Tis the season to be scary, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. Here are horror films you might have missed that deserve to be ranked among the best.
Possibly the least well known film on this list, May is one of the creepiest slow burns American cinema has produced. This is all credit to the leading actress Angela Bettis who plays a young shy misfit who begins to develop a crush on a man who takes a shine to her awkwardness. Without giving too much away, as does the trailer, May’s personality begins to take an obsessive turn and leads into one hell of a buildup that is bound to leave you with a weird taste in your mouth. If you don’t mind the slow burn nature of the plot and the semi low budget production values, May is definitely a film for you. Check it out.
It’s Dead Space meets Resident Evil meets The Descent – and it has Dennis Quaid. Pandorum is a sci-fi horror film that plays out like a lucid dream with elements borrowed from films such as Memento and The Matrix. I know. How much else can it take. But thankfully Pandorum takes the best of all those films and combines it into something that still maintains its originality. This is one of those films that truly makes you not want to gaze into the dark because what lies in the distance soon comes at you with visceral pace and fear. Ben Foster delivers a hell of a performance as well and again reminds us of the underrated abilities he possesses as an actor.
It won’t matter if it’s the original French or remade American version, Funny Games delivers on Michael Haneke’s perfection of horror cinema that not only is completely terrifying but also incredibly smart. Both are directed by Haneke and deliver an experience that will be frustratingly difficult to watch without giving too much away. But this is the point. Set in a house by the lake, a family soon begins to be terrorized by two brothers who have a twisted game set up for its poor occupants. Shot expertly and written purposefully, Funny Games aims to horrify and comment on society at the same time. A masterpiece from a masterful director.
Easily the scariest film in this list, Martyrs follows the plight for revenge on those who kidnapped her and other young women but on her search, finds an even more horrifying truth. Criticized as grotesque torture porn, Martyrs is often overlooked as a B-grade horror film without any joy but this is what makes it deliver so crucially on the horror aspect. It’s a dark, bleak and terrifying film. This is horror in its purest form minus the Hollywood glam that has been drizzled upon in recent years. It also has one of the best endings of any horror film, akin to that of The Descent’s famous cliffhanger. For fans desiring to expand their horror catalogue, Martyrs is the film for you.
Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead/Dead Alive (Braindead)
For the best scenes of explosive diarrhea and a lawnmower chopping faces off the undead, look no further than this double bill of Poultrygeist and Dead Alive. I’ve combined both these films into one as they follow the same trend of being some of the best over-the-top splatter films. The latter film being written and directed by New Zealand’s most famous export, Peter Jackson. Yes, before he was winning academy awards for epic films about Hobbits, he was busy killing the undead with basic kitchenware. Whereas Dead Alive follows the rise of the human undead, Poultrygeist bests it by introducing the rise of the chicken undead. I know. Can it get any better?! These films won’t be for everyone but if you love intentionally bad dialogue and laughing your head off to the most ridiculous scenes of prop gore, then this double bill should be right up your alley.
Finally. Japan. Enough of American cinema. Horror and the Japanese reach new heights when it comes to delivering tension and creepiness in ways you haven’t imagined, and Audition is yet another slow burning masterpiece that waits till the very end to bring in the ultimate pay off for what you wait for. Don’t get me wrong, the film is still interesting enough to watch throughout as we follow the life of a lonely widower who begins to seek love once more in that of a withdrawn but gorgeous woman. Slowly we realize there’s more to this lady than meets the eye and even if all the time you’re screaming out “there’s something wrong with her!”, nothing can prepare you for the final act.
Special mentions: What We Do in the Shadows, Last Shift, It Follows, It Comes at Night, The Host.
Images courtesy of Universal Pictures Video, Icon Film Distribution, Madman Entertainment, Kojo Pictures, Jigsaw Entertainment, Siren Visual Entertainment