Summer is usually the time of year when mega-budget blockbusters battle it out on the big screen. But if there’s one genre that can hold its own against the wave of movies starring household names and backed by expensive-ass CGI and massive marketing campaigns it’s horror films, which remain popular all year round.
Often made on the cheap, horror movies are a breeding ground for young talent who can create a lot with a little, as in the case of Jon Watts, the director of the highly anticipated Spider-Man: Homecoming. His criminally slept-on Clown is one of the featured picks in this week’s Netflix column devoted to must-see and overlooked horror films.
There’s really not much that needs to be said to convince you the movie Clown is scary since everybody knows clowns are evil. But as a portrayal of a tortured man seeking help for an incredulous problem — he’s turning into a goddamn murderous clown — it thoroughly draws you into his harrowing predicament.
Another skin-crawling example of body horror is The Void, a visually-exciting B-movie brand new to Netflix. It’s always bad when slimy, slithering creatures are trying to kill you. It’s even worse when those same creatures are trying to invade your body as they do in this action-packed, ‘80s-inspired thriller.
Barbara Crampton, who appeared in the cult classic Re-Animator, stars in a few movies currently streaming on Netflix, including the decent-but-wish-it-could-be-better Beyond the Gates, which is about a deadly board game. A better choice would be to watch her in We Are Still Here, a haunted house movie that also has an ‘80s retro feel, as well. Viewers old enough to remember renting VHS tapes will probably get a kick out of this one.
For those in the mood for more subdued horror, Here Alone is a zombie film for people who care more about human survival and dealing with the loss of loved ones than flesh-eating corpses. And our final choice is a movie that won’t be for everyone. Come Back to Me features a distressed woman, her creepy neighbor, and a crazy ending. The movie is adapted from a book by Wrath James White. But do yourself a favor and don’t look up the title until after you’ve seen the film. The less you know going in, the better.
Warning: May Contain Spoilers
Starring: Andy Powers, Laura Allen, Peter Stormare
Director: Jon Watts
You might have heard the story about how Clown initially started out as a fake trailer on the internet. The short teaser was jokingly attributed to Eli Roth, who shocked everyone when he contacted the real filmmakers and helped them get Clown made into an actual feature-length movie.
Unfortunately, the film, which is about a father (Andy Powers) who dons a clown costume for his kid’s birthday party only to find out he can’t take off the getup the next day, ran into distribution problems. Maybe it had something to do with the dad not only morphing into a killer clown, but feeding on children to maintain his evil powers. Oops.
Regardless if you’re offended by that little detail or not, you got to admit that it’s not easy to pull off a serious horror flick about a guy transforming into a monstrous clown without it feeling like a Stephen King rip-off. The absurd scenario could have backfired like an exploding cigar, which says something about Jon Watts’ directing talents and Powers’ convincing performance in what is one of the darker horror movies you’re likely to see this year.
The Void (2016)
Starring: Aaron Poole, Kathleen Munroe, Daniel Fathers, Mik Byskov, Kenneth Welsh
Directors: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
The Void is like an unholy cross between Hellraiser and John Carpenter’s The Thing, with just the right ominous tone to keep you on edge. It’s about a cop who, along with a skeleton crew medical staff and a few other unlucky folks, gets trapped inside a rural hospital that’s about to be shut down due to a recent fire. They can’t leave because they are under attack by what appear to be cult members and body-possessing creatures capable of mind control… or something like that.
It doesn’t take long for all hell to break loose in The Void, which is a good thing since the shrouded-in-mystery storyline involving knife-wielding hooded figures and alien-like intruders, is, honestly, a bit muddled. Even so, the action is well paced with continuously bizarre and ghastly scenes that should keep your interest until the very end. The insanely frightening creatures are straight out of your worst nightmares, but they are also what make The Void bloody disgusting, spine-tingling fun.
We Are Still Here (2015)
Starring: Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Lisa Marie, Larry Fessenden, Monte Markham
Director: Ted Geoghegan
The Amityville Horror (1979) and Italian maestro Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond (1981) seem to be the main influences on We Are Still Here, an enjoyable haunted house flick with a retro feel so convincing the film could pass for a long-lost VHS relic from your favorite back-in-the-day video store.
The story is simple enough: Grieving parents (Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig) move into an old country house to start a new life after their son dies in a car accident. But unsettling things start happening in the home almost immediately, causing the mother to question whether it’s the spirit of her dead son trying to communicate with them or something more sinister.
There are a good number of scares and gross-out moments in We Are Still Here to satisfy genre fans. The real test is whether audiences will appreciate the dialogue and acting which pays homage to — and pokes slight fun at — the low-budget horror films from the past.
Here Alone (2016)
Starring: Lucy Walters, Adam David Thompson, Gina Piersanti
Director: Rod Blackhurst
Genre: Horror, Drama
There’s one important thing to know before watching Here Alone. You will see zombies, but just barely. That’s because the film, which zeroes in on everyday survival in a post-apocalypse world, is more interested in how people cope with emotional trauma than how they flee the brain-eating undead. Told partly in flashback, the contemplative film chronicles one woman’s struggles out in the wild a year after a strange virus began turning people into predators hungry for human flesh and blood.
On the surface, with its lush forest greenery and weary characters trying to figure out ways to outwit the infected hordes, Here Alone bears some resemblance to The Walking Dead. But whereas the popular television series has tried to make the loss of humanity a central theme, it rarely reaches the level of personal reflection that this indie film does. Furthermore, the criticism of “empty violence” that the TV show has faced doesn’t apply here, as the movie focuses on the hope one must keep when faced with overwhelming despair.
Come Back to Me (2014)
Starring: Katie Walder, Nathan Keyes, Laura Gordon, Matt Passmore
Director: Paul Leyden
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Come Back to Me is a brutal film, but not in the way you might think. It’s not until after the movie is over and viewers have had a moment to fully piece together and contemplate what they’ve just seen that the twisted story really hits you. It’s the type of film that offers a different but no less disturbing experience upon a second viewing, once you know what’s going on.
And what exactly is going on? Well, the plot revolves around a woman in the middle of pursuing academic endeavors who begins suffering from night terrors. But to say anymore could possibly ruin the movie.
It’s tough to say whether Come Back to Me should be better known. The low-budget film is not without its faults, most notably the faintly odd, color-saturated look it has. But one thing is certain: At a time when far too many filmmakers fail to provide any kind of definitive ending to their movies, the conclusion we get here is one that’s not easily forgotten.