THE BABADOOK (2014)
A single, working mother finds that her inner rage has manifested into a demon haunting the duplex where she lives with her autistic son. The first movie to genuinely deal with the challenges of raising a special-needs child comes from Australia and, no surprise, a woman — writer-director Jennifer Kent. Bonus points for casting SNOWTOWN MURDERS psychopath Daniel Henshall as a good guy.
V/H/S 2 (2013)
It’s somewhat difficult to recommend another found-footage horror movie, but this actually has more in common with the Amicus portmanteau movies than, say, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. More important, its third story, “Safe Haven,” is an all-timer — a no-holds-barred freakout homage to CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST that is 10 times better. Otherwise, it’s strong from start to finish, with a terrific wrap-around device.
THE AWAKENING (2011)
Beguiling period ghost story stars Rebecca Hall as a psychic researcher in post-World War I England who spends most of her time debunking predatory mediums. She gets more than she bargained for when veteran Dominic West asks her to investigate claims of an adolescent spirit haunting his impossibly English public school. If you’re inclined to like this kind of thing, you’ll love it.
Thirty years later, there still is nothing like the sight of lecherous professor David Gale undaunted by his own decapitation, a glorious hard-R moment that remains unrivaled in all of cinema and made the courageous Barbara Crampton a horror hero.
This black, bloody take on the Wendigo legend seems ripe for rediscovery, but it’s been streaming on Netflix for a while now and remains wholly obscure. It’s difficult to click on the military western cannibal movie when GHOSTBUSTERS II is available. But if that sounds intriguing, do yourself a favor …
THE OTHERS (2001)
By now, you can probably guess the ending. But it’s clever and it’s scary.
THE OMEN (1976)
OK, this is not a great movie. It might not even be a good one. But damn it, it works — mostly because Richard Donner can stage a death scene maybe better than any other director. David Warner’s demise is the notorious one, but the rooftop hanging that sets this EXORCIST ripoff in motion is timeless. “It’s all for you, Damien!”
HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1986)
Midway through the movie, Henry comes back to the apartment to find his buddy, Ottis, has fallen asleep on the couch while watching their home movies. It’s not subtle, but it’s effective. Yes, it’s hard to watch.
THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009)
The setting is the early 1980s, and the art direction is spot on, but this has much more in common with slow-burn horror movies from the ’70s like LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH (1971). Director Ti West (2011’s THE INNKEEPERS) understands atmosphere, and the effectiveness of a good, random burst of terror. “You’re not the babysitter?”
ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968)
Unfortunately, Netflix stopped streaming THE EXORCIST (1973) just it time for Halloween. But we’re fortunate to have this available, and if you haven’t already seen it, it’s about time you did.
Also receiving votes: Jugface (2013), Devil (2010), The Relic (1997), Scream (1997), Hellraiser (1987), Let the Right One In (2008), The Hole (2009), The Prophecy (1995).