie Mancuso
The Evil Dead Trilogy
Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel (Evil Dead II), Ivan Raimi (Army of Darkness)
In the 80s, Sam Raimi took his buddy Bruce Campbell out into the woods, tossed him around a cabin, dumped several Sea World’s worths of fake blood on him, and changed horror forever. The DIY spirit is, ironically, alive and well in the Evil Dead trilogy, which starts as wonderfully practical splatter-horror in Evil Dead, pivots hard into zany, physical horror-comedy in Evil Dead II, and launches headfirst into full-on action-adventure with Army of Darkness. The constants throughout it all are Raimi’s unparalleled eye for that line between the hilarious and the horrifying, and Campbell’s imitable lead performance as Ash Williams, the lunkhead who stumbles from one bloodsoaked victory to another over the Deadites, horrrific hellspawn summoned from the Necronomicon Ex Mortis. In a word: Groovy. –Vinnie Mancuso
Director: Andy Muschietti
Writers: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman
Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Finn Wolfhard, Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Wyatt Oleg, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, Jackson Robert Scott
How do you take your IT? The updated 2017 two-parter, or the 1990 mini-series? HBO Max offers all the IT, so you’re free to choose which version of Derry, Maine you want to spend your time in. They both have their strengths, but the 2017 version pulls ahead just a bit thanks to its amazing cast of child actors and R-rated thrills. Tim Curry’s original take on Pennywise can’t be beaten, but the new version benefits from top-notch creature work to drum up more explicit scares. In any case, this is definitely one of the most horrifying coming-of-age stories out there. Whichever version you go with, you can’t really choose wrong.
Night of the Living Dead
Director: George A. Romero
Writers: George A. Romero and John Russo
Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Marilyn Eastman, Karl Hardman, Judith Ridley, Keith Wayne
You can’t get more classic than Night of the Living Dead. George A Romero’s 1968 epic not only kicked off the entire zombie genre, but did so with a sharp eye for social commentary that still hits home. Romero would later expand his vision with Dawn and Day of the Dead (the latter of which is also on HBO Max), but there is something special about the claustrophobic terror of this first entry. Night of the Living Dead throws viewers into a situation that must be dealt with long before it gets understood. It’s a bleak film, too. The various survival schemes its characters concoct feel hopeless before they even begin, but there’s not much you’d be able to do differently in their situation, which is what makes it all so terrifying.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Director/Writer: Wes Craven
Cast: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corri, John Saxon, Johnny Depp, Ronee Blakley
HBO Max offers every Nightmare on Elm Street movie save for Dream Warriors. Yes, even the remake. You’re not going to find a more imaginative slasher series, and that originality hits right away in its first entry. Freddy Krueger doesn’t start off as a quip-slinging goofball. Though he does speak in A Nightmare on Elm Street, he’s not here to make jokes. There is a sincerely grotesque and lecherous nature to him, making him as scary as he is captivating. On top of the iconic villain, you also have the added horror of his surreal dreamworld, where no one who succumbs to sleep is safe.
Director: Stephen Norrington
Writer: David S. Goyer
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, Sanaa Lathan, N’Bushe Wright, Donal Logue, Udo Kier
In a lot of ways, Blade is more of an action film than horror. But it’s about vampires, so technically horror is where you’d put it in the video store. All three Blade films are on HBO Max, but the first one is the best by a long shot (sorry, Guillermo del Toro). Wesley Snipes is simply too cool for school as the Daywalker, a vampire-human hybrid who hunts vampires with his crusty old sidekick Whistler (Kris Kristofferson). An R-rated comic book movie made long before such things were in fashion, Blade still manages to feel both modern and cool. And also it begins with the vampires having a literal blood rave.
Snakes on a Plane
Director: David R. Ellis
Writers: John Heffernan and Sebastian Gutierrez
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips, Bobby Cannavale, Flex Alexander, Todd Louiso, Sunny Mabrey, Kenan Thompson, Elsa Pataky, David Koechner
Is it scary? Not really. But it does feature monstrous creatures that kill people, so it counts. Plus, for a goofball b-movie in an enclosed space, you could do worse. Snakes on a Plane is really just about one thing: Samuel Jackson and his inability to tolerate snakes on his plane. And there are quite a few snakes on his plane. How does he get the snakes off his plane? Well, that’s the fun of it, right? It’s not Shakespeare… heck, it’s not even Anaconda. Nevertheless, there was a moment where the world had Snakes on a Plane fever, and maybe that’s not such a bad time to revisit.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Director: David Lynch
Writers: David Lynch and Robert Engels
Cast: Sheryl Lee, Moira Kelly, David Bowie, Chris Isaak, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Wise, Kyle MacLachlan
Many define Twin Peaks by its central mystery. Or perhaps it’s the memory of Dale Cooper, praising a perfect cup of coffee. Or maybe it’s the surreal imagery of the Black Lodge that stays with you. The horror of it often gets overlooked. Fire Walk With Me fans beg to differ. Freed from the confines of television, David Lynch goes all-out here, telling the horrific story of Laura Palmer’s murder. It is surreal, yes. It never bothers to hold your hand, and even if you study it intensely, you won’t find an answer for everything. But the darkness of the imagery and the nightmarish details of Lynch’s world will definitely haunt you long after the movie ends.
Friday the 13th
Director: Marcus Nispel
Writers: Damian Shannon and Mark Swift
Cast: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Aaron Yoo, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Derek Mears, Ryan Hanson, Willa Ford
One of HBO Max’s few Friday the 13th entries happens to be the surprisingly excellent 2009 remake, which means you’re in pretty good shape if you have Jason Voorhees on the mind. The film manages to actually remake the first three Friday the 13th films all in one go and does so with some truly interesting victim characters as well as new wrinkles to the Jason mythos. If all remakes could just be this good, there’d be a whole lot less complaining each time a new one is announced. The only sad part is they didn’t make any more.
Director/Writer: David Cronenberg
Cast: Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle, Nuala Fitzgerald
What’s a horror library without any David Cronenberg? Luckily, HBO Max currently offers The Brood. If you haven’t seen it, get ready for some of the creepiest kids ever put to film. Starring the masculine Adonis known as Oliver Reed, The Brood is about… well, it’s hard to explain. It’s Cronenberg, so you’re going to get some interesting body horror imagery, but at the end of the day it’s all about the titular Brood, a group of murderous kids you do not want trick-or-treating in your neighborhood. The rest is for you to discover, if you have the guts.
KEEP READING: The Best Horror Movies on Netflix Right Now
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