Five Horror Movies to Stream Now

by The Technical Blogs

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Stream it on Tubi.

I usually only recommend fiction films in this column. But I’m making an exception for a chilling nonfiction movie that unfolds with the same deeply disturbing scares as the best scripted horror.

Written and directed by Steve J. Adams and Sean Horlor, this documentary explores the controversy over “Michelle Remembers,” a 1980 memoir by Dr. Lawrence Pazder, a Canadian psychiatrist, and Michelle Smith, one of his patients. The book outlines how Pazder’s recovered-memory therapy helped Smith come to terms with a horrific childhood in which she claimed to have suffered ritual physical and emotional abuse by Satanists. The book was a best seller, making Pazder and Smith talk show regulars and helping kick off the satanic panic, a wave of conservative-led attempts to find black magic and child sex crimes around every corner.

Adams and Horlor employ documentary conventions — archival news footage, talking heads, re-enactments — to make what feels like a seat-grabbing found footage thrill ride. The scream-heavy sound design, fueled by audiotape excerpts from Smith’s sessions with Pazder, made my skin crawl, as did the twists about the lurid nature of their relationship. By examining traumas both real and imagined, the film is a reminder of how the marriage of misinformation and religious hysteria remains a recipe for all-too-real suffering.

A lithe, pumpkin-headed monster is the menace, and the heart, behind David Slade’s new film, an adaptation of Norman Partridge’s 2006 coming-of-age novel about the evils that lurk in a small town’s secrets.

It’s 1963, and the young men in a cursed Illinois town are gearing up for the Run, a Halloween night ritual in which they hunt the regenerative monster known as Sawtooth Jack before he reaches the town church by midnight. The victor gets a new car that he uses to leave town, and this year Richie (Casey Likes, now on Broadway in “Back to the Future”) wants to be the winning slaymaster, just like his older brother. But Richie’s parents forbid it, and their reticence leads Richie battling emotional and supernatural skeletons.

Narratively, the film lands somewhere at the intersection of “The Outsiders” and “The Purge,” a combination that makes it a good pick for teenagers. It’s in the style department that the movie really shines, thanks to Larry Smith’s shimmering cinematography and some awesomely gruesome slaughters, including a juicy scalping. Sawtooth Jack’s sympathetic back story makes me eager for a prequel.

Stream it on Tubi.

Robbie Smith’s low-budget drama didn’t get much attention when it came out last year, perhaps overshadowed by other heralded experimental horror like “Skinamarink” and “Enys Man.” Now that “Grieve” is free to stream, fans of slow-burn terror would be wise to experience its sinister atmospherics.

Devastated by the unexpected death of his girlfriend, Sam (Paris Peterson, wonderful) retreats to his mother’s remote cabin. On the way there, he meets an old friend (Jacob Nichols) who offers a prescient warning: “The woods are pretty weird, dude.” So is the rest of the film’s uncertain universe. Disruptive sounds — knuckle popping, hushed dialogue, a death metal song called “Dipped in Sewage” — beautifully complement the deliberately–paced visuals and dread that build to a gut-punching finale for Sam and his sorrow.

As in “Woe” and other recent indie horror films about the living abiding the dead, this film is more solicitous than shocking, and the result — in just 66 measured minutes — is ghostly and poetic. Good luck trying to shake the scene of a character beating himself to death.

Stream it on Netflix.

I’ve been wondering what the Mexican director Amat Escalante has been up to since he knocked my socks off with “The Untamed,” his bonkers psychosexual drama about a thing with tentacles. The answer is this beautifully filmed but deeply discomforting psychological thriller.

Searching for answers to his activist mother’s abduction, Emiliano (Juan Daniel García Treviño) gets a handyman job with a rich family he suspects had something to do with it. At the family’s modernist lakeside home, Emiliano falls under the spell of Rigo (Fernando Bonilla), an artist, and his partner, Carmen (Bárbara Mori), and daughter, Mónica (Ester Expósito), who give him a harrowing lesson in the advantages, and horrors, of privilege. Escalante mixes cool formalism with a throbbing undercurrent of threat — fitting for a story that tackles cult ideologies, teenage sexuality and Mexican inequality and corruption. The terrors here come from menace, not jump scares, so expect a slow descent, not a fast drop. Treviño is fearless as a despairing son.

Stream it on Hulu.

Take the pregnant nun mystery of “Agnes of God” and pair it with the evil spawn weirdness of “The Omen” and what you get is a sweeping, sometimes nutty supernatural drama from Lee Roy Kunz and Cru Ennis.

Sister Yulia (Maria Vera Ratti), a Russian nun, delivers twin boys from what she claims is an immaculate conception. The Vatican dispatches the foxy Father Fox (Kunz, magnetic) and the brainy Cardinal Russo (Alexander Siddig) to see what’s up with these kids, who Yulia asserts are literally good and evil incarnate. Yulia’s priestly protectors aren’t the only ones after the babes: A one-eyed madman wants them too, the better to usher in an evil apocalypse as outlined on his macabre maps made of human skin. All this in just the first 20 minutes.

What you get by the end is an entertaining and at times extravagantly grisly descent into belief-fueled, psychosexual madness. The script leans too heavily on religious mumbo jumbo about prophecies and ancient texts, so much so that at times the goings-on come across as just this side of parody. Still, for fans of an old-school messiah vs. the Antichrist showdown, this one’s a maximalist sure thing.

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