Written By: Daniel Kinsley
Here we are: another Halloween is upon us! While the Porkchop team was not able to go as hard as we ordinarily would this year * it just would not feel right to depart Spooky Season without a trick, or at least a few treats. While watching horror films is an activity this writer delights in year round, October 31st is the day when everyone wants to get into the spirit. For those of you looking to branch out of your 1,000,000th viewing of Hocus Pocus (1993), looking for a good genuine scare, or just some good old fashioned bump-in-the-night entertainment, we’ve got you covered. While there are plenty of noteworthy flicks available for streaming (The Conjuring , Insidious , The VVitch ) this list dives a bit deeper into the rabbit hole of what’s available. By no means is this list intended to be comprehensive, but your next favorite scare might just be lurking among its shadows.
All of these films are available on Netflix now!
THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE (2016)
Effectively a single-location film, Autopsy is at its core a haunted house movie; one that just happens to take place in a morgue. After police discover an unidentified Jane Doe at the site of a startling crime scene, father and son coroners (Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch) are tasked with assigning a cause of death by the following morning. Before long, the two men soon discover Jane Doe has a few more secrets than they expect. It’s a damn near perfect set up, and while the film eventually loses some of its effectiveness as more of its secrets are revealed, it remains a terrific exercise in building tension and sustaining dread, as the morgue makes for an obvious (but incredibly effective) setting for scares.
Based on a short story by Clive Barker (of Hellraiser fame) the film takes place in the infamous Cabrini-Green projects of Chicago, where local student Helen (Virginia Madsen) studying urban legends stumbles upon the legend of Candyman, the son of a slave who was brutally murdered by a lynch mob after falling in love with a white woman. To summon the Candyman, one need only say his name five times in the mirror. You may have heard plenty about this genre classic (including an epic take by our own Ryan Long) but it’s well worth a look not only for it’s ahead-of-its-time commentary on social and race issues, but you can get ahead of the curve before the inevitable 2020 remake.
CREEP (2014) & CREEP 2 (2017)
Another found-footage horror movie? I know, I know, but hear me out. The simple premise is a great hook: Josef (Mark Duplass) a terminal cancer patient, hires a videographer (writer/director Patrick Brice) to document his final days so he can leave behind a video diary for his son. This being a horror film and all, there is much more to Josef, but to spoil the details would be to ruin all the fun. Both films are essentially a two-hander that rely on performances and uneasiness. Mark Duplass is terrific playing against type, utilizing an open expressive face to convey serious creepiness. While the second film is arguably more effective than the first, it is also a whole lot less fun without the initial set up. Both films clock in at under 90 minutes, perfect for a quick pre-game scare.
This is for all your Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) lovers. Directed by Henry Selick * and based on the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name, Coraline is a stop-motion animation film that is a dazzling visual exercise that manages to be both loads of fun and very scary for children and adults alike. After moving to a new town, the titular character discovers another world behind a small door in her apartment, one that oddly mirrors our own. It is a fresh and inventive spin on some familiar ideas executed at a very impressive level. For parents who want to share an experience with the kids who can handle the visuals, there is plenty to love about this one.
* PSA: The actual director of Nightmare Before Christmas. Tim Burton was a producer, damnit!
THE ENDLESS (2017)
The best film from the 2017 Telluride Horror Show and the third film from writer-director duo Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead also star in their Lovecraft-tinged supernatural thriller about two brothers who return to the cult they escaped from years before after receiving a mysterious videotape in the mail. It is a slow build to some very ambitious ideas, but the film also remains grounded with charming performances (particularly from the two leads) and while this is one of the least traditionally scary films on this list, it is easily one of the best, and should be a perfect gateway to the freshest names in indie horror.
GREEN ROOM (2015)
After a punk band (led by the late, great Anton Yelchin) playing a white supremacist bar witness a crime they should not have, the band is held captive until the ruthless leader of the gang (Patrick Stewart, vicious and excellent playing far afield from type) decides to eliminate any witnesses. It is a simple set-up that makes for one terrifying, brutally violent ride. Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier has quickly developed a reputation for creating expertly paced tightly crafted thrillers, and this film is perhaps his best yet. Though it is often very gory, it is also smart and nuanced enough to elevate way beyond lesser slasher rip-offs.
THE INVITATION (2015)
Without a doubt the most nerve-shredding horror film not only on this list, but on Netflix, period. Haunted by the accidental death of their child, Will (Logan Marshall-Green) returns to his former home to attend a dinner party at the behest of his ex-wife (Tammy Blanchard) and her new boyfriend (Michael Huisman). The couple has invited all of their loved ones to introduce them to a special surprise. As the film goes on, Will’s state of mind is called into question: is something very wrong, or is Will just going crazy? Director Karyn Kusama holds a master-level seminar in how to introduce and sustain psychological dread. Watch this one with the lights on.
TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016)
South Korea has quietly been dominating the horror genre for the last two decades, and this fresh take on the zombie film is as good an entry point as any. After an absentee father agrees to take his young daughter to visit her mother for her birthday, they board a train to Busan. When a young woman with a bite wound boards, she quickly turns into a zombie, attacking the train attendant and setting off a thrilling race to survival in an effort to find a quarantine zone. Following in the footsteps of great action films, Busan spends its run-time with its foot on your throat, allowing the momentum of the story to fill in its cast of characters. Think 28 Days Later (2002) crossed with Snowpiercer (2014) and you will have an idea of what you are in for. This is a must for horror fans, and especially zombie aficionados.
TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (2010)
One of the best examples of how to balance horror and comedy in recent memory. Tucker and Dale (Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine) are two hillbilly best friends just trying to enjoy their secluded new vacation home when they are mistaken for creepy killers by a group of teenagers on a camping trip. A damn-near perfect deconstruction of the hillbilly-slasher film, it manages to be packed with inventive gore (and lots of it) but the violence is often as ridiculous as the ensuing misunderstandings that keep the bodies piling up. It manages to be at once a great slasher that is also riotously funny, and packed with heart. This is a perfect film to watch with friends or to chase away the anxiety attack brought on by The Invitation.
UNDER THE SHADOW (2016)
Set against the backdrop of war in 1980s Tehran, this is an inventive and thrilling ghost story for those looking to branch out of the same old. Shideh (Narges Rashidi) is a former medical student, forced to give up her studies due to ties to leftist student groups. After her husband is called into military service, Shideh elects to stay in the city with her young daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi). As war escalates the dangers outside, a supernatural force inside the building threatens to take what is most precious to Shideh. Much like The Babadook (2014), this is an incredibly effective horror film with a whole lot of depth and subtext to its scares, and a major statement from a budding new international voice.