Fright flicks: Spooky stuff on streaming services

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday October 17, 2023
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Jessica Harper in the original 'Suspiria'
Jessica Harper in the original 'Suspiria'

A slew of horror films are available on various streaming sites and video-on-demand services. Here are a few titles guaranteed to enhance your Halloween season.

'70s studs in 'Massacre at Central High'  

Horrors galore
The Criterion Channel offers 'High School Horrors,' thirteen films that illustrate just how scary it can be to attend high school. Dating from the 1970s until today, these films are guaranteed to make you shiver, and to be glad that your high school days are behind you.

Titles include "Massacre at Central High" (1976), Rene Daalder's thriller in which no adults are seen until the end of the film. "Massacre" tells the story of a series of revenge killings at an American high school, after which the oppressed students take on their bully oppressors. Despite the lurid title, this is not a slasher film. Rather, it's a blend of social commentary, political allegory and low-budget exploitation.

Other High School Horrors streaming on Criterion include "Suspiria" (1977), Italian horror auteur Dario Argento's scary thrill ride about an aspiring dancer (Jessica Harper) who encounters a coven of witches at an isolated dance academy in Europe. Loaded with atmosphere and stunning visuals, "Suspiria" was the final theatrical film of Joan Bennett, a film noir leading lady of the 1940s and one of the stars of the horror-themed soap opera "Dark Shadows."

Jamie Curtis in 'Prom Night'  

In "Prom Night" (1980), scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis stars in a slasher film outside of the Halloween franchise. "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" (1992) is David Lynch's feature film of his weird, surreal TV show. In "The Craft" (1996) four high school girls dabble in witchcraft. Four young friends are stalked by a hook-wielding killer in "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (1997).

'90s nightmares
The Criterion Channel also offers "'90s Horror," eleven unsettling films sure to scare the crap out of you, like "In the Mouth of Madness" (1994) from horror maestro John Carpenter and "Exorcist III" (1990), directed by William Peter Blatty, who wrote the original novel which launched the franchise.

If you're in the mood for something really bizarre, check out Frank Henelotter's campy "Frankenhooker" (1990), a film that has to be seen to be believed. And be sure to check out the fun, scary "When a Stranger Calls Back" (1993), starring the ever-adorable Carol Kane.

If you're in the mood for something different, then scope out underground auteur Abel Ferrara's "The Addiction" (1995), a black and white chiller that presents a vampire's lust for blood as an allegory about drug addiction.

Oldies but goodies
Criterion additional series, "Pre-Code Horror," shares 13 films produced before the 1934 production code which prohibited films from presenting sexuality in any form. Violence was also frowned upon post-code.

Check out envelope-pushing shockers like "Freaks" (1932), a film that shocked audiences upon its initial release. Also take a look at the grisly "Island of Lost Souls" (1933) in which gay actor Charles Laughton conducts bizarre experiments, turning animals into quasi-humans. Beware the house of pain!

The naughty "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1931) and the mysterious "Doctor X" (1932), are two films that dared to present images of prostitution. "Dr. Jekyll" was the first horror film in history to win an Oscar, for Best Actor Fredric March.

Then there's "Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1932) in which horror icon Bela Lugosi performs at his insane best, conducting weird experiments in order to prove that humans and apes are related.

Gloria Stuart and Boris Karloff in 'The Old Dark House'  

And be sure to check out "The Old Dark House" (1932) from gay director James Whale. In this tale, a group of motley travelers seek refuge in the titular Old Dark House on a dark and stormy night. This ahead of its time chiller features gay actor Ernest Thesiger playing a screaming queen. The film also includes a gender-bending twist unheard of in the 1930s. The 102-year-old family patriarch is played by a woman in male drag. And be on the lookout for 22-year-old Gloria Stuart (Old Rose in James Cameron's "Titanic") in one of her earliest roles.

Fresh frights
And now for some new films. "Birth/Rebirth" streams on Amazon Prime. Laura Moss' chiller stars Marin Ireland as a pathologist who prefers working with corpses over social interaction. She has a singular obsession: reanimating the dead. Sounds like fun!

'Perpetrator' on Shudder  

"Perpetrator" streams on Shudder, the streaming site for the discriminating horror fan. Remember Alicia Silverstone, star of 1995's coming-of-age teen comedy "Clueless?" Well, she's back as Aunt Hilde, whose niece Jonny (Kiah McKirnan) undergoes a radical metamorphosis on her 18th birthday via a family spell that redefines her called Forevering. When several teens go missing at Jonny's school, a mythical feral Jonny goes after the perpetrator. This feminist chiller is directed by Jennifer Reeder, an award-winning filmmaker whose work has been shown around the world.

"The Latent Image" streams on Amazon Prime, Google Play and Vudu. Joshua Tonks stars as Ben, a thriller writer who, struggling for inspiration, retreats to a rural cabin to work on his new novel. One night, he awakens to find a wounded man (Jay Clift) in the cabin. Intrigued, Ben decides to use the man as inspiration for his protagonist in the novel. But as the man enacts increasingly dangerous scenarios, Ben finds his life in danger. Written and directed by Alexander McGregor Birrell, "The Latent Image" has screened at a number of LGBT film festivals.

"Living for the Dead" streams on Hulu. From the creators of "Queer Eye," this eight-part paranormal series stars a group of five fabulously queer ghost hunters as they criss-cross the country, helping the living by healing the dead. Together they'll push past boundaries to bring acceptance to the misunderstood, both living and dead. It stars Alex Le May, Juju Bae, Ken Boggle, Logan Taylor and Roz Hernandez, and is narrated by Kristen Stewart.

And finally, a little Halloween music. "L'Inferno," a four song EP from Austin, Texas band Montopolis. Streaming on Spotify, YouTube Music, Pandora and Apple Music. Montopolis is currently touring with "L'Inferno," a silent horror film from 1911 based on the legend of "Dante's Inferno." The band has composed an original score to accompany the film, which is the first feature-length horror film ever produced. Now, a four song EP of the film's score is available. Join Dante on his surreal and terrifying journey through hell.

Happy Halloween!

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