It’s Halloween 2019 and the subscription model for web-based content distribution is king.
Given that you, as a citizen of the world, are extremely likely to be subscribed to at least one of the two streaming behemoths, Netflix or Amazon Prime, and (especially if you’re reading this article) will likely be looking for something to watch this Halloween night.
If, like me, you’re a cash-strapped college student (due in part to the ever-escalating price of streaming video content) let me guide you on a tour of the very best of the spooky, the eerie, the disturbing, the gory and the downright gross movies each service currently has on-offer, shall we?
The ‘flix does not have the best reputation amongst the cinephile community in terms of their selection of classic films. Which is fine, because their bread and butter is episodic, television-style content.
But this October they have a small yet seemingly well-curated collection of horror and horror-adjacent cinema consisting of some classics, some under seen gems and few off-beat direct-to-VOD curiosities.
Your best bet: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The sweaty, seedy, terrifying pinnacle of horror cinema. 44 years later, Tobe Hooper’s 1974 low budget masterpiece retains its power to shock, unnerve and disturb. A timeless testament to the power of harnessing the audience’s imagination when making a horror film — it’s not what you see when the eponymous massacre kicks off, it’s what’s implied. Your mind fills in the rest.
Also for your consideration:
Carrie (1976) Brian De Palma plus Stephen King equals the ultimate teenage rage flick.
Green Room (2015) It’s punk rockers versus neo-Nazis in a battle to the death. Not a horror movie per se, but a tense, grimy piece of pulp filmmaking that does not skimp on the red stuff.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) Another film that may not add up to much, but is worthwhile for real sustained creepy atmosphere and a few scenes of good old fashioned white-knuckle suspense.
The Invitation (2015) A hipster dinner party goes from bad to really weird back to bad to even worse in this taut little shocker from underrated director Karyn Kusama.
Honorable Mentions: The VVitch (2015), Scream (1996), Candyman (1992).
When it comes to horror titles, Prime brings the heat. Their free streaming library is chock full of every variety of horror cinema under the sun (or Blood moon). However, be warned— Prime is sometimes very sloppy with the video and sound quality of the movies they host on their service. But it’s a small price to pay for the sheer depth and quality of titles on their service and, to be honest, only a small percentage of the content-consuming populace cares about that sort of thing.
And seriously, there is a veritable bounty of great horror movies to choose from on Prime. There were at least 12 other titles I considered for this list yet had to begrudgingly cut, not including my honorable mentions. Here’s what I was left with.
Your best bet:
Rosemary’s Baby (1968) Often imitated, never duplicated. Roman Polanski’s horror masterpiece combines relationship melodrama with psychological horror and an unmatched sense of creeping dread and one of the best horror movie endings of all time.
Also for your consideration:
Hereditary (2018) Pound-for-pound Ari Aster has shown himself to be the next heavyweight champ of horror cinema. This one is disturbing and not necessarily because of what it shows you, but because of what it says — that your family history can literally haunt you like ghosts.
The Nightmare (2015) A documentary on the phenomenon of sleep paralysis — the scariest documentary ever made.
Parents (1989) Meat has never looked so gross on film. An underrated 80’s gem of suburban weirdness that faithfully portrays just how scary it can feel to be a kid.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) The feel-bad film of all-time. You will need a long, long shower after its over. Use discretion when considering this one, folks. If those words of warning feel like a dare, well, they are.
Honorable mentions: Black Christmas (1974), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986), Event Horizon (1997), The Gate (1987), Sleepaway Camp (1983), High Tension (2003), The Monster Squad (1987), Midsommar (2019).