If it’s a dark and stormy night, or you simply don’t want to drag yourself out of the house, you can still make the most of the situation. Grab some popcorn, settle into your couch, grab a viewing buddy, maybe mix yourself a drink, and get ready to get creepy.
Of course, horror movies are not a one-scare-fits-all affair. Even casual fans of the genre have strong opinions about what constitutes a “good horror film,” especially in the sea of dreck that Netflix can often be. The bottom line: that sweet spot is very subjective. Fear not, though: a couple of easy questions can point you in the right direction.
If you like: masked motiveless killers, old-school influences, a solid 60/40 ratio of psychological horror to gore
And you’ve watched: “Wait Until Dark,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Oculus”
You should see: “Hush.” This 2016 film comes from Mike Flanagan – same guy who directed 2013’s “Oculus,” otherwise known as the reason I haven’t looked in a mirror in the dark for three years. It stars Kate Siegel (who cowrote the script) as Maddie Young, a reclusive deaf writer whose refuge becomes her prison when Leatherface’s lankier younger cousin comes to call. He starts with killing her friend and texting Maddie images of herself. The two proceed to play a terrifying game of cat and mouse. There’s the usual plot holes you could pilot a small spacecraft through – who is this guy? Why doesn’t Maddie instantly teletype 911 when a stranger begins sending her the sort of text messages that generally indicate someone is about to try to wear her skin for a coat? Still, the pacing’s well-done and the film does an excellent job of building tension throughout.
If you like: creepy clans, cults, and gore galore
And you’ve watched: “Hellraiser,” “The Devil’s Rejects,” “The Woman”
You should see: “We Are What We Are,” a 2013 release directed by Jim Mickle. Itself a very loose remake of a 2010 Mexican film, “Somos lo que hay,” it stars Bill Sage as Frank Parker, the stern patriarch of an isolated fundamentalist family in a small town, and Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner as the daughters who love and fear him. Frank’s what you’d call an advocate for traditional family values – especially since his wife died. Unfortunately for everyone in the general vicinity, the family Parker’s particular values involve ritual cannibalism, because of course they do. Watching this apex dysfunctional family war with itself is an exercise in sitting on the very edge of your seat. Watch before family reunions for optimal dosage of “well, it could be worse!”
If you like: monster movies, tight plots, and incredible acting
And you’ve watched: “Thirst,” “Monsters,” “Cloverfield”
You should see: “The Host,” the 2006 film from director Bong Joon-Ho, who also brought to life the masterpieces “Memories of Murder” (2003) and “Snowpiercer” (2013). This South Korean release was brought to the US in 2007, and while it’s enjoyed periodic publicity and critical acclaim here, it’s never received quite the recognition it deserves. Song Kang-ho stars as Park Gang-du, alongside Bae Doona as his sister Nam-joo, a renowned archer; and Park Hae-il, who plays their brother Nam-il, a washed-up political activist. Their somewhat troubled family life is shattered one day when a monster rises from the depths of the Han River to wreak havoc. While the monster delivers plenty of chills, the core of the film is the main trio’s efforts to keep Gang-du’s daughter Hun-seo (Go Ah-sung) safe. This isn’t an easy task, as the government has descended upon the surrounding area, and the monster appears to be host to a horrific virus that the entire Park family has contracted. Some folks aren’t fond of subtitles, but by the 20 minute mark, you’ll forget you’re reading.