The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

The 10 Best Arthouse Horror Films to Stream this Fall

A group of friends watching horror movie at home.
Miodrag Ignjatovic/Getty Images

Slashers and torture films will undoubtedly satisfy your horror crave, but sometimes it’s nice to watch more than just wanton bloodshed in a Halloween movie. It’s an unfortunate fact of film criticism that horror movies are probably the most under-appreciated of all genres. Frequently considered trashy or lowbrow by moviegoers and almost always completely ignored by the Academy, horror movies are typically considered cheap thrills for sadistic viewers.

For years, academics and scholars have repeatedly tried to save horror from its bad reputation by pointing toward the latent feminist motifs throughout the genre and noting the avant-garde aspirations of even the lowest common denominator movies. Meanwhile, true auteurs regularly look toward horror for inspiration and have turned out some of their greatest creations while exploring the darkness within.

With this in mind, we’ve curated a list of under-appreciated arthouse cinema for the more adventurous horror fan.

(Content Warning: All of the movies below depict extreme physical and sexual violence.)

Related Reading

Raw (2016)

Garance Marillier with blood on her face in Raw.

Female-directed horror movies are unfortunately few and far between, but it’s obvious to anyone in the know that women have contributed as much as or more than men to the genre. French director Julia Ducournau’s melodramatic horror masterpiece Raw is an example of complete mastery over the genre. Set in a surrealist and futuristic veterinarian school, two sisters struggle against their inexplicable cannibalistic urges. Although the premise is wild, the story is creepily understated and thoughtful. Have the girls’ genetics damned them to become wendigos, or is it a metaphor for the unfortunate and inextricable interconnectedness we all have to our families?

Director: Julia Ducournau
Main Cast: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella
Runtime: 1hr & 39mins
IMDb Rating: 7.0/10

Climax (2018)

Cast of Climax under dimmed red light.

Director Gaspar Noé became known for his psychedelic explorations of death in movies like Enter the Void and Irreversible. Climax uses much of the same camerawork and eccentric color palettes of his previous works but abandons the philosophical pretext, making this movie far less pretentious. The premise: A French contemporary dance troupe of ballroom battlers and breakdancers is celebrating the last night before a major performance, when someone drops far too much acid into everyone’s drinks. The troupe begins to go insane while practicing their routines one last time. Then, violence breaks out, set to a soundtrack of bass-thumping French house music. It is the dancers’ bodies — contorting, twirling, and dipping into oblivion — that provide the haunting backdrop onto which the protagonists’ total breakdowns are transposed.

Director: Gaspar Noé
Main Cast: Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub
Runtime: 1hr & 37mins
IMDb Rating: 7.0/10

Antichrist (2009)

Portrait shot of Willem Dafoe in Antichrist.

Director Lars Von Trier has certainly gone off the deep end with his more recent cinematic output, but Antichrist remains a deeply disturbing look into both extreme nihilism and depressive psychosis. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willam DeFoe play a married couple whose child has tragically died. They retreat to a quiet cottage in the woods where they begin contemplating the nature of evil. It becomes clear that neither ever really had a strong grip on reality, and they begin mutilating themselves — quite literally — as their sanity unravels. Von Trier’s thesis is that ultimately human existence is inherently hateful and disgusting, as is this film. But it’s also starkly beautiful in the strangest and saddest of ways.

Director: Lars von Trier
Main Cast: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Storm Acheche Sahlstrom
Runtime: 1hr & 48mins
IMDb Rating: 6.6/10

Inland Empire (2006)

Closeup shot of Mary Steenburgen in Inland Empire.

David Lynch’s obscure and inscrutable cosmology is taken to its logical conclusion with his last feature-length film. At over three hours, this non-narrative nightmare starts with Laura Dern playing an actress who may or may not be losing her mind, accidentally uncovering a curse. What happens from there isn’t exactly explicable but it’s certainly horrific. Is she playing multiple characters or does she have multiple personalities? Is she having a nervous breakdown or is reality crumbling around her? Confusingly intercut into the movies are scenes from Lynch’s abandoned surrealist anti-comedy Rabbits, during which humanoid bunnies talk in disjointed and incoherent cliches paired with an unnerving laugh track. Lynch’s cinematography remains darkly lush throughout, despite the actual events depicted being entirely incoherent. It’s deeply frightening and — somehow — also quite spiritual.

Director: David Lynch
Main Cast: Karolina Gruszka, Krzysztof Majchrzak, Grace Zabriskie
Runtime: 3hrs
IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

Suicide Club (2001)

Students lined up at a platform in Suicide Club.

For a time, Japan’s suicide rate was one of the highest in the developed world — but due to cultural taboos, the subject remained under-explored in both psychological and artistic investigations. Suicide Club courted controversy by taking the topic head-on. In this dreamlike masterpiece, director Sion Sono explores a sort of pervasive cultural paranoia amidst a grotesque ghost story layered on top of a pop-culture conspiracy. The movie’s first sequence, in which an entire class of schoolgirls jumps in front of a moving train scored to optimistic city pop, is somehow both hilarious and traumatic. There’s definitely a campiness to the movie — there’s even a Rocky Horror-inflected musical number plopped right in the middle — but the story unwinds into something much more sinister by the end.

Director: Sion Sono
Main Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Masatoshi Nagase, Mai Hosho
Runtime: 1hr & 39mins
IMDb Rating: 6.6/10

Noriko’s Dinner Table (2005)

Cover of Noriko's Dinner Table.

Noriko’s Dinner Table, which serves as both a sequel and a prequel to Suicide Club, completely abandons the humor of its predecessor. The film explores the grief felt by the family of one of the girls from the first movie’s opening scene. Through an obscure agency, they hire a young actress to play their daughter at dinners because they miss her so deeply. But as they mourn, their grief becomes increasingly delusional until it’s revealed that perhaps clandestine and apocalyptic criminal organizations were to blame all along. A truly twisted continuation of Suicide Club’s story, Noriko’s Dinner Table is a seriously morbid meditation on how bereavement can make someone feel totally schizophrenic.

Director: Sion Sono
Main Cast: Kazue Fukiishi, Tsugumi, Yuriko Yoshitaka
Runtime: 2hr & 39mins
IMDb Rating: 7.1/10

The Cell (2000)

Jennifer Lopez and Vincent D'Onofrio in The Cell.

Don’t let the movie’s headliners (Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn) fool you into thinking this is lowbrow schlock. The Cell is a glamorous horror film costumed by the legendary Eiko Ishioka (often known for her custom-made couture frequently worn by Bjork). Director Tarsem Singh took a rather bland sci-fi/horror script about a psychologist traveling through the mind of a serial killer and turned it into an avant-garde experiment through opulent production design and an exquisite gothic imagination inspired by artists like Trent Reznor, Odd Nerdrum, and Damien Hirst. It’s a shame so many horror movies lack this kind of meticulous visual styling and imagination — appealing imagery can turn even the most banal stories into enthralling fantasies.

Director: Tarsem Singh
Main Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn, Vincent D’Onofrio
Runtime: 1hr & 47mins
IMDb Rating: 6.4/10

Videodrome (1983)

Julie Khaner in Videodrone.

When a rogue TV executive specializing in sensational material discovers an underground station playing videos of women being brutalized, he descends into a confusing secret subculture filled with sadomasochism. Things get weirder as his body begins morphing into something inhuman until he famously develops a VHS player/vagina on his stomach. If the description sounds peculiar, the movie itself is even more unsettling. Cronenberg gives an update to Lovecraftian horror by blending it with Baudrillardian philosophy, and the result is precisely as disorienting as that sounds.

Director: David Cronenberg
Main Cast: James Woods, Debbie Harry, Sonja Smits
Runtime: 1hr & 27mins
IMDb Rating: 7.2/10

Otto, or Up With Dead People (2008)

Jey Crisfar in Otto, or Up With Dead People.

Gay pornographer Bruce LaBruce usually works in the medium of erotica, often turning the tropes of blue movies on their heads: Performers reciting the Communist Manifesto while having sex, or passionate explorations of the naked bodies of neo-Nazis. His entries into horror are strange and highly sexualized, but Otto is also awkwardly sweet. In it, the eponymous gay zombie ambles through wastelands until he meets a duo of avant-garde filmmakers who cast the undead hero as their leading man. Can he curb his addiction to human flesh — or is his zombieism just a metaphor for the loneliness of gay identity? With music provided by Cocorosie, Otto pushes the boundaries of both porn and horror — no wonder the director was spotlighted in a MoMA retrospective only a few years after this film debuted.

Director: Bruce La Bruce
Main Cast: Jey Crisfar, Marcel Schlutt, Nicholas Fox Ricciardi
Runtime: 1hr & 34mins
IMDb Rating: 5.2/10

Dogtooth (2009)

Anna Kalaitzidou in Dogtooth.

A family portrait gone terribly wrong: What happens when a controlling and violent father keeps his children locked away from the world and feeds them years of misinformation about what happens outside? And then what happens when those kids start discovering sex? What appears in moments as a peaceful — if somewhat offbeat — nuclear world is punctuated by outbursts of extreme viciousness. There are a handful of truly comedic moments, too: What does dancing look like if you’ve never seen anyone do it? It’s unclear what moral message director Yorgos Lanthimos was trying to express with this hideous visual poem. Is it a warning about the inherent hostility of fatherhood? A rejection of heterosexual procreative practices? The movie was hailed by critics and nominated for an Oscar — an extreme rarity as far as Greek cinema goes — but didn’t win. The Academy probably wanted something a little less … disconcerting.

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Main Cast: Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley, Angeliki Papoulia
Runtime: 1hr & 37mins
IMDb Rating: 7.2/10

Editors' Recommendations