2015 may truly be the year of the horror fan. Last month, we looked at the Friday the 13th films in all their bloody and naked glory with 13 Best Friday The 13th Kills and 13 Things You Didn’t Know About The Friday The 13th Films. For today’s deadly day, I thought something different and perhaps more enlightening. I’ve scoured Netflix, literally perused every title in their horror section, and picked 13 films you may have missed, or perhaps never heard of. No Jason, Michael, or Freddy here. Trying to avoid popular franchises and big time money makers.
Here are 13 little-seen horror films to enjoy on Netflix this Friday on the 13th.
1. Dead Snow (2009) / Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (2014) – Tommy Wirkola
When I heard about Dead Snow, all I could say was, “you had me at Nazi Zombies.” A group of Norwegian med students go for a trip to a “cabin in the woods” and are immediately and viciously attacked by… well, Nazi Zombies. This is like a Scandinavian Shaun of the Dead combining gory zombie kills with hilarious one-liners and off-the-wall pacing. The sequel is even more insane, featuring zombie/human cross amputation/re-attachments, supernatural powers, and an army of Soviet zombies to battle the Nazi zombies.
2. Pontypool (2008) – Bruce McDonald
Stephen McHattie is awesome as Grant Mazzy a shock-jock style DJ in a small Canadian town. On his way in to the station on a typical snowy day, he encounters a strange woman mumbling incoherently. Once at the station, we quickly find out that some kind of virus is turning the residents of the town into a horde of crazies, and that the virus is spread through human language. Mazzy and the small group of radio station employees must figure out how to survive while keeping the monsters out. The beauty of Pontypool is its simplicity. The movie almost entirely takes place at the station and the zombie-style violence is implied but not seen, making this a much more psychological thriller.
3. Ichi the Killer (2001) – Takashi Miike
What does a movie have in store for you, when the opening credits reveal the title in a splash of semen… yeah, not kidding. One of the sickest and most insanely violent films I’ve ever seen, Ichi is disturbing from the word go. Takashi Miike introduces us to two unique, bizarre, and horrific characters in Kakihara and Ichi. Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano) is a yakuza assassin and torturer who is a complete sadomasochist. He’s so crazy that Heath Ledger’s Joker would give him space, AND ask about his scars! When his boss goes missing, he turns his attention on quiet, shy, and altogether awkward Ichi (Nao Omori). Ichi wears a jumpsuit with the number one on it, and keeps razors in his shoes capable of cutting people in half. You can only imagine the insanity when these two get together. This film along with Audition (2001) and Gozu (2003) helped turn Miike into an international superstar for people seeking off-the-wall horror lunacy.
4. The Den (2013) – Zachary Donohue
Melanie Papalia is Elizabeth, a college student who gets a grant to study people online in various webcam, web chat groups. Not too long into her searching does she stumble into a room that appears to show a gruesome murder in an almost snuff film-style torture chamber. Soon she is being stalked, her internet is hacked, and her friends and family are the next targets. What separates The Den from countless first-person “found footage” style thrillers is the disturbing sense of realness to it. While some of the acting may have you sighing, there’s an undercurrent of belief that this can actually happen. Just when you think the movie is going to cave to cliché, it changes gears tremendously. The ending, (which I won’t spoil) is one of the most original and brilliant in modern horror.
5. American Mary (2012) – Jen & Sylvia Soska
Take beautiful scream queen Katharine Isabelle and add the identical Soska Sisters, who are burgeoning star directors, and you get American Mary, a delicious if not a tad grotesque treat. Mary Mason (Isabelle) is trying to pay her way through med school to be a surgeon. No easy task. When Mary’s attempt to mingle with med-school higher-ups leaves her a victim of date rape, she is forced to find alternative forms of work, including working in a goth strip club with a seedy underground clientele. Customers show up there demanding bizarre and unorthodox surgeries; body modifications. Mary is up for the job, if her clients are up with cash. Soon Mary is performing from her apartment; one girl wants to be transformed into a living Barbie doll! Mary will make you squirm, and laugh and contains a pretty killer combo of body horror and rape/revenge horror.
6. Event Horizon (1997) – Paul W.S. Anderson
Probably the most popular American film on my list, it amazes me that more people don’t discuss Event Horizon as the Alien of the late 90s. Maybe, the ship-in-space theme made people think it was a hokey sci-fi movie, rather a scary as hell horror film that would’ve fit perfectly in the late 70s between The Omen and Alien. The title space ship was built by Dr. Weir (Sam Neill) and is capable of bending time to travel through wormholes across the universe. When the ship suddenly reappears, a crew led by Capt. Miller (Lawrence Fishburne) assembles to retrieve it, unaware that the ship has just returned from cross-dimensional trip through Hell. I remember seeing this in the theater and being legitimately creeped out. Seeing it years later, it’s still chilling. It’s visceral and works both as psychological and visual horror. Critics have described Ridley Scott’s classic Alien as a “haunted house film in space.” Well, Event Horizon should be a “possession film in space.”
7. The Ti West Collection – The House of the Devil (2009), Innkeepers (2011), The Sacrament (2013)
Totally cheating here, but it’s my list, so my rules. Ti West, not even 35 yet, has managed to become of the freshest visionary horror directors in the game. And three of his films are currently circulating Netflix’s horror queue. The House of the Devil is lovingly old-fashioned, a wonderful callback to the 70s era of cultish and gothic-style horror films like The Exorcist and Amityville Horror. A young college student Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) is persuaded to take a strange “babysitting” job at this huge mansion in the woods. The owner of the house (the always creepy Tom Noonan) explains that his wife and he will return later and just need someone to watch his sickly mother for a few hours. Despite her own feeling of impending dread, Sam can’t turn the money down and is faced with the consequences. In West’s 2011 follow-up, The Innkeepers, two employees at an old inn decide to document the haunted house-style rumors that have plagued the inn as it’s getting ready to close. And finally, 2013’s The Sacrament is a found-footage style depiction of a Jonestown-esque cult. West is the opposite of everything most non-horror fans assume about the genre. Horror is viewed from the outside as grotesque, bloody, trashy, and exploitative. West is slow, takes his time, and pays homage to the classics which came before. Instead of big budget effects and jump scares, he preys on your feelings and emotions. You learn to actually care for his characters, which makes what happens to them all the more horrific and uneasy. If you like what you see here, then also check out West’s contributions to the episodic horror films V/H/S and ABCs of Death (both also on Netflix).
8. Here Comes the Devil (2012) – Adrian Garcia Bogliano
Not to be confused with aforementioned House of the Devil, Here Comes the Devil is a ferocious Mexican horror film that eats at every fiber of your being, especially, as is in my case, you are a parent. When two young siblings climb up a mountainside and explore a cave near Tijuana, Mom and Dad think it’s just kids at play, until the kids don’t make it back. Panicked they call the police and a night goes by before the two children just inexplicably show up unharmed. But the kids are different, something is off about them. The parents don’t know if they were assaulted by a child predator; or if there is something to the local legend about a serial killer who supposedly died in the same mountain cave. The film toes the line between psychological family drama, and full on slasher-style horror. It’s both scary as hell and a total mind-fuck.
9. Grabbers (2012) – Jon Wright
A creature feature that feels like it should’ve been a sci-fi original movie, Grabbers is actually a shockingly awesome horror-comedy out of Ireland with even more shockingly good special effects. A giant Lovecraftian alien monster with too many tentacles to count is attacking the good people of a small sea-side Irish community. Luckily for them, perfect for them actually, there’s one thing the alien beastie can’t handle… you guessed it, alcohol. So gather some friends, grab some brews, and get wasted with one of the most ridiculously fun horror films you’ll see in a long time.
10. The Horde (2009) – Yannick Dahan & Benjamin Rocher
Did you like Zack Snider’s fast-zombie remake of Dawn of the Dead in 2004? What if I told you, the French did it better?!?! That’s right; The Horde is fast, furious, and fucking violent! When I saw it, I referred it to friends as Dredd vs. Zombies. A group of cops out for revenge on the thugs who shot their partner follow a gang into a large apartment complex where a deal is about to go down. Without warning and with no explanation, there are ZOMBIES everywhere! The next hour-plus just fly by as cops and criminals are forced to work together to fight down the upper floors through dead-infested halls and staircases. They are joined along the way an eager to shoot-first old man who brings the one-liner and big guns. And there is an ending sequence involving a cop on a car that needs to be seen to be believed.
11. Satan’s Little Helper (2004) – Jeff Lieberman
Alexander Brickel is Douglas, an adorable little kid addicted to the latest video game, Satan’s Little Helper, where you play alongside the Prince of Darkness committing random acts of evil. Doug might be off a bit because when he meets a man dressed in a giant Satan costume, he assumes it’s the character from the game, and he joins the masked maniac on a spree all over the city involving murder, mayhem, and fun, like running over babies and grandmothers with a shopping cart in a mall parking lot. Doug doesn’t know that his companion is actually an escaped psychotic mental patient, and soon his sister (Katheryn Winnick of Vikings), her boyfriend, and their mom (Amanda Plummer) are all on the chopping block. This may look like a direct-to-DVD cheeseball horror film, but it’s actually hilarious and awesome, totally self-aware and full of homages to past horror classics. And the Satan costume is so friggin cool and unique.
12. Housebound (2014) – Gerard Johnstone
The most recent of the films on this list is Housebound, a wonderfully cherry little horror film out of New Zealand. You can tell director Gerard Johnstone has seen his horror classics; Housebound is parts Rear Window, Poltergeist, People Under the Stairs and New Zealand’s own bloody massacre Dead Alive. Combined, it somehow blends into a funny, bloody good time. Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) is arrested for robbery and forced into house arrest in her childhood home with her mother, Miriam (Rima Te Wiata). Turns out, Kylie hated that house because it happens to be haunted. As the film goes on, there is more than meets the eye in the house, as we bounce from trope to trope including haunted house, conspiracy, evil doctors, children’s hospitals with checkered pasts, things lurking in the walls, etc. Instead of overkill though, it all works to create a film that reminded me of something Peter Jackson would’ve done before becoming Mr. Middle-Earth back when he did low-budget bloody horror better than anyone.
13. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) – Tom McLoughlin
Ok, Ok, I know I said none of these, but c’mon, it IS Friday the 13th after all, so I’m including my favorite of the Friday films, Tom McLoughlin’s awesome Part 6. After dying in Part 4, and sloshing through a copycat Jason in Part 5, Jason is BACK and in style. After a long prologue brings us up to speed, a grown-up Tommy Jarvis (Thom Matthews) goes to dig up Jason’s corpse (you know, just to check). Of course, in the gothic tradition that McLoughlin conjures, lightning strikes Jason’s corpse introducing audiences everywhere to Franken-Jason, a maggot-eyed, hockey mask-wearing, unstoppable monster capable of pushing a girl’s face through a wall and bend sheriffs in half. The movie is just so much fun, from the Jason/James Bond eye slash intro, to all self-referential moments (Karloff’s, Cunningham Road, etc.); to Alice Cooper’s “Man Behind the Mask” rocking through the credits, this is just Jason at his most awesome, funny, and bloody.
So on this second Friday the 13th in as many months, maybe you take a break from Jason and dabble in some fresh blood. Netflix does have a great selection of the classics, everything from Mario Bava’s Black Sunday to The Omen. Scream, Re-Animator, Hellraiser, all there. But if you’re looking for something new and scary, try some of the above mentioned films. And please, don’t be scared off by subtitles; if it’s one thing I’ve learned as a lifelong horror-phile; whenever you think an American movie you saw is f’d up, there are a dozen foreign horror films out there that are SO much more intense, insane, and just plain great.