Five Horror Movies to Stream Now
This month’s picks include a pandemic-inspired killer, a trance-induced massacre and a bloodthirsty little boy.
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By Erik Piepenburg
Stream it on Peacock.
It’s 2020, and Covid-19 has most of America under quarantine. Miri (Beth Million) takes coronavirus precautions seriously, but her college bestie Parker (Gideon Adlon) has virus fatigue, something her Instafriends witness when she posts a video of herself making out with a guy at a party.
To escape lockdown, Parker takes Miri to her family’s secluded lakeside mansion, where soon after they arrive Parker gets a text from an unknown sender asking, “Having fun?” She blocks the number and opts instead to party, even as her former fling DJ (Dylan Sprayberry) shows up at the house unexpectedly. You don’t need me to tell you that DJ isn’t the only uninvited person inside the house.
To say more would spoil the many sinister pleasures in this taut and timely slasher-revenge film, my favorite so far in the Covid horror subgenre. Kevin Williamson, who wrote the film with Katelyn Crabb, infuses it with the same knife-sharp wit he used in “Scream.” John Hyams shows his chops as a thriller director (“Alone”) with his playfully chaotic pacing, especially in the virtuosic opening.
Adlon is a relatable if not always likable final girl, which makes sense since the film’s pandemic messaging is muddied. I’m not sure if I was supposed to cheer or sneer at mask adherence and social distancing, and it’s that uncertainty — purposeful, I hope — that makes the film truly unnerving.
Stream it on Amazon Prime Video.
Aisha (Anna Diop, wonderful) is a young Senegalese immigrant who takes a job as a nanny for Rose (Rose Decker), the daughter of a white couple (Michelle Monaghan and Morgan Spector) in New York City. Aisha teaches Rose French and introduces her to Senegalese food, and the two quickly form a bond.
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It’s bad enough that Aisha’s plan to bring her own young son to America is thwarted by her employers, who keep finding excuses not to pay her. But Aisha has something just as scary to worry about, too: a dark message that an African spirit called Mami Wata is desperately trying to deliver.
The writer-director Nikyatu Jusu shines in her assured feature debut, particularly when she focuses on the real horrors of an immigrant’s encounter with American privilege and power. An entitled, unhinged New York City mom, after all, is frightening enough for being what a demon is not: human. I hope Jusu stays on the horror path, because I’m excited to see how she scares me next.
Stream it on Screambox.
It’s a normal day at a Japanese high school — until several students gather to watch a strange video, and one of the girls suddenly throws herself over the balcony, splattering on the cement. An unrattled teacher (Shido Nakamura) explains to the shaken students that they are under hypnosis and that certain signals, like crying and leaving the school grounds, will trigger their suicides. It’s up to them to figure out the other signals, and the only way to undo the trance, the teacher says, is “when everyone but you is dead.”
Thus begins Lisa Takeba’s delightfully depraved splatterfest based on the manga series of the same name. There’s no mistaking the influence of the 2000 film “Battle Royale” here, but unlike Kinji Fukasaku’s superior movie, this one loses steam in its conclusion as it leans too much on teenage love confessions and not enough on the wanton mayhem that makes its first half so playfully warped. Still, it’s sick fun in just 90 minutes.
Rent or buy on most major platforms.
Brad Anderson’s dark family drama starts off with a young mom, Jess (Monaghan, again), moving with her teenage daughter, Tyler (Skylar Morgan Jones), and younger son, Owen (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong), into an isolated farmhouse. Jessica is a recovering addict and hospital nurse who cares for Owen after he is bitten by the family dog, who returned after days in the woods with an evil tint to his eyes.
The dog didn’t give Owen rabies, but something deadlier: a thirst for blood. In one of the film’s creepiest scenes, Owen extubates himself at the hospital and starts sucking on his blood bag like it’s a Capri Sun. Of course, as any parent knows, a growing vampire can’t live on animal blood alone.
Satisfying when it’s not silly, the film has the heart of “Blood Moon” but lacks the artfulness of “My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To,” its vampiric spirit guide. The biggest reasons to watch are the terrific performances from Monaghan, who consistently delivers believable horror movie momness, and from Wojtak-Hissong, who does gruesome things greatly.
‘Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes’
Stream it on Shudder.
Kevin Kopacka’s German-language dreamscape is more fun to look at than it is to ponder.
The film begins as a young couple, the buttoned-up Dieter (Frederik von Lüttichau) and his free-spirit wife, Margot (Luisa Taraz), move into a decrepit old castle, where their S&M-ish sexual encounters come across as adversarial, not playful. But then comes a major twist, and into the melodramatic, gruesome picture enters a pompous movie director, Gregor (Jeff Wilbusch), his self-effacing scriptwriter wife, Eva (Anna Platen), and a crew of hippies. As the story jumps between eras, what was a location movie set becomes a den of horrors where psychedelic flights of carnage end in a big oily orgy and a house on fire.
I had a hard time deciphering what the elliptical script, written by Kopacka and Lili Villányi, was getting at other than a vague reckoning with regret and forgiveness. But I enjoyed being visually dazzled by the film’s throupling of Eurosleaze gore, sexual psychodramatics (the castration scene is a doozy) and pastiche design. Fans of Mario Bava’s Gothic melodramas will be in heaven.
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