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Happy February, Polygon readers and horror movie fans.
Horror is a yearlong pursuit for us. Long gone are the days when this great genre was contained to just the month of October — instead, we can get spooked to our heart’s content all year round.
This month, we’ve picked out five great spooktacular picks for you to watch on Netflix in February. Some are leaving Netflix at the end of the month, some have upcoming sequels, some are seasonally appropriate, and some just rule.
Without further ado, let’s dig into it.
Run time: 1h 52m
Director: James Wan
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston
One of the best demonic possession movies ever, and arguably the real kickoff point for the still-going horror boom, director James Wan’s first movie about the husband-and-wife demonologist duo remains one of the best and most enjoyable horror movies of the last few decades. The film follows the Perron family, who have to call in the Warrens (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), a church-supported, though unofficial, team of exorcists willing to take on some of the more difficult cases that may be a little too fringe for the Vatican’s official sanction.
Aside from just launching a monumentally successful franchise and horror movie universe — which now includes two official sequels, three Annabelle movies, one Nun film (soon to be two), and The Curse of La Llorona — The Conjuring is full of carefully built tension and expertly made freakouts, punctuated by a few good-natured jump scares. But it’s also just an extremely fun movie — at least as fun as a movie about a mother of five being possessed by the demon Bathsheba could be. —Austen Goslin
Run time: 2h 15m
Director: Andy Muschietti
Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis
In the long canon of Stephen King adaptations, 2017’s It Chapter 1 remains one of the best and most faithful ever. The story follows a group of kids, played by actors like Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and Sophia Lillis (Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves), and their battle against an intergalactic clown that feeds on fear, known as Pennywise.
King’s original novel combines two separate stories, decades apart from each other, of his main characters doing battle with the monster known as It. But, as sometimes happens with King’s work, the earlier part is much stronger than the later one. Thankfully, the earlier half, with all of the main characters as kids, is all It Chapter 1 covers. The kids themselves each get their own horrific encounters with the entity, but it’s Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the Dancing Clown that really steals the show here. His menacing smile, with blood-red lips that dash up his cheeks and through his eyes, has already become iconic, and his dancing has been a meme since the moment it first appeared.
It Chapter 1 is equal parts fun adventure story and gory horror show, which director Andy Muschietti manages to keep in perfect balance, making it an excellent choice for a Netflix night. —AG
Ouija: Origin of Evil
Run time: 1h 39m
Director: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso
Ouija: Origin of Evil may at first just seem like a cash-in prequel to a horror series based on a board game (which, technically, it is), but it turns out to be a much more interesting and much better-made movie than its own origins might suggest. But under the care of writer and director Mike Flanagan, who is practically Netflix royalty by now with series like The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and, best of all, Midnight Mass, the movie becomes something better and more haunting than you might expect.
Origin of Evil follows a young widow who works as a medium with her two young daughters. The woman knows her job is a scam and employs her daughters in the tricks, at least until her youngest starts exhibiting strange behaviors that suggest she may really be in communication with something supernatural. As fans of Flanagan’s might expect, Origin of Evil is mostly focused on its characters, drawing out how this supernatural haunting affects each one and getting more than a few creepy monologues in for good measure. Origin of Evil isn’t Flanagan’s best movie — that title still belongs to his director’s cut of Doctor Sleep — but it is pretty creepy and a lot of fun for anyone who has loved his Netflix work since. —AG
Run time: 1h 51m
Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette
There’s a new Scream movie coming out next month, from the creators of the last one. What better time than now to catch up on one of the most consistent franchises in Hollywood history?
Scream 4 is the final entry in the franchise helmed by Wes Craven, who cranked out four consecutive bangers in the series in a feat of unmatched Hollywood consistency. In the fourth movie, Sidney Prescott returns to Woodsboro on the 15th anniversary of the original killings (Scream 4 was released 15 years after the original Scream) and the killings start once again.
The new additions to the cast are great — Emma Roberts steals every scene she’s in, and Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin, and Alison Brie round out a strong list of new faces. And the meta commentary this time around tackles social media and the internet. It’s the usual fun mix of stabbing thrillers and knowing in-jokes that makes the franchise special.
You can watch every Scream movie somewhere online — the other entries in the series are on Paramount Plus. So if you’re a Scream diehard, now’s a great time to work your way through the franchise again, or to just revisit the fourth entry before it leaves Netflix on March 1. But if you’re new to the world of Scream, you have some delightful times ahead of you. —Pete Volk
Run time: 1h 23m
Director: Levan Gabriadze
Cast: Heather Sossaman, Matthew Bohrer, Courtney Halverson
The first time I watched Unfriended, it was on a laptop screen in a Starbucks, surrounded by people. It was a surreal experience, as I was absolutely transfixed — it felt as though a spell was cast that pulled me out of the presence of other people and directly into the screen in front of me.
I’ve seen Unfriended a few times since, and it never fails to amaze me, no matter what screen I watch it on. A found-footage movie with the added gimmick of “it all takes place on a computer screen,” Unfriended is, for my money, the best version of the computer screen thriller that we’ve seen replicated in movies like Searching and Missing. The feeling of isolation and containment inside the frame of the screen is intoxicating and horrifying.
In Unfriended, a group of high school friends are joined by an unexpected guest on their Skype call before they start dying one by one in horrible ways. It’s a pretty simple setup, but it’s the execution of the gimmick that makes it special.
If you like Unfriended, you should definitely check out the sequel, Dark Web, which takes the original’s premise and puts a fun twist on it to keep things interesting. And I highly recommend watching it on a laptop screen if you can, to enhance the experience. —PV