The best horror movies of the year so far, ranked by scariness

Police sergeant Adil (Nassim Lyes) and a fellow cop, both soaking wet and wearing tactical gear, press themselves up against a stone wall in an underground Parisian cistern in Xavier Gens’ Netflix shark thriller Under Paris
Photo: Sofie Gheysens/Netflix

The year’s off to a terrifying start

The year got off to a rather slow start when it comes to horror movies, but now that the release calendar has ramped up, there are quite a few new horror movies worth watching.

While we’re still only a little more than halfway through 2024, it’s hard not to feel like this year’s horror theme is “fun” (if you’re our kind of sicko), or at least “playfulness.” With killer swimming pools that haunt former baseball pros, deadly convents, and haunted talk shows, most of the year’s best movies so far are doing a delightful job of making their horror feel fresh and inventive, making us smile and scream in equal measure.

But whether you’re more toward the smiling end or just in it for the screams, we’ve put together a list of the best horror movies of 2024 so far, ranked by scariness. Scariness is certainly different for everyone, but we’ve tried to break it down into two categories: terror, which is the movie’s overall tension, jump scares, and general suspense, and gore, which is all about how bloody the movie gets.


Night Swim

Amélie Hoeferle, Gavin Warren, Wyatt Russell, and Kerry Condon stand in a pool surrounded by blood and grime in Night Swim Image: Blumhouse/Universal Pictures

Run time: 1h 38m
Director: Bryce McGuire
Cast: Wyatt Russell, Kerry Condon, Amélie Hoeferle
Where to watch: Streaming on Peacock, digital purchase on Amazon and Apple TV

Night Swim is a movie about a killer pool, and it’s both better, funnier, and scarier than you might expect. With an fantastically goofy performance by Wyatt Russell as an ex-baseball player moving his family into a new house with an ancient and malevolent wish-granting pool in the backyard, the movie has a very specific tone that snaps back and forth from silly to creepy without a moment’s notice.

Night Swim is for the die-hard horror fans. Not because it’s especially scary (it isn’t) but because its scariness is limited to a few great ideas and specific moments, and otherwise the movie is a self-aware and silly blast. It’s a movie perfectly built for anyone that loves to scroll a streaming service and throw on nice little horror movie at 11:30 p.m. In other words, Night Swim is a pretty good time, but one you might not remember much about a week later.

How scary is Night Swim?

  • Terror: 1/5
  • Gore: 2/5

Total scariness score: 3/10

Under Paris

A Shark and a woman under water stare at each other in Under Paris Image: Netflix

Run time: 1h 44m
Director: Xavier Gans
Cast: Bérénice Bejo, Nassim Lyes, Léa Léviant
Where to watch: Streaming on Netflix

Under Paris is way better than a movie about sharks taking over the City of Light has any right to be. If the premise sounds ridiculous to you, good — you’re in the perfect headspace for this movie.

Under Paris, from the team behind 2024 action standout Mayhem!, follows a shark scientist and a member of Paris’ water-based police (I will not verify if this is real or not) as they investigate the possible arrival of a shark in the Seine. Of course, since this is a shark horror movie, the shark doesn’t just show up in Paris; he also immediately starts eating people. From there, things escalate accordingly, leaving more and more people victims to a vicious shark. The attacks themselves aren’t too scary, but they’re plenty bloody and they have enough suspense to keep this horror-thriller exciting, especially when it cuts to underwater shots in the polluted Seine.

Under Paris is a brazenly unserious movie whose principle charm lies in the fact that it refuses to wink at the audience or turn itself into purely a joke. It’s fun and ridiculous, but it isn’t a full-on campy parody in the vein of Piranha movies. Instead, it’s a straight-faced romp through the silliest thing you could possibly imagine, which is a pretty great way to spend an afternoon.

How scary is Under Paris?

  • Terror: 1/5
  • Gore: 3/5

Total scariness score: 4/10

Late Night with the Devil

Ingrid Torelli sits in a chair with a bloody nose and wrist straps while David Dastmalchian and Laura Gordon sit nearby in Colin Cairnes and Cameron Cairnes’ Late Night With the Devil Image: IFC Films/Shudder

Run time: 1h 33m
Directors: Cameron Cairnes, Colin Cairnes
Cast: David Dastmalchian, Laura Gordon, Ian Bliss
Where to watch: Theaters

In this terrific faux-documentary, we follow the behind-the-scenes story of a struggling ’70s talk show’s final episode, in which the host and producers attempt to communicate with a demon in a bid for show-saving ratings. Things don’t go well.

What makes Late Night with the Devil work so well is how completely it captures the vibe of its subject matter. Everything from the set to the studio audience is pitch-perfect, and it’s all held together by the desperate host, Jack Delroy, played with nervous energy and Carson-esque charm by the singular David Dastmalchian. Beyond just being an impressive feat, this loving re-creation also gives the movie a true sense of being some kind of illicit live TV broadcast that would thoroughly creep out those unlucky enough to be watching and inspire urban legends for years to come.

How scary is Late Night with the Devil?

  • Terror: 2/5
  • Gore: 3/5

Total scariness score: 5/10

Abigail

Dan Stevens holding a sharp pool cue, Kathryn Newton holding garlic, and Kevin Durand following behind them in Abigail Image: Universal Pictures

Run time: 1h 49m
Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Cast: Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Alisha Weir
Where to watch: Theaters

This new vampire movie from the directors of Ready or Not is one of the most surprisingly fun and funny horror movies of 2023. The movie follows a group of somewhat bumbling but very self-serious criminals after they kidnap a little girl and have to watch her for 24 hours before the ransom comes through. Unfortunately for them, she’s a vampire.

What comes after is 110 minutes of vampiric antics as the criminals are chased around a giant mansion by a vampire that loves to play with her food. The movie’s script hangs together pretty well, but the biggest key to its success is the stellar, hilarious cast, with Kathryn Newton and Dan Stevens as particular standouts.

Abigail is much funnier than it is scary, but it’s got more than enough gore to make up for that fact and to keep it pretty high on our scariness list.

How scary is Abigail?

  • Terror: 2/5
  • Gore: 4/5

Total scariness score: 6/10

Immaculate

Sydney Sweeney in Immaculate, screaming with her face covered in blood Image: Neon

Run time: 1h 29m
Director: Michael Mohan
Cast: Sydney Sweeney, Álvaro Morte, Simona Tabasco
Where to watch: Theaters

Immaculate tells the story of a devout American nun who falls mysteriously pregnant shortly after transferring to a convent in Italy. Her seemingly immaculate conception leads to instant fervor from her fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, but she suspects something much darker than a miracle is at play.

Beautifully shot and led by a fantastic performance from Euphoria’s Sydney Sweeney, Immaculate is more creepy and haunting than it is actually scary, but the shower of gore — both pregnancy-related and not — still makes it one of the year’s best and most harrowing horror offerings.

How scary is Immaculate?

  • Terror: 3/5
  • Gore: 4/5

Total scariness score: 7/10

Chime

A man in a blue shirt with thick black hair looks backward toward the camera in Chime Image: Roadstead

Run time: 45m
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Cast: Mutsuo Yoshioka, Seiichi Kohinata, Hana Amano
Where to watch: Rentable on Roadstead.io

At only 45 minutes long, and only released as an NFT, horror master Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Chime could have been nothing more than a strange curiosity. But the Japanese horror master instead created a terrifying, strange little movie that’s right in line with his previous films Cure and Pulse as one of the bleakest movies you’ll ever see.

Chime follows a burnt-out cooking teacher who suddenly gets a new student, a young man who’s only there to block out a deafening sound he can’t get out of his brain. The sound itself seems to be spreading from person to person at random, causing violent outbursts for no reason at all. The movie cleverly never plays the sound for us, but Kurosawa makes sure we feel it anyway. Lights flash, casting long shadows on the characters; faces change almost imperceptibly from passive to a zombie-like malaise to suddenly ferocious with violence with no warning at all.

The movie has a little bit of blood, and certainly some violence, but on the whole it’s more about the kind of scare that’s going to stick with you long after the movie ends than the kind that’s going to terrify you while you’re watching. All of this makes for an absolutely haunting premise that Kurosawa explores right up to the breaking point in this short little masterpiece.

How scary is Chime?

  • Terror: 5/5
  • Gore: 2/5

Total scariness score: 7/10

In a Violent Nature

A figure with a mask on and two hooks in his hands stands facing a forest in the movie In A Violent Nature Image: Shudder

Run time: 1h 34m
Director: Chris Nash
Cast: Ry Barrett, Andrea Pavlovic, Cameron Love
Where to watch: In theaters May 31

In a Violent Nature is easily the most unique horror movie of the year, taking a typical “teens in the woods” premise and following it from the killer’s point of view. The movie is light on details of the killer’s backstory, but in a further fun twist, they’re also mostly gleaned from snippets of teen campfire stories the killer overhears.

Surprisingly, for a movie about a supernatural murder monster, this is also one of the most quiet horror movies of the year, cleverly and beautifully passing its time with long, unbroken stretches of its monster just walking through nature, waiting for his next encounter with the teens who disturbed his slumber. Once he gets to them, though, In a Violent Nature transforms into one of the year’s most gruesome movies too, finding new and inventive ways to disembowel people that will make even the most hardened horror vets squirm.

How scary is In a Violent Nature?

  • Terror: 3/5
  • Gore: 5/5

Total scariness score: 8/10

The First Omen

A woman lies down with her hair spread out behind her in The First Omen Image: 20th Century Entertainment

Run time: 1h 59m
Director: Arkasha Stevenson
Cast: Nell Tiger Free, Ralph Ineson, Sonia Braga
Where to watch: Streaming on Hulu

Considering the disasters some horror sequels and prequels for long-dormant franchises can be, it was awfully tough to believe that a prequel for The Omen could be good, but The First Omen proved its doubters very wrong. This excellent and extremely creepy movie follows Margaret (Nell Tiger Free), a young nun brought to Rome who uncovers a terrifying plot to resurrect the Antichrist.

The First Omen is impressively scary, with dread seeping into every frame of its Catholic conspiracy. Ralph Ineson uses his excellent voice to great effect here as a priest who has been excommunicated after finding out the Church’s secrets, but it’s Free who winds up the standout, as her character slowly spirals as the plot gets thicker and more confounding.

Gory, brutal, and terrifying, The First Omen is already a strong contender for the scariest movie of the year, particularly if pregnancy horror is extra upsetting for you.

How scary is The First Omen?

  • Terror: 4/5
  • Gore: 5/5

Total scariness score: 9/10

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