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Ten Progressive Horror Films to Stream This Halloween

It’s finally October, aka ‘Spooky Season’. “Do you want to watch Hocus Pocus or Saw?” asks your roommate. You choose Saw and the movie is fine enough, but is that really all there is to Halloween cinema? Disney fun and gorey popcorn flicks? Are “scary movies” just that: movies meant to scare us? I don’t think so. 

Horror is a genre, a medium, that has a lot to tell us. I’d even argue that it is the ultimate progressive genre. The 2010’s have been revolutionary for horror. With the likes of filmmakers and directors like Jordan Peale, Mike Flanagan and Ari Aster, this oft looked down upon genre has seen new heights as a medium for political and emotional depth. So what are the best of these movies out there that you can stream this Halloween that’ll change your standards for a good horror flick?

Here’s a list of horror movies that go beyond what meets the eye and are accessible on streaming services.

  1. Lake Mungo (2008)

Streaming service: Amazon Prime

This movie is an Australian “found footage” film thats true horror isn’t revealed until the last seconds of the film. The plot follows the family of a young girl, grieving her death after an accidental drowning. It’s much scarier than the title suggests! It’s one of those movies that grows in your mind the more you think about it.

2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Streaming service: HBO Max

This George A. Romero classic is truly the film that started it all. If you love zombie media, you’ll want to check this out, as it’s the first of it’s kind and gave birth to our current cultural understanding of zombies. After a radiated satellite falls to the Earth, the dead rise from their graves and hunt for human flesh. The film is also racially progressive, starring Duane Jones, a Black actor, before Black actors often starred in films not explicitly about their race.

3. His House (2020)

Streaming service: Netflix

Netflix isn’t always the best place for horror, but it does have some gems. His House is a hauntingly beautiful look at what it means to assimilate. The film follows a couple escaping war torn South Sudan to Britain. Once they arrive as refugees and are provided housing, they come to realize war might be harder to escape than it seems.

4. Raw (2016)

Streaming service: Netflix

A new college student is hazed and forced to eat raw meat. What happens next will shock you! This foreign horror flick is more than just gore and cannibals – it has layers! Is it a metaphor for burgeoning sexuality? A commentary on veganism? You decide after watching this gorgeous yet disturbing award-winning film.

5. Veronica (2017)

Streaming Service: Netflix

Another foreign film, Veronica, is completely in Spanish. The titular heroine accidentally summons a demon at school and must then protect her younger siblings from its evil clutches. The film is one of the few horror movies with characters so interesting, you could watch a movie in any genre about them. Much like horror classic, Ginger Snaps, this is also a coming of age film. Keep an eye out for imagery, too, because this little horror film doesn’t play around with its direction. 

6. Black Christmas (1974)

Streaming service: HBOMax

Before John Carpenter’s Halloween, there was the Canadian slasher Black Christmas. Sorority girls are killed one by one by a mysterious killer just before Christmas. This film is feminist, fun and, of course, seasonal. If you want to watch an old slasher that passes the Bechdel test (a feminist test with two requirements: more than two named female characters and a conversation between them that doesn’t involve men) this is the film for you!

7. Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (1985)

Streaming service: HBOMax

You might be wondering why the first sequel in one of the most iconic horror franchises of all time is on this list. How can it possibly have political depth? Well, despite being one of the most critically panned films in the franchise, it’s actually considered a cult classic. It has insane amounts of homoerotic subtext, so much so, that it outed it’s star, Mark Patton, who is gay in real life. If you want something scary and LGBTQ+ to watch this October, add this film to your list.

8. Midsommar (2019)

Streaming service: Amazon Prime 

How often do you hear horror movies referred to as art? Probably not often. Every scene of this nearly three hour movie is gorgeous. The story and imagery may be disturbing, but the message and cinematography are truly elevated.The story follows  Dani, played by the marvelous Florence Pugh, as she travels with her boyfriend to Sweden for a midsommar festival. Things go wrong and in the end, it’s a gorgeous yet disturbing film that needs to be seen to be believed.

9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1975)

Streaming Service: Amazon Prime

This movie is often considered to be among the greatest remakes of all time. For good reason, this sci-fi classic contains tense moments and excellent acting. Donald Sutherland stars in a world where people are being replaced with aliens. It has themes of McCarthyism, which never fails to prove intriguing.

10. Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Streaming Service: Amazon Prime

Megan Fox has made news in the last year or so for having a bizarre relationship with rapper and rocker Machine Gun Kelly. More than ten years ago though, she made headlines for this movie. It was advertised to men as a sexy, homoerotic gorefest when in reality, writer Diablo Cody intended for it to be marketed to women as a feminist coming of age story a la Ginger Snaps. This mismarketing caused it to bomb; however, it recently gained cult status as the film’s intended audience has rediscovered it. Check it out if you like feminist horror.

Scary movies don’t have to just be jump scares and tense moments. Historically, this genre has been used to subtly express strong political opinions and activism. No one goes hunting for political messaging in horror so it’s the perfect place. Pushing boundaries is the name of the game. Watch all of these movies, and I promise you’ll never think of horror as low brow again!

Hey! I'm Skyler. I like writing, politics as well as cooking, and I am so excited to begin working with HerCampus.
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