Best Horror Movies Streaming

(Welcome to Now Scream This, a column where horror experts Chris Evangelista and Matt Donato tell you what scary, spooky, and spine-tingling movies are streaming and where you can watch them.)

Matt: Welcome back, screamers and streamers! This week, for absolutely no other reason than morbid curiosity, I challenged myself to mine five underrated found footage nuggets. Not obvious titles like Paranormal Activity, either. I’d venture to bet there’s one or two entries listed below that you either A) haven’t heard of B) have sitting in a digital queue somewhere. French slasher hybrids and Japanese ghost stories about aborted fetuses and stuff. Same old, same old in the genre world.

Chris: While Matt is focusing on found footage for this installment, I’m turning towards films about deranged killers. That’s a pretty broad topic, I know, but I’ve also limited the choices to films that are supernatural-free. These killers are grounded in reality, which makes their actions extra unsettling. You can’t shrug the acts in these films off as something influenced by otherworldly forces. They are instead committed by seemingly normal individuals engaging in abnormal deeds.

Afflicted
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime

Matt: In 2014, critics hailed Afflicted as not only a gleaming found footage discovery, but one of the best horror films of the year (hell, it was my #1). Clif Prowse and Derek Lee write, direct and star in this vacation-gone-wrong buddy flick with vampiric overtones. As you can surmise, one of the two is infected with Nosferatu’s curse while we watch the friends slowly handle transformation side effects without an ounce of chill. It’s bloody, energetic and able to twist vampire mythologies into a singularly unique vein-sucker nightmare from two very meticulous filmmakers (goddamn, that contortion sequence). Found footage isn’t a gimmick here – it’s an art form. Shades of The Blair Witch Project and Hardcore Henry, brandished fangs and all.

Chris: This is one of the most clever found footage films I’ve ever seen. It’s also one hell of a special effects test reel – there are effects here (characters jumping great heights between buildings, running up walls, engaging in huge battles, and all of it done via POV) that put most modern blockbusters to shame. Kudos to Prowse and Lee, who took the found footage ball and ran with it, making something different in the process.

Therapy
Now Streaming on Shudder

Matt: I had the pleasure of catching Nathan Ambrosioni’s Therapy during the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival’s inaugural year, and to this day – two years later – it remains criminally underseen. Not only does Ambrosioni toy around with slasher tropes from a teenager’s perspective – imagine that Friday The 13th film David Brucker never got to make – but an age-old subgenre myth is *finally* answered. WHO WOULD EDIT DEATH FOOTAGE TOGETHER?! How about police technicians whose job is to sift through recorded evidence tapes and provide edited versions to investigators? The juxtaposition of narrative filmmaking versus POV panic plays with a maddened duality that spins out of control as mediums blur together. Translation: this ain’t your grandpappy’s “found footage.”

Hopefully you aren’t as salty as Chris, either.

Chris: I think part of the fun of this column is going to be contrasting the different tastes between Matt and myself. For instance, with Therapy, he’s wrong, because this movie is baaaaaad. I will give the film credit for trying to offer an explanation, of sorts, as to why all this death footage is edited together. But that explanation goes out the window the minute the filmmaker starts throwing jump scares into the mix. Jump scares that come complete with loud, booming sound effects. When the police were piecing this footage together, did they hire a foley artist as well?  

The Den
Now Streaming on Netflix/Hulu

Matt: Before Unfriended, before Open Windows, before Cam2Cam, IFC Midnight distributed a technology-screen horror film called The Den that set an immediate quality bar. Zachary Donohue directs one woman’s graduate thesis dive into the world of Chatroulette – or, for rights purposes, a knockoff Chatroulette that doubles as the film’s title. Elizabeth (Melanie Papalia) navigates an internet community of anonymous wankers and perverts, only to stumble upon a live snuff feed. With little evidence beyond one quick video chat, police are powerless to act on she-said paranoia – which could prove dangerous if Elizabeth’s fears of being stalked are validated. Both in binary and blood.

Chris: This is one of those under-the-radar horror films that makes for a great late-night discovery. That said, while The Den is well crafted, I also think it never quite capitalizes on its set-up, and too quickly descends into slasher movie territory. Not that there’s anything wrong with slasher movie territory, of course. I just think there’s a much better, much smarter movie buried in here. Still, for what it is, The Den is worth watching.

V/H/S/2
Now Streaming on Netflix/Hulu

Matt: Each V/H/S anthology has strengths to show off, but V/H/S/2 stands a few heads taller than its siblings. Adam Wingard’s “Phase I Clinical Trials,” a bioengineered ghost story thanks to one man’s new-and-improved eyeball implant. Gregg Hale and Eduardo Sánchez’s “A Ride In The Park,” which proves that it’s much safer for children to play *inside* where zombies aren’t. Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto’s “Safe Haven,” the pinnacle of cult exploitation and summoned hell on Earth. Jason Eisener’s “Slumber Party Alien Abduction,” AKA the one that straps a GoPro to a puppy during – yes – an overnight alien invasion. Put ‘em all together and what do you get? A collection of horror “shorts” that Rex Reed dubbed “Unwatchable From Start to Finish” – even though he tripped over my foot while fleeing the screening before Wingard’s inaugural entry even ended.

Psst, that’s, like, not even 15 minutes in for the record. Don’t make the same mistake.

Chris: The V/H/S movies, like most anthology films, are hit or miss. Some stories are a delight while others deserve to be buried in the same landfill where Atari disposed of all the unsold E.T. games. While not all the segments in V/H/S 2 work, the film does house one of the best entries in V/H/S history: Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto’s “Safe Haven”. This genuinely unnerving story about a news team infiltrating a cult builds and builds until it reaches a jarring climax that will stick with you.

Noroi: The Curse
Now Streaming on Shudder

Matt: Kôji Shiraishi’s Noroi: The Curse is a 2005 throwback that never saw US release until Shudder acquired the rights for an exclusive 2017 premiere. It’s a slow, SLOW burn at just south of two hours, but makes use of documentary detective work to tell a sinister, sanctimonious paranormal tale. You won’t be bludgeoned by cheap jump scares – Shiraishi crafts a fantastical native fable that achieves terror through woven mythos. Time is milked, atmosphere thickened and dread a constant state once our cameraman realizes the hole he’s dug himself into.

Chris: Pacing is important, and can make or break a film. As Matt points out, Noroi is a slow burn; really sloooooww, but that works to the film’s favor. It’s building atmosphere at every turn, and it’s one of the rare modern found footage films that feels like it could be real. Almost. Maybe. Sort of. The bulk of 21st century found footage is slick and polished to the extreme, but Noroi has the distinction of feeling like it’s real amature footage we’re witnessing, and that makes the whole affair extra unsettling.

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