Horror is a genre that never goes out of fashion. It's also one that is famously hard to lose money by making, although I expect Netflix can find a way to do so. The streamer has recently dipped a toe in the murky waters of horror with its supenatural murder mystery The Pale Blue Eye, which is a bit like an Agatha Christie story, only instead of Hercule Poirot the detective is Edgar Allen Poe – no, really; a young Poe is a character in the film.
That was in my list of the best films to watch on Netflix in January, although that was largely due to a lack of competition. There is not a lot for horror fans when it comes to Netflix originals, aside from Castlevania and some of the gnarlier episodes of Black Mirror. And to be perfectly honest, there is not a lot for horror fans among the third-party offerings on Netflix either, as I discovered when I researched this story.
Nonetheless, I have dug deep into the entrails of their available content, and sucked out the best of what's available. If you're looking for the likes of Dawn of the Dead, The Exorcist, It Follows, The Witch, Alien or practically anything else that could be considered a horror classic, you will need to look elsewhere but there is some high-class trash and a few nuggets of more artsy-fartsy modern horror.
If Netflix doesn't satisfy your lust for blood, try the best R-rated movies on Disney+. You might then want to find light relief among the best comedies on Netflix. Or get nostalgic and wistful over the best shows cancelled by Netflix.
Despite what I just said, Midsommar is on Netflix and is widely considered a modern horror classic. Like a lot of modern horrors, it places some hapless young people in a seemingly benign situation that gradually becomes deeply creepy and eventually homicidal.
Without giving away too much, let's just say that if I turned up at some Scandinavian festivities and old people started killing themselves while everyone sat there and applauded, I personally would get the f**k out of Dodge, and probably notify the cops on my way to the airport. Like many of today's young people, the protagonists of this are far too polite to do that, but let's just keep our fingers crossed that they survive to the end of the film, eh?
As is the norm with these arty horrors from the A24 and Blumhouse studios, Midsommar starts out slowly building a disturbing, creepy mood and ends up with people running around screaming, while being menaced by maniacs with knives. Director Ari Aster also made Hereditary (not on Netflix), and if you've seen that you'll know just what I'm talking about. The folk horror elements inevitably give it an air of The Wicker Man as well. Overall, it's an excellent film with some imagery that will sear your brain, whether you get all the movie-buff references or not.
You may also like: Get Out. Another modern classic, this is more a slightly scary take on modern race relations, as opposed to a wholly satisfying horror film. Also whatever you do, don't watch the trailer as it gives away literally the entire plot.
- Watch Midsommar on Netflix now (opens in new tab)
Ash vs Evil Dead
Now that's more like it. I don't know what possessed Starz to make three entire series of an extremely R-rated follow up to the classic Evil Dead movies – demons from another dimension, probably. But I'm very glad they did, as the great Bruce Campbell gets one last, extended hurrah as Ash Williams – aka 'Ashy Slashy'.
Reduced to working in a department store called ‘Value Stop’, Ash is given a new lease of life when a plague of the demons he thought he’d defeated in the 3 old Evil Dead movies is unleashed. What ensues is by far the most gore, horror and outrageous dad humour I've ever seen in a TV show. In fact, you could say that the leitmotif of this epic is that in every single episode, Ash ends up completely covered in blood, after a violent confrontation involving his trademark chainsaw – mounted on the end of his arm following the loss of his hand – and the sawn-off shotgun he calls his 'bang stick'.
This show is the ultimate cult horror, and the series raises the cult flag even higher by finding room for a recurring role for Lucy Lawless – ie: Xena the goddamn Warrior Princess! Doesn't get much better than that. All of the supporting cast that isn't Lawless is also flawless, in fact. It's a great ensemble.
You might also like: Doomsday. Directed by Neil Marshall, who also did Dog Soldiers, The Descent and Centurion. This is probably the most full throttle fun film this underrated British auteur has produced.
- Watch Ash vs Evil Dead on Netflix now (opens in new tab)
I was hoping Netflix might have the Alien movies at the moment – I'm sure they have in the past – but I had to make do with this outer space horror instead. I saw this at the cinema when it came out and thought it was complete load of camp nonsense. There was one bit in particular, with Laurence Fishburne being chased around a spaceship by Sam Neill, who is in the nuddy and all covered in blood, where I was almost in hysterics – sadly of the laughing variety, not the fear one.
However, very much to my surprise, and despite the heavy hand of director Paul WS Anderson – he made all those ridiculous Resident Evil films – Event Horizon has come to be seen as something of a cult classic in recent years. That's presumably at least in part because Anderson layers on the religious symbolism with a trowel, giving a veneer of seriousness. The idea here is that an experimental warp drive, or something, on the titular spaceship The Event Horizon has opened some sort of outer-space portal to, literally, the Biblical Hell. Yes, that old chestnut.
As a result of this retrospective acclaim, I rewatched Event Horizon recently. I have to admit that on second viewing it is an effectively creepy watch for much of its run time, even if the 'running around screaming while covered in blood' conclusion loses the mood a bit. Anderson takes a lot of cues from Alien but the monsters are more supernatural or psychological, rather than being actual monsters with big, sharp teeth. There's also a viciously effective bit where a crew member is sucked into space and suffers the effects of explosive decompression.
You might also like: Life. Another reasonably effective Alien 'homage', this one starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds wearing his 'I'm being serious now' face.
- Watch Event Horizon on Netflix now (opens in new tab)