Opinion Column

Three flicks to scare away your midterm blues

By Raven Nyman

Mid-October: the scent of pumpkin spice and the fear of midterms fills the air. If you’re a student and you haven’t started to feel bogged down by the mid-semester slump yet, then are you really a student? Or could you possibly be a zombie?

If your answer was “maybe” or even an unintelligible groan, worry not. Today, we’ll take a small break from studying to enjoy the best part of October: Halloween. Even if you don’t plan to dress up or attend a party this year, there are still many ways to enjoy the holiday and get into the spooky spirit. You could visit a haunted house with friends, carve a pumpkin, or cuddle up for a scary movie night.

Speaking of scary movie nights, what better way to forget the stress of midterm season than by scaring yourself silly with a set of slasher films? I’ll admit, there could be better methods, but horror movies have always been a guilty pleasure of mine. Thankfully, Netflix has quite the selection, which means that if you don’t want to break the bank paying to see Happy Death Day or another horror flick in theatres this Halloween, you can simply stay at home. Here are three fresh films that you can find on Netflix Canada this weekend to help murder your midterm blues.

Gerald’s Game (2017)

From the preview, this film could pass as the next Fifty Shades flick. Thankfully, Gerald’s Game is something else entirely. The film is based on Stephen King’s 1992 novel of the same name, but no, this is not another IT movie; far from it. In fact, Gerald’s Game interrogates complex themes that can be pretty tough to watch, and it should be noted that the film deals with matters of sexual assault and abuse.

The premise is simple: a man and wife head off for a little vacation in the woods to spice up their marriage. However, it doesn’t quite work out that way. Instead, after handcuffing his wife Jessie to the bed, Gerald has a heart attack and dies on top of her. Okay, so it’s a little more complicated than that, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.

The remarkable feat of the film is its ability to keep you watching, intrigued and afraid to know more. This may not seem like much; in fact, all movies should do this for the viewer, right? True, but all movies don’t revolve around a woman being handcuffed to a bed, now do they? Watching Jessie struggle to free herself from the bed, to survive and endure, is the real challenge of the viewing experience. As she peels back the layers of her sanity and her troubled past, viewers are taken along for the ride. Warning: this is not a ride for kids. If Netflix can turn a novel that takes place largely inside a woman’s head into a riveting, thought-provoking piece of entertainment, then it’s worth a recommendation in my books.

The Witch (2015)

Set in 1630 New England, this is certainly the scariest film on the list, but is arguably also the most intriguing. The film is far from the plot of movies like The Blair Witch Project, and instead focuses more on theme than plot, with impressive acting and remarkable cinematography that works to heighten the film’s tension.

The story follows a family who has left their New World community to start a homestead near the forest. With crops failing, the family’s troubles worsen when the youngest son Samuel disappears while under the supervision of the oldest daughter, Thomasin.

The infant’s sudden disappearance sets off a whirlwind of events spurred on by panic, religious suspicion, and familial distrust. The film makes clear immediately that the baby was in fact stolen by a witch; but it is the way in which the Puritan family turns on each other that gives the film its intrigue. More than that, the intense accusations hurled at the family’s oldest daughter, Thomasin, offer the film a resounding and relevant message. If witchcraft, horror, and feminism strike your interest, then this film will certainly be worth watching, as it works to examine the intersections between those subjects.

The Babysitter (2017)

The last film on the list is brand new to Netflix, and a departure in both tone and taste from the previous two films. If we were to spend the entire weekend watching dark, dreary Halloween flicks, we may end up feeling a bit depressed. That’s where the strange but undeniable genre of the horror-comedy comes in to simultaneously lift your spirits and scare the crap out of you.

The Babysitter is every boy’s fantasy, but not in the way you might expect. As the tagline suggests, “Dream girls can be a nightmare”. Things start to get complicated for the film’s protagonist, 12-year-old Cole, when his gorgeous babysitter, Bee, invites a group of friends over to his house. Cole sneaks a peek out his bedroom door to discover Bee and her friends playing a game of “spin the bottle”, but this is no ordinary game.There’s a girl-on-girl kiss — oh, and Cole’s babysitter stabs somebody in the head. Surprise, Cole: the girl of your dreams is actually the leader of a blood-sacrificing cult, and she’s invited her friends over for a creepy ceremony at your place.

Many will probably watch this film simply for the gore, the jokes, and the “hot people”, as Bella Thorne’s character suggests in the trailer. Still, there’s no shame in enjoying a little eye-candy alongside your serving of terror, and it’s not as though this trend is a huge departure from the horror films we’ve grown accustomed to in 2017. The Babysitter drops Oct. 13 exclusively on Netflix.