‘Those Who Walk Away’
Rent or buy on most major platforms.
Max (Booboo Stewart) and Avery (Scarlett Sperduto) spend their flirty date strolling the quiet streets of a small town. A bomb threat has shut down the movie theater where they were planning to catch “The Evil Dead,” so instead Avery takes Max to the middle of nowhere to explore an old house she says is haunted. There, the two wander upstairs into a furnished bedroom, where Avery surprises Max with a story about Rotcreep, a fiendish entity who she warns is hungry. Like, right now hungry. Talk about leading a guy on.
That’s the setup to this indie psychodrama from Robert Rippberger, who directed it as if it were shot in one take — kind of like “Silent House” meets “Before Sunrise,” but scrappier. Rippberger dots the slow-burn first half of his film with small menacing passages, like a phone call that theatrically collapses time and space. It takes about 40 minutes for supernatural terrors to really kick in, as Max and Avery pass through the doorway and into a fever dream cat-and-mouse game with the grinning creep himself.
Be patient with the film’s leisurely rhythms because the payoff is demented and worth the wait. But I could have done without the score, which is too busy indicating what the naturalistic actors handle effortlessly on their own.
Spirits and spirit hunters stalk the living in this nerve-plucking ghost story from Malaysia.
Mak (Farah Ahmad) lives in a hut in the jungle with her teenage daughter (Mhia Farhana) and younger son (Harith Haziq). One day, a haunted-looking little girl covered in dark muck (Putri Qaseh) arrives on their doorstep. Mak decides to take her in, but the little girl doesn’t stay long: In the morning, she tells the family, “When the moon is full, all of you will die,” then slits her throat.
That gruesome exchange is the first of many shocking and grim encounters the family has with animals, corpses and strangers, who offer ominous prophecies about greedy ghouls on the prowl.
It’s easy to see why Emir Ezwan’s macabre debut feature was Malaysia’s submission for the best international feature Oscar in 2020. The scares are smartly paced, and the cinematographer Saifuddin Musa makes poetry out of fire, light and gore.
‘A House on the Bayou’
Stream it on Hulu.
Jessica (Angela Sarafyan) and her husband, John (Paul Schneider), take their teenage daughter, Anna (Lia McHugh), on a vacation to a remote mansion on the Louisiana bayou, even though Jessica recently learned that John has been unfaithful. As they settle in, their eccentric, overly friendly neighbors — the 18-year-old Isaac (Jacob Lofland) and his “Grandpappy” (Doug Van Liew) — invite themselves over for dinner.
But why does Isaac have an audio recording of John and his mistress? Why does Anna’s nose keep bleeding? Why do Isaac and Grandpappy know so much about the beautiful house and its history, and why won’t they leave when they’re asked to?
These are just some of the puzzles that riddle this unfocused but surprisingly entertaining, very twisty film, written and directed by Alex McAulay. Narratively, the movie is a full house: It’s a home-invasion thriller, noirish murder mystery, revenge drama, religious parable and supernatural cautionary tale. It’s also 88 minutes of soapy fun in the spirit of “The Strangers” — the right pick for a pizza-party night at home with friends.
Stream it on HBO Max.
Scott Cooper’s intense creature feature was released last fall as part of a global wave of new folk horror films. This American effort stars Keri Russell as Julia, a teacher in a small Oregon town who senses there’s something very wrong with one of her students, a withdrawn 12-year-old named Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas).
She’s right: Lucas has his little hands full battling a wendigo — an entity with roots in Native American folklore — that threatens to obliterate his family, and he carries his suffering into the classroom. As a series of grisly murders bedevil the town, Julia’s own traumatic past becomes catnip to the demonic forces that have Lucas in their hold.
The beast with the titular appendage is a loud, toothy thing with a hunger for human flesh (and a tragic back story). But the real monster of this story has a human face and suffers through poverty, addiction and abuse — issues the film tackles with compassion. Much of the credit goes to Thomas, who movingly portrays a child shouldering the burden of keeping his family at peace.
‘Rose: A Love Story’
Rent or buy on most major platforms.
Sam (Matt Stokoe) and his wife, Rose (Sophie Rundle), live in a cabin in the woods, the safest place to keep an eye on Rose and her thirst for blood. If Sam doesn’t secure Rose’s daily dose of the red stuff, his normally sweet-natured wife turns into a vampiric monster.
One night, Sam hears screams from outside and finds a young woman named Amber (Olive Gray) who caught her leg in a trap on their property. He brings the aggressively ungrateful Amber back home to treat her wound, and she and Rose, who is starved for a friend, quickly build a rapport. But it’s blood, not affection, that keeps Rose alive.
Jennifer Sheridan’s debut feature calls to mind “My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To” and “Blood Moon,” recent movies that tenderly explore the emotional burdens of caregiving for an afflicted loved one. Stokoe, who wrote the film, and Rundle give terrific performances, and no wonder: They’re in real life, and their tender partners is effortless.
This is not a traditional vampire film — it’s fairly light on violence and is less a horror story than a domestic drama with a sprinkling of scares and dread. This one’s for those who like their horror on the mild side.