For many Americans, 24-hour marathons of It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story are the holiest of holiday traditions. That’s all fine and good, but some of us are more partial to the non-stop gore fests that populate channels like AMC and FX in the days leading up to Halloween. It’s a perfect time to kick back on the couch, inhale candy corn, and get bleary-eyed on pumpkin beer as you reacquaint yourself with the innumerable Michael Myers sequels and offshoots.
Alas, my days of paying for cable have ceased. And honestly, there are much better things to watch out there than the Busta-Rhymes-Tyra-Banks vehicle Halloween: Resurrection. Freddy Krueger brought nightmares to life. Halloween: Resurrection was a fucking nightmare in my life.
I got my fix this Halloween through some great Netflix Instant titles. And through this service, the soul-crushing depression that sets in when the 24-hour horror bloodbaths end on Nov. 1 can easily be bypassed.
Whether you be a fan of slashers or ghouls, there’s a bevy of great options to stream via Netflix. Here are a few recent personal favorites.
For fans of modern horror, calling You’re Next a hidden gem is tantamount to saying, “They made a Texas Chainsaw movie before the Jessica Biel one?” If you’ve seen it, go ahead and skip to the next title (which you probably haven’t seen). However, if you haven’t seen this—or are just a fan of my wayward rants—keep reading, and consider it one of the top slasher films of the past decade, as well as a must-see for anyone with any interest in the genre.
You’re Next is a good, old-fashioned home-invasion gore fest. “Old-fashioned” is key here, because the film pays homage to a lot of ’80s and ’90s tropes (and yeah, that was a long fucking time ago in my book). The brilliant opening sequence starts in typical Scream fashion. A really hot chick (the underused Kate Lynn Sheil from House of Cards) and her scumbag boyfriend have a knifey, little run in with a masked man.
But before we get to the meat of the plot, something more needs to be said about this opening sequence. In particular, that Dwight Twilley song. My last post in this series included Blue Ruin, a film that paired a song and a scene in a way that I’d call among the year’s best audiovisual sequences.
Likewise, that opening sequence of You’re Next pulls an obscure pop hit and transforms it into one of the most tantalizing aspects of a great narrative. The song in question is Dwight Twilley’s “Looking for the Magic.” No, I had no idea who Dwight Twilley was before this movie. Yes, I’ve been getting weird looks the past few months while driving around town with this song playing on repeat. It’s infectious. It’s haunting. It’s usage embodies the mystique and grim humor that make You’re Next a brilliantly chilling and morbidly comic slasher flick.
If you geek out on “The Magic,” check out this article about its origins in the film. I love the part where Twilley’s wife tells the director, “You want ‘Looking for the Magic,’ but you can’t afford the fuckin’ magic!”
It’s also priceless that the album it came off of was called Twilley Don’t Mind. If I recorded a coked-up, Donovan-meets-classic-pop-rock album it would certainly be called Adams Don’t Mind. Anyway, here’s an old recording of Jim Morrison lookalike Dwight Twilley (and yes, that’s a young Tom Petty rocking out on backup guitar).
But back to the murder at hand. A rich kid and his Aussie girlfriend (Sharni Vinson) road trip to spend a weekend with his family at their secluded mansion in the woods. It turns out that the beau’s family are a bunch of psychotic WASPs who generally hate each other. Then there’s a bloodbath wreaked by killers in cute animal masks.
Watching uppity WASPs get axed to bits by cutesy lamb-masked villains is holiday fun for the whole family—and the type you won’t find in It’s a Wonderful Life. Speaking of Jimmy Stewart, they should do a You’re Next-style remake of Harvey where the imaginary friend is a bunny who fucks shit up. Oh yeah, Donnie Darko…
We find out that the Aussie protagonist (and only likable person in the movie—outside of Kate Lyn Sheil, of course, who can do no wrong), also has a background as an Outback survivalist. This comes in handy.
You’re Next‘s only fault is that it enlists some noted mumblecore directors as actors. What is mumblecore, you ask? Unfortunately, it’s not the drunken cousin of a Harry Potter wizard. In my limited research, it seems to be a cinematic platform for hipsters to wallow in their hipsterishly hipster despair (see: previous scathing rant on Drinking Buddies, et al). Put bluntly, it’s one of the worst things since Cinema Verité and the French New Wave movement. As the great Werner Herzog put it, “By dint of declaration, the so-called Cinema Verité is devoid of verité. It reaches a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants.” In the same vein, mumblecore reaches a merely superficial truth—the truth that self-important, coffee shop filmmakers project as the truth.
Anyway, perhaps this isn’t much of a fault, because we get to see said mumblecore whiners brutally massacred. When the masks are off and the final axe is swung,You’re Next is a movie about a lot more than Dwight Twilley’s career revival and killing the shit out of hipsters and WASPs. But those reasons alone are good enough for me.
GRADE: B+ / A-
The Taking of Deborah Logan
Full disclosure: Despite my love of horror films, I tend to steer clear of anything involving ghosts, exorcisms or paranormal activities. The reason being that these tales involve a suspension of disbelief tied to the plausibility of a supernatural realm. I do not believe in that realm. So asking me to sit through such a flick is kind of like taking an atheist to mass. Sure, the message will be conveyed loud and clear, but an inherent disbelief in the underpinnings of such a message will make every word ring hollow.
Point being, it takes a lot to get me interested in any of the 5,000 Exorcist rehashings that Hollywood spews forth every year. So essentially, me telling horror fans that they have to watch The Taking of Deborah Logan is like our atheist friend saying to his atheist bros, “You gotta check out that mass—it was unbelievable!”
The film begins with a camera crew attempting to document the mental decline of an Alzheimer’s patient. As the patient weakens, eerie shit starts happening. As we all know, demons from the depths of hell are prone to preying on the weak and old, so it’s only natural that they’d possess our titular character.
The Taking relies heavily on the found-footage / hidden camera blueprint of Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity. I’d argue that it supersedes both of these. For one, unlike Blair Witch, this film actually has an ending. It also has camerawork not done by someone with a bad case of the DTs. Furthermore, there’s a palatable depth to this story, thanks to some fine acting by Jill Larson and Anne Ramsay as the mother and daughter caught between a fatal disease and another form of hell on Earth.
And even for someone who’s all but sworn off supernatural flicks, this movie is downright, jump-out-your-seat scary as hell. In terms of this genre, I’d rank The Taking right alongside James Wan’s more mature efforts, like The Conjuring and Insidious (no, not Insidious: Chapter 2—that sucked. Bring me Insidious 3 and the return of the Darth Maul demon!).
Jill Larson’s transformation from Miss Daisy to a vessel of the eternally damned is pulled off with a subtly mounting air of terror, climaxing in a terrifying finish that includes one of the most magnificently unsettling images in recent cinema. This is probably one of the most underrated new titles on Netflix Instant. Don’t sleep on it, and once you’ve seen it, don’t expect any decent form of sleep.
GRADE: B+ / A-
Other must-watch BONUS PICKS to keep the Netflix Instant horror marathon raging: Stake Land, Trollhunter, Let The Right One In
Note on IMDb scores: For whatever reason, horror films typically rank much lower on IMDb than their equally good, non-horror counterparts. Consider anything above a 6.2 probably worth your time. (I’ll unveil my foolproof “IMDb credibility system” at a later date.)
12 thoughts on “The best of Netflix Instant if bleak, thrilling cinema is your ASMR: Part III”
I watched ‘You’re Next’ about a week ago, and you’re right, that tune is goddamn catchy 😅.
The thing that bugged me the most about the movie was its title. We see that ‘You’re Next’ message all of two times in the movie 😑 Really didn’t seem like something you’d name your movie after.
I haven’t watched The Taking yet, guess I’ll have to add it to my To Watch list. Thanks for the recommendation, and once again, a very well written blog you’ve got here 👍
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Thanks, Ajay—really appreciate the feedback. Yeah, man! That title has been bugging the shit out of me, too! Funny you mention it as I almost went on a lengthy rant about it, but figured I already had enough of those in this write-up. My two cents is that it’s a marketing-based title aimed at luring casual (and more mainstream) viewers to see a film done by a group of people whose previous reputation was for more avant-garde stuff.
I looked into it a little and here’s what I’ve got:
In a review on IGN.com, director Adam Wingard says, “There’s something about the phrase that sounds horror movie and that’s what we wanted. We wanted something that immediately sounds horror movie.” OK, we get it—you didn’t put much thought into it.
But wait, the film’s writer, Simon Barrett, adds this gem: “And it was just a cool title that no one had used before and I was like ‘Sweet. I’ve thought of something good.’ … Only later did I realise that I possibly got it from the Modest Mouse EP ‘No One’s First and You’re Next’ which I own on vinyl.”
TRANSLATION: “Man, it was cool, bro. We thought of something so blatantly simple that no else had ever thought of it before! Pass me a PBR. By the way, did you know that I own a lesser-known Modest Mouse EP on vinyl?”
So yeah, it’s a stupid gimmicky title with no purpose other than to jump out at you. In other interviews, these guys talk about how they were influenced by ’80s horror movies, many of which had pretty simple, shock-factor titles. So I’d give them a pass if they were trying to play off of that brand of simplistic camp. But… if you look at a loud title like I Spit on Your Grave (1978—around that era), it speaks to an overarching aspect of the film’s narrative. You’re Next’s title has absolutely nothing to do with the weird family dynamic and wry-humor-based tone that are among the film’s central themes. It’s a popcorn title. It’s unfortunate. They probably should have stole a lyric from that Dwight Twilley song and rolled with that.
I do like, however, how Wingard and Barrett’s veritable admission of bullshit undermines the intellectual masturbation that a Slant Magazine review attempted to pull off: “With a title that could be seen as a double entendre linked to artistic progression, You’re Next seems to say, ‘Tired of the irony that’s branched off of mumblecore and invaded your daily life? Don’t fight back, let the movement’s progenitors handle that, taking an axe—and a crossbow, and a machete, and a screwdriver, and a blender—to it.’ ” Talk about reaching.
OK, that’s all the hating I’ve got (for now) on a movie that I actually thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend.
A ver esos que dicen “hay cosas mas importantes que ese cliche” o los que les da verguenza ajena. Â¿En que basural dejaron su corazon? Me imagino que son lo maximo con su &#e&z0;madur822#8221; lejos de la nostalgia.
“With a title that could be seen as a double entendre linked to artistic progression, You’re Next seems to say, ‘Tired of the irony that’s branched off of mumblecore and invaded your daily life? Don’t fight back, let the movement’s progenitors handle that, taking an axe—and a crossbow, and a machete, and a screwdriver, and a blender—to it.’
My brain’s bullshit sensors overheated and exploded somewhere along the third line. 😛
But you’re right, the movie was enjoyable. Throughout the second half, I was like *SPOILERS*** ‘The axe is gonna hit her boyfriend, the axe is gonna hit her boyfriend’ and then that double twist ending. How Erin would explain herself out of it would probably make a decent movie on its own. ***SPOILERS END.*
You know, I’d be happy to share your blog. Does it have a facebook or google+ page or something?
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Agree—they’re probably writing the sequel as we speak. And I would appreciate the shit out of some sharing! Trying to get this thing off the ground in every way I can. Thanks, man! No FB or G+ page for now, but hopefully the URL will do: https://monsterattheendofthedream.wordpress.com/