And we’re back! After a long, twenty-one-or-so month summer, colleges are re-opening, students are loitering and lecturers are desperately scrambling for their seminar notes after hitting play on the same pre-recorded lecture for the guts of two years. Many of you are even back in student accommodation, squeezing up against one another in those tiny cube kitchens, swearing in horror at whoever didn’t wash their plate properly (and turning very quiet once you realise it was probably you).
But if you’re anything like us, the past little while has taken something of a toll on your social graces. Nights out are all well and good, but what about you’re sitting on a couch with three housemates who have spent the last twenty-one months doing the exact same thing you have? Well fear not, because we’ve composed the definitive list of what will get you the very best value for your house’s Netflix subscription. And because October is here, we thought we’d kick things off with a bit of a horror-theme, because there’s nothing like a shriek and a whimper to break the ice in front of your new peers.
Probably the most well-known flick on this list, The Conjuring is a pretty safe bet if you want to maintain that aura of coolness you worked so hard to cultivate over Freshers Week. Some good scares, but definitely a lighter affair than a lot of Netflix’s grislier options, made more for munching popcorn than breaking a sweat. Following the misadventures of paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga & Patrick Wilson), this is a fairly simple haunted house tale stuffed full of nauseating lightshows and terrifying creatures – unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably already familiar with Annabelle the demon doll, who has already gotten three spin-offs all to herself, with a fourth on the way. None are as good at this one, though.
Fear Factor: 3/5.
If you liked it, check out: Insidious and Dead Silence, both from the same director and both
stuffed to the brim with the same kinds of goofy monsters and roller-coaster thrills that make this one such a joy.
A writer, deaf and mute, lives alone in the forest while working away on her next novel. Problem is, she can’t figure out the ending. That is, until a man arrives at her doorstep in the middle of the night, quickly deducing her condition and deciding to terrorise, and then hunt her down for sport. This cat and mouse game sounds a lot worse on paper than it is in practice; the battle of wits between Maddie (Kate Siegel) and her pursuer (John Gallagher Jr) is one of numerous absurd twists and turns, including but not limited to flailing hammers, crunching bones and even a stray crossbow bolt or two. This gory, real-time tale should keep you all on the edge of your seats, tiptoeing the line between genuine terror and delirious thrills to make for the perfect group watch.
Fear Factor: 4/5.
If you liked it, check out: Gerald’s Game, Oculus and The Haunting of Hill House for some of the weirdest, yet effective, spins on the horror genre you’ll see this year.
Drag Me to Hell
Some of you might know Sam Raimi as the mind behind Evil Dead, the mother of all goofy, cabinin-the-woods slaughterhouse pictures. More of you still should know him for his work on those Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man movies twenty years ago (yeah, it really has been that long). Drag Me to Hell then, is a bit of a lesser-known underdog in his filmography. Just as gory and manic as Bruce Campbell’s chainsaw arm in Evil Dead, with the more… sophisticated camera of the Spidey films, this is the kind of horror that wants you to whoop and cheer at each new grisly reveal, never daring to take itself too seriously. Though terrifying in its practical prowess, this one is full of winks and nods that’ll keep you on this side of the couch throughout.
Fear Factor: 2/5.
If you liked it, check out: Ash vs Evil Dead, aka the one with the aforementioned chainsaw-hand guy, is streaming on Netflix now!
At this point in the list, you might be thinking to yourself that these flicks really aren’t so bad. Sure, there are jump scares and fake blood aplenty, but all-in-all if this is the worst that Netflix has to offer, then maybe you’re not as much of a scaredy-cat as you thought you were. To you blossoming masochists we say, this next one’s for you. Hereditary is a bleak, gruelling horror film about a fractured family whose home lives descend into spite and hatefulness in the wake of a shocking, life-changing turn of fate.
While there may be demons afoot, director Ari Aster (whose thesis short film, Keeping Up With The Johnsons is available for free on Vimeo and should give you a mere taste of what to expect), prefers to tap into the horror of a family wracked by guilt and nastiness, sustaining it for an agonising two hours of emotional blackmail and spiralling psyches. By the time the spooky ghosts do finally start to show up towards the film’s endgame, it’s almost a mercy.
Fear Factor: 5/5.
If you liked it, check out: Midsommar is Aster’s direct follow-up to this flick, an equally
distressing picture despite taking place all in the light of day. If you want some of his smaller bits, you can find all six of his grotesque short films here: https://www.ihorror.com/watch-ari-asters-7-short-films-while-we-wait-for-his-next-opus/.
The Blair Witch Project
Why not finish out with a classic? The Blair Witch Project is my favourite horror film, a deceptively simple ordeal – two cameras, three actors and a forest. Famously, the film was advertised as a documentary, even going so far as to feign the disappearance of its leads for the duration of a lengthy promotional run leading up to the premiere. More interestingly for me though, is the entirely improvised nature of the filming itself. Dropped into the middle of nowhere with a compass and a general direction, these three young actors are reacting blindly to the ghoulish traps set up by the filmmakers over their three day odyssey, creating a palpable sense of terror and fatigue you can never really match with scripted horror. If you ever wanted to know how you and your friends would fare being hunted through the woods by a murderous witch, look no further.
Fear Factor: 5/5.
If you liked it, check out: Netflix has a lot of films with a similar kind of ‘human against nature’ films like The Descent and Crawl, but we think it is more the found-footage freakiness of something like Sinister that captures exactly what makes Blair Witch so timelessly terrifying.