Chilling creatures abound in quest for the best of Netflix horror

These horror movie monsters come in all shapes and sizes, from zombies to genetic hybrids.

They come from graveyards. They come from science labs. They come from... somewhere unnatural. If a horror movie does not have a human villain or an evil paranormal spirit, then creatures are the next likely source of terror. Directors and writers have played with an endless array of zombies, animal hybrids, cave-dwelling humanoids, super-sized spiders and other monsters, some more bone-chilling than others.

Garnering the opinions of film critics and my own viewing experience, here are the stand-out creature features streaming on Netflix for this final edition of my “Quest for the Best” in Netflix horror. My personal favorite: “Bird Box” (2018)

Disclaimer: mention of suicide.

When an ominous entity floods the globe, there’s only one thing certain about it: if you look at it, you die. More specifically, seeing the creatures causes one to take their own life in brutal and gruesome ways. At the onset of the creatures’ attack, Malorie (Sandra Bullock), a woman in the last stages of pregnancy, finds refuge in a house of other survivors. What follows is a harrowing battle to stay alive without the luxury of vision on their side.

To attest to the film’s well-rounded elements of horror, suspense is produced without ever seeing the creature itself. The movie doesn’t rely on any overdone CGI monsters to strike a spark of fear, rather it’s what the audience doesn’t see that is truly terrifying. The agonizing tension draws on for ages. Plus, the danger is accompanied by a deeper development of Malorie and other characters, an element often brushed under the rug in the horror genre in favor of senseless gore. However, audiences may be frustrated by the film’s lack of explanation of the creatures’ origins or motivation.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, this film takes a little girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and transports her into a fantasy world of both wonder and darkness. As she embarks on a quest to claim immortality, she encounters creatures such as the Pale Man (Doug Jones), with the renowned eyes-on-his-hands and grotesque wrinkled skin.

The critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes granted the movie a 95% rating as an “‘Alice in Wonderland’ for grown-ups.” Viewers praise the film’s visual aesthetic and exemplary use of CGI for its creatures, as twisted as they may be. While not described as inherently terrifying, it’s an artistic style of horror that focuses on the development of the fable’s plot.

“The Evil Dead” (1981)

In this movie, five friends hike to a cabin in the woods for a fun getaway. I’m sure you can already guess how relaxing it will be for the group. They discover an old book, read the text aloud and inadvertently reawaken the dead and open their lives up to an evil force. Part zombie flick and part demonic possession, the 1980s classic is the first in a trilogy of films and subsequent television spinoff.

“The Evil Dead” blends stomach-churning gore with black comedy, punctuating the horrifying atmosphere with moments of laughter yet not detracting from the fear factor of the monsters. It set itself apart with a plethora of graphic violence, yet each killing does not ease the tension or dread. It sparked a cult-like following, and its cinematic influence can still be observed in many movies today.

“Splice” (2009)

Two geneticists (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) are proficient in splicing the DNA of different animals to create living hybrids, and they are soon drawn to the idea of throwing human DNA into the mix. Against the wishes of their superiors, the pair creates the human-animal hybrid Dren, and they soon form a bond with the creature. What they don’t anticipate is Dren’s potential to become their worst nightmare.

Beyond the disturbing nature of the unnatural creation, the storyline tackles scientific ethics, technological advancement and the emotional connection between humans. It’s engaging and thought-provoking yet twisted and dark nonetheless. The horror of the film lies not in unnecessary gore but rather the enthralling relationship of the characters and convoluted nature of parenthood involving the geneticists’ living experiment.

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