It seemed kinda fun to kick off my first list for everybody’s spookiest holiday by focusing my sights on Netflix. That streaming platform has changed the game in so many ways and seems to be, at all times, a nice haven for interesting, unique, and really bad horror movies. What better way to make Halloween night that much more personal than to settle in with the the streaming service that just keeps giving.
The 10 films on this aforementioned list are a nice hodge-podge of new classics, well worn campy tales, and sequels that you might have missed because you frankly had no idea that they ever existed. That’s kinda the nature of horror movies. The first one hits big and the sequels follow whether we know it or not. Where else can you find a film like The Conjuring nestled right next to The Babadook? Those films both take place in a haunted house, yet, they are scary for two completely different reasons.
This is what makes horror movies such a great playground to be in. They cross genres, they literally have no rules, and what is deemed awful in one decade can be deemed an unmitigated success the next. So, by the very nature of what horror movies are their content is always evergreen. Horror movies are always one step away from escaping obscurity and being the next big thing.
All of which brings us back to this list. As I mentioned, it is a hodge-podge of various directing styles and interpretations of what is scary. What might work for one viewer might not work at all for another. The trick is to use a list like this to find things that you like and then allow your inner horror freak to take over from there.
1 The Conjuring
The Conjuring is arguably the best horror movie in recent years. While it isn’t The Exorcist it is good enough to be in that swimming pool. This tale of paranormal doctors Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) and their attempts to rid a family of the evil that haunts their home is very scary. With a solid supporting cast that includes Lili Taylor and Hayley McFarland, this movie is pretty much scary from the opening frame. With a slow build that really shows humanities utter nakedness in the face of paranormal happenings, The Conjuring is a truly creepy viewing experience. When The Exorcist came out it stunned and shocked audiences. A big reason for this was people had no idea if Director William Friedkin was going to be able to pull off what was described in William Peter Blatty’s terrifying book. The Conjuring had the internet (the ultimate spoiler machine) to compete with and this film still managed to surprise and shock viewers. Whether you like your Netflix movies warm and fuzzy or downright bone chilling, The Conjuring somehow reminds us that horror movies can be both.
This Netflix offering about seance that goes horribly wrong (and lets be honest, do any seance’s ever go right in these films?) was a nice surprise. So many times you see the artwork for a title and it seems like you know exactly what the movie is about. Not so with with Veronica which, set in the 1990s, shows us what happens when some teens tempt fate with the supernatural. Suddenly, an entity of nefarious proportions shows up to really turn things on their ear and our young leads have to literally move heaven and earth to get them back to normal. Veronica is both scary and grounded in reality. Setting it in the past was a great way to draw us in. As viewers we are disarmed. Slowly, Veronica starts working on us and, before we know it, the film has completely brought us into its scary web. Initially, this film caught my attention when somebody told me that it was so scary it was akin to watching the VHS tape from The Ring. Veronica may not be that scary but for Halloween it will certain get some eyes covered and spines tingling.
The set-up of Hush seems both odd and ripe for all the tropes of the horror genre. A writer who can’t hear decides to live in the woods. They want to be alone without pesky people bothering them all the time. It almost seems the main character of this film is begging to be bothered by the worst humans imaginable. However, where Hush turns things around is employing the use of the classic masked killer. This might seem like a dry heave as many horror moves have utilized this. The Friday the 13th franchise has made a pretty penny simply by using this idea to death. Why? Because being able to see a killer but not being able to see who the killer is will always be tantalizing. This is further highlighted by the fact that we also want to see who the perpetrator is underneath the mask. Using the motif of a character who is deaf with the classic ideas in a horror movie was done to great effect in A Quiet Place. In Hush, this idea is also used and it makes for a quite a few anxious moments. Not sure how Netflix does it but they sure seem to get to the heart of why people love being scared on Halloween.
4 The Babadook
I have written about The Babadook before. I loved this movie and I think it is one of the most original and interesting Halloween movies of the past 20 years. It follows a mother who is distant from her young son. The father is gone, the victim of a car crash, so the two of them are making their way together. It seems like all they do is spend time in their home. Alone. Cabin fever appears to be setting in and this is compounded when the young boy becomes convinced that there is a very evil monster in their midst. What might sound like a garden variety horror film is anything but as The Babadook soon presents itself as a living breathing organism. This film is so well done and so original that I don’t think its a stretch to call it a modern classic. As I have said, Netflix presents a lot of different kinds of movies. Not all of them make the grade. At the same time there are those that score off the charts. The Babadook is certainly one of those films. Rich with ideas and a lively directorial style, The Babadook is a slow burn of the best kind. We know the mother and son love each other. At the same time what are their motives? How will being alone in this house effect them? It is all of these questions (and how they are answered) that makes The Babadook so well done.
5 The Boy
In horror movies there are very few things that are creepier than a doll. Even more creepier is when that doll comes to life. Even creepier than that? When human beings treat the doll as real even though it is presented as inanimate. In a nutshell that is the story of The Boy. This scare-tastic offering from Netflix really does a great job providing just the right about of scares for your Halloween experience. Set in the proper home of an English family, an American nanny discovers very quickly that her job assignment is anything but ordinary. She is being tasked with taking care of a doll. Most people would probably bail the scene at this point. As this is a horror movie our nanny can’t just leave. She’s got to stick around and try and figure out just what in the world is happening. The nanny has a set of rules to follow as she cares for the doll. She violates them and suddenly comes think that maybe the doll isn’t a doll after all. If you like creepy movies that keep you guessing all the way, you need look no further than The Boy. It’s got tension, thrills, chills and is so well crafted, it’s hard not to get sucked into this neo-gothic tale.