NOVEMBER 3 — Even though we don’t really celebrate Halloween here in Malaysia, I’m pretty sure quite a number of us, thanks to the influence of American horror movies, are aware of the holiday and join in the fun of watching horror and genre films during the month of October.
Of course, when you’re a genre fan like me, every month is Halloween anyway, but still the month of October usually brings with it a quite extravagant bounty of new horror and genre releases, be it in cinemas or on the many streaming platforms out there such as Netflix or Shudder.
The biggest hit of this year’s Halloween season is surely Netflix’s original series The Haunting of Hill House, by a director I’ve long championed as a potential new voice in horror — Mike Flanagan — based on his earlier films like Absentia, Oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil and Hush.
He proved himself again with this series, which plays like a luscious 10-episode exploration of themes and tricks he first played with in Oculus, especially the whole two timelines thing with two separate sets of actors playing the same characters, sometimes in the same long take.
But there is other good stuff out there as well, including the pretty decent Halloween reboot, which is on course to become one of the year’s biggest money makers after earning US$172.3 million (RM720 million) worldwide in just 12 days on a relatively measly budget of US$10 million (for a long-running franchise, that is).
Here are a few more on Netflix that I think might just be worth your time:
The Night Comes for Us
This Netflix movie is not exactly horror, but it’s very clearly got horror running through its blood red veins courtesy of director Timo Tjahjanto, who is one half of the Mo Brothers, of Rumah Dara, Killers and Headshot infamy.
Timo is flying solo this year, first with the unexpectedly gory Evil Dead/Sam Raimi love letter Sebelum Iblis Menjemput, which I wrote about maybe a month or two back, and now with what is, for now at least, the fight flick to end all fight flicks.
When an Indonesian movie has got Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian in it, you know it usually means there’ll be a lot of fighting going on, thanks to their association with The Raid films.
So when you add fellow Raid alumni Joe Taslim to the mix, alongside another fellow Raid alumnus Julie Estelle, you know Timo is seriously thinking about kicking ass here.
What many probably never expected though, including yours truly, is how he would fearlessly charge head-on trying to make a film that is equal parts The Raid and Rumah Dara, giving genre fans the unbelievable pleasure of witnessing not only some of the year’s most wondrously choreographed, shot and edited fight scenes (which of course, becomes increasingly more epic as the movie progresses), but also some of the most glorious bloodletting we’ll see in any movie this year.
It’s a simple plot, about a killer/assassin with an unexpected crisis of conscience, which we’ve seen countless times before in films like The Man from Nowhere and A Bittersweet Life, so clearly that’s not where the artistry of this film lies.
Where its artistry lies though, is in the fight scenes, and this is next level action film-making, which I didn’t think I’d see so soon after the wonders of The Villainess just a year ago, but there it is, an action film from Indonesia laying down a new marker for all other new action films to live up to now. What a film. And what a pleasure it is to witness such beautiful mayhem.
Speaking of Indonesia and The Raid films, here’s the latest film from those films’ director — Gareth Evans. Also a Netflix film, and also bearing the fingerprints of the genre geniuses at XYZ Films (who also produced The Night Comes for Us), fans hoping for more butt kicking madness will probably be shocked to discover that Evans has opted to make a period folk-horror film instead.
Starring Dan Stevens (of Downton Abbey and The Guest fame) as Thomas, who has just found out that his sister has been kidnapped by a religious cult led by Prophet Malcolm (Michael Sheen) and goes undercover there to try and rescue her, the film is a bit like this year’s genre sensation Mandy, in that it’s a film of two halves — the first half very much psychological, while the second half is very much of the visceral kind, complete with blood and gore.
The first half builds an impressive atmosphere of mystery and dread, a bit like an update of The Wicker Man if I had to make a comparison, and Evans makes it all worthwhile when the second half arrives, as it becomes a gory version The Wicker Man, sprinkled with fantastical and horror elements involving Nature, and all of it wrapped around an exploration of man’s greed and corruption, even (or maybe especially) when it involves religious beliefs.
This is a truly ambitious work that’s not so easy to digest, as it prefers to luxuriate in strangeness and frighten you with the unknown and the unexplainable, rather than hold your hand and explain everything to make a tidy conclusion.
And it’s that dogged conviction to stick to its guns that will stay with you long after the film ends, and will make you admire it even more for it.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.