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12 scary stories to stream in the dark for Halloween 2023

Get ready to embrace the spookiness of Halloween 2023 with these 12 bone-chilling stories that you can stream in the dark. While you may have already seen the classics like “The Exorcist” and “Halloween,” this list compiled from the best streaming services will introduce you to some lesser-known frightful gems. From the eerie catacombs of Paris in “As Above, So Below” to the murderous doll in “Child’s Play,” these movies will send shivers down your spine. So grab your popcorn, dim the lights, and get ready for a thrilling night of scares. They say the barrier between the living and the dead is thinnest here at the end of October. To protect ourselves from angry or vengeful spirits that might break through, we must put on disguises, decorate our homes with scary stuff, and, best of all, flood our homes with the sounds of scary movies.

You’ve probably already seen all the most famous fright flicks: The Exorcist, Halloween, The Shining, and the rest; probably more than once. So, I’ve scoured the best streaming services and come up with 24 unsung treasures. The first 12 are presented here, and here’s a link to the second half, which we published on October 27.

In the meantime, pleasant screams.

12 scary stories to stream in the dark for Halloween 2023

As Above, So Below

Stream it on Amazon Prime Video

A scene from the film 'As Above So Below'

John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine, Devil) directs this found-footage movie, and while it has many irritating qualities (jump scares, nausea-inducing camerawork, clichéd characters, and so on), it also has a genuinely unsettling, spine-tingling atmosphere that makes it linger in the memory. It also has a great lead character, the adventurous Scarlett (Perdita Weeks)—who you might imagine as the daughter of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft—who deserved more and better movies.

In As Above, So Below (2014), Scarlett learns that the legendary Philosopher’s Stone may be located in a series of creepy catacombs below the streets of Paris, France. So, she rounds up her translator friend George (Ben Feldman), local guide Papillon (François Civil) and his fearless crew, and her cameraperson Benji (Edwin Hodge) to head down into that twisty, nightmarish maze. Unfortunately, the nature of reality itself begins to bend in horrific, unholy ways. In the end, the good stuff—the puzzle, the chilling horror, and the intrepid lead character—is enough to outweigh any of the other stuff.

Child’s Play

Stream it on Amazon Prime Video

A scene from the film 'Child's Play'

A solid reboot of the famous “Chucky”/killer-doll slasher movies, Child’s Play (2019) casts Mark Hamill as the voice of the new Chucky, and he provides a sweet, sinister tone, perhaps a little confused, as opposed to merely homicidal (which is not to take anything away from Brad Dourif’s memorable line readings in the earlier seven movies).

This time Chucky is not the host for the deceased spirit of a murderer, but rather a doll that had its safety protocols turned off by a disgruntled factory worker. It’s a small distinction, but it makes a huge emotional difference. The doll goes to Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman), a lonely, hearing-impaired boy living with his single mother Karen (Aubrey Plaza).

Chucky promises him lifelong friendship, and even gets him his first real friends, Pugg (Ty Consiglio) and Falyn (Beatrice Kitsos). But then the killings start and a neighboring police detective, Mike Norris (Brian Tyree Henry), begins investigating. Henry and Plaza skillfully layer subtle bits of humor into their roles, making this film feel all the more human.

12 scary stories to stream in the dark for Halloween 2023


Stream it on Amazon Prime Video

A scene from the film 'Dolls'

Director Stuart Gordon began his career in Chicago underground theater, and then directed two notable H.P. Lovecraft adaptations, Re-Animator (1985) and From Beyond (1986). Dolls (1987) was his third feature, and though it has no Lovecraft origins and is not as well-loved, it’s just as perverse and bizarre.

The film begins with an ages-old setup: during a storm, several different travelers take cover in a mysterious old mansion. The residents are a kindly old couple who make extraordinary dolls. Among the visitors, only a little girl—the child of an anxious father and a vicious stepmother—and a sensitive young man who loves toys seem to avoid getting brutally murdered by mysterious, tiny, predators. Gordon infuses the gory attacks with his own infectious brand of nasty humor.

Drag Me to Hell

Stream it on Amazon Prime Video

A scene from the film 'Drag Me to Hell'

After going off the rails a bit with his Spider-Man 3, Sam Raimi returned to the horror genre and to a (comparatively) lower budget. The result, Drag Me to Hell (2009), is just as looney, creepy, and satisfying as his Evil Dead trilogy.

Banker Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), is hoping for a promotion, and under pressure to be more thick-skinned when it comes to loans. The witchy Sylvia Ganush (Lorna Raver) comes to her and asks for an extension on her mortgage, which Christine reluctantly denies. Sylvia puts a curse on Christine, and it’s only a matter of time before she will be “dragged to hell,” unless she finds a way to reverse the curse and find forgiveness.

Christine enlists the aid of her professor boyfriend (Justin Long) and a medium (Adriana Barraza), as the clock ticks. Raimi keeps up the perfect pace with his smoothly kinetic visuals and penchant for shock, as well as a sly sense of humor; the movie plays it straight, but behind the camera Raimi is laughing his head off.

12 scary stories to stream in the dark for Halloween 2023

In the Mouth of Madness

Stream it on the Criterion Channel

A scene from the film 'In the Mouth of Madness'

A few of director John Carpenter’s films are justly recognized as masterpieces today, but many more of his films are waiting to be re-evaluated, especially In the Mouth of Madness (1995). One of a handful of movies in the 1990s that started to peel back the curtain on horror, this film tells the story of insurance investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) who is sent to look for missing horror author Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow), and winds up in a fictional town from one of Cane’s books.

Trent discovers he must prevent Cane’s latest novel from ever seeing the light of day. The book is narrated from an insane asylum, and the movie itself is decorated with insanely crazy designs, colors, and spaces, filling the frame as Trent’s hold on reality slips away. Julie Carmen, Charlton Heston, and David Warner co-star. Carpenter co-composed the score.


Stream it on the Criterion Channel

A scene from the film 'Scanners'

David Cronenberg is a singular voice in horror movies, even though he hates being called a “horror director.” His films are always rooted in some kind of physical, bodily experience, something to do with how the human makeup reacts with its environment, or with a particular stimulus.

Though The Brood (1979) was a grindhouse/drive-in classic and Videodrome (1983) is now a critic’s darling, Scanners (1981) came in-between and seems slightly underrated. It is oft-remembered for its astounding exploding-head scene.

A man named Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) discovers he is a scanner. He is captured by men in suits, given a drug to quiet the voices in his head, and recruited to stop an evil scanner (Michael Ironside) from forming a scanner army and taking over the world. As always, Cronenberg’s approach is curious and scientific, with clean, simple framing and the use of man-made spaces; this low-budget film still looks great. Howard Shore provided the eerie, throbbing music score.

12 scary stories to stream in the dark for Halloween 2023

The Black Cat

Stream it on the Criterion Channel

A scene from the film 'The Black Cat'

Director Edgar G. Ulmer, who had been a set designer in Germany on films like Metropolis and Sunrise, brought a taste of Expressionism to the utterly bizarre The Black Cat (1934), the first official teaming of superstars Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

Following an accident, a young, honeymooning couple and their traveling companion Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Lugosi) are forced to spend the night in the nearby house of Hjalmar Poelzig (Karloff). It turns out that Werdegast and Poelzig are old-time rivals, the source of their hatred having something to do with Werdegast’s wife and child. The visitors also happen to arrive on the eve of a planned Satanic ritual, to take place in the sinister lower levels of the house.

These are just a few of the lesser-known horror films available for streaming this Halloween season. Whether you’re a fan of found-footage thrillers, killer dolls, supernatural curses, or mind-bending psychological horror, there’s something for you to enjoy. So gather your friends, turn off the lights, and get ready for some spooky, spine-chilling entertainment. Happy streaming, and have a fantastic Halloween!