I don’t watch a lot of horror. It’s really nothing against the genre, it’s just that it is entirely impossible to watch horror movies and nothing else. There’s not enough time in the day. So I really only see horror movies if they cross over into the mainstream, like Cabin in the Woods, or if something about the movie distinguishes it, such as marking a new directorial talent (like Dead Snow, which appears on this list).
But it’s October, and with Halloween approaching there are horror movie marathons, DVD deals, and On Demand offers out the wazoo. So I asked my brother Steve—who is a horror aficionado—to come up with ten horror movies from the last decade that are worth watching, but that might have slid under the radar for general audiences (so no Let the Right One In or Cabin in the Woods or Paranormal Activity, because they made the mainstream. Also no Last Exorcism because that movie is ri-goddamn-diculous).
So here it is, from my resident horror expert, Steve, the ten little-seen horror flicks worth your time this Halloween.
Post-Apocalyptic Cabin Fever
As their city is being leveled by bombs from an unknown enemy, the tenants of an apartment building descend to their basement for shelter. They represent a set of different (and conflicting) personality types that, through a slow progression to insanity, turn this basement into a nightmare on par with the destruction outside. There is plenty of blood and intensity to keep the audience entertained and the acting (especially that of Michael Biehn of The Terminator and horror classic The Abyss) is stellar for this genre. This is a good film for people who don’t necessarily like horror, but are intrigued by human drama. It’s like The Real World with casualties.
Supernatural Creepy Kid
The town of Wake Wood holds a secret: They can bring their dead back to life for three days to allow loved ones to properly say goodbye. The catch: The deceased cannot have been dead for longer than one year. Patrick and Louise’s daughter Alice has been dead for just over thirteen months, but they stretch the truth for a chance to see their baby again. In doing so, they find out the dangers of breaking the rules. This Irish indie flick has beautiful settings, characters you care about, disturbing kill scenes, strange rituals, and (most importantly) a creepy possessed kid that is actually scary WITHOUT a bunch of CGI.
(Sarah: See? IRISH FILM IS AWESOME.)
70’s Satanic Throwback
This film mixes the popular 1970’s/1980’s themes of ‘the scared babysitter’ and satanic cults to produce a slow, effective scare (reminiscent of an older film, Rosemary’s Baby). Sam, a college sophomore, answers a campus flyer for a babysitting gig. But, when she gets to the house, there is no baby. Instead, she’s asked to watch an old woman that she’ll never see because she (the woman) never leaves her room. Sam stays anyway because the money is ‘too good to be true.’ It turns out she is more right than she could have imagined. If you dig the nostalgia of films that are made to look older than they actually are (and don’t mind satanic blood rituals), see this flick.
Current Trends Killer
Bitter Feast capitalizes on America’s current obsession with cooking shows and blogging to display the chaotic relationship between ‘producers’ and ‘destroyers’. Peter Grey is a TV chef that focuses on organic, sustainable, locally grown ingredients. JT Franks is a food critic that is popular for delivering overly harsh reviews on his blog. As a result of one of Franks’ reviews, Grey loses his job. So, he kidnaps Franks and forces him to cook dishes that he has criticized. If Franks can cook the dish perfectly, he gets to eat it. If not, there are consequences. Both the self-righteous and the self-loathing get their just desserts in this well-acted revenge thriller.
This French film really lives up to its name. Two college girls, Marie and Alex, are headed to Alex’s family home in the country to study. The night they arrive, a mysterious stranger (that looks like a disgruntled mechanic) shows up and starts picking off family members. Marie hides, but the man kidnaps Alex and drives away. After a failed rescue attempt, there is a final showdown between Marie and the stranger and we learn the killer’s real intentions. The kill scenes (especially the dad’s) are epic and there is a constant sense of ‘what the hell is going on?!!’ If you want tense tummy muscles and shortness of breath, High Tension is for you.
In the tradition of American Psycho, The Perfect Host offers a killer (Warwick) that hides a deep level of insanity under a polished veneer. When John, a bank robber, is looking for a place to hide from the cops, he mistakenly ends up at Warwick’s house. In doing so, John becomes a ‘guest’ at a nightmarish dinner party where the line between reality and insanity is constantly blurred. There’s a nice cop/thriller/double-cross plot, but the real treat is David Hyde Pierce (Niles from Frasier) as the delightfully insane host (especially during the dance scene.) This is a great horror movie for people who don’t typically like horror movies.
(Sarah: I watched this on Steve’s recommendation and LOVED it.)
Buy One, Get 4 Free
This horror anthology should be required viewing. There are few movies that evoke the joy of Halloween like this one does. There are five stories that all tie together beautifully and all take place on Halloween night in Warren Valley, Ohio. Kid ghosts, werewolves, poisoned candy, and decapitation are just a few of the treats handed out on this All Hallows’ Eve. The chaos is orchestrated by Sam (Samhain, get it?), a mischievous, pumpkin-headed Halloween goblin that punishes those who don’t celebrate the holiday. The moral: Traditions exist for a reason. If you don’t follow them, there will be consequences. Bloody, bloody consequences.
Swedish Nazi Zombies
This is my 2nd favorite non-Romero Zombie movie behind Shaun of the Dead. A group of Swedish kids heads out to a cabin for a weekend of sex, drugs, booze, and playing in the snow. A harbinger shows up and warns them that during WWII, Nazis wreaked havoc in the area before villagers drove them into the mountains. When the kids find a box of gold and silver that was apparently hidden from the Nazis, Col. Herzog and his undead soldiers return and pick off the kids in especially gruesome ways. Dead Snow has movie references, humor, likeable characters, and lots of gore. Remember: Subtitles are always better than English dub.
(Sarah: Dead Snow made a huge splash for director Tommy Wirkola, who netted the Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters gig from this one film. The reason I keep hoping H&G can overcome its own inherent shittiness is because of the promise Wirkola shows with Dead Snow. If anyone can find their way through to the most workable cut of H&G, it’s Wirkola.)
80’s Slasher Throwback
A ‘haunted riverboat tour’ in the Louisiana swamp becomes all too real when the boat sinks and the passengers are stranded in the woods with the infamous Victor Crowley. Crowley is basically Jason Voorhees without the mask and wielding a hatchet instead of a machete. Only one passenger survives the encounter and she convinces the owner of the boat tour to put together a group to hunt Crowley. Naturally, this ends badly. These films have the goriest, most creative kills I’ve ever seen. Plus, they pay respect to the classics with appearances by Robert Englund (aka Freddy Krueger), Tony Todd, Danielle Harris, and Kane Hodder. If you’ve worn out your VHS copy of Friday the 13th, the Hatchet franchise is for you. (Sarah: Um…VHS?)
Bonus Pick Note: These movies are meant to be watched back to back, as Hatchet II picks up exactly where Hatchet I finishes. It’s like one long movie!
Self-Aware Hillbilly Horror Comedy
This is THE horror movie for people who don’t like horror movies. A group of teens go camping and run into Tucker and Dale, the nicest hillbillies one could hope to meet. Because of their biased upbringing, exposure to horror movies, and their unstable leader Chad, they think Tucker and Dale are killers. In trying to avoid these killer hillbillies and ‘rescue’ their friend Allison, the ‘college kids’ end up offing themselves in hilariously horrific ways. If you care, there’s a sweet message about classism and premature bias at its heart, but really, this movie is all about fun. Loveable characters, outrageous kills, and tons of humor make this genre satire perfect for damn near any occasion.