Rafe Spall in The Ritual, which I kinda recommend.
Rafe Spall in The Ritual, which I kinda recommend. Courtesy of Netflix

I've been trying so hard to put together a follow-up post to the one I did at the beginning of the month about spooky ass shit on Netflix, and I started out bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready to binge through some horror with gusto.

But, guys—there's a lot of SHIT on there. And I've watched a lot of it.

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There was Holidays, which featured eight shorts revolving around different calendar holidays (the one for Valentine's Day was okay, but I quit after the Jesus-Bunny monster thing made its disgusting appearance during Easter). Then, The Witch. (A 17th-century period piece that follows a separatist family banished from a Puritan plantation to a lonely homestead on the edge of the woods; it was pretty difficult to understand what the characters were saying at any given point, a combo of thick accents and old English verbiage, and a baby is killed and sacrificed within the first 15 minutes, which ruined my appetite for it, as did the obviousness of where the plot was going.)

I stopped 25 minutes deep into the "psychological horror" of Delirium (not sane man moves into his late dad's possibly haunted mansion) because the relationship between Tom (played by Topher Grace) and his parole officer, Brody (Patricia Clarkson)—who he's gotta answer to while spending an obligatory 30 days under house arrest to prove he’s sane and earn his freedom—got so irritating (she obviously despises him, for reasons that were unclear in those first 25 minutes), that I got impatient and stopped before learning about the mystery of Tom's past. (Like, how crazy is he and what grave crime did he commit to get him sentenced to an institution for 15 years? Why did his dad kill himself? Is the house haunted or is Tom just a fucking nutball?)

Delirium had promise, and I intended on going back and finishing it. But first, I returned to another film I stopped halfway through that had promise too, MaleVolent—another one of those, is she crazy or is there really something supernatural going on?-type films—but it ended up being so totally putrid, in a what-are-the-motivations, how-can-that-happen, these-people-suck, what-the-fuck?, kind of way, that I couldn't bear to go back to Delirium. Not yet, anyway.

And these are the ones worth mentioning at all. In fact, it got so bad and I was so disheartened that I had to stop and seek out some guaranteed (critically-acclaimed and friend-approved) horror, i.e., Hereditary (OMFG, y'all). Then I turned to HBO for some nostalgic scares (Tales from the Darkside: The Movie), before setting my sights back on Netflix.

In all my wading through the muck and the mire of horror films, there were several that were good enough to recommend—with heavy disclaimers. So without further adieu, here's what I have for you, the best of the bad:

The Ritual (2017)
A British horror film, in which four men go hiking on the King's Trail in northern Sweden, in tribute to their dead friend, only shit ain't really right between the men, and it gets worse, overall, after they try to take a "shortcut" through the woods. Which begs the questions: WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU GO INTO THE DARK, OMINOUS WOODS? WHEN IS THAT EVER A GOOD IDEA??! Of all my recs, this one is at the top, because it is better than the rest, at least insofar as it's got some unforgettably chilling visuals and a pretty wicked (SPOILER ALERT) monster.

Stephanie (2017)
A little girl is inexplicably left alone in a house to fend for herself. Or, maybe it's not so inexplicable, there seems to be a monster aboot, maybe it killed her parents? This one's good in a that-child's-a-freak kind of way. Also, it has a mildly unexpected twist, that really isn't all that unexpected in hindsight.

Tales of Halloween (2015)
This one is horror-comedy and includes 10 shorts all set in the same weird town, and most of them are pretty good, in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it sort of way. The titles and info about each is all featured in the beginning, which is annoying because you don't really know what you're watching at any given point (or who directed it), but it works in that each story flows right into the next, no breaks, and with some very mild overlap. It's definitely a good film for those of us who suffer from ADD, with both funny and disgusting moments littered throughout. And even though the last film, involving a killer pumpkin, is completely fucking ridiculous, it was entertaining at least, so I couldn't be mad about it.

Cargo (2017)
Martin Freeman, in a post-apocalyptic Australia. Zombies have overrun the place. The cargo is his daughter. He has 48 hours to find someone to take her off his hands because he's done been bit. I won't tell you more, but suffice to say, it's not really scary or overly engrossing, but it is good enough to recommend, there's some cool stuff touching on Aborigine culture, and you'll find a heavy dose of that zombie movie social theme that George Romero perfected—i.e., humans can be just as scary and horrifying as the walking dead.

Apostle (2018)
It's another British horror film, and I watched it purely for Dan Stevens (you know him from Legion or, more likely, Downton Abby). It's set in 1905, its lead character, Thomas Richardson (Stevens) has gone through some crazy shit (former Christian missionary tortured for attempting to introduce Christianity to Peking during the Boxer Rebellion), and isn't quite in his right mind when his father commands that he go back out into the world to rescue his sister, who was kidnapped and is being held for ransom by a mysterious cult that has settled on a remote Welsh island. Shit definitely gets weird, and there are some truly horrifying torture porn-style moments, but it's too long, and some shit (including the entire basis of the cult's reason for being on the island) just doesn't make sense. This film is under 'recs' because it stuck with me a while after it was over, not because I liked it.

...and because I actually want to recommend something without disclaimers:

The series is based on the 1989 Japanese video game Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, is set in the latter half of the 1400s, in Wallachia (a former principality of Romania near the Transylvanian Alps), and builds upon the plot of the game that it's based on: The leader of a family of vampire hunters, Trevor C. Belmont, is called on to protect Wallachia from Count Dracula (aka Vlad Dracula Tepes) and his army of monstrous minions. Unsurprisingly, it's the church that fucked it up for everyone; a clergyman falsely accused Vlad's wife of witchcraft and burned her at the stake, which prompted ol' Vlad to issue a death sentence for all of the people of Wallachia and a vow to plunge Europe into everlasting darkness. (Read more about it here.)

There are only four episodes, but they are damn good, anime-influenced and hand-drawn in old school style (i.e., 2D not computer generated), and a new season (with eight episodes!) launches this Friday.

Here's the first season trailer:

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Here's the second season trailer:

Go watch them, and while you're enjoying them, think about me as I wade through more shit to find at least one or two more things to recommend. Without disclaimers.

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Ghosts, zombies, slashers, witches, Eldritch beasts, gore-- SLAY has something for every horror fan!