Whenever we here at Arrow in the Head sign up for a new streaming service, the first thing we check out is the Horror section – and while HBO Max is getting a lot of attention lately for releasing the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League and for the fact that Warner Bros. will be dropping all of their 2021 movies onto the streaming service the same day they reach theatres, it turns out they also have a pretty good selection of older horror movies. So we have put together a list of the Best Horror Movies on HBO Max Right Now, and you can check it out below!
THE EVIL DEAD (1981)
Evil Dead Rise, the next film in the Evil Dead franchise, is going to be released straight to HBO Max, and to help people get ready for it the initial trilogy of Evil Dead movies – Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness – have been added to the streaming service. Each of the three films has its own unique tone and style, so each is the favorite of a different group of fans. The dark and dirty original film has been my top pick ever since I saw it at a young age and it scared me more than any film had before or has since. The simple story of a group of youths whose cabin in the woods vacation is disrupted by demonic spirits is bloody awesome.
THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)
Director Dan O’Bannon’s creepy and amusing The Return of the Living Dead may be the zombie movie that had the greatest pop cultural impact outside of the Dead films made by George A. Romero, because this one is the reason for the common misconception that all zombies are out to eat brains. Resurrected by a chemical created by the military, O’Bannon’s zombies are indeed brain-munchers. They also speak and run, because O’Bannon wanted to make sure his Living Dead were as different from Romero’s as possible. He delivered an extremely entertaining film in the process, setting his nearly unstoppable zombies loose on a group of punks and overwhelmed middle-aged men, and putting an awesome soundtrack on top of the hysterical mayhem.
Although the 2003 version of Willard wasn’t a box office success, it seems like most horror fans have seen that movie by now. Less talked about these days is the original version of Willard, which was a hit in 1971. If you haven’t seen the ’71 Willard, HBO Max is offering you the chance to watch it. Bruce Davison stars as the title character, a meek person with a miserable life who befriends the rats infesting his home and uses them to strike back against his scumbag boss, played by Ernest Borgnine. Directed by Daniel Mann and based on the Stephen Gilbert novel Ratman’s Notebooks, this take on the material is more grounded than the often over-the-top (but great) remake. It’s a terrific, emotionally involving character study of very troubled young man, and a satisfying story of revenge.
THE CONJURING (2013)
Not many great movies have come out of the “Conjuring Universe”, but the main Conjuring movies are leagues above most of the spin-offs that have been released over the years. Director James Wan delivered one of the best haunted house movies of this century, and the greatest thing about it is the chemistry between Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as married paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Their interactions alone would make The Conjuring worth watching, but then Wan surrounds them with masterfully crafted scenes of suspense and jump scares as they try to rid a family’s home of an evil spirit and dig into a back story of Satanism and witchcraft.
Writer/producer Steven Spielberg teamed up with Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper to bring the world the haunted house movie Poltergeist, in which a family discovers that the housing development they’re living in was built on top of a cemetery – and the dead people the houses were built above aren’t happy about it. There’s talk of this film being cursed, there’s debate over who really directed it, but when you push those things aside and focus on the film itself, this is a hell of a horror movie, packed with creepy action and great special effects. It’s fun and exciting, but there’s also a deeply unnerving atmosphere hanging over nearly every moment.
THE BLOB (1958)
With a budget of $100,000 and a batch of red-colored silicone gel, director Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. (who really wanted to be making religious-themed movies) unexpectedly gifted the genre with one of its most iconic creatures. Some viewers may scoff at the sight of The Blob, as this mass of gel doesn’t exactly look scary as it rolls around and consumes people, but this film still holds a lot of entertainment value, and it’s quite charming. Plus it offers the chance to watch future A-lister Steve McQueen, in his first starring role and looking too old to play a teenager like he does here, try to save a small town from a seemingly unstoppable creature. The fun begins as soon as the movie starts and that unforgettable theme song kicks in.
Another Steven Spielberg production, this one was directed by Joe Dante, who had previously directed Piranha, Spielberg’s favorite Jaws knock-off. The story begins when Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) receives Gizmo, an adorable little creature called a mogwai, for Christmas. Unfortunately, there are very strict rules about taking care of a mogwai and Billy is a lousy pet owner, so soon an army of maniacal gremlins have sprouted from Gizmo and start wreaking havoc in small town America. Gremlins is a nice blend of creepy creature moments and silly comedy, making it one of the best options to show a youngster who is just starting to get into the horror genre.
LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III (1990)
Fans who are used to watching the unrated cut of Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III may want to avoid watching it on HBO Max, since they only have the R-rated cut, but the film is a highly entertaining entry in the Chainsaw franchise regardless of which version you watch. New Line Cinema’s attempt to give Leatherface (R.A. Mihailoff, with stunts by Kane Hodder) more slasher cred, this gave us the most badass version of the character to date, put a chrome chainsaw in his hands, and surrounded him with memorable characters played by the likes of Viggo Mortensen, Joe Unger, and the legendary Ken Foree. Director Jeff Burr had so much trouble with the studio that he wanted his name taken off the film at the time, but this flick is nothing to be ashamed of.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)
You can’t have a full Elm Street movie marathon on HBO Max, since the streamer is missing Dream Warriors for some odd reason, but you can check out the rest of them on there, including writer/director Wes Craven’s classic original. It’s easy to see why A Nightmare on Elm Street became a hit and launched one of horror’s biggest franchises. The concept of a madman going after youths in their nightmares was brilliant, Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger instantly achieved icon status, and Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy Thompson is one of the genre’s greatest heroines. But if you go to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street on HBO Max, make sure you’re clicking on the one from 1984, not the one from 2010, which is also there.
FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996)
In 1988, FX artist Robert Kurtzman hired an unknown writer named Quentin Tarantino to turn his treatment From Dusk Till Dawn into a screenplay. It was the first time Tarantino was ever paid to write something. Less than ten years later, with an Oscar in hand, Tarantino decided to team up with director Robert Rodriguez to bring From Dusk Till Dawn to the screen, and this collaboration resulted in one of my all-time favorite movies. The first half plays like a straightforward crime thriller, following criminal brothers (George Clooney and Tarantino) on the run as they take a family (Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Ernest Liu) hostage to help them get into Mexico. The brothers are supposed to meet some associates at a strip club called the Titty Twister – but once they reach the club, “all hell breaks loose” (as Tarantino’s script said) and the film switches genre gears, becoming an action-packed horror movie. It’s incredibly entertaining, with awesome characters battling some very strange and freaky creatures of the night.