Netflix has made great horror more accessible to the masses, but the platform’s best original content deserves physical releases.
Physical media is important to many because it is a way to preserve and connect with a creative piece on a deeper level. In addition to personal accessibility, physical media can include commentaries from the film’s creatives and other bonus features that demystify the process of filmmaking. It provides cultural and historic context that a streaming release does not allow for. Bonus materials are a huge reason that a lot of people collect physical media.
But one of the biggest streaming services in the world, Netflix, refuses physical releases.
Some of their films and shows are released on DVD and Blu-ray because they are in affiliation with another studio. For example, The Haunting series was made via a partnership with Paramount and thus was able to be released on disc thanks to Paramount. (Truly, thanks, Paramount!) However, Mike Flanagan’s other Netflix release Midnight Mass was made exclusively with Netflix, and as of now, Netflix will not release the series to home media.
Mike Flanagan himself has pleaded with the company to release not only Midnight Mass but also his other films either made with or acquired by Netflix.
1. Midnight Mass
(Recommended by Frankie Lyle)
I was beyond thrilled when I heard about Mike Flanagan’s Midnight Mass premiering on Netflix. After watching (and crying over) his other shows and movies, I was curious to see how he would portray Christianity in this mini-series. It ended up being one of the most authentic representations I’ve seen in a long time.
It’s a phenomenal story with stellar performances from the entire cast that hooked me onto the show and is one that I’ll continue to recommend to anyone looking for something new to binge. The intricate and strange mysteries left enough clues for the audience to piece together but still managed to surprise in a way that was authentic to the plot.
Something odd is happening to the residents of Crockett Island, a small village where the once-booming fishing industry was smothered in the wake of an oil spill. The arrival of a new priest marks the beginning of strange miracles that amaze and terrify.
Most horror plots that feature theology tend to fall under unintentional Christian propaganda.
I struggle to think of any mainstream supernatural horror film where the solution isn’t a Catholic exorcism. It’s one of the first chances to see both the Church and its community as the ones at fault.
However critical these points may be of Christianity; Flanagan’s point wasn’t to disparage it. Instead, it offers a refreshing view of the Church for what it is: human and not without flaws.
2. Brand New Cherry Flavor
(Recommended by Christi Bandy)
Firstly, the fact that Catherine Keener is in this series is a big bonus – she’s amazing. The epic casting combined with an out-there, totally weird plot plus creative special effects and a fast-paced story make Brand New Cherry Flavor a series you’ll definitely want to taste!
When I found out that the creators of this show also worked on Channel Zero, it all made sense. The underlying, unsettling feeling of that series definitely works here as well and complements the well-written dialogue and fast-moving plot.
Rosa Salazar plays Lisa Nova, an aspiring filmmaker motivated to make her feature film. With her dreams in mind, she heads to Los Angeles. However, she instead unwittingly becomes the subject of a witch’s curse, which she has limited time to undo.
A witch’s curse? What the hell is happening here?
Yes, the show quickly turns fantastical and horrifying with graphic and sometimes hilarious body horror, freaky hallucination sequences, and an almost Grimm’s fairytale vibe that is simultaneously hard to watch and unbearable to turn away from.
In short, it’s perfect for horror fans! It’s also a fairly easy metaphor for any artist trying to make it in LA, which makes it even more potent.
3. I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
(Recommended by Jason McFiggins)
“The staying place of a rotted ghost,” is narrated in the opening moments of I am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House.
Part of a longer narration, this observation could function as an alternate title to the film, a story that focuses on the haunting of a house. But more than that, of ghosts, stuck in both place and time, forever trapped in the unreachable memory of their own death.
With an overwhelming emphasis on what is felt when you think you’re alone, the film chooses to focus on what is not there.
The camera picks up angles from hallways behind characters, from chairs around kitchen tables, and at the bottom of darkened stairways, all of which capture the feeling of not being alone, of being watched. Of being surrounded.
Very little is seen during these quiet, unsettling moments, but this ghostly solitude unravels an eerie mystery and is where writer-director Oz Perkins excels.
4. His House
I’m thankful every day that the Faculty of Horror podcast did a Patreon episode on His House. Up to that point I hadn’t even heard of the movie, and honestly, I hadn’t been captivated by the poster when I went searching for it on Netflix. But I’d stopped the episode before I got too big of spoilers on it, convinced that if the hosts had liked it, it was definitely worth an attempt at least.
Remi Weekes’s His House absolutely blew me away immediately.
The film follows a couple, Rial and Bol, from South Sudan who moves to England as refugees. On top of the obvious cultural shift, the couple must endure in the midst of a horrific upheaval in their lives, they also must deal with the racism ingrained in the refugee relief program within England. Forced to live in a rundown home, in a neighborhood fraught with racism, with little to no money for food and an inability to improve their surroundings.
In order to flee from their war-torn country, the couple had to board a small boat. As cruel fate would have it, the winds tossed the ship into the midst of a storm. The two lost their daughter to the dark waters.
As if that isn’t enough to deal with, the couple is soon visited by an apeth, or “night witch”, who shifts in and out of the hole-laced walls.
The apeth is associated with guilt, and at the beginning of the film, we become deeply acquainted with theirs.
5. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)
(Recommended by Jamie Marino)
Yes, this is a polarizing pick, but hear me out. I have come to the conclusion that one of the overwhelming mistakes made by the audience (yes, nowadays they ruin it more than the filmmakers) was surrendering to politics and unrealistic expectations. I don’t want to get on a soapbox and start hating on the Internet, but the freedom it gives people has paved the way for a crooked, fractured, and schizophrenic definition of what a good movie is.
Is it “good” good, “fun” good, great but “sad”, great but “too long”, “The Greatest Thing Ever”, or a “dumpster fire” (trolling mofos love that one)?
Reviewing has been reduced to reaction videos and YouTube jargon. YouTube reviewers dissect the hell out of movies, every frame, then laugh at their own jokes and scream at, uh . . . us, I guess. Everybody has loud, likable, sharable opinions now. And it’s like the sound of thousands of rabbits being slaughtered under an aluminum dome.
Controversial opinion: It’s ok for a horror film to just be entertaining — nothing more, nothing less.
6. Fear Street (Trilogy)
(Recommended by Peter Hayward-Bailey)
The Fear Street trilogy from Netflix is a series of films based loosely on the R L Stine book series of the same name. But don’t worry, you don’t need prior knowledge of the books to fully appreciate the series of films as they are completely self-contained stories.
The story itself takes place over three different time periods, with each of the films being set in a different time, in an over-arching narrative tying them all seamlessly together.
Netflix turned the release of Fear Street into an event, with each installment being released a week apart. This created anticipation in the audience as you were pulled into the story and had to know what happened next, much like the days of cliffhanger TV before streaming, but with extremely fun horror features.
The cast of the films is absolutely stellar with some brilliant range shown onscreen as the actors play different characters in each of the timelines. The kills are enough to satisfy any veteran of the slasher genre with no shying away from bloodshed.
Another thing that I really enjoyed about Fear Street is the LGBTQ+ representation on screen — and from the main characters no less. A lot of films suffer from only having diversity within the supporting cast, or from characters that can be picked off early on.
This film has a lesbian relationship at the core of its story, and it is so expertly written that the characters are well-rounded and developed, so it doesn’t feel like it’s “pandering to a demographic” or only being included for tokenization.
7. Squid Game
(Recommended by Stephanie Malone)
Squid Game is a Netflix series made in Korea by Hwang Dong-hyuk. Quietly released in September 2021, it quickly became the platform’s highest-ranking show in 90 countries. This marked the first time a Korean drama has ever been at the top of the US charts, and a whopping 95% of the viewers were outside Korea.
Over the course of its nine, one-hour episodes, Squid Game left viewers shocked and horrified, while keeping them emotionally invested through razor-sharp writing and compelling performances.
Evocative of ‘fight to the death’ films like Battle Royale and Hunger Games, Squid Game flips the script by making its players complicit in their own exploitation while offering biting commentary on the nature of capitalism and economic inequalities.
Desperate players, selected from the fringe of society, are given a choice to compete in a series of children’s games for the chance to win a life-changing sum of money (roughly $39 million in U.S. dollars). Initially, this choice is made without knowing the high stakes of losing. However, the true horror of the show takes hold when players are given another choice, this time fully understanding the danger and depravity of the game.
Still, in the face of a world just as quick to chew them up and spit them out as the cruel, faceless hosts of the game, Squid Game asks us to contemplate a gut-wrenching question: was there ever any choice at all?
Are we really free to choose in the face of extreme exploitation? Do we really have autonomy in a world ruled by the almighty dollar or are we all just pawns in a corrupt and brutal game of chess.
8. A Classic Horror Story
(Recommended by Jamie Marino)
Robert De Feo and Paolo Strippoli directed this 2021 horror-folky, torture-porny, twisty-turny Italian gorefest.
The title can be interpreted in more than one way, and after watching it for the first time, should you choose to watch it a second time, you’ll completely understand. In fact, upon a second watch, you will likely find dozens of clues pre-explaining the ‘who’ and ‘why’ related to the Big Bad.
Found within the film are pebbles of Evil Dead (pick one), Midsommar, Frontier(s), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (mostly the original and Leatherface: Part 3), Tobe Hooper’s Crocodile, Donkey Punch, The Village, Husk, Dark Ride, Penny Dreadful (After Dark Films), Kill List, Wrong Turn 2, and The Hills Run Red. There may be several more I didn’t catch, references to films I haven’t yet seen.
That’s not a criticism. The Mummy 2 stole from 26 different movies, and that was one of the funniest visits I ever made to the movies.
But A CLASSIC HORROR STORY isn’t funny. It’s chillingly serious, regardless of how many “tributes” are thrown in.
9. Before I Wake
(Recommended by Maggie Stankiewicz)
Before I Wake is a powerhouse of a film in every sense of the word.
It transcended the depths of distribution hell after very narrowly missing being locked in a vault for all eternity and landed in the Netflix library, destined to gut-punch unsuspecting viewers. This film was quietly released before Mike Flanagan became one of horror’s premier creators. Viewership has suffered from being buried in stacks of other successful properties, but it remains a diamond among…other diamonds.
In many ways, it feels like the character of Cody in Before I Wake walked so little Nellie Crain could run.
Portrayed by a young and immensely talented Jacob Tremblay, Cody finds himself under the care of bereaved couple Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark Hobson (Thomas Jane). Cody, having just lost his mother, and the Hobsons, having lost their son, is a match made in grief.
The result of their worlds colliding is a darkly whimsical exploration of loss, life, and the many horrors of the human condition.
10. Vampires vs The Bronx
(Recommended by Berlyn Nikolunauer)
The horror genre easily lends itself to making social commentary, and the vampire category almost always goes there. Vampires vs The Bronx from director Oz Rodriguez is no exception to this, taking on a modern perspective that’s appropriate for the 2020s.
Existing in a self-realized horror world, Miguel and his friends are able to research the best ways to identify and battle vampires invading their neighborhood by watching well-known classics. They are shown Blade where they learn most of the common vampire customs, and how to kill them.
This step allows for all of our favorite and familiar vampire references that hilariously blend with the horror and action of the film.
Led by an exciting cast, Miguel played by Jaden Michael, Gerald Jones III as Bobby, and Gregory Diaz IV, play the main group and they are all incredibly talented individuals.Bringing together a solid mix of personalities, the boys are unique as their own characters but still believable as a group of friends.
Viewers can’t help but root for them as you get to know their home lives and how they intersect with each other while trying to navigate adolescence.
11. Archive 81
(Recommended by Christi Bandy)
When it comes to original content, Netflix has stepped up its suspense game with recent entries like Archive 81, an eight-part streaming series based on a 2016 podcast. With a blend of horror, sci-fi, thriller, and fantasy, Archive 81 pulls you directly into the vortex of an eerie mystery involving some weird videotape footage.
You’re introduced to Dan Turner (Mamoudou Athie) a soft-spoken, mild-mannered archivist and movie buff who’s an expert at restoring damaged media, and his best friend, Mark Higgins (Matt McGorry) a lively podcast host who wears interesting sweaters. The pair are swiftly entrenched in an odd situation when Dan’s boss, millionaire Virgil Davenport (Martin Donavan) hires him for a personal project – to restore some old videotapes.
It’s obvious from the get-go that these are no ordinary videotapes. What’s on the tapes could be evidence of a fire that occurred years ago at an apartment building called the Visser, and the story of one woman, in particular, Melody Pendras (Dina Shihabi), who seems to know more about what really happened there.
How’s everything connected, and why did Virgil choose Dan to go down this rabbit hole? What happened in ’94 that has any bearing on today? The videotapes hold the answers, and Dan is determined to get to the bottom of the riddle.
From the first episode, I was enthralled. Tight pacing, fast flashbacks, and the unraveling of Melody’s story happen in tandem with Dan’s history, and you begin to understand how everything fits into place.
12. Gerald’s Game
(Recommended by Robert Rosado)
From his feature debut in 2011, Absentia, to the acclaimed Midnight Mass limited series on Netflix, Mike Flanagan has demonstrated that he is easily one of the finest filmmakers in contemporary horror. Unafraid to take risks or dive into uncomfortable territory, he is also an expert craftsman who is capable of indelible imagery and excruciating suspense.
For these reasons and others, he was a natural choice to adapt Stephen King’s 1992 novel, Gerald’s Game.
In an effort to inject some zest into their stagnant marriage, Jessie (Carla Gugino) and Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) arrange a weekend getaway to a lakehouse in the woods of Alabama. Not long after settling in, sex games and roleplaying ensue, which sees both of Jessie’s hands cuffed to the bed.
Initially playful, Gerald’s lecherous manner triggers a visceral response from his wife, and she demands to be uncuffed. Before Gerald can do so, however, he suffers a massive heart attack and dies, rendering Jessie trapped and helpless.
With extremely restricted options, Jessie must decide if she is resigned to her fate, or if she will attempt to escape somehow. To make matters worse, the front door of the house was never closed, giving any number of unspeakable threats the chance to walk right in.
This was a novel that had been previously deemed “unfilmable”, not only for its taboo premise but also for its cerebral narrative, with much of the story taking place inside the thought process of the imperiled Jessie.
13. The Dirt
(Recommended by Laura A. Sloan)
From their life on the Sunset Strip to sold-out arenas worldwide, Director Jeff Tremaine (Jackass Series) shares a vulnerable film about the lives of the notorious Mötley Crüe, in Netflix’s 2019 release, The Dirt.
Within the first 30 seconds, The Dirt has me at the historic Whisky A Go-Go nightclub, locked in for this fast and outrageous ride, Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth) swiftly narrates what the early 1980s were like.
Sixx shares the beginnings of a hardened life as a young boy to what makes him the leader, then we meet the naïve and happy-go-lucky, Tommy Lee (Machine Gun Kelly.) Lee joins his mentor Nikki, with the addition of Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon), the oldest member of the band yearning for his youth despite his health issues.
Finally, with the arrival of promiscuous lead singer, Vince Neil (Daniel Webber), whose vocals give the band the unique blues and soul infusion into metal, Mötley Crüe is born.
Between performing “Live Wire” to the conception of their band name, Tremaine brilliantly foreshadows their connection as a band.
(Recommended by Jamie Alvey)
I have dreamed of seeing Hush on my shelf next to my other Mike Flanagan-created titles. I’ve wanted this since I first saw the film, but after six years, we have yet to receive a proper Blu-ray or DVD release of Hush.
It seems almost like a robbery of sorts, considering how near and dear the film is to me and has influenced my own creative process. I’d like to be able to delve more into how the film was made and watch bonus features and listen to a commentary as well. It’s maddening that these resources are not just lost to me but to others.
The creative process of this small, wonderful film deserves to be known and preserved. Plus, I just want a damn commentary track between Mike Flanagan, Kate Siegel, and John Gallagher, Jr. Is that too much to ask for?
Hush follows Maddie Young (Kate Siegel), a deaf-mute writer, who must fight for her life against a sadistic man (John Gallagher, Jr.) who kills for sport. Maddie’s deafness is portrayed respectfully despite the fact that Siegel isn’t deaf or hard of hearing herself.
It’s an inventive take on the home invasion horror subgenre that subverts the idea that a final girl has to be an able-bodied person. The film is a step in the right direction of normalizing narratives of disabled characters and people within the genre at large.
(Recommended by Stephanie Malone)
Squid Game introduced American audiences to the beauty and brutality of South Korean dramas, reeling in millions of viewers. And Hellbound kept them on the hook, proving the surprise success of a foreign import was no fluke. In fact, within 24 hours of premiering, Hellbound topped ratings in 80 different countries and overtook Squid Game as the platform’s most-watched show.
The ambitious series from Train to Busan director Yeon Sang-ho — based on his own webtoon (“The Hell”) — explores the dangers of weaponizing belief.
The first few minutes will shake you to your core, boasting one of the most explosive, “holy shit” openings ever that sets the stage for the show’s brilliant premise.
In a not-so-distant future, humans begin receiving otherworldly decrees, ostensibly from God. A floating face in the sky tells them the exact date and time of their death and condemns them to Hell. When that time comes, they are savagely murdered in an exceedingly brutal fashion by three hulking CGI demons.
As absolutely bone-chilling as this supernatural slaughter is, the real horror of the show comes from the very human reaction — a painfully inevitable one in which religious groups jockey for power by leveraging fear and using panic for political gain.
The six-episode series weaves a compelling mystery around exactly what is happening and why, while thoughtfully exploring ideas about faith, helplessness in the face of the inevitable, and the fragility of the human experience.
(Recommended by Kelly Mintzer)
Dan Stevens has had a fascinating career, informed by genuinely unexpected roles. I personally became aware of him through The Guest, but I cannot imagine how someone who fell for Downton Abbey Dan would feel seeing Apostle.
I found Apostle while I was writing a bi-weekly column. I would watch the trailer for a movie I knew nothing about and guess the contents of the movie. Then I would watch the movie and compare the reality to my prognostication.
And boy, did I get Apostle wrong, in all of the best possible ways.
A truly vicious piece of folk horror, it has everything you could possibly want from the genre; fear of the outsider, a town with a secret, some very cult-y goings-on, and blood sacrifices.
(Recommended by Guest Author, Emily Fabrizio)
Being part of the first generation practically raised by Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, I have soft spot for honest and empathetic portrayals of sex work. Law & Order: SVU was my first interaction with media portraying sex work that is — if you don’t count Rocko’s Modern Life of course.
In college, I wrote a paper on prostitution for a social issues class. It was a simple paper discussing policies and ethics in various countries around the world. The following semester, I wrote a piece of flash fiction about an exotic dancer killing someone in self-defense, which was later published in my school’s literary journal. Suffice to say, my lifelong respect and empathy for sex workers meant Cam (2018) was an absolute must-see and went on my watchlist almost immediately.
Written by Isa Mazzei, a former cam girl herself, Cam delves into the life of Alice (Madeline Brewer) as her online persona Lola becomes more and more popular.
While Alice is not ashamed of what she does, she does not disclose that information to just anyone. Only her brother, Jordan (Devin Druid), knows the true nature of her line of work at the beginning of the movie even though she also has a close familial bond with her mother (Melora Walters). She simply wanted that information to be known on her own terms, which is perfectly understandable because of the stigma tied to sex work.
This is a more positive and nuanced take on sex work than we typically see. Alice has chosen this career path, and she is happy and thriving; a refreshing change given how often such work is portrayed as something dangerous, shameful, or desperate.
18. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
(Recommended by Alli Hartley)
I’m Thinking of Ending Things would best be viewed in a lonely art house cinema on a rainy Tuesday. It’s everything that makes cinema intimate, cerebral, and heartbreaking.
Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons play a new couple, only three weeks into their romance, on their way to visit his parents. Even that sentence carries with it a sort of vicarious dread, but Charlie Kaufman, the master of liminal head-games, has something more surreal in store.
What starts off as a mundane event is intercut with fragments of someone else’s memories, old cartoons, moments unstuck in time, and a dog that shakes a little too much.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is one of those films, like Repulsion or The Shining, that breathes unease. The horror is not in knowing what there is to be afraid of, but in knowing whatever it is, it is inescapable and all-consuming.
Toni Collette plays Jake’s mother and once again gives a perfect performance, balanced precisely on the wrong side of madness, her wild-eyed need barely restrained behind a patina of overeager pleasantries. Jesse Plemons proves himself as one of the most interesting actors in years as his menacing instability flickers just underneath his exterior. As the unnamed woman, Jessie Buckley moves through these exchanges with a character that begins as our anchor until she too, begins to fragment.
Like the play that is performed so often in Jake’s high school, the façade is only believable at a distance. Only believable when you are alone.
Charlie Kaufman, the master of the impossible adaptation, once again tops himself.
It’s impossible to consider how many films have been lost to the ages.
If nothing else, sleeper hits prove that studio heads are not always the best predictors of which films will be successful.
In recent years, Netflix has successfully bid for its projects to be considered for judgment amidst others in rankings of artistry and excellence, such as the Oscars, Emmys, etc. I’m Thinking of Ending Things certainly deserved to be among their number.
But in order to be considered for any judgment of artistry, it is imperative that a studio contributes to the creation of physical media. We can not allow, knowing how fleeting technology is in an ever-changing world, to prohibit access to stories to only the digital medium. To do so reduces the accessibility of that media and risks it being lost forever in the coming years.
One would hope, after watching a film like this, that Netflix finds that sort of relentless erosion, this erasure of our cultural identity, as terrifying as Kaufman and I do.
More Great Content
While these compelling Netflix originals missed making our list, they are all well worth your time — and worth a physical release from Netflix.
- The Babysitter
- The Perfection
- In the Tall Grass
- Things Heard and Seen
- Army of the Dead
- No One Gets Out Alive
- The Ritual
- The Ravenous
- All of Us Are Dead