Draped across the couch, blanketed in holiday free time, and armed with both the desire to watch something and the equipment to do it, you fire up Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Crackle, Roku, or any number of other streaming services. After their stylishly branded logo blazes across the screen, with it's accompanying sound effect scientifically designed to add to future recognition, a variable mountain of content becomes available for the selecting. Horror sounds a promising start. Sorting to it, a large number of subcategories sprout forth like Tribbles from this streaming video grain bin. Is this a "gory body horror" sort of occasion? Perhaps it's the perfect time for something from the "supernatural horror with children" hopper? Oh but look; here's "trashy 80's horror". On and on this infinity knot of indecision twists. Before you know where the time's gone, there isn't even enough to watch a film anymore.
I've had innumerable evenings evaporate out from under me because of this affliction. I've penned it Netflixitis, the death by indecision, mostly because I became a subscriber right as streaming hit my Xbox 360 Dashboard. Much like any character from Tolkien's works though, that could just be one of a dozen names given to it (I hear the elves call it Prisimcision, having been around longer than the younger race of men). Whatever nomenclature you prefer, and whichever device you feed through, the point is that this wealth of choice brings with it paralyzing doubt. The commitment to invest ninety minutes in an unknown entertainment entity is huge in our jam packed, modern lives. What if this low budget stinker isn't so bad that it's good, as the cover purports? What if it's just bad? Then I'll have just wasted that time I could have been watching this, that, or the other. There's a magnificent convenience which comes along with all of these services, affording the modern movie watcher an easy do over button. If a movie isn't striking your fancy by the twenty minute mark, back out and watch another. This wasn't a luxury afford a generation ago. This all comes at a price, however. Let's flashback and gaze and what used to happen, so I can give proper context to my point.
In the 60's, the 70's, and the early 80's, strange and weird film fare consumed in the home was confined to late night programming. Horror Hosts would sling the majestic mud of monsterdom at us, with little recourse if they lacked luster. With six channels (seven if you counted PBS) in my house, I either watched what they were serving up, changed the channel, or went to bed. This put me at the mercy of both the channel's library and the programmer. I'd wager that this lack of choice sounds terrible to many of you, but I assert that it also comes with quantifiable benefits. For instance: removing choice in the matter exposes us to titles we would have wholly skipped. Undeniably, every film goer has built-in preconceived notions and prejudices. These are tempered by what we've already seen and our expectations to what we should see. Before streaming selections offered more titles than most will watch in their lifetime, we consumed what was available to us. In doing so we found out that we might actually like broccoli (especially covered in cheese). Imagine that.
As technology progressed through the 80's and early 90's, VHS made a vast array of titles available for rental, and an early version of Netflixitis was born. Adolescents of the time would spend hours among the wire racks of their local TLA Video or Blockbuster. Agonizing over the paper rectangles depicting the excitement to be had between Chained Heat or Forever Evil. Which would we get in less trouble for? Which would be more taboo? No matter the end decision, the travel time was an investment. Even if the movie was atrocious, we watched it through to fruition. It wasn't possible to simply take the tape out, wave a magician's wand at it, and have something entirely new. Through each Troll-like suffering, we discovered an Evil Dead. We had to get through the lima beans to find the garlic mashed potatoes.
I will never sit here and advocate that we set technology back a decade; I'm in love with the convenience and practicality of instant streaming, no matter the purveyor. Sometimes though, it's wonderful to hand the reigns over to another programmer's whims. If that never happens, then how can our base of cinematic experience ever expand beyond its current confines? As a film curator myself, even with the power to make nearly any showing happen, I still throw myself on the tender mercy of other programmers (like the ridiculously awesome shows perpetrated by Exhumed Films. One thing that I find truly baffling is in the horror crowd's insistence in only turning out for genre films on the big screen that they've already seen a million times. Ten times as many folks will show to a screening of Evil Dead 2, then will attend a far less seen gem, like Boardinghouse. Has our sense of cinematic daring been traded in for the instant gratification of films on our phones? Is there a way to enjoy the best of both worlds? I'd like to think so.
For my part, I'd like to be your streaming programmer. Hand me the reigns. Look for Saturday Shock-O-Rama Streaming Suggestions to take on a more prominent role going forward. All I'm asking you to do is trust in my taste. Will we disagree? Absolutely. Perhaps more than Shatner and Nemoy. Will you be exposed to something new and possibly fascinating? Oh yeah. Let me know, in the comments, which streaming services you'd like suggestions from. Together we'll spend less time idly scrolling bad box art, and more time indulging in cinematic excess.
Saturday Shock-O-Rama Streaming Suggestions
Want to watch something schlocky right now? Try on a few of these suggestions, available right now from the listed service (most of which are FREE!).
Netflix - IP Man - Kung-Fu/Historical (2008)
YouTube - The Blob - Horror (1988)
Archive.org - The Chase - Noir (1946)
And if you simply can't get enough horror happenings here on Mania, might I humbly suggest checking out Tuesday Terrors? It's got all the shocking news to keep you current (and possibly help you survive until the credits roll).