FlixWorthy: The Almost But Not Entirely Horror Spectacular!

By David Wharton 2010-05-11 17:14:04
Welcome back to FlixWorthy, your weekly guide to Netflix streaming. Yet again we're bringing you a handful of new or notable selections from Netflix's streaming catalogue. Some will be classics, some will be little-seen gems, some will be shows you might have missed, and some...some will be crap so awful they simply has to be seen to be believed. Here's what's FlixWorthy this week, kids.

Antichrist
(2009, Not Rated, 108 min., HD)

Of the people I know who have watched Lars von Trier's Antichrist, nearly every one has responded with some variation of the phrase "hard to watch" when asked how it was. Words like "gruesome," "controversial," or just plain "fucked up" are also common. Our own Stuart Woods called it "a dark, oppressive and sometimes powerful examination of grief and guilt mixed with extreme horror." No real surprise, given von Trier's history and reputation. Willem "Frog and Parrot " Dafoe stars alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg as a grief-stricken couple who retreat to a remote cabin in the woods to attempt to come to terms with the death of their son and salvage what's left of their marriage. What happens next I have no idea, and even if I did I wouldn't tell you, since by all accounts this movie is best experienced unspoiled. I haven't seen it yet, and have been quietly debating whether I want to ever since it popped up on Netflix. The movie is not yet available on DVD, so streaming it in HD is probably your best bet, since you'll get to absorb all the disturbing imagery von Trier can throw at you in pristine picture quality.

Double-Feature It With...

Primer
(2004, Rated PG-13, 77 min., HD)

Probably less uncomfortable than Antichrist but no less cerebral is this little indie time-travel tale from Texas filmmaker Shane Carruth. So smart it will make your brain hurt, Primer is a movie that deals seriously with the mind-bending complications that would arise were time travel actually possible. Shot dirt-cheap in and around Dallas, Primer hands the keys to the time-space continuum not to a mad scientist or a team of government lab rats, but to several bored suburban engineers tinkering in their garage. Warning: You may have to watch this one twice just to solidify your theories of what it all means.


Pandorum
(2009, Rated R, 108 min.)

People have been trying to recreate the "bad things happen on a space ship" template of Alien ever since...well, since Alien came out. Sadly, the closest anything has come to recreating Alien's white-knuckle tension isn't even a movie, it's the 2008 videogame Dead Space. One of the latest contenders is last year's Pandorum, which finds a disoriented Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid awakening with amnesia on board a huge, seemingly empty space cruiser. Further exploration reveals that not only are they not alone, but they're not alone in the worst way possible. Pandorum is overly and almost proudly derivative, but you have to admire its ambition. This is a movie that packs in space zombies, a mysterious disease, amnesia, a crazy guy who lives in the bowels of the ship, a supporting character who can't speak English, a hot German chick, and not one but two late-game twists. Granted, only one of those twists actually works, and the film seems a bit aimless during its second act. Still, it's not a bad way to kill an evening, it features Ben Foster acting all crazy and wide-eyed as only Ben Foster can, and I have to give it props for not going for the typical horror ending.

Double-Feature It With...

A Scanner Darkly
(2006, Rated R, 100 min.)

Hollywood has been about as effective at adapting the works of Philip K. Dick as it has about recreating Alien. For every Blade Runner there's a Paycheck, and for every Minority Report there's an Impostor. Scanner seems to fall somewhere between the extremes, earning semi-positive reviews but also not having made much of an impact. Richard Linklater directs this version of Dick's tale of a near-future cop investigating a new drug and in danger of losing his sanity in the process. You've got to love any cast that includes Robert Downey Jr., Keanu Reeves, and Woody Harrelson.


Lost Tapes: Season 1
(2008, TV-PG, 14 episodes)

I had never heard of Lost Tapes until yesterday, but now I'm kind of sort of hooked on it. My former ignorance was largely due to the fact that the show airs on Animal Planet, a network I only encounter by accident. Lost Tapes takes a page from the Blair Witch/Paranormal Activity playbook and presents "found-footage" stories revolving around various mythical or cryptozoological beasts. One episode might find a survival expert running afoul of a giant lizard in the Australian rain forest, for instance, whereas another has a trio of skater kids having a close encounter with a giant thunderbird. They're hugely cheesy, poorly acted, and lacking any of the chills of the two movies cited above. Still, if you're the sort who views the History Channel's late-night "Ancient Astronauts and Haunted Ruins" programming as a guilty pleasure, you'll likely get a kick out of Lost Tapes. In a weird way it reminds me a bit of the short-lived Fox show Freakylinks, except not quite as fun and with 200% less Ethan Embry. But that may just be because Freakylinks did a thunderbird episode, too...

Double-Feature It With:

Whale Wars: Season 1
(2008, Not Rated, 7 episodes, HD)

Speaking of Animal Planet shows I've never watched before this week, we have this little gem that my friends have been begging me to watch for months now. This documentary series follows the exploits of a crew of Greenpeace "eco-pirates" attempting to stop or interfere with illegal whale hunting. It sounds like a downer, but as heavy a subject matter as that is, Whale Wars is most enjoyable as a comedy of errors, a continuing adventure through the seas of incompetence as a crew of environmentalists who seem to know absolutely nothing about nautical matters continually ignore the advice of those more experienced.


Grace
(2009, Rated R, 84 min.)

Kids are creepy, everyone knows that. As the soon-to-be-parent of twins, I plan to take full advantage of that fact by training my children not to blink and to speak in synchronization so we can mess with the heads of our babysitters. Still, there's creepy and then there's "I just gave birth to a cannibalistic newborn" creepy. That's the plight Madeline Matheson (Jordan Ladd) finds herself in when she delivers her stillborn child, only to discover it's inexplicably still alive, and has developed a hunger straight from the Little Shop of Horrors cookbook. Our own Nick Venable quite dug Grace when he reviewed the DVD last year, throwing around such complimentary phrases as "harrowing" and "classic." And let's face it, at this point any horror film that isn't torture porn or a remake deserves at least a look, don't you think?

Double-Feature It With:

It's Alive
(2008, Unrated, 90 min., HD)

They say one good evil-baby movie deserves another. Actually, I'm not sure if they have ever actually said that, or even who "They" are for that matter, but there's one thing I do know, and that's that They are absolutely out to get you, and in fact They're probably inside your house right now as you read this. Like right behind you. Seriously, I wouldn't even turn around if I were you. But anyway, in the unlikely event that you manage to survive Their brutal, impending assault upon your person, you could totally double-feature Grace with this flick where Bijou Phillips has to deal with her own homicidal baby. Assuming They haven't clawed your eyes out by then. Good luck.


Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
(1994, Rated R, 123 min.)

Quick, I want you to say the first actor you can think of who would make an awesome Frankenstein's Monster. Done? Okay, go ahead and list your next 50 picks. Were any of those people Robert De Niro? If so, then you must be Kenneth Branagh, in which case: wow! Great to meet you, Mr. Branagh! It's really cool that you'd take the time to read my little column. Sorry for just questioning your casting of Robert De Niro in your Frankenstein movie, but seriously, what was going on there? It's cool that you wanted to put your stamp on Mary Shelley's classic tale of horror, though, I can certainly admire that. And hey, anything that keeps you away from 12-hour Shakespeare adaptations, am I right? Right? Okay, I'm sorry, that was mean of me. Please don't be mad. What's that? You're also casting him as Loki in Thor? Wow, that's...that's definitely thinking outside the box. Hey, uh, I really have to go. Got this pressing appointment with Francis Ford Coppola like an inch down. Thanks for stopping by. Please don't fuck up Thor!

Double-Feature It With:

Bram Stoker's Dracula
(1992, Rated R, 127 min., HD)

Branagh's Frankenstein was a pretty clear attempt to recapture the success of Coppola's Dracula, so it should be interesting to watch the two back to back. I rewatched Dracula on Blu-ray not long ago, and while it falters a bit in the second half, Gary Oldman's creepy performance as the Count manages to counteract -- ahem -- not only that but also Keanu Reeves' inexplicable accent. It also looks stunning in HD, which, fortuitously, Netflix is streaming it in.




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