Netflix Five is a quick and dirty look at five films or shows that we’ve watched and want to either recommend or condemn for our readers to help make their trip through the instant queue a little less overwhelming.
Not every horror films gets a theatrical release or big-budget ad campaigns. For every Paranormal Activity or Saw, there’s thirty horror films you’ve never heard of. Many of these films make their way to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, destined to be scrolled past most of the time.
However, my unquenchable thirst for horror has led me down some very dark rabbit holes, and as such, I would like to present five under-the-radar films and whether or not you should waste your time on them.
The Veil (2016)
Director: Phil Joanou
From the director of the totally excellent Punisher: Dirty Laundry fan film with a script by Robert Ben Garant of Reno 911 fame, The Veil features Jessica Alba, Tom Jane, and American Horror Story alum Lily Rabe. The film tells the story of the lone survivor of the group suicide of a cult known as Heaven’s Veil (Rabe) led Jim Jones Jacobs (Jane). A young woman (Alba) and her film crew convince Rabe’s character to return to the scene of the suicide and help them find footage that was shot at the compound but never found. Shocking nobody, things get spooky and bodies start piling up fairly quickly.
The Veil wasn’t anything special, but it was okay. Tom Jane’s charasmatic cult leader was well-acted and certainly the best performance in the film, similar to Michael Parks’ role in Red State. Alba’s character feels awfully underdeveloped and Rabe is there to more or less help move the plot along.
One saving grace was that the filmmakers made the smart decision of not making The Veil a found footage film (which it was originally going to be!) , despite the importance placed on film footage and even the usage of footage to help tell the story. While it isn’t groundbreaking by any stretch, had they made it into a found footage film it would be just another addition to a sea of mediocre films.
Bottom line: you can certainly do worse than The Veil.
Director: Oliver Blackburn
Most home invasion thrillers usually take place at, well, homes, so the fact that Kristy took place on a college campus was a refreshing change of pace. The plot is as simple as they come: a girl stays on campus over Thanksgiving break and finds herself terrorized by three people in hoodies and masks that keep calling her ‘Kristy’ (her name is Justine). See? Simple.
The trope of ‘victim fights back’ is as old as they come, but it’s especially effective in this film. Once things get going, which blissfully doesn’t take all that long, they move at a fast pace all the way up to the end.
The simplicity and execution of Kristy offsets the edgy social media motivations of the killers, who really didn’t need any explanation beyond their rants about ‘Kristy.’ The three masked intruders in The Strangers had zero backstory and it was far more effective that way. That said, Kristy is an excellent addition to the home invasion genre.
A girl and her friends end up on the wrong side of the tracks and in the sights of a group of bad boy leather jacket cannibals. Yeehaw.
I got about halfway into Butcher Boys before giving up the ghost and moving on to pulling out my brains like the Egyptians did during mummification, as it was considerably more preferable than continuing this film.
The big problem is that instead of taking characters akin to Leatherface and his family out of the country and into an urban setting, we get a bunch of uninteresting bad boys with a taste for flesh. I recently read Shane McKenzie’s Muerte Con Carne and standing next to that, Butcher Boys was bland and boring.
If I had to give what I watched a rating, it would be echh/5.
Director: Eric England
Contracted is a cautionary tale about going to parties and drinking too much like Requiem for a Dream is one to doing hard drugs. Poor Samantha drinks too much at a party to forget about her ex-girlfriend and is date raped. What Samantha passes off as a hangover proves to be far more grave and in the days that follow the party, she finds herself having contracted (do you see what I did there?) a very, very heinous case of the STD blues.
This film is not for the weak of heart as it is essentially a grotesque variant of torture porn as we spend the admittedly short run time (clocking in at a paltry 78 minutes) watching Samantha fall apart. The effects are spectacular, gross enough to give Tom Savini pause, and they really make it apparent that Sam is really not in for a good time.
Ultimately, Contracted feels like the first in what could easily be a trilogy (and with a second installment out, it certainly seems likely), showing us at length the prologue to an epidemic, something that usually only takes up a small piece of a single film. After having watched both Contracted and its sequel, I am certainly excited to see where they take it next.
Frankenstein’s Army (2013)
Director: Richard Raaphorst
As I touched on above, found footage films can be really hit or miss. Fortunately for me, as I was incredibly hungry to see this film based on the DVD art alone, Frankenstein’s Army was awesome.
Frankenstein’s Army has another fairly simple premise: during World War II, some Russian soldiers respond to a distress call in Germany and find themselves neck-deep in Silent Hill body horror insanity with little to no hope of escape.
While the movie may not be the Citizen Kane of the horror genre, the designs of the titular ‘army’ alone would’ve gotten this a 5/5 with me. The monsters are absolutely horrific and unlike anything I’ve seen in live-action movies. I don’t want to even try to describe them, lest I ruin the surprise as each one rears its ugly head.
My only problem with this film is the fact that the footage looks like it was shot with a modern video camera as opposed to something that would’ve been used during WWII. Considering how awesome the monsters looked, I can’t imagine it would’ve been too hard for editors to age the film so make it look era-appropriate.
Despite that one issue, Frankenstein’s Army is up there with The Children and Event Horizon in my personal favorite horror films.