I keep seeing all of these top ten movie lists popping up in my horror movie feed — what to watch on Netflix, on demand and iTunes, and so on — all in preparation for a night in, away from the ghoulies, goblins, and Frozen characters, on Halloween. Ash vs. the Evil Dead on Starz will be the television draw for those lucky enough to afford it. Others may be binge-ing on all of the American Horror Story: Hotel or Walking Dead episodes they may have missed due to annoying grownup responsibilities (that reminds me…I have two absurdly-expensive-for-what-they-are medical bills to pay this month damnitalltohell). Whatever the viewing choices, it’s a great time to escape with horror, a genre that’s seemed to have grown much trendier over the decades. For one, the indie and/or foreign horror films are far better than their Hollywood-mainstream counterparts in their inventiveness, and the longform style of television has made horror into complex stories with characters we can care about and grow with.
All of it is easily accessible, too, as long as one has patience, for eventually, the film festival favorites pop up on iTunes and Netflix. I eat them right up. Right now, I’m patiently waiting for The Witch, The Hallow, The Invitation, and High Rise. I can wait. This weekend though, I get to see my friend Lynne Hansen’s film, Chomp, and I’m so excited about it. It wasn’t that long ago when she’d been in the process of getting her cast together and filming it. Now it’s played at a ton of festivals and has won a number of awards, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more in awe.
(These creative types — Simply Amazenuts.)
Anyway, since the trend right now is to put up recommendation lists, especially during Halloween, I thought I’d join in and put up my own list of contemporary favorite horror films (and a TV series) available to watch for free online (no subscription needed).
Not like my recommendations are a big whoop or anything, but I think other horror aficionados may agree with me here…
- The Abandoned (2006, dir. Nacho Cerda; playing on Hulu): One of the most intriguing haunted house movies, imho. The premise is fairly simple — An adopted woman who’d been uncertain of her past history inherits her family farmstead in Russia, so naturally, she travels there to check out the place. Toss in some dark family secrets; an arrival of a mysterious stranger; nasty, Fulci-inspired doppleganger spectres, and the creepiest farmhouse ever seen onscreen, and you’ve a ghost story unlike any other.
- The Descent (2005, dir. Neil Marshall; playing on Hulu and popcornflix.com): Leave it to the director of Dog Soldiers and the criminally underrated Mad Max/28 Days Later- genre mashup Doomsday (with a heroine who’d give Furiosa a run for her money) to create a truly frightening cave monster movie. Marshall employs solid female characters in his films, and his band of female spelunkers here is engaging and believable.
- Shutter (2004, dir. Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom; playing on Hulu): The American remake to this Thai film wasn’t bad, but one must always see the original. Shutter is about a photographer and his girlfriend who discover ghostly images in every photograph they take, and the pictures may be clues as to why they, specifically, have been targeted by the supernatural forces at work. It’s a fun, little ride.
- Black Water (2007, dir. David Nerlich, Andrew Traucki; playing on Hulu): A trio takes a boat ride to a mangrove-tangled swamp in Northern Australia so that they can get some fishing in. Unfortunately, there’s a rather large crocodile in the swamp, too. You can fill in the rest. Atmospheric and suspenseful.
- The Woman (2011, dir. Lucky McKee; playing on Hulu): Based on a novella (and subsequent script) by the phenomenal Jack Ketchum, The Woman is a violent, shocking piece of work about a wild woman — the remnant of a savage clan of backwoods people — and the country lawyer who “adopts” her and attempts to “tame” her. The moral subtext here though is enough to have you talking about the film for days.
- Masters of Horror (TV series 2005-2007; playing on Hulu and tubitv.com): The horror anthology series from Showtime has enough of a selection that one may find a horror piece to suit his/her liking. My favorite episodes include season one’s “John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns,” “Pick Me Up,” and the controversial Takashi Miike episode “Imprint” as well as season two’s “Family,” “Sounds Like,” and “Pelts.”
- Devoured (2012, dir. Greg Olliver; playing on tubitv.com): A suspenseful and surprisingly heart-wrenching psychological ghost story about a woman trying to make ends meet as a restaurant’s after-hours cleaner.
- Grace (2009, dir. Paul Solet; playing on tubitv.com): Despite the fact her unborn baby died in a tragic accident, a woman, consumed by the very idea of motherhood, decides to carry the baby to term anyway. There’s some great satire here, if you can stomach it. (New mothers, I don’t recommend you watch it.)
- The Loved Ones (2009, dir. Sean Byrne; playing on tubitv.com and YouTube): A truly mad Aussie horror-comedy romp with a familiar premise — what sorts of crazy, hyperviolent things occur when a teenage boy turns down the prom invite of a batshit-bonkers girl who’s had a long-term crush on him? As her equally twisted father reminds us all, “Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.” End of.
- Rec (2007) & Rec 2 (2009, dir. Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza; playing on Crackle for 3 more days): The original and its sequel are two of the most frightening movies I’ve seen in a long while. Both are set in the same dark, gorgeously decrepit apartment complex where its residents, an unlucky reporter, and a team of rescue workers are quarantined due to a zombie-esque outbreak that may or may not be supernatural in origin. The sequel, Rec 2, takes place mere hours after the first one ends, and the intensity is kicked up a notch. See them both, one after the other, if you’re in the mood to be scared half out of your mind.
Enjoy them all at your own risk, of course. If you’re not into such films anyway, Jem and the Holograms is playing right now at the theater, and I hear it’s awfully scary, too.