If there’s ever a Friday night worth actually staying in — preferably with others, though your sad lonesome will do — it’s when a Friday lands on the 13th of a month. It’s an excuse to dial up a horror movie, and if you’ve thrown out all your old DVDs, Blu-rays or (gasp) even VHS tapes, then streaming services … sort of have your back. Tragically, there’s too few of the genre’s classics on there: not “The Exorcist,” not John Carpenter’s “Halloween” or “The Thing,” not “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” and certainly almost nothing old, with nary a 1930s Universal monster movies to be found.
We’re being gloomy. There’s still “The Shining” on Netflix, “Rosemary’s Baby” on Hulu. “Jaws” just creeped onto Netflix as well, as did its three Spielberg-less sequels (even the one that inexplicably features Michael Caine). This list isn’t about the titans. Here are 10 slightly off-the-beaten-path horrors to get you through this not-quite-holiday:
Mainstream horror is in a rough patch right now, but best recent scarefests have come from an unlikely place: the independent film world. This Australian number was an instant classic, and it’s actually terrifying even before its freaky poltergeist shows up. The first half-hour is a nerve-scratching look at motherhood, with Essie Davis as a widow whose young son (Noah Wiseman) has taken to leftfield, uncontrollable screaming fits. When their creaky house suddenly turns haunted, it’s almost a relief. (Speaking of recent indie horror, everyone raves about Karyn Kusama’s “The Invitation” — which, criminally, we’ve yet to see. But go for it!)
Horror needs more cannibal movies. At least there’s this — an oddity too strange for 1999, and maybe even for now. Guy Pearce plays a cowardly 19th century soldier who finds his inner strength … after learning that eating people makes him, like, superhuman. Robert Carlyle hams it up as a more chipper maneater, and this bloody mess has a wicked sense of humor and a score from oddball duo Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn that makes this already discombobulating film even more bizarre.
Netflix Instant and Hulu
Before it turned into a deathless DTV franchise, “Hellraiser” was one fascinating artist’s passion project. Just as Clive Barker’s cult fave explores the line separating pain from pleasure, so too does it mix deep, transgressive thought with unimaginable gore. Come for Pinhead and his fellow Cenobites; stay for the parts where characters talk about how good it feels to be tortured in the worst ways possible. Then skip all the sequels except for the second one.
It’s a great idea: Wrangle together indie horror directors to make fake found footage shorts. But in practice the “V/H/S” series has been a bummer of a mixed bag. Still, the second one has a killer third episode. Entitled “Safe Haven,” and co-directed by “The Raid”’s Gareth Evans, it’s a non-stop melee of phantasmagoria, where our camera-wielding hero scampers about an Indonesian cult compound as it explodes in supernatural delights. Also recommended: the second episode, in which the guys who made “The Blair Witch Project” doodle around with GoPro-wearing zombies.
‘Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter’
Most of the Jason movies live on Hulu, and they’re a pretty interchangeable lot. One exception is the fourth and not-exactly-final one. This is the entry where the batch of randy young randos include a dancing Crispin Glover, and which ends with the 13-year-old Corey Feldman saving the day.
‘The Devil’s Rejects’
It’s no longer news that Rob Zombie is also a singular film auteur, and we still say his finest two hours is this rotgut whiskey of a movie, whose heroes are a clan of serial killers. In the first half, they kidnap, mentally torture than gruesomely murder a very nice family, just for kicks. Then the tables are turned, and Zombie finds a way for us to develop sympathy, of a sort, for the devils. To cap it all off, he gives us a totally sincere sequence set to, of all songs to never treat with sincerity, “Freebird.”
Frank Henenlotter is the Chuck Jones of grade-Z horror — the hepped-up vulgarian of the “Basket Case”s and, perhaps best of all, this hilariously vile twist on Mary Shelley. In trying to bring his dead wife back to life, a suburbanite mad scientist (James Lorinz) pieces bits of various hookers into one, with wackadoodle results, at one point involving “supercrack.” Bill Murray’s got our back on this.
The streaming biggies are short on the oldies, then FilmStruck’s on it. David Cronenberg is one of the few horror directors officially considered an “artist” (though he’s since all but abandoned the genre). And so cinephiles and gorehounds can always bro down over this exploding head movie, about a strain of super-psychics battling each other for supremacy.
‘Eyes Without a Face’
Few images will haunt you like the blank mask affixed to Edith Scob, a young woman whose face was grossly disfigured in an accident. In this surreal and spooky 1960 great from Frenchman Georges Franju, we watch as her mad scientist father (Pierre Brasseur) and his henchwoman (Alida Valli) try to patch her up — by kidnapping various women, removing their faces and planting them on hers. The film’s centerpiece — a surgery done seemingly in real time — is what draws gorehounds, but it’s the film’s sadness that lingers.
A diamond cut 64 minutes of weirdness, Tod Browning’s 1932 horror-show is what the kids today call “#problematic” — a relentless parade of real carnival sideshow performers and other human oddities, from real-life Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton to the “Pinheads” to a guy with no arms or legs who can still light a cigarette. They’re exploited, but Browning also grants them their dignity. After all, in the land of freaks, it’s the lone normal-sized human (Leila Hyams) who’s the real freak.