*Note: I apologize for the terrible headline. Awful puns are a weakness of mine. I’m working on the problem in a 12-step program.
Searching for a good movie on Netflix is a lot like crawling into the sewer and hunting for gold: it’s a disgusting, disheartening, painfully long process that almost always leaves you covered in shit. We all love Netflix but come on, let’s be honest, about 85% of their content is absolute dreck. And Max is never any help. Fuck that guy. Lucky for you, I am here to guide you through some of the muck. I can’t help you much in the way of Action, Comedy, or Drama except to say that films such as Barely Legal and Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses are probably not worth your time. But in the horror/thriller genre, I got you covered. Here are a few movies to watch when you’re in the mood for something of the dark variety.
Us horror fans all love us some Cabin in the Woods. It was a smart, funny, and surprisingly suspenseful riff on the whole horror genre. Scream for grown ups in other words. You’re Next is similar in the way it hacks the home invasion horror film subgenre to pieces (sorry again for the pun). Best described as The Strangers meets Home Alone, the film is a pure blast. The kind of horror flick where you stand up and cheer whenever the heroine kicks some righteous ass (which she does frequently). Shari Vinson is this generation’s scream queen and man oh man, could the slasher flicks of the 80’s have used her. She would have wiped the floor with Jason before he even had a chance to turn his head.
If you’re a big fan of Gremlins or any of its rip offs (Critters, Hobgoblins, Elves, the list is endless), then you’ll probably get a kick out of Bad Milo! It stars Ken Marino as a mild mannered office drone who gradually discovers he has a monster living up his ass. The monster comes out whenever Marino is stressed and acts upon his most base desires. The film is as off the wall as it sounds, complete with Peter Stormare as a new age therapist and Stephen Root as Marino’s father (who has a secret of his own) and at 80 minutes does not over stay its welcome. The fully animatronic Milo is an adorable little puppet, despite being a shit covered mass murderer and Marino is an appealing lead. It’s not a great movie by any means but it’s a lot of fun.
Berberian Sound Studio
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have this mindfuck of a movie. Toby Jones stares as a mild mannered sound engineer for films who travels to Italy to work on a giallo movie. As the sounds he creates for the film become more depraved and violent, his grip on his sanity begins to loosen. Berberian Sound Studio works on several levels. It’s an interesting behind the scenes look at sound mixing (a watermelon being smashed with a hammer really does sound like a skull being crushed), a tender character study, and a trippy horror film. It owes a lot to Roman Polanski’s Repulsion but is still very much its own thing. It may leave you scratching your head but you won’t feel cheated because of that.
Also in the mind fuck department, we have this low budget indie horror. It’s another riff on the genre ala Cabin in the Woods but it’s a tad more subtle and, dare I say, better. It starts off with a young guy going to his drug addicted best friends’ cabin in the woods and chaining him to a radiator to make him go cold turkey. Then videotapes of the two of them begin to show up on the doorstep. Who is filming them? Why? And why can’t they see the cameras? Add to that some Native American gangsters, a local religious cult, rumors of ritual sacrifice in the area, and a monster straight out of a fairy tale and you’ve got the best genre hybrid to come along in many years. The two leads create sympathetic characters who we come to care about deeply, weighty issues such as loss, love, addiction, and growing up are tackled with a surprising amount of depth, the low budget setting adds to the creepy atmosphere and the film manages to keep you guessing right up until the final shot. A small masterpiece.
The ABC’s of Death
Ooo boy. 26 short films. Each named after a letter of the alphabet. 26 different writers and directors from around the globe. Vampires, ghosts, zombies, serial killers, robots, killer toilets and magical fart clouds. Animation, POV shots, wordless films, 60’s throwbacks, bodily functions. 2 hours of complete and utter insanity. Of the 26 films, which run anywhere from 1 to 8 minutes, I’d say 15 of them are good to great, 5 of them are watchable but forgettable, and 6 are despicably awful. But when you’re stuck on an awful one, you at least know it’ll be over in no more than a few minutes. The Asian ones led me to an inescapable conclusion: Asian cinema is weird you guys. Highlights include F is for Fart (trust me), T is for Toilet (the movie has a thing for bathrooms), Q is for Quack, S is for Speed and U is for Unearthed. L is for Libido is unspeakably gross and Z is for Zetsumetsu is unspeakably weird. You may as well just skip that one.
Now listen up people, I don’t want anyone watching this film and then yelling at me about how weird, gross and fucked up it is. I’ve already said: It is WEIRD. GROSS. and FUCKED UP. If you can’t handle that, don’t watch it. You know who you are.
Confession: this entire list was an excuse for me to recommend Blue Ruin. It is BRILLIANT and needs to be seen by everybody. I’ll even use a terribly cheesy line; if you watch one movie from this list, make it Blue Ruin. It’s not a horror film, falls more into the revenge thriller category, but contains scenes of such raw tension and suspense that your heart will jump out of your chest. To say much about the plot would give the whole movie away. What I can tells you is that it focuses on a seemingly gentle homeless man who receives news that a man from his past has just been released from prison. The movie follows his actions from there. I do apologize but I really cannot tell you much more. One of the movie’s many pleasures is the way it slowly unfolds. Once you get to the meat of the story, it’s fairly simple and straightforward but Blue Ruin cleverly plays with your expectations from beginning to end. The film is also frequently very funny and has elements of a Shakespearean tragedy in its portrayal of a man who gradually, and with increasing dread, comes to terms with the fact that he has started something he cannot stop. Do yourself a favor and don’t look up the trailer; it gives too much away. Just sit back, put it on, and allow a movie to surprise the hell out of you. You won’t regret it.