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It’s an Instant Netflix Halloween!

If you’re getting into the spirit of the season, you may want to watch a horror movie or two. And certainly, you can’t go wrong getting reacquainted with the classics. But what if you want to download something you haven’t seen before? How are you supposed to sift through all the lackluster if not downright awful horror movies on Netflix and choose something good?

Well, luckily for you, you’ve got me. I spend way too much time watching horror on Netflix, and I’m going to recommend several movies, each of which will present it yourself instantly for your viewing pleasure with the mere click of a mouse or a button on your remote.

But first, a few comments:

When I was picking movies, I applied the Ginger Snaps test. If I thought a film was as well know as GS, I left it out. Thus, I hope that you’ll be unfamiliar with most of what I’ve unearthed.

While some contain humor, none of these movies is actually campy or tongue-in-cheek. Most work hard to be genuinely disturbing, and if you’re looking for Young Frankenstein or Dracula: Dead and Loving It, well, go watch those. If you can laugh your way through each of these movies, all I can say is that you’re one sick puppy, and I respect you for it.

Some of these films are not standard horror fare and weren’t marketed as such. A couple aren’t even all that scary. But each in its own way serves up suspense and evokes the uncanny or at least the unsettling.

Three of the movies fall into the mockumentary/found video subgenre. That seems like a high percentage, and before I made the list, I didn’t think I had any special fondness for this kind of horror flick. But maybe I do. Or maybe this is simply a style of storytelling that attracted a number of talented filmmakers in recent years.

Finally, I’m trying to avoid major spoilers, but it’s pretty much impossible to discuss movies without giving away something. If you’re hell-bent on avoiding any spoilers at all, maybe you should just skim the list of titles.

Red State (2011)

Kevin Smith’s first horror movie deals with a fundamentalist cult that captures and murders supposed gays. Knowing the premise, you probably think the movie follows a certain tried-and-true formula, but you’re wrong. Once the story gets rolling, Smith throws out most of the standard tropes to present a situation where religious fanaticism, government expediency, and human error combine with grisly synergy. The real horror here is the dark side of the human spirit in all its manifestations, and the movie displays it to grim effect. It’s got first-rate actors like John Goodman, Stephen Root, and Kevin Pollak, too.

New Town Killers (2008)

It’s The Most Dangerous Game again as a pair of investment bankers hunt a slum kid through the benighted streets of Edinburgh. We’ve all encountered the premise before, but the setting, a tight script, good performances, a thread of trenchant social commentary, and a nifty ending make the movie work.

Hampshire: A Ghost Story (2009)

There’s a trendy restaurant on the ground floor of an old building, and everything’s fine...until somebody goes upstairs and rouses the spirits there. The story stops short of explaining all its mysteries, and while that sometimes works, in this case, it left me somewhat unsatisfied. The movie is still pretty damn creepy, though.

Monsters (2010)

Alien life forms have arrived on Earth. The Infected Zone straddles the US-Mexico border, and a young man and woman find themselves obliged to cross it. Admittedly, this is one of the movies on the list that isn’t all that scary, but it has eerie moments, it’s quite original, and it has interesting things to say about the way we humans react to the unknown.

Donkey Punch (2008)

Kids are partying on a yacht. Somebody dies, and it’s somebody else’s fault, setting up an escalating confrontation between those who want to cover up what happened and those who want to tell the authorities. Like so many horror movies and thrillers, this one gets sillier or at least more improbable toward the end, but it’s quite suspenseful. It gave me that urge to shout warnings to the characters onscreen, and I almost never feel that anymore.

Meadowwoods (2010)

This is the darkest, most disturbing movie on the list. Three college students decide to torture and kill one of their peers and record their preparations and the event itself in a video diary. The actual torture and violence don’t come until the very end, but the exploration of the would-be murderers’ psyches is as fascinating as it is repulsive. On one level, you won’t understand them and won’t want to, but on another, you will.

S&Man (2006)

J. T. Petty is shooting a documentary about the makers of underground horror films (quite a bit of the movie is interviews with real-life underground horror directors), and one of the filmmakers is the self-styled “S&Man” (pronounced “sandman.”) The more Petty talks with the S&Man, the more apparent it becomes that there’s something different about him and his movies. Petty never quite puts the pieces together, or else he doesn’t quite let himself admit what he knows. But you’ll know, and it’s chilling.

Ink (2009)

This is the other movie, that, okay, isn’t really all that scary. At most, it’s dark fantasy, not horror. But it’s one of the best fantasy movies of the past ten years, an original, suspenseful, and even moving story of dark spirits and light battling over the life and soul of a little girl.

American Zombie (2007)

Real-life documentary filmmakers Grace Lee and John Solomon play themselves making a documentary about the zombies of San Francisco, who have it tough due to discrimination, lack of civil rights, and in some cases diminished intelligence. At first the movie is simply funny, intriguing, and occasionally even sad, but gradually, we realize the zombies are keeping secrets, and then things get creepy.

There. Those ought to keep you busy for a night or two. Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!



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