Five horror movies to stream now
By Erik Piepenburg
This month, horror takes a trip around the world, with demons creeping out Spain, Macedonia, the Netherlands and suburban America.
Rent or buy it on Vudu
Blasco (Ramiro Blas), a former bullfighter, drives a van that shuttles folks around Spain. He’s a boor who doesn’t like feminists, and that doesn’t sit well with his three passengers one fateful day: Mariela (Cecilia Suárez), a religious woman who has cancer, and Lidia (Cristina Alcázar), who’s taking her grouchy teenage daughter, Marta (Paula Gallego), to live with Lidia’s ex-husband.
But Blasco’s macho drivel is the least of the group’s worries. As night falls, they come across a gurgling organism that spits a teeny worm into Marta’s finger, and not long after, Blasco plows his van into a disfigured woman standing in the road. As he transports her to the hospital, she spews a translucent goo that turns Mariela into a snarling killer ghoul. From there, it’s a slugfest between humans and evil ooze.
This dark horror-comedy, from the Spanish directing duo Raúl Cerezo and Fernando González Gómez, is more than a stomach-churning infection film. It’s also a surprisingly touching look at how people, especially parents and their kids, forgive one another when trauma is a parasite with sticky fingers. I don’t know how much the sloppy-gooey makeup effects cost, but the directors got their money’s worth.
‘You Won’t Be Alone’
Stream it on Peacock
I admired, more than I enjoyed, this folk-horror fable set in the lush rural landscapes of 19th-century Macedonia, where the supernatural and the ordinary share a fraught coexistence.
When she turns 16, a mute girl named Nevena (Sara Klimoska) is taken from her mother by a Freddy Krueger-looking demon (Anamaria Marinca) known to locals as Old Maid Maria. With unsparing cruelty, Maria instructs her new child in the ways of a shape-shifter, a life that requires Nevena to butcher the humans she wishes to become, including a young village woman (Noomi Rapace).
Macabre and visually striking, the film traffics in a style of folk horror that’s just this side of pretentious. Still, writer-director Goran Stolevski and cinematographer Matthew Chuang collaborated to make a film about a young woman’s quest for self-discovery that includes beautiful passages of sensuality and joy but also shocking acts of brutality. There’s a subversive queerness, too: When Nevena becomes a handsome young man, she explores the male body as well as the expectations that come with it.
Stream it on Amazon
Clayton Witmer’s film is an intensely moody and affecting character drama masquerading as an old-fashioned creature feature.
Ethan (Drew Matthews) is an introverted locksmith who lives alone in an American suburb near his brother (Ryan Davenport) and his family. Driving one night, Ethan comes across a deer carcass, and inside he finds a squirmy little creature, a cross between a spider and a lobster. He takes it home, where the little guy breaks free of its cage, eventually growing to monstrous size. When a neighbor turns up dead one morning, Ethan has a hunch who the killer is.
At just under two hours, the film is too long to sustain its creepy-crawly ambitions. But it’s a spell weaver. I was especially drawn to how Witmer takes a monster metaphor in unexpected directions as he explores what it means to grow up, and never leave, a small town. Ayinde Anderson’s fine cinematography makes suburban North Carolina, where the film was shot, look humble and sinister.
Stream it on Shudder
This feature film from Nico van den Brink is a conventional supernatural folk-horror drama that nonetheless offers a good night’s scare and a doozy of an ending.
Set in the Netherlands, the movie opens as Jonas (Alexandre Willaume) and his team of researchers work near a peat bog where Betriek (Sallie Harmsen) lives with her young daughter. They make a bizarre discovery: a long-dead body of a woman whose throat was vertically sliced open. Meanwhile, Betriek’s father sets up a sensor in the yard after a deranged man shouts “They’re making me do it!” as he attacks the family.
As Betriek and Jonas strike up a romance, she tells him that the creepy goings-on might have something to do with a family curse that followed her grandmother’s unsolved murder. She’s right, and the curse has its claws out for her and her daughter.
I don’t quite get the demonic myth that fuels “Moloch”; it’s got biblical roots and has something to do with a hungry female spirit. But that’s OK, since van den Brink’s film throbs with suspense and lobs oddball scares, like an uncanny scene in which Betriek encounters a possessed kid in an elevator. The freaky final scene is chilling.
Rent or buy it on most major platforms
Even though it borrows from “Ju-On: The Grudge,” “The Vigil” and other horror films, D.M. Cunningham’s engrossing low-budget ghost story still scares on its own terms.
The film opens on a stormy night in a cell, as James (Peter Tell) recounts the harrowing events of a terrible day to his prison counselor (Sherryl Despres). Flashing back, James explains that he was a police deputy who once had to protect a dead body found near a cabin in the woods. He started seeing red poppies and a woman in a red gown — clues, he says, to why he was there, who the victim was and what a fellow officer (Haley Heslip) had to do with it all. As he recalls the gory terrors that ensued, we learn that James harbored terrible secrets a sheet could never hide.
From pacing to chronology, this film is off-kilter; dream states and reality share space in scenes that don’t flow from one to the next. But Tell’s darkly comic performance and Cunningham’s adventurous direction make it work. That is, until the film’s many detours — from zombie comedy to sci-fi thriller to Hallmark romance — race to a confusing finish.