Underrated Netflix Instant Horror Picks: 'Pontypool,' 'Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer,' 'Oculus,' 'Re-Animator'

Start the season right with some movies you might otherwise be afraid to take a chance on.


I firmly believe in the importance of reveling in Halloween-appropriate entertainment throughout the month of October. Throughout the month, I’ll be making recommendations of worthwhile and off-the-beaten-path Halloween media, from films to television to books to online subcultures. To start the month, I’m beginning with some initial, Netflix Instant-accessible horror movies that you may have passed over. Related: Check out the weekly film series I’m doing with David Turner.

‘Pontypool’ (2008)

This is one of the most unusual “zombie” movies you will ever see, and that tag is not exactly applicable, so do not count this one out if you are sick of/generally disdainful of zombie yarns. The IFC-backed Pontypool is by no means conventional horror — perhaps as much a dark, witty comedy as anything else — but possesses the claustrophobic, deadly tense feeling of a movie like The Thing: with a hidden virus that may or may not be consuming a talk radio team trapped inside their station, and the rest of the world outside their doors. The host of the virus: language. Highly recommended, and unforgettable.

‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer’ (1986/1990)

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is, heed my words, not for the faint of heart. It is quite possibly the most intense and disturbing serial killer film ever made, but also one of the best. It’s a C-budget, X-rated independent film from the late ‘80s that gained its reputation across festivals and independent screenings, before being given a real theatrical release in 1990. Driven by an exceptionally poker-faced and creepy performance from Michael Rooker as real-life psychopath Henry Lee Lucas, and its realistic, intensely seedy scenes of violence and general depravity, this is a must-see for serious horror fans.

‘Oculus’ (2014)

This is one of those generic-looking horror movies on Netflix that most wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot-pole; sure, it’s made in conjunction with WWE Studios, but B-horror wizards Blumhouse Productions have lent it their distinctive touch. Oculus will be surprisingly enjoyable for film theory nerds, horror movies fans, and weird B-movie fans alike. It’s a strange, esoterically realized tale about a haunted old mirror that takes a family through hell, and has a Jack-in-The-Shining-like effect on those who become entranced by it. Dream and reality, literally, become inseparable for the characters, and the whole logic, structure and pacing of the film is consumed by it. A lot is left unexplained in this film, to its benefit; as director Mike Flanagan put it to Den of Geek, “Evil in the world doesn’t have an answer.”

‘Re-Animator’ (1985)

Re-Animator, the greatest cinematic adaptation of the work of gothic horror writer extraordinaire H.P. Lovecraft, falls just short of being universally regarded as a horror classic. A gripping gorefest start to finish, driven by wildly stylized performances, it focuses on a misguided but brilliant medical student, Herbert West, who is obsessed with bringing corpses back to life. Of course, they don’t come back to life quite…right, and West is obsessed enough to kill to get new subjects. Re-Animator is a fast-paced and hilarious warhorse of ‘80s horror, with some of the most effective budget gore you’ll see outside of Dead Alive.

‘Shrooms’ (2007)

This is more a call to action to those who spend an hour clicking through Netflix, determining what is worth their time, and often just default to watching an episode of something. The cure for this: that ridiculous-looking movie you’re considering watching for a joke? Go ahead and do it. Because you may well find something hilarious and bizarre. [Shrooms]((http://www.netflix.com/title/70084762) has been lurking around on Netflix for years, and if you’ve ever watched a horror movie on your account, you have seen it rear its strange, ugly head on your suggested titles. Shrooms is exactly what it sounds like, more or less, but darker, and with some truly unforgettable hallucinatory sequences. The worst Irish kids in the world go into the forest to find their spirit animals, but cop some bad caps and instead see demonic visions of killer monks and other archdemons. Eventually, they turn on each other. Watch this with some friends, and wild out on wine coolers and candy corn, not actual hallucinogenics. Yeah, it’s not good, exactly, but it’s pretty damn good.

Check back with us all month for more horror picks.

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