With so many theatrical releases postponed or outright canceled, streaming sites were the heroes of 2020. Because of this, it’s only fitting that we take a look at the best horror films made by streaming services this year. This includes Amazon Prime originals, Netflix originals, Hulu originals and Shudder originals. Who will come out on top? (Spoiler: it’s Shudder. One hundred percent). What have our favorite streaming services been releasing this year? Take a look at the best original streaming horror films of 2020.
Best Original Streaming Horror Films of 2020
15. Black Box – Amazon Prime
This movie was unexpectedly great. Wrapped around trauma-induced memory loss, this film quickly transitions into an unnerving sci-fi flick from director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Jr.
Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) is a father who is recovering from a car accident that left him temporarily in a coma and his wife dead. He struggles to remember his life prior to the accident as his young daughter tries to help him get through the death of her mother. Not wanting that stress on her, he chooses to undergo radical hypnotherapy, where he uses a futuristic Black Box to access memories of his past.
This movie is incredibly tender and it’s heartbreaking to watch the father-daughter dynamic in the beginning. However not too soon we are plunged into a horrifying view of therapy and technology, with a theme of “digital voodoo.” The sci-fi elements are definitely reminiscent of Get Out (2017) but the story and discomfort are more than enough to make it worth a watch.
14. Spiral – Shudder
No, not the Chris Rock one. This Spiral is a different rendition of the couple that moves into a new suburban community where their neighbors are not what they seem, directed by Kurtis David Harder.
In the ‘90s, a Malik (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) and Aaron (Ari Cohen) move to a neighborhood with their teenage daughter (Jennifer Laporte) but Malik starts to uncover a secret history of the community that may point toward a dangerous cult.
Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman shines in this, delivering a complex performance as a gay man trying to find a balance between being proud of himself and feeling the pressures of society to hide in fear. His search throughout the film is tense and the ending is unexpectedly crazy.
13. Bad Hair – Hulu
This Justin Simien (Dear White People) flick takes folklore and puts it in the context of the ‘80s television music industry. Anna (Elle Lorraine) struggles to move up in her job at a network that showcases black culture and music, similar to MTV. When her station is taken over by Zora (the iconic Vanessa Williams) she decides to get a weave to fit in better and hopefully get a job as a host despite objecting to the direction the channel’s going in. At the same time, she learns a spooky urban legend that originated from slaves about a witch’s hair possessing the vain.
Incredibly stylistic and expertly acted by most of the cast, this colorful film should be on your radar especially if you love music. In addition to the amazing work that was done to make this look like it is from the 1980s, the film also includes numerous original songs that resemble ‘80s hip hop from Kelly Rowland and Braxton Cook.
12. Good Boy – Hulu
What a fun and energetic ride. This is a must watch if you’re a dog owner, a middle-aged single woman, or a dog-owning single woman. After a string of bad dates, Maggie (Judy Greer) gets an emotional support dog for company. After that, all the people who stress her out mysteriously are found murdered.
Judy Greer rocks in this film and I was totally empathetic with her character. This is also a great creature feature, resembling a fun werewolf film with all the excessive gore. This streaming exclusive horror film is also from director Tyler MacIntyre, who did the excellent Tragedy Girls which shares a similar tone.
11. Run – Hulu
This film definitely feels like it has a familiar plot to some other horror films; Ma (2019) comes to mind. But despite that, this film packs a punch. Teenage Chloe (Kiera Allen) has used a wheelchair her entire life and is homeschooled by her mother (Sarah Paulson). After noticing some mysterious documents, Chloe becomes suspicious that her mother has not always been honest with her about herself and her conditions.
A lot of the reason this film by director Aneesh Chaganty (Searching) works is because of the acting skills of Sarah Paulson. As a horror queen we showed up for her and she did not disappoint, with this film being perhaps some of her best acting yet as a mother with secrets and an intense love for her daughter. The movie becomes pretty intense quickly and features some surprisingly good action sequences.
10. Horse Girl – Netflix
Spoiler alert: this film is not really about horses. Jeff Baena’s (Life After Beth) psychological thriller about the paranoia regarding developing mental illnesses combining with conspiracy theories is sometimes a bit muddled but overall a very fun and upsetting time.
Sarah (Alison Brie) is a socially awkward young adult who lives an insignificant life working at a fabric store and visiting her old horse. That is, until she starts developing what she thinks is a neurological disorder that causes her to seemingly sleep walk and see odd, supernatural visions.
Alison Brie is a force to be reckoned with and she is definitely the glue that holds this film together. Her sincere demeanor starts to crack as she experiences increasing paranoia regarding her life and Brie pulls it off in a captivating way. I was also a huge fan of this story and especially the wacky ending.
9. Blood Quantum – Shudder
A punk Indigenous zombie flick? Yes please! I was amazed at what this film from Rhymes for Young Ghouls director Jeff Barnaby was able to accomplish as well as reinterpret about the tried and true zombie film. It starts off inside a Mi’kmaq reserve where a zombie infection is just breaking out. As it does, the people there find out that they are somehow immune to the infection. It skips to the future where the surviving members of the reservation have created a safe compound where people repeatedly try to get in, thinking that they have a cure to the virus.
The film is tense throughout and although it has many elements that are similar to zombie films, this one takes them in a completely different direction. It also captures a subtle grindhouse style that leaves the film feeling grimy. It’s fresh, dreary and filled with blood.
8. Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street – Shudder
I’m gonna change it up and add a documentary to the mix. Even if documentaries aren’t your forte, this is a great watch for fans of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.
Following the mysterious life of the star of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, Mark Patton. In hiding for years, this documentary reconnects with him to find out what happened to cause him to disappear following the film’s premiere in 1985 as well as the homoerotic themes found in the Nightmare film.
This is definitely one of the most interestingly composed documentaries I’ve seen and one of the best horror film documentaries out there. Kudos to directors Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen for crafting such a loving tribute to the second Nightmare film and give a compelling look at Patton’s life and the horror fandom.
7. Scare Me – Shudder
Another unexpectedly great film that Shudder released this year, Scare Me does a lot with just one location, and a few campfire tales. From director Josh Ruben (who also stars) this robust film follows the interactions of two horror writers with different approaches to life.
Fred (Josh Ruben) is a writer staying at a secluded snowy cabin to try and overcome his writer’s block for a horror novel. While there, he runs into Fanny (Aya Cash), who is an accomplished and well known horror author. After a power outage, the pair, who have mixed feelings about each other, find themselves stuck together in a cabin with nothing to do but tell spooky stories.
The way this film chooses to tell the stories is incredible, with their spoken words and exaggerated actions showing up as actual images inside the cabin. For instance, telling a story about a werewolf, Fred walking up the stairs turns into a shadowy lycanthrope as he gives more details. It also hits on themes of originality in the horror world and the distrust and jealousy writers have about each other. A great flick for your next snow day!
6. La Llorona – Shudder
Following the dull and uninspired The Curse of La Llorona of 2019, I was expecting this to be more of the same. Boy was I wrong. In every way possible Jayro Bustamente’s film is the superior La Llorona folktale adaptation.
Taking place in the aftermath of a genocide in Guatemala orchestrated by the former general Enrique (Julia Diaz), he is deemed guilty of committing war crimes and is quarantined inside his grand palace with his family as protestors remind him of his atrocities and call for his death outside. They then bring in a new housekeeper (María Mercedez Coroy) who’s appearance causes the general and his family to feel the effects of their actions.
The tone for this incredibly deep movie is set from the beginning as the general is haunted by the crying woman. While some horror films that mix in real politics may feel a bit forced at times, this film convincingly combines the two in an effective and discomforting way. And the cinematography and production design are just as incredible to look at.
5. Host – Shudder
Host had to make its way onto this list, as it is the first COVID-19 film. Taking place entirely on Zoom, this found footage type exercise has a great atmosphere, effective scares and an inspiring low-budget feel.
It starts with a group of young friends getting together for a Zoom seance due to COVID. They connect with the psychic and take the seance as a joke, and, well, you can guess what happens next.
For once, this film is best watched on your laptop, in your bed, with headphones in. It’s a great use of immersive horror by looking exactly like what most Zoom calls look and sound like, as many of us know now. The scares come quick and hard so it won’t disappoint many horror fans which is why it’s one of the best streaming exclusive horror films of this year.
4. His House – Netflix
His House was definitely a highlight in this year for me. Despite being a directorial debut from Remi Weekes, this film is both horrifying and incredibly intimate in its portrayal of the refugee experience with amazing acting from everyone.
Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) are a couple that fled war-torn Sudan, losing their daughter in the process. They seek asylum in England and wait in a detention facility before being accepted and given a small, badly damaged apartment that they are allowed to live in. They experience haunting visions of a specter as they try and fix up their house.
This film is pretty much great all around, from the disturbing story of the death of their daughter, to the effects of grief they experience later and the struggle they feel to fit in versus keep their culture. Read more of my thoughts in my review here.
3. Anything for Jackson – Shudder
Possession movies are a dime a dozen, but this film, described as a reverse exorcism, is a finally refreshing look at the genre. It also has two grandparents as the main characters, which I find adorable. I love any horror movie where older people are going all out.
An older couple (Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings) kidnap a pregnant woman with the intention of putting the spirit of their dead grandson into her unborn baby using an ancient spellbook that is way over their heads.
Although this film is sometimes funny and cute, it goes hard and doesn’t hold back when it comes to the gore and scares. Ghosts kill themselves over and over again as the hapless grandparents try to figure out where they went wrong. From director Justin G. Dyck, this is a possession movie that will not soon be forgotten.
2. Impetigore – Shudder
Joko Anwar has been a heavy weight in indonesian horror for almost a decade now, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of his last film, Satan’s Slaves, I cannot stress enough that this is one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen. Also, like the next film, this goes to some dark places.
Maya (Tara Basro) works as a toll booth attendant in a city with her friend, when a strange man randomly attacks her with a machete but is killed by police. A few months later, she decides to take her friend to the village where she was born to look for money but finds her family house abandoned and overgrown, and the villagers dealing with something strange with their newborn babies.
This film has, by far, my favorite opening scene of the year. After that, it’s still pretty good and the story is messed up, surprising, and crazy. The entire film is incredibly shot and the production design is inspirational. While some of the plot gets in the way of the story near the end, overall this story will keep you on the edge of your seat and wincing.
1. Dogs Don’t Wear Pants – Shudder
This one’s definitely not for the weak. Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää’s erotic dark drama is incredibly perverse, with multiple scenes that are disturbing, both emotionally and sexually. Juha (Pekka Strang) is a middle-aged doctor dealing with the death of his wife by drowning while struggling to care for his teenage daughter. One day, Juha encounters Mona (Krista Kosonen), a dominatrix who awakens a psychosexual desire within him to be deprived of air.
The two lead actors here are great and truly embody their characters. Kosonen is particularly arresting everytime she is on screen and pulls off a striking aggression while also having a soft affection at the same time. It’s kind of like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) but sexier.
If you can handle the more aggressive side of BDSM, this is a film that should not be missed and is for me the best original streaming horror films of the year.
The Vast of Night – Prime
Nocturne – Prime
The Devil All the Time – Netflix
The Babysitter: Killer Queen – Netflix
Vampires Vs. The Bronx – Netflix
The Mortuary Collection – Shudder
Scare Package – Shudder
Color Out of Space – Shudder
Honestly, this was a great year for streaming exclusive horror films. If you don’t have a subscription to Shudder, I highly recommend it just for the amount of GOOD original content that they have been making and hopefully will continue to make. What do you think of our list? Any that we missed? Let us know! And if you’re looking for other horror films on Netflix, check out this list.