The Season of the Pumpkin’s fast approaching, and those long October evenings ahead offer the perfect opportunity to fire up Netflix and enjoy some good ole’ horror yarns.
Admittedly, Netflix’s current horror catalogue is rather sparse, and kinda hit and miss. Some of the genre’s true classics are strangely missing. The Exorcist (1973), for instance, or any instalment of the Nightmare of Elm Street or Friday the 13th franchises are conspicuously absent from the streaming service, reasons unknown.
But if you’re not too choosy about your horror, there’s still something there for you. Netflix currently holds 174 titles listed as “horror”, so go and take your pick.
It’s beyond the scope of this piece to list and review every single item on Netflix’s horror catalogue, so here’s my pick for you.
The Mist (2007)
When it comes to cinematographic adaptations arising from Stephen King stories, the results range from the mildly competent to the truly dire. There are a few shining exceptions to this rule, however. Misery (1990), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and the TV adaptation of Salem’s Lot (1979) readily spring to mind.
And to a somewhat lesser degree, The Mist (2007) also ticks all the right boxes. The Mist is based on an eponymous novella by the famous American writer. Its premise is simple enough; a severe thunderstorm knocks out power in the town of Bridgton, Maine. A bunch of townsfolk gather at the local supermarket to pick up supplies, when suddenly an unearthly mist envelops the outside of the premises. It soon transpires that there is something deadly hiding within that mist, and tensions among the survivors locked inside the supermarket soon rise.
Apart from the horror elements, the dynamics and interaction of people under duress became one of the movie’s central themes. Out of all the recent Stephen King’s adaptations, The Mist certainly stands out. And the movie’s ending is worth the entry price alone.
Slasher movies were once a dime a dozen. The late 70s and 80s in particular were rife with gratuitous blood and gore, often just for the pure gross-out factor sake. Then, towards the early 90s, thirst for such cheap thrills seemed to wane among cinema-goers, and the genre fell into somewhat of a lull.
Then, near the end of the decade, the late Wes Craven rebooted the slasher movie genre with a bang. Scream (1996) hit the right chords with audiences and went on to become a huge box-office success, earning $173m worldwide. In fact, it became the highest-grossing slasher film in the US, ever.
Partly inspired by the real life events surrounding the Gainesville Ripper, Scream follows the exploits of a masked killer in a “whodunit” fashion. The film was considered somewhat unique at the time, due to the characters’ awareness of real horror films and their attempts to discuss certain horror cliches which Scream itself featured.
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
If you’re into werewolves and the British countryside, this gem is most definitely for you. Beautifully shot around the misty moors of Surrey and Wales, An American… kicks off with two backpacking friends, David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) getting off a cattle truck in a country road in England. The man who gave them a lift points them in the direction of a village called East Proctor, and warns them to stay on the roads and avoid the moors.
Later that evening, they arrive at a pub named “The Slaughtered lamb”, and after a seemingly warm initial welcome by the locals, things quickly turn awkward and they are forced to leave the premises. Before they go, one of the locals tells them to “stay on the road, and beware of the full moon.’ Later that night, David and Jack wander off the road and are attacked by a large creature. Jack is killed, and David is left unconscious and in shock.
While recovering, David begins experiencing horrific visions, and his dead friend Jack pays him several visits, warning him that he will transform at the next full moon. And indeed David does transform into a werewolf, in a fantastically engaging special effects sequence which rightly earned Rick Baker an Oscar for his outstanding achievement in the pre-CGI era.
An American Werewolf in London may be an oldie, but it is certainly a goldie for horror fans.
The Babadook (2014)
The most recent entry in our pick list, The Babadook is an Australian-Canadian psychological horror film about a grieving widow after her husband’s violent death, and her six-year-old son, Sam, who suffers from nightmares of a monster lurking around their house. A strange storybook called The Babadook finds its way into the home, and Sam becomes convinced that it is the monster he’s been dreaming about.
The Babadook was made on a rather tight budget (partly financed in fact by a Kickstarter campaign), but the movie’s quality and impact proved yet again that big bucks is not a guarantee for success. The film features very strong performances from Australian actress Essie Davis in
the role of Amelia, the troubled widow, and child actor Benjamin Winspear as her son Samuel.
This one is a bit of a personal niche, I admit. If you’re into World War 2 stuff, the supernatural, and submarine warfare, Below is definitely for you. Else, you might want to steer clear for more mainstream horror.
At is core, Below is a haunted house film, only set in a World War 2 sub, the USS Tiger Shark. A neat idea. Plenty of claustrophobic thrills abound as strange happenings seem to kill off its crew at an alarming rate. Is the boat haunted? What happened during the Tiger Shark’s last mission?
If you wish to find out, go and watch Below now. An interesting piece of trivia, the movie’s director, David Twohy, found far more success with its previous movie “Pitch Black (2000)”, where he introduced the character of the Furyan warrior Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel) to the world.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Found footage movies were still a relative novelty near the turn of the last century. However, if one looks back far back enough, 1980’s hugely controversial Cannibal Holocaust did arguably kickstart the sub-genre.
What nobody can deny is that The Blair Witch Project (1999) did introduce the “found footage” theme to the masses, not to mention its huge financial success at the box office.
Made by a bunch of amateurs on a truly shoestring budget of about $35,000, the movie went on to make nearly $250m worldwide.
The Blair Witch Project tells the story of three student filmmakers who disappeared while hiking in the Black Hills of Maryland while working on a documentary about a local legend, the Blair Witch. The audience is informed that although the three were never seen or heard from again, the footage they are about to watch is their “found footage.”
The Blair Witch’s phenomenal success is another fine example that good and honest film making does not require a massive budget to create a classic.
And that is it. Sit down in front of the telly, choose your pick, and enjoy.