The scariest horror movies on Netflix: from 'The Conjuring' to 'Annabelle'

These series and films are among the most frightening the platform has to offer in the Middle East

Anyone who has expectantly perused the horror section of Netflix lately will know it’s a pick-and-mix of questionable, low-budget offerings that will more likely have you rolling your eyes than hiding behind the couch.

But amid the stinkers, there are a few gems worth watching. Here are some of the best movies and series on the platform in the Middle East:

The films:

'The Conjuring'

Anyone familiar with The Conjuring universe will know this 2013 film, which was directed by James Wan and written by Chad and Carey W Hayes. It was the first in a mightily successful horror film series that has produced a number of spin-offs, some of which are great, others pretty terrible (case in point, The Nun).

This is one of the brilliant ones, and it will have you on the edge of your seat (or hiding behind your hands) throughout its one hour and 52 minutes.

It’s based on the experiences of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, who try to help a family who are being terrorised by an evil presence in their farmhouse.

As far as supernatural horror films go, the storyline is relatively familiar, but its execution and ability to induce sheer terror is what really clinches it a spot on this list.

'Annabelle'

Another excellent instalment in The Conjuring universe is 2014's Annabelle, which takes place after 2017's prequel Annabelle: Creation.

A pregnant couple finds their home invaded by satanic cultists, who are shot on the scene, and shortly after spooky supernatural occurrences start taking place around their new home, all involving a vintage doll.

You can expect some jump-scares, but mostly this film is about the suspense, the not-knowing-what's-around-the-corner, and the fear of an object so innocuous and yet terrifying it's hard to fathom.

Those familiar with the series' films will know it's pegged as one of the most evil objects real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren ever came across.

'The Purge: Anarchy'

If you caught the first instalment of this line of dystopian action horror films, which includes three sequels and a TV series, then you'll be into The Purge: Anarchy, which is the second movie.

The first is undoubtedly the best, simply because it introduced a refreshingly new kind of storyline to the genre, but many horror fans still appreciate the second, despite its mixed reviews, as it expands the idea to take place not just in one house, but across Los Angeles.

The idea behind The Purge is the New Founding Fathers of America, a totalitarian political party, passed a law sanctioning an annual “purge”, when for 12 hours every year all crime is legal and all emergency services are unavailable.

While the first one took place entirely in the home of James Sandin (Ethan Hawke), this film follows three groups of people who are left stranded in the streets on Purge Night, trying to survive the chaos and violence that occurs.

What's most terrifying about these films is that the storyline isn't entirely unbelievable.

'Veronica'

While this Spanish horror from 2017 doesn't have the highest IMDb rating (6.2), it does have 88 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and has been dubbed Netflix's "scariest movie ever". It's also proven to be very divisive.

It's set in 1991 Madrid, where a teenaged girl, Veronica, finds herself besieged by an evil supernatural force after she and her friends hold a seance in an attempt to contact her boyfriend who died in a motorcycle accident. They use a Ouija board, and contact Veronica's dead father instead. A blind nun also features.

Most fascinatingly (and horrifyingly), Veronica is based on a true story about Estefania Gutierrez Lazaro, who died mysteriously after using a Ouija board in Madrid in 1992, and whose case remains unsolved.

When it first came out, there was plenty of chatter across social media, with some saying they had to turn it off it was that scary, or how after finishing it they were "never sleeping again". Others slated it, with one Twitter user saying: "The people that are claiming this movie is scary must be getting paid well for those reviews. There goes 1 hr 46 mins of my life I can’t get back.”

'Escape Room'

If you were ever a fan of Final Destination or the Saw films, then 2017 low-budget horror Escape Room will appeal to you. Six friends get mysteriously called to play a game (not a million miles away from the plot of Squid Game), and the trick is to escape – alive.

It's a test of wits, where each room they get into takes a dark and twisted turn.

It features relatively unknown actors, but this is nail-biting, scream-at-the-screen, on-the-edge-of-your-seat stuff; although it's not to be confused with 2019's Escape Room which is far better and had a second instalment out this year (both are worth watching, but not on Netflix yet).

'I Know What You Did Last Summer'

Teen scream fans will be pleased to know this 1997 film is now on Netflix, just as a series based on the movie is set to come out.

Most of us know the storyline by now: four young friends from a small seaside town accidentally kill someone and vow to keep it a secret, but years later are reunited when they find themselves being taunted by a manic with a hook for a hand.

It's a classic for a reason: expect plenty of jump-scares, blood, guts and gore, but you'll also come to love the characters, who may or may not get killed off one by one.

Anyone who grew up in that era will thoroughly enjoy the soundtrack, too.

The series:

'Squid Game'

While this series is admittedly not a horror in the strict sense, it certainly is horrifying in terms of its brutality and true-to-life depiction of how desperate people take desperate measures in desperate circumstances.

The widely popular Korean series, which became Netflix's most-watched show ever after it was released in September, is about 400-plus debt-ridden people who take part in six deadly games in order to win a life-changing amount of money.

There's plenty of gore, heartbreak, twists and turns. It won't have you hiding behind the couch or peeking between your fingers, but it's no doubt this is a scary prospect that isn't that far-fetched.

'The Haunting of Hill House'

With a 93 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, 2018 horror series The Haunting of Hill House by American filmmaker Mike Flanagan (also behind the likes of Oculus and Doctor Sleep) was beloved by fans all over the world.

In fact, Stephen King, a master of the genre, actually reported getting goosebumps when watching it, while other viewers said they felt queasy. So, basically, it’s not for the faint-of-heart.

The story for the first season is loosely based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 gothic novel, following five siblings as they experience paranormal occurrences over two timelines: when they were children living in Hill House, and then when they’re older, as far away from Hill House as they can get.

Its terror and brilliance is in its suspense and eeriness, as opposed to too many stereotypical jump-scares and loud noises.

A second season, called The Haunting of Bly Manor, based on the 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, was also released last year, but while it's worth a watch, it's simply not as good (nor as scary) as its predecessor.

'Marianne'

Even though this French-language series was cancelled after just one season, it still rates highly among horror fans. The Netflix Original follows troubled author Emma Larsimon, who is haunted by her own fictional character, a witch named Marianne.

When a strange visit from a childhood friend encourages her to return to her hometown, Larsimon is forced to face the woman who began plaguing her dreams 15 years earlier. Larsimon’s novels may have seemed like fiction, but soon, we realise, she may have been writing fact.

It’s a complex, emotionally driven storyline interspersed with some very creepy, rather disturbing scenes. By the time you've finished all eight episodes, it'll haunt your dreams. You’ve been warned.

'Dark'

This German-language series, which has been compared to hit show Stranger Things, may belong in the science-fiction section, but its sinister undertones are what makes it worthy of this list.

The thriller, which currently has two seasons, is set in the small town of Winden, Germany, and takes place in the aftermath of a child’s disappearance. As an investigation takes root, a complicated time travel conspiracy that links four estranged families begins to unravel, highlighting the effects time can have on human nature.

It’s clever and complex, as the storyline spans a number of time zones, with the same people of different ages travelling across barriers with ease.

It's genius, but you might want to pay attention and take notes while you watch.

'Midnight Mass'

You never know where new supernatural series Midnight Mass is going. Is it about a religious cult? A demon? An angel? Vampires? It keeps you guessing right up until the tragic ending, which you'll either love or hate.

It's based on a tiny, rather depressing island in America where a young and charismatic priest has taken over the local church, while his elderly predecessor "recovers" on the mainland from an illness.

It's created by Flanagan, who was also responsible for The Haunting of Hill House, and fans of that series will spot a few familiar faces throughout the series.

It's eerie, particularly thanks to the isolated setting, fairly slow, as the characters develop, and steeped in religion, but also expect plenty of blood, drama and mind-blowing plot turns.