Five horror movies to stream now
By Erik Piepenburg
Each month, we’re recommending five recent horror movies available to stream. This month’s offerings include American possession tales, as well as grisly French perspectives on an unwitting werewolf, killer insects and a vengeful demoness.
Stream it on Shudder.
Teddy is a 20-something oddball who lives at home with his infirm mother and nosy uncle in rural France. He works at a massage parlor, and in his free time takes mushrooms and has sex with his girlfriend.
One night he goes into the woods to try to kill a wolf that’s been slaughtering sheep; in the scuffle he emerges with puncture wounds. Soon after, his tongue and an eyeball start to grow hair, and the moon draws him to a field to devour ewes. Sensing something is off, Teddy searches the internet for “comment soigne loup garou”: how to cure werewolf. But with that bite, his fate was sealed.
Directed by brothers Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma, “Teddy” is a seamless blend of dark realism and absurdist fantasy, a 21st-century “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.” The Boukhermas use unfussy framing and taut pacing to make their film pulse with suspense as it explores a young man’s struggle with being different. Anthony Bajon is endearing as the sudden lycanthrope of the title.
The film holds off until the end to show Teddy the werewolf, but it does so at a distance, a restrained and shrewd choice that becomes the film’s most haunting visual takeaway.
Stream it on HBO Max.
There was a dearth of new queer horror movies for Pride Month, so it’s a treat to have this antic horror-comedy make up for it.
Millie (Kathryn Newton) is an outcast at Blissfield Valley High. As if that’s not tough enough, she gets stabbed with a mythical dagger one night by a teen-hating serial killer named the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn). The attack triggers a supernatural body swap: The Butcher becomes a sassy Millie and Millie reinvents herself as a coldblooded Butcheress.
Directed by Christopher Landon (“Happy Death Day”), “Freaky” is a playful throwback farce that feels original even as it borrows from classic slashers (“Friday the 13th”), body switch comedies (“Freaky Friday”) and ’90s meta-horror (“Scream”). It starts with gushing gore but finishes with a surprising amount of heart.
The script, written by Landon and Michael Kennedy, has a playful gay streak throughout, including Millie’s friendship with Josh (Misha Osherovich), a proud femme queen, and a delightfully awkward scene in which Millie’s crush Booker (Uriah Shelton) makes out with the Butcher.
Stream it on Shudder.
Writer-director-editor Andrew Merrill makes a chilling debut with this indie possession-contagion film. The story centers on Madison (Kris Alexandria) and Jesse (Johnny Kostrey), a couple whose rocky relationship is tested as she devotes time to her demanding job as a teacher’s assistant and he languishes as an orderly at an assisted living facility.
Things take a pernicious turn when one of the residents force-plants a big kiss on Jesse, infecting him with an evil, body-spasming entity of unexplained origin. Reeling from the affliction, Jesse lashes out at Madison and his friends, who presume he’s dealing with nothing more than mild rage. But as Jesse’s body plays host to an increasingly monstrous being, his actions turn deadly.
A lot remains a mystery in “Rot,” which might leave some viewers flustered. But it’s in those unknowns — What is this force? How does it spread? Who is that in the hallway? — that the film gets its low-fi drive. Merrill wraps things up with a low-budget, gross-out, high-concept creature-feature scene that’s one of the most bizarre and creepiest endings I’ve seen all year.
Stream it on Shudder.
Inside an abandoned building in a Paris suburb, graffiti artists Amélie (Mathilde Lamusse), Bintou (Suzy Bemba) and Morjana (Samarcande Saadi) discover the words “Aicha Kandisha” scrawled on the walls. Morjana explains that Kandisha is a figure from Moroccan folklore — “the ghost of a beautiful woman who destroys men,” she says — who can be called on to exact revenge.
Later that night, Amélie’s ex-boyfriend violently attacks her along a dark path. When she gets home, she draws a pentagram in her own blood and summons Kandisha by name. Her ex gets hit by a car and is killed. Other mysterious deaths follow. With help from an exorcist imam, Amélie learns that stopping Kandisha’s killing spree comes with its own deadly price.
“Kandisha” is the latest film from Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, whose 2007 debut “Inside” was a face of the grisly genre known as the New French Extremity. Here they tone down the bloodletting with a story that explores feminism and post-colonialism with a supernatural spin. It’s scary, even though the film sometimes detours into broad-brush teens vs. monster territory.
The directors haven’t abandoned their extreme roots: There’s very real-looking rabbit slaughter and a death by hoof.
Stream it on Netflix.
Virginie (Suliane Brahim), a single mom raising her son and daughter, tries to make ends meet by breeding locusts at her home in small-town France to sell as high-protein food sources. But the critters aren’t replicating, and that’s hurting business. Plus her teenage daughter Laura (Marie Narbonne) is angry that kids at school are calling her mother “mama chirp.”
One day, in a rage over her misfortunes, Virginie falls into her locust hatchery and gets knocked out. When she awakes, she discovers the locusts dining on her wound. It’s then that the insects start multiplying, and she puts two and two together. Desperate to save her business and keep her family from imploding, she regularly lets the locusts use her arm as a feeding ground. But the bugs aren’t satiated.
Not to be confused with the 1978 killer bee movie “The Swarm,” Just Philippot’s feature directing debut is a creepy ravenous-insect movie that accelerates the scares near the end, when an actual swarm starts to menace Virginie and her family. But it’s also a very tender slow-burn drama about how far a mother will go for her children. It’s like “The Babadook” with bugs.