Header image courtesy of Brooke Palmer & via Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (via IMDb)
If 2020 has not been scary enough for you, here are 13 spooky horror films on Netflix Hong Kong to make any Halloween watch party—socially distant or not—that much creepier.
Oh boy, this one brings back (horrific) memories; who uses VHS tapes anymore? Naomi Watts partners with Pirates of the Carribean director Gore Verbinski the remake of popular Japanese film. A reporter searched for a creepy VHS tape that promises to kill its viewer in seven days unless he or she passes it on to someone else. Did spirits behind this tape not hear of Tik Tok?
What if Stranger Things was less 1980s nostalgia and more outright horror? You might end up with something that looks a lot like the modern remake of the absurdist 1990s mini-series and film adaption of Stephen King’s novel, It. In the small town of Derry, a group of kids known as “The Losers’ Club” band together to destroy a shape-shifting monster who takes the form of the most horrific being of all—Kellyanne Conway. I kid, of course, but what is true is that this film that spawned a generation of clown phobias. Fun fact: It is also the highest-grossing horror flick of all time, making more than US$700 million on a “shoestring” budget of US$35 million.
Following the remake of Evil Dead, another horror cinema icon, director Fede Alvarez had his pick of the litter and chose to do a relatively small-scale film about a bunch of Detroit teenagers who break into a blind man’s house after hearing that it may hold a small fortune. To reveal any more would take us into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say that Don’t Breathe is a masterclass in tension and visual storytelling. Just like the title implies, I certainly held my breath for most of the film.
Here, the stacked cast alone—featuring Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Jennifer Jason Leigh—is worth the price of admission. When her husband goes missing, biologist and former soldier Lena (Natalie Portman) joins a mission to enter “the Shimmer,” a mysterious plot of land where the laws of biology are bent. Unsettling, tense, and with a completely bonkers ending that you will not see coming, Annihilation is one of the best examples of cosmic horror. Another fun fact: At the time of release, this film was notable for being the highest-profile direct-to-Netflix purchase the streaming giant made!
What more needs to be said of (arguably) the scariest film of all time? Auteur Stanley Kubrik’s masterpiece—endlessly parodied and referenced by nostalgia-heavy films like Ready Player One—follows a down-and-out writer (Jack Nicholson) who takes his family to The Overlook Hotel in an attempt to break his writer’s block. He becomes the groundskeeper of the establishment and, in the isolated environment of the hotel, slowly loses his sanity. Based on another psychological horror novel by the unparalleled Stephen King, Kubrik notably departs from source material to make it his own. The meaning of the film, like many of Kubrik’s films—whether it’s an apology for the director faking the moon landing or as an extended reference to the genocide of Native Americans—is hotly debated and there’s even a documentary called Room 237 that explores five of the most compelling theories.
What if Superman had been a sociopath rather than the do-gooder with an impeccable moral compass that audiences have come to know and love? Producer James Gunn (of Guardians of the Galaxy fame) returns to his horror roots and tackles this question with a dark twist on the Man of Steel origin story. In a visionary take on the superhero genre, Brightburn tells the story of Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman), who find a baby boy in a spaceship and adopt him as their own. When their adopted son, Brandon, discovers his superpowers in his early teens, he begins to use them with sinister intentions, raising terrible doubts within his parents.
There’s this idea in the horror genre of “original sin,” whereby characters are punished for inherent flaws they may have. In 1980s movies, for example, it’s the characters who have sex who die first. In the case of The Invitation, Will, played by Logan Marshall-Green (or discount Tom Hardy), takes his girlfriend to a party hosted by his ex-wife Eden, her new husband, and their weird friends. Will and his girlfriend soon become overwhelmed with the feeling that their hosts have sinister plans in store for them. While the film certainly has its own twists and turns, what scares me the most is the idea of bringing your current girlfriend to your ex-wife’s party.
Treat yourself to a horror throwback this Halloween with Hostel, a mid-2000s gem that struck fear into the hearts of wanderlusting backpackers and grad-trippers everywhere. In the film, three friends travel across Europe and meet a man in Amsterdam, who convinces them to visit a Slovakian hostel famed for its licentious women. When they reach the hostel, however, they find themselves drawn into a situation of unspeakable horrors, fighting tooth and nail to overcome a deadly game.
When I was a child, I was convinced that Gary Oldman was the scariest actor of all time through his villainous roles in Leon: The Professional and Air Force One. Little did I know then that he also played one of cinema’s great monsters, Dracula, in a film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the godfather of all films. In this version of the classic American gothic novel penned by Bram Stoker, cinema veteran Oldman anchors a cast that also featured the esteemed Anthony Hopkins, a fresh-faced Winona Ryder, and a hapless Keanu Reaves, who provides unintended comic relief with his hilariously inaccurate British accent. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is certainly a period horror film to put on your must-watch list.
Long before winning the Academy Award for Best Picture with his black comedy thriller Parasite, director Bong Joon-ho caught the world’s attention with this horror blockbuster. Similar to his award-winning picture, The Host also touches upon themes of inequality and generational consequences, albeit with a gory twist. After a monster emerges from the Han River in Seoul and kidnaps his daughter, Gang-du, a slow-witted man, stops at nothing to get her back.
No horror film list would be complete without Alfred Hitchcock. Psycho is as frightening and relevant as it was when it first hit the big screen 70 years ago. The film follows the tale of Marion Crane, a young woman who steals money from her employer and runs away from her usual life, eventually finding herself in the infamous Bates Hotel. She meets Norman Bates, its high-strung proprietor, who lives under the thumb of his unrelenting mother. In fact, the backstory behind Psycho is almost as interesting as the film itself. Director Alfred Hitchcock was so adamant on the film’s secrecy that he reportedly bought up all the copies of the novel the film was based on, forbid its cast from doing press, and bullied film theatres for a “no late admission policy,” which actually turned out to be a great marketing technique.
Who knew that Jim Halpert from The Office was also one of the most inventive voices in horror? A Quiet Place, also known as the most intense silent film ever, takes place in a world where mysterious monsters hunt humans through sound, forcing the Abbott family to live a noiseless life as they try to survive.
From the producers of The Haunting of Hill House and Gerald’s Game comes another horror sensation that’ll have you fearing creepy medical facilities more than you already do. Eli Miller is a young boy who suffers from a rare disease, causing him to live life in protective gear. His parents have almost given up on finding a cure to his illness when Dr Isabella Horn steps in, offering treatment in a large, old house that has been modernised for medical purposes. Soon after he is admitted, Eli begins to undergo excruciatingly painful procedures, causing him to see spectres, and he takes it upon himself to investigate his convictions that the house is haunted. Equipped with jump scares galore, Eli offers horror fans a truly terrifying story. In a humorous turn, Indiewire dubbed it as a meeting between Bubble Boy and The Conjuring—which is pretty accurate in our books.