Scariest Horror Movies | Halloween 2020

31 Movies For The Month Of October

For many people October is their favorite month of the year. With it’s crisp air and colorfully changing leaves, dreams of treats and baking with loved ones; also comes the desire to snuggle up on the couch and scream into the night with the help of a scary movie.

While I prefer everyday to be like Halloween, I have compiled a list of my favorite scary movies for those of you looking to get into the spirit but may not know where to begin. All you have to do is gather your tribe, grab a few treats and follow this easy guide to 31 scary movies in 31 days.

If by chance you live with someone who is not completely onboard, now is the time to explain to them that they get 11 months out of the year to choose the movies that suit them best but for the month of October, they must compromise and join in on the autumn festivities.

For this list I did not include any of the big name titles that you likely have seen or if not seen, definitely have heard of. Therefore, you will not find movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday The 13th, Halloween, Hellraiser, Poltergeist, Jaws, Insidious, nor any of The Conjuring films on this list.

Under each film I gave a suggestion of where to stream it, however availability does change often so please check prior to watching.

Thursday • October 1

The Autopsy of Jane Doe
(2016) 6.8/10 IMDb
A father and son, both coroners, are pulled into a complex mystery while attempting to identify the body of a young woman, who was apparently harboring dark secrets.

Available on Amazon.

Friday • October 2

The Witch
(2015) 6.9/10 IMDb
A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic, and possession.

Available on Amazon.

Saturday • October 3

Hell House LLC
(2015) 6.4/10 IMDb

Five years after an unexplained malfunction causes the death of 15 tour-goers and staff on the opening night of a Halloween haunted house tour, a documentary crew travels back to the scene of the tragedy to find out what really happened.

Available on Shudder.

Sunday • October 4

The Witch in the Window
(2018) 5.7/10 IMDb

When Simon brings his twelve year-old son, Finn, to rural Vermont to help flip an old farmhouse, they encounter the malicious spirit of Lydia, a previous owner. And now with every repair they make – she’s getting stronger.

Available on Shudder.

Monday • October 5

Terrified
(2017) 6.5/10 IMDb

When strange events occur in a neighborhood in Buenos Aires, a doctor specializing in the paranormal, her colleague, and an ex police officer decide to investigate further.

Available on Shudder.

Tuesday • October 6

Deadtectives
(2018) 6.2/10 IMDb

A team of hapless paranormal investigators go on a quest to Mexico’s most haunted house in the pursuit of better ratings for their fake reality show. When the true dark secrets of the mansion reveal themselves, the hapless presenters quickly discover that this house is no hoax. With zero ghost-hunting skills (or really any other applicable skills) the team has to figure out how to bust the ghosts and escape the house with their lives.

Available on Shudder.

Wednesday • October 7

Baskin
(2015) 5.8/10 IMDb

A squad of unsuspecting cops go through a trapdoor to Hell when they stumble upon a Black Mass in an abandoned building.

Available on Amazon IFC.

Thursday • October 8

The Hallow
(2015) 5.7/10 IMDb

A family who moved into a remote mill house in Ireland finds themselves in a fight for survival with demonic creatures living in the woods.

Available on Shudder.

Friday • October 9

Satan’s Slaves (Pengabdi Setan)
(2015) 6.6/10 IMDb

After dying from a strange illness that she suffered for 3 years, a mother returns home to pick up her children.

Available on Shudder.

Saturday • October 10

Haunt
(2019) 6.3/10 IMDb

On Halloween, a group of friends encounter an “extreme” haunted house that promises to feed on their darkest fears. The night turns deadly as they come to the horrifying realization that some nightmares are real.

Available on Shudder and Amazon.

Sunday • October 11

The Void
(2016) 5.8/10 IMDb

Shortly after delivering a patient to an understaffed hospital, a police officer experiences strange and violent occurrences seemingly linked to a group of mysterious hooded figures.

Available on Shudder.

Monday • October 13

Carriers
(2009) 6.0/10 IMDb

As a lethal virus spreads globally, four friends seek a reputed plague-free haven. But while avoiding the infected, the travelers turn on one another.

Available on Amazon.

Tuesday • October 14

Verónica
(2017) 6.2/10 IMDb

Madrid, 1991. A teen girl finds herself besieged by an evil supernatural force after she played Ouija with two classmates.

Available on Netflix.

Wednesday • October 15

Ouija: Origin of Evil
(2016) 6.1/10 IMDb

In 1967 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her daughters add a new stunt to bolster their seance scam business by inviting an evil presence into their home, not realizing how dangerous it is.

Available on Amazon.

Thursday • October 16

Oculus
(2013) 6.5/10 IMDb

A woman tries to exonerate her brother, who was convicted of murder, by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.

Available on Hulu.

Friday • October 17

The Canal
(2014) 5.8/10 IMDb

A depressed and stressed film archivist finds his sanity crumbling after he is given an old 16mm film reel with footage from a horrific murder that occurred in the early 1900’s.

Available on Hulu.

Saturday • October 18

We Are Still Here
(2015) 5.7/10 IMDb

In the cold, wintery fields of New England, a lonely old house wakes up every thirty years – and demands a sacrifice.

Available on Amazon Prime.

Sunday • October 19

The Taking of Deborah Logan
(2014) 6.0/10 IMDb

An elderly woman battling Alzheimer’s disease agrees to let a film crew document her condition, but what they discover is something far more sinister going on.

Available on Shudder and Prime.

Monday • October 20

Incident In A Ghost Land
(2018) 6.4/10 IMDb

A mother of two who inherits a house is confronted with murderous intruders on the first night in their new home and fights for her daughters’ lives. Sixteen years later when the daughters reunite at the house, things get really strange.

Available on Shudder.

Tuesday • October 21

The Devil’s Candy
(2015) 6.4/10 IMDb

A struggling painter is possessed by satanic forces after he and his young family move into their dream home in rural Texas, in this creepy haunted-house tale.

Available on Amazon.

Wednesday • October 22

Back Country
(2014) 6.0/10 IMDb

An urban couple go camping in the woods and find themselves lost in the territory of a predatory black bear.

Available on Amazon IFC.

Thursday • October 23

They’re Watching
(2016) 5.6/10 IMDb

The renovation of an old house in a village somewhere in Eastern Europe will bring the crew of an American home improvement TV show up against superstitions, misunderstandings and bloody violence.

Available on Amazon Prime.

Friday • October 24

Last Shift
(2014) 5.8/10 IMDb

A rookie cop’s 1st shift alone in the last night of a closing police station turns into a living nightmare.

Available on Amazon.

Saturday • October 25

Hush
(2016) 6.6/10 IMDb

A deaf and mute writer who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer appears at her window.

Available on Netflix.

Sunday • October 26

The Invitation
(2015) 6.6/10 IMDb

A man accepts an invitation to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife, an unsettling affair that reopens old wounds and creates new tensions.

Available on Netflix.

Monday • October 27

Night of the Living Dead
(1990) 6.9/10 IMDb

The unburied dead return to life and seek human victims. 

Available on Amazon.

Tuesday • October 28

The Wailing
(2016) 7.4/10 IMDb

Soon after a stranger arrives in a little village, a mysterious sickness starts spreading. A policeman, drawn into the incident, is forced to solve the mystery in order to save his daughter.

Available on Shudder.

Wednesday • October 29

The Exorcism of Emily Rose
(2005) 6.7/10 IMDb

A lawyer takes on a negligent homicide case involving a priest who performed an exorcism on a young girl.

Available on Amazon.

Thursday • October 30

The Final Girls
(2015) 6.6/10 IMDb

A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself pulled into the world of her mom’s most famous movie. Reunited, the women must fight off the film’s maniacal killer.

Available on Amazon.

Friday • October 31 • Double Feature

The Houses October Built
(2014) 5.2/10 IMDb

Five friends are stalked by a group of mysterious and disturbed individuals while on a road trip looking for the ultimate haunted house attraction.

The Monster
(2016) 5.4/10 IMDb

A mother and daughter must confront a terrifying monster when they break down on a deserted road.

Both available on Amazon Prime.

What do you think of the list?


The Greasy Strangler

The Greasy Strangler

THE GREASY STRANGLER (Movie Review)

Released: October 7, 2016
Directer: Jim Hosking
Writers: Toby Harvard and Jim Hosking

Starring: Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo

Stream on Amazon Prime

★★☆☆☆

Big Ronnie and Big Brayden discover love as a greasy killer strangles his way through town

There are not enough pearls to clutch or words to be written that can adequately describe the dirtiness I felt while watching The Greasy Strangler. Alarmingly, the optimal moment arrived when I turned the film off after 15 minutes as I finally felt like I could breathe unpolluted air once again.

The Greasy Strangler (from what I gather) is about a father and son duo named Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels) and Big Brayden (Sky Elobar) who while giving a walking disco tour both fall head over heels for their curly haired customer, Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo).

In between lewdness, nudity and random acts of grotesquerie that can make any viewer wish to become blind or at the very least celibate, a killer who is obsessed with greasy food, dresses in a suit made of grease while killing random people while they portray the ultimate in stereotype.

The Greasy Strangler strives to compete with the early works of John Waters like Pink Flamingos and Mondo Trash. Whether it succeeds is up to you. The only question remains…can you make it through the entire film?

Climax

CLIMAX (Movie Review)

Released: May 13, 2018
Written and Directed by: Gaspar Noé

Starring: Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub, Kiddy Smile, Claude-Emmanuelle Gajan-Maull, Gisele Palmer, Taylor Kastle, Thea Carla Schott, Sharleen Temple, Lea Vlamos, Alaia Alsafir, Kendall Mugler, Lakdhar Dridi, Adrien Sissoko, Mamadou Bathily, Alou Sidibé, Ashley Biscette, Mounia Nassangar, Tiphanie Au, Sarah Belala, Alexandre Moreau, Naab, Strauss Serpent

Stream on Amazon Prime

★★★☆☆

Dancers move to chaotic and energetic LSD-fueled choreography that mesmerizes and destroys

Take two Excedrin and call me in the morning. You may need them if you are unaccustomed to long hours of thumping club bass, EDM and a discernible room full of cigarette smoke, so aptly depicted you begin to smell the thick of it wafting through your television. This is Gaspar Noé’s highly debated film Climax—the movie that transpires in a single location and sometimes even in a single 42 minute-long shot.

The French filmmaker [Gaspar Noé] is best known for creating experimental and demanding bodies of work—all of which strive to inform a kind of hell to varying degrees of success. For those unfamiliar with his 2003 film Irréversible—Roger Ebert called it “a movie so violent and cruel that most people will find it unwatchable.”

As for Climax, the extreme violence we have come to associate Noé, is shed for a less tactile subject furthering his experimental style while exploring drug use. This is not to say the horror of incessant screams won’t make the person in the next room over wonder what the hell you are watching.

Climax begins with an interview of a group of professional dancers. They are introduced through an open-ended format of questioning then a rough cut transports us to the next scene, a dance studio where we linger for the remainder of the film. It is here we witness a dance so chaotic and energetic it can only be said to mesmerize.

This is the best of Climax. And once it is over the best is gone too.

At the completion of the dance, the members hang around to celebrate their successful choreography with a sangria punch, lewd conversation and more dancing. Unbeknown to anyone or most anyone—the sangria is spiked with a ferocious hallucinogenic.

For the summation of the film we witness the effects of the drug and its unraveling of the dancers making them paranoid, belligerent and even dangerous to themselves and others.

You will find buried messages throughout the film—messages that are an important part of the dialog today. Credit where credit is due, Gaspar Noé is not afraid of experimenting with intriguing concepts even in the face of failure. But sometimes it is the failure staring us down at the end. That does not mean we should ever stop trying.

The Butcher Possessions

THE BUTCHER POSSESSIONS (Movie Review)

Released: July 29, 2015
Writen and Directed by: Dale Trott

Starring: Damien E Lipp, Stephanie Mauro, Sophie Wright, Tristan Barr, Tilly Legge, Lliam Murphy, Janet Watson Kruse, Peter Flaherty

Stream on Amazon Prime

★★★☆☆

Creepy found footage film surprises with eerie moments and a perfectly manicured scary story

The Butcher Possessions is a bare bones, low budget Australian gem, that while obvious of its small budget, didn’t stop director Dale Trott from using all the resources at his disposal to create a successful found footage horror movie.

In the UK the film was released under its original title Beckoning The Butcher, and can currently be viewed on Amazon without additional charge for Prime members.

The Butcher Possessions is the story of Chris Shaw (Damien E. Lipp), a social media personality who performs rituals he finds on the web. Wanting to increase his viewership, Chris invites four friends to a weekend gathering in a desolate countryside home where together they will participate in a ritual called Beckoning The Butcher.

For the ritual, participants must write their name on a piece of paper, dab a drop of their blood next to their name and then burn the slip of paper while chanting a Latin phrase. The completed steps are said to then conjure the butcher.

With two video cameras recording at all times; one set up in the house and the other carried for POV, Chris’s hope of capturing even just a small moment of paranormal activity becomes more than he bargained for when the butcher shows up with a plan of his own.

The main moments of The Butcher Possessions are bookended with a backstory via sit down interviews by a family member, a psychic and a sheriff—all of whom add a well rounded linear structure to the narrative.

The Butcher Possessions (or Beckoning The Butcher, depending on where you live) is the perfect party night or Halloween night scary movie.

10 MOVIES THAT WILL SCARE YOU

A list of 10 of the scariest horror movies ever made

I love horror movies—my favorite are the kind that creep me out, make me feel uncomfortable or outright terrify me. For this list I’ve gathered movies I feel overall are most scary.

1.

Baskin

RELEASED: 2015

Baskin freaked me the hell out when I saw it for the first time. I’ve rewatched it several times since and still love it each and every time. ‘Baskin’ is a Turkish word meaning ‘police raid’ and the movie is savage. A police unit called to an abandoned building becomes trapped in a surreal nightmare. Today’s Hellraiser, must have made Clive Barker proud.

Available to watch on Amazon.




2.

Last Shift

RELEASED: 2015

This is the type of horror movie we need all the time, every time. Jessica Loren, a rookie police officer is asked to spend her first night on the job guarding a soon to be defunct precinct— will she make it though the Last Shift?

Available to watch on Amazon.




3.

Incident in a Ghostland

RELEASED: 2018

Got to be honest, Incident in a Ghostland is a tough one to watch. Director Pascal Lugiere, is known to have created the most disturbingly brutal film (Martyrs) and here he has done it again—only slightly less controversial. Not for everybody. It is very brutal but it is also terrifying.

Available to watch on Shudder.




4.

Veronica

RELEASED: 2017

Great horror movie lists are not complete without Veronica— the breakout, supernatural hit from Spain that left me sleeping with one eye open. Incredible.

Watch on Netflix.




5.

Terrified

RELEASED: 2017

Terrified (original name-Aterrados) is a Spanish language film out of Argentina that is currently being remade in English by none other than Guillermo del Toro—I don’t need to say much more to convince anyone.

Available to watch Shudder and Amazon.




6. & 7.

Hell House LLC

RELEASED: 2015

Hell House LLC is a perfectly, creepy, haunted house tale. Not since Poltergeist has a movie been able to pull off the old clown trick so successfully.

Hell House LLC II

RELEASED: 2019

How often is a sequel as scary as the original? Not very often. Oh, and remember when I mentioned the clown scene above? Wait until you see them in the sequel.

Watch both on Shudder.




8. & 9.

The Conjuring

RELEASED: 2013

James Wan perfected the ghost story so much so that The Conjuring has been called the scariest movie of the decade. I tend to agree, and then some.

The Conjuring 2

RELEASED: 2016

In The Conjuring 2 Ed and Lorraine Warren head across the pond to investigate a haunting in a small English town. Part 3 is coming soon and if it’s anything like the first and its sequel, you’d better bet it will make this list as well!

Watch both on Amazon.




10.

Insidious

RELEASED: 2011

Insidious, another James Wan film is grittier than The Conjuring. This movie reeks of pure fright. It is a fright trap from start to finish. The sequel and the 3rd installment are quite good as well. (Nothing like the original though.)

🔚

Watch on Netflix.

How do you feel about this list? Agree/disagree? Let me know in the comments.

The Wretched

The Wretched

THE WRETCHED (Movie Review)

Released: May 1, 2020
Written and Directed by: Drew T. Pierce and Brett Pierce

Starring: John-Paul Howard, Jamison Jones, Azie Tesfai, Piper Curda, Kevin Bigley, Tug Coker, Gabriela Quezada Bloomgarden, Richard Ellis, Blane Crockarell, Ja’Layah Washington and Madelynn Stuenkel as The Wretch

Stream on Amazon

★★★☆☆

A crafty witch casts a spell compelling townsfolk to forget about their children—making her meal less of a battle

The Pierce Brother’s coming of age horror movie The Wretched, follows 17-year-old Ben (John-Paul Howard) as he busses into the quaint, boat-slipped town where he and his dad Liam (Jamison Jones) are to spend the summer.

As Ben tries to acclimate to his new summer digs—complete with the ‘warming up to dad’s new girlfriend’ and ‘trying to fit in with the local townies’—tropes, he begins to observe strange occurrences emitting from his next door neighbor’s house.

Unbeknownst, a witch has made the house its new quarters and begins to cast a spell over the townsfolk, causing them to forget their children so that it can easily devour the forgotten ones without a tussle (smart).

John-Paul Howard

When children begin to go missing though, Ben’s suspicions turn real and he must devise a plan to stop the witch and save the children. However, with a checkered past including drug use and stupidity—jumping from a second floor window-resulting in a broken arm, Ben is up against a wall as he finds it increasingly difficult to find people who believe in him.

With elements of Fright Night and The Lost Boys—meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers—all while on a snoozy summer vacation, The Wretched replaces vampires and aliens with a pagan root-like witch that prowls the woods and makes pit stops into peoples homes to eat their children.

There are no bad shots in The Wretched. Kudos to the Pierce Brothers for being natural born purveyors of horror. They know how to tell an effectively scary story. The dialog too, thank god comes off as natural and the acting is good—all of which creates a solid foundation for a decent creepy summer movie.

As always, there will be naysayers whom gloss over the accomplishments and only focus on the flaws. And The Wretched is certainly not without flaws. But follow through and you may be pleasantly surprised that more than a little thought went into making this film, and it shows.

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Blood Quantum

FILM REVIEW: BLOOD QUANTUM

Released: September 5, 2019
Written and Directed by: Jeff Barnaby

Starring: Michael Greyeyes, Forrest Goodluck, Kiowa Gordon, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Olivia Scriven, Stonehorse Lone Goeman, Brandon Oakes, William Belleau, Devery Jacobs, Gary Farmer

Stream on Shudder

★★★☆☆

A zombie flick with social awareness that would make George Romero proud

“Just like the dog. Just like the fish.” The dead are coming back to life in Jeff Barnaby’s socially aware zombie flick, Blood Quantum. As an impressive ode to the legacy of George A. Romero, Barnaby has given us a tale of the end of the world-where only indigenous peoples are spared as the world burns in chaos.

Six months after the apocalypse, those who have survived now reside on Mi’gMaq reserve of Red Crow, where they have regrouped and implemented new rules to live by. Along with mostly indigenous people, a small handful of non-indigenous survivors have escaped the dead for now.

Joseph (Forrest Goodluck) and Lysol-yes that was the character’s name well before Covid introduced surreal anecdotes regarding disinfectants, (Kiowa Gordon) are two brothers who have arrived at fundamentally different understanding as to why the dead keep coming back to life.

The relationship between the two brothers is in constant flux as they try to grasp the fact that their father; town sheriff (Michael Greyeyes) was never around for his first born, Lysol, but was seemingly always present for Joseph, to dire consequence for the two brothers.

Just as the community of survivors comes to find practicality in their new reality a war is waged and a final battle begins, pinning the walking dead and humans alike of one belief system against people of a different view. In the third and final act the depravity of men becomes worse than what Mother Earth has unleash.

With a little tightening of the wrench, Blood Quantum could compete with the best of ’em. It is an entertaining zombie film; those of us who love the genre will especially dig it. The movie’s message is spelled out clearly and it plays out well as the metaphor that all of our decisions will come back and haunt us. Had the dialog used a little fine tuning, Blood Quantum could soar.

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The Treatment

The Treatment (De Behandeling)

FILM REVIEW: THE TREATMENT (DE BEHANDELING)

Released: January 29, 2014
Directed by: Hans Heriots
Written by: Mo Hayder (novel) and Carl Joos (screenplay)

Starring: Geert Van Rampelberg, Danni Petit, Johan Van Assche, Laura Verlinden, Tibo Vandenborre, Dominique Van Malder, Roel Swanenberg, Cerci Letham

Stream on Amazon Prime or Shudder

★★★★☆

A depraved visceral thriller of men and monsters

Inspector Nick Cafmeyer (Geert Van Rampelberg) is lead investigator in a case that drags him straight into the seedy underbelly of a network of pedophiles in Hans Herbots’s The Treatment.

When a mother and father are rescued from a botched abduction that leaves their young son missing, Inspector Cafmeyer frantically begins a manhunt to recover their child.

As the case unravels Cafmeyer discovers similarities from his own life experience decades prior that has left him with an open wound, ever since his young brother was abducted in front of him.

As the old and new cases converge, Cafmeyer becomes obsessed in solving the new crime hoping to gain some sense of closure for himself and for the families torn apart beyond comprehension by the completely maladjusted minds of men.

The Treatment is a grim procedural thriller—and that is putting it mildly. I found myself perusing other reviews to justify that I thought this film was incredibly poignant and well made. The sense of violation, repugnancy and depravity cannot be understated.

Many people, especially those with a weak stomach may not wish to watch as pedophilia involving the rape and incest of young boys is depicted. Even though Herbot has handled the taboo subject delicately, I found the scenes very much more so visceral than I would have hoped to have ever seen.

The Treatment, even in all its depravity is a true feat of filmmaking, beautifully handled by Hans Herbots.

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Haunting on Fraternity Row

FILM REVIEW: HAUNTING ON FRATERNITY ROW

Released: November 2, 2018
Director: Brant Sersen
Writers: Brant Sersen and Jeff Cahn

Starring: Jacob Artist, Jayson Blair, Shanley Caswell, Claudia Lee, Ashton Moio, Cameron Moulène, Molly Tarlov, Chester Rushing, Breon Pugh, Stephanie Honoré, Eduardo Losan

Stream on Netflix

★★★☆☆

An effective comedy/horror that delivers on both successfully

My brain usually chugs along in accordance with the general consensus as I review horror movies, although I’m aware I may be slightly more forgiving than others. After watching Haunting On Fraternity Row, I excitedly began a search for the movie information I needed to write this review when I noticed the movie had a mere 3.8 out of 10 on IMDb. WTH, I thought to myself as I peered into the abyss of the low score number. Did a freak incident involving bad math produce this oddity?

Haunting On Fraternity Row is an American horror-comedy film, directed by Brant Sersen that delivers on both horror and comedy. By all means the film does not reinvent the wheel however it does enthrall and it will pull you into its anything but jejune world. The casting is spot-on perfect, as it provides likable characters whom are relatable as well.

Jason Blair, Eduardo Losan, Ashton Moio
Shanley Caswell, Claudia Lee, Molly Tarlov

For the film, Brant Sersen tweaked the frat guy persona adding introspection and kindness, even if at times he is still the ridiculous, oversexed jock. What we experience is not the stereotypical college bro; damaging everything and everyone in their path but a different kind of college jock that has a semblance of respect. The subtext is admirable especially when the character attributes could have been played in so many different directions. Furthermore, the actors demonstrate solid ability in their craft, garnering successful laugh-out-loud comedy within a bona fide horror movie.

Jacob Artist

Of course as is customary, the annual Luau procures an abundance of scantily-clad female sorority sisters including some incredibly funny cast members such as Claire (Marley Tolov, MTV’s Awkward), who is hysterical as every bro’s type of bro and the ridiculously over-the-top, Liza (Claudia Lee, The Girl in the Photographs), who along with their other sorority sisters are primed to get sloshed as they search for their perfect Mr. Right now.

While all the silliness is going down, a horror story is building up as a menacing spirit becomes accidentally freed after a keg falls down the basement stairs inadvertently revealing a secret tunnel into a small corridor covered in light fixtures. On a center alter a once covered chalice has now been knocked over, freeing its contents back into the world.

Ashton Moio, Cameron Moulène, Jacob Artist
Breon Pugh

There are several truly scary moments in Haunting On Fraternity Row, so do not be fooled by the comedic overture as the movie is a solid ghost story. Where the movie does unfortunately fall flat is in the CGI effects. While I have seen worse, the CGI should have provided for a more thoughtful look into the character of the movie’s evil spirit. Not only is the CGI not the greatest but the character itself seems rushed.

Haunting On Fraternity Row is a thrilling watch with all the elements one could wish for in a college-themed, luau thrown, booby-bouncing, butt-shaking movie that strives and succeeds to serve its horror wrapped in a comedy. So give it a try. Now streaming on Netflix.

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The Autopsy of Jane Doe

The Autopsy Of Jane Doe

FILM REVIEW: THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE

Released: December 21, 2016
Director: André Øvredal
Writers: Ian B. Goldberg, Richard Naing

Starring: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Olwen Catherine Kelly, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton, Jane Perry, Parker Sawyers, Stanley The Cat

Stream on Netflix

★★★★☆

A multi layer examination of fear that works perfectly on its viewers nerves

Norwegian film director André Øvredal (Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark) creates an almost-perfect, truly frightening scary movie with his careful handling in The Autopsy of Jane Doe.

Tommy and Austin (Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch), a father/son duo consisting of coroner and mortician, receive a late evening dispatch of an unidentified body from a curious crime scene. Town Sheriff Burke (Michael McElhatton) requests that the team complete an emergency autopsy so that he can report a cause of death in the morning press briefing. Teetering on twilight, The Autopsy of Jane Doe begins.

As the multi layer examination commences the physical uncovers that while the corpse of Jane Doe (Olwen Catherine Kelly) is immaculately preserved, the internal system presents with multiple fractured bones, eyes that are greyed-over, a missing molar and a missing tongue. All of these signs are indicative that the corpse should appear bruised and bludgeoned on the outside. During the exam, incidental and strange supernatural occurrences begin to happen in the embalming room.

Austin Tilden, Olwen Catherine Kelly, Michael McElhatton, Brian Cox

The second phase of the examination; the internal evaluation, produces unnerving results when ritualistic items are discovered inside the digestive organs. The missing molar, a shroud with unknown symbols on it and more are recovered from inside Jane Doe’s perfectly preserved body. Further questions arise when the internal organs appear burned and scarred with no indication the body had been altered on the outside. The discovery coincides with supernatural experiences becoming stronger and more dangerous in the mortuary, culminating in the first of several creepy encounters.

Brian Cox, Olwen Catherine Kelly, Austin Tilden

Øvredal’s execution of the autopsy is done with utmost respect throughout the film. Even the explicitly gory scenes are carefully handled. In doing so, Øvredal dreams up an exceedingly eerie atmosphere formed in reality compared to the many low budget horror movies who otherwise would treat the detail with abandon. When the supernatural events become fully realized, the contrast is that much more defined, creating a truly scary experience.

The cast of The Autopsy of Jane Doe is stellar. Brian Cox (HBO’s Succession) is at his best as is Emile Hirsch (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Into The Wild). The casting, the set design, the lighting and sound all contribute to make this one hell of a scary film, truly worthy of a watch.

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The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse

FILM REVIEW: THE LIGHTHOUSE

Director: Robert Eggers
Writers: Robert Eggers and Max Eggers

Starring: Willem DaFoe, Robert Pattinson

Where to see it right now: Stream on Amazon Prime

Release Date: November 1, 2019

★★★☆☆
s–o–m

★☆☆☆☆=waste of time
★★☆☆☆=a time waster
★★★☆☆=very good
★★★★☆=excellent
★★★★★=perfection

Industry giants Willem DaFoe and Robert Pattinson team up in a two-man cast (plus mermaid siren) to bring us Director Robert Eggers second feature film The Lighthouse; a small movie lush with grandiose feels.

When Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) lands a month long job as lighthouse keeper to foreman Thomas Wake (Willem DaFoe) the two instantly clash as they bring out the worst in each other. But as the conditions at the lighthouse worsen the two become more reliant on each other for grounding; with dire consequence.

It is no insult to say Robert Eggers replicates his genius storytelling skills in the same fashion he did when he brought into our lives horror movie visionaire, The Witch. It’s no insult as Eggers thus far knows success.

As one would imagine The Lighthouse explores the effects of isolation and grueling natural conditions on the body, mind and soul. It begs the question, if you had nothing except a small parcel of land on a rock and infinite amount of ocean, what would be your basis for reality?

Equally as important as the characters themselves is the time period The Lighthouse is set—New England in the late 1800’s which serves as the backdrop is already a precarious time for exploration and survival.

Fans with a specificity for the horror genre payoff will not find it as black and white as was laid out in The Witch; when against all odds we gazed in awe as Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) flies ecstatically into the night sky with her coven. (Balenziaga times a thousand!)

If you are seeking to feel enlightened and uncomfortable in your own skin; you will become voyeur to debauchery and madness of both the mind and the body as The Lighthouse serves you a dish you might not want to eat.

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Nightingale

FILM REVIEW: NIGHTINGALE

Director: Elliot Lester
Writer: Frederick Mensch

Starring: David Oyelowo, Barlow Jacobs (voice), Heather Storm (voice)

Release Date: June 17, 2014

★★★★☆
s–o–m

It’s not easy to call Nightingale horror. But then again if Nightingale isn’t horror, what is? David Oyelowo stars in the 2014 film from Executive Producer Brad Pitt’s entertainment company Plan B, helmed by Director Eliot Lester (Selma), as the tormented Peter Snowden, a man who is on the downside of a lifelong battle with mental illness. In this context the film solely relies on one-sided conversations on the telephone along with pitifully accurate vlog entries and their summonsed yet unsolicited comments.

The sparse production and singular location serves as a look into Snowden’s lacking support system and also paints a picture of what loneliness truly looks like.

As we follow Snowden’s descent into madness Lester feeds us the pieces of Snowden’s life we need to begin to understand the psychosis that brings him to this moment in time. In doing so Lester reminds us that mental illness is comprised of two parts; the first being the genetic makeup of an individual which makes it more likely to being susceptible to the illness and the second being the environment a person develops in, which plays a large role in a person’s growth-or lack of.

At one time relatable and almost silly David Oyelowo’s character work as Peter Snowden is complex; it almost appears too simple until we realize we’ve been fooled. Why do we question every interaction Snowden has with his acquaintances? Is he even speaking to another person on the other line or is every conversation living only in Snowden’s mind? Viewers will know the answer to that question as concretely as Snowden himself knows for certain the difference between reality and psychosis.

All the weight of Nightingale rests on its very conclusion where the very talented David Oyelowo serves a lifetime of pain and then a way out. It’s a bleak film, with an even bleaker ending. Then again, how many people do you know who suffer from severe mental disability who actually have their happy ending?

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The Midnight Man

FILM REVIEW: THE MIDNIGHT MAN

Director: Travis Zariwny
Writers: Rob Kennedy, Travis Zariwny

Starring: Summer H. Howell, Gabrielle Haugh, Lin Shaye, Robert Englund, Kyle Strauts, Grayson Gabriel, Michael Sirow, Emily Haine

Release Date: January 19, 2018

★★☆☆☆
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The Midnight Man stars horror legends Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street) and Lin Shaye (Insidious) in this remake of the 2013 Irish horror movie Midnight Man and presumed inspired by The Midnight Game, the 2013 film adapted from the creepypasta of the same name. Our legendary icon’s portrayals are not at their best, however it’s not the acting that disengages the audience, but rather writer and director Travis Zariwny’s bland script. Zariwny successfully creates a few moments of tension throughout but the missed opportunities are too many.

Robert Englund, Grayson Gabriel, Gabrielle Haugh

In the well-maintained attic fully furnished with a curious male mannequin and a gun with three bullets, a sealed box containing the pieces needed to play The Midnight Game, is discovered. The cursed pagan game awaits innocent curiosity to thus bring forth a demonic spirit, The Midnight Man—an evil so smart, its strength lies in its savvy to trick players to their demise.

Gabrielle Haugh, Lin Shaye

Follow the rules and you will be safe, don’t and you will die! Only problem with the ‘rules’ of this game is that time and time again we observe, the Midnight Man does not like to follow rules as he “does not like to lose.”

Decades before in the very mansion Alexandra (Gabrielle Haugh) now resides as caretaker to her declining grandmother Ana (Lin Shaye), The Midnight Game was played with dire consequence. Once again the box is finally opened by Alex and her friend Miles (Grayson Gabriel), who will wager everything for a few hours of trying to stay alive. Although one can’t help but wonder “why on earth would anyone would want to play this ‘game’?”

Grayson Gabriel, Gabrielle Haugh

Suspend your disbelief as we may for even the best of horror films, but unfortunately The Midnight Man still falls short on scares. Contributed to bland CGI, the monster’s lackluster appeal mixed with its obvious Halloween store allure, and The Midnight Man is a bore. The fact that the imminently endangered teens have full sentence conversations with the raspy voiced Midnight Man himself takes away from the suspense at once.

Emily Haine

Quite possibly the most absurd aspect of the film happens when in the midst of fighting off The Midnight Man, Alex and Miles find themselves answering a knock on the door by a third friend, Kelly (Emily Haine) who we discover is well versed on the Urban Legend and therefore remains in the house to help her friends. “You can get out now,” Alexandra tells Kelly. “I wouldn’t desert my friends,” she replies. (She probably should have heeded the warning if you catch my drift.)

Kyle Strauts as The Midnight Man

The Midnight Man is a glossy, commercial looking film that will keep viewers tuned in from start to finish. As a background movie or out of desperation, the film will suffice. The biggest crime though that The Midnight Man has commited is that you will likely not remember much of it after a short time.

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The Clovehitch Killer

FILM REVIEW: THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER

Released: November 16, 2018
Director: Duncan Skiles
Writer: Christopher Ford

Starring: Dylan McDermott, Charlie Plummer, Samantha Mathis, Madisen Beaty, Brenna Sherman, Lance Chantiles-Wertz, Emma Jones

Stream on Shudder

★★★☆☆

In a refreshing take on the serial killer subgenre and in particular, a very loose interpretation of real life serial killer Dennis Lynn Rader, commonly known as the BTK Killer (Bind, Torture, Kill), director Duncan Skiles is at his best as he invites us to view a slice of Americana without exploiting the issues he depicts.

When Tyler Burnside’s (Charlie Plummer) life is rattled after finding evidence leading to the discovery that his father; the outgoing, community leader Don (Dylan McDermott), may be the notorious Clovehitch killer (named after the telltale knot which he leaves at the location of each victim), he and his outcast friend Kassi (Madisen Beaty) begin a search that may unravel young Tyler’s life to its core.

The plot glides over the small Kentucky town both eerily and quickly. As a drama and suspenseful mystery, The Clovehitch Killer remains consistent until its second act where the POV shifts and the movie becomes a true nightmare.

Without the use of gratuitous blood, Skiles relies on the story’s built-in-suspense to create the mood. In the same mode that Summer of ‘84, perpetuates a feeling of terror as adolescence and innocence is lost, The Clovehitch Killer, at its core is a story about Tyler more than it is about a killer. Strong acting by Plummer, McDermott and cast carries the film more than its actual script.

In choosing to inform us rather than dwell on the facts, Skiles tactfully holds back on sharing his own opinion regarding the tight-knit, Baptist community his characters live in. The Burnside family is devout, somewhat trapped in the 50’s and display a slight awkwardness toward each other, however they are also a loving and outgoing family that possesses a lighthearted side, which shines through.

If you are a person who finds it hard to suspend your disbelief, the middle and end of The Clovehitch Killer may become a little more than you bargained for, especially after its strong first act. But if you can go with the flow, you will find a clever film that is satisfying to the most hardened horror fan. I’m quite frankly surprised this film didn’t get a stronger release.

Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories: A New Kind Of Anthology

FILM REVIEW: GHOST STORIES

Director and Writer: Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman

Starring: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther, Paul Warren, Kobna Holdebrook-Smith, Nicholas Burns

Release Date: April 20, 2018

★★★★☆
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Ghost Stories, written and directed by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson, takes us along the path of Professor Philip Goodman (Andy Nyman), an investigative writer and talk show host, who specializes in debunking the paranormal, spiritual and psychic experience. As a faulty and conceited man by nature, we have little empathy for Goodman when his fixation on proving others as frauds hurts innocent people along the way.

When Goodman is notified of three unsolved incidents by the mysterious recommendation of his long time idol and peer skeptic Charles Cameron (Leonard Byrne), Goodman learns that the man who had inspired him years before as a child, now believes he made a grave error in judgement concluding some cases cannot be disproved.

While Ghost Stories is an anthology tale, it removes the typical plotline we have become accustomed to. Each of the three creepy stories is interwoven with its main character and has actual affect on his life. As Goodman searches for answers, he becomes even more deeply connected to the questions.

The three interwoven anecdotes bring traditional horror to Ghost Stories without the use of cheap tactics like gratuitous blood and jump scares-but you will jump. In the first, a nightwatchman (Paul Whitehouse) is terrorized by an entity in an abandoned asylum. The second features a skittish young man (Alex Lawther) lost in the woods as a demonic creature hunts him. The third tale features a wealthy ex-banker (Martin Freeman) whose home becomes invaded by evil spirits just as his pregnant wife battles distressing childbirth.

As Ghost Stories enters its final act we discover the connections between the characters. For those of you who hate movies that leave many questions to the viewership, Ghost Stories does a complete job at summing up the whole. This effective, slow burn suspense leads us to a twist so grand, it produces a literal gasp amongst viewers; a sure sign the director has gotten it right.

A Demon Within

FILM REVIEW: A DEMON WITHIN

Directors: Ayush Banker, Justin LaReau
Writers: Ayush Banker, Justin LaReau, Michelle Beyda-Scott

Starring: Charlene Amoia, Clint Hummel, Patricia Ashley, Michael Ehlers, Cole Crawford, Veronika Bonell, David Sweetman, Laura Anne Parry , Tim Jenkins

Release Date: January 20, 2018

★☆☆☆☆
s–o–m

One hundred years ago, a demonic spirit preyed upon a family, resulting in the death of an innocent girl. Today, small town doctor Jeremy Miller (Clint Hummel) must stop history from repeating itself by confronting personal demons while fighting to save the life of a teenage girl whom with her mother, has recently moved into the plagued home he had once lived in.

Julia Larsen (Charlene Amoia) and daughter Charlotte (Patricia Ashley) hope to make a fresh start in picture perfect Crestwick, but when Charlotte finds herself possessed by Nefas, the demon residing in her home, the relationship between mother and daughter is tested.

The story is familiar and in the hands of not one but two directors- Justin LaReau and Ayush Banker, A Demon Within still never fully presents itself as a horror movie that works. In many regards it plays out like a college project, but even those have the potential to offer more inspiration.

The plot holes are unavoidable and the fact that the good, small town doc is plagued not once but twice by the same demonic force; only to a avoid its veracity both times, is not only annoying but also lamentable.

But the scene stealer (not for reasons intended), is the deep, manly voice Charlotte switches to whilst in her possessed state. These choices walk a fine line between scary and ridiculous. Unfortunately here, we experience the latter.

A Demon Within is the regurgitated story, once superbly told as a little movie known as William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. When recreating a horror movie that is the equivalent to undoubtedly one of the best horror movies ever made, it would be best to offer a new vision to the viewers. Here unfortunately, we see nothing new and the old tale is just stale.

Housewife

FILM REVIEW: HOUSEWIFE

Director: Can Evrenol
Writers: Can Evrenol, Cem Özüduru

Starring: Clémentine Poidatz, Ali Aksöz, David Sakurai, Alicia Kapudag, Defne Halman, Ömer Naci Gülalp, Zuri Zen, Resit Berker Enhos

Release Date: October 2, 2018

★★★☆☆
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In a public restroom with the door guarded by friend Valerie (Alicia Kapudag), Holly (Clémentine Poidatz) squats in the sink to relieve herself. This is not the first time in Housewife we’ve seen Holly use a sink instead of a toilet, even when a toilet is right next to her.

As a child Holly witnesses her sister’s murder at the hands of her mother; drowned in toilet water until limp. Later that same night as young Holly hides behind curtains, grasping onto a pointy umbrella, she then witnesses the stabbing of her father.

And mother shouts “Go away visitors!”

Where there is only metaphor and nothing else grounding a plot in reality, viewers easily become confused as they are not in the mind of the creator. Director Can Evrenol knows this but does not care to expand upon it. Here we find Evrenol’s signature; one that was effectively in control when he brought us his freshmen vision, Baskin.

Present day Holly and husband Tim (Ali Aksöz), and their relationship to friend and ex-roommate Valerie, unfolds quickly when Valerie arrives unannounced at Holly and Tim’s house on the eve of much anticipated seminar called ULM (Umbrella of Love and Mind).

After little convincing the trio sets forth to the seminar where they meet up with another couple who is also intrigued by its leader Bruce O’Hara (David Sakurai). Here we discover those in attendance desire to be part of “the family” an intimate group of O’Hara’s closest devotees.

Before long as all in the crowd clap, cheer, hoot and holler their praise for their dreamy cult leader, we see Bruce turn his attention to one special guest who is apparently garnering all his energy. This energy of course is directed at Holly who appears stunned and nervous.

As Bruce speaks in riddles, Holly understands she must decide whether or not she’d be willing to revisit her painful past but is told in order to mend it she must take the entire journey or risk being lost in it forever. While Bruce’s words tell Holly she has a choice, we can’t help but to feel as though there is no choice at all.

If the story was ever linear to begin with, it is here in Housewife that chaos and confusion set in. Reality and nightmares align leaving Holly unprepared to distinguish between the two.

As I sat watching the first half of Housewife I thought I knew something others would not pick up on quickly. I was pulled in by Holly’s background story and giddily watched the slow burn play out. The second act I thought to myself, will surely blow us all away. This is the Can Evrenol signature of storytelling I knew!

The second act began and ended still holding fire to its slow burn. Maybe the boom is in the third and final act, I thought to myself. It will be short and sweet but obviously it’s going to leave me jaw-dropped.

Needless to say the frantic energy Evrenol created in Baskin, where he so beautifully changes course from a creepy slow burn to a nightmarish frenzy, easily contrived by the twisted mind of Clive Barker himself, unfortunately never materializes in Housewife. That’s not to say the movie doesnt pick up and get more chaotic. It does. The payoff however doesn’t offer enough bang for the slow burn we patiently wait through.

The Platform (El Hoyo)

FILM REVIEW: THE PLATFORM (EL HOYO)

Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Writers: David Desolo and Pedro Rivers (screenplay)

Starring: Ivan Massagué, Zorion Eguileor, Antonia San Juan, Emilio Buale, Alexandra Masangkay, Zihara Llana, Amigo de Baharat

Release Date: March 20, 2020

★★★☆☆
s–o–m

In an eat or be eaten world, director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s TIFF Midnight Audience Award winner, The Platform presents a slice of life inside the pit; a hellhole where prisoners at the top of the food chain have carte blanche to all the food they desire while prisoners below them eat only the scraps the upper level prisoners throw down.

It may be the new zombie craze which came after the vampire craze; a tale of inequity amongst the classes. And while this topic has been picked over many times before, it is now prevalent enough to be considered horror. Here in Gaztelu-Urrutia’s hands it is done horrifyingly well with a fresh new twist.

In the grimmest way possible, The Platform tells a literal tale of consumerism. We all know what works for the greater good yet we waste when there is excess, then pray to god when we have too little.

When Goreng (Ivan Massagué), volunteers to enter the prison system hoping to quit smoking while reading a book (each prisoner is permitted one item of their choosing), he is unprepared for what awaits him. Goreng learns the rules and ropes of his new life on the inside, in trials and tribulations with his pragmatic cell mate Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor).

In the following months when food becomes scarce to none Goreng must learn how to protect his life while adapting to different levels of starvation. His beliefs are shattered and decisions must be made quickly if he is to survive. All that he has ever known will be tested.

The Platform’s message is clear, however we never feel that we are being preached to. We receive the message and we can do what we want with it. The Platform is not for the faint of heart. It is a horror film at its core. It is bloody and violent and hellbent on making its message clear. But we still can and we will take we want from it and discard what does not fit our narrative.

And that is the point of The Platform.

Ambition

FILM REVIEW: AMBITION

Director: Robert Shaye
Writers: John Rocco and Jenna Lyn Wright

Starring: Katherine Hughes, Giles Matthey, Sonoma Mizuno, Dylan McNamara, Kyanna Simone Simpson, John Kroft, Bryan Batt, Jordan Salmon, Lin Shaye, Jared Bankens, Han Soto

Release Date: September 20, 2019

★★☆☆☆
s–o–m

The psychological thriller Ambition stars Jude Hunter (Katherine C. Hughes), as fourth year violinist whom has been inexplicably and deeply troubled by the death of her peer and closest competitor, Emily Forster (Jordan Salmon). When Emily falls to her death from the music department roof, it becomes widely accepted that as much as people don’t want to believe Emily committed suicide, the alternative to a handful of people whom believe she was murdered might be a worse option.

As Jude struggles with where she stands in the world of musical genius, she also struggles with what, if any bearing Emily’s death may have on her place in the music departmentment. When Jude broaches the subject with her professor and mentor, it is swiftly diffused curiously implicating the professor as a suspect.

The brunt of Ambition takes place outside the world of music and inside the off-campus housing where Jude lives with her two roommates Sara and Veronica (Sonoya Mizuno, Kyanna Simone). It is here we see the Jude’s paranoia explode only to occasionally be pulled back just enough for us to question her reality.

Making matters increasingly complicated are neighbor and friend duo Steve and Dave (Dylan McNamara, Giles Matthey), who pop in and out of the girl’s house, adding another dimesnion to the paranoia, or is it perhaps protection for Jude and her roommates? We do not know.

Before the terror arcs, Ambition treads slowly and effectively as it lays forth a story of college students in off-campus housing living their best lives. The drama is refreshingly realistic and effective but when it takes a turn to horror, the story gets a bit convoluted.

The Invisible Man (2020)

FILM REVIEW: THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020)

Written and Directed By: Leigh Whannell

Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Michael Dorman, Renee Lim

Release Date: February 24, 2020

★★★★☆
s–o–m

This weekend the first ever major studio movie; Universal Films The Invisible Man, was released direct to the consumer by way of video on demand, after movie theaters were shuttered along with everything else in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic, became available to download at a cost of $19.99 for 3 viewings over a 48 hour period.

The steeply priced VOD may have turned some would-be viewers away as the, at-home versus in-theater value has not yet caught on fully. I decided to take the plunge and rent the film to help you decide for yourself if you’d like to also participate.

The Invisible Man stars Elisabeth Moss; head of Hulu’s smash hit, The Handmaid’s Tale, as Cecilia the victimized wife of optics genius Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) whom a la #metoo, valiantly decides to take her life back by leaving her abusive husband after drugging him in the middle of the night.

As Cecilia hides out of sight with her friend James (Aldis Hodge) and James’ teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid), strange occurrences begin to happen forcing Cecilia into a state of panic. Questioned at first and then shut out by her sister and best friend, Emily (Harriet Dyer), Cecelia takes a hardcore ride into the mouth of madness.

As bizarre occurrences escalates, those who once believed in Cecelia’s sanity diminishes in beautifully crafted suspense and friction by mastermind director Leigh Whannell; suspense which is reminiscent of the Great Depression noirs, with their Hitchcockian vibe and slow burn to frantic climax.

The Invisible Man will be a favorite of cross genre fans including seekers of the thriller and suspense experience but will also appeal to the horror film base. For those of you who are keen on a drama, The Invisible Man will tickle your fancy with its strong backstory brought front and center—as long as you don’t mind some edge of your seat, nail biting.

So grab the folks you’re quarantined with and pop the corn. You deserve a break from the worrisome pandemic. And remember—it could be worse; an invisible man could be stalking you while you’re quarantined during a pandemic.

Again, the first ever major studio movie to be released direct to the consumer after movie theaters were shuttered along with everything else in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is available to download at a cost of—a very enjoyable 2 hour reprieve from pandemic life.