Ten horror films to watch on Netflix during quarantine, from Gerald's Game to Under the Shadow
Now is the time to check out those lesser-known horror titles that you took a rain check on for some reason.
Lockdown Week 4: You've binged your way through the second seasons of Kingdom and Castle Rock, rewatched your favourite episodes of The X-Files, and rebinged from start to finish all three seasons of Penny Dreadful ahead of its upcoming instalment.
There is an understandable desire during these troubling times to find comfort in reliable favourites: The Exorcist, The Shining, Annihilation, The Host, Cabin in the Woods, and Killing Of A Sacred Deer are all streaming on Netflix (India). But you can only watch them so many times. Streaming services in India certainly don't have the most extensive libraries to keep the horror fiend satisfied — and it sure looks like we're going to be stuck inside our homes for longer than we had imagined.
With cinemas closed and all film and TV productions on hold, there will ultimately be a dearth in fresh content. So, there's no better time to check out those lesser-known horror titles that you took a rain check on for some reason. Watching something new could perhaps narrow the gap of social distancing and even have a therapeutic effect for those anxiously looking for a horror fix.
So, we've curated a list of horror (and horror-adjacent) films to distract you from your apocalyptic despair and make this extended quarantine more bearable. Get your popcorn ready, turn off the lights, pull your leg back under the blanket, and hold onto your nearest and dearest loved ones.
Cam (dir. Daniel Goldhaber)
What if a digital doppleganger stole your identity and agency? With Cam, Daniel Goldhaber pins us to our seats with one of the most disconcerting horror films in recent years. Tackling the modern horror of identity theft, Cam is a tale of how technology can often become a tool of our own destruction. Camgirl sites attract millions of voyeurs who pay to watch young women perform erotic shows via webcams every day. When Alice (Madeline Brewer) discovers that her show has been usurped by a women who resembles her in every way, she must unravel the mystery of her doppleganger's identity before it destroys her life. Madeline Brewer hauntingly captures the delirium and paranoia of the times we live in.
The Ritual (dir. David Bruckner)
Four friends set off on a trek through the deserted mountains of northern Sweden to honour their friend, who was killed in a robbery a few months earlier. In the oppressive atmosphere of this desolate landscape, the group quickly realises they're not alone and are being tracked by a mysterious entity. If Midsommar showed horrors can unfold in the endless Scandinavian daylight, The Ritual shows there isn't safety or comfort to be found at night either. Moreover, it proves guilt and grief can be a lot scarier than ghosts.
The Invitation (dir. Karyn Kusama)
Karyn's Kusama's dinner-party-from-hell nightmare makes for the ideal inescapable closed-door setting film in these times of lockdown. Will (Logan Marshall-Green) is invited by his ex-wife (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband (Michiel Huisman) for a dinner with mutual friends. Over the course of the evening, his paranoia heightens over the hosts' true intentions. Kusama asserts complete control over the film's rhythm and suspense, maintaining an unnerving ambiguity for two-thirds of the film. We share Will's suspicions but we are also made to question his mental state. Kusama also cleverly plays with out-of-focus background and shallow depth of field to incite the viewer's imagination and trepidations.
Hush (dir. Mike Flanagan)
With Absentia, Oculus (also on Netflix), Before I Wake, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and recently Doctor Sleep, Mike Flanagan already boasts a commendable filmography, with plenty of low-budget, high-quality horror films. His 2016 film, Hush, turns the home invasion thriller into a visceral sensory experience. Maddie (Kate Siegel), a deaf and mute writer living in a remote house deep in the woods, finds herself tormented by a sadistic killer. Flanagan drives the suspense on our own helplessness in this situation as we, the viewers, are alert to certain threats that Maddie is unaware of due to her hearing impairment. With no background music, he not only reinforces a feeling of isolation, but also a strong empathetic bond between Maddie and the viewer.
Apostle (dir. Gareth Evans)
The Raid director Gareth Evans draws ostensibly from the backwoods mystic traditions of post-Hammer English folk horror in Apostle. He uses past influences to concoct his own special brew of nightmarish insanity. Starring Dan Stevens, the film follows a man trying to save his sister from the deranged cult of an island community. So, he infiltrates the cult disguised as a member in order to free her. The film reinvigorates tropes from the classic Wicker Man to the contemporary Black Death to find a near-ideal balance between the build-up of creepy atmospherics and the terrifying ordeals of systematic torture.
Patrick Brice builds claustrophobic tension out of certain modern anxieties in two peculiar, but equally terrifying, found-footage horror films. Mark Duplass gives birth to a new psychopath, one unlike any other. Sure, he is diabolical, but there is something practical about the way he satisfies his pathology. The term "serial killer" is truly inadequate to describe the method to his madness. Duplass's performance is one where it is near impossible to grasp his motivations until it's too late.
Under the Shadow (dir. Babak Anvari)
A mother and daughter are confronted by a malicious supernatural presence in their home in Tehran amid the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. The supernatural becomes a political allegory for the theocratic oppression of women. Babak Anvari also takes us on an empathetic journey into the female psyche. An intelligent, ambitious woman is left behind by her husband, and is overwhelmed by the reality of living in a country where she will not be able to pursue her profession anymore. These curbs on her freedoms cause her to vent her fury and frustrations on her daughter. So, the film combines Asghar Farhadi's family drama with the thrills of Polanski's Repulsion and Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook.
Cargo (dir. Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke)
Set during a zombie pandemic, Cargo finds a desperate father (Martin Freeman) trying to find refuge for his infant daughter in the vastness of a ravaged country. Bitten by a zombie and with approximately 48 hours left before he succumbs to the disease, he must take his daughter across the Outback to safety before time runs out. The staging becomes a tense battle of resilience in this father's desperate battle to postpone death to fulfil his essential paternal duty. If you have already watched Train to Busan and Zombieland, Cargo should make for an acceptable temporary Z-fix.
Super Dark Times (dir. Kevin Phillips)
The characters, the setting and the plot of Super Dark Times is reminiscent of the classic Stand by Me. In Kevin Phillips' debut feature, a tragedy widens the gulf between two teenage friends and threatens a bond that seemed unbreakable. The film tackles the horrors of suburban adolescence by exposing the brutal realities of these misguided youth. It thus makes for a chilling portrait of teen violence, addressing the tragic consequences of bored teens pushed to their extremes.
Gerald's Game (dir. Mike Flanagan)
Before Flanangan collaborated with Netflix on The Haunting of Hill House, he gave us this little gem of an adaptation of a lesser-known Stephen King novel. A couple, Jessie (Carla Gugino) and Gerald (Bruce Greenwood), go to an isolated lakehouse to spice up their sex life. But it turns into a horrifying nightmare when Gerald dies of a heart attack in the middle of their titular game, with Jessie still handcuffed to the bed. This turns into a long ordeal for the poor woman, who must face her inner demons and a hungry stray dog eager for a bite of her husband's corpse. The horror comes in the form of her hallucinations, as well as her immobility. Delivering a ton of thrills without ever being hindered by a low budget, Flanagan thus deserves two entries in this list.
Note: For the more dedicated and savvy horror fans with access to a variety of sources, here are some other films worth checking out: Swallow, In Fabric, Hagazussa, Tigers Are Not Afraid, A Dark Song, The Love Witch, Évolution, Spring.
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