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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Five horror movies to stream now

“Old People” (Netflix)

By Erik Piepenburg

This month’s villains include naughty gay ghosts, savage seniors and a dangerously unhinged bro.

‘The Jessica Cabin’

Stream it on Amazon Prime Video.

Have you ever said to someone: “I would kill to spend more time with you”? The characters in Daniel Montgomery’s gay horror comedy say it a lot, with macabre but unexpectedly tender and very funny consequences for the living and the dead.

The film opens as a gay couple (Chase Williamson and Will Tranfo) check in at a secluded rental property of the title. There, a pair of ghost best friends — Jackson (Montgomery) and Taylor (Riley Rose Critchlow) — watch their new visitors eat, sleep and have sex. But the fun quickly takes a sinister turn, poignantly lifting the curtain on how Jackson and Taylor came to haunt the house and offering a reminder that trauma doesn’t always leave a room when people do.

Montgomery, who wrote and directed this low-budget charmer, smartly balances the creepy and the nutty in a queer story that’s as much about ghosts being catty as it is about loneliness in the here and agency in the afterlife. The cast is across-the-board good at conveying dark humor, especially in scenes that feel entirely improvised. There’s nothing gory or truly scary here; you’re more likely to cry than scream watching these big-hearted mortals and spirits maneuver their bizarre liminal world.


Stream it on Tubi.

Like many cater-waiters, Kay (Khosi Ngema) and her gay bestie Riley (Matthew Vey) are eager to have a good time on a rich guy’s dime. That’s why they’ve hidden away one night in the mountaintop mansion of a smug billionaire, Pierce (Francis Chouler), after their party shift there ends. Riley leaves for a booty call, leaving Kay alone in the fortresslike home when Pierce, and later his girlfriend (Alex McGregor), unexpectedly return, kicking off a vicious cat-and-mouse game that writer-director Jem Garrard lines with gruesome twists to bloody the way before a blowout finale.

Garrard follows up their previous Tubi original, the unfunny vampires-versus-drag queen horror comedy “Slay,” with a far more thrilling battle of wits, here between the have-a-lots and the have-nots. What could have been a heavy-handed 96-minute metaphor is instead a tight “Parasite”-aspiring thriller that’s buoyed by terrific performances from Chouler (charming and sinister) and Ngema (fearless and calculating). For fans of home invasion films, this one comes with a nifty twist: The intruders are the good guys.

‘The Ghost Station’

Stream it on Amazon Prime Video.

Young reporter Na-young (Kim Bo-ra) is feeling pressure from the Korean newspaper where she works to “write a provocative story with a clickbait headline,” as an editor tells her. She hits gold when she starts to cover mysterious goings-on inside an old section of a train station where people have been killed and where a child has been spotted among the darkness of the tracks. As Na-young probes the station’s accident-prone history, her investigation leads her into battle against supernatural curses and undead hauntings (and greedy editors).

Hiroshi Takahashi, who co-wrote the film and who wrote the original “Ringu,” here throws in a roster of Japanese horror best hits: demonic little kids, long-held grudges and even an evil well. But what Jeong Yong-ki’s film lacks in originality it makes up for overall with an effectively creepy ghost story that, in a swift 80 minutes, doubles as a cautionary tale about the perils of shoddy journalism.

‘Old People’

Stream it on Netflix.

“There are old people everywhere!”: That’s the warning, and the political message, that drives this slick dystopian thriller from German writer-director Andy Fetscher.

The film revolves around a mother (Melika Foroutan) and her kids (Bianca Nawrath and Otto Emil Koch) who head to the country for a wedding. There they meet up with the kids’ grandfather (Paul Fassnacht), who lives in a decrepit, understaffed nursing home where the unsmiling, stooped-over residents look like a circle of maniacs. It’s not a good time to be a German senior: The country has been rocked by a series of grisly murders inexplicably committed by older people.

Although Fetscher’s script takes some harebrained turns, this is a raw killer zombie movie, of sorts, that’s also a cutting and universal indictment of modern eldercare. It’s not that high-minded, though: There are buckets of blood and guts, an extra-fiery finale and, best of all, revenge served senior style.

‘Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever’

Stream it on Shudder.

I’m somewhat a fan of “Nightwatch” (1994), Ole Bornedal’s twisted and scrappy but tonally uneven psychological thriller about a morgue night watchman (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who crosses paths with a psychopath scalper (Ulf Pilgaard) terrorizing Copenhagen, Denmark. (Ewan McGregor starred in the 1997 American remake.)

Coster-Waldau — or the Kingslayer Jaime Lannister, to “Game of Thrones” fans — was the dashing heart and soul of the original. Here he returns as Martin, still dashing, in Bornedal’s glossier and still tonally uneven sequel. (Pilgaard and another original cast member, Kim Bodnia, also reprise their roles.)

This time, Martin’s 22-year-old daughter, Emma (Fanny Leander Bornedal), is a medical student who takes the night watch job overseeing what has become a much larger and gloomier morgue. Curious to learn more about what happened to her father when he worked there, Emma visits the scalper, now blind and disfigured and living in darkness at a mental institution. Their encounter sets them both on a sad and disturbing “Silence of the Lambs”-style trip with consequences that put Martin in the crosshairs.

You don’t need to have seen “Nightwatch” to appreciate this film’s meditations on suffering, aging and mental illness. I very much recommend this film to fellow horror lovers who have waited 30 years to find out what became of Martin after his weird night shift went to hell.

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