After realizing not all that long ago that there are plenty of great alternatives to Netflix that simply do not get talked about at all, I made it something of a mission to explore the libraries offered by these rival streaming services. And I’ve found, to my eternal delight, that there’s seemingly a service for every niche and need: whether you’re into horror, anime, new releases or bonafied classics. If you look hard enough, there’s bound to be a streaming service catering to your exact tastes.
And, as it turns out, there’s a new service in town. Like its creator, it’s likely to only have a niche appeal to a select group of oddballs, weirdos and artisans (like myself), but there really is pretty much nothing out there that can compare with it at the moment. And though its library is extremely small (for now), it comes with a price tag to match it (that is, it’s absolutely free).
The man in question is Nicholas Winding Refn: not a filmmaker that most people would be familiar with (although he’s beloved by the relatively small group of devotees who have stumbled upon his work and connected with it. He’s best known for his retrograde action flick Drive (2011), about a nameless automotive stuntman (Ryan Gosling) who moonlights as a getaway driver for hire. His follow-up to that film — hands down the best movie from 2011 — was Only God Forgives (2013), a slow-burn crime drama, also starring Gosling, about a brother desperately scrambling to avenge his brother’s death amidst a police investigation threatening to swallow him whole. His most recent film, The Neon Demon (2016), stars ephemeral beauty Elle Fanning as an aspiring fashion model is slowly consumed by the industry and was damn-near the best movie to come out of that summer.
As you might expect from an arthouse genre director notable for his passing flirtations with the mainstream, his film curation looks to be a walk on the wild side. The plan is to update the free streaming service quarterly with three fully restored and liberally supplemented films from the dark corners of obscurity. In addition to the films themselves, each new catalog entry will feature original content ranging from articles to picture galleries to documentary shorts and features, all based around a new theme and the product of guest editors (in turn ensuring that the curated content doesn’t begin to feel too samey). It’s like a Criterion Collection for the weird little oddities that the rest of the world has forgotten about (if they ever knew they existed at all).
By the site’s own admission, the content it offers is “intriguing, influential and extreme.” The first collection of films, entitled Regional Renegades, includes The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds (1965), Hot Thrills and Warm Chills (1967) and Shanty Tramp (1967): three movies I can say with absolute certainty that I have never heard of before. The next three films, due out in September, are bannered under Missing Links, and will include Night Tide (1961), If Footmen Tire You What Will Horses Do (1971) and Spring Night, Summer Night (1967): another trio of films I’m only just now finding out exist. With the promise of twelve new films per year, and all these new supplemental goodies to sink my teeth into, it’ll certainly be enough to keep me busy for the foreseeable future.
Like I said, I haven’t heard of any of these films before, much less have seen them. They seem an eclectic bunch of obscure gems that could very well find a devoted audience among Refn’s modern devotees. If, perhaps, you feel like you’ve already seen everything that the wide world of film has to offer you, maybe check out BYNWR. Chances are, they’ll have a few new surprises for you.