Rent or buy on major platforms.
Martha (Eline Schumacher, magnetic) endures repeated sexual assaults by a worker at the factory where she’s a night janitor. She carries her trauma home to the weird Gothic mansion where she communes with a circle of creeps, including her overprotective serial-killer brother, Felix (Benjamin Ramon), sinister long-limbed creatures that lurk in the hallways and uncanny mirror images of herself. Then there’s the young woman that Felix brought home to be a “kitty,” as Martha calls her. I’ll stop there because to say more would give away too much of this depraved film’s sadistic surprises.
Karim Ouelhaj wrote and directed this film, which is loosely inspired by several unsolved murders of women around the Belgian city of Mons in the 1990s — source material that Ouelhaj unflinchingly mines to examine generational wounds and mental illness. The cinematographer François Schmitt makes the horrors look Grand Guignol gorgeous; it looks like a Dior commercial but with stomach-churning violence swapped in for chic pantsuits, a welcome throwback to the movies of the New French Extremity.
This film deservedly won the Jury Prize at last year’s Fantasia Film Festival, where the judges called it an “astonishing, brutal piece of art.” I agree, and it’s one of my favorite horror movies of 2023.
Rent or buy on major platforms.
Sky (Angela Wong Carbone) and her boyfriend, Cam (Will Madden), got lucky with their starter home. It came cheap, with reason: It’s where a landlord murdered one of his tenants, as documented on Sky’s favorite true-crime series, “The Slumlord Tapes.” The house has room for Sky’s sister, Carolyn (Hilty Bowen, hilarious), and adjacent quarters for two young renters, Wren (Shirley Chen) and Amber (Hannah McKechnie). When Cam finds hidden-away cameras that the landlord left behind, he makes the very bad decision to spy on his tenants, until he becomes both the watcher and the watched. It’s here that Danny Madden’s psychological thriller takes off on its ferocious final stretch.
Some people might be put off by how the writer PJ McCabe finds laughs in sexual voyeurism of the criminal kind. But I found the film to be a smart, twisted and twisty nail-biter about don’t-mess-with-me women and the piggish men they put up with — until they don’t. It’s a more naturalistic companion of sorts to this year’s “Jethica,” which also starred Will Madden (Danny’s brother) as a guy who doesn’t know when or how to stop being creepy.
Stream it on Tubi.
Harri (Chaneil Kular) is on a train to his parents’ country home outside London when a deadly bombing strikes the station he just left. When his parents leave home the next morning, Harri settles in for some quiet time with his dog at his side and dark woods out back. But then the authorities release a photo of a suspect who looks a lot like Harri, a resemblance a former classmate points out on social media. Anonymous hands take to social media to claim Harri as the bomber, and in almost real time, we watch as Harri’s life is turned upside down by people eager for vigilante justice based on lies and speculation. Then the phone rings at Harri’s house, and that’s when this well-crafted Tubi original really puts its foot on the gas.
In most home-invasion films, the attack happens quickly. But in this tense and timely thriller, the drama comes slowly and deliberately, a shrewd choice that the director Philip Barantini handles assuredly in 88 taut minutes. Kular gives a deeply empathetic performance as a man under siege by assailants on a too-familiar witch hunt in which vengeance is the goal and truth is the victim.
Stream it on Shudder.
Bad news: The recent films in the “V/H/S” franchise have been bloated and boring. Good news: The latest entry is pure found-footage mayhem, with two standouts.
My favorite is Gigi Saul Guerrero’s “God of Death,” set during Mexico’s devastating 1985 earthquake. As a morning television show opens, the earthquake topples the studio live on air, an effectively terrifying way into the found-footage format. As rescue workers make their way through the rubble in search of survivors, the film morphs into a perverse and gruesome (and darkly funny) disaster film about an underworld god who’s famished for human flesh.
I also got spooked by Scott Derrickson’s “Dreamkill,” which channels straight-to-video era horror in a supernatural story about a serial killer who sends videos of murders to the police before they happen. The film takes an evil twist I didn’t see coming and ends with a fantastically gory blood bath.
Stream it on Hulu.
If, like me, your idea of an exciting Halloween night is to stay home with a silly-scary movie, invite friends over for this horror comedy from the writer-director Anna Zlokovic.
Hannah (Hadley Robinson) is getting worried about a bloody lesion at her hip that keeps growing. And I mean growing: One day it suddenly grows beady eyes and sharp teeth and in a nasty, guttural tone gives voice to Hannah’s insecurities. “You have no good ideas,” the creature growls to her face.
When the monster pops out of her body, Hannah wrestles it into submission, a move that unleashes in her a creative streak that impresses her exacting fashion designer boss (Desmin Borges). But Hannah’s little worry-wart parasite is determined to bring its host down, and that’s when she seeks help from an appendage support group whose kindly members have anxious and angry demons of their own — hungrier ones than hers.
As a parable about battles with self-criticism and inner doubt, the film is far from subtle. But Robinson’s winsome performance and the goofball creature-feature design by Amber Mari Creations — think “Basket Case” but with feeling — won me over by the end.