I’m not sure how it will work out for me this year, but I usually watch at least one horror/thriller movie per day in the month of October. I re-watch old favorites and attempt to add some fresh meat to the mix. Since October is upon us, bringing Halloween with it, I thought it would be prudent to share some of the best Netflix offerings to get you in the mood. For murder. And candy!
You can check the list of horror flicks I made last year, if you are so inclined.
1. You’re Next
It’s a great example of a film that takes a simple and not particularly original premise, and excels not in its idea, but in its execution. The tone is set right off the bat, starting with a shocking couple of murders that do a terrific job of not only giving the viewer a glimpse of what’s to come, but also quickly creating a sense of dread that pervades the film from the earliest frames. It quickly proceeds to its central narrative, concerning an obscenely wealthy, WASPy family getting together for the parents’ wedding anniversary. Director Adam Wingard, working off of frequent co-collaborator Simon Barrett’s script, does an excellent job of drawing out the critical characteristics of each family member through a brief, intense series of vignettes for each of them, giving just enough background and familial conflict to understand the curious family dynamics of this group of idly rich, utterly unprepared individuals. - TK
While Ravenous barely pinged the North American box office when it hit our shores in 1999, you’d be hard-pressed to find a horror geek, or a fan of Guy Pearce or Robert Carlyle, who hasn’t already stewed in this movie’s viscera. It’s got cannibalism — and Pearce and Carlyle — and pre-allegations Jeffrey Jones rocking his kindly authority figure — and Neal McDonough flexing his inner Arian — and Ojibwa lore — and jagged mountain vistas — and an unforgettable Michael Nyman/Damon Albarn score that chitters and plinks and dances — and virile direction by Antonia Bird, that reel-goddess who might finally have new feature film coming out (with promise written all over it). - Ranylt Richildis
Fincher’s persnicketyness is on full display in his latest thriller, Zodiac, and it’s mostly to the good. He excels at using the visual elements of a film to situate the story in a particular world, but this is his first time using that approach to recreate a historic period — mostly the late 1960s to mid-’70s — and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it done better or more subtly. From the old logos of Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. that open the film to the costumes, hairstyles, cars, interior design, technology — everything seems right on target, yet the period elements never call unnecessary attention to themselves. The soundtrack is rife with music of the time, but it never has that feeling, so common to period movies, of having just picked the top five hits of a given year. The choices — particularly songs like Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” and Three Dog Night’s cover of “Easy to be Hard” from Hair — not only evoke the period of the film and the mood of the particular scenes in which they’re used but make ironic acknowledgement of the alienation and brutality of the killer, adding resonances that reverberate across the film. And Fincher’s not just interested in setting the appropriate tone but in making his recreation as factually accurate as possible, going so far as to dig through original police files and interview central figures in the case. Every element is considered — even bit parts, such as the killer’s victims, are cast and costumed with a painstaking effort to give us an accurate sense of who these people were and what they might have been like. - Pajiba
4. Red State
It’s the performances that really sell the film. They are brilliant on top of brilliant. Maybe it even helps not to think of this as a Kevin Smith film, but a John Goodman film. Or a film that stars one of the best male character actors around in Stephen Root. Or the best female character actor in Hollywood, the Oscar nominated Melissa Leo, who — along with Michael Parks — delivers performances that transcend Kevin Smith. - Dustin Rowles
With Mandy Lane, Levine takes the slasher-film blueprint and, without necessarily doing anything original with it, has created a dead-teenager movie that you can appreciate not for its campy gloriousness, its machete gore, its body count, or even the T & A. In fact, he’s done something I’d never even considered before: He’s crossed Friday the 13th with … Heathers. Actually, the film’s scribe, Jacob Forman, should get credit for the ’80s mash-up, but it’s Levine that sells it. And, my dearest cockswallows, does he ever sell it. Mandy Lane is the tits. - DR
“The sequel encompasses the events of the first two films and after the sense of claustrophobia previously experiences. The action now takes place miles away from the original location and partly in broad daylight giving the film an entirely fresh yet disturbing new reality. The infection has left the building. In a clever twist that draws together the plots of the first two movies this third part of the saga also works as a decoder to uncover information hidden in the first two films and leaves the door open for the final installment, the future ‘REC 4 Apocalypse.’ “
While ostensibly a haunted house film, the movie actually plays more like low-thrill mystery than horror. There are a few “scares” (which are mostly and unfortunately of the loud noise jump-scare variety), but the film is really about following Lisa’s attempt to unravel the mysteries of how her family died, why they’re stuck in this situation, and what’s going on in the house. Aside from the use of those jump-scares, Natali does a credible job early of creating a claustrophobic atmosphere to the film, and mixes in clever ideas and almost-new takes on the haunted house genre. - Seth Freilich