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The coronavirus pandemic has thrown film releases into a tailspin — and horror films are no exception. With theaters either closed or with potential viewers unwilling to risk infection to see a movie, a lot of horror films have had their release dates pushed back so they can have a proper theatrical release at some point in the future, all in the hopes of recouping their production costs. Understandable, but challenging for horror fans looking for a new dose of the terrifying to distract them from real-life horrors.
Thankfully, some films have been released for video-on-demand viewing, including some obscure and legitimately scary gems. What is life without horror movies? Fortunately, we won't have to answer the question right now.
The films listed here are each unique and scary in their respective ways and most are not especially mainstream. But, with so few blockbusters this year, it might be exactly the right time to watch some indie horror.
From creatures under the sea to mutants, from psychological trauma to a cursed film, here are some recommendations for horror to stream online right now for your viewing pleasure.
Water breaks through the walls of a drilling station located six miles below the ocean surface. A group of survivors' only option is to walk across the ocean floor to another to reach the main station before their oxygen runs out. Unfortunately, it's not just water and time they are up against, because something else is lurking in the ocean depths and it's after them.
How this film swam under the radar, even starring Kristen Stewart, is anyone's guess. Perhaps they didn't know how to market it, but this movie is wonderful. The people who work and live deep underwater are a brave lot, but you wonder about what makes someone choose that for a living. Underwater has confined terror — buoyed with a thriller-style time limit — and characters you learn about and root for as you experience their fight for survival.
Underwater is available for digital rental and purchase.
02. The Lodge
A father, with his two children and new girlfriend in tow, heads to a remote cabin in the winter to celebrate the holidays. When the father has to leave for work, the kids and his girlfriend, Grace, remain. But when a blizzard hits, and strange occurrences happen, Grace becomes increasingly haunted by her past.
The Lodge is scary because of how it depicts Grace's mental deterioration and in the way the film drags you in as a silent passenger to witness it. You slowly watch the fear and terror of isolation with no help take its toll as other forces also wreak havoc. It’s perhaps more in the vein of arthouse horror, but if you're looking for a psychological scare, The Lodge won't disappoint.
The Lodge is available to stream on Hulu.
03. Sea Fever
Siobhan, a withdrawn marine biology student, joins up with a small crew on a fishing trawler for a school research project. When something catches the boat and infection starts spreading among the crew, Siobhan has to figure out what's happening and how to stop it... if she can.
Sea Fever is a wonderful mesh of the best part of horror films and sea adventures. It's part The Perfect Storm, part The Abyss, part The Cave and Cabin Fever — but creepier and far more terrifying than the aforementioned films. How do you get help when you're stranded at sea with no means to do so and you're not sure if the people around you are infected? If sea creatures with a splash of body horror in a claustrophobic setting are your horror favorites, this movie is a must-see addition to your horror arsenal.
Sea Fever is available to stream on Hulu.
A group of old veterans hangs out at their local VFW (Veteran of Foreign Wars), a bar run by their friend and fellow veteran for a birthday celebration. However, when a young girl enters the bar to hide from a drug lord, they have to fight off an onslaught of mutant punks.
If you like an old-school, Carpenter-esque feel, this movie is for you. The film has a gritty '80s vibe. The music and intro have that Prince of Darkness feel and the gore is nostalgic of Evil Dead with the color aesthetic of Escape From New York.
VFW is available for digital rental and purchase.
05. The Wretched
Ben, an obstinate teen, is spending time with his father over the summer. While dealing with the probability that his parents may divorce, Ben realizes that there is something strange about the mother next door.
Fortunately, the film doesn't have an overabundance of jump scares, for which I'm immensely thankful. The sounds — particularly creaky, cracky ones — are scary enough. Some gore, some action, and plenty of suspense and scares make it a worthy watch. With horror reminiscent of classic stories and monsters of the woods, like shapeshifters, wendigos, and changelings; if that's your preference, you will enjoy The Wretched.
The Wretched is available to stream on Hulu.
06. Warning: Do Not Play
Korean horror, arguably, exemplifies the best of what the genre can achieve, oftentimes seamlessly weaving current cultural issues with scares to make films that are not just horror, but a commentary of the times. In Warning: Do Not Play, Mi-jung is an up-and-coming film director who is struggling to write a script. She needs inspiration and when she learns about a tale of a banned movie, she sets out to find it and the creator.
The noises and shadows here will make you turn the lights on, as darkness is not just where ghosts hide, but where you feel the weight of your own social media fixations lurking. It sheds light on the pressure creators feel to craft something spectacular, and our obsession with filming to the detriment of our humanity and character.
What are we willing to sacrifice on the altar of creation? Oddly real and surreal simultaneously, watch it right before bed, if you dare.
Warning: Do Not Play is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
07. Blood Quantum
What if there were a zombie outbreak that ravaged white society — and the members of an Indigenous tribe were immune? Traylor (Michael Greyeyes from Fear the Walking Dead) is an officer in the town and, when all hell breaks loose, he tries to save his people but also lets white people in, which leads to resentment from others.
Blood Quantum, an exceptional example of horror’s ability to be a backdrop or metaphor for pressing social issues (racism and Indigenous rights, in this case), will leave you asking yourself: what’s the right thing to do? Is it right to save people in a zombie outbreak who left your people to suffer before the outbreak? Scary, but even more thought-provoking. Give it a go and find out where you stand.
Blood Quantum is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
Kay and her daughter go to check on her elderly mother, who lives alone, and learn she’s missing. When the matriarch returns, strange occurrences make Kay wonder if her mother, Edna, is possessed by an evil presence.
A film that weaves scary, psychological, and paranormal with an arthouse vibe that's not too overwhelming, the focus is the love, pain, and history shared between the three generations of women. With a woman director, Natalie Erika James, at the helm, Relic checks more than just the horror box. It’s a story told through horror, and tackles issues of how our senior citizens are treated while also showcasing an all-female main cast! A top recommendation!
Relic is available for digital rental and purchase.