What horrifies me most is that HBO’s streaming app can’t settle on a name.
Seriously, it’s more horrifying than the downward spiral that is And Just Like That. There was HBO. Then there was HBO Go. Then there was HBO Max. And now it’s just … Max. What lobotomized marketing executive thought of that? Max makes me think of a late night porn station that I’d find while flipping channels at a Best Western. Max does not have the clout, the grandeur, the je ne sais quoi of Home Box Office. I’m not gonna find prestige drama on Max. I’m gonna find myself staring into a bleached anus. And I would prefer to do that WITHOUT turning on the Roku.
Speaking of the horrors, here are the best horror movies currently available to stream on Max.
Hereditary is Ari Aster’s feature film debut and stars Toni Collette as an artist and mom navigating the loss of her mother—and the potential upheaval of her surviving family by a demonic force. The film is essentially a parable about grief, and how unresolved negative feelings rip families apart. Emotionally, in the real world, but more literally in this film.
Directed by Mark Mylod, The Menu is about a group of wealthy fine diners who book dinner reservations at an exclusive restaurant run by a world class chef on a remote island. As the diners settle in to the multi-course meal, they begin to realize that something is a little … off about the head chef, played by Ralph Fiennes. His culinary creations are oddly specific, and many of them just so happen to reference his dinner guests’ numerous misdeeds. The story gets complicated when the chef realizes that one of the diners (Anya Taylor-Joy) isn’t supposed to be there; she was brought in last minute. And she might be the only one canny enough to make it off the island alive.
There are a few David Cronenberg body horror classics on Max right now, but if you must watch only one, I’d recommend The Fly. Starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, Cronenberg’s loose remake of the Vincent Price horror classic is far grosser, gooier, and more horrific than its black-and-white predecessor. And yet it’s still probably the most accessible of Cronenberg’s ’80s filmography. The Fly centers on Seth Brundle, a brilliant scientist who completes a revolutionary teleportation device, but when he takes it upon himself to be the first human subject, he fails to notice that a fly has made its way into the chamber. Seth soon discovers that his body is changing in increasingly compelling and repulsive ways, complicating his new relationship with a reporter (played by his then-real-life partner, Davis) and threatening to destroy every scrap of his humanity. The Fly is an effectively unnerving film, and one that can be viewed through multiple allegorical lenses: the AIDS epidemic, abusive relationships, and the violent subjugation of oneself to capitalism for the sake of progress.
Directed by Andy Muschietti, and based on what is arguably Stephen King’s most terrifying and enduring novel, It tells the story of a group of children who begin to experience strange goings on in Derry, Maine. And by “strange goings on,” I’m referring to the shapeshifting clown (Bill Skarsgard) that lives in the sewers and murders kids. As the clown haunts the children by taking the shape of what terrifies each one the most, they realize that they have to band together and face their fears in order to defeat it. While the sequel to this film was a total let down, It is a masterpiece of horror. Seriously, just read the book after you watch it.
The ultimate DON’T GO IN THE BASEMENT flick, Zach Cregger’s Barbarian tells the story of a young woman who rents a house on a dilapidated street in a seedy neighborhood in Detroit. When she gets to the door of the rental, she finds a man inside who says that he also reserved the place. While she mistrusts him at first (because he’s played by Bill Skarsgard, horror’s fave villain), she eventually realizes that it is an honest mistake … or is it? While exploring the house, the woman finds a creepy hidden door the leads to an even creepier staircase that leads to the creepiest of all basements. And she begins to suspect that something is living down there. We’ve already said too much.
Directed by Robert Eggers, The Witch tells the story of a young Puritan girl (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her descent to the dark side. After being excommunicated from their village, a family of Puritans attempt to survive the brutal New England wilderness in the 1630s. When the family’s baby goes missing while under the eldest daughter’s care, the fanatically devout matriarch of the family begins to accuse her daughter of being a witch. She ain’t wrong, there is definitely a witch running around in them woods. The family is set upon by dark, supernatural forces that tear them apart and beckon to the eldest daughter to join them.
James Wan’s The Conjuring tells the story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) who are called to help a family living in what they suspect to be a haunted lakeside manor. Thankfully, these ghost hunters are the REAL DEAL. One of them is a bonafide psychic! As the hauntings intensify, the couple has to figure out a way to quell the spirits of the restless dead before they really end up hurting someone. Because these spirits are trying REAL HARD. The Conjuring is especially good for those who enjoy spooky/scary films but aren’t into the excessive gore, violence, and death that comes with them. Don’t get me wrong, there are PLENTY of scares, but no one is getting hacked to pieces.
The Cabin in the Woods
Unlike The Conjuring, The Cabin in the Woods is GORY AS HELL. The film centers around a group of teenagers (one of whom is Marvel’s own Chris Hemsworth) who decide to spend a debauched weekend full of sex and drugs at a family cabin in the woods. As almost anyone who has ever seen a horror movie can tell you, that’s not a good idea, but The Cabin in the Woods has more than a few tricks—and treats—up its sleeve.
Oh, The Shining. I remember being at a fun little sleepover with all of my friends in high school when one of the older kids recommended we watch this little number. I had never seen a horror movie before, but I had all my friends there. How bad could it be? I left the room once the creepy little girls showed up and didn’t come back until the movie was over. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, is perhaps one of the top three horror movies ever made. Struggling writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is contracted to work as a groundskeeper at the Overlook hotel, which is isolated from the rest of the world by ferocious snows during the winter season. Jack brings his family with him, but the isolation and the hotel’s demons exacerbate the writer’s personal demons, turning him into a maniac.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
This Wes Craven masterpiece is about a small town that is haunted by the spectral presence of a child murderer. This particular child murderer, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), worked as a janitor at a high school, where he also killed many of his victims. After discovering Freddy’s crimes, the grief-stricken parents of the victims locked him in a furnace and burned him to death. Now Freddy’s ghost has come back from the dead to haunt the next generation of children in town. If you fall asleep, Freddy will enter your dreams and kill you. And you’ll be killed for real!
(featured image: A24 / 20th Century Studios / Warner Bros.)
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