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16 essential Blumhouse movies all horror fans should watch

One of the top horror producers has made some of the genre's scariest and best films.

By Matthew Jackson
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In the two decades since its founding, Blumhouse Productions has risen from low-budget horror machine to genre powerhouse, cranking out some of the most successful, influential, and memorable horror films of the 21st century so far.

Whether they're working with micro-budget films that do a lot with very little, or making prestige horror pictures like Get Out that compete for Academy Awards, Blumhouse has a strong track record of making the most compelling scary movies out there. But which Blumhouse films rank among the essential horror watches? From Paranormal Activity to the Halloween Ends (now in theaters and streaming on Peacock) these are 15 must-watch Blumhouse horror films.

1. Black Box (2020)

For two years now, Blumhouse has partnered with Amazon for the Welcome to the Blumhouse series of horror films, which gives rising filmmakers a spotlight each Halloween season. Each of the films in the series so far is worth a look, but Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr.'s Black Box is arguably the best of the bunch so far. Driven by Mamoudou Athie's compelling performance as a man who's trying to recover his lost memories after a traumatic brain injury, the movie starts as a creepy sci-fi horror piece, but then takes an especially dark turn that no one sees coming.

2. Cam (2018)

Inspired by real-life camgirl experiences and brimming with voyeuristic tension, Cam's slow-burn chills and inventive concept lures you closer to the edge of your seat. Madeline Bower plays a cam girl who slowly realizes how dire and potentially fatal her situation is when she realizes she has been replaced with an exact duplicate. Emotionally and visually, the movie crafts a maddening descent into the darkest corners of the internet in ways that elevate Cam to one of the better genre entries in recent years.

3. The Deep House (2021)

The Deep House is, very simply, a haunted house story underwater. That sounds like a promising enough premise to get anyone to watch at least a few minutes, and indeed the film's conceptual realization and compelling visuals are worth the price of admission all by themselves. As the horror elements of the story mount, though, even those promising early sequences are eclipsed by some of the most effective horror imagery I've seen in the last five years. Even if the story might feel predictable, there are images in this film that will stick with you long after you come back to the surface.

4. Freaky (2020)

Slasher movies are not dead, and Freaky proves that. Christopher Landon and Michael Kennedy's exceptional horror comedy centers on a teen girl (Kathryn Newton) who swaps bodies with a serial killer (Vince Vaughn). Freaky is somehow able to milk both the comedy of the body swap and the terror of a teen slasher flick with an effortless finesse and mastery of tone. From memorable kills to belly laughs, this one's got it all. 

5. Get Out (2017)

Jordan Peele's horror debut remains one of the most effective, clever, and downright creepy scary movies of the 2010s. From its slow-burn series of plot twists to its dark humor and its pitch perfect visual symbolism, Get Out remains every bit as powerful as its reputation. It won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2018, and even five years after its release, it's easy to see why.

6. Halloween (2018)

Jamie Lee Curtis returned to the horror franchise that made her a star with David Gordon Green's homage-laden legacy sequel, and her tour de force performance as Laurie Strode carries this version if Halloween to heights it would never have realized in the hands of another star. Curtis' raw, powerful work merged with Green's slick direction, not to mention John Carpenter's score, creates a worthy sequel to one of the greatest slashers ever. It's easy to see why this on launched a trilogy that, as of this writing, hasn't yet wrapped up.

7. Happy Death Day (2017)

Before he took on Freaky, director Christopher Landon helmed another high-concept slasher film that knocked its premise out of the park. Happy Death Day isn't necessarily subtle — it's about a young woman who's caught in a murderous time loop who, surprise, has to grow and change in order to get out of it — but it doesn't need to be. What it needs to be is a whole-hearted embrace of its wild story. Landon and star Jessica Rothe bring that from the very first frame and never let up, and the result is a delight.

8. Insidious (2010)

After launching Saw and Dead Silence together, director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell reteamed for this supernatural terror-fest about a family beset by supernatural forces entering their world through their child. There's a lot of Poltergeist DNA in the story of Insidious, and like Poltergeist, it's a film that's absolutely packed with supernatural creatures, occurrences, and big scares. It's a thrill ride that never lets up, and trying to see the scares coming is half the fun.

9. The Invisible Man (2020)

After the Dark Universe concept didn't work out, Universal decided to take a different approach to its classic monsters, and gave Blumhouse and writer/director Leigh Whannell a crack at a new take on the Invisible Man. What they got out of it is one of the most effective horror films of 2020, a powerful descent into paranoid terror anchored by Elisabeth Moss' incredible central performance. One viewing of this, and you'll be certain you're not alone, no matter who quiet your room is.

10. The Lords of Salem (2012)

Rob Zombie's never been better as a horror filmmaker than in The Lords of Salem, an atmospheric supernatural chiller about a radio DJ (Sheri Moon Zombie) who receives what seems to be a cursed record. It's certainly more meditative and carefully paced than some of Zombie's earlier efforts, but it's also a clear indicator of his maturation as both a storyteller and as a craftsman behind beautifully nightmarish visuals. The best-looking shots of his career are in this film, and it's got the scares to go with them.

11. Oculus (2013)

Mike Flanagan's second feature film, his first with major stars and a solid budget, is a take on the cursed object subgenre, and as with every Flanagan film, it's a mesmerizing exercise in craft. Unfolding half in the present and half in the past, the film follows a family as they try to reckon with a mysterious, haunted mirror and the ways in which it wrecks their lives. Karen Gillan is remarkable in the lead role, and Flanagan's ability to keep us glued to the screen even in moments of peak terror is already on display even in this early effort.

12. Paranormal Activity (2007)

The film that put Blumhouse on the map as a horror force in the late 2000s feels like one of those movies that someone was always going to make eventually.

In the age of ghost hunter TV shows and in-home surveillance, it seemed inevitable. That it became the phenomenon it did is testament to Paranormal Activity's effectiveness, and even if found footage horror isn't your thing, it remains an essential piece not just of the subgenre, but of the history of horror in the last 25 years.

13. The Purge (2013)

Another film that captured a particular part of the American zeitgeist at the exact right moment, James DeMonaco's The Purge is both a very effective home invasion thriller and a horrifying unpacking of America's own ability to destroy itself. It launched a franchise that's been delivering brutal follow-ups ever since, and its title event has become internet speak for "dystopian hellscape" everywhere.

14. Sinister (2012)

What if, instead of a found footage movie, you made a movie about a guy who actually finds the footage? Director Scott Derrickson and writer C. Robert Cargill took that basic hook and made it into one of the flat-out scariest movies of the last 25 years.

The story of a true crime writer (Ethan Hawke) who moves his family into the home of his latest subject, Sinister is both a brilliant exercise in the fundamental craft of delivering scares, and a compelling exploration of our own appetites for violent stories. Plus, the lawnmower scene is still an all-time great popcorn on the ceiling moment.

15. Split (2016)

Though M. Night Shyamalan's comeback period may have began with The Visit (also a Blumhouse joint worth checking out), it was Split that really reminded us that we were wrong to underestimate the powers of the modern suspense master and his quirky storytelling tendencies. The story of a man (James McAvoy) and his multiple personalities at war with each other, Split is a great hostage movie, a great monster movie, and the delivery system for one of Shyamalan's greatest twists. Plus, it's a reminder that James McAvoy is now, and always has been, one of our finest genre actors.

16. Sweetheart (2019)

A minimalist survival thriller with tons of heart, J.D. Dillard's Sweetheart is one of those great less-is-more horror movies that keeps finding new things to say the longer it goes on. The film follows a young woman (Kiersey Clemons, absolutely crushing it) stranded on an island after a shipwreck, only to find that she's not along. Something is stalking her through the palm trees, something inhuman and very hungry. It's the setup for a great thriller, but Sweetheart is just as a powerful when it keeps to its character study core, and that makes it not just scary, but enduring.