SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) - The horror genre is a lot like the Winchester Mystery House in the sense that it is a sprawling, ever-evolving place. Housed within its rooms are stories. Some are based on truth, others are pure fantasy. Some are scary, others pedestrian. What terrifies me might not raise the hairs on the back of your neck. I happen to think that Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" is equally as frightening as "The Exorcist." You might not agree. That doesn't make either of us wrong. Unfortunately, neither of those films is on Netflix.
I typically prefer to stray away from hyperbole. "Best" looks great in headlines, but it's overly subjective. What follows is a splattering of films that suit me and my eclectic taste. They might not fit you nearly as well. This certainly isn't a list of my favorite horror films -- that would include films from famous directors like George A. Romero, David Cronenberg, John Carpenter, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, Park Chan-wook and Wes Craven -- that aren't currently on Netflix.
There are a few titles on Netflix, like the adaptations of Stephen King's "1922" and "Gerald's Game," and other originals like "The Haunting of Hill House" and "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" that I haven't seen, but am certainly curious about.
Disclaimers aside, here is a variety of films and series that I enjoy and think you might as well.
"The Babadook" is the first of few titles on this list that I initially discovered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film is built around the boogeyman mythos and finds a single mother trying to help her young son through his seemingly irrational fears of a pale, thin man who appears in a rather sinister children's pop-up book, "Mister Babadook." When director/writer Jennifer Kent started a crowd-sourced campaign to produce screen-accurate versions of "Mister Babadook" for fans to purchase, I was quick to order a copy.
While Henry Selick's ("The Nightmare Before Christmas," "James and the Giant Peach") adaptation of Neil Gaiman's "Coraline" might be a brightly colored children's film about a little girl who finds a pathway to an alternate reality where everything is perfect, but its twist is just sinister enough to make you reconsider what "perfect" really is.
Lorraine and Ed Warren are legends in the paranormal community. Their body of work includes numerous investigations associated with landmark haunting cases. "The Conjuring" is based on one of the duo's more famous cases from the early 1970s in Harrisville, Rhode Island. True or not, James Wan's film is a fantastic ghost story that offers plenty of chills and thrills and remains the best of what has become a highly successful franchise.
Clive Barker's "Hellraiser" is a flawed, but compelling commentary on lust that goes well beyond the majority of other morality horror films. It, along with its first sequel "Hellbound: Hellraiser II," presents a nightmare of sadomasochism under the watchful eye of a mutilated harvester of souls who would later be known as Pinhead. It's not quite on par with the mix of psychological terror and gore of Cronenberg's work, but is unique and unforgettable.
"Interview with the Vampire"
I never really bought into Anne Rice's novels, but there was something about "Interview with the Vampire" that made it a compelling read and, ultimately, an interesting film as well. Relying on the innate decadence of the genre, "Interview with the Vampire" brought Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt together for a glossy taste of immortality and the many complications that come from being trapped in a soulless body. The narrative strays a bit into soap-opera drama, but its examination of loneliness and jealousy gives a little more substance to the story. I prefer Jim Jarmusch's exploration of similar themes in "Only Lovers Left Alive," but you'll need to step outside of Netflix to judge for yourself.
It has been suggested that "It Follows" is a film that explores the dangers of promiscuity in a post-AIDS world. It could also be viewed as a ghost story about a young woman who, following a sexual encounter, is stalked by a presence that only the haunted can see.
Here's another Sundance Film Festival discovery. "Raw," a French-Belgian film about Justine, a young lifelong vegetarian, and her experiences during the first year of veterinary school. To be accepted by her peers, this young woman suffers through hazing that includes eating the kidneys of a rabbit raw. The taste of meat awakens an insatiable hunger that puts anyone close to her in immediate danger.
Stephen King isn't particularly fond of Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of his novel "The Shining," as it liberally strays from its source material. The film wasn't exactly beloved when it was initially released, but time has elevated the film's reputation dramatically. Starring Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, who finds himself working as a caretaker of the Overlook Hotel during its off-season. Accompanied only by his wife (Shelley Duvall) and child, Jack slowly unravels in the isolation. Meanwhile, Danny, Jack's son, discovers that the hotel has a sinister past that may be influencing his father's behavior.
Growing up in the 1980s was a magical time, an age of optimism laced with a hefty amount of paranoia. "Stranger Things" captures the essence of my childhood. The awkwardness, the Dungeons & Dragons, the movies and music. It's all here. I'm particularly fond of the first season, in which the focus was on a group of outcast friends desperately searching for their friend who has gone missing, while also trying to help a mysterious girl with strange abilities. It's the perfect mix of sci-fi, horror and coming-of-age drama.
"Train to Busan"
There had to be a zombie film included on this list and since "Night of the Living Dead" wasn't available, we'll go with "Train to Busan," a Korean zombie apocalypse action movie that takes place on, as you might have guessed from the title, a train.
"Tucker & Dale vs. Evil"
It might surprise you to learn that "Tucker and Dale vs. Evil," a screwball horror film that plays off of the genre's obsession with redneck maniacs, is also a Sundance Film Festival alum. If you liked "Cabin in the Woods" or the goofy nature of the original Evil Dead films, then you absolutely need to sit down with this hilarious movie about two harmless country boys (Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine) who are mistaken for killers by a group of preppy college students.
"The Twilight Zone"
Initially I went in search of "Thriller," an anthology series hosted by Boris Karloff that aired on NBC in the early 1960s. That wasn't available. Thankfully, "The Twilight Zone," a classic anthology series in its own right, is on Netflix. Rod Serling's classic series is getting a reboot from CBS featuring the talents of Jordan Peele, but he'll be hard pressed to match the original's mix of sci-fi and horror. It might take you a month to make your way through all 156 episodes, but the 25-minute format makes it easy to watch in chunks (season four switched to a 50-minute program, but that was trimmed back to 25 minutes for the fifth and final season).
"The Witch" finds a Puritan family forced from their New England community to survive on their own at the edge of the forest. There, removed from the safety of their community, the family's youngest child disappears. Something sinister lurks within the trees. Or is it simply superstition? A paranoia that blames the inexpiable on witchcraft. "The Witch" is a slow-burning drama featuring a breakout performance from Anya Taylor-Joy. Made for $4 million, the film earned $40 million worldwide.