Plenty of streaming Halloween treats available depending on what service(s) you may be using. Sure, HBO Max, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu have a good batch of evil to choose from. But, Shudder caters strictly to horror and many of their originals have some real bite. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an advertisement for this streaming service. I will give equal time to the others and preside over the funeral to one that showed promise.
HBO Max – Aside from some great chiller features that include The Invisible Man, Doctor Sleep, Ready or Not, IT Chapter 2 and another exploit of that little devil doll Annabelle as she comes home, HBOMax has Sir Ridley Scott’s sci-fi/fantasy horror show, Raised By Wolves. What appears to be a distant cousin to Scott’s Alien series, Wolves involves two androids, mother and father, that are set to inhabit a planet with babies after the Earth was destroyed by a devastating war. Sounds more sci-fi, right? But wait, mother also happens to be a “necromancer,” a death dealer that with one scream can cause a human being to explode. A colony of humans, religious zealots, happen to visit what they think is an uninhabited planet. Religion, questioning humanity and lots of bloodshed with some stunning visuals makes this a space where everyone can hear you scream.
Lovecraft Country starts off great, hitting all the marks of a good Lovecraft story, but has a hard time keeping up with the quality of the first episode. Misha Collins, J.J. Abrams, Jordan Peele and Misha Green have developed the project from a 2014 novel by Matt Ruff. The filmmakers have plenty of references regarding Lovecraft and his fantastical horror stories mixed with a very unsettling depiction of the Jim Crow era of the 1950s in the south. The later is more chilling than the monsters themselves. But, as the series kicks into its third episode it becomes far more fantasy oriented with ties to Asian folklore, and for me, it just became more silly than chilly.
Sure, there are lots of monsters, gore aplenty and Hentai monster sex that will attract the subgenre fans. But, I couldn’t help think how much better the show would have been keeping with the atmosphere set in the first episode and leaving out the nods to War of the Worlds, The Princess of Mars, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a real life Manga monster ripping though a man’s genitals and even an unnecessary reference to Jordan Peele’s Us.
Netflix is on a roll with their original horror content. Last year they gave us the deliciously nasty The Babysitter involving an attractive twenty-something watching over a young teen boy and set to use him as a virgin sacrifice for satanic purposes. What makes this film worth watching? It’s downright funny and sick with Samara Weaving, cute, funny and extremely deadly. Weaving is fast becoming my favorite scream queen having starred in Ready or Not, Mayhem, Guns Akimbo and Ash vs. Evil Dead. My God what a line up!
Believe it or not, just when you think Netflix and the filmmakers could not outdo themselves on the first try, they unleash The Babysitter: Killer Queen. The outrageousness goes to new levels. It’s definitely a guilty sophomoric funhouse ride.
For those with a taste of something more subdued and serious there is Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Bly Manor. This is a slow burn and Flanagan is more into giving you the creeps in this haunting than outright scaring you. Flanagan fans will not be disappointed for those that enjoyed his other outings: Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House and Hush, Doctor Sleep, and Oculus. If you’ve missed any of them they are well worth catching up with this Halloween.
Then there is the surprise zombie hit #Alive. This movie is nuts! The best living DVD film since Train to Busan. In fact, it may be better. Okay, it’s subtitled. Get over it. I’m finding some of the very best in horror foreign films. South Korea gives us a video game live streamer who is stuck in his apartment during a zombie outbreak. The story is not a simple munch and crunch. A great deal of thought went into constructing this multi-layered story and you’ll find yourself screaming for the young man’s survival.
Amazon Prime has The Boys. That’s all I have to say. Does it fall under horror? Not exactly. But, what these so-called superheroes do is not only shocking but horrifying as well. A super speedster runs through a young woman causing her to explode. A Superman/Captain America type lasers his victims in half. A man’s penis becomes the ultimate weapon. See, shocking and horrifying. There’s enough laughs and bloodshed to quench the thirst of any horror hound, and there are well written characters and a great story that touches upon politics, greed, lust, revenge and redemption.
Prime also has CBS’s first season of Evil. Talk about creepy. A skeptical forensic psychologist is encouraged to work with a Catholic seminarian and a technology contractor to investigate supernatural occurrences. Some are explained as complete fabrications while others leave no explanation. That’s the scary part. Think X-Files crossed with The Exorcist. The show is a very somber affair and may leave you wanting to keep the lights on at night. The cast makes it all the more real with Katja Herbers (Westworld, The Leftovers) as the psychologist/single mom with three young daughters. Michael Emerson is Dr. Leland Townsend, a leader in the occult. Emerson continues to deliver as he did in Lost and Arrow. While Mike Colter, fresh from Luke Cage, plays against type as the quiet and thought provoking seminarian. The show is somewhat bleak, but it will leave you begging for a second season.
Believe it or not, In the Flesh is actually a thought provoking zombie limited series from the BBC that can be seen on both Prime, Netflix and Hulu. An award winning show that was cut short due to budget constraints. Sad, because the idea of zombie rehabilitation, issues of intolerance, and teenage angst all mixed into one show successfully is a real achievement.
Hulu ushers in the king with Castle Rock, Stephen King that is. The first season is a homage to just about everything we know about the fictitious town of Castle Rock that King created. It weaves several tales that we are very familiar with in his most beloved books. That first season is nowhere near as impressive as the second that unravels the story of Annie Wilkes, the lead character in Misery. And, who better to play a young Kathy Bates? Lizzy Kaplan nails it. We both sympathize and loathe her. That second season is damn-near nail biting.
The there’s Hulu’s Monsterland, a psychological anthology series displaying the monster in all of us and some real monsters as well that may not be as bad. There is supposedly a story in every town and Monsterland intends to visit all over to uncover the darkside of these places. The show is an interesting concept, but a bit of a downer. I got through two episodes and had to take a break due to the depressing subject matter. But, it still is worth checking out.
Guilty pleasure alert rings through Hulu with Motherland: Fort Salem. Witches are among us and working with the government in a co-op against evil entities, a terrorist organization known as the Spree. The show concentrates on three young witches entering an academy for training to be weapons for the military. They use their vocal cords as weapons and protection. What the Spree do with their powers is unnerving. The opening scene to Motherland is electrifying and the rest of the show with its cast will hold you under their spell until the next season.
Shudder does exactly what the title suggests with its crop of horrors. They offer Shudder originals that include Tigers Are Not Afraid, Terrified and the Nicolas Cage twofer terrors Mandy and Color Out of Space. Other tricks and treats include The Cleansing Hour, which has a tele-exorcist that performs the rituals on camera and enjoys the masquerade until the real thing props up its ugly head. Mayhem gives us everything we’ve ever wanted to see; a high rise building of bottom-feeding lawyers trapped with a virus that has them killing each other. The film is funny, violent and stars Steven Yeun from The Walking Dead and, my favorite, Samara Weaving.
Creepshow is the anthology series horror addicts have been yearning for. The show plays very much like the King/Romero movie and has great horror favorite faves: Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog), Bruce Davison (Willard), Tobin Bell (Saw) and Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator). The stories are just as inventive and the effects are just plain fun to watch.
NOS4A2 was a AMC show that has moved over to Shudder all for the better. This is Joe Hill at one of his most creative efforts. Charlie Manx drives around in a Rolls-Royce Wraith collecting the souls of children, promising to take them to Christmas town where they can be happy and stay young forever. Of course, he turns them into little vampires as well. Vic McQueen is a working-class artist who discovers her supernatural ability every time she gets on her motorcycle and find whatever she is suppose to be looking for. McQueen is looking to rid Manx from our world. But, the task proves to be a tricky one since Manx appears to be immortal. Great show that will have you on the edge of your car seat.
Now, for the one that got away. Quibi, the short form streaming platform created by Jeffrey Katzenberg (once with Spielberg’s Amblin company) that was dedicated more or less for you to watch on the go via iPhone or Android has had the last nail slammed into its coffin. It may be justifiable with the quality of content. what was inconceivable was the amount of talent and production values. And, just before the Quibi’s death was announced, Sam Raimi of Evil Dead fame and the fun horror romp Drag Me to Hell, released his 50 States of Fright on the streaming service, another anthology based on a location like Hulu’s Monsterland. The BIG difference…Raimi’s journey was a fun-filled cavalcade of horror that made me gasp, laugh, and cringe. His story, The Golden Arm, about a young yokel that will do anything for his pretty missus, even when she loses her arm in an accident. He makes her an arm of gold. What transpires is gruesome fun. Every episode was on par if not better than Creepshow. We can only hope Raimi’s 50 States of Fright comes soon to one of our favorite streaming services.
Visit Ray’s blog at themonsterinmyhead.com