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FlixWorthy: The Messenger From The House Of The Devil

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.

The Messenger

(2009, Rated R, 112 min., HD)

Movies about our modern war, whatever you want to call it -- the Second Gulf War, the Iraq War, the War on Terror -- haven't had much success at the box office. As Ed Perkis astutely pointed out in his recent review of The Messenger, maybe that's simply because the last thing we want to escape into with our free time is a version of the same dire headlines we see in real life. Maybe it's because many such movies wear their partisan agendas on their sleeve. But despite the somber subject matter, a few gems have stood out, movies such as 2007's In the Valley of Elah that are more focused on examining the toll of the war on those who fight it than in preaching to the audience. The Messenger examines another subculture most of us don't know much about -- the Casualty Notification service, soldiers tasked with delivering the bad news to the relatives of soldiers killed in action. Ben Foster stars as an injured Iraq veteran newly assigned to the duty, under the tutelage of Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson). Given that the film barely grossed a million bucks in theaters, chances are you haven't seen it. Given that it was nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Original Screenplay for Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman; Best Supporting Actor for Woody Harrelson), chances are you should.

Double-Feature It With...

Jarhead

(2005, Rated R, 123 min., HD)

Jarhead did a bit better at the box office when it debuted back in 2005, possibly because it's more of a black comedy than a straight drama. Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford's memoir about his time in Desert Storm, Jarhead presents a vision not of War as Hell, but War as Hellishly Boring. A decidedly non-Persian Jake Gyllenhaal serves as Swofford's fictionalized counterpart, a soldier trained to kill and then driven slowly mad by being dropped in the desert and tasked to do...nothing.

The House of the Devil

(2009, Rated R, 93 min., HD)

It's rare these days to see a horror film aspiring to tell anything more than the most formulaic of stories, so when one comes along that tries something different, attention must be paid. With The House of the Devil, up-and-coming director Ti West attempts to pay homage to a time when horror movies were more about suspense than splatter, and our reviewer Brian Holcomb called it "the best horror film of 2009." Despite being set in the '80s, House of the Devil never devolves into a standard-issue slasher, nor does it wink at its setting with a post-modern glint in its eye. It begins classically enough: a college student (Jocelin Donahue) takes a babysitting job. Nothing odd about that, even though the gig is in a remote, somewhat spooky mansion. And the couple who hires her seem a little strange. Probably just coincidence that the job happens to coincide with a lunar eclipse. Okay, that's a little weird, but it's still such a mundane set-up. What could possibly go wrong? If you're a fan of slow-burn suspense or want more from your horror film than teenagers being fed through a wood-chipper, The House of the Devil might be worth a viewing.

Double-Feature It With:

The Sentinel

(1977, Rated R, 92 min., HD)

This is a movie whose strangeness should be experienced without any preparation if at all possible. Seriously, don't even read the Netflix description if you click over to add it to your queue. Suffice to say two things: 1) it's about a model (Cristina Raines) who moves into a Brooklyn apartment that proves to be more than she bargained for, and 2) You'll never look at Vacation mom Beverly D'Angelo the same way again.

Suspiria

(1977, Rated R, 98 min.)

We'll continue our journey through the fucked-up with Italian horror maestro Dario Argento's best-known film, Suspiria. A young American dancer named Susan (Jessica Harper) is thrilled at the chance to attend a famous European school of ballet. Should her enthusiasm be dampened when she witnesses a girl run screaming from the building? Perhaps. Should she have flagged down a taxi and gotten the hell out of dodge when that same girl is stabbed, hanged, and dropped through a stained-glass window that very same night? Who are we to judge? Can we blame her for sticking around even after maggots begin raining from the ceiling? Perhaps the town's health standards just aren't up to par. Alas, all these elements do indeed prove to be omens of something more sinister: it seems the school may have something of a witch problem. And not the froo-froo, Earth mother, isn't-Alyson-Hannigan-adorable type of witch, either. If that girl read more Roald Dahl, this movie would have been a lot shorter, that's all I'm sayin'.

Double-Feature It With...

Audition

(1999, Unrated, 115 min.)

If, per chance, you find Suspiria to be excessively violent, depraved, or disturbing, might I recommend this classic by acclaimed Japanese rom-com director Takashi Miike to cleanse your palate and ensure a nightmare-free slumber?

Red Rock West

(1993, Rated R, 98 min.,)

This one goes out to the recently departed Mr. Hopper. Nic Cage stars as Michael, an ex-Marine drifter who wanders into Red Rock, Wyoming, where a local bar owner (J.T. Walsh) mistakes him for "Lyle from Dallas." When the case of mistaken identity is accompanied by a stack of cash from bar owner Wayne, Michael soon learns that "Lyle from Dallas" is actually "Lyle the professional killer from Dallas," a hit man Wayne has hired to snuff his cheating wife. Michael takes the money, but rather than doing the job he warns the woman, Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle), of her husband's plans. Before long Michael is caught between the scheming spouses, nursing a crush on Suzanne, and desperate to make it out of the town with his skin intact. That becomes a lot less likely once the real Lyle (Dennis Hopper) arrives. Director John Dahl (The Last Seduction) co-wrote the script with his brother, Rick, and despite not making much of a box-office impact back in 1993, the flick has an impressive 95% fresh rating over on RottenTomatoes. If you're in the mood for a rural noir or Nic Cage back before he became a parody of himself, check out Red Rock West.

Double-Feature It With:

Con Air

(1997, Rated R, 115 min.)

Speaking of Nic Cage becoming a parody of himself...I kid, I kid. I'll always have a soft spot for Con Air, not because it's a particularly good movie, but because it's an enjoyable kind of bad. Scott Rosenberg's script provides a cast of eccentrics custom made for the chewing of scenery by the likes of John Malkovich, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, and Danny Trejo. Also, at one point Nic Cage kills a man for not putting a stuffed bunny back in a box.

Matinee

(1993, Rated PG, 98 min.)

Frank Darabont's flawed film The Majestic used a small-town movie theater as a prop to tell a story about 1950s paranoia that saw a Commie spy around every corner. Matinee tried something similar nearly a decade earlier, and with more success. Matinee is set a few years later during the considerably more valid paranoia of the Cuban missile crisis. Simon Fenton and Jesse Lee play two brothers living on a military base in Key West while their father is off serving on a submarine. As JFK delivers dire warnings about missiles in Cuba, horror producer Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman) rolls into town to premiere his latest schlock-fest, Mant! ("Half man, half ant, all terror!")...and decides the real-life fears are a perfect tool for building up some hype for the flick. It's a nostalgic coming-of-age comedy featuring a great performance from Goodman and nary a sign of an Oscar-baiting Jim Carrey.

Double-Feature It With:

Innerspace

(1987, Rated PG, 120 min.)

Director Joe Dante was responsible for an inordinate number of movies I loved in my youth (Gremlins, Explorers), and Innerspace is still one of my favorites. Okay, it doesn't match the timeless brilliance of The 'burbs, but it is still the best "shrinking people and then injecting them into other people" movie ever made. Suck on that, Fantastic Voyage.

Last Chance Theater -- Expiring Soon!

The Princess Bride (Expires 6/07)

Romance and Cigarettes (Expires 6/10)

WALL-E (Expires 6/12)

Happy Gilmore (Expires 6/18)

Desperado (Expires 6/19)

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