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Toni Collette looking terrified in Ari Aster’s Hereditary Image: A24 per Everett Collection / Everett Collection

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The 5 best horror movies to watch on Netflix and other streamers this May

Scare in the summer

Another month, another round of the best horror movies available on streaming. We may be staring down the barrel of summer, but there’s still tons of spooky and seasonally appropriate films to watch to chill you to the bone as the weather starts to warm up. If you don’t feel like venturing out to theaters to see The Boogeyman this month (and who would blame you — that guy’s spooky as fuck), here’s what you have to choose from in terms of horror on streaming.

This month, we’ve chosen a bevy of horror titles that perfectly complement the season. From the Polish mermaid horror-musical The Lure to Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead and more, we’ve got enough frights to keep you on your toes for the rest of the month.

Let’s dive in.

The Lure

a beautiful razor-toothed mermaid lays back in a tub Image: The Criterion Collection

Year: 2015
Run time: 1h 32m
Director: Agnieszka Smoczyńska
Cast: Kinga Preis, Michalina Olszańska, Marta Mazurek

The live-action remake of 1989’s The Little Mermaid starring Halle Bailey premieres in theaters this weekend, so what better time than now to watch the Polish musical horror film inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale? The Lure stars Michalina Olszańska (1983) and Marta Mazurek (The Innocents) as Golden and Silver, two mermaid sirens who are discovered and adopted into a cabaret by a kindly nightclub singer (Kinga Preis).

When Silver falls in love with a young bassist, it not only threatens to drive a wedge between her and Golden, but potentially endangers her very existence as well. The film is an extravagant and surreal horror drama complete with infectious musical numbers, gruesome gore, and a story as whimsical as it is tragic and macabre. The Lure is the perfect choice for anyone searching for an alternative to the twee saccharine stylings of Disney’s live-action output. —Toussaint Egan

The Lure is streaming on The Criterion Channel.

Dawn of the Dead

The bloodied cast of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead stands behind a chain-link fence Photo: Universal Pictures

Year: 2004
Run time: 1h 40m
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Sarah Polley, Ty Burrell, Ving Rhames

Before he was heading up Warner’s first big stab at a DC movie universe or building an original sci-fi epic for Netflix, Zack Snyder took on a surprisingly challenging remake assignment with 2004’s Dawn of the Dead. The movie, based on zombie godfather George Romero’s film of the same name, situates a group of strangers at the center of an emerging zombie apocalypse where the only safe haven in their town is a shopping mall. Romero’s original is an all-time zombie classic and a straight-down-the-middle metaphor for the dangers of a culture obsessed with consumer capitalism; the people may be dead, but that won’t stop them from flocking to the mall.

Snyder’s update is meaner than Romero’s original, with terrifying sprinting zombies and even echoes of Romero’s later (more cynical) movie The Crazies. Snyder’s version is scarier and more harrowing, and introduces a certain brand of numbness to the survivors that feels like a natural extension of Romero’s themes brought into the then-modern world of 2004. —Austen Goslin

Dawn of the Dead is streaming on Netflix.

Paranormal Activity

A couple cowers in bed, looking at an open door Image: Paramount Pictures

Year: 2007
Run time: 1h 26m
Director: Oren Peli
Cast: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs

While memes and a few lackluster sequels have diminished its reputation a little, Paranormal Activity remains a strikingly original and interesting little haunted house movie. The premise is brilliantly simple, following a young couple who have just recently moved into a new house. The husband just happens to have a fun obsession with video cameras and recording parts of his life, which means that all of the weird events that have started happening to them are also happening on camera.

Paranormal Activity never really branches into anything truly terrifying, but the eerie quiet and lean-into-your-screen stillness gives the movie room for plenty of creepy moments and little gasps, even if it never makes it to an outright jump scare. But even without too many huge scares, it’s still a fascinating horror movie and a great reminder of where some of the most frequently used tricks of the genre today came from. —AG

Paranormal Activity is streaming on Netflix.

Inland Empire

Several human sized rabbits dressed in human clothes stand in a living room in David Lynch’s Inland Empire Image: StudioCanal/The Criterion Channel

Year: 2006
Run time: 3h
Director: David Lynch
Cast: Laura Dern, Jeremy Irons, Justin Theroux

Somewhere between horror and another world entirely, David Lynch’s often hard-to-find film Inland Empire has emerged on The Criterion Channel with a newly handled restoration. The film follows an actress played by Laura Dern who takes on a new role in a seemingly ill-fated movie and slowly begins to lose the lines between her real life and her role. Of course, because it’s David Lynch, things only get weirder from there, as Dern’s character encounters stranger and stranger side characters and eventually seems to intersect with an entirely different world.

The fact that Inland Empire is available at all is a bit of a miracle in and of itself. The original version of the film was shot on an early digital video format that’s gone functionally extinct in the years since, which meant that transferring the movie to a new format and making it available at a higher resolution was very difficult. However, last year Lynch personally oversaw a restoration of the film that keeps the eccentricities that were only possible on the film’s original format, which means a good version of the movie is now watchable again. —AG

Inland Empire is streaming on The Criterion Channel.


hereditary - toni colette and cast Image: A24

Year: 2018
Run time: 2h 7m
Director: Ari Aster
Cast: Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne

Already emerging as a modern classic, director Ari Aster’s first major film, Hereditary, follows a mother (Toni Collette) slowly unraveling as her family encounters one tragedy after another. The film is anchored by an incredible performance from Collette, but also supporting performances from Alex Wolff and Ann Dowd that help elevate the movie’s slow and carefully considered creepiness into the realm of genuine terror.

While the movie may feel like a slow burn early on, it ramps itself up quickly, eventually transforming into a full-tilt horror show fueled by the awful will of the demon Paimon — or maybe it isn’t a demon behind the tragedies at all. Whatever the cause, Hereditary spends its run time filling every moment with creeping dread before letting loose in an outstanding ending that helped really cement our idea of what the current era of horror movies is striving for. —AG

Hereditary is streaming on Max.

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