15 Netflix hidden-gem horror movies: 2017 version
Smell that air? Feel that brisk breeze? Wearing a jacket? That’s right, dummy. It’s October.
And since it’s October, you want to watch horror movies, don’t you? You know Netflix has a ton of random-ass horror movies just leaking out of its pores, but you’ve already seen the great notable ones like The Babadook and It Follows. You want something new, something fresh, something that you can expect to be at least decent.
Well, friend, I am here.
Just like I did last year, I scoured the bottom of the Netflix bucket to see if there were any horror movies worth my time. Worth your time. And among all that dreck, that refuse, that detritus, there exists some very good horror movies. Whether independent, foreign, or just not recognized, these movies succeed in providing the best of scares that this season demands. And I have found them for you.
Again, these are not last year’s picks, many of which have sadly stopped streaming on the dominant platform.
This is a fresh batch of horror for you to descend upon. These movies are varied and verifiably good or great or fantastic.
Without further ado, here is what the fruit of my labor hath wrought for your hungry, depraved soul:
1. The Void
The Void speaks to almost every aspect of the horror movies I most love. It has a limited cast, a small setting, disgusting physical effects, and an escalating amount of weirdness that evolves into all-out horror.
After stumbling upon some strange ritual, two drug addicts flee to a very rural hospital for safety. What they find are some harried doctors, interpersonal drama between a hospital worker and a cop, and a surrounding circle of cloaked, cultish figures. Grotesque tragedy ensues.
This movie definitely wants to nod to old school favorites like The Thing, with its mix of creature design and super-visceral visuals. But it also embodies a great deal of hallowed mythos ripped straight from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. Eldritch ghastliness awaits those who want to catch a glimpse into The Void.
2. Under the Shadow
So, can we talk about the Iran-Iraq War?
This harrowing conflict, which lasted from 1980 to 1988, cost the world about a half a million lives, and is the setting for this take on the haunted house movie. Set in Iran’s capital Tehran, a mother is left alone with her daughter as her husband is called to go fight on the front lines against Iraq. Just a few years after the Iranian Revolution was squashed by religious leaders, the main character has to hide her liberal tendencies and her anxieties about the modern world from everyone around her, including her daughter. It doesn’t help that her apartment tower is in the crosshairs of daily bombings. And it certainly doesn’t help when a goddam djinn decides to haunt the hell out of them.
This great movie gives not only a sense of the panic that existed in this volatile time, but also shows the despair of a broken family, and the fear of what else may tear them apart.
It’s not exactly a terrifying movie in a horror sense, but it’s a terrifying movie in a real life sense. I love it.
3. The Devil’s Candy
If you like horror movies, there’s a probable chance that you’ve listened to metal, right?
Sure, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but if you’re looking for a movie that wants to tepidly explore what happens when a family of metal heads buys a demonic house, The Devil’s Candy is the movie for you.
Admittedly, this isn’t the most satisfying of movies, but it has some interesting things to explore. It’s never campy or dumb in the way that another movie landing on the intersection of metal and the devil would be. The great performances, the weird places it goes, and the tone it sets is well worth your time.
4. Starry Eyes
At the beginning of Starry Eyes, I thought I knew where it was going.
You’ve got a desperate young ingénue, wanting to make her mark in Hollywood, and an audition that promises all that and more. But boy, for every turn I thought this movie was going to take, it took the opposite. From a brief description, Starry Eyes could so easily be seen as a voyeuristic view of a woman’s slide into depravity, but the end result is so much better and weirder than that.
In the end, it’s difficult to determine whether this ambitious starlet’s journey takes her to a place that is ultimately more powerful, or ultimately more horrifying.
5. I am the Pretty Things that Lives in the House
A young traveling nurse moves in with an elderly charge in an old rural house, and, wouldn’t you know it, creepy things start happening.
The thing you most need to know about I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House is that it’s VERY, VERY slow. This doesn’t bother me. I love this.
The second thing you need to know about this long-titled movie is that it ends on an unresolved note. Again, I’m not bothered by this. I enjoy the journey, not the destination.
In the end, this movie does a fantastic job of making a dreary scene all the more unhinged with the occasional creak and the sporadic death. If you kinda love SLOW horror movies (and I do), this is your jam.
Admittedly, this is probably the weakest film on this list, but don’t strike it from your queue just yet.
OK. So. You’ve got a woman whose sister just died a grizzly death at the hands of an apologetic murderer. And, upon returning to the scene of the crime a few days later, she finds that the actual room where the murder happened is just, kinda, gone.
Determined, she searches for any answers to this mystery. And the answer is not at all what she, or you, will think it is. Abattoir gets strange after the first third, SUPER strange after the second third, and downright WTF with the last third.
Again, this will not be at the top of anyone’s lists. Still, it was kinda fun to see the whole thing unspool.
7. A Dark Song
A Dark Song will stand as my favorite new discovery on this list.
In very rural England, a very private woman rents a very big house in which to hold a very mysterious occult ritual for six months. A Dark Song follows that story.
Tiny cast, limited setting, and a lot of quietude before the increasing horror begins ratcheting up to a frenzy? Chef’s kiss. A Dark Song has many layers that gradually unfurl and the route that it takes to get to its ultimate form is a silently terrifying one.
This movie is subdued, bizarre, and I ultimately think it adds a deep wrinkle into what we think of as compassion. It surveys humanity trying to wrestle with the unknown and the consequences of what happens when we brush up against it, and what happens when we ask something from it. Those answers are hard to ask and even harder to receive the answers.
This movie questions the fact of reality, the supposition of need, and the dire warning of repercussions. Loved it.
8. The Den
The Den represents a growing sub-genre of horror movies, one that brings the worst cyber security anxieties to life.
A normal student, studying online communities, is thrust into an escalating situation of horror when someone hacks her computer camera, records her in a compromising act, and sends it to her administrators.
The ensuing blackmail transforms into a heightening nightmare of intrigue and violence. It maybe leans a little too heavily on the voyeurism theme, but all in all, it makes for a pretty solid horror movie.
Don’t forget to tape over your laptop camera.
9. Tales of Halloween
First and foremost, this is a goofy-ass movie.
It’s an anthology of 10 different interwoven stories, directed by 10 different directors, based around Halloween in a sleepy town, a la Trick ‘r Treat. That sort of mass collection definitely invites some unevenness in the whole product, but if there’s one thing you can count on, it’s having a good time.
Tales of Halloween‘s stories range from silly to violent to scary to deadass dumb. But all along the way, the tone revels in celebrating this spooky holiday in the weirdest way possible.
If you like horror movies, you’re going to have fun with this one.
10. The Presence (Die Präesanz)
Just to get it out of the way, The Presence is a found-footage haunted house movie.
I am well aware that that particular sub-genre is rife with subpar trash not worth the hard drive space on which they’re stored. But something about this German film, where an enthusiastic ghost hunter takes his initially-excited girlfriend and a douchebag friend to a spoooooooky castle, represents the best of what this sub-genre can do. It’s true that the actual plotting of this movie might follow a somewhat predictable path. But the forked way it takes to get there will leave you haunted and nervous of what will come next.
Before the 500th Paranormal Activity sequel ruins what found footage horror can do for you, watch The Presence. It just might renew your faith.
11. The Bar
When eight people find themselves trapped in a bar by their own fear, after seeing a man die just beyond the only exit, anything can happen.
That’s the promise and mostly the execution of the Spanish film The Bar. What starts as an ensemble cast bewildered by the events taking place mere feet away from them, turns into an all-out paranoia bonanza as tempers flare, suspicions rage, and violence begets violence.
It’s mostly really good. Things get weird and the pacing takes the appropriate long time before you know might actually be unfolding. Only in the final act does the movie get unhinged, and not in a good way. The murky ethics and confusing narrative, that make the film’s beginning so fun, gets stripped down into a bit of a disappointing climax. Still, The Bar is a ride you’ll probably want to take.
Before writer/director Jon Watts made the very well received blockbuster Spider-Man: Homecoming, he made an extremely creepy movie named Clown.
Check this premise: A realtor finds a clown suit in a house he’s selling and performs at his son’s birthday party to everyone’s delight, only after it’s all over, he discovers he can’t remove the suit. Tell me that’s not creepy. I dare you.
What follows is a subdued story of real horror, where the main character learns what has happened to him, what will happen to him, and what he slowly begins to want to do to others.
Though it has a few moments of goofiness, this is a real gut punch of a horror movie. And the way Watts shoot the movie, in a quiet, cold, largely music-less fashion, makes the whole thing so much more compelling.
As that picture up there hints, XX is an anthology film of four short films by four women writer/directors. And it is totally worth your time.
As with Tales of Halloween, an collection like this leads to some inconsistency. Two of these shorts are great, and two of them are just pretty good. The law of averages says that you should probably watch this movie, right? Here, I’ll sweeten the deal.
The first short, titled “The Box” written and directed by Jovanka Vuckovic based off a story by Jack Ketchum, is full stop one of the most haunting and terrifying horror stories I’ve seen in many years. And it does it all with no violence and basically no gore. It just plants a question in the watcher’s head and lets it fester, lets it take root, until all you’re left with is this veritable redwood stretching out of your head and screaming into the void.
The final story is a fantastic, and brutal, culmination. And the things that come between it also deserve to be seen. So go do that.
14. Dig Two Graves
And here we have what is probably the least scary movie on this list, but I still maintain that you should watch it.
Dig Two Graves is a ghost story, a revenge story, and a making-deals-with-the-devil story all wrapped in one lovingly shot film. When a small town girl promises to jump off a ledge into a quarry with her brother, reneges on the deal, and watches her brother sink without coming up, things all around her take a big turn. Slowly, but surely, she begins the (maybe metaphorical) process of selling her soul, while her troubled grandfather tries to steer her towards an ethical ideal that remains super blurry.
And all you can do is watch as the moral compass of this movie waxes and wanes and hope to not get swallowed by the fire.
Raw is one of the absolute best movies of 2017, horror or otherwise (technically released overseas in 2016, but only made it stateside this year).
It follows an awkward girl, raised strictly vegetarian, as she enters her first year in veterinary school. As part of the really rough hazing process, she is forced to eat meat. That small bit gives her a taste for so much more.
Raw unspools in crazy ways that you really never see coming. It’s a story about self-discovery, family drama, and the limits of self control. It’s a weird, hallucinatory film that constantly makes you think that the main character is dreaming, but no, it’s all really happening. Such. A. Good. Movie.
I’m sure I didn’t get all of Netflix’s hidden horror gems on this list. I’m only one man and I only have so many hours in a day. But if you’re a horror fan, I’m certain you’re going to find something on this list to creep you out this October.