FIELD OF STREAMS presents MUBI’s top scares, from all-time classics to sleazy Giallo to experimental visions
This month on Field of Streams, we’re bringing Top 9 lists, in honor of this being the 9th year of Cinapse! During this anniversary month, we’ll give you our patented streaming recs, but in lists of 9. From awards movies to beloved directors to service-specific lists, expect some great streaming films that you can sink your cinematic teeth into. We built it for you, so come and join us in the Field of Streams.
MUBI is one of the more unique streaming services available right now, offering a wide variety of artistic and international films that simply don’t pop up most anywhere else. Their selection often leans into the quieter, more introspective work across the whole history of cinema. Thus it is interesting to consider what stripe of genre work appears on the service, specifically in regards to a genre that is often disregarded as low brow such as horror.
Luckily for fans of horror cinema, MUBI does have a select but well curated selection of scary films that are slightly off the beaten path of your well-trodden territory. In celebration of Cinapse’s ninth anniversary, here are some high brow chillers for your spooky art house night.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
Perhaps the most well-known film on this list, and certainly not one that’s hard to find elsewhere, but it’s a classic for a reason. George Romero’s genre-defining zombie masterpiece continues to rank amongst the most unnerving horror films ever made, even over 50 years later. A brilliant mixture of social commentary and visual mythmaking, Night of the Living Dead is maybe an all time king of midnight movie watching.
Lamberto Brava’s Demons is a strange little movie, not the least because it seems to be commenting on American filmgoing culture in the admittedly unsettled world of Italian horror. But it also is a horror movie about the transfixing power of horror itself, as a varied (and honestly broadly drawn) group of moviegoers all find themselves unnerved by a creepy slasher picture, only for beings of darkness to invade the theater and start attacking and transforming the patrons. Part zombie movie, part biting satire, but all unsettling, Demons is a great example of when giallo leans into its most cerebral, dreamlike qualities.
An early Kathryn Bigelow classic, Near Dark explores many of her favorite themes: masculine aggression, dysfunctional systems, and broken people searching for places to belong. What sets Near Dark apart is its unflinching depiction of vampiric violence, less concerned with romanticizing or even especially eroticizing them as showing them as pure agents of chaos and violence. It has an anarchic spirit that would over time be edged out of her films, but is full throated and gripping here. It also features one of the all time best performances from the late, great Bill Paxton.
Gerald Kargl’s 1983 Austrian thriller Angst is the first on our list to not feature any supernatural element, but rather the true horror of maladjusted human behavior. Erwin Leder plays an unnamed sociopathic killer, recently released from medical care and searching out new victims. The film’s perspective rarely shifts from the killer, providing us insight into his mind in spurts, but never truly sympathizing with him. As he cycles through potential prey, we are forced to watch his methodology, and it becomes clear that part of Kargl’s interest in convicting you as the viewer. After all, you’re the one choosing to sit through this.
Returning to some nasty giallo, we get an entry from the master of the form in Dario Argento’s Opera. It would be easy to describe it as Argento’s take on the Phantom of the Opera story, but that would undersell exactly how nasty his take is. There is no romance to be found here, no disfigured killer lurking and rejected in the shadows. This is just a lurking menace that attacks in increasingly ghastly and unnerving ways. There is a slight whodunnit mystery underneath the surface, but this is mostly classic Argento horror, leaning into the most depraved imagery he can bring to bear, delighting in setting his typical grotesqueries against the high minded world of opera.
For fans of Christopher Lee’s copious body of work playing the legendary Count Dracula, this is strange must see. Part documentary, part experiment, Vampir was shot while Lee was making a German Dracula film, and serves as an exploration of what makes the story of the world’s most famous vampire so captivating. The film is mostly completely lacking in dialogue, simply showing the actors of the film acting out specific scenes of the movie in pantomime and allowing you the viewer to fill in the gaps. It stands as a beautiful study of how to tell horror stories in the margins and the emblematic power of a striking image.
NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR
I have a real soft spot for anthology horror films, as they allow for short, punchy narratives that all string together. And while Night Train to Terror won’t win any awards for being the best of the genre, is certainly one of the most unique. The framing device the film uses is deliriously wild: God and Satan are taking a train to…somewhere and discussing the final fate of three specific souls who met unseemly ends. And also, a band is trying to film their music video. It’s all very 80s and very loose, but the individual vignettes get in and get out with confidence and the ultimate final reveal is so wild that it is just a thing that must be behold for fans of schlocky horror of this era.
Pulling from the best instincts of Tim Burton and David Cronenberg, Sebastian Hoffman’s unorthodox zombie film Halley is a patient and moody meditation on the nature of life, and what it takes to fake that. Centered on Alberto, a zombie who is trying his best to blend in with the living, the movie is equally obsessed with the frailty of the human body and human relationship. Through absurd circumstances, Halley asks cutting questions about what defines life, and makes it worth living.
DJANGO KILL… IF YOU LIVE, SHOOT
Okay this one is a bit of a stretch. It is not exactly a horror film, but If You Live, Shoot (the Django prefix was added later to appeal to American audiences) is one of the most unsettling spaghetti westerns ever made. It exists in a sort of liminal state, between specific and iconic, centered around an unnamed criminal who is left for dead, and things kind of get worse from there as he travels into “The Unhappy Place.” The film relishes in unsettling images, almost from the first frame to the final moment, putting the unnamed protagonist (as well as the viewer) through the ringer.
There are countless services to explore and great things to watch on all of them. Which ones did we miss that you would suggest to us? Tell us what we’re missing out on or what new services we should check out by leaving a comment below or emailing us.