While there’s never a better time to watch all our favorite horror films than October, HBO Max’s prolific lineup of genre titles is worth sinking your teeth into all year round. And like any streamer, the door is always rotating, with new titles landing on the platform from month to month while others leave.
That being said, it can be hard to keep up with all the greatest scary flicks HBO Max offers, which is where we come in. As devotees of all things mad, macabre, and cringe-inducing (housed safely under the label of “a movie”, of course), we’ve put together this list of the best horror movies on HBO Max you can watch right now.
Director James Wan may not be known for his delicate nature, especially when you look at films like Saw, Dead Silence, and Death Sentence. But after years of subbing blood and gore for more supernatural spooks, Wan returned to gory form with Malignant, something a bit more left-field for the genre maverick.
Annabelle Wallis stars as Madison Lake Mitchell, a woman who has been haunted her whole life by a mysterious entity she refers to as “Gabriel.” But after suffering through a personal tragedy, Madison starts having terrifying visions where she assumes the point-of-view of a serial murderer, hallucinations that may have more to do with Gabriel than Madison could ever imagine. Campy, gruesome, and bolstered by a bit of sci-fi in the boiling pot of tropes, Malignant runs into one hell of a hairpin turn that’ll either totally win over or viciously turn off viewers, but it’s one you need to see for yourself to decide which camp you belong to.
An adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name, Doctor Sleep serves as a modern-day sequel to The Shining, following a now-adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor). In the present, Danny has turned to booze as a Band-Aid to cope with the horrific events that took place during his childhood — specifically, his run-in with all kinds of paranormal mayhem at the snowbound Overlook Hotel.
Now using his “shining” abilities to aid hospice patients, Danny meets a teen named Abra (Kyleigh Curran) who happens to possess the same psychic powers as him. And it’s a good thing she reached out because these two meet just as a murderous cult known as the True Knot emerges from the woodwork. Using their own otherworldly gifts to feed on the life force of those who “shine,” it’s up to Danny to take down the collective before they claim Abra’s life or his own.
In director David Bruckner’s The Night House, Rebecca Hall stars as Beth, a widowed schoolteacher suffering from the recent suicide of her husband (Evan Jonigkeit). As she starts experiencing a series of haunting visions, Beth’s friends and familiars are quick to chalk it all up as grief manifesting in strange ways, but Beth senses something deeper.
Beginning an investigation into her late husband’s personal and professional past, Beth starts unearthing secrets that had been buried for years — some of them quite literally so. With its haunting, maze-like narrative and Rebecca Hall’s arresting performance as a woman navigating the dark waters of life and death, The Night House gets a little muddy when the third act rolls around, but thanks to the acting chops of Hall, even the most trope-steeped moments shine with an original light all their own.
The world had long been waiting for Stephen King’s iconic dictionary-sized novel It to receive a proper cinematic interpretation. And while we have to respect Tommy Lee Wallace’s creepy ‘90s miniseries starring Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown, the source text received a much bigger-budget homage in the form of director Andy Muschietti’s cinematic two-part chronicling of the classic King story.
Swapping the small-town ‘50s for a suburban ‘80s backdrop, It follows a group of misfit kids known as “the Losers Club.” But far beyond a safe place for the bullied and forgotten to thrive, each of the Losers is plagued by disturbing visions of a cannibalistic clown. Known as Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), the infamous monster preys on unsuspecting children, and after murdering the younger brother of de facto leader Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), a thirst for vengeance carries the pre-teens deep into the Derry sewers to confront the harrowing beast. Filled with unforgettable scares from start to finish, It is a brilliant example of how grand things can get when filmmakers develop and produce for the big screen versus television.
After first dipping his gorily gangrenous toes into the supernatural with 2010’s Insidious, director James Wan continued his ghoulish narrative trend with 2013’s The Conjuring. Based on a real case from parapsychologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), Wan’s film focuses on the famed husband-wife duo’s deep dive into the heart of a rural Rhode Island family being haunted by sinister supernatural forces.
Eerily atmospheric, The Conjuring doesn’t go straight for the throat in most scenes, instead relegating its unique bevy of scares to a slow-burn uphill climb that craftily takes advantage of the film’s near two-hour runtime. Well done, Mr. Wan. You taught us to fear our own homes with Insidious, and now we have to be afraid of marauding witch-ghosts from the 1700s, too!
Zombies aren’t exactly known for their tremendous speed, although recent genre entries like Train to Busan and World War Z would have you think differently about the on-foot capabilities of the undead. But before the two aforementioned brain-eating flicks, there was director Danny Boyle’s 2002 film 28 Days Later. With a script by Ex Machina and Annihilation helmer Alex Garland, Boyle’s film stars Cillian Murphy as Jim, a bicycle messenger who wakes up from a coma, in a totally abandoned and dilapidated London.
But not long after his revival, Jim’s initial perambulation of this strange new world is violently interrupted by the arrival of blood-hungry humans infected with a virus called “Rage.” Now forced to fight for his life, alongside a small band of fellow survivors, there’s danger around every corner, and amongst the non-infected, few can be trusted. Shot with guerilla-style DV cameras, 28 Days Later looks and feels like a raw and unfiltered eyewitness experience that doesn’t relent in the slightest. And if it wasn’t for this Garland-penned gem, shows like The Walking Dead probably wouldn’t exist.
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