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).

North American Pie: “A Fan’s Notes”

AFansNotesGRIPING ABOUT HOLLYWOOD’S TREATMENT of one’s favorite book has been unbecoming for many years. Even now, I can still recall an older relative criticizing, upon film’s release, Francis Ford Coppola’s version of “The Godfather,” of which I knew nothing, with the trenchant observation, “They went from the wedding straight to the dirty stuff.” Even at age 6, I got the sense she was full of shit.

I have never read Mario Puzo’s book — sold as a film even before completion — but have by now read many books that later were made into the movies and have found watching each one a fascinating experience, from “All the King’s Men” (twice!) to “L.A. Confidential.” Yet never had I made a real effort to find and watch “A Fan’s Notes.”

This is partly because it just didn’t seem available, especially after I initially fell thrall to Fred Exley’s “fictional memoir” as a confused undergraduate in the 1980s, when VHS was still battling Beta. It also was due in part to the fact that “A Fan’s Notes” was more an internal monologue than a story, the prototypical unfilmable novel, and a third reading finally revealed that the book’s episodic attempts at fiction — a brief marriage and the escapades with the enigmatic Mr. Blue — were clumsy, the very problem that torpedoed Exley’s other two not-very-good books.

In short, I knew it wouldn’t be any good; and furthermore suspected I wouldn’t enjoy watching it be not very good.

Yet I now have watched the 1972 film adaptation of “A Fan’s Notes” twice since finding it streaming on the Warner Archive Roku channel (and online at instant.warnerarchive.com). It is, as they say in the Maltin guide, a real curio — an unambitious attempt to mine the depths of an ambitious book; an episodic attempt to catch the ironic iconoclasm of the literary zeitgeist a la “Little Big Man” or “Catch-22.” Perhaps the fatal flaw of “A Fan’s Notes” is to use the book’s final image, of Exley jogging on a two-lane, doggedly getting back in shape for the fight of his life, as a whimsical wraparound. Here, Exley has decided to sit in the middle of the road and tell his story to a biker. It’s really awful.

“A Fan’s Notes” is not a failure because it fails to capture Exley’s lugubrious rage. It occasionally does. The problem is, in the movie, the rage comes from nowhere. Exley’s depression came from a real place: a visceral aversion to the American lie that left him hospitalized in a state of social inertia. The movie spends next to no time establishing the source of this horror. A brief interlude at Bunny Sue’s childhood home is left to suffice, and is the one point at which the movie starts to make dramatic sense.

But Bunny Sue’s parents, the ne plus ultra of U.S. consumerist vacuity, live in a split-level that appears to be at the edge of the Yukon rather than the suburban satellite of an American metropolis feasting on children’s dreams and angels’ tears. “A Fan’s Notes,” a very American book, has become a very North American movie. It reminds one, in fact, of “Barney’s Version,” the Paul Giamatti film of what appears to be the Canadian “Fan’s Notes,” a closely guarded you-have-to-read-this book about a self-absorbed, autodidact alcoholic fuck-up. That is a better movie by far, but I admit to not having read the book.

Jerry Orbach is miscast but isn’t bad; he in fact becomes Movie Exley. But, again, Movie Exley is more a wise-ass know-it-all than a man crushed by dreams and expectations. Fred Exley wanted to fit in and couldn’t; one never gets the sense that Movie Exley ever really tried. A game Burgess Meredith injects some vigor into the proceedings in a few scenes as Mr. Blue, but it doesn’t fit. And while the fantasy scenes that attempt to get into the protagonist’s head quote some good prose from Book Exley, they are nonetheless ham-fisted. Only the moments between Exley and his wife, Patience — played with tragic stoicism by Patricia Collins — have any real tenderness.

Those with a Roku can get Warner Archive free for a month, and cancel before being billed, though it has some good hard-to-find-streaming stuff for $10 a month. I also found, as I prepared to write this, “A Fan’s Notes” in its entirety on YouTube, and this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKqwrMkfAB8