6 Great Horror Movies You Can Watch for Free

By Nicholas Pell on 25 October 2013 (Updated 12 November 2013) 1 comment

The cool thing about old horror movies is that a lot of them are in the public domain. Strange as it might sound to us standing on this side of history, no one thought that owning the copyright to "Night of the Living Dead" was terribly important at the time. That's why you can find it just about anywhere, from Netflix to YouTube. (See also: How to Get Netflix to Play on Your TV)

"Night of the Living Dead" isn't the only example of a public domain film that's downright bone-chilling. I fancy myself a bit of an expert on the weird, the old, the macabre… and the public domain. Step into my horror crypt to see what's out there totally for free that kids from 8 to 80 will enjoy.

Night of the Living Dead

This is the godfather of all public domain horror films. For those who haven't seen it, this is the film that transformed zombies from the directed automaton slaves of voodoo priests into shambling legions of undead. It's widely credited, alongside more decidedly adult fare such as "Bonnie and Clyde," with ushering in the modern MPAA ratings system. It's certainly not "tame" by today's standards, but it is good for bigger kids. Adults will have fun picking apart all the obvious metaphors about race and social conformity, to say nothing of the paranoid terror of being locked down in a farm house battling an army of ghouls.

A Bucket of Blood

This one is a little more light and fun than the above. This Roger Corman opus is your basic Faust story. A wanna-be beatnik just can't make art until he accidentally kills a cat, which he then coats in plaster. Soon, everyone wants to buy his surprisingly life-like (dead-like?) sculptures… and there's only one way to do that. Best on a double feature with "Little Shop of Horrors" — the two were filmed the same weekend, have a similar plot, and share many sets. A lot of fun, and as many laughs as scares. (See also: Halloween Drink Recipes to Scare Up Good Times)

Little Shop of Horrors

Basically the same story as the above, except a lovable loser who wants to get the girl uses a man-eating plant for fame instead of dead body sculptures. Look for Corman stalwart Dick Miller (star of "A Bucket of Blood") in a cameo as a man eating plants in a film about a man-eating plant.

Freaks

This one is… definitely not for the little ones, despite being from 1932. The backstory on this is that the producers wanted to out-horror "Frankenstein" and succeeded a little too well. It's a classic revenge story about carnies getting the better of a woman and a strongman who wrongs one of their own. It's also a wonderful tale about acceptance, friendship, and the amazing things people can do in the face of adversity. The scene where the limbless man lights his own cigarette isn't faked. On the contrary, he rolled the cigarette himself off camera. Remade by David F. Friedman as She-Freak, but that one is definitely not for kids.

Horror Hotel

"Horror Hotel" is Christopher Lee at his bone-chilling best. Especially for our readers in New England, "Horror Hotel" is a lot of fun, a gothic horror film that tells the tale of a female grad student investigating witchcraft. She runs up against a reincarnated 17th Century witch who sacrifices virgins to maintain her youth… and has just found her latest sacrifice.

White Zombie

This is the original zombie movie, or at least the oldest one that people still watch. Remember what I said earlier about "Night of the Living Dead" reinventing zombies? Well, don't expect shambling crowds of dead-eyed ghouls crying out for "braaaaaaaaains." Instead, look for mind-controlled slaves of voodoo lords. Bela Lugosi is at his intense best in this film.

What're your favorite classic horror movies?

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Nick

You forgot one. "Carnival of Souls" is ineptly acted, poorly shot, BUT... as a whole it works. It's the best "bad" movie (in the sense that it's not unintentionally funny) out there. I have the musical score on my Halloween playlist. Creepy stuff that'll get into your head.