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The best horror documentaries

Documentary films can often be written off as just a bunch of National Geographic specials or educational deep dives on world-changing folks and phenomena, socioeconomic subjects, and other textbook explorations of the universe as we know it (or don’t know it). But for cinema-goers who want to learn about something a bit more sordid, uncomfortable, or downright terrifying, there are horror documentaries. Some of these titles are about the horror genre itself, while others explore more esoteric matters, such as the many terrors of sleep paralysis and killer clowns for hire. 

If you’re in the mood for something hair-raisingly informative, we’ve gone ahead and rounded up all the best horror documentaries you can stream right now.

Looking for more horrors? Check out our roundups of the best horror films on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Shudder.

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (2019)
Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror
7.5/10
r 83m
Genre Documentary
Stars Meosha Bean, Ashlee Blackwell, William Crain
Directed by Xavier Burgin
Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror is a groundbreaking documentary that explores the history of the American Black experience alongside the evolution of the horror film genre. Going all the way back to the late 1890s, the doc unpacks and examines the various roles that Black actors, filmmakers, and various industry affiliates have played or been subjected to throughout a century-plus of genre filmmaking, with excellent talking-head segments from the likes of Keith David, Jordan Peele, Tony Todd, and more, and plenty of archival footage to round out the feature.
Horror Noire - Official Trailer [HD] | A Shudder Original Documentary
The Nightmare (2015)
The Nightmare
68 %
5.7/10
r 90m
Genre Horror, Documentary
Stars Kate Angus, Forrest Borie, Christopher Bleuze-Carolan
Directed by Rodney Ascher
You thought that A Nightmare on Elm Street was a tough watch? Well, get ready for the all-too-real examination of a phenomenon called sleep paralysis. In director Rodney Ascher’s The Nightmare, sleep paralysis is explored through the many eyewitness experiences of individuals suffering from the debilitating condition — a sleep-induced state of hallucinatory terrors, where the human body is rendered immobile, to the point where some sufferers even find it hard to breathe. Through detailed reenactments that feature some impressive costume, makeup, and VFX work, Ascher creates a pulse-pounding world of scares that will keep you wide awake at night.
Demon House (2018)
Demon House
4.8/10
r 111m
Genre Documentary, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Stars Zak Bagans, Billy Tolley, Jay Wasley
Directed by Zak Bagans

Have you ever caught an episode or two of the Travel Channel series Ghost Adventures? If not, we’ll give you a nice nutshell summation: A team of paranormal investigators heads to some of the world’s most haunted places in hopes of capturing something supernatural for the TV show. The 2019 film Demon House, a documentary about a man who purchases a supposedly demon-infested house and brings a paranormal film crew in to investigate, is written and directed by Zak Bagans, the main creative mind and host of Ghost Adventures. The house Bagans purchases was the site of the 2014 Ammons haunting case, and while we’re sure there are some skeptics in our readership, Bagans’ unnerving little doc is enough to make us question whether or not the bumps we hear at night are pipes or marauding spirits looking to mess with our heads.

Demon House Official Trailer #1 (2018) Zak Bagans Documentary Movie HD
In Search of Darkness (2019)
In Search of Darkness
8/10
r 264m
Genre Documentary, Horror
Stars Tom Atkins, John Bloom, Doug Bradley
Directed by David A. Weiner

’80s horror will forever hold a special place in our hearts. In Search of Darkness: A Journey into Iconic 80s Horror is a documentary love letter from director David A. Weiner, perhaps the biggest fan of ‘80s horror the world has ever known. With a runtime of over five hours, Weiner’s film breaks down some of the best genre films of the camp-infested decade while exploring the evolution of special effects, poster art, and the prolific home video surge of the era. There are talking heads aplenty, and while we highly recommend breaking the film into multiple viewings, we promise you’ll walk away from this masterpiece with a major education on a very special part of ‘80s cinema history.

In Search of Darkness- Official Trailer [HD] | A Shudder Exclusive
Wrinkles the Clown (2019)
Wrinkles the Clown
r 75m
Genre Documentary
Directed by Michael Beach Nichols

Have your children been misbehaving? Well, you could always call Wrinkles. The 2019 horror doc Wrinkles the Clown sheds some light on a rather scary and bizarre subject. For “a few hundred dollars,” Florida residents were able to hire Wrinkles, the titular horrifically-garbed clown, to prank family and friends, keep kids in line, and make party appearances. But it turns out there’s far more to the Wrinkles mythos than meets the eye, and writer-director Michael Beach Nichols is the one to break the case. We won’t give any spoilers, but let’s just say that it’s worth sticking with this one for its surprising third-act reveal.

Beware the Slenderman (2016)
Beware the Slenderman
78 %
6.2/10
r 117m
Genre Crime, Documentary
Stars Richard Dawkins
Directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky

Slenderman is the stuff nightmares are made of, a looming, ghoulish figure with no face, a creepy suit, and long, dangly fingers. And even though the creature in question is merely a web-based myth shared by many, Beware the Slenderman follows the real-life story of two Wisconsin pre-teens who exploited Slenderman in the most horrific fashion: by repeatedly stabbing a friend of theirs in an ode to the titular monster. An in-depth and unique examination of the internet’s effects on impressionable minds, Beware the Slenderman is a truly one-of-a-kind horror doc that you don’t want to miss.

Beware the Slenderman (HBO Documentary Films)
The Cheshire Murders (2013)
The Cheshire Murders
r 115m
Genre Documentary
Stars Marilyn Bartoli, Deb Biggins, Michael Daluz
Directed by Kate Davis, David Heilbroner
On the morning of July 23, 2007, the lives of the Petit family would be forever changed when a vicious crime took place in their quiet home in their idyllic neighborhood. Leading to one of the most notorious homicide cases in Connecticut state history, The Cheshire Murders explores the horrific events in sobering detail, delving into the criminal backgrounds of the men who carried out the disturbing act while shining a light on details that could have prevented the incident from ever happening in the first place. This isn’t an easy one to watch, but this documentary is as brutally forthright as they come.

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