The Moviegoer: Scary Cinema


Ease the tension with horror movies, from mild to terrifying 

Sometimes, a little scare is a welcome distraction. While news can be stress-inducing, every now and then something scary can release the tension. This week, why not try a little scare-therapy with five movies sure to distract you from the state of the world today? From gruesome to mild, here are my top picks currently available on streaming services. 

Netflix: Candyman 

Candyman. Candyman. Candy – don’t say it five times, or disaster will befall you. At least, that’s what the legend says. Grad student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) is writing her thesis on local urban legends when she comes across the story of The Candyman (Tony Todd), a man with a hook for a hand who is summoned if you say his name five times while looking in a mirror. If you do call him, you’ll find yourself on the bloody end of his hook as he tears you to bits.  

Helen thinks the stories are quaint myths, but when she starts digging, and foolishly decides to try out the summoning ritual, she finds out that some scary stories are warnings rather than flights of fancy. 

A horror classic that’s got creepy visuals and a pretty fascinating story, Candyman is not for the faint of heart. Todd’s iconic turn as the vengeful spirit inspired a whole series of creepy films. Director Bernard Rose uses operatic gore and chilling cinematography to help build the mystery of his villain.  

If you love a good ghost story, or just relish the idea of daring someone to say Candyman five times while looking into a mirror, this is the flick for you. As a bonus, the movie is being remade this year with a fun modern twist.  

Good Horror * R * 99 mins.  

Disney+: Frankenweenie  

Victor (Charlie Tahan) is an aspiring filmmaker who loves horror films. The star of his home movies is Victor’s best friend, and pet dog, Sparky. But when Sparky is hit by a car, Victor’s world is shatters. 

But Victor refuses to give up on Sparky. He abandons filmmaking for science, determined to find a way to bring Sparky back from the dead. When he succeeds, however, the town is dubious about the undead doggy living in their neighborhood.  

A great family-friendly take on the Frankenstein tale, Frankenweenie is an example of director Tim Burton at his best. The visuals are strong, the storytelling is dark, but sweet, and there are plenty of excellent references. Kids will love Frankenweenie for the cute puppy and the funny hijinks, but adults will appreciate references to classic horror movies of the ‘30s and ‘40s.  

For classic movie aficionados who are looking for light fare or families trying to introduce their little ones to horror without traumatizing them, Frankenweenie is well worth the view.  

Good Animation * PG * 87 mins.  

Prime: Hereditary  

After losing her mother, Annie (Toni Collette) tries to deal with her grief and reconcile their fraught relationship. But something won’t settle in Annie’s life. She keeps seeing her mom in the shadows, and feeling like bad luck is befalling her family.  

Is Annie crumbling under the stress of her loss? Or is there some sort of tragic energy drawn to her family? 

One of the best debut feature films in modern history, Hereditary is a meditation on grief, fate, and madness all wrapped up in a terrific horror story. The less you know about the plot, the better, but know that little ones should be tucked away long before you start watching this movie (otherwise the scariest thing you see will be the therapist bill). Writer/director Ari Aster uses brilliant cinematography to up the tension as he chronicles a family unraveling. Collette’s brilliant lead performance anchors the film in a disturbing reality that only serves to make the film more unnerving.  

If you’re looking for a movie that’s more than jump scares, try Hereditary. This is a story that will haunt you long after the credits roll. 

Great Horror * R * 127 mins. 

Hulu: Crawl 

With a hurricane barreling down on her hometown, swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario) leaves practice early to drive home and check on her dad. He hasn’t answered his phone all day and their home is in the middle of a flood plain, so Haley worries that he’s trapped in the house somewhere.  

He is trapped – but not by the weather.  

A giant alligator has made its home in the crawl space of their home, trapping Haley’s father, and soon, Haley herself. Can this father-daughter duo defeat a giant hungry reptile before the weather destroys the house? Or are they about to be the blue plate special?  

Crawl is a monster B-movie that offers up a lesson in how to make a genre film, with plenty of tension and laughs. It’s concise, cuts to the action immediately, and peppers in just enough actual character development to make you want the characters to survive. Anchored by a fierce lead performance from Scodelario, Crawl is a great flick for tweens and up – just scary enough to keep them interested without being too traumatic. Check out this movie and you’ll think twice before getting anything out of the basement.  

Good Horror * R * 87 mins. 

Kanopy: What We Do in the Shadows 

In New Zealand, a camera crew arrives to document some truly unique subjects: vampires. Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), Viago (Taika Waititi), and Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) are undead roommates who squabble about doing the dishes and cleaning up after a fresh kill. The documentary crew follows the trio as they prepare for a high-profile vampire ball. 

A hilarious mockumentary that imagines the pitfalls of being a modern-day vampire (how do you pay rent if you can only work and eat at night?), What We Do in the Shadows is the perfect horror movie for people who don’t like horror. Directed by Clement and Waititi, this is a movie that’s both heartfelt and wickedly funny. Watching a vampire dither about whether eating chips (that’s fries for us Americans) is a good idea, is actually fairly relatable for those of us who aren’t immortal.  

If you’re looking for a light flick that cleverly deconstructs vampire tropes, What We Do in the Shadows is a brilliant choice. And if you like it, you can catch up on the equally funny TV series on Hulu.  

Great Mockumentary * R * 86 mins.