For those of you that aren’t religiously worshipping at the altar of The Killer POV podcast, (brought to you by Geeknation, Elric Kane, Rebekah McKendry, and our own Rob G.) you’re missing out on some extremely poignant and important discussions in the name of horror. Last week the Killer POV gang and their guests Axelle Carolyn (SOULMATE) and Heidi Honeycutt (Etheria Film Festival) discussed the way film selections, distributions, and video on demand services have changed over the years. Coming from someone born in 1990, my introduction into genre films was during the tail end of Ma & Pop Video Stores and VHS box art. If I’m not being told directly “Hey, _______ is awesome, go see it.” There’s a good chance it will slip under my radar. As a younger horror fan, I’m not alone. Thanks to things like Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, Netflix, Vudu, Roku, and other strangely named streaming services, we now have thousands of films available at our immediate disposal and figuring out what to watch has become increasingly difficult. The economy is still a steaming pile of cow dung; a majority of millennials are being crushed by five figures of student loan debt, and the $5.99 we could use to watch BLUE RUIN could potentially be better used to put a gallon of gas in our car. Fellow embryonic horror fans, I’m here to help.
STEP ONE: DON’T JUDGE A FILM BY ITS COVER ART
Back in the day (I’m talking about the decades before we were born) VHS box covers were staples of incredible artwork. Although the artwork was often misleading, the covers were meant to titillate and grab your eyes immediately. While the pages and pages of film covers on Netflix are trying to do the same thing, there’s now a THEY LIVE-esque level of manipulation attached to it. The box cover art of yesteryear (like CURTAINS) tried really, really hard to have incredible artwork. The box cover art of today is following a psychological formula to manipulate you into watching it. Ever wonder why so many horror film posters look exactly the same? That’s not a mistake. They’re doing it on purpose because studies show that you’re going to click on the image of the “girl being dragged away by the unseen force” regardless of how misleading the image may be to the film. I was one of the many people that ignored the film RESOLUTION because I hated the cover. Thankfully, Jerry Smith convinced me otherwise and I gave the film a shot and it became one of my favorites of the year. This manipulation unfortunately goes both ways. The cover for MR. HUSH may look exactly like TRICK R TREAT, but I can promise you…it’s not a brilliantly nostalgic anthology. Viewer beware.
STEP TWO: READ THE SYNOPSIS
I understand that it’s really difficult to spend the four seconds it will take to read a paragraph about a film, but what’s four seconds of reading in comparison to wasting two hours on some shit film? When you put your cursor over the poster to check the star rating, make sure to read the synopsis. I recommended CONTRACTED to one of my gal pals and she was completely traumatized upon realizing the film had to do with a sexually transmitted disease. I wasn’t able to give her a reason why she should watch it (she just asked for titles) but I know she watched the film on Netflix. The Netflix synopsis for the film: “After a one-night-stand, a young woman becomes alarmingly ill — but what she thinks is a sexually transmitted disease turns out to be far worse.” IT’S LITERALLY ONE SENTENCE. Had she taken the time to read one sentence, she could have prevented the mental scarring she endured in the name of a movie suggestion. Seriously, take the time and read the synopsis. It’ll help you in the long run.
STEP THREE: LEARN ABOUT DISTRIBUTION COMPANIES
If Raven Banner, SpectreVision, XYZ Films, or Drafthouse Films is releasing a flick, there’s a good chance I’m going to enjoy myself. I’ve found that these four independent companies consistently put out films that I really dig. Are there films they crank out that I dislike? Of course. However, a large majority of their films are ones that I love. A company like The Asylum, on the other hand, has left me extremely disappointed. Does this mean I’m going to avoid every film they produce? No. It does mean, however, that I’m going to be a lot more leery of paying money to see one of their films and instead wait for them to hit Netflix. Example: XYZ Films’ THE RAID 2 I paid to see. SHARKNADO I waited to see on SyFy for free. Figure out who you like and it becomes a lot easier to shell out your hard earned dough.
STEP FOUR: “BEST GUESS RATINGS” ARE NOT PERFECT
One of my favorite Netflix tools is the “Best Guess Ratings” suggestion they give with stars. For the most part, Netflix is pretty on-point with the things it suggests I’ll like. However, Netflix doesn’t really understand a “so-bad-it’s-good” mentality or liking thing ironically, which as a millennial, I’m sure you do. I have given high ratings to a lot of really gross films and because of that, Netflix suggested that I’d give THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 4 out of 5 stars. Joke’s on you, Netflix. I gave it 1 star. Netflix thought I was going to give THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL 2 stars. Nope, I gave it 5. Another way to help perfect your suggestions is to rate films even if you’ve seen them outside of Netflix. A lot of films I’ve watched as screeners will hit Instant platforms after the fact, but if I still rate them on Netflix, it’ll help me dig out unknown flicks that would otherwise go unnoticed.
STEP FIVE: TWITTER IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
Since I live in the Midwest where culture goes to die, a lot of movies my Los Angelos friends get to see in the theatre, I don’t have access to see outside of VOD. Luckily, I can easily go on twitter and say something like “Hey, should I go see #Snowpiercer?” and am usually guaranteed to have at least a half-dozen responses. Movie lovers love to spread the word about movies they love, and there are people more than willing to promote good stuff. If you’re curious, just ask! Someone out there will help you out.
STEP SIX: TAKE A RISK AND JUST WATCH IT
At the end of the day, it’s your time and it’s your money. A lot of the horror gems we all know and love only got to where they are because back in the day, people took the risk and watched the film. Before the world of VOD and blogging, movie lovers just had to follow their gut instincts and hope the film they picked was worthy of their time. Sometimes, movies sucked but sometimes, movies were life-changing. It’s okay to venture out of your comfort zone and find a movie that YOU like that maybe not everyone else will like. Thanks to VOD, I’ve discovered that I like quirky romantic comedies like TIMER, I love British sitcoms, and I’m a sucker for shows with cheesy dramatizations of true crime. A handful of films I’ve found that way were STALLED, STITCHES, EXAM, and the ridiculous BAD REPUTATION. Sometimes you really need to say “screw the Netflix tools” and just watch something because you want to watch something.