Girl in the Picture (2022)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

A young woman is murdered, her son is kidnapped, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg in this very disturbing crime documentary. It’s based on two books by Matt Birkbeck, A Beautiful Child and Finding Sharon. I’ve heard that they are arguably superior to this film, so if you’re a true crime buff you may just want to read those instead. Girl in the Picture is a well constructed doc, and the overall look of the movie is very good. You get your usual bits of true crime reenactment, but they’re not too bothersome here. WARNING – things just keep getting more and more dark as it moves along, so if you’re on the sensitive side stay away.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Yes, I’m finally getting around to an Argento movie. This is his first film, and among his best. I wouldn’t recommend Dario newbies start with this one, as it is honestly very slow, and almost bloodless. It’s definitely a giallo, but far more thriller than horror. However this movie is as creepy as can be, beautifully filmed, has a very good cast, and the Morricone score is phenomenal. Most people see Suspiria first, and are a little disappointed by Argento’s other great films. Then they go on to be downright depressed by the rest of his output (I gave up after sitting through Giallo). Sadly he has not made a decent movie since Sleepless, but he was excellent acting in Gaspar Noe’s Vortex. Besides Suspiria, my personal favorites are Tenebrae and The Cat o Nine Tails (honorable mentions for Deep Red, Inferno, and DA’s edit of Dawn of the Dead). Did you hear that? It was the sound of dozens of horror nerds yelling out What about (fill in the blank)?!?!?!

Available on Blu-ray from Arrow.

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Zana (2019)

Streaming on Amazon Prime (and Kanopy) | imdb | trailer

Zana is an excellent, dark drama from Kosovo. The film reminded me a bit of Tarkovsky’s work, but the pace is a little faster, and it’s only 97 minutes long. The cinematography is fantastic, and all the actors pull off top-notch performances. One word of warning, this movie is very sad. It maintains that tone from start to finish, minus a few moments. If you’re not in the mood for a downer, then maybe pick something perky from the Netflix Top 10 (you wimp).

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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It Follows (2014)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

Have you seen the one about the sexually transmitted poltergeist? Most horror devotees were all over It Follows when it first came out. Deservedly so, as it’s a damn good film. I only give it bad marks for the John Carpenter rip off soundtrack. The filmmakers either should have hired the man himself, or tweaked the music just enough to sound original. Really it’s a minor complaint. If you have missed this one up to now, watch it before Netflix swaps it out for some more of the garbage horror they tend to favor.

Available on Blu-ray from Radius.

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The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

The mighty Christopher Lee plays a murderous Count, who is back from the dead, and out for revenge. Sounds similar to the plot for Mario Bava’s Black Sunday right? That’s ok, because part of why I enjoyed this movie so much is that it reminded me of Bava’s work, and early Hammer Horror. It also is an extremely loose adaptation of “The Pit and the Pendulum,” so we get additional reminders of Roger Corman’s Poe horrors. All that may sound like this isn’t worth your time. Not true. The film has been lovingly restored and looks absolutely beautiful. The saturated color and deep shadows sold it for me. Torture Chamber… is an old fashioned horror film, and is not particularly smart, but I highly recommended classic horror fans see it. If you enjoyed the young and handsome Christopher Lee acting like a creep, make sure to check out Bava’s The Whip and the Body. This director made an earlier creepy horror movie called The Strangler of Blackmoore Castle, which is also worth watching.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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Dead and Buried (1981)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

This is an excellent ’80s horror film that I have watched many times over the years. I’m not going to mention the plot, as it slowly reveals itself (in fact, maybe skip watching the trailer). In spite of the very intense opening scene, it does have a bit of a slow pace overall, but don’t let that deter you. Dead and Buried is a film made with care. It features moody cinematography, awesome performances, well crafted music, and a few of my favorite gore FX scenes. The man behind most of those was the legendary Stan Winston. The only blemish on this film is that they shot one murder set-piece when Winston wasn’t available, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. That’s ok, it is one wart on an otherwise creepy good time. I’m very jealous of you people seeing this for the first time.

Available on 4K / Blu-ray from Blue Underground.

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Exorcist III (1990)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer

The original Exorcist remains one of the greatest horror movies ever made. Sadly part II, The Heretic, was awful. However this film is surprisingly good. Part III was written and directed by the original Exorcist author (based on his book “Legion”), and is as dark as can be. George C. Scott is great here. He has a monologue about “what he believes,” which is unhinged genius. Fun fact: there was no actual exorcism in the original book or script, so they tacked one on. Luckily, it all works.

Available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory.

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Memories of Murder (2003)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer 

Here’s a dark, beautiful, high quality murder thriller directed by Bong Joon Ho. I have avoided recommending it so far as I thought all the excitement over Parasite would have lead you to watch it already. What? You haven’t seen Memories of Murder yet? Well get on it. 

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion Collection.

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Rebecca (2020)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This recommendation is specifically for fans of director Ben Wheatley. I have seen the majority of his film output, and have enjoyed everything. The critical response to Rebecca has been unfavorable as Alfred Hitchcock made a very highly regarded adaptation of the book in 1940. I am a fan of Hitchcock but not enough to watch a mystery / romance (the latter being a genre I avoid). That was not the case with Wheatley’s film, which actually happens to be more faithful to the book. I took this 2020 adaptation for what it is, and I enjoyed it. I’m not going to watch it multiple times like High-Rise, but it’s a damn good film that I absolutely suggest Wheatley fans check out. If you like it, take a look at this article for an added layer. Thank you David Graham for nudging me into giving Rebecca a shot.

PS – Yep, since posting this I’ve learned that star Armie Hammer is a scumbag. I gotta separate the art from the artist in this case, but I’d add that House of Hammer is definitely worth watching (it’s on Discovery+).

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Monos (2019)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer

This is a beautifully photographed borderline-art film about teenage rebel fighters with an American hostage. It has several violent scenes, but is mostly a deliberately paced dark drama. The jungle locations are stunning, and seem so remote they’re from another planet. All the actors are excellent, but it was a pleasant surprise to see Julianne Nicholson (Law and Order / Boardwalk Empire) knock it out of the park as the hostage. This film also features a killer electronic soundtrack by Mica Levi who also did the music for Under the Skin. Monos is an almost perfect film that I strongly recommend to any patient film buff.

Available on Blu-ray from Universal.

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