Darlings, as the evenings grow longer and we head into the darkness of the last new moon of 2012, what could be better than curling up at home to watch a little horror? Here are five decent horror films currently available on Netflix Instant, iTunes, and Amazon OnDemand that seemed to fly completely under the radar when they were released. These under-promoted and indie films tend to feature atmospheric terror over gore and present some effective and fresh ideas in horror. As a bonus for those of you who are sick of milquetoast PG-13 scares and found footage films, these movies are all traditionally filmed, R-rated offerings, and each one had moments that left me watching shrunk back as far away from the TV as physically possible. This, my dears, is a sign of a solid horror flick.
1. The Caller (2011)
Requiring the occasional suspension of disbelief, The Caller uses its unusual premise to full advantage to create a tremendous sense of dread, as we watch, helpless, our protagonist trying desperately to stop the horror infiltrating her past.
“This spooky thriller tracks the private nightmare of Mary Kee, a divorcée who begins receiving disturbing telephone calls from a woman she doesn’t know. After engaging the stranger initially, Mary tries to extricate herself — with horrific results.“
2. Wake Wood (2011)
This film takes a little time to get going, but the ending is one of the most solid 30 minutes I’ve seen in a while, mostly due to the outstanding performance of dear little Alice. Dear, dead, wrong Alice. These people need to write “Sometimes, dead is better” on a chalkboard 1,000 times.
“After losing their only child, Alice, in a vicious dog attack, two grieving parents relocate to a small town where — to their horror and fascination — they discover a pagan ritual that will grant them three more days with their deceased daughter. Hoping to allay their sorrow, at least temporarily, the couple decides to go through with the rite, but the larger question remains, what happens after the three days have passed?”
3. The Pact (2012)
Unexpected and creepy, The Pact is a feature-length pickup of a 2011 short film. Although the plot raises a few unresolved questions, I loved that the writers made this more than just a simple haunted house story.
“Feeling obligated to return home for the funeral of the mother she despised, Annie soon senses an evil presence in her childhood home. As she seeks answers about her mother’s death, Annie is forced to face demons from her past.”
4. The Signal (2006)
I adored The Signal so much that this is my second time writing about it. Filmed in 13 days for $50k, the film is presented in three vignettes, each with a different director and tone, taking a slightly different perspective on our story as rage zombies run amok in the city. The black comedy in the second segment is pitch perfect, and I loved watching a single story progress through different voices.
“When the phones, radios and televisions in the city of Terminus begin to broadcast the same strange signal, the transmission breeds jealousy and hate, turning once-sane people into murderous lunatics. A faithless wife seeks the safety of her lover, while her affected husband hunts for her. David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry and Dan Bush each write and direct an act of this horror tale that was nominated for a John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award.”
Absentia is another ultra-low budget indie film I’ve mentioned here on the site before. From the creative team behind Oculus, this $70,000 film suffers occasionally from the limitations of its budget, but more often turns those limitations into a positive, creating an almost Lovecraftian menace of dark, foreboding places and a mostly unseen terror at the outside edges of our imagining.
“Seven years after her husband, Daniel, went missing, Tricia is about to have him declared dead. But as she copes with her grief and the reappearance of her annoying sister, Tricia begins to suspect a sinister force is behind Daniel’s disappearance.”