5 mind-bending cosmic horror films currently available on streaming

These movies might have you contemplating the meaning of life afterward.
On the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey
On the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey / Sunset Boulevard/GettyImages

Cosmic horror, or "Lovecraftian" horror as it's also known, was popularized by horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, but it extends to a broad range of subgenres and familiar tropes. It's all about the horror of the unknowable and things beyond human comprehension, like ancient gods, cruel aliens, and other weird and unexplainable oddities.

For those interested in delving deeper into the subgenre, this list offers some recommendations, all available on streaming or to purchase/rent through digital retailers.

Color Out of Space (2019)

You can't get more cosmic than H.P. Lovecraft, which is why this sci-fi horror film from director Richard Stanley based on Lovecraft's short story of the same name is the perfect way to kick off this list. Nicolas Cage stars as the Gardner family patriarch.

After a meteorite crashes onto their farmland, the Gardners find their lives overrun with mutant organisms. A technicolor masterpiece mixed with a little philosophical musing, Color Out of a Space is both disturbingly twisted and visually impressive. It is now streaming on Shudder.

The Empty Man (2020)

This supernatural horror film, marking David Prior's feature directorial debut, is one of the most underrated horror movies of the last few years and a personal favorite of mine. It's unfortunate the movie seems to have gotten shafted by its distributors. For a long time, you couldn't even stream it anywhere, and it still doesn't have a physical release.

The Empty Man has a simple premise: a secret group intends to summon a supernatural entity and an ex-cop gets involved in the conspiracy. But it ends up being more like a cosmic odyssey with genuinely terrifying moments and plenty of existenstial dread. The film still isn't streaming, but it is available to rent or buy digitally.

Annihilation (2018)

Another one of my all-time favorite movies is Annihilation, based on the brilliant book by Jeff Vandermeer. The film takes things in a slightly different direction but maintains the cosmic themes from the novel.

It's not a "Lovecraft" story, but the chilling part about "The Shimmer" (or Area X in the novel) and how it affects its inhabitants is the chilling indifference with which it interacts with them. Annihilation could also be considered an eco-horror film, and I think the best eco-horror generally goes hand-in-hand with cosmic horror. Now streaming on Paramount+.

Mandy (2018)

Nicolas Cage seems to be a fan of the cosmic horror subgenre as he also starred in this trippy, psychedelic horror film about a terrifying cult and its leader who summons a horde of demonic henchmen to kidnap Red's (Cage) girlfriend.

Some are put off by the film's slow start, but it's worth sticking around to see the chaos that breaks out in the second half. Now streaming on Hulu and Shudder.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece is commonly hailed as one of the best and most influential movies of all time, and rightly so.

While not technically a horror film, 2001: A Space Odyssey is bleak and nihilistic enough to be considered a cosmic horror film, especially as it deals with the possibility that there are more intelligent lifeforms in the vastness of space who could easily toy with the human race.

It puts into perspective just how small and nonimportant we are in the grand scheme of things, though some argue that the film is more hopeful than that. Now streaming on Max.

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