Even a cursory glance through its horror offerings shows that there’s far more to Netflix than meets the eye — far more than it ever seems to get credit for. Granted, it’s no Shudder (the dedicated horror genre streaming service). It’s not even a FilmStruck (the classic and foreign themed streaming service that sports a shockingly robust horror catalog all its own). But it, as the leading video streaming service the world over, nevertheless is more than adequately equipped for all of your Halloween viewing needs.
In the wake of his monster success Jaws (1975), Steven Spielberg only really ever came to the defense of one copycat aquatic creature-feature: 1978’s cash-grab Piranha, which Spielberg himself called “the best of the Jaws ripoffs.” And, par for the course for a Hollywood more interested in already established brands than establishing new ones itself, it was inevitable that the movie was going to get the remake treatment. What was harder to predict, however, was that the studio would hire madcap French Ã©migrÃ© Alexandre Aja, director of seminal New French Extremity film High Tension (2003) and fellow 70’s remake The Hills Have Eyes (2006), to reimagine this razor-toothed horror flick for the twenty-first century. The result is one of the craziest, goriest and most viscerally enjoyable films of the last decade, and well worth the effort of tracking down.
The Ritual (2018)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Netflix, whatever its faults, has been producing some of the best mid-to-low budget films of the last few years. At a time when major studios are increasingly only interested in major tentpoles, completing gutting anything in the single or double millions-digit price range, the streaming platform is performing an invaluable service for moviegoers the world over, especially for fans of certain low-rung genres that simply can’t complete with the glossier world-building of its top-tier competition. And of their original offerings, The Ritual is easily one of their most exciting offerings yet: a classic, cabin-in-the-woods-esque screamer in league with the genre classics like The Evil Dead (1981).
I’m always shocked when it comes time for Halloween and even supposed horror fans prove quick to dismiss anything that doesn’t fall firmly and exclusively within the bounds of the genre. Funny as it might seem at first pass, there’s more to the horror genre than just horror films. There are so many amazing films that are horror-adjacent, flirting oh-so-carefully with the rather arbitrary lines between the different genres: movies that, depending on who you ask, are either absolutely terrifying or entirely besides the point. These are movies like The Silence of the Lambs (1991), sometimes called the fist horror movie to win best picture, or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009), whose omnipresent sexual violence is more viscerally horrifying than any actor in a rubber monster mask, or even Get Out (2017), which so many horror fans are bafflingly eager to throw out of the horror canon altogether. And, yes, Se7en, the Zodiac (2007)-esque thriller about a serial killer murdering his victims in keeping with the circles of Hell in Dante’s The Inferno, is perhaps chief among these.
The Shining (1980)
While I will never quite understand exactly why The Shining enjoys as many adulations as it does — it did, for instance, just get named the best horror movie of all time by the staff of IndieWire — even I can’t argue with it being a great movie. The movie features a stellar cast at the top of their game (led by the resplendent Jack Nicholson), one of the great auteurs of the twentieth century (also at the top of his game) and is aptly adapted from what is perhaps the most seminal novel by horror-meister Stephen King. It weaves heart-rending suspense into every frame and unnerves its audience is often invisible, though omnipresent, ways. And though I am more apt to recommend people to go out and watch the astonishing Misery (1990) or the underappreciated 1408 (2007), there is unquestionably a reason why generations of fans keep coming back to this slow-burn classic.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Things are finally looking up for director M. Night Shyamalan after an truly unprecedented stretch of terrible, nigh unwatchable movies. It’s been so long since we’ve seen so much as a good Shyamalan movie, it’s easy to forget exactly why the world fell for him in the first place. In his career-making masterwork, however, it all comes flooding back to you: even years after discovering the iconic twist at the heart of it. From the tightly-woven narrative to the insidiously shot scares to the top-of-their game cast (including Hereditary’s (2018) own Toni Collette), this is about as perfectly crafted a piece of cinema as exists, and watching it despite knowing the twist merely enhances all the ways in which its revelation is woven into the fabric of the film’s story.
Living in America, it’s tragically easy to forget all that the rest of the movie-making world has to offer. We’re used to every movie at least trying to be a mega-hit spectacular that we overlook all of the wonderful, whimsical, wickedly-crafted films to come out of oversea markets. And, to that end, few foreign film markets can even begin to compete with Japan, whose pedigree, even in just this genre, includes the indelible classics Kwaidan (1964), Onibaba (1964), Kuroneko (1968), Ringu (1998), Pulse (2001) and Ju-On: The Grudge (2002). Perhaps less well-known than even those often-overlooked films is Tag, an equally excellent horror outing that genuinely has to be seen to be believed.
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