Netflix currently has a crop of great horror films available for streaming, some of which may have slipped your radar. I rounded 10 picks I think are worth a watch and a breakdown on each selection. I tried to represent horror over the last 4 decades, so there’s a little old and a little new.
Obviously these are only available for current Netflix subscribers, but I won’t stop you from finding other means to obtain them if they tickle your fancy.
THE FURY (Brian De Palma, 1978)
What’s It About?: A man must fight against a secret government agency holding his son captive because of his psychic abilities.
The Fury is an amazingly twisted and disturbing film, with a cool late 70’s vibe to it that echos Hitchcock… only with more blood. Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, and Amy Irving were all impressive, and Andrew Stevens has a very gnarly protruding forehand vein which unintentionally ramps up the level of horror in the film. I love the use of gore in The Fury, while not extremely prevalent, when there, it’s effective… with the ending being the cherry on top. Plot wise, there were a few things that felt hard to digest and some pacing issues, but overall this film is a winner and worth a watch.
THE SHINING (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
What’s It About?: A man and his family are hired to take care of a remote hotel that’s closed during the winter… nothing bad happens at all.
Ok, most of you reading this have seen The Shining, if you haven’t, get your priorities straight. From that impeccable score that drops right out of the gate during the intro, you know you’re in for some dark times ahead. Ominous would be the best adjective to describe The Shining, everything just seems like one big quagmire that’s slowly unfolding into complete chaos. This is one of the scariest horror films ever made with tons of unsettling moments like the river of blood and the man in the bear suit giving another guy a bj… I have no idea how it fits into the story but it’s scary. The icing on the cake is Jack Nicholson, who is about as good as it gets, going from questionable to asshole to psycho flawlessly.
RE-ANIMATOR (Stuart Gordon, 1985)
What’s It About?: A mad scientist invents a serum that brings the recently deceased back to life, obviously things goes swimmingly.
80s gore is the best, and Re-Animator does not disappoint on delivering the goods. You get tons of blood and guts… if you’re squeamish I’d avoid this like the last dried up drumstick in the buffet line. There’s lots of nudity too, not just boobs, but like naked dead people trying to kill you… which is way better than plain old boobs. Stylistically, it’s an impressive horror film with some of the best opening title credits out there and a killer score to boot. The acting can be spotty throughout its run time, but it’s a campy horror movie, so it’s a little more forgivable I guess. The story is decent, but predictable, especially the ending. Even with its flaws, it’s a fun time, a classic, and deserving of a watch.
NIGHTBREED (Clive Barker, 1990)
What’s It About?: A young man joins forces with a group of misfit monsters hiding underground from the real evil of the world… humanity.
The underworld of Midian was my favorite part of the film and any time spent there is welcomed. It reminds me of a darker, more serious version of Little Monsters. You’ll also get a Pan’s Labyrinth vibe at times, not sure if Nightbreed was an influence on that or not. The practical effects and monsters are very compelling, it’s a good example of how 80s horror was crossing over a new threshold into the 90s and developing a more grungy look. There are some lulls in the middle where it gets a little tedious, but makes up for it with a superb ending.
RAVENOUS (Antonia Bird, 1999)
What’s It About?: US Soldiers living in the western frontier during the gold rush encounter a strange man with a craving for human meat.
Ravenous stars a lot of actors I enjoy seeing on-screen – you have Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle from Trainspotting, Daniel from LOST, and that pedophile from Beetlejuice. It’s an intriguing story that’s pulled off masterfully, hitting you over the head right out of the gate with its insanity. It also has a seriously killer score that is unnatural and eerie, which was composed by one of the guys from Blur. There’s not much to not like about this film, it’s a solid thriller horror that isn’t talked about enough, that’s why I’m including it.
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)
What’s It About?: A bullied young boy named Oskar falls for a bizarre girl named Eli, who doesn’t like the sunlight or eating food and insists on being invited into his house.
Scandinavia is one of the most ideal places to shoot a horror film. It’s always dark and cold and Let the Right One In capitalizes on that scenery in such a mesmerizing way. Stir in two A+ performances from child actors who, before this film, I’d never seen before. But the one thing that shines through all that, is the story, which felt truly original for a vampire film. The ending is also really satisfying and leaves you with the perfect amount of macabre optimism.
PONTYPOOL (Bruce McDonald, 2008)
What’s It About?: A deadly virus starts to plague a small Canadian town and a radio DJ, along with his crew, are left to try to piece together the mystery of it all.
From the opening credits riddled with a narration about the meaning of the film’s title, you know you’re in for something big… or at least that’s what the narrator would have you believe. Pontypool mashes up John Carpenter’s The Thing and The Fog and creates its own weird version of the two where claustrophobia and paranoia reign supreme. The great Stephen McHattie gives his best performance of any film I’ve seen him in (The Watchmen and 300 to name a few). There’s not much in the way of gore and jump scares (but they are still present), instead Pontypool slowly builds its tension with suspense. It’s a unique title that’s worth checking out, especially if you’re into 80s era horror.
THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS (Justin Kurzel, 2011)
What’s It About?: The true story of John Bunting, one of Australia’s most notorious and cold-hearted serial killers and his gang of accomplices.
This is probably the most beautiful and artistically stylized film on this list, which is kind of ironic considering it’s the most horrific of all of them. It engages in murder, mental abuse, rape, molestation, animal killing, and all these atrocities are even more chilling knowing that they actually happened. The casting is perfection and will make you feel like you’re watching a documentary instead of a feature film. Like Pontypool, Snowtown takes a different route in attempting to scare you and it’s highly potent. Make sure you check it out before Netflix cuts it.
THE CANAL (Ivan Kavanagh, 2014)
What’s It About?: David and his family move into a malevolent house with a devious past. After tragedy strikes David starts to realise evil spirits are at play.
This film wastes no time getting into the shit and if you’re looking for a genuinely scary number, look no further. Even though it looks and feels like a modern horror, you’ll still notice spurts of gothic tinged moments that call back to classic films like The Haunting or The Innocents. The score and sound design are incredible and truly heighten the scary moments. While the story isn’t very original, its execution makes up for it.
POD (Mickey Keating, 2015)
What’s It About?: Two siblings go to check on their troubled brother who has locked himself up and claims to be involved in a conspiracy with supernatural origins.
Pod wears its love for the classics on its sleeve. Low budget, questionable performances, but yet somehow it all worked cohesively. An intervention gone wrong, where nothing is as it seems, Pod will remind you of an X-Files episode on steroids. It’s very gruesome and by the end you’ll feel a little reluctant to sit through it again anytime soon, but I’m already thinking of buying the blu-ray, so that feeling won’t last very long.