This guy waded through all the gore on Netflix and iTunes so you don't have to
5 little-known movies to watch this Halloween
By PAUL MATWYCHUK
Even if you’re not a horror buff, it’s hard not to want to get in the Halloween mood with a spooky movie or two. But for the dabbler in horror, it can be a challenge to scroll through Netflix and iTunes to find high-quality scare-flicks amid all the D-grade, straight-to-streaming shlock out there. Here are my recommendations for some little-known horror gems that will put a chill into your October movie watching. Warning: it hardly needs saying, but these are horror movies, so if you're not into the extremely shocking and creepy, don't click below.
The Babadook (iTunes/YouTube/Google Play) is the work of Australian writer/director Jennifer Kent. Essie Davis plays a single mother nearly cracking under the strain of raising a six-year-old son with behaviour issues, and things only get worse when a shadowy, malevolent creature — the Babadook — springs out of the pages of a mysterious storybook and begins menacing the household. Smartly, Kent makes Davis’s growing emotional exhaustion and inability to nurture her child an even greater source of dread than anything the Babadook might do to them.
One of the more memorable movie vampires of the last few years shows up in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (iTunes). She’s a mostly silent, solitary young woman — she looks maybe 18 but carries herself like someone much, much older — who prowls the nighttime streets of “Bad City” (a stylized black-and-white version of Tehran) wearing a black chador and riding a skateboard. She’s hungry for blood but seems to have enough humanity and compassion left in her to pick and choose deserving victims. Not scary so much as eerie and weirdly romantic, this one has a deadpan, cross-cultural playfulness that makes it an especially hip Halloween-night selection.
If Stephen King had come down with a severe case of writer’s block after his first couple of bestsellers, he might have wound up like Val Kilmer’s character in this underrated 2011 indie by Francis Ford Coppola, Twixt (Netflix/YouTube/Google Play). A dishevelled horror author is reduced to signing his latest novel at a small-town bookstore/hardware retailer. While there, the author has a lively series of encounters with an eccentric local sheriff (Bruce Dern), the spirit of a beautiful young murder victim (Elle Fanning) and even the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe. Not the genre-redefining masterpiece you might hope for from the director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, but a quirky, gorgeous-looking, tonally unpredictable little ghost story that deserves to be better known.
It Follows (iTunes/YouTube/Google Play) has a premise that feels rooted in the same urban-legend, teenage-folk-tale tradition that created The Slender Man or Bloody Mary. The monster here is a sort of sexually transmitted bogeyman: it’s a creature that slowly but relentlessly pursues its victims, who can only put the entity off their scent by sleeping with someone and passing the curse onto them. Unfortunately, if that person is killed, the monster goes right back to chasing its original target. Director David Robert Mitchell’s hypnotic widescreen photography gives the film the feel of a dream — one that constantly threatens to slip into a nightmare.
Finally, if you’re staying up long past midnight, maybe a little bit buzzed on candy corn and really looking for something wild, may I recommend House (iTunes), a 1977 Japanese cult film that may well be the most thoroughly bonkers horror movie ever made. The setup sounds familiar — seven schoolgirls spend a wild night in a haunted mansion, getting killed off one by one — but that description doesn’t begin to hint at the surreal events in this film. (Spoiler alert: One girl is eaten by a piano while another character is transformed into a pile of bananas.) Imagine a girls-only Poltergeist crossed with the “Mr. Sparkle” detergent commercial from The Simpsons, and you’re on the right track. Utterly delightful, but completely baffling — don’t say I didn’t warn you.