Over the last couple of weeks I have spent a serious amount of time watching new and new-ish horror films with the Netflix brand stamped across the title’s thumbnail. With a seemingly endless network of films, and more constantly being suggested to you, I began to wonder how much of this content was actually worth watching. As viewers we don’t really have the ability to have insight into the performance of Netflix titles like you do with TV’s Nielsen ratings and the movie’s with their box office. Because of this, viewers must rely on the 97% match for “what you might like” offered up by Netflix’s algorithms.
Some of these suggestions are great. But some of them are really not. In addition to the titles that the program suggests to you “because you watched x” there is also the option to see what is Trending on Netflix. Sometimes I wonder, however, how much of what is trending is trending because Netflix wants it to trend? For example, the films that I will be detailing below are a mixture of those that I searched on my own or had recommended to me by friends along with those that Netflix suggested or said were trending. One of the trending ones in particular was my least favorite of all the titles I watched.
To start things off, I tried watching the new installment in the Jeepers Creepers series. When I first heard that there was not only going to be a new film but two new films I was filled mostly with hesitation. Why bring new life to something that was so well done the first time and still well done the second? Leave that tale be, I say. The fist two are incredibly creepy films that didn’t need any follow up. Sure, the way that the second film ends leaves it open for a follow up…or maybe it was just a creepy cliffhanger that should’ve been left hanging. Jeepers Creepers 3 is supposed to take place after the events of the first and before the second. However, very quickly into the movie, events occur which mess with the original narrative’s timeline. We know at the end of one, the Creeper goes back to his lair to skin Darry. So it does not make sense when he shows up very quickly into 3. Also, his truck can all of a sudden drive and defend itself? There are a bunch of little things to knit pick minutes in to the film. Additionally, the dialogue is TERRIBLE. Three’s premise is that the surviving cops and a task force of “Creeper hunters” band together to stop the monster. There is also a subplot in which the Creeper is believed to be heading somewhere specific to retrieve a body part that was stolen from it during it’s last spree. How do we know about this plot? Gaylen Brandon’s son was killed by the Creeper but not before he buried a piece of it on his family’s farm…his ghost or some schizophrenic vision is what illuminates her to the Creeper’s return. Full disclosure, I maybe made it 45 minutes in to the 100 minute run time.
If you’re a fan of the first two, don’t bother with this new addition in Jeepers Creepers 3.
Next on the docket was The Ritual which was suggested to me by a coworker who shares my taste in film. Holy cow what a well done film! We are with a group of friends who have recently suffered a loss of one of their own. Every year they go on holiday together in Sweden and this one looks like its shaping out to be the last one. Their friendships are devolving after the traumatic event which led to their friend’s death. After paying tribute to the fallen comrade, the group decides to cut through a giant forest to get back to the city/hotel where they’re staying. This short cut will save them time as one of them is injured and the rest are exhausted. WHEN HAS A SHORT CUT THROUGH THE WOODS EVER BEEN A GOOD IDEA?!?! However, without them going into said woods, there would be no movie because that is where all the terrifying action takes place. When it becomes clear that they are not going to make it back by nightfall, the group serendipitously stumbles upon a creepy Baba Yaga type cabin which they deem a perfectly suitable place to spend the night. This even after they discover a strange human shaped statue praying at an alter in the upstairs of the cabin. Unsurprisingly, none of them sleeps well and things definitely go bump in the night. As the film progresses we are given shadowy glimpses of a creature which seems to be hunting them. This holding back of the big bad makes their experience all the more scary. It never comes in to plain sight and frequently you are left questioning whether something just happened or if it was all in the character’s mind. The lore we learn about this creature of the forest is very interesting and ancient and by the end of the film you are as horrified about what has happened as any reasonable person should be. The Ritual is a very well done film with mad props to the monster and also to the ending.
You should most assuredly watch this movie.
Next up: The Hallow. This title has been recommended to me by Netflix many times and I have always skipped over it…not really sure why. I am glad I did finally watch it however because it was a really interesting movie. They took old Irish fae lore and tied it in with present science and deforestation. A family moves to a small town in Northern Ireland where the husband has been assigned to examine the trees and surrounding wildlife in an area that is set to be leveled. At first, the warnings from neighbors are ignored and brushed aside. Oh you silly country folk, believing in your fairy tales is the general vibe we get from Adam and Clare as they settle into their new home. However, very quickly, they realize that these warnings really should have been taken seriously especially because there is a baby present! At least for the baby’s sake take precaution, I beg of you! It is almost as though Adam and Clare have never listened to an episode of the Lore podcast. Fae are known to cause mischief and are also known for baby swapping a la leaving you a changeling that looks like your babe but isn’t. Putting aside their ignorance of folk lore, the two main characters (there are really only a couple of characters) try to defend their home and themselves. The Hallow is a tale of what happens when you disrespect culture and history. The fae creatures are interestingly constructed and eerie in the same sense that the original Evil Dead had a creepy woods. One look is all you need to know it is haunted. How they make out in the end is well constructed if not predictable. However, despite the film’s predictability, it is still a compelling man vs. nature story.
If you’re looking for something haunting, this is it.
After The Hallow I dove into Netflix’s new adaptation of The Mist. This is another one that I was hesitant about. While I have not read the book I do adore the film which came out in 2007. A decade later, I did not believe that there needed to be another version of the story. I mean, all you have to do is say, “that ending though!” (no pun intended) to sum up the grace of that film. That being said, I became addicted to this show. There is something to be said for books (especially horror and thriller titles) being made in to series as opposed to films. With the extended medium of a show, the writers and creators are able to have so much more space to develop stories and cultivate real, human encounters. I wouldn’t say this should be the new norm, however, it certainly does help with exposition and character bonds. The show was able to deal with some interesting issues that I don’t think would have been able to be appropriately conveyed in the span of one film. Because of this, we get to know the characters on the show a little more deeply. Nature and it’s self-correcting course is a big theme as is religion and judgement. In this iteration, however, we also deal with rape and a girl’s inability to remember what exactly happened to her the day before the mist started. Because of this, several of our narrators are unreliable, causing even more intrigue. While this aspect certainly adds to the suspense, there is a lot of victim blaming and slut shaming regarding two of the female leads which made me incredibly uncomfortable. Aside from that, the primary makeup of the story is the same: a mist rolls in to town, people are trapped where they are when it comes (in this case a mall and a church provide the primary settings), and a family is separated. Alex and Eve Copeland are stuck in the mall while Kevin tries everything in his power to reach them. Risking going into the mist himself, Kevin is able to assemble a ragtag band of fellows whose aim is to get to the mall. Alternitavely, their neighbor, Mrs. Raven is stuck in the church with a bunch of believers. It is interesting to me that this iteration took more of a natural selection take as opposed to a god is judging us take (made so well known in 2007 by Marcia Gay Harden). There is also, as before, a mysterious military base to which is alluded several times. Do they have something to do with this? Are they going to come save the townspeople? As the season ends, we have just as many questions as we did to start with only a couple of answers having been gleaned along the way. While the writing and story structure is sometimes lacking, I think that is made up for in the intrigue created by Stephen King with the original concept. We shall see what season two brings.
A nice show to binge during a rainy day.
Finally and most recently in my horror viewing I watched Veronica. Many of you will have heard about this title from Twitter in conjuncture with swears of it being the absolute most terrifying movie ever. To those I say, calm the eff down. While Veronica is a beautifully well done movie and maintains its 90’s style impeccably, it is more thoughtful than horrific. Veronica and two of her friends use a ouija board to reach out to her deceased father during an eclipse. Does she reach her dead parent? Nope! But something else slips out of the ether instead and follows her home where it terrorizes Veronica and her younger siblings. This film is largely made up of child actors and they are so on point with their reactions and facial expressions. While there are a couple of truly spooky moments, I was much more captivated by the children and the setting than with the story. The lighting, music, and acting are so on par…plus its a Mexican film and because of this we get more of the show don’t tell evident in most horror and lacking in American produced films. Unlike movies of it’s kind (Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Conjuring, and Insidious), Veronica doesn’t have the parent calling for help, Veronica tries to deal with this on her own, creating tragedy and suspense all at the same time. I can understand why it scared people. There is a particular scene in which the thing that is haunting Veronica appears after a wardrobe door is closed (classic move) and begins a slow walk towards her. That was creepy af. There is another scene in which Veronica sees through a window something that is happening in the other side of the house (think wrap around building like when Maggie Grace’s character can see the kidnappers in Taken) and because we have such an affinity with her young siblings, we as the viewer are as freaked out as she is!
If you scare easily, watch Veronica with a friend. If you don’t scare easily, watch it by yourself with the lights off! Either way, you should watch Veronica because of it’s haunting effect.
Taking all of this in to account, I would say that I gravitate towards horror films that are made in or set in foreign countries. While this is something that I already knew about myself, it seems to be proven as somewhat of an informer in what will be a better film. There are creepy crawlies much more terrifying in other countries. I think this is because America is still so relatively new. For example, the creature that haunts the forest in The Ritual is thought to be centuries old and the fae in Ireland are just as ancient.
There are so many films and series on Netflix that this exercise could be kept up for years and a viewer would still not be able to watch them all. That being said, these films are a good place to start. Next on my list is Re:Mind which is a Japanese horror series set at a dinner table. Eleven high school aged girls have a secret and they are trapped at said table, which carries upon it torture traps and devices, until they can piece together why. It seems equal parts Saw and Memento.
What are you excited to watch? Let me know in the comments below!