I may be on House of the Dragon mode at the moment, but that doesn’t mean I’ve coasted on the horror vibes this month. Bloodthirsty horror fans know spooky season isn’t limited to October, pumpkin spice, or Home Depot skeletons on people’s front lawns; it’s year-round babyyyyy. Nonetheless, ’tis the season. Some of you may be hitting overdrive on those horror movie marathons, so allow me to take you over the deep end.
TUBI is a free streaming service that doesn’t get recognized all that much. You’re more likely to see “Best Movies on Netflix/Disney+/HBO Max/Prime/Hulu.” I’m going against the grain. Did I mention Tubi is free? With ads, but still FREE.
Now that the big streamers are rolling out their ad plans, how about you save some money this Halloween? Less subscriptions = more candy. Here are my favorite horror movies that you can stream for free on Tubi. (A lot of these titles are on paid streaming services, yet are also available on Tubi. You do the math.)
1. TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974)
Tobe Hooper’s landmark horror classic remains the grossest interpretation of the Ed Gein story. In the ’70s & ’80s, EVERYBODY was adapting the guy. (The Jeffrey Dahmer before Jeffrey Dahmer, if you will.) Teenagers make a wrong – or right – turn and meet a slaughterhouse family from hell, and you know the rest. Childhood fear and the passage of time have a way of bending people’s memories of Texas Chain Saw Massacre. You think you see hammer hitting skull, or hooks going into torsos, but you don’t. Most of the violence in the movie is implied. Hooper gives you just enough audio-visual information, and our minds put the violent puzzle pieces together. It’s what made the movie so revolting at the time; viewers were made to be participants, no– harbingers of the horror on screen. This is the movie that inspired The Blair Witch Project‘s whole marketing, as well as Rob Zombie’s whole deal, and continues to spawn homages and remixes nearly 50 years later. If this is a horror blindspot for you, there’s no better time to fix that.
2. HELLRAISER (1987)
The new Hellraiser is streaming on Hulu (which rips) but you can’t go wrong with the OG. Clive Barker’s avant-garde vision of horror hasn’t lost its edge 35 years later. It remains as gross and wet and demented as you remember– if you were a kid who watched this with both eyes open. (Hellraiser made me deathly afraid of Rubik’s cubes.) It’s been fun revisiting old horror movies because again both fear and time have a way of twisting your recollection. I remember there being plenty of Pinhead and the Cenobite squad. Turns out, they have maybe 10 minutes of screentime, if even. Of course, it seemed the opposite at the time; 7-year-old me was death-gripping my blankie whenever they appeared. Barker deploys his inter-dimensional sickos sparingly, which gives them their frightening power. Stare at Pinhead long enough and he’s just some guy. Say what you will about the sadomasochism of the Cenobites, they have a code, whereas murderers Frank and Julia double cross their way to greater levels of depravity and pleasure. One actually has boundaries, the other does not. Where’s the line? What’s the difference? Fuck around and find out for yourself.
3. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
The handwringing over Get Out a couple years ago being an Oscar frontrunner is among the funniest film debates ever to discourse. Because once upon a time, The Silence of the Lambs won Best Picture. (Before that, The Exorcist was a frontrunner. BOTH are in the Library of Congress.) Horror has a place in prestige no matter what some conservative critic might say. As a Thomas Harris adaptation, it’s aight—though that might be the Hannibal fanboy in me talking shit. As a ’90s genre movie, it’s a top shelf blend of noir and horror that feels like it’s own twisted creation. The fedora-trick of Silence of the Lambs is that it’s a slasher movie wearing the trench coat of a procedural. It reframed what we thought of as an “Oscar movie,” as a horror movie, hell–even as an Anthony Hopkins movie. If you wanna trick someone into watching a horror movie by selling it as a thriller, Silence of the Lambs is an excellent Trojan horse.
4. DEEP BLUE SEA
Look, I’d put JAWS on here if Tubi had it. They don’t, but they got the next best Shark movie: Deep Blue Sea. (Yeah I said it.) Renny Harlin essentially piggy-backs on Steven Spielberg to do another Cliffhanger, which is fine by me because I love Cliffhanger. Instead of Sly Stallone, Harlin’s got a pre-Punisher Thomas Jane doing Stallone things. Deep Blue Sea starts out horror then becomes a rousing action movie. Make no mistake, horror is in this shark’s DNA. There’s a slasher aspect as each character gets picked off one by one. Perhaps it’s closer to Aliens. Rather than a singular shark, the threat is plural, and the name of the game is still the same: survive. Where else you gonna get Sam Jackson getting eaten mid-monologue, or a banger LL Cool J track to close the movie? I will reiterate: Deep Blue Sea is the 2nd best shark movie.
5. THE DESCENT
If we’re gonna talk survival horror, we gotta talk The Descent – Neil Marshall’s 2005 spelunking nightmare. Six women go deep-diving in a cave and face the batshit cannibalistic horrors in the dark. Today this premise would absolutely get the “woke” cries going from insecure bros online…but I digress. Marshall’s movie is a lean and mean masterpiece. First, the horror stems from the elements. The narrower and narrower spaces might put your claustrophobia to the test. Once the six of them stumble upon the hungry cave dwellers, it’s straight up survival horror. (They ain’t no Gollum, I’ll tell you that.) Sadly, Tubi only has the American version which has the “happier” ending. If you like bleak and downer endings, seek out the UK original version.
My interest in found footage horror went out the door with whatever Paranormal Activity 3 was. The craze inspired a lot of junk, but that just makes the great ones stand taller. REC is a Spanish found footage horror movie. A reporter and cameraman follow a firefighter squad while they respond to an apartment building emergency. Turns out there’s an infection, and they and the tenants are sealed inside by the military. You’ve probably heard this premise. 2008’s Quarantine was the American remake, but REC remains untouchable. In the remake, the phenomena is strictly biological. In the Spanish original, it’s demonic in nature – originating from a possessed little girl – unleashing a hellish plague that spreads like a disease. It’s a way scarier setup, with a far more terrifying finale in the attic. If your found footage horror list doesn’t include REC then I don’t wanna see it.
7. FRIGHT NIGHT
Colin Farrell is a vampire and David Tennant is a vampire hunter. Featuring the late Anton Yelchin, and the indomitable Toni Collette. What more do you want!? Released the same year as The Thing prequel/remake, Fright Night was among the last great horror remakes before the genre needed a new identity beyond recycling and repackaging. It’s a shame that 2000s horror was mainly abysmal retreads of George Romero, Wes Craven, and John Carpenter. Those diminishing returns inadvertently dinged Fright Night’s success. As horror remakes go, this one is up there with The Thing (1982, itself a remake), The Ring, Dawn of the Dead, The Crazies, and Evil Dead.
8. EVIL DEAD
Speaking of Evil Dead. It remains one of the rowdiest theater experiences I’ve ever had. Every mutilation, every scare, and every vile punchline got a vocal reaction. It’s what I imagine a sitcom taping is like—except the reactions were genuine. Reimagining arguably THE Sam Raimi movie is sacrilegious shit. Fede Alvarez took Raimi’s demonic baby and turned it into a blood rain-soaked heavy metal joint. The age-old cabin in the woods story is given a shot of adrenaline mixed with cocaine. This thing moves like it’s out for your soul, and the sheer maximalist visuals pretty much school the current crop of dimly lit horror. And the final kill is the most epic fatality I’ve seen in a horror movie. I highly recommend grabbing this in 4K, but streaming for free is pretty sweet too.
I got love for Mike Flanagan’s monologue era since he got going with The Haunting of Hill House. But man, I’d wish he’d mix it up with some brisk 90-minute fright fests every now and then because he is SO GOOD AT THOSE. Oculus is Flanagan at his most efficient, a tale of a haunted mirror that manipulates all who dare to look. The jolts he has in store are funhouse inspired, and I do mean JOLTS. Throw in some psychological frights too; Oculus knows how to mix up and space out the terror. Like Flanagan’s Ouija: Origin of Evil (now that’s a double feature), it’s swift, it’s elegant, and pretty damn scary if you ask me.
10. TRAIN TO BUSAN
Believe it or not, I was late to this hype train. This was when I was holding on by a thread as a Walking Dead fan. As the show got dour going into its infamous season 7, I found myself burned out on the entire concept of zombies. Turns out I just needed Ma Dong-Seok punching undead fools to bring me back around. I’m a sucker for father-daughter stories, so Train to Busan’s center dynamic hit me square in the feels. Reader, the ending… I was INCONSOLABLE. Train to Busan fortunately is one of those movies that’s always available to stream somewhere. If it’s not on Netflix then it’s on Prime, then it’s on Peacock, or on all three sometimes. It is now on Tubi, where it’s free.