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5 horror movies to stream now



Nell Tiger Free as Margaret and Nicole Sorace as Carlita in “The First Omen.” (20th Century Studios)

By Erik Piepenburg


This month’s picks include demon baby, a cursed chef and all kinds of people trapped in hellish situations.



‘The First Omen’


Arkasha Stevenson’s prequel to “The Omen” smashes and remixes genres — body and pregnancy horror, nunsploitation, Gothic melodrama — to tell a terrifying and visually striking origin story about an ungodly little boy named Damien.


It’s 1971, and Margaret (Nell Tiger Free), an American, is in Rome to work at an orphanage before taking her vows to become a nun. There, she befriends Carlita (Nicole Sorace), a disturbed girl who Margaret learns is part of a nefarious plan by church elders to bring about the Antichrist in hopes that it will sow fear and bring Catholics back to the pews.


Stevenson is too assured a director, too respectful of her source material and too interested in being timely to make a typical evil believer movie. Through monstrous visuals and a feminist sensibility, she and her fellow writers, Tim Smith and Keith Thomas, connect the dots between religious fanaticism and reproductive freedom, topics as fraught today as they were when “The Omen” made its indelible mark on horror in 1976.


You needn’t have seen the original “Omen” to enjoy this film, but if you’re in the mood for a knockout double feature, it is also streaming on Hulu. (Stream it on Hulu.)



‘Property’


From “Centigrade” to “The Girl in the Trunk,” being trapped inside a car is a suffocating choice for a single-location horror movie. In this politically minded, violent thriller, writer-director Daniel Bandeira puts a novel spin on the subgenre by making the vehicle an armored car.


After being held at gunpoint in the city, Teresa (Malu Galli), a fashion designer, decides to recover at her secluded estate in the Brazilian countryside. What she doesn’t realize is that her recently fired workers have other plans. Her husband, Roberto (Tavinho Teixeira), drives her there in a new bulletproof smart car that hasn’t yet been programmed to recognize her voice. When they arrive, they’re caught off guard to find that the poor people who run the couple’s farm are inside the main home, enraged over Roberto’s scheme to take away their livelihoods.


The surprise encounter triggers the film’s propulsive, perspective-shifting story about class, race and privilege as seen through the eyes of people trapped on opposing sides of an impenetrable divide. It’s no spoiler to say there is no winner. (Rent or buy it on major platforms.)



‘Monster’


Don’t worry if you don’t speak Indonesian or can’t stand subtitles: You won’t need either in Rako Prijanto’s nearly dialogue-free abduction-survival thriller. Do worry if you’re queasy about watching children get tortured and traumatized, because that’s what this brazen film packs into a relentless 86 minutes.


The film begins as best friends, Alana (Anantya Kirana) and Rabin (Sultan Hamonangan), get abducted by a man (Alex Abbad) and driven to a secluded cabin. Alana manages to free herself from her restraints and spends the rest of the film playing cat and mouse with her psychotic abductor. When unexpected visitors arrive and upend the man’s plans, Alana and Rabin get put through the ringer. (Kirana and Hamonangan do too.)


Prijanto trusts his actors and they knock it out the park, delivering torrents of wild expressions, bloodcurdling screams and hand-to-hand combat. Like “The Boy Behind the Door” — which this film deftly reimagines — and the recent science-fiction thriller “No One Will Save You,” it’s a brutal fairy tale in which actions speak louder than words. (Stream it on Netflix.)



‘What You Wish For’


Ryan (Nick Stahl), a chef at a Dallas hotel, travels to a secluded villa in an unnamed Latin American country to visit Jack (Brian Groh), a longtime friend and fellow chef who makes one-of-a-kind meals for rich clients. Ryan’s stay is marred by texts that threaten him and his mother unless he pays his gambling debts. After assuming Jack’s identity and cleaning out his friend’s bank accounts — so much for friendship — Ryan learns that Jack was hired by a nefarious cabal to serve meals that are, no exaggeration, a matter of life or death.


If you can suspend disbelief easily, there’s much to enjoy in this twisted meditation on ambition and morality from writer-director Nicholas Tomnay. (What culinary school teaches chefs to break down human corpses?) Tomnay plays his script’s class-based tensions and culinary satire straight but he goes all out on butchery, and the result is a less comical but grislier sister to “The Menu.” Stahl effortlessly underplays his character’s grotesque moral contours. (Rent or buy it on major platforms.)



‘Life of Belle’


After their father leaves for a work trip, young Annabelle (Syrenne Robinson) and her kid brother, Link (Zachary Robinson), spend their lazy July afternoons at home with their mother (Sarah Mae Robinson). Using her new camera, Annabelle talks to her pretend social media followers as she shows them around her family’s suburban house. She takes her camera to the neighborhood playground too, where she finds Link asking their mother, “Who are you talking to?” as she stands still, whispering to what appears to be nobody.


Security monitors also capture the mom’s increasingly erratic behavior, like when she empties the house of food, convinced it’s poison. What mom doesn’t remove are the knives — the first clue that the home will soon become a house of horrors.


This feature debut from writer-director Shawn Robinson looks a lot like other low-budget found footage horror films. Like “Paranormal Activity,” it’s set inside a house. Like “He’s Watching,” its leads are a brave young brother and sister.


But in those films, otherworldly forces invade domestic space. Here, Robinson takes a disturbingly different path, using a parent’s real, untreated mental illness as the antagonistic force, forgoing metaphor. Far from being exploitative, the film extends compassion toward the suffering of both parent and child. The Robinson family is related in real life — and their performances are scary movie naturalism at its best. (Stream it on Tubi.)

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