Happy Halloween: 10 Great Horror Movies Streaming on Netflix

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.

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 …

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!”

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 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?”

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).

Sex Changes Everything: “It Follows”

“IT FOLLOWS” IS A MOVIE ABOUT SEX, from the first itch to the last consequence and nearly everything in between. It’s not about affection. It’s about an animal urge that dominates the lives, in different ways, of young men and women — part Urban Legend, part Grimm Brothers — made manifest in a lumbering, inexhaustible and sexually transmitted ghoul.

It is wholly successful.

“It Follows” is so uncannily smart that it plays almost as a mistake, like outsider art — something found in Henry Darger’s closet. The strokes are broad, the dialog infrequent and the plot, such as it is, intractable. For writer/director David Robert Mitchell, there is no elegant or clever way out, which is precisely the point.

Set in the first-ring suburbs of Detroit — the city’s decay follows these kids, too — “It Follows” plays an interesting game with time and place. It trades in the horror tropes of the 1980s, setting the tone with a general set piece that recalls both “Sixteen Candles” and “Re-Animator,” and the characters talk on land lines and drive American station wagons. We know the setting is contemporary only because the group brainiac is reading Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” on a mobile device.

This anachronistic lens allows Mitchell to subvert the old slasher-film trope — sex will kill you — to great effect, mostly by sucking the life out of his protagonists before the credits roll. Once the acme of recalcitrance, sex here is inevitable and joyless. In “Black Christmas” (1974) or “Friday the 13th” (1980), it wasn’t the sex that killed you, it was a society bent on squashing your buzz. The menace in “It Follows” is less contextual, and therefore more real. It’s not sex but the wheels it sets in motion — the way it changes everything and nothing.

After the quietly crushing Peter tests a cure by having sex with his first love, Jay, he asks, “Do you feel different?”

“No,” she says. “Me, neither,” he answers.

Jay, Peter and their friends are not rebels; they’re an aimless bunch killing time with TV and community college before … whatever. Heroine Jay is introduced lazing in her above-ground pool in Livonia, enjoying her first fall out of high school, the graduate with a vaguely unhappy past and, we soon learn, a future that will … not … stop … chasing … her.

For whom does this ghoul work? How exactly is it unleashed? These questions go unanswered. In fact, after a half dozen couplings, it becomes less and less clear for whom the menace lurks. The final frame, a bittersweet snapshot of another bad relationship and the danger that awaits, is the only explanation needed.