It may be far from the cold months of October (but not too far, with the crazy weather this year), but for true fans of the macabre, any time of the year is a good time to sit back, turn the lights off and prepare for some scares.
But this won’t be some ordinary list telling you about the existing classics that just about anybody would have seen ages ago. Sure, Netflix houses many highly lauded titles, such as “The Omen” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” but what would be the purpose of pointing out the obvious—that such movies exist and are worth watching?
Instead, the aim of this list will be to spark interest in those flicks that the average viewer may erroneously pass over as just another jump-scare cash grab in a sea of such lookalikes. This list will also be focusing strictly on movies under three hours in duration, which means no series.
However, everyone should be aware that “Black Mirror” is a series that needs watching, if it hasn’t been seen already.
While “Haunter” may be one of my favorite horror flicks currently on Netflix, it also happens to be one of those films where the less you know going into it, the better. This is one of the unfortunate conundrums that comes with making recommendations for films that flip conventions of a genre on its head, but suffice it to say that the film is no ordinary tale of the classic haunted house.
For one thing, the protagonist is viscerally compelling, as she is represented as a real human struggling through other-worldly scenarios. This, in and of itself, is a true rarity among horror films, but the devil is in the details of her struggle. “Haunter” is not a simple struggle of a teenage girl against the ghost of a vengeful spirit, but rather a story about coming to terms with reality, and all the hardships that it entails. It’s a story of moving past the trials of yesterday and prevailing against the odds. There are scares, yes, but there’s so much more to be found in this hidden gem, and that alone should be reason enough to give it a shot.
2. The Babadook
What could possibly be more classic than a tale about the boogeyman, otherwise known as “The Babadook”? And wait, isn’t that more of a movie for kids? How is that worth checking out for the rugged, hardened horror fanatic?
As it turns out, there’s plenty to fear than just the babadook, but it’s not what you might think. Part of a horror movie’s job, or any piece designed to elicit some strong sense of fright, is to strike the viewer where they are most vulnerable, and when they least expect it. This movie will play with the viewer’s emotions in all of the right ways, and provide them with a tale that goes far beyond a simple story for children, transcending into something far greater that prods at the very innermost aspects of humanity, bringing up questions that society casts aside into the shadows for a fleeting sense of safety, and using that to the full advantage.
Be warned: Watching this movie will be an uncomfortable experience, but just like the fear response engraved in the mind of every human being, these stressors exist for a reason. In safe doses, they are a good thing, and they make the viewer appreciate life just that much more once they make it through to the other side.
The reason why both “V/H/S” and “Paranormal Activity” tend to get criminally overlooked in the horror genre is due to their dreaded tag—found footage. Sure, “Paranormal Activity” had its day in the spotlight, but following the countless knockoffs of the film, and the critically acclaimed “Blair Witch Project,” audiences simply grew tired of the same old formula and jump-scares delivered through the nauseating medium of “shaky cam.”
Fortunately, however, “V/H/S” is not a series that falls victim to the many familiar trappings of the found footage lookalikes. Undoubtedly, part of this has to do with the artistic freedom granted by the delivery of the medium. Whereas a film like “Paranormal Activity” is chained to a single story, and a single string of events in one home, “V/H/S” operates as a collection of paranormal tapes from across the world. Each tape has a different story to tell, and along with it, some of the most creative spins on classic scenarios that horror fans have ever been graced with.
Oh, and there are some laughs to go along with the scares, particularly in the second film.
As an important note, this list specifically refers to the listed films. The spinoff title, “V/H/S Viral,” lacks most of the positive qualities of the main films. Seriously, don’t waste your time.
One might recognize that there’s a certain theme to this list: Familiar, overplayed horror scenarios refreshed by some intriguing twists that serve to turn the scenario on its head. The same holds true for this list’s representation of the classic slasher film, “Hush.”
The basic premise is enough to raise an eyebrow, for sure. A protagonist that is completely deaf, living on her own on the outskirts of society as a writing hermit? Such a scenario could either make for a very short movie, due to the lack of expendable characters and handicap of the protagonist, or it could be the setup for something great.
The fact that it’s on this list is telling as to which outcome holds true for this film.
Much more than a simple hook of the premise, however, there is some actual character development and humanization to this movie. Humanity and character development in a slasher movie? Blasphemy! Well, not quite. As it turns out, it actually works pretty darn well.
5. The ABCs of Death
Twenty-six masters of horror, one movie. Is that not enough to persuade anyone who calls themselves a fan of horror to watch this movie? The movie functions like a collection of twenty-six separate short stories, but that’s hardly a knock against the title. In fact, by giving each director complete freedom concerning how their segment should be conducted, the heterogeneity is likely the reason why the film works so well.
The premise is simple enough. Twenty-six letters of the alphabet to correspond with each master of horror, each of which correspond to a different way to die. For example, A could be for death by Abominable Snowman, while Z could mean death by zebra.
The possibilities are nearly endless, and the masters certainly do not squander this virtue of the film. There will be plenty of laughs, plenty of gore, and some very surprising ways to die. This film in particular is great to watch along with friends, but either way, this movie is worth the time investment.