Netflix Guru’s Monster of the Week: First-Rate Frights

By Sam Allen, Sammi Brennan and Claire Farrow

Hallo-week is finally here! Gearing up for some spook-tacular fun, this month’s Gurus have raised a few of their horror favorites from the grave, er, queue. Ranging from classics to foreign to new treats, we hope that these picks will send shivers down your spine.

Sammi’s Picks

The Host (2006)

Meet Park Gang-Doo (Kang-ho Song), a clumsy, drowsy single father who works at a food stand along the Han River in South Korea. Gang-Doo only wants what is best for his daughter, Park Hyun-seo (Ah-sung Ko). After two coroners pour gallons of formaldehyde down the drain, a mutated monstrosity emerges from the Han River. It dangles from its feet, licks its victims with an elongated slimy tongue, pounces on pedestrians in the streets, and then seamlessly slithers through the water.

In his attempt to become the hero, Gang-Doo takes the hand of his daughter and saves her from the beast, only…he takes the wrong hand. Convinced that his daughter is still alive, Gang-Doo will do whatever it takes to save Hyun-seo. The Host is particularly interesting due to its blending of genres. Is it a comedy? Horror? Drama? At one point, Gang-Doo and his family are taken to a containment facility for fear of exposure to a virus. When the archer aunt, the alcoholic uncle, the foolish Gang-Doo, and the bewildered grandfather all pile into a van, it’s strikingly similar to 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine. As the beast vomits the bodies of the poor unlucky souls into a sewer line crevice, Gang-Doo and his family must race against the clock and the South Korean government in order to save Hyun-seo.         

Flu (2013)

A cargo ship crate full of smuggled immigrants leads to the exposure of a deadly mutation of the H1N1 virus to the city of Bundang in South Korea. Symptoms include rashes, coughing blood and for every one out of two people… death. However, a survivor with a potential cure still wanders Bundang. When emergency responder Kang Ji-Koo (Hyuk Jang) saves scientist Kim In-Hae, (Soo Ae) who coincidently has important data regarding the virus, Ji-Koo finds himself caught up in the ruthlessness of the South Korean government. The more he digs, the darker the secrets emerge. Meanwhile, both In-Hae and Ji-Koo must strive to protect Kim Mi-reu (Min-ah Park), the young daughter of In-Hae, from infection.

By the last 45 minutes, Flu spins out an increasingly tragic, pulse-racing sequence of events. During this traumatizing span of time, true colors are shown. To say the least, the graphics are painfully vivid. The primary solution to the epidemic is beyond devastating, yet is a testament to how far the leaders of a country would go in order to save an entire nation.

Sam’s Picks:

Scream (1996)

Scream (1996) is a satirical-horror film that turns the concept of the slasher flick on its head. Wes Craven’s masterpiece is constantly making fun of itself and, for once, takes the viewers reasonable disbelief seriously. The film follows Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) as she is hunted by a mysterious serial killer who is seemingly everywhere on the anniversary of her mother’s death. He taunts her over the phone as he knocks off all her friends one by one.

Sidney is left helpless, not knowing who she can trust. She is watched over by her boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), whose intentions are ambiguous at best, and deputy Dewey Riley (David Arquette), the brother of Sidney’s best friend. The murders attract a ruthless and driven reporter named Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) who follows the teenagers in hopes of catching footage of the killer.

The film is witty as it ridicules the traditions of slasher films without coming off as pretentious. Scream is truly original, even in spite of all its numerous clichés. Scream challenged the horror world by adding commentary on its traditions, while paying homage to the countless horror classics that acted as its inspiration.

We Are What We Are (2013)

A strange, unique and scientifically accurate depiction of cannibalism is presented in We Are What We Are (2013). The film begins with the mysterious death of the Parker family matriarch (Kassie DePaiva) and brims with tension as the story unfolds. After their mother’s death, the Parker sisters, Rose (Julia Garner) and Iris (Ambyr Childers), are forced by their father Frank (Bill Sage) to take on her grim ‘religious’ responsibilities.

The county pathologist, Doctor Barrow (Michael Parks), performs an autopsy on Mrs. Parker due to the mysterious nature of her death. Barrow learns that Mrs. Parker’s death was caused by a rare disease called Kuru’s disease, which can only be contracted through cannibalism. Meanwhile, we learn that Rose and Iris’s newfound responsibility consists of sacrificing a young girl that Frank kidnapped to eat as part of a religious ritual.


Claire’s Picks:

Oculus (2013)

You’ve heard of Bloody Mary, but what if a mirror could drive someone crazy with just its presence, utterance unnecessary? When Tim Russell is released from a mental hospital 11 years after shooting his father, he has seemingly been cured from his delusions that an antique mirror convinced him to shoot his father.  After moving into their new home, the Russells are happy. This is short lived. Tim’s father, Alan Russell (Rory Cochrane) has purchased the old mirror to put up in his office. Soon, both the mother Marie (Katee Sackhoff) and Alan get bats in their belfries, and it all ends with the father shooting the mother, and Tim shooting his father. He is ready to begin his life anew; his sister, however, has not forgotten what happened. Kaylie Russell (Karen Gillan) has spent years locating the mirror, and now that she has found it, she is determined to discover the truth, and prove to the world that this mirror is truly alive and blood-thirsty. She convinces Tim to return to their old house, hoping to create an experiment and catch the supernatural being that resides in the mirror. However, Kaylie’s obsession with the mirror and its history creates doubts as to the clear sequence of events that occurred when they were children. As past and present fuse together,  we never quite have a handle on what’s real and what is simply an illusion, and that’s terrifying.

While the jump-scares are rather predictable throughout, the psychological aspect of this film cranks up the creep factor of Oculus. Be mindful that after watching this film,  you may be avoiding mirrors indefinitely.

The Sixth Sense (1999)

“I see dead people” is an all too familiar phrase that has entered our vernacular. While this film’s plot twist has largely been spoiled for the masses in the 16 years since its release, the story itself has remained as interesting as ever. True, M. Night Shyamalan may never again reach the level of  brilliance of The Sixth Sense, but this film will remain innovative for years to come, due to the characters and their relationships in the film.

Pushing past the supernatural element, there is an emotional human story being told that makes the ghost element secondary in the film. Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), a child psychologist, is looking for redemption after failing a patient years earlier, and when he finds Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a young boy whom Crowe believes is suffering from the same mental disorder, he is quick to latch onto the child and attempt to help him. As time progresses, and their bond deepens, we quickly realize that whatever is affecting Cole is not as simple to diagnose, and even more difficult to treat. Thrown into the narrative is the loving, yet complex relationship between Cole and his mother, Lynn Sear (Toni Collette). The audience isn’t quite sure what exactly is plaguing Cole until nearly the end of the film, but again, the truth isn’t the point of this film, but rather the journey to the revelation. What stays with the audience long after this film is the emotional weight this film brings, dealing with death, loss, grief and acceptance.

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