Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.
The worst part about writing this column – aside from proofreading, which is AGONY – is that I don’t always pick a winner on my first try. Some movies manage to conceal their awfulness for 30, 40, even 50 minutes. That is just plain mean. If you’re going to make a terrible movie, have the decency to demonstrate its utter lack of merit in the first ten minutes, okay? I’m a busy man.
I made it through half an hour of a recent zombie turd called State of Emergency before realizing it was unadorned film school plagiarism dressed up in fancy lens filters. The problem is the first act is mostly one dude on his own, so there isn’t much talky-talky. Having stuck it out long enough to witness his trite, wooden exchanges with other survivors, I submit this movie should have been called State of Ear-Raping Cliches. Lucky for you, I had a gem like They (Netflix, Hulu Plus) waiting in the wings. Perhaps it’s unfair to call a Wes Craven movie under-the-radar, but it’s 11 years old and not terribly well regarded so that’s exactly what I’m doing.
I’m still pretty afraid of the dark. Movies about formless things crawling out of the shadows tend to kick me square in the brain balls. Even without my predispositions, They remains a chilling, understated affair. It delivers a deep but relatable mythology, revealed through a mercifully small amount of the preposterous research montages horror movies love so much.
And check out the cast; it’s like a who’s who of what-show-was-that-guy-on? You might not know any names except Ethan Embry (Empire Records will never die) but there are a handful of TV faces you’re bound to recognize, including Shane Botwin and Riley, a/k/a Buffy’s rebound after Angel. Or was Riley after Spike? Who knows. Buffy got around in the later seasons. Speaking of Strange Botwin, check out the nightlight this kid’s sadistic parents put next to his bed. Fact: if you give your child a creepy, rotating nightlight, he WILL be devoured by monsters.
Added bonus: It’s not giving anything away to say this is a movie in which something supernatural really is happening. Movies that conclude with an “It was all in his head!” revelation are a plague on humanity. Yes, Fight Club was super neat but can we all please move the fuck on? No one’s internal thought process is that interesting. Stop teasing me with fantastical creatures only to explain them away as the product of someone’s fevered imagination. I get more than enough of that in real life.