Netflix Instant Watch: Opening the Vaults of the Forgotten and Obscure
One word for you: TINTORERA.
Back in the day, Icons of Fright ran a section called The Vault of the Forgotten and Obscure. Feature writer Jsyn would discuss some of his favorite lesser known titles, many of which readers had likely never seen, and perhaps never heard of. As well as introducing readers to these titles, the Vault made for a nice, nostalgic look at our beloved horror genre. Horror fans can now thank Netflix for opening up the vaults.
A few years back, Netflix introduced its Instant Watch feature. As it worked originally, it provided members the chance to watch a limited amount of hours of media from their catalogue straight on the users’ computers. The selection was small, and many of the films were niche titles, such as the excellent documentary KING OF KONG. It was a neat feature, but I used it sparingly, because I don’t prefer to watch movies on my computer, and most of the available titles did little for me.
Since its infancy, Instant Watch has improved significantly. Almost immediately, Netflix wisely dropped the hours limit. They also broadened the means of transmission: originally, the site sold a conversion box, so members could watch the films on their TVs; the feature then became a feature on the XBox 360 through the Dashboard; the Wii, by way of a free disc; and more recently through Blu-Ray players, HD TV sets, and even 3G phones (a buddy of mine at work told me yesterday he can watch movies in the parking lot, on the walk between the office and his car).
Just as importantly, Netflix majorly expanded its selections. Though they still included niche titles, they started to add hundreds of titles per month, over the whole gamut of genres. New titles sometimes arrive on a daily basis, as others expire. Studios and DVD companies sign deals frequently, offering gems from their back catalogue. What was once a quirky innovation on Netflix’ part has become an impressive undertaking.
Which brings me back to TINTORERA. It’s likely you’ve never heard of this Mexican masterpiece, a low budget JAWS rip off that involves the real killings of aquatic life and the lifeless performance of thespian Hugo Stiglitz in tight shorts. Admittedly, this movie is awful. But I’ve had a thing for Stiglitz since the first time I saw him sleepwalk through NIGHTMARE CITY, one of the worst zombie flicks ever made. When I looked up his films through Netflix years ago on a lark, I avoided wasting a slot on TINTORERA, because I was waiting on much better DVDs to arrive by mail. But, here’s the beauty of the Instant Watch. When I came across the flick last week on my XBox, I added it immediately, and watched it a few nights later. I got much better films mailed to me, and still enjoyed the privilege of watching Stiglitz seduce bikini-clad women who in real life would be way out of his league, tight shorts notwithstanding. Sure, horror fans can watch good flicks. But here’s the perfect opportunity to view all sorts of titles that may not be so good, at no real penalty.
And even if you don’t want to watch the unwatchably bad, there’s something for every horror fan. Blue Underground, known for providing obscure gems, recently signed on and added Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, Joseph Zito’s THE PROWLER, and George Romero’s underrated THE CRAZIES; it’s a nice way to catch up with the original if you’ve only seen Breck Eisner’s remake. Do you like Zito’s output? If so, Paramount’s got something for you, as they just added the first eight FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH films, including Zito’s THE FINAL CHAPTER. Are you more into drive-in classics with the likes of Vincent Price on screen and Ib Melchior in the director’s chair? MGM just provided eclectic titles from their Midnight Movies selection, including WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE BEAST WITHIN and THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD. And if you’re into evil puppets, demonic toys and Tim Thomerson, Full Moon is ready to please.
And it doesn’t end there. Just to name a few, you’ll find titles such as CRAWLSPACE, LEVIATHAN, EVENT HORIZON, NEW YEAR’S EVIL and one of my favorite slashers, THE BURNING. Even better, the Instant Watch includes some titles that aren’t even available on DVD. So if you’re still holding onto that worn out videotape of THE HORROR SHOW that you never returned to Blockbuster in 1990, you’re in like Flynn now.
I have only one complaint about this abundance of obscure goodness. Though Netflix provides the movies themselves, they don’t provide any of the extras, not even subtitles for English-language films. Many of these titles offered only a trailer anyway, but with THE CRAZIES, you lose out on a great commentary with George Romero and Blue Underground’s founder, William Lustig. Extras were one of the reasons I’ve loved DVDs for a decade now, and they gave the discs a definite advantage over VHS. So if you like an Instant Watch film a lot, you may end up putting it in your mail queue anyway. Maybe not such a terrible thing, but I hope that Netflix eventually takes the next logical step, and adds all a disc’s extras.
Jsyn hasn’t published an entry of the Vault of the Forgotten and Obscure in nearly two years, but that doesn’t mean that many of us, as horror fans, don’t have a love for those films of yore. Fortunately, Netflix is catering directly to us through its Instant Watch, giving us the chance to catch up with old favorites, and introduce ourselves to films we’ve never seen before. It’s forgotten and obscure at its absolute best.