Scream Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street

Streamable: Shudder, Amazon Prime ($3.99), YouTube ($3.99), Google Play ($3.99), Vudu ($3.99)

As horror productions, horror journalism, and the horror genre in totality strive for a future of inclusivity, there’s no denying its sins of the past. Enter actor Mark Patton, who starred as Jesse Walsh in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. A sequel now infamous for its queer “undertones,” which derailed Patton’s career as a closeted gay actor. It’s an examination of homosexuality during an uneasy period in Hollywood, and its effects on Patton as he tried to progress after his nightmarish mistreatment. Quite the revealing oral history that provides necessary context and hopeful admissions all these years later, blending catharsis with horror off the screen as documentarians chronicle Patton’s life after a bedroom dance sequence became more memorable than any of Jesse Walsh’s encounters with Freddy Krueger. We always need to do better, and Patton’s story is one sole exemplification of why.

Sadly I do not have a review of Scream, Queen! anywhere, but luckily /Film’s big-shot Jacob Hall has a capsule review out of last year’s Fantastic Fest.

Sea Fever

Streamable: Amazon Prime ($3.99), YouTube ($3.99), and Google Play ($3.99)

Where Underwater is the Alien of aquatic horror, Neasa Hardiman’s Sea Fever settles somewhere between The Thing and Cabin Fever. Never as “scary” by conventional definitions, although the narrative’s pandemic outbreak angle plays a bit closer to the heart these days. It’s a headier horror cruise than the usual “sea monster attacks” story, displaying the natural beauty of unknown depths through luminescence and biological methods. Don’t get me wrong; there’s some wriggly body horror that’ll have you rubbing certain facial features. It’s just that Hardiman exploits the martyrdom of exploration through calculated sacrifice in such an entrancing way, with curiosity and research being the ultimate death sentence.

For my expansive thoughts on Sea Fever, you can check out my review here, or read Jason Gorber’s /Film review out of TIFF 2019.

The Lodge

Streamable: Hulu, YouTube ($3.99), Google ($3.99), Amazon ($3.99)

You didn’t think you’d escape a horror list written by me, Matt Donato, without Christmas Horror representation, did you? The Lodge might not visually pop festive accents via gaudy ornaments or glistening tinsel, but me-oh-my does it heap on megatons of holiday dread. It’s what filmmakers Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala do best. Maryland has crabcakes and football, Germany has noose-tight psychological torment and darker moods than – well, honestly, I don’t want to go there.

Enter Riley Keough as a woman marred by trauma, then Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh as the “bratty” children who only worsen their selfish predicament. Shards of a broken family slice Keough’s frail incumbent mother figure (after Richard Armitage is left a widower) to shreds, unbeknownst to the young rascals who weaponize internal pains. In the middle of nowhere, snowed inside, just Keough’s wavering sanity and two out-of-their depth kiddies. Those in the mood for a frigid slow burn should hop on Hulu this instant.

You can read my full review out of Overlook 2019 right here, or read my Now Scream This brochacho Chris Evangelista’s poster-quoted review over on another /Film page!

Mutant Blast

Streaming: Troma Now ($5.99)

Mutant Blast is the most fun I’ve had with a Troma movie since Return To Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1, which it easily surpasses. Fernando Alle has created something mindless, maddeningly unfettered, and definitively eternal. The zombie apocalypse gives way to nuclear fallout mutants, dooming characters who include “a fearless soldier,” a direct Terminator T-800 ripoff, plus a hungover nobody. Rat mutations grow from severed hand stumps. Human-sized lobsters wearing business suits square off against similarly scaled dolphins wielding katanas in the most unexpected Kurosawa homage you’ll behold this decade. Practical effects are on magnificent low-budget display in most “Tromatic” (like traumatic, get it) way imaginable. Mutant Blast makes little to zero sense, plays by its own exploitation rules, and you know what? It might be the most unapologetic genre fun you indulge in after midnight all year. 

Go ahead and read my full Mutant Blast review right here, if you dare.

Blood Quantum

Streamable: Shudder

Jeff Barnaby’s Blood Quantum, by definition, scores one for Native American representation in zombie, nay horror, cinema. In a world where walkers roam free, the Mi’gMaq reserve of Red Crow remains immune to the undead infection. Indigenous inhabitants survive while the white folk who once discriminately kept their distance now rush to their doorstep seeking refuge. There’s plenty of cultural commentary and equal parts undead brutality, as Blood Quantum sports some memorably graphic zombie kills. Explanations might be scarce in terms of inexplicable immunities, but that’s hardly an issue as Barnaby builds an apocalypse and services empathetic characters in a very The Walking Dead way…except with more engaging execution within a fraction of the running time.

I’m happy to share my full Blood Quantum review alongside Meredith Borders’ TIFF 2019 /Film review.

After Midnight

Streamable: Kanopy, Vudu ($3.99) Amazon Prime ($3.99)

Jeremy Gardner’s sweat-drenched After Midnight is the sweetest, from-the-heart love ballad sung while monsters bash down the vocalist’s door. It’s a creature-feature romance that aches with raw earnestness, as Gardner rips his heart out as an offering of compassion. A tale of small-town mindsets, city-chasing dreamers, and hollering at big-ass figures around your property once the moonlight emerges. What happens to those somber souls who’re left behind, unable to escape because of self-inflicted pity and uncertainty.

You could bottle the chemistry between Gardner (who stars as bar owner Hank) and his sunshine queen “Abby” played by Brea Grant, then make a fortune selling it to Hollywood rom-com productions. There’s magic between these two, both charting a relationship’s sparkle-eyed highs to its lonesome, separated lows. Yes, there are shotgun blasts and ferocious attacks and a tangible beast amidst poetic adoration – but it’s all second fiddle. After Midnight is one of those subgenre amalgamations that proves the boundless versatility of horror narratives. “Single” Donato’s first reaction after the credits rolled? In a moment of vulnerability, he acknowledged how fulfilling it’d be to share After Midnight with someone special. Fuck you for making me feel things, Jeremy Gardner.

Peep my full review out of Tribeca 2019 right here for even more emotional vomit!

Warning: Do Not Play

Streamable: Shudder

Shudder’s exhaustively researched curation is well-enough worth the subscription, especially when it gives movies like Warning: Do Not Play a home. A South Korean thriller that evaded even my extensive genre coverage, rooted in the ideologies of “doomed cinema,” this film asks “What if a ghost haunted a filmmaker and forced said creator to shoot the ‘scariest film ever made’ – would you watch it?” Those who caught Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made and, like myself, wish the film was about an actual screening massacre at the hand of cursed cinema, Warning: Do Not Play is your redemption. Plus, I’m a sucker when those “reds” drench the screen (phrase patent pending). It’s effective ghost-auteur cinema that proves itself adept at spooks and hair-raiser chills. Another Friday night, lights-off winner for those who don’t mind subtitles at the bottom of their screens.

The Invisible Man

Streaming: Amazon Prime ($5.99), YouTube ($5.99), Google Play ($5.99)

I wavered back-and-forth on including Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man because of its mainstream notoriety, but I sometimes forget my Twitter horror bubble doesn’t represent all audience opinions or actions. Domestic box office totals read $67.1 million – but still! In case you haven’t pulled the proverbial trigger, allow me to one more time state how The Invisible Man finely tunes a template that should be reused when it comes to modernizing horror classics. Whannell’s weaponization of paranoia and blank space is something I haven’t seen so proficiently capitalized on since Paranormal Activity, while action cinematography further evolves Whannell’s smooth fight choreography first showcased in Upgrade. Specific third-act narrative points will be debated, but aren’t the best kind of films ones that make us think for days after the fact?

Don’t vanish before you read my full review of The Invisible Man, once again bringing my main man Chris Evangelista back into the fold with his /Film review.

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