The San Juan Daily Star
Five horror movies to stream now
By Erik Piepenburg
Writer-director Corey Deshon wastes no time establishing the depraved scenario that fuels his slow-burn thriller. In the opening minutes, a man who goes by Father (Casper Van Dien, maniacal) bludgeons a woman to death on a desolate hillscape. Cut to Father taking a hood off a young woman (Vivien Ngo) whom he has kidnapped so that his son, known as Brother (Ian Alexander), can have a new “sister” to replace the one Father just killed.
Enter Mother (Elyse Dinh), who assures the terrified captive that she’ll be fine as long as she keeps Father happy. (Both women are Vietnamese, a connection that becomes pivotal.) Father isn’t looking for sex — that’s incestuous, gross — but rather for Sister to keep Brother occupied at home and unaware of the world outside, where only Father ventures. What Father doesn’t know is that he picked the wrong Daughter to mess with.
Deshon’s thrillingly demented feature film debut explores what happens when fragile masculinity meets unquestioned faith and fanaticism. It’s a low-budget sampler of “Room,” “Safe” and “Dogtooth,” made on 16 mm film for extra scruff and shot through an icy camera that rarely, barely moves. Be patient. The finale is bloodcurdling.
Rent it on most major platforms.
Neve (Ashley Madekwe) lives with her husband and two good-natured teenagers in a lovely suburban home. But Neve keeps seeing the same two people staring at her — on the street and in the halls of the elite school where she’s the deputy headmistress. Each happens to be Black, and these strangers are giving Neve the willies, even though she is a light-skinned Black woman herself. When the two (Jorden Myrie and Bukky Bakray) unexpectedly greet Neve at a party, the film takes an unexpected detour that forces Neve (and us) to question everything that’s come before, with no clue what to expect next.
I’m going out of my way not to spoil this British psychological thriller because going into it cold is the best way to experience the dread that writer-director Nathaniel Martello-White has in store. Is the script Diet Jordan Peele on racial tensions, Low-Cal Michael Haneke in the suspense department? You bet. But who cares when issues of motherhood, race and class still clash so starkly?
Stream it on Netflix.
‘The Integrity of Joseph Chambers’
Joe (Clayne Crawford, excellent) is an insurance salesman who lives with his wife and kids in rural Alabama. He gets up early one morning to go hunting, a skill he wants to hone just in case the world goes to hell and he needs to provide food for his family. Alone, Joe naps and wanders the woods but doesn’t shoot anything — until he does, accidentally and shockingly.
There’s much to admire in Robert Machoian’s follow-up to “The Killing of Two Lovers,” his aching neo-noir thriller that also starred Crawford as a dad who tries, and fails hard, to do the right thing. As in that film, Machoian tenderly and hauntingly explores how men navigate the demands of masculinity and fatherhood, with the threat of gun violence hovering over it all.
Too bad the comedic, almost clowning elements in the script work against the ethical questions the film otherwise takes seriously, making the whole thing feel more like a character sketch than a fleshed-out drama.
Rent or buy it on most major platforms.
Benjamin (Cooper Koch) is headed to Los Angeles with dreams of OnlyFans stardom. But first his straight bestie, Dom (Jose Colon), convinces him they should be drug mules for Alice (Jena Malone), who promises them money if they swallow pellets filled with what they assume are drugs. But when Dom accidentally expels one, what comes out is a wiggling little creature that delivers a high when it hits the bloodstream. (The film’s writer-director, Carter Smith, mined similar creepy-crawly territory in his deeply unsettling gay horror short “Bugcrush,” from 2006.) Unfortunately, the whole deal turns nasty, and deadly, when Benjamin and Dom meet Rich (Mark Patton), a lecherous old queen eager to get his bug-drugs out of their butts.
There are so many genres bouncing around this strange movie that normally I’d say stay away. But queer horror fans might give it a shot for the heartfelt (and kinky) gay-straight bromance at its center. Kudos to Patton, the star of “Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” (1985), one of the gayest horror movies, for tackling the role of a gay grotesque.
Rent or buy it on most major platforms.
No streaming platform delivers camp horror as consistently (and for free) as Tubi. What its original movies lack in creativity and budget — don’t bother with “Titanic 666” — they make up for in undemanding watchability.
My latest guilty pleasure is Chris Stokes’ new salacious stalker film, part of Tubi’s robust roster of new Black thrillers, here led by a cast of Black women.
Annie (Parker McKenna Posey) is awkward and shy but also good at her job as the assistant to Dr. Raven Fields (Erica Mena), a successful OB-GYN. The two strike up a friendship outside the office, and when Fields learns that Annie lives in a shelter, she invites the young woman to live with her. But both Annie and Fields hide pernicious mother-daughter secrets, and while Fields has mostly moved on from her traumas, Annie has not. As she gets more involved in her boss’s life, Annie’s polished veneer cracks, with violent consequences.
More nutty than scary, Stokes calls on the spirits of “Single White Female” and “Obsessed,” adding twists that are simultaneously predictable and comically unsettling. If you’re looking for serious terror, keep walking. If you want macabre melodramatics to watch one night with wine and friends, this film will assist.
Stream it on Tubi.