It’s Halloween season folks. In the middle of our current pandemic, one of the only things we could do to celebrate is watch horror flicks on Netflix. When you think of horror, mostly gore, ghosts, or monsters come to mind. I personally always find non-fiction pieces on psychotic serial killers or corrupt institutions to be far more frightening. Regular people, some of whom you would never suspect, are capable of stretching the bounds of humanity and committing heinous acts. You might have passed some of these people without even realizing it. Here is a list of five terrifying non-horror films to stream this month.
1) American Murder: The Family Next Door
The first time I watched this, I couldn’t sleep. Jenny Popplewell’s documentary traces an insensible act, and seeing behind the scenes footage of texts, images, and videos was harrowing. You could witness the killer sabotaging his marriage. You could see the guilt in his gestures, which were captured by police body cameras. The way the monster tried to tear down his wife and the way the internet responded by desecrating her Facebook page is another testament to gender inequality. Above all, the film captures how crimes have changed in the age of social media. Every location or form of communication is traceable. The killer’s attempts to cover up his steps and assume an air of innocence immediately backfired. You can stream this documentary on Netflix.
Breaking news—Seaworld is evil. Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s work covers the story of Tilikum, an orca involved in the deaths of three people. The film explores the whale’s aggressive behavior in conjunction with the abuse he faced while in captivity. Footage of baby orca whales being separated from their mothers and abused during transportation from one attraction to another is heartbreaking to watch. When this documentary was first released, it prompted many government officials to take action against exhibiting orca whales in captivity. The water park also lost millions. You can stream the film on all platforms, including Kanopy, which may be free for students depending on their campus. Contact your school’s film department for more information.
3) Food, Inc.
Surprise—the food industry is controlled by bigots. The monopolization of the food industry, on various levels, is frightening to discover. Filmmaker Robert Kenner shows us misleading marketing (such as products that claim to be organic or cage free, but are manufactured via major loopholes), the shocking extent of animal abuse in corporations, and America’s odd obsession with corn. The mass consumption of certain meats sheds light on economic inequalities and ethical issues. Even though the film is a few years old, its focus on ethics is as relevant today (during a green, organic food movement) as it was back then. This film is also available on all platforms, including Kanopy.
4) Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes
Ted Bundy describing his crimes in chilling detail is a reminder of how easily charm disguises true evil. Following mass media coverage of Bundy as a likable man with wasted potential and many loyal female followers, Bundy’s actual confessions are sickening and almost unreal. When Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, starring Zac Efron, initially released, the audience was surprised by its rockstar depiction of the killer. This documentary certainly offsets that tone. You can find both films on Netflix. The documentary is exclusively on Netflix, although many of Bundy’s interviews are available on YouTube.
5) Watermelon: A Cautionary Tale
I first came upon this nearly three minute animated short on Twitter. Thousands of comments were all expressing various degrees of horror. The short is seemingly innocent—a kid eats a watermelon and goes to school. However, things quickly go horribly wrong. The bright colors and happy music contrast with some extremely disturbing imagery (vines coming out of noses, among other things). What’s remarkable is how unsettling such a work could be in such a short time span. I promise this will give you nightmares you never thought were possible. You can find the full-length short here on Youtube.