October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up; it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This online article about the best internet horror movies is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
The internet is ubiquitous. It intersects with nearly every aspect of our lives and imposes on the world around us. Needless to say, it’s a fruitful avenue for horror potential. From supernatural cyber shenanigans to human viciousness unleashed through anonymity, there’s a lot of cruelty and terror to be found on the internet. In cataloging the best internet horror movies, we found films that cover the 21st century, various national cinemas, and a variety of subgenres. While these films share the internet as connective tissue, they’re each unique and unsettling in their own ways. Turns out there’s a whole world (wide web) of horrific potential that can be found when you’re willing to search for it.
Scroll away and dive into the most unsettling horror films focused on the internet, as chosen by Chris Coffel, Valerie Ettenhofer, Kieran Fisher, Brad Gullickson, Rob Hunter, Meg Shields, Jacob Trussell, and myself.
10. Searching (2018)
Searching isn’t only remarkable for its “desktop” filmmaking style, but that’s part of its appeal. The story is predominantly shown on smartphones, computer screens, and other electronic devices, and its online nature lives up to and delivers the “internet” element. However, the movie also boasts a captivating and chilling mystery about a father (John Cho) searching for his missing daughter. As such, the movie really earns its gimmick. Searching would work just as well in a traditional format, but there’s no denying that the chosen methods make it more special. (Kieran Fisher)
9. Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)
What’s the scariest thing on the internet? Its users. The supernatural element of the first Unfriended makes for fun, schlocky entertainment, but the bleak quasi-realness of its sequel manages to linger with you in a very different way. Sure, it’s all fictional, but just thinking about the real-life horrors that actually do exist in the darkest pockets of the internet make the film palpably scarier than its predecessor. By placing the action squarely online from social media messages down through to pre-pandemic video calls, the real-time action gives the scenes an immediacy that wouldn’t have been possible with a typical techno-thriller. The film is just patently uncomfortable, which also makes it very successful in its intentions. Unfriended: Dark Web isn’t a pleasant watch, but I know a lot of you love A Serbian Film or Human Centipede 2, so consider Dark Web as a light lunch if you’re craving a little depravity in your afternoon. (Jacob Trussell)
8. #Horror (2015)
Annoying, obnoxious, and unnecessarily cruel. Am I describing #Horror or just the general experience of the internet? The fact that the answer is both might be the most compelling reason to consider Tara Subkoff’s film to be one of the most honest depictions of our relationship to the internet. The film follows the goings-on of a sleepover where social-media-obsessed twelve-year-old girls find themselves smack-dab in the middle of a live-streamed murder-spree. The film is as in-your-face as it could possibly be, to the point of being almost nauseating. But if you can get past the discomfort of its assault-on-the-senses style, it’s clear #Horror is a wholly unsubtle and remarkably audacious movie that is, above all else, admirable for its commitment to the bit. (Anna Swanson)
7. Tragedy Girls (2017)
Many films attempt to marry the Like and RT culture to the slasher genre, but few behave as cleverly or as mischievously as Tragedy Girls. Director Tyler MacIntyre and his co-writer Chris Lee Hill dig into the intoxicating pull of social media and serve a dish of brutal kills and uncomfortable, awkward humor. Of course, every drippy bit of satire is elevated by the presence of Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp as our heroic murderers. The duo delight in the bad behavior and violence, punctuating every action with peppy authenticity. All of this intelligence and thought would be for naught, though, if the film failed to achieve the basic principles of its genre. MacIntyre never forgets what world he’s occupying, and the commentary is landed with the most vicious of slasher set-pieces. (Brad Gullickson)
6. The Den (2013)
There are a handful of films on this list that feature the desktop perspective conceit, but absolutely none that come anywhere close to utilizing the format better than The Den. I know, I’m a broken record on the subject, but while those other (lesser) films found wider release, The Den sits securely in being the best of the bunch. There are no supernatural shenanigans here to lighten the load of the terror heading your way, and it also never feels false in its premise. We watch as a woman’s life is interrupted by a tech-savvy killer, but what starts as an intimate betrayal of technology becomes something far scarier for her and those in her life. The film’s ending offers a brief break from the format — but there’s no break from the dread — as it sets its sights on an internet culture that celebrates the pain of others from behind a computer screen. Credit director Zachary Donohue and writers David Brooks and Dan Clifton for packing more intelligent terror into a tight seventy-six minutes that certain other movies only manage across their entire franchise. (Rob Hunter)