Four great horror flicks to stream after Pennywise makes you scream

  • Clairvoyant Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) tries to help a possessed mother in the horror tale "The Conjuring."

    Clairvoyant Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) tries to help a possessed mother in the horror tale "The Conjuring."

 
 
Posted9/5/2019 6:00 AM

In a year that has already seen Jordan Peele's "Us" and Ari Aster's "Midsommar," this weekend's blockbuster release of "It: Chapter Two" closes the book on a decade that, for horror fans, can only be described as a golden age.

Natalie Portman and "Black Swan" got things started in 2010 with an Oscar-winning tale of obsession, and the 10 ensuing years brought cultural touchstones such as "Get Out," the "Purge" franchise, a resurrected "Halloween" and of course Pennywise the Dancing Clown.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If the adventures of The Losers Club have you hungering for more horror, here are four modern greats you can stream right now:

"The Conjuring" (2013)

After he invented a genre with "Saw" and before he broke box office records with "Furious 7," director James Wan reinvigorated the haunted-house movie with this surprise hit that eventually conjured up its own cinematic universe. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson star as real-life demonologists Lorraine and Ed Warren in a plot culled from their 1971 investigation of a Rhode Island farmhouse.

Did the Perron family, headed here by Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston, really suffer possession at the hands of angry spirits? Uhh ... no. But is the movie depicting that possession terrifying? Yes, and it works because the characters are lovable and fully formed by screenwriters Chad and Carey W. Hayes. Like "Poltergeist," "The Conjuring" soars because we truly care for its heroes.

Wan and Co. nailed it again in 2016 with "The Conjuring 2," though I don't think we can say the same about the "Annabelle" spinoffs.

(Streaming on Netflix)

Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is tempted to live deliciously in "The Witch."
Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is tempted to live deliciously in "The Witch." -
"The Witch" (2016)

The infant son of a Puritan family banished from their New England village disappears, and Robert Eggers' stark, brisk film wastes no time in showing the audience what happened to him: He was taken by a witch who grinds him into bloody paste.

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That's the first 10 minutes.

The next 80 see the family slowly tear itself apart, with teen protagonist Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) forced to defend herself when her own kin accuse her of being the title character.

A word of advice: Watch this disturbing movie with the subtitles on. The 1600s English dialogue can be more confounding than Shakespeare in 2019.

(Streaming on Netflix and the library app Kanopy; see if your library supports the free movie app at kanopy.com)

Pruitt (John Carroll Lynch) insists that Will (Logan Marshall-Green) calm down in "The Invitation."
Pruitt (John Carroll Lynch) insists that Will (Logan Marshall-Green) calm down in "The Invitation." -
"The Invitation" (2016)

The final shot of Karyn Kusama's thriller is absolutely stunning, the kind of shot you think about for hours, weeks, days after the credits roll.

The rest of the movie's great, too, as young couple Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) accept an uncomfortable invitation from Will's ex-wife (Tammy Blanchard) to a dinner party that goes horribly wrong -- anyone who has seen "Zodiac" or "American Horror Story: Freak Show" knows they're in trouble the moment John Carroll Lynch appears on screen.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

(Streaming on Netflix)

The horror has just begun for Charlie (Milly Shaprio) and mom Annie (Toni Collette) in this early scene from "Hereditary."
The horror has just begun for Charlie (Milly Shaprio) and mom Annie (Toni Collette) in this early scene from "Hereditary." -
"Hereditary" 2018

There is a shot about halfway through Ari Aster's debut film that made me applaud. I wasn't in a theater -- I was watching it in my living room, sitting very close to the TV on the floor. The shot didn't involve a bravura camera move, or a horrifically gory sight (though the movie has plenty of those). It showed a teenage boy sitting in his classroom. Something completely mundane that doesn't belong in a classroom appears at the top of the frame. And it is a masterful, clever, indelible moment.

Multiple times during this harrowing portrait of a grieving family with a dark secret, I said to my wife, "This is one of the best movies I've ever seen." A year later, the sentiment stands. In this golden age of horror, "Hereditary" wears the crown.

(Streaming on Amazon Prime and the library app Kanopy)

Streaming or not, I'd also recommend seeking out Nicolas Cage's mercurial "Mandy," or Gore Verbinski's twisted, operatic "A Cure for Wellness," or the glam guignol of "The Neon Demon," or Guillermo del Toro's unsung masterpiece "Crimson Peak."

• Follow Sean on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.

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