Each week within this column we strive to pair the latest in theatrical releases to worthwhile titles currently available on Netflix Instant Watch.
This week in honor of the release of Paranormal Activity 3 and in anticipation for Halloween, we’re dedicating the entire column to all things horror. Whatever your preferred Halloween watching — be it satanic scares, ghoulish ghosts, creature features or humorous horror — we’ve got you covered with the spookiest movies streaming online.
Is it spawns of Satan that scare you most? Then pregame for Paranormal Activity 3, by taking in the prequel’s sister flicks…or visiting with another little brunette girl plagued by dark forces.
Paranormal Activity (2007) Shortly after moving in together, Katie and Micah begin to experience strange late night phenomenon. Initially amused, Micah decides to set up a camera to record the paranormal activity, never realizing he’ll shoot his own demise. This groundbreaking found footage feature scored an Independent Spirit Award nod for first-time director Oren Peli, and terrorized audiences worldwide. For bonus fun, be sure to Google the flick’s alternate endings!
Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) Taking place just days before Paranormal Activity, this prequel centers on Katie’s sister Kristi. After bringing her new baby boy home from the hospital, her step daughter begins to notice strange and scary things happening around their security camera-studded home. Before long no one feels safe. To save her family from this ferocious force, Kristi makes a ghastly decision that seals their fates.
The Exorcist (1973) The demon-centered horror film that spawned thousands of imitators and millions of nightmares is said to be based on true events. Linda Blair stars as a little girl who transforms into a yowling, cursing, and crucifix-defiling hellion that must be battled by a grim priest (Jason Miller) on the precipice of losing his faith in God. Ellen Burstyn and Max von Sydow co-star.
If it’s tales of the vengeful dead that most haunt you, make a double-feature out of these moody ghost stories.
The Others (2001) Alejandro Amenábar’s BAFTA-nominated gothic thriller stars Nicole Kidman as a high-strung mother, pushed to breaking point raising her two frail children alone as she waits for her husband to return from the front lines. But when a persistent yet elusive threat begins to haunt her home, she summons all her strength to protect her poor children. This one’s great for those who like scares, but can’t handle gore.
The Ward (2011) Want more gore? Try John Carpenter’s first directorial effort in nearly a decade. Set in an asylum dedicated to a very special but troubled group of girls, this horror flick is packed with gruesome murder sequences and pretty ingenues. After burning down a farmhouse with no idea why, Kristen (Amber Heard) is sent to join them. She soon discovers the doctors and nurses are dedicated and compassionate, but there is something wrathful and ugly lurking the halls of the ward. And it won’t be satisfied until each of the girls is dead. Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Laura-Leigh and Lyndsy Fonseca co-star.
Prefer petrifying tales of the walking dead? Then check out these titles whose monsters are as putrid as they are unstoppable.
Night of the Living Dead (1968) Perhaps the most iconic zombie movie ever made, George A. Romero’s horror classic follows a motley group of survivors, forced to ban together to fight off the flesh-eating hordes of zombies that descend upon the isolated farm house that is their makeshift sanctuary. Romero’s unsettling gore still packs a punch, even in black and white.
The Walking Dead (2010) Andrew Lincoln stars as wily sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes in Frank Darapont’s Emmy-nominated zombie-centered drama series. Awakened from a coma, Grimes discovers the world around him has devolved, and becomes a reluctant leader to a small band of humans who have (so far) survived the carnage of zombie takeover.
Like your undead with a bit more bite? Then screen these gritty tales of vampires to get your blood pumping!
Let the Right One In (2008) While Twilight adorned their tale of teen love with glitter-covered vampires, this critically heralded horror feature from Sweden centered its tale of first love and bloodlust on a bullied tow-headed boy and the androgynous and dangerous object of his affection. Lina Leandersson is alluring yet menacing as lonely creature of the night in this gory yet poignant bit of horror. But if you can’t stand subtitles, you can screen Matt Reeves’ English-language remake Let Me In, which stars Chloe Grace Moretz and is also streaming.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997) All seven seasons of Joss Whedon’s cult-adored fantasy series are now streaming, but for Buffy’s most frightful adventures, we suggest, “Killed by Death” (season 2, episode 18), “I Only Have Eyes For You” (season 2, episode 19) “The Wish” (season 3, episode 9), “Fear Itself” (season 4, episode 4) and especially “Hush,” (season 4, episode 10), which centers on scream-stealing creatures from the darkest of fairy stories.
If your horror yearnings are more animalistic, these lycanthrope features will leave you howling.
An American Werewolf in London (1981) David Naughton stars as an American tourist whose vacation (and body) is marred by a vicious wolf attack. But just as he seems to be on the mend, David discovers he’s contracted the cruel werewolf curse. Now by day he is relentlessly hounded by the rotting remains of his backpacking buddy (Griffin Dunne) and by night transforms into a mayhem-seeking monster. As a John Landis film, there’s some laughs to be had, but this horror classic is best-remembered for the nightmare-inducing transformation sequence that was so impressive it inspired the Academy Awards to create a new category to honor it: Outstanding Achievement in Makeup.
The Wolf Man (1941) In the first heyday of horror movies, Lon Chaney Jr. terrorized audiences in the hairy saga. Larry is a sensible and practical modern man. So when a gypsy warns him that a wolf bite has rendered him a merciless lycanthrope, he refuses to believe such an archaic superstition. But as the evidence begins to mount, he must confront the horrible truth or else put his own loved ones at risk! Fellow classic horror icon Bela Lugosi co-stars.
Craving more creature features? Try these 1980s flicks that include some truly disturbing uses of puppetry.
The Thing (1982) With its prequel now in theaters, we suggest you revisit John Carpenter’s shiver-inducing remake of The Thing from Another World. The inhabitants of an isolated Antarctic research center are forced to fight for their lives and identities when a shape-shifting extraterrestrial invades their ranks. Carpenter memorably blends sci-fi and horror in this deeply creepy tale.
Ghoulies (1985) After Gremlins cleared the way for PG-13 horror, many imitators rushed to theaters and video stores, including this campy bit of terror that centers on a pack of – well – ghoulies of varying forms who torment a group of smug revelers that recklessly dabbled in black magic. While the characters in the film are adults, it was kids who were most traumatized by this flick and it’s ad campaign, that featured a sharp-toothed goblin surfacing from a toilet!
In this frightening features, it’s not children who are terrified, but are terrifying! Adults are powerless in the face of their chubby cheeks and bottomless evil!
The Bad Seed (1956) Patty McCormack stars as Rhoda Penmark, a picture perfect little girl with a darling dress and bouncing braids who may well be the most evil, non-possessed film kid of all-time. This old school horror feature still packs a punch with gut-wrenching performances by McCormack, Nancy Kelly, and Eileen Heckart. (Notably, each earned Oscar nods.) It’s a film so spine-tingling that it’s original ending (from the play and book on which it is based) was deemed too frightening for audiences. Even with the change, Rhoda is hard to shake.
The Last Exorcism (2010) This found footage indie toys with the exorcism genre to craft the chilling story of Rev. Cotton Marcus’s (Patrick Fabian) final house call. Marcus insists that all his past successes over Satan where just smoke and mirrors and that possession is a mental disorder only. But when he and his film crew try to prove his hypothesis with the case of Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), the unexplainable begins to stack up, drawing Marcus into a bloody final showdown. It’s worth noting that Bell’s quickfire transformation from shy farm girl to neck-cracking demon child was so captivating that it earned her an Independent Spirit Award nod for Best Supporting Female.
Want something unrepentantly ghoulish and grisly? Try these terrifying features that offer kills are as gory as they are disturbing.
I Saw the Devil (2010) Jee-woon Kim’s gripping revenge thriller pulls influence from the most gruesome of horror inspirations, crafting an epic that is cringe-inducing and thought-provoking. Byung-hun Lee stars as a secret agent who uses all his skills to track down the man who brutally mutilated and murdered his fiancée. What follows is one of the most harrowing cat and mouse games ever. Min-sik Choi co-stars. (Read my full review here.)
The Human Centipede: First Sequence (2009) Tom Six’s torture porn tale centers on a pair of American tourists who become the unwilling test subjects of a demented doctor while traveling abroad. As you may remember from the memes it inspires, Dr. Heiter’s ambition is to create a so-called human centipede by stitching three people together ass to mouth. Fair warning: the version now streaming is Unrated.
For something a bit lighter, check out these titles that dovetail comedy and killers with a sickle sharp wit.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2007) In this underseen slasher, Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) is a serial killer on the brink of breaking through. He dreams of being the most infamous slasher of all-time, surpassing his idols Jason Voorhees, Michael Meyers and Freddy Kruegger. Lucky for documentary director Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals), Vernon is not shy to discuss his plans and training ritual. She and her crew gamely follow Vernon as he stalks his ideal victim and plans for an impending slaughter, but as the big day approaches, Gentry begins to have second thoughts…that might get her killed. Take it from me – if you’re a fan of the genre, you need to see Leslie.
Dead Like Me (2003) Before Bryan Fuller was Pushing Daisies, he created another death-obsessed comedy. Dead Like Me follows the exploits of Georgia Lass, a college dropout who is willfully wasting her life right up until it ends abruptly in a freak accident. But just when it seems it’s all over for her, Georgia is recruited to work as a Grim Reaper, ushering people from their lives to whatever it is that awaits beyond. Originally called My So-Called Afterlife, this biting comedy follows Georgia’s odd yet sweet tale of self-discovery. (Note: The scariest episode is by far the Halloween-themed series finale, but it’s best enjoyed as a topper to the series. And fair warning, avoid the disappointingly lifeless post-cancellation wrap-up movie Life After Death. It’s truly grim.)
If you like your horror-comedy with a bit more camp, try these cult classics.
The Wasp Woman (1959) In this Roger Corman feature, an aging woman’s quest for eternal youth inspires her to take an untested age-reversing serum. But as this toxic concoction’s prime ingredient is the royal jelly enzymes of a queen wasp, she slowly but surely begins to transform into a murder-hungry hybrid of woman and wasp!
The Evil Dead (1981) Bruce Campbell stars in Sam Raimi’s cult classic as Ash, a big-chinned young man forced to fend off his friends when an evil that resides deep in the forest turns them into THE EVIL DEAD! Packed with gross-out gore and giddy humor, the flick that launched Raimi and made Campbell a B-movie legend never fails to provide wicked fun.
The 1980s was a gloriously ghoulish time for horror, and these frightening features pay homage while offering something freshly terrifying.
The House of the Devil (2009) Writer/director Ti West drew from ’80s satanic panic and slasher flicks to craft this taut and slow-burning horror feature. Jocelin Donahue stars a college student so in need of cash that she agrees to a babysitting job that involves no baby…just a big mysterious house. Greta Gerwig and Tom Noonan co-star.
Trick ‘r Treat (2008) Perhaps my favorite Halloween movie, Mike Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat features four frightful stories that illuminate the dangers of breaking the rules on Halloween. Offering appearances from Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker and some of the cast of Dead Like Me, this anthology horror feature boasts a little bit of all of the above to create something spooky yet sweet. Robbed of a theatrical release, this devilishly fun flick has earned a fervent following since its debut on DVD. Check it out here, or on FearNet’s all-day marathon.
Is there a [Now Streaming] killer horror flick we missed? Share in comments!
Since any New York cinephile has a nearly suffocating wealth of theatrical options, we figured it’d be best to compile some of the more worthwhile repertory showings into one handy list. Displayed below are a few of the city’s most reliable theaters and links to screenings of their weekend offerings — films you’re not likely […]
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