So you’ve just gotten out of the theater after seeing Lee Cronin’s Evil Dead Rise, and you’re in need of both a fresh pair of drawers and a pick-me-up tonic to recover from the experience (and not necessarily in that order). Fine, good, makes sense. Nothing like a hot chocolate or milkshake to help flush fear from your system, and steady your quaking knees. But hear me out: a little hair of the dog does the trick just as well, with the added benefit of giving you an excuse to watch more horror.
Cronin’s take on Evil Dead, the beloved and massively influential D.I.Y. horror series which added “boomstick” to the lexicon and made Bruce Campbell into a geek god, is a more than worthy successor to Sam Raimi’s name. Ranking these movies is a useless chore, because they’re all great; suffice to say that Evil Dead Rise is of a piece with all the Evil Dead movies that came before, with the addition of Cronin’s laser-focus on family as an audience nerve ending. Once you’ve had the chance to see his work for yourself (or hey, maybe before), you’ll want to add these movies to your viewing list to go along with the latest chapter in man’s battle against Deadites:
Stream: AMC+ and available on demand on Amazon Video, Apple TV, Vudu, and Google Play
This release landed right around the start of horror cinema’s 2010s-era ascension to “genre of the moment”; depending on who you ask (say, Jenna Ortega) it’s a prominent example of “elevated horror” to boot. But there’s nothing “elevated” about Jennifer Kent’s masterpiece–certainly not in the sniffy, stuffy pretense implied by the term. There is just primal terror blended up nice and thick with motherhood’s cavalcade of anxieties and neuroses, inflamed by society’s casual disregard for new moms’ mental and physical health. Visitations from an extradimensional fiend, first nightly, then daily, don’t help, either. The Babadook is a supreme monster movie, a modern day expressionist nightmare fuel driven by Essie Davis’s ferocious lead performance and immortalized by the title’s nattily attired beast that’s a pop culture icon who, true to his promise, can’t be gotten rid of.
Stream: Amazon Prime Video and available on demand on Amazon Video, Vudu, and YouTube
In [REC], as well as its three sequels, demonic possession is an effect of a viral outbreak and not a consequence of playing incantations on vinyl records that wake up ancient evil. Somehow, in post-COVID times, the change in mechanics doesn’t feel especially comforting. That might make [REC] more effective at getting viewers to mess up their drawers, especially from the claustrophobia stirred up by the setting. Characters in [REC] have nowhere to run from the zombie-demon creatures chasing them down. They can’t escape. They can only corner themselves. Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza invent new ways of keeping the undead fresh throughout this four-film series, but the movie’s recontextualization of zombie tropes is something special 16 years later.
Mom and Dad/h3>
Stream: Hulu and available on demand on Apple TV, Amazon Video, and Vudu
Cute aggression is a real thing. See a kitten or puppy or baby adorable enough, and you’ll be seized by the urge to throttle ‘em. You won’t, of course, unless you’ve been infected by the virus sending parents over the edge in Brian Taylor’s Mom and Dad, in which case your kids should probably stay at a friend’s house for the weekend. For safety’s sake, their friends should come stay with you. Mom and Dad is a twitchy piece of work, where mass filicide collides with dark humor, and Nicolas Cage hands in the performance responsible for kicking off the modern-day Cageiassance; you’ve not known cinema until you’ve watched him lay into a pool table with a sledgehammer while belting “The Hokey Pokey.”
Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight
Stream: Starz and available on demand on Apple TV, Amazon Video, Google Play, and Vudu
A group of strangers stuck together in a boarding house while a pack of cackling demons try their damndest to bust in and munch them up: that’s the logline for Evil Dead Rise, but it’s also the logline for Ernest Dickerson’s Demon Knight, the first Tales from the Crypt feature film. Journalists gave Demon Knight the usual scripted brush-off treatment most horror movies received in the press back in the 1990s. What’s shocking is that no one’s given it a proper reevaluation 30 years later. Put bluntly, Demon Knight is the kind of unsung gem horror connoisseurs typically find after digging through 10 alleys’ worth of dumpsters, except it’s a slick, studio production instead of a coarse micro-budget mess. Give this movie the hosannas it deserves.
Stream: Hulu, AMC+, and Shudder and available on demand on Amazon Video, Google Play, Vudu, and YouTube
It’s typical that when characters in “cabin in the woods” style movies trundle out to the woods to stay at a cabin therein, something unseemly is waiting for them in either their lodgings, the surrounding geography, or sometimes both. Charlotte Colbert knows this dynamic well, and for her feature debut, the excellent and senselessly neglected She Will, she discarded them. Maybe going to the cabin in the woods is good, sometimes, particularly for grand dame film stars phased out of their industry by “beauty before age” logic. Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige) has just undergone a double mastectomy. She attends a convalescence retreat in Scotland for her post-surgical care, a place where witches once were burned to ash in older, less civilized eras. Veronica finds more than peace, quiet, and rest in the countryside; she finds ancient power, and, admittedly, a lot of creepy stuff to go along with it.