There’s also some absolute dreck, but, hey, you take the good with the bad.
The world’s plenty scary with viral outbreaks and theaters closing all over the country due to coronavirus, but streaming services thankfully are maintaining a steady dose of the creepy stuff. On Friday, Netflix debuts the Spanish film “The Platform,” a social allegory about class warfare and inequality set in a mysterious prison, while Shudder features “The Room,” which follows a married couple who buy a fixer-upper and discover a secret hideaway that grants their every wish. (And no, it’s not the same “The Room” famous for being the worst movie ever.)
This year, we’re taking on the task of definitively ranking every new horror movie, and here’s how “The Platform” and “The Room” – as well as theatrical flicks “The Invisible Man” and “The Hunt,” which are available digitally now – stack up with what’s come out thus far:
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21. ‘The Turning’
The horrid adaptation of Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw” stars Mackenzie Davis as new governess Kate, who’s been hired to take care of a young girl (Brooklynn Prince) whose parents have died. The estate is huge but weird, the girl’s teenage brother (Finn Wolfhard) is a violent malcontent, and Kate feels like she’s going nuts seeing ghostly figures and hearing things that go bump in the night. Way more frustrating than freaky, the film also has one of the worst endings in recent memory.
20. ‘Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island’
Give the Blumhouse credit for casting Michael Peña in Ricardo Montalban’s old Mr. Roarke role and wanting to make the old TV concept fresh again. Yet so much else fails in this convoluted retread that features a variety of visitors (including Lucy Hale, Maggie Q and Ryan Hansen) being put through their own individual hells. There’s one forced huge plot twist after another – so much that it turns into a checklist of horror tropes by the end.
19. ‘The Grudge’
In the latest (and forgettable) redo of the Japanese horror movie, a couple of cops (Andrea Riseborough and Demian Bichir), a realtor couple (John Cho and Betty Gilpin) and others come to face-to-face with a vengeful phantom that attaches itself to houses and people and haunts them until their unavoidable doom. The film offers nonlinear intertwining story lines, ghosts coming out of bathtubs, and little else.
18. ‘The Sonata’
Freya Tingley plays a gifted violinist whose composer father (the late Rutger Hauer), once thought of as a industry-changing genius before dropping off the classical-music map, dies extremely violently. She inherits a Gothic castle and an unpublished masterwork – filled with weird symbols courtesy of dad’s dark interests – in a movie with cool classical music but no real scares.
17. ‘Brahms: The Boy II’
We don’t see Katie Holmes in too many movies anymore, and they should be better than this: The actress stars as a mom whose family moves to the English country after a violent break-in and Christopher Convery plays the young boy who finds and befriends the freaky doll Brahms. “The Boy II” digs into the toy’s seriously dark history, and Brahms is plenty unnerving, but the sequel frustratingly undermines what made the first film’s twist ending cool and instead falls back on boring horror tropes.
16. ‘The Dark Red’
The indie psychological thriller offers a gripping premise with a psychiatric patient (April Billingsley) who’s diagnosed as bipolar – and has psychic visions – but insists her newborn baby has been kidnapped by a secret cult collecting folks of her rare blood type. While “Dark Red” is solid for much of its “Is she crazy or not?” narrative, it takes a goofy, out-of-nowhere third-act turn into an action-y revenge flick that’s better at showing off Billingsley’s pull-up prowess than doling out chills.
15. ‘The Room’
Olga Kurylenko and Kevin Janssens star as a European couple who buy an old house and in the midst of spiffing the place up discover a hidden room where whatever they wish for comes true. It’s pretty standard “Monkey’s Paw” material for much of it – asking for money and Van Gogh paintings transitions to things that go terribly awry – though the movie shows some depth when it finally gets personal with its main characters and their deepest desires.
14. ‘After Midnight’
The down-home indie horror romance features Jeremy Gardner (who also writes and directs) as a small-town bar owner forced to deal with a vicious monster of unknown origin that attacks his front door nearly every night. The creature’s appearance coincides with the month-long disappearance of the dude’s girlfriend (Brea Grant). “Midnight” upends expectations while also deftly exploring relationship themes and the push-pull between expanding your horizons and remaining comfortably complacent.
The “Alien” influence isn’t at all subtle in the action-packed thriller starring Kristen Stewart as a mechanical engineer on a doomed drilling team (featuring T.J. Miller and Jessica Henwick) seven miles below the ocean surface. There are lots of claustrophobic escapes, crushing deep-sea dangers and neato monsters, plus Stewart – with cropped hair and a bunch of derring-do – does a decent job rocking a modern Ripley vibe.
12. ‘Disappearance at Clifton Hill’
David Cronenberg, director of classic horror fare like “Scanners” and “The Fly,” is the most recognizable name involved in this “Twin Peaks”-y mystery – and he’s actually in front of the camera. Cronenberg’s quirky podcaster is a scene-stealer in the film about a young woman (Tuppence Middleton) who returns to her Niagara Falls home still traumatized by a tragedy she witnessed as a girl. The immersive narrative is convoluted in its resolution yet offers a few well-crafted moments worth the watch.
11. ‘Extra Ordinary’
“Saturday Night Live” alum Will Forte is the only recognizable face in this small-town Irish charmer full of spooks and satanic pacts. Rose (Maeve Higgins) is a driving instructor and reluctant psychic who has to save a virgin from the devil-worshipping shenanigans of a pop-music has-been (Forte). The film intriguingly explores the loneliness of ghosts and has a fun but gross running gag involving ectoplasm.
10. ‘Come to Daddy’
There’s a little noir and quite a bit of comedy in this kooky outing that begins with quotes from two luminaries: Shakespeare and Beyoncé. Elijah Wood plays a privileged dude who travels to see the estranged father who left him behind when he was a child. Dad’s a complete jerk with some serious baggage, their reunion is a disaster, and the movie turns on a crazy reveal forcing our man-child hero to survive a series of bloody predicaments.
Haley Bennett stars as happy-on-the-outside housewife Hunter, whose existence revolves around satisfying her husband (Austin Stowell). She becomes pregnant and develops pica, leading her to compulsively swallow marbles, pins, screwdrivers and other objects that’ll make you squirm. However, the “Oh, please don’t eat that” situations switch to more hopeful scenes as Hunter reclaims her identity and deals with a dark past.
8. ‘Dogs Don’t Wear Pants’
The Finnish thriller, which played at last year’s Cannes and Toronto film festivals, is surprisingly as endearing as it is disturbing. Years after his wife’s drowning, a heart surgeon (Pekka Strang) is a cold fish with sexual hangups when he meets and forms a strong connection with a BDSM dominatrix (Krista Kosonen) whose strangulation methods prove addictive, freeing and oddly cathartic for him. It’s darkly comic and touching, plus features a weirdly fitting cover of the Beach Boys’ “Then I Kissed Her.”
“Booksmart” meets “Shaun of the Dead” with a dash of “Gremlins” in the teen horror comedy centered on popular high schooler Sara (Mary Nepi), who loses her virginity, becomes pregnant with an alien baby, and gives “birth” to a creature that tears up their town. Come for the gruesome shenanigans of a monstrous critter that attaches itself to people’s heads, stay for Sara and her estranged childhood pal Hayley (Gabrielle Elyse) reuniting to become creature-hunting BBFs.
6. ‘The Hunt’
Timely, often funny, completely lacking all subtlety and as sharp as a pit of spikes, “The Hunt” takes no partisan prisoners in imagining cold warfare between the left and right taken to ultra-violent ends. It mostly works, though its tone is all over the place as it tries to find a happy medium between clever metaphor and comedic splatter-fest, but you’ll have an absolute blast watching Gilpin in a star-making turn as a Bible Belt car-rental employee with a very particular set of hidden skills.
5. ‘The Platform’
The gory Spanish satire, which premiered at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, imagines a tower-esque prison where the incarcerated are fed via a platform filled with high-end vittles, with the caveat being prisoners on lower levels have to eat the scraps from those above them. The class metaphor is fairly obvious, but as the allegory unfolds through a newcomer’s (Iván Massague) perspective, salient points are made about the haves and have-nots, and the extreme lengths people will go to hold their status over others.
4. ‘Color Out of Space’
In this trippy, slow-burn gore-fest based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story, a New England alpaca farmer (Nicolas Cage), his workaholic wife (Joely Richardson) and his kids have ordinary, everyday problems that get exponentially weirder when a meteorite lands in their yard and they’re taken over by an alien presence. The invasion creates a sumptuous color palette for some stunning visuals, and Cage going absolutely bonkers never gets old.
3. ‘Gretel & Hansel’
In this fairy-tale reimagining, Gretel (Sophia Lillis) and little brother Hansel (Samuel Leakey) leave home – and their insane mother – behind and set off into the forest. Hungry, they find a super-weird house and are enticed by an elaborate feast inside, where they meet the witch (Alice Krige) who runs the place. Suffice it to say, she’s not on the up-and-up. The film features wonderfully unnerving sights, a nuanced narrative and an intriguing empowerment story that also explores the consequences of having power.
2. ‘The Lodge’
Like your horror super-duper bleak? “The Lodge” is full of despair as Grace (Riley Keough), who’s still haunted by her childhood being the only survivor of a religious death cult, gets trapped with her fiancé’s kids (Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh) in a remote house. She tries to be their friend, they can’t stand her, and just as they start breaking down the icy walls between them, Grace starts hearing voices and having bad dreams. But that’s just the start of the twisty terrors that grip the place in this beautifully shot, slow-burn chiller.
1. ‘The Invisible Man’
An impressive combo of social consciousness and inspired scares, “Invisible Man” modernizes an old-school monster for the #MeToo era. Elisabeth Moss’ lead heroine finds no one believing her when she insists her sociopathic ex faked a suicide and haunts her as an unseen antagonist, and it’s satisfying to watch her turn the tables on her victimizer and fight back in a film that’s as much about domestic abuse and gaslighting as it is freaking you out. (And it’s pretty darn good at that, too.)