Now Scream This: The Best Horror Movies To Take You Back To School

(Welcome to Now Scream This, a column where horror experts Chris Evangelista and Matt Donato tell you what scary, spooky, and spine-tingling movies are streaming and where you can watch them.)

Matt: Even though adulthood's 24-7-hustle has effectively erased any existence of a "summer vacation," early September still reminds of exactly that. Notebook restocking, wardrobe upgrades, kissing all-day playtime goodbye – how could this week's "Now Scream This" be about anything else? Chris and I curated some "Back To School" watches that play around with the phrase in creative and chaotic ways. Maybe by taking place in a school, maybe because a serial killer becomes the teacher – thematic developments of this nature. If a student gifts his professor an apple in any of these movies, it's probably laced with acid and results in an over-the-top-gory death sequence. Still not as horrific as Saturday detention and parent teacher conferences, of course. 

Chris: There's nothing more terrifying than returning to school. I know some people out there cherished their school experience. Some look back at high school (and college) as a fond, carefree time of parties and fun and zero responsibilities. I, however, look at high school as a fucking nightmare. The school experience is more horrifying than any horror movie can offer (although I hear Eighth Grade comes pretty close), but we'll have to make due with these films instead. So grab your pencils, grab your books, and don't be late for class.

Creep

Now Streaming on Netflix

Matt: I start with Patrick Brice's Creep because Mark Duplass' Josef/Peachfuzz character teaches us the methods of a madman. We are pupils, sitting safely on our sofas while Brice's videographer Aaron finds himself face-to-face with a serial slasher. Duplass' actions as an emotionally-open, methodical murderer unsettle without restraint, since Josef's numerous outreaches for "friendship" could (*should*) be interpreted as threats or deranged musings. As a "found footage" film, Creep becomes an earnest Craigslist nightmare about answering the most absurd of calls with naivety and abandon. As a psychological analysis of someone who'd be so compelled to wear a wolf mask, torment through scares, and attempt rationale in the name of bloodlust, Creep succeeds in generating off-kilter relationship tension with psycho killer intrigue. A "slasher" movie boiled down to its cognitive core, so very unhinged thanks to Duplass' immersion, smile, and never-let-die insanity.

Chris: Wow, Matt has really thrown me for a loop this week. This is the only film on his list I've seen, and thus the only one I can comment on with some authority. Creep is great! It's a slow-burn, endlessly unsettling horror-comedy that builds and builds into something genuinely shocking. And the sequel ain't half bad, either.

All Cheerleaders Die

Now Streaming on Shudder

Matt: To quote myself (just accept me for who I am): "All Cheerleaders Die mixes a dash of Mean Girls, a pinch of Bring It On, and a healthy helping of witchy horror to conjure one fun-filled dark comedy." Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson's high school chiller leans heavily into stereotypical plastic-popular fashion – meathead football players, hot-and-sassy squad girls – so know that going in. In an earlier iteration McKee and Sivertson worked on, their female sorceresses were zombies who arose to seek vengeance on their boyfriends. This version swaps undead motivations for magic gems, spells, and "spooky" midnight influences with a premium on genre playfulness. We're able to enjoy top-to-bottom lunchroom hierarchy satire and CGI-dotted but still nasty effects without losing a midway Jennifer's Body lite feel. Works for me, so might one say I've been enchanted by its mystical siren's song?

Chris: Oh no, those poor cheerleaders. They all die? I feel terrible. But seriously, folks: I do love me some Lucky McKee, so I should probably just sit down and watch this.

Dude Bro Massacre III

Now Streaming on Shudder

Matt: Was this week's theme selection primarily motivated by my desire to write about Dude Bro Party Massacre III? Absolutely (Chris called me out in a matter of seconds). What's not to love about a respectful low-budget slasher homage sticky from spilled cheap beer and so very bro-forward with fraternal hazing? Nothing is to be taken serious during Motherface's killing spree including dudetastic homoerotic undertones, which works wonders for a specific type of over-the-top crowd. Most assertively not for everyone, that I know. A far greater comedy versus scream-a-minute horror show from the team behind 5 Second Films featuring Larry King, Patton Oswalt, Greg Sestero, Nina Hartley, and Andrew W.K. – because the universe's party master knows a genre fiesta when he sees one. Practical schlock with *plenty* of blood, bro-on-bro overacting, and genre ribbing that takes itself serious enough while still retaining the right to embrace dim-bulb moronics. Who needs a Part I or Part II when you can cut right to the threequel Greek communities deserve?

Chris: Matt has been looking for an excuse to write about this movie ever since we started this column. Now, he has it. I hope you're happy, Matt.

The Loved Ones

Now Streaming on Amazon Prime

Matt: In any conversation highlighting directors who've made far fewer movies than we deserve, genre knockout Sean Byrne should be front-and-center. His 2009 feature debut, The Loved Ones, is quintessential prom night horror. Soup-to-nuts a maniacal kidnapping thriller tinged with icky father/daughter undertones and monstrous surprises in the form of many psychological outbursts (maybe hidden goodies, too). Robin McLeavy's performance as Lola" earns her "Princess" nickname through pouty "good girl" eyes, control over John Brumpton's "Daddy," and hissy-fits when not getting her way – all while wielding power tools. Xavier Samuel's poor victim Brent forced to "participate" in Lola's dreamy school dance (from the comfort home). It's next-level fucked up beyond typical high school genre boundaries, propelled by performances as unflinching as they are warped teenage mindsets hyper-realized through bloodsoaked brutality. Torture, injections, pits of misery – as if high school wasn't enough of an emotional hellscape?

Chris: I've heard nothing but good things about this, but I've avoid seeing it because every bit of material related to the film makes it look like "torture porn", a sub-genre I'd like to see go away forever. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this really is as good as everyone says it is.

Tragedy Girls

Now Streaming on Hulu

Matt: Tyler MacIntyre's Tragedy Girls is so many things. A whip-smart slasher reinvention that goes Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon while also dashing in some Scream aka legitimate subgenre satire. An Instagram, social-media-obsession commentary that disgustingly nails how "Likes" and "Shares" are driving society's downward moral spiral. A gory, hilarious horror comedy about two high school students training to become serial killing legends while living their Stepford-suburban lives with unassuming innocence. Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp spew kitschy pop-culture references faster than Sonic The Hedgehog can speed through zones, but immediately establish a cult-beloved duo who could slice their way through sequel after sequel if the same quality is maintained. "Like, retweet and follow!" Once an online calling card, now a collection words that send a shiver down my spine given Tragedy Girls' mirroring of YouTube/Twitch/view-driven "celebrities."

Chris:  But when will there be Tragedy Boys?!

The Blackcoat’s Daughter

Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Chris: Oz Perkins makes slow-burn horror movies that are so slow they might try your patience. But if you're down for what the filmmaker is offering, you're in for a treat. The Blackcoat's Daughter is an icy, creepy saga of two young women – one played by Emma Roberts, the other by Kiernan Shipka. Roberts is a drifter trying to make her way to a specific location. Shipka is a weirdo freshman at a Catholic boarding school. The two stories of these young women play out side-by-side, and slowly – very, very slowly – Perkins' film draws them together, revealing how they connect (don't worry, I won't spoil it). The Blackcoat's Daughter is moody as hell, full of dark shadows and bright-red flashes of blood. Just what is happening here? Where is Roberts going? And why is Shipka obsessed with the school's boiler room? These answers, and more, will be revealed, in dark and twisted ways.

Matt: According to Twitter, I'm either a tasteless hack or irredeemable buffoon for the following take – The Blackcoat's Daughter gets lost in style over substance. Performances are certainly nothing to ignore (young actresses on their way to big things), but I just don't think Oz Perkins' style is for me. As I've learned.

Diabolique

Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video and FilmStruck

Chris: Two teachers at a boarding school hatch a plot to kill the school's headmaster. And here's the twist: one of the teachers is the headmaster's wife, and the other is his mistress. These two women should, in theory at least, hate each other. Instead, they band together in mutual disgust for the man they've both been intimate with. That's the set-up of Henri-Georges Clouzot's brilliant, twisty thriller with Hitchcockian overtones (Alfred Hitchcock tried to purchase the rights to make the film himself, but missed his chance). Diabolique is loaded with tense, chilling moments – the type that make you queasy as you imagine all the things that could go wrong. The film was remade in 1996 – and you should avoid that remake at all costs.

Matt: Blind spot alert! Chris is your guy when it comes to classics. Listen to him.

Raw

Now Streaming on Netflix

Chris: Starting a new school can be awkward – especially if your much cooler, much more popular sister is already well-regarded there. But you know what can make things even more awkward? Cannibalism! Julia Ducournau's gruesome, darkly funny Raw finds a strict vegetarian (Garance Marillier) suddenly craving meat. And not just any meat.... Ducournau's film received rave reviews when it arrived in 2016, and it is, indeed, pretty damn great (it wouldn't be on this list if it weren't). That said, I don't think the film is quite as fantastic as some made it out to be. It's a touch uneven, and it drags somewhat in the middle. But the good far outweighs the bad, resulting in a unique, unsettling experience that's bound to make you a little sick to your stomach, just like the first day of school.

Matt: After being promised a film so vile it caused TIFF attendees to faint, Raw was a bit tamer than expected – which maybe says more about me given how fleshy and chewed up it is? Julia Ducournau is a director to watch, and Garance Marillier an actress to follow. Quite an achievement still, descending deeper and deeper into a "cannibalistic" fever-dream about sexuality awakened in an admittedly – just not puke-bag-ready – gross-out way.

Thelma

Now Streaming on Hulu

Chris: Joachim Trier's Thelma is playing a twisted game with its audience. As an audience, we're conditioned to relate to and sympathize with the main characters of films. Which is what we find ourselves doing with Thelma (Eili Harboe), a lonely young woman desperate to make friends at college. But here's the thing: we're not supposed to like Thelma...because Thelma is bad news. She possesses telekinetic powers that she doesn't quite understand, and those powers come out in full force when she falls in love with another student (Kaya Wilkins). Just when you think Trier is crafting a supernatural love story, Thelma does a hard left and becomes darker – more twisted, more surprising. Thelma draws you in scene by scene, toying with expectations and unleashing stunning, shocking moments laden with believable and never-over-done special effects. What a creepy delight this film is.

Matt: Joachim Trier's beguiling Norwegian thriller Thelma couldn't be more up-front about its message, but cinematically, this folkish Carrie-esque hymn dazzles despite simplicity. Slow-burn, singe-worthy, and when all the elements blend together, DAMN.

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

Now Streaming on Hulu

Chris: Long before David Gordon Green's Halloween decided to ignore virtually all the Halloween sequels and start fresh, there was Halloween: H20, a film featuring Jamie Lee Curtis, Michelle Williams, and a scene where Michael Myers kills Joseph Gordon-Levitt with an ice skate. H20 certainly isn't the best Halloween sequel, but it did try to restore some sort of sanity and class to the franchise after the Cult of Thorn concept from Halloween 5 and 6 basically blew up the entire series. H20 ignores every Halloween film after Halloween II, and finds Laurie Strode living under a fake name, working as the headmistress of a prestigious academy. Laurie thinks she can hide out from her past, and from her murderous brother Michael Myers. But she's wrong. Michael has tracked her down, targeting both Laurie and her son, Young Josh Hartnett (sure, his character has a name, but it doesn't matter). H20 is trying very much to fit into the late '90s slasher movie renaissance that was kicked-off with Scream, which can get a bit awkward. There's far too much focus on the horny teens at the academy rather than Laurie. But whenever the movie focuses on Curtis, it works, and it works really well. And hey, it's a hell of a lot better than Halloween: Resurrection.

Matt: A Halloween movie featuring LL Cool J, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michelle Williams, and Josh Hartnett? You could do worse. Especially in the Halloween franchise.