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5 classic horror films to watch on Netflix right now

“There is horror beyond life’s edge that we do not suspect, and once in a while man’s evil prying calls them just within our range.” — H.P. Lovecraft

If there is a better symbiosis in cinema and the calendar than horror movies and Halloween then we haven’t met it. The holiday season relies heavily on audience participation, imagination and a sincere desire to let your inhibitions run wild and that makes for just about the perfect screening audience one can hope for. It has made watching scary movies as much a part of the Halloween festivities as turkey on Thanksgiving or chocolate at Easter.

Naturally, Netflix is here to deliver some of the finest horror films around, ranging from the flashy to the slick to the sick and violent. Whether it is folk horror, paranormal terror or your run of the mill masked killer, the streaming platform generally has you covered.

However, what if you’re done with the modernity of recent flicks and are more concerned with finding the pure artistic brilliance which spawned the genre. What if you’re only concerned with the classics? Well, Best of Netflix has you covered.

Below, we’ve picked out five classic horror films on Netflix right now to help complete your Halloween night viewing.

5 classic horror movies on Netflix:

Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)

An FBI agent, Clarice Starling, is assigned the simple yet daunting task of understanding the mind of a scary serial killer, the cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter. Her investigations are conducted in a bid to track and catch another notorious killer by the name of Buffalo Bill who seems to share an affinity with Lecter for a particular kind of female victims. 

This film helped Demme win his first-ever best Director Award as he carefully curated the characters and dexterously wove them into the narrative. Anthony Hopkins as the scheming cannibal Hannibal Lecter delivered an exemplary performance. The perfect background score appointed by Demme helped the viewers feel a plethora of emotions ranging from fear, hatred and paranoia to anxiety and frenzy. 

Available: All regions

The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

Based on Stephen King’s eponymous novella, the film is perhaps the author’s least favourite adaptation but we love it. Jack Torrance goes to the Overlook Hotel with his wife Wendy and son Danny to oversee the hotel during the winter. Strange events start plaguing the family and the patriarch soon finds himself slowly and gradually descending into madness, frenzy and chaos, driven by the supernatural elements in the hotel. 

The sets of Kubrick’s film had pretty bizarre stories. From the filmmaker feeding Jack Nicholson cheese sandwiches that he oh-so-loathed to frustrate him to the auteur being extra harsh on Shelley Duvall to help her deliver her best performance — the film is a masterpiece of construction and delivery.

The film is one of the greatest horror classics that deserve all the hype and accolades in the world due to Kubrick’s exemplary vision, camera shots and filmmaking. 

Available: Netflix UK

Hostel (Eli Roth, 2005)

Fight it as you might, Eli Roth’s Hostel is quickly becoming regarded as a pure horror ‘classic’, despite its comparatively young maturation period.

In Amsterdam, three backpackers are locked out of the establishment they are residing in and soon gets ushered into a Slovakian hostel where they are surrounded by attractive women who lure them into dangerous and deadly traps.

If you love backpacking across the country, avoid this film as it will make you have nightmares every time you travel. Grisly and gory with unimaginable torture methods being employed. The general air of madness, tension, violence and horror is filled with scatological humour, sex and drugs, but the terror heightens with an entry into the hostel.

Essentially known as “torture porn”, the film will most likely leave you scarred for life. 

Available: Netflix US

Candyman (Bernard Rose, 1992)

Released just as the horror slasher sub-genre was ebbing away from popularity, and entering into a new stage of revision, Bernard Rose’s Candyman was a film that very much took its slasher identity seriously, contextualising terror within a strong racial subtext.

For a fairly stereotypical horror tale, the narrative that Candyman explores throughout its runtime speaks of a more pertinent truth about mythmaking that exceeds its apparent slasher simplicity. Starring Tony Todd as the titular Candyman alongside Virginia Madsen as the protagonist, Helen, Todd would later become an icon of horror cinema thanks to his towering stature, fur jacket and terrifying hooked weapon. 

Available: Netflix UK

Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)

Introducing one of cinema’s first-ever slasher killers, Halloween is perhaps the genre’s most influential release, leading a whole sub-genre into the late 20th-century kicking and screaming in fear.

With a blank, white rubber mask, Michael Myers (a name as fearful in the genre as Freddy or Jason) wreaks havoc on a small Illinois town following his escape from a mental hospital. A town as defiantly postcard-American as David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, John Carpenter’s Halloween brought a sense of unease to every small town U.S suburb—suggesting something fantastically abnormal could be lurking in the shadows.

Setting the standard for modern horror cinema, Carpenter’s film is underscored by his own, timeless creeping score. A synth-led nightmare that has you instinctively checking over your shoulder.

Available: Netflix UK