Halloween is upon us. Satisfy your taste for the weird, curious, disturbing and life-scarring with these eight independent horror films available to stream.
“The Babadook” (2014)
In this nerve-ratcheting haunted house tale by way of Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion,” Essie Davis gives a breakthrough performance as a woman struggling to cope with– and even love — her disturbed six-year-old son. What begins as a gloomy mother-son drama with etchings of “We Need to Talk About Kevin” goes horrifically bat-shit after he opens a creepy children’s book portending doom and bloodshed for both of them. The film’s classic haunted-house premise is scary, but the bone-chiller is its believable depiction of a broken woman slowly going insane. The film scooped up prizes at Fantastic Fest in September and hits DirecTV on demand Friday, October 31 before hitting theaters November 28.
“A Field in England” (2013)
Ben Wheatley‘s “A Field in England” is the trippiest historical horror film this side of “The Devils.” Before the film unspools into a stroboscopic acid trip, we’re thrusted into the skirmishes of a rogue brood of soldiers in the 17th century English countryside who, across enemy lines, decide to bury the hatchet for the common goal of finding a pub. While schlepping through the marshes, they encounter much more than that — including a patch of psychotropic mushrooms, whose side effects seem to take over the entire film. It’s freakier than any of-the-mill horror movie.
“Don’t Look Now” (1973)
While the twitchy jump cuts and LSD-tinged montages are dated,Nicolas Roeg‘s elegant chiller about a grieving couple adrift in Venice remains one of the most artful and moving films of the genre. Because its searing portrayal of loss cuts deeper than any slasher or ghost movie, it feels wrong to call “Don’t Look Now” a horror film. But it slow-boils with vivid color, atmosphere and a prickly sense of dread as Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland lose themselves amid the winding Italian streets. There’s that infamous, tender and startling sex scene with lots of armpit-licking, cunnilingus and Sutherland O-face. And of course the legendary last-minute zinger with the geriatric little red riding hood in the shadows of a watchtower. Fans of “Antichrist” will eat up this dizzy fever dream of doppelgangers, clairvoyants and sexual psychosis.
“Gozu” is yet another tasty treat from sick freak Takashi Miike. If he’s not making a yakuza movie like “Dead or Alive” or a horror movie like “Audition,” he directs a two-in-one like this art house torture porn about an assassin looking for his brother, who’s MIA in a surreal small town. As we fall down his delirious rabbit hole, Miike takes the cake for the most messed-up sex scene ever filmed. It has been called the Japanese “Eraserhead,” but “Gozu” has none of that film’s precious artifice to make you feel safe and cozy. Fandor.
“The Snowtown Murders”(2011)
Based on an actual spate of murders in Australia, Justin Kurzel‘s (director of the upcoming “Macbeth”) misanthropic movie centered on a dominant personality and his dazed cult of killers is a grisly serial killer must-see. But it’s no procedural. With threads of incest, hate-crimes and child abuse, “The Snowtown Murders” piles on the ugly with no reserve. But Kurzel’s horrifying film is leavened by a sprawl of excellent performances by young non-actors as the kids willed into the spell of an alluring psychopath (Daniel Henshall, creepy). Kurzel’s direction has a European flavor, a style akin to the Dardennes or Cristian Mungiu if either made a horror movie. (And wouldn’t that be sweet?) Netflix
“Black Sunday” (1960)
Before Dario Argento was Mario Bava, one of the most prolific Italian genre directors and the grandaddy of the giallo film. In the 1600s-set gothic “Black Sunday,” Barbara Steele plays a Russian witch who, after being burned at the stake, returns from the grave 200 years later to cast a deadly pall over those who wronged her. This horror classic is rendered in gorgeous black-and-white, and sizzles with eerie sound design. Fandor
This provocative film got lost somewhere among all the shoddy J-horror remakes and revamps and it’s a pity because “Pulse” could be the best of them all. EW critic Owen Gleiberman once called David Lynch‘s “Fire Walk with Me” “‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.” That enticing description — which he didn’t intend as a compliment — rings true for “Pulse,” which imagines Tokyo as a desolate, lonely, industrial landscape that picks off its young folk by the numbers. In this intricately plotted film, a group of twenty-somethings is haunted by ghostly images and cryptic messages that appear without prompt on their computer screens. The already blurry line between reality and phantasm gets blurrier.
“The Bird with the Crystal Plumage” (1970)
While forgivably dated and irresistibly cheesy, Argento’s 1970 directorial debut “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage” (Fandor) delivers a taste of the visceral thrills, mod atmosphere and stylized violence to come from the man who went on to direct dozens of visually stunning thrillers that launched a 1970s wave of Italian arthouse horror. If you can overcome the ghastly dubbing that has permanently marred his work — possibly at its worst in “Suspiria” — the pleasure of Argento’s films is how he flaunts their inelegancies and imperfections.