So I’m back at my old moderator job. I’m not complaining because it’s better than being homeless, but even my manager will admit it’s very monotonous work that leads quickly to eyestrain and thoughts of despair.
I’ve coped with this in several ways in the past, including audiobooks and Star Trek. Lately, I’ve been on a horror bent. Netflix has a lot of decent stuff streaming right now and since people ask me for recs sometimes, I thought I might as well note them all down somewhere.
So here’s the stuff I recommend in Netflix’s horror section.
(Necessary caveat: I’m on a US IP and have no way of knowing which of these are available in other regions, or if they’ll be removed at a later date.)
1. The Hellraiser series
This has some very strong entries and a few weak ones. They’re well known enough that I’ll just let you search them on your own. Chronologically, it’s best to watch 1-4 in order and then stop, forever, but personally my ranking goes: 1, 7, 3, 2, 5, 4, 9, 8. I also recommend reading Barker’s original novella.
(Another note of interest for game aficionados: the designer of the original puzzlebox featured in these films is Philip Lemarchand, the DJ stage name of Uncharted designer Richard Lemarchand and FEZ designer Phil Fish. I predict a themed concert in the duo’s future.)
I described this on Twitter as “Brokeback Mountain with cannibals” and despite all protests no one was able to dispute this. Take one part bad Civil War-era drama, one part appropriated Native American mythology, and a whole heaping dose of homoeroticism. Not really scary but it gets a bit intense and also, cannibalism as a metaphor for gay sex, I am surprised how okay with this I am.
Swedish vampire film involving an immortal non-binary vampire child and the little boy who loves them. Depressing, twisted, gorgeous.
(The original version of this blurb asserted Elly is a trans girl, and while that’s one valid reading, revisiting the film has me think Elly is intended as gender-fluid/non-binary.)
A metaphor on cultural imperialism disguised cleverly as one very smart zombie movie. The crew of a remote Canadian radio station are beset by a deadly virus: the English language.
I promise it’s much scarier than I’m making it sound. The climax is really weak but most of everything to either side of that is pretty amazing.
…Except for the scene with the singers in brown face. That was not amazing.
5. Silent House
Netflix hosts the American remake, though also has the original Uruguayan version (above) available as a disc rental. The main conceit of this film is that it is shot to look like one continuous take, watching a young woman be terrorized by extradimensional weirdness in real time. Of course, there’s A Twist, and I need to mention that this film (and the original) require a trigger warning for child sexual abuse.
6. The Caller
A simple premise exquisitely executed: a woman moves into a new apartment and discovers her phone is connected to the same line several decades in the past, when the unit was occupied by a sinister old woman… who likes to call a lot and be generally menacing.
Ti West’s only good film? Maybe. I haven’t seen everything of his, but of everything I have seen, this is the only film of his I even remotely enjoy. The attraction of this film is the lengths it goes to to recreate a period feel right down to the grain of the film stock, and the results are fantastic, though it gets a bit conventional at the end.
Now we get into the part of the list where the recommendations get a bit funky and idiosyncratic, either because they’re a slow burn or because they start off strong and crash headlong into a wall in the third act. This film is sort of both. It has an amazingly atmospheric build and some legitimately uncomfortable sound work that deserves some praise, but the ending is just dreadful, ugh, I don’t even want to think about it. Maybe just stop after it gets too weird, and pretend everyone here just died of exposure instead.
This is another slow burn without many scares but wins for sustained tension. The performances are well-drawn and I don’t think I’ve ever seen an indie horror with such pathos from its cast. Double points for drawing on slightly more unconventional source material.
10. The Corridor
One of my favorites, honestly, even if I can’t really say why. Like Absentia the performances are very strong, at least in some places. In others… it gets really campy. BUT, it isn’t very often that I can get honestly interested in the feelings of sad white cis dudes and the sort of underlying coming-of-age narrative to this is really captivating, although it does so by way of a bit of ableism (sigh). Nevertheless, a few good scare moments and a very unconventional supernatural (extraterrestrial) conceit.
Blair Witch did not invent found footage horror and it certainly isn’t the best example of the genre, especially 15 years after the hype’s worn off. However, there are still a couple clever touches in this to reward the attentive film nerd (especially while wearing headphones) such that I encourage you to give it a try, since it’s streaming anyway.
A door-to-door salesman who is probably the devil shows up at a family’s house to methodically drain them all of blood. Not gore porn, very nice psychological bent to it, and probably of interest if you like the tone of Hannibal.
13. Grave Encounters
Both the original and its sequel are currently streaming on Netflix in the US and they are both above-average found footage horror films. The first one is a fine example of the genre with a film crew being done in by their hubris (as is required by cosmic law), and the second one earns some points for film nerd geekery, although it breaks a few rules and is generally weaker over all. However, the opening to Grave Encounters 2 remains my favorite way to start a sequel pretty much ever and should be looked at in admiration.
This and its sequel are great examples of horror anthologies done in a found footage style. Trigger warnings for sexual assault, rape, non-consensual videotaping of sex, and implied fetus harvesting. And Ti West warning for Ti West in the middle chapter.
The sequel is not as good, but has a couple choice chapters. It also doubles down on the misogynistic body horror, so uh, view with discretion.
(I wish more of these recommendations didn’t also come with these huge caveats.)
15. Cabin in the Woods and Resolution
I rank Cabin in the Woods last here because it’s kind of a gimme, but if you haven’t seen it yet it’s at least worth a watch. Not a brilliant deconstruction of the genre and not above some sexist male gaze bullshit but the denouement deserves way more examination than it’s received.
I pair this with Resolution because all the critics did and because it’s sort of like Cabin‘s inverse: where Cabin was too transparent, Resolution is too opaque. Of the two, Resolution requires a bit more attention to parse and is a bit of a higher-order deconstruction in that it doesn’t ultimately seem interested in the viewer’s catharsis… which, ah, is part of the ‘monster’ embedded in the film. Like Blair Witch, Resolution s worth it for the film nerdery alone.
Honorable Mention: The People Under the Stairs
I consider this squarely in the comedy category — not even dark comedy, just regular comedy using the trappings of the horror genre, a la Addams Family. However, this list is looking white as hell, and if this film portrays the horror of anything very well, it’s that there is nothing scarier than white people.
(Bonus points, of course, for casting Ed and Nadine Hurley as the villains in question. Wait, you have seen Twin Peaks, right? This was why Netflix was invented.)