I am not really much of a horror film viewer, but I have been strangely addicted to the horror section on Netflix over the past couple of months. The wintery weather just makes me want to hide inside in the dark and watch something engrossing. There are some truly, utterly terrible films on there, but also a few hidden gems. Here are my top 3, so you can go straight to them without having to dig through 85785 Paranormal Activity sequels first:
Green Room tells the story of a punk band, who get a late booking to play a show at an isolated club, deep in the woods. Unfortunately, the audience turns out to be a load of neo-Nazi skinheads. Discomfort turns to horror as the band accidentally witness a dead body in the green room, and things escalate quickly into a fight for survival. There are no ghosts or monsters here: the main threat is pure inhumanity, and the remote setting creates a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere where normal societal rules do not apply. Patrick Stewart also features as the sadistic owner of the bar and is brilliantly unsettling.
It’s an utterly brutal, hyper-stylised, ultra-violent gore-fest. Pure joy.
I put off watching this for ages because, to be honest, the premise sounded a bit rubbish. A fatal curse is passed on from victim to victim through sexual encounters. When you are cursed, you are relentlessly pursued (at a gentle walking pace) by a ‘thing’ that wants to kill you, and which takes different human forms: maybe an old lady in a crowd, a girl at the beach, or even, and most troublingly, someone you know.
Actually, despite the premise, this is a pretty good film. You never find out what the ‘thing’ is or entirely how it works, so the suspense stays at jaw-clenching level throughout. It’s also quite cleverly made, in that there are all sorts of elements which unsettle you without you realising it at the time: the seasons seem all mixed up, the time period is baffling (modern cars mingle with classic models, there are mobile devices but no phones, and all TVs seem to show is weird black-and-white era films).
There’s also more to it than just horror: It Follows is also a really great film about teenage life and the power of friendship. Well worth a couple of hours of clawing the skin off your hands in terror and spending the next week panicking whenever someone starts walking towards you.
The Babadook is just proper good, classic psychological horror. A strange children’s book appears in the house of a single mother, Amelia, and her 6 year old son Sam, telling the creepy tale of a mysterious tormentor dressed in a long black robe, Mister Babadook. Sam’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and difficult to manage as he starts to claim the Babadook is real, and as events progress, Amelia too begins to suffer strange visions, eventually reaching a traumatic peak.
The psychological aspect adds some great depth to this film. We know that the pair have suffered a devastating family tragedy, and both Sam and Amelia contribute increasingly to each other’s mental decline: Sam’s behaviour causes Amelia to stop sleeping, while her increasing stress levels and short temper leads her to push him away. It’s not really clear which of the characters’ perspectives is driving the film and which of them starts to unravel first, and the little twist in the final scene only serves to increase the debate over what exactly it is that you have just watched.