If you’re like me, nothing fills you with quite the same amount of dread as the words, “Let’s find something on Netflix.” Except maybe asking your significant other, “What do you want for dinner?” It’s an endless search for something you haven’t seen and yet isn’t absolutely horrible. Why is it so hard to find something that matches those two criteria? The struggle is real. That’s where I come in. I’ve waded through all the drivel (some of the things I’ve watched are pure garbage. Who makes these movies?) and come through with some pretty watchable movies. Now keep in mind, my expectations for these movies were very low going into them and none of them are masterpieces but they are definitely worth the watch. These are some of the hidden gems in a sea of bad acting, worse directing, unintelligible writing and endless amounts of shaky POV footage.
A little disclaimer: I love horror movies.
What happens when you’re on a road trip through the desert with your best friend and your car breaks down? Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler give excellent performances as they try to survive and come to terms with their own emotional baggage. This movie is filled with enough twists and turns to keep your attentions and enough tense moments to keep you on the edge of your seat. You can’t help but feel for these guys, even after every bad decision. Have some water at the ready. This movie will make you thirsty.
Do you love The Hunger Games? Why not check out the original version? This incredibly gory film about 42 students fighting to the death until there is only one left alive is a masterpiece of Japanese cinema. Unlike The Hunger Games, where all the kids act so maturely, the characters of Battle Royale continuously remind you that they are children, they are scared, they are filled with romantic notions of saving their crushes, they are immature, they don’t understand what they are doing, they are trying to survive and they don’t want to be alone when they die. It is a dark satire, and as such, it doesn’t take itself too seriously; it’s a social commentary on the educational system and the control that the government has over the population. It’s a great movie and an even better book if you have the time to read it.
At the Devil’s Door
I had absolutely no expectations about this movie when I turned it on. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve seen a lot of terrible horror movies and I thought this one would be no different… and then it surprised me. There are plenty of problems with this movie: the prologue is long and tedious, the dialogue is forced at times and the storyline can be hard to follow and even incoherent. Now that we’ve gotten the faults out of the way, this was a genuinely creepy film. The great cinematography lends itself to an incredibly tense atmosphere where anything can and does happen. This movie keeps you guessing right up to the end and throws enough twists your way to keep your heart thumping. Definitely worth the watch.
I might be a little biased on this one because I worked at TIFF in 2013 and met Derek Lee and Clif Prowse, who wrote, directed and are the main actors in the film. They are honestly awesome people and they told me all about their adventures during filming, which were simultaneously creepy and hilarious. This movie is a fresh spin on the POV horror thriller that focuses on two best friends taking a trip around the world for a video blog when one of them gets bitten by a girl he had picked up and he becomes… afflicted. While POV is becoming really old really fast, this movie revamped my faith in the genre. They made the best use of the style and kept the pacing quick and the twists fresh. I don’t want to give too much away because a lot of this movie has to do with it’s original idea so I’ll leave it for now. Trust me though, it’s a pretty awesome movie.
You can take a breath, this one isn’t as scary as the rest. It’s more of a teen movie and it has a levity that only movies with a young cast can bring. Plus, it’s directed by Joe Dante, the director of Gremlins and Small Soldiers. It’s about a fourteen year old named Dane and his younger brother, Lucas, who have just moved into a new house with their single mother. After exploring the house, they find a strange trap door in the basement that leads to… nothing. It has no bottom and as soon as they open the door, sinister things start happening around their house. What will they do? Ask the cute girl next door for help, obviously. Together, the three of them work to figure out what the hole is and how to put an end to the evil that lurks beneath. It’s a good time; scary without the gore and violence that a lot of other movies depend on. You should check it out.
If these movies are a little heavy for you and you want to watch something hilarious, try John Mulaney: New in Town. I generally don’t like stand up (I know, who am I?) but this killed me. So many knee slappers.