Spooky Szn is probably one of my favorite seasons outside of Christmas or the Fourth of July — probably because it was off limits during my childhood. I grew up in a family (and in a church) where Halloween was “the devil’s holiday.” I don’t think I’ve literally ever been trick-or-treating. And being the textbook contrarian that I am and have always been, I LOVED Halloween. ESPECIALLY the Halloweentown movies on Disney. Marnie was my bitch.
All of that to say, there’s nothing worse than when you want to watch Hocus Pocus, and you realize it’s not available for streaming on any of the 28 streaming services you (or your parents/friends/ex boyfriend) are paying for. But in the spirit of Halloween, I am more open to watching ACTUALLY scary movies/shows than I usually am. I like horror, but I’m a wimp. Like, I’m the person that asks if we can watch a scary movie and then spends half the movie covering my eyes and digging into my friends’ arms so hard that my nails are about to draw blood. The jump scares also usually get me, and I’ve been the only one screaming in a movie theater more often than I’d like to admit.
But in the name of Halloween, and trying to find things to watch that are ~of the season~ and that I don’t have to pay $12 to watch, I started looking at Netflix originals. Netflix originals are really like a box of chocolates, because you never know what you’re gonna get. It could be amazing, or it could be absolute trash that sounds like it was written and shot by an illiterate 12 year old. With less than a week before Halloween, I couldn’t think of a better time for exploring Netflix’s darker side. So here’s a rundown of Netflix original horrors that will save you time deciding what to watch as you make the most of the spooky spirit.
Haunting of Hill House – I just want to take a moment to say that Netflix is absurd for not releasing the second season until 2020. It’s spooky season NOW, dammit! But that being said, Haunting of the Hill House is one of the most beautifully executed Netflix originals I’ve seen to date across all genres. It’s well written, the acting is great, and it’s actually, really, really scary. And not a bunch of cheap jump scares either. Not that this is something that I necessarily look for in horror movies, but it provokes deep thought about things that you’d generally rather not think about, like dysfunctional family dynamics, and mental illness, and depression, and addiction. It’s hard enough to make a good horror movie, which is why it’s so impressive that Netflix was able to make such a great horror series of hour-long episodes.
Bird Box – If you haven’t seen this yet, I’m guessing you just don’t want to at this point considering the avalanche of memes it inspired when it hit Netflix almost a year ago. I watched it on the Amtrak from Boston to D.C. coming back from Christmas, and half the time I felt like I was watching it through my fingers. To be fair, I watch anything vaguely resembling scary through my fingers. But this was actually scary, and really, really good. It’s not your average horror film in the Halloween sense — or really any sense at all. There’s something going on where people are hearing voices and killing themselves. We never get a full picture of what exactly is happening or why — and that’s part of what made the movie so unnerving. There weren’t monsters or demons or anything like that, but it was still terrifying, and relatively gory without being over the top. It seemed like the first major Sandra Bullock movie in a while, and it was a hell of a comeback.
Malevolent – I’ve been on a couple of dates with a guy that’s really into horror movies, and he made fun of me for liking this. I don’t care, I honestly think it’s really good. It’s about a girl with a gift of being able to communicate with the dead, and was roped into a scam business taking advantage of vulnerable mourning people by her shit bag brother. They go to do their thing at an empty orphanage, and things predictably take a turn. I had started watching it on an Amtrak trip back from New York, and was so wrapped up in it that I ended up finishing on a metro ride to an event I had to go to the same day. I thought the acting was pretty good, and no matter what horror fanatic guy says, I stand by my assessment.
In The Tall Grass – This movie was really, really weird. There’s a maze of grass off the side of the road in the middle of nowhere (which I guess goes without saying because where else is there tall grass?), and people keep going into it because they hear people screaming for help from inside. Once they’re in, they realize they’re trapped too. Time isn’t linear in the movie, and it’s kind of a mind fuck so you can’t be watching it expecting logical answers…or really any answers. It was interesting seeing Patrick Wilson in a role like his. I know I’ve already used the word “unnerving” to describe a movie, but there’s no other word that quite fits. Some scenes will really make your skin crawl, but that’s what Spooky Szn is all about after all.
Gerald’s Game – This movie was in Netflix’s horror section, and there were definitely some creepy elements to it, but I was surprised at how tame of a film it was. That said, it was well done for what it was and worth the watch. A woman and her husband decide to get away for the weekend in some kind of last ditch effort to save their marriage/sex life. They bring handcuffs into the mix, and the husband croaks while she’s chained to the bed, so she’s trapped and trying to figure out how to break free before she dies of starvation/dehydration or being axe murdered by some psycho lurking in BFE waiting to lock her in a basement and bake a quiche filled with her organs. A decent number of actors from Haunting of Hill House are in this movie, and they brought their A-game yet again.
Open House – My biggest complaint about this movie was the plot. It made enough sense, but so many things that happened in the movie seemed to add absolutely nothing to the storyline. I also think that an unexplained ending or motivation can make a movie scarier, but it just didn’t work here. It left a lot to be desired, but I still think it was scary enough — partially because it was the most realistic of the movies on this list. There was a pretty slow build up, but when shit hit the fan it stayed there. The last few minutes of the movie are a wild ride. The acting was decent and I expected to be more annoyed by the 13 Reasons Why actor, but he did a good job.
1922 – This movie was trash. I was excited when I saw a House of Cards actress, but she disappointed me more than I disappointed my mother with my grades in high school. The accents sucked. More than anything, the movie was just gross. There were rats in every other shot — and they were the most terrifying thing about the movie. I honestly couldn’t make it to the end but I doubt anything in the last 30 minutes or so would’ve given me anything nicer to say about it.