Much like it sounds, Southern Gothic takes Gothic horror’s distinct and atmospheric style and places it in the American South. Many of the defining characteristics remain in place; the dilapidated estates, dark family secrets, fraught or doomed romances, unraveling sanity, mysteries, and skeletons in the closet all remain prominent traits of Southern Gothic horror. It just trades the sprawling seaside mansions for plantations, bayous, swamps, and sweltering humidity under the summer sun.
This week’s streaming picks feature family curses, murder, depraved romances, supernatural horror, and even mutant babies.
Here’s where you can watch them this week…
Eve’s Bayou – AMC+, Shudder, Tubi
Kasi Lemmons’ feature directorial debut uses Southern mysticism and curses to expose insidious family secrets slowly. It follows young Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett). The ten-year-old discovers her father’s serial infidelity, prompting her to dabble with Hoodoo and driving conflict between her and her family. Memories can be a fickle, unreliable thing, leading to catastrophe for the Batiste family and heartbreaking truths. Eve’s Bayou is expertly crafted and stacked with powerful performances, but perhaps none as impressive as young Smollett.
Stoker – HBO Max
This psychological thriller, written by Wentworth Miller, marks the English-language debut by director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Snowpiercer). It follows India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska), a teen whose life is upended by the abrupt death of her father. At his funeral, she meets an uncle she never knew she had and comes to suspect ulterior motives for his arrival while struggling with her attraction to him. More importantly, India discovers her killer instinct, something that her uncle seems to encourage. Park Chan-wook infuses Hitchcockian suspense into a Southern Gothic fairytale, and the result is a beguiling and twisted feature.
Frailty – Plex, Prime Video, Roku, Tubi, Vudu
Bill Paxton’s Texas-set feature directorial debut is an underrated entry in psychological horror that showcases how dysfunction tends to be cyclical. He also stars as the Meiks family patriarch, a man wholly convinced that he’s been tasked with a divine mission from God to destroy humans masquerading as demons on Earth. He also thinks that it’s a family business and brings his two young sons into the bloody fold. Adam (Jeremy Sumpter) believes his father, while Fenton (Matt O’Leary) thinks dad has cracked. While the truth is eventually revealed, teaching your sons the trade of ax murdering isn’t healthy for anyone’s psyche.
From a Whisper to a Scream – Prime Video
Also known as The Offspring, this horror anthology stars Vincent Price in the framing story that sees a historian tell a reporter four tales of terror related to the small Tennessee town. The segments get pretty grim and twisted, featuring necrophilia, voodoo, cannibalistic children, incest, and more. As with all anthologies, mileage will vary by segment, but the structure puts them in the appropriate order of increasingly grotesque and gory. It also marks one of Vincent Price’s final appearances in a horror movie.
The Night of the Hunter – Prime Video, Tubi
Based on the 1953 novel of the same name by Davis Grubb, The Night of the Hunter tells of Reverend Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), a self-appointed preacher and serial killer who marries gullible women and murders them for their money. When arrested for driving a stolen car, he learns that his cellmate stowed away a lot of money from a bank robbery, though he dies before divulging the loot’s location. When Powell leaves prison, he sets about wooing his cellmate’s widow and menacing the man’s children, who swore they’d never tell where dad hid the money. It was Charles Laughton’s only directorial effort, thanks to it flopping upon release. What a shame because it’s one of the most stunning and influential Southern Gothic features in cinematic history.