I grew up watching both good (Alien) and bad (Mausoleum, anybody?) horror movies. And reading horror novels – King, Koontz, McCammon, Barker – the big dawgs. As I’ve matured (Ahem…I really have….matured. I swear), I am still as picky as I was in my youth. I can’t handle torture-porn slasher movies, but I do like to be scared shitless for weeks after seeing a well-done frightmare (Insidious I’m thanking you…but not your sequel).
Why do I watch horror movies? They’re better than caffeine if you need to stay wide awake all night because you’re writing a novel or trying to finish some bookkeeping projects.
And also, because horror done right – whether it’s a gothic ghost story or a full-on terrorfest – sure is cathartic. I like my horror best served with side dishes of humor, smart n’ feisty heroines, jump-scares and twisty plots.
Here’s a list of the top scary movies I’ve seen in the past year, all streaming on Netflix. If you don’t have Netflix you can usually watch on Amazon Instant pretty cheap – just click the pics.
Housebound The reason I wrote this blog post. Never have I laughed out loud so hard and been so wigged out at the same time. Best line: “You can’t punch ectoplasm in the face!” Thank you, New Zealand!
Tucker and Dale vs Evil Outrageous.
Hellraiser This one was a rewatch – because of course I saw it immediately when it came out in the 80’s. Still great, still gross.
Pontypool Here’s a prime example of indie budget horror that hits all the right crazy buttons – a virus that transforms people into imploding gibberish-talkers, and it’s transmitted by human speech. Where else should a spectacle like that unfold, but at a small Canadian radio station in the dead of winter?
The Machine I’m putting this in the horror bucket because even though it’s sci fi, the mood and tension had me bouncing off the walls. Caity Lotz deserves more leading roles.
Banshee Chapter I was totally surprised by how much I liked this X-Filesy extra-dimensional beings paranoia-fest. And I was completely freaked out. The washed-up guru character played by Ted Levine is worth the whole movie.
Oculus Absolutely riveting ghost-busty first half, with smart, obsessive Karen Gillan getting ready to avenge her dead parents and defeat a malevolent mirror. The second half descended into predictability, but watch it anyway.
Absentia Another low budget indie horror film that deserves to be seen. A pedestrian tunnel in a suburban neighborhood becomes a portal for doom. Unsettling and almost too real for comfort; highly original.
Grabbers As I said, I like a splash of humor in my horror. What could be better than a bar full of drunk Irish fighting off tentacly sea monsters? F’ing brilliant. And Richard Coyle. Yes, please.
The House at the End of Time One of the best supernatural thrillers I’ve seen. This Venezuelan ghost story does everything right, taking what seems like a conventional haunted house tale and recrafting it into a spooky mystery that’s also a poignant family drama with a twist ending and a tribute to motherhood.
The Innkeepers/The House of the Devil People either love filmmaker Ti West or ignore him. He’s never let me down. Ti one on and enjoy a double feature.
The Returned I’m referring here to the film, not the also-excellent French television series. Here’s a classic example of how a “zombie” movie both utilizes and transcends tropes to come up with a suspenseful and meaningful story. Also – it stars everyone’s favorite werewolf (or at least, mine) from Lost Girl, Kris Holden-Ried. AND Shawn Doyle. What!? I know. 2 fer 1.
Spooky Trees Photo from Unsplash