By now, at least, it should be obvious that there’s more to Netflix’s horror canon than a few straggling leftovers that somehow weren’t cut during the previous month’s culling of content. They have heavy-hitters and child-friendly options alike. They have everything from the outright horrific to the merely horror-adjacent to movies that aren’t even horror so much as just Halloween-themed. It’s not a perfect list, to be sure, but there’s plenty to choose from regardless of what your investment is in the genre, and there’s even more to sort through on the streaming service.
Hell and Back (2015)
Yet another installment of horror-related but not outright horrific, Hell and Back is a little seen, gut-bustingly funny movie that’s perfect for moviegoers who are fans of Halloween more than they are of the horror genre itself. It follows a bunch of shlubby carnies whose attempts to save their employer from going under winds up trapping them in Hell itself. More of the setting of an R-rated workplace comedy than a realm of endless torment for the wicked, the film is a biting comedy of manners that dredges up some great material from its macabre subjects, with enough gruesomely animated imagery and off-color humor to satisfy anybody you might be watching it with.
When you look back on the trajectory that Netflix’s lineup of original and first-run content has taken over the years, it’s really amazing to see the kinds of films and TV series that we’ve gotten through them. And as their library keeps expanding with more and more original content, it’s just about inevitable that some of it would get lost in the shuffle: none more so than premiere horror director Mike Flanagan’s Hush – a cabin-in-the-woods horror film about a modern-day slasher tormenting a deaf-mute with no hope of calling for help. It’s such an insidiously perfect setup for a horror movie that it’s genuinely a wonder that nobody made it before, and a genuine tragedy that so few people have seen it now that it has. And in this renaissance of the genre that we’ve been experiencing over the last decade, this really is one of the best and most underrated movies to come out in a long time.
Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)
Despite the ways in which it has been pigeonholed since the advent of film, horror is a shockingly flexible genre: capable of easily blending with everything from action (The Terminator) to comedy (What We Do In the Shadows) to drama (Hereditary) and even to musicals (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street). Horror is perfect for a harder-edged context for these other, more traditional stories. And in Anne Rice’s moving masterwork, it does so again – giving us a powerful, mostly period piece character drama out of vampires’ nightly quest for sustenance. Between its surprisingly stellar cast to its shocking dramatic heft, Interview with the Vampire is pretty much ground zero for modern vampire films (or, rather, for ones without glittery daywalkers).
It Follows (2014)
I’ve mentioned before how there’s been a resurgence of horror movies lately, but it’s even more than that. There has been a tidal wave of art-house feminist horror movies: films inherently about sex and sexuality, about witches and witchcraft and about the female perspective of 21st century living. It Follows might not be the Ur- example of this per se, but it is one of the most visibly successful of the lot of them: spinning an unnervingly prescient narrative about the lingering effects of sexual assault and trauma into an otherwise innocuous story about a slow-going, relentless, supernatural killer. Its presence on the horror scene marked a new direction for the genre, one which persists even today.
In the world of 21st century horror, no studio has cracked the formula for what makes a great horror movie more than Blumhouse Productions. Between The Purge (2013) and its various sequels, the latter Paranormal Activity movies, Sinister (2012), Get Out (2017), Upgrade (2018), Split (2017) and the like, there’s been no other outfit that’s been as consistently excellent as the house that Blum built. But of their rapidly expanding empire of horror franchises, the one that immediately jumps out as being simultaneously excellent and under-appreciated is Oculus: a temporally twisting tale about an evil mirror and its continual torment of a pair of siblings whose young lives it ruined years ago. But now brother and sister are united once more, with the mirror in tow, and their one mission in all of this is to put it down once and for all.
One of the remarkable moments in recent horror history has been the emergence of the New French Extremity: a genre movement that came out of France at the turn of the century and betrayed a cultural ferment left unaddressed in that country since the end of the Second World War. It is noted for such gory, hyper-violent films as High Tension (2003), Frontier(s) (2007) and Martyrs (2008) and for the grotesque stands it takes against modern Franco society. Although certainly a latter-day entry into this trend (most sources content that the movement died out around 2010), it represents a fascinating continuation of the unrest brought to light by these films: one that hardcore fans of the genre will certainly be clamoring for come Halloween.