Forget OnDemand. Amazon Video. And definitely Qwikster. I may be of the last generation that still remembers childhood perusing through the local video rental store, but that doesn’t mean that Netflix isn’t totally freakin’ awesome. Never before have any of us had such an incredible access to cinema. But as Netflix Instant, the streaming arm of Netflix, includes more and more films, the archive begins to resemble more of a wasteland than a library. It takes me nearly as much time to find something as it does to actually watch it.
Nowhere is this truer than the horror section. Scary films always had the corner market on direct-to-video fare, and Netflix Instant Horror is now bloated under the weight of the genre’s blood-splattered, worm-filled glut (seriously, how many films does it take to remove these Children from the goddamn Corn?). Now that it’s Halloween time, the slightest browsing slip could turn your grease-painted cuddlefest real lame, real fast. Like 28 Days Later zombie-fast. So, submitted for your approval, here are five legit Netflix Instant horror films (discovered after way, WAY too much exploring) just in time for All Hallows’ Eve:
Written and Directed by: Ti West
Ti West has been the indie horror guy to watch ever since his first film, The House of the Devil (also on Netflix Instant and worth a watch). Unlike the slow-burn throwback of his initial work, West edges into more contemporary territory with The Innkeepers, the story of a young inn clerk who uses the slow weeks before the off-season to ghost hunt her own place of employment. Of course, she finds more than she bargains for in a well-earned climax that is one of the most unnerving depictions of ghosts in recent memory.
Cover-Your-Eyes moment: The final shot, a long, silent set-up of an empty inn room, is West’s understated, lo-fi approach in a nutshell. I had to step through it one freeze frame at a time to keep my pants dry.
Written and Directed by: George A Romero
Monkey Shines started off as a ironic bookmarking of truly absurd logline: “Quadriplegic Allan Mann gets in-home care from Ella, a super-smart monkey who starts anticipating Allan’s thoughts and acting out his desires.” Netflix machine: BRING ME THE CRAZY. But the film ended up being a rollicking good time, a thriller that transcends the schlocky ’80s style that sinks so many other films of that time (Hey, isn’t that cousin Ira from Mad About You?). Monkey Shines probably works well in group viewings, where snarky ’80s lampooning and kick-yourself jump scares can go hand in hand.
Cover-Your-Eyes moment: Allan’s final confrontation with the syringe-weilding Ella climaxes to a brutal death via one of Allan’s last working muscles. It’s both gnarly and speaks to the theme of overcoming dehumanizing circumstances in film you wouldn’t even expect has anything to say in the first place. Also: so that’s what monkey tastes like.
Written and Directed by: Joel Anderson
I put on Lake Mungo expecting a white noise and ended up captivated for the entire run time. The fake documentary of a young Aussie woman’s drowning and her family’s grief is a convincing watch, perhaps more as a drama than horror. It sports crackerjack acting, found-footage scares worthy of the first Paranormal Activity, and unexpectedly frightening shots of unoccupied household rooms. Seriously. Just long, creeping pans into vacant bedrooms – it’s like Terrance Mallick made a horror mov– IS THERE SOMEONE IN THAT CHAIR!?– Oh, okay. There isn’t. But, holy shit – there totally could have been, you know? There are no jump scares in in Lake Mungo, but it’s got intrigue and creepiness for days, mate.
Cover-Your-Eyes moment: Late in the film, the family discovers footage that Alice herself shot shortly before her death at Lake Mungo. Separated from her friends in the desert wasteland, Alice uses the camera light to catch up with them, resulting in the most frightening found-footage scare I’ve ever seen.
Written by: Joshua Zeman
Directed by: Barbara Brancaccio & Joshua Zeman
Aw yeah, we’re about to get all academic and shit in this scare-fest with bona fide documentary. For those of you who don’t know, on Staten Island, “Cropsey” is an urban legend – an escaped mental patient who periodically emerged from the woods to snatch up children who were never heard from again. That’s all fine and fun until 1987 hit and a child with down syndrome was actually abducted. The directors of Cropsey delve into their own childhoods and an ever-unraveling criminal case of the man arrested for the crime – and the abduction of many others. Cropsey is a real-life scary story that examines the blurry lines between camp-fire story and fact, with increasingly surprising results. Watch it.
Cover-Your-Eyes moment: After discovering an actual mental facility dilapidated in the local woods, the filmmakers find horrifying exposé footage (hosted by Gelrado?) chronicling the disturbing conditions in which patients were actually housed in. It’s not an easy watch.
Written by: Lucky McKee & Jack Ketchum
Directed by: Lucky McKee
If you got a crowd cool with controversy than The Woman might be the way to go. Gory, uncomfortable, and sharp with commentary, it’s a horror slasher with a major feminist lean. The controversy arises because, despite its commentary, many deplorable things happen to women during the film – really terrible stuff. Stuff that is ultimately, gloriously avenged, but still – the film is a long, bloody row to hoe. I’m even uneasy typing “hoe” right now. I wouldn’t fault anyone for turning The Woman off, but because the idea of a “message film” disguised as a slasher is so unheard of – and that its concluding thesis is so fascinating – I’m going to mention it. Watch at your own risk (and don’t end up like this guy):
Cover-Your-Eyes moment: In one of the most evocative moments of the film, after Chris Cleek gets the woman safely secured in his shed, he quickly learns how dangerous she is when she bites off his ring finger, crunches down on the severed digit, and spits his bloody wedding band back in his face.