black death

20 Horror Movies You Should See But Probably Haven’t

The headline says it all, yet to avoid being too presumptuous I will preface the whole list by saying there may be a few more mainstream choices present just as a means to give less discerning horror fans easier to swallow choices. I might have taken liberties with what is or isn’t considered full on horror, but either way they are at least related to the genre and are great movies I want to bring to people’s attention that they may not have been aware of before.

Everything else you need to know about the list is that I specifically tried to avoid going too far back in years- one reason being that based on a few conversations I had people tend to avoid some older movies because the age seems to make it harder to connect with (which I can appreciate), the second reason being aside from a few classics my retro horror knowledge isn’t all that extensive either. I also want to point out that I tried to put in a mixture of semi obscure choices as well as some that are a little more accessible and digestible for genre newbies as I know all too well that if you try to overextend what you’re willing to accept in a movie, especially horror, you are setting yourself up for a truly unpleasant experience. It is my sincere hope that I hit on a few that you haven’t seen and are interested in- though I also expect that my choices won’t be met with an overwhelming wave of approval. One of the fun things about horror are the vast majority of tastes and preferences within the genre so at the very least I hope this sparks some interesting conversation. Also feel free to share some of your favorite lesser known horror titles.

Cold Prey – In the horror genre there is usually a lot of bicker back and forth about rather or not something that doesn’t even try to break original ground is in fact a good or successful horror movie. More often than not I’m in the camp that loves or admires a movie for trying to do something different even if it fails, but then again I also enjoy the same old formula every now and again if its done well and that perfectly explains COLD PREY. There is nothing original about a group of 20 somethings in a secluded location being stalked by a killer, but the way it’s executed more than makes up for any ho-hum the premise evokes. The long awaited sequel hits DVD April 23, 2013 and is also well worth checking out if not even more so than the original. Both 1 and 2 are easy watches for people who don’t like over-the-top gore and want more suspense. I also really dig the backstory of the killer that’s fleshed out a bit more in the second film. Fair warning for anyone who finds reading annoying during a movie that its subtitled and as with most foreign films I strongly recommend staying FAR away from the English dubbing.

Midnight Son – When coming up with this list I only just realized I hadn’t even taken the time to write a review for this one. However, since this isn’t a list about reviews I haven’t written but probably should I’ll just give its due now. MIDNIGHT SON is the type of vampire movie that TWILIGHT haters will love (I hope)- it takes the vampire cannon and does its own thing with it, but not to the level of making their skin glitter in the sunlight. The main character’s performance is fantastic and it’s got equal amounts of deep dark vampire horror and awkward sexuality to go along with the engaging character work.

Triangle This is basically going to be the Christopher Smith all encompassing pick as I believe every last one of his films belongs on the list, but TRIANGLE happens to be my personal favorite, followed closely by BLACK DEATH. To my knowledge as of this exact moment I’m writing everything but TRIANGLE is currently on Netflix Instant (CREEP, SEVERANCE and BLACK DEATH) and you should definitely go out and rent TRIANGLE and hold a Christopher Smith marathon immediately. TRIANGLE absolutely broke my brain when I first watched it and it still gives me headaches to this day, but aside from the engrossing puzzle that it is Melissa George gives a fantastic performance. Also, for the more mainstream fans, THE HUNGER GAMES’ Liam Hemsworth is also in the film.

The Loved Ones As if I haven’t felated the hell out of this movie already I am going so far as to say if you watch no other movie on this list if you watch this I will be happy. Possibly one of the best horror movies of the past decade is this demented little Australian flick about a girl who REALLY wants a date to a dance, but if she has to settle then apparently a little depraved kidnapping and torture will suffice. Boosted by an extremely dark sense if humor and fantastic performances this is a movie no horror fan should miss.

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane – Jonathan Levine may not be a household name just yet, but he’s on his way. Which makes it all the more confusing why ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE can’t find its way to the states on every retail shelf in the country. Luckily if you do live in the states, you can get your hands on a Blu-Ray copy that’s region free from Amazon and plays on almost every Blu-Ray player (It would not load on my PS3). As far as teen slashers go, this little flick has a pretty wicked little ending that made me fall in love with what I was actually kind of lukewarm on until then. As of the start of SXSW 2013 it sounds like the Weinsteins are bringing this bad boy back to life for theatrical release in 2013. Keep an eye out and check it out if it comes to a theater near you.

Splinter – Creature features are a gamble. They run through risks of too much CGI, terrible practical effects, unimaginative creature designs and any number of other genre trappings. SPLINTER is kind of a wonder in the creature feature genre with its tension, creature effects and conceit while also being infinitely entertaining. The performances are great and the idea of the creature and the stuff the characters endure because of it are really something to watch.

Inside/Martyrs – For a while there French horror was pulling out all the stops and were shocking audiences with the brilliance of their film’s not just in the unflinching violence, but overall composition of the film in general. INSIDE came out from Dimension Extreme and I bought it based on a few recommendations and I.could not get it out of my head. In a similar fashion MARTYRS did the same thing a year later, but to an even more extreme degree. I don’t want to go into detail about either film, except to warn anyone that both films are incredibly brutal downers that you need to be prepared for before sitting down to watch them.

The Burrowers – At a time when Western set movies are kind of popular this is a film perfect to sneak in for late night viewing as not only does it take place in a Western setting, but it’s also a creature feature. Granted that if you are watching it late at night it’s not a fast paced action/horror that will jolt you awake, but it is an engaging and well acted little overlooked flick well worth a watch.

Pontypool – At this point in horror there isn’t a whole lot we haven’t seen in regards to the zombie subgenre. However PONTYPOOL offers an alternate perspective, even if it drops the ball once the explanations start becomming clear especially from one specific character’s acting. Overall though the buildup in PONTYPOOL is pretty great and there are some pretty unsettling moments in a mostly talky horror flick.

The Shrine Of all the films I’ve listed so far I’m going to come right out and say that this might be my weakest choice- at least in terms of my enjoyment. The first half of this movie is quite a chore to sit through, but if you stick with it there are some really cool horror elements to round it out. There’s an old school vibe to some of the climactic scenes and some really creepy settings, but it takes quite a commitment to get into the last half of the film if you haven’t already fallen asleep.

Deadgirl Way back when, in the days I was a foolhearty kid that didn’t try to watch everything that I possibly could I would have watched something like this and either scoffed at you for wasting my time or been turned off on movies altogether. This isn’t the type of film you show to people that consume brainless Hollywood blockbusters like Skittles, it’s not even a horror film you recommend to people looking for a way to get turned on to the genre. This is the type of horror movie you show to people with an extremely twisted sense of humor, are not easily offended (due to the subject matter and actions of the characters) and tend to have a very pronounced bit of morbid curiosity. As the movie watcher I am now, I have all of those traits and I find something like DEADGIRL kind of fascinating and fun- though I mean that in a way as I would study the psyche of the main characters and in some of the humor in the film. It is my sincere hope that if you’re reading this list you already are in a place where you check stuff out for morbid curiosity or are ready to bridge the gap from traditional horror to more off the beaten path horror.

The Corridor – The indie spirit is something that I feel makes the horror genre as strong as it is. With a limited budget and limited means filmmakers have to get creative with their films and that means finding subject material that breaks the norms to gather an audience or be so clever with their technical aspects that people are forced to pay attention. Those are the things I want to be more dominant in my horror films and while THE CORRIDOR is a bit shaky with some of the effects in the latter half of the film, it takes the indie spirit to some pretty awesome places. To say the film is strange would be an understatement, but the story and the way it unfolds is so engaging and mind boggling that it really deserves an audience to help spread the word about it.

Heartless – I love the premise to this movie and even though I’m including it on this list, I’m not in love with it. I do however, appreciate the film on some level and recognize that there will be people out there that will eat this movie up more than I did. I’m not saying I don’t like it on some level, I’m merely saying I didn’t think it was great on any specific level.

The Frighteners – This will likely be the oldest film on the list and for the sole reason that it was a film I remember seeing in theaters and loving the hell out of it at the time. I don’t even know where awareness of THE FRIGHTENERS currently stands, but given the popularity of Peter Jackson and his immensely popular LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and of course the recently released first installment of THE HOBBIT I felt people should have an awareness of where he came from that’s a bit more friendly for the audience of LORD OF THE RINGS and THE HOBBIT as opposed to throwing them straight into something like DEAD ALIVE- though by all means seek that out too if you’re ready for some really awesome gross out horror. THE FRIGHTENERS is a whole lot of fun and has kind of a slapstick humor about while also being very dark under the surface and is something I still watch on a regular basis.

Home Movie – I actually just checked this one out recently based on another list that highlighted some lesser known horror movies which then inspired me to kind do a list of my own and “pass it forward” so to speak. This really is a wicked little film with some deeply disturbing moments. For the vast majority of this film the tension builds and the dimeanor of the characters morphs from scene to scene until it all culminates in an ending that pops the bubble that’s been developing from the start in a startling way.

The Children – While on the topic of evil kids I would be really disappointed if I didn’t mention the most recent evil kid flick that really got under my skin. Not unlike HOME MOVIE it features kids with what seems to be complete indifference to the continuation of their parents lives. With a tagline like “You brought them into this world. Now they will take you out” how can you not at least be intrigued. It came out of Sam Rami’s Ghosthouse Productions label which picked up and released mostly duds in the same vein the After Dark Horrorfest releases, but this is the one that came from it that deserves to be sought out.

The Ruins – Of the vast majority of the films on this list very few of them got solid releases in theaters- sure it’s possible you got to see it in theaters, but in smaller markets (like mine) people have to keep tabs on the smaller releases so we can check them out on DVD. THE RUINS was a little more Hollywood than most of these other releases as it has recognizable faces and had a pretty solid release- which I say based on the fact that I saw it on opening day, take that as you will. I will give anyone their space when they see the film is essentially about killer vines, but I think you’d be doing yourself a disservice to write the film off. The conflict that arrises from a group of 20 somethings stuck in a horrific situation and the people forcing them to stay on the pyramid or face execution make the film horrific on a psychological level as well as the actual horror of being consumed by plants. THE RUINS is also shot beautifully as well so at least there’s some stunning photography to stare at here and there. If you’re a completist the film is also based on a book that is also good in its own right that I would also recommend checking out.

Frozen – Now while on the subject of 20 somethings stuck in a hopeless situation that doesn’t involve a cabin in the middle of nowhere Adam Green’s FROZEN is a much different beast from his cheesy horror throwback HATCHET. This one much like THE RUINS stars Shawn Ashmore as one of three college friends that get stuck on a ski lift after hours because of a mistake made by the slope’s crew and the slope itself will remain closed for the weekend. So, stuck in freezing weather in a chair raised high off the ground the trio are forced to make tough decisions in order to survive. I know plenty of horor buffs and non horror folks that have understandable issues with this one, but I love it. The film is shot and acted perfectly with a tremendous amount of restraint on the part of Green to lay off the gore switch which emphasizes the drama of the situation. Aside from a shot near the end the gore is quite tame, but the violence that is there is realistic and horrifying. Say what you will about the behavior of certain elements within the plot, I was engaged from beginning to end with this one.

Sleep Tight – The majority of movie going audiences want nothing to do with subtitled movies- hence why we see remakes being greenlit left and right. What people don’t realize is that more often than not something gets lost in translation and the source material that inspires these remakes gets lost to obscurity. I’d really hate to see that same fate happen to this little gem from 1/2 of the duo that brought us REC and REC 2 as it’s almost a guarentee that the material that makes this so disturbing would be scrapped entirely to make an English remake more marketable. This is an extremely well directed and tension filled flick that while subtitled does not contain huge stretches of dialogue- the majority of scenes revolve around silence and a character hiding/sneaking around. The film is immensely rewarding to genre buffs as the finale is enough to make anyone’s skin crawl.

Kill List – Every once in a while you come across movies where the characters are actually speaking English, but are nearly impossible to understand through their accents. KILL LIST has those moments, but when it matters everything comes through perfectly fine and the film revels in moments of tension and quiet to get your attention before intense eruptions of violence. The finale, while familiar to another (more despicable) film that came out recently hits viewers differently, but if you are fully on board for the ride it will leave you with an empty yet satisfied feeling with plenty of questions to fuel conversations afterward.

BONUS PICK

Attack The Block – Much like THE LOVED ONES I cannot sing enough praise for ATTACK THE BLOCK. This was my favorite overall film of 2011 and one that I also argued in favor of with quite a few people I recommended it to. It’s a tough sell to get people to come around to liking a group of kids that start off so unlikable at the beginning of the film and again the really tough to decipher dialogue through thick English accents. If you can get passed the accents and slang dialogue this film is immensely rewarding with a phenomenal score, awesome alien effects and a pretty great central performance from John Boyega. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t want sit and watch this on a loop throughout the day.

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Top 10 Horror Movies Of 2011

As much as I love all types of movies, horror is a genre that I tend to lean towards more than most. I enjoy just about all kinds from slashers to creature features and all styles from cheesy to serious. Horror is a genre ripe with opinions and vastly different tastes but every there’s a small selection of films everyone can agree on and some that everyone has completely opposite opinions on. Below is the list of my favorite horror movies from 2011- a year of ups and downs and certain movies that have split audiences. Differences in opinion are what make these lists as fun as they are so feel free to discuss your favorites and least favorites in the comments below.

10. Chillerama – If you are in the mood for schlocky cheesy exploitation type movies than CHILLERAMA offers you a wide selection of shorts films to chew on. If not for a mediocre title in I WAS A TEENAGE WEREBEAR this could have been even more fun. This is the type of movie you put on with a group of friends and a lot of drinks to go around.

9. A Horrible Way To Die – This one is not everyone’s cup of tea. Overall A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE comes off as an ugly and brutal film. The style is very indie and feels basically like a mumblecore film, the female protagonist has issues and AJ Bowen while fantastic is a nasty little character. While all that may sound unpleasant it was still pretty fascinating to watch, especially just for AJ Bowen’s fantastic performance as a killer struggling with his addiction. It can be a tough film to accept- so don’t blame me if you see it and come out with a burning hatred for the film.

8. La Casa Muda (The Silent House) – This film finally made its way to DVD in the states this year and I jumped on the opportunity to watch it. LA CASA MUDA is billed as a horror movie shot in one continuous take and while I feel they could easily be cheating in that regard the film is still a pretty freaky haunted house ride that is never boring. Some of the twists we’ve seen before but overall the film really delivers some bone chilling scenes of tension and some really effective scares.

7. Scream 4 – Here we go- the expletives are really hurling at the computer screens now. I had a ton of fun watching SCREAM 4- is it as new and exciting as the first entry? Not really- but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t a major improvement on SCREAM 3. It was great seeing Dewey and Gale back on the big screen as well as the menacing voice of Ghostface. The finale is packed with plenty of issues but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy those too. Also, if you weren’t laughing during all the opening fake outs, then this movie wasn’t meant for you anyway.

6. Fright Night – For those I haven’t lost with the previous pick I’m bound to lose now. If not then hear me out- I am not the world’s biggest fan of the original FRIGHT NIGHT. I don’t hate the movie I just think I was many years late to the party. That being said the remake is not transcendent stuff- in more ways than one it doesn’t necessarily improve on the original- I just found it more entertaining. Colin Farrell hams it up as Jerry the vampire, the score is pretty good and the effects aren’t anywhere near perfect but they are fun. The point is that even though FRIGHT NIGHT probably didn’t need to be made- it was and since it’s here and is a ton of fun I’m just going to sit back and enjoy it.

5. Paranormal Activity 3 – I really wasn’t sure if a third sequel on this series could be worthwhile. Luckily for me this sequel brings back a lot of the thrills and chills of the first film while also adding to the mythology and introducing some cool camera tricks and finally some characters that you can care about. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 had marketing that misled some viewers but for me it only added to how enjoyable it was.

4. Black Death – Some might remember a little film called TRIANGLE that really blew me away a while back. Well the director Christopher Smith came back with this grim little film that tackles a time period I usually have a hard time watching. BLACK DEATH is a film that hooked me from beginning to end by adhering to an incredibly bleak and dark tone that made the time period easier to deal with. The acting is top notch and the material is heavy stuff that is great fodder for dramatic and gothic horror.

3. I Saw The Devil – I love splatter cinema as much as another other horror fan and on that alone I SAW THE DEVIL is number one material. When I sat to make this list as much as I do love this movie the top 3 all have so many different aspects to them that would qualify them for the number one spot it was hard to choose just one. From here on down just know that the films are interchangeable. I SAW THE DEVIL is brilliantly acted and executed and it is never boring but is a very challenging watch due to the grisly violence. The film has several memorable sequences but the standout involves a taxi and it is one of the most astonishing sequences I have seen all year.

2. Insidious – The second film in what I would cheat and call a three way tie is a great ghost story from James Wan. The SAW helmer put together a beginning of a brilliant creepy film and ended on a bit of silly and bizarre finale. The ending is a bit strange but it has its own very creepy and dark aspects to it. The first half is so creepy and atmospheric that it is hard to deny that what the film ended as is a great exercise is ORIGINAL horror.

1. Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil – Finally, what we have here is a film that for horror fans is not full of crazy violence and isn’t all that creepy. What TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL is however is a film that is extremely funny in its jokes and deaths and it has a great amount of heart as well. This is a horror film for those that want something a little lighter that has more of a crowd pleasing tone to it. It’s not as challenging to wrap your head around, but that doesn’t make it an inferior film because the jokes are smart, the premise is both witty and surprising and it delivers in both horror and comedy.

On the flip side there are a lot of films that are far from being mentioned in a best of horror list. I did not get to see the widely panned RED RIDING HOOD but I tell you what- I think I dodged a bullet there. There are a wide variety of direct to DVD releases that, let’s face it often end up being less than satisfying. Some of the more disappointing releases I was able to see over the course of the year were THE PERFECT HOST, which didn’t strike me as terrible at first but after a while it lost more and more of my respect and I was also pretty let down by HOSTEL PART III. The HOSTEL sequel was not offensively bad but it did nothing to add to that series minus the cool Vegas aspects of the story.

A few other direct to DVD titles I didn’t get a chance to see were CHILDREN OF THE CORN: GENESIS and HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS but I did see the trailer for the new HELLRAISER and I have to say it looked like an atrocity. The most perplexing horror story of the year for me is another movie I didn’t get to see which is the same for quite a few people I’m guessing. The film goes by the name of CREATURE and the odd thing here is that it got a relatively wide release in over a thousand theaters- the balance shifted back to normal the week after release and the box office returns were dismal and theaters immediately threw it in the dumpster.

For me though the undisputed loser of the year was CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2. I really need someone to explain to me why there needed to be a sequel to LAID TO REST. I gave what little credit I could to the character of Chromeskull because of his look and his weapon of choice. I am still dumbfounded by what I witnessed in LAID TO REST 2- nothing makes sense to me. I don’t understand the company that’s working for Chromeskull- or is Chromeskull working for the company and he has seniority? Why is Chromeskull making out with dead bodies? What in the hell is Brian Austin Green talking about half the time and why did anyone ever give him work? LAID TO REST 2 is a massive miscalculation by everyone involved and I will not be sad if they decide to lay the series to rest.

Well that’s my thoughts on horror for the year that was 2011.  Here’s hoping 2012 gives us some more thought provoking, cringe inducing and jaw dropping horror moments for horror fans to chew on come this time next year.

Movie Review: Black Death (2010)

I’ve always had somewhat of an issue with movies that take place in medieval times, mostly because the style of speaking kind of gets on my nerves or ends up being ridiculous and silly. I have become a huge fan of Christopher Smith since stumbling across TRIANGLE a couple years ago. I then started going back through his catalog and checked out SEVERANCE and then his debut feature CREEP. TRIANGLE stands as my favorite of his so far, but BLACK DEATH is not far off, plus it’s a completely different beast than the mind bending puzzle that TRIANGLE was.
BLACK DEATH begins in a village that has been taken over by a sickness that has washed over the countryside universally referred to as the pestilence. The plague is said to be God’s next punishment upon the people in order to cleanse our sins. A warrior of God, Ulrich, comes riding into the village claiming to be sent by holy command to find a village rumored to have no signs of the sickness. Ulrich enlists a young man, Osmund, to lead them to the village where they aim to find a witch and bring them back to burn. The quest leads them to a village where they find themselves facing not only the threat of pestilence, but challenges of their faith as well.

As much as I love a nice uplifting story or a triumphant hero’s journey, BLACK DEATH is far from either one of those. The title isn’t just the name for recognition it’s also the perfect descriptor for the film. The soul of the film is inherently dark, with all the hatred for non-religious people and the hatred for those who believe in God. The scope of BLACK DEATH is incredibly bleak, yet the film is very infectious for being so dark and depressing.

Christopher Smith as a filmmaker has been able to establish some very precise moods in each of his films. CREEP, TRIANGLE and BLACK DEATH all have a very bleak scope while also being very atmospheric and creepy. SEVERENCE has some of the same characteristics, but I found it to be funnier and therefore considerably less bleak. In BLACK DEATH I have to give Smith all the credit in the world for taking a time period like this and making me love it like I do when normally my personal preferences are setting me up to hate it. The film might not be action packed, but it moves like a freight train from one scene to the next with engaging dialogue and conflicts. Towards the end of the film the who’s right and who’s wrong back and forth between pagans and men of God is both engaging and chilling.

The heart of BLACK DEATH is the characters which are performed admirably. I mentioned my distaste for how cheesy medieval can be and I didn’t find a single moment in BLACK DEATH remotely cheesy. The actors all treat the material seriously and not one of them takes their role over the top by becoming overly boisterous or upstaging any of the other actors. Sean Bean stands out to me of all the actors as Ulrich, giving what I would call a quiet subdued performance but also showing a very understated sense of rage and intimidation.

Visually the film is very dark and employs what I would call shades of grey color scheme. BLACK DEATH makes a name for itself by being very moody and atmospheric without being showy. There are no fire breathing dragons, no grand scope sword fights and no storm the castle sieges; instead there are lots of handheld up close and personal battles between a small group of people and tense scenes of dialogue. The threat of the pestilence is always present but never in your face and the warrior’s journey feels desperate and always kept my interest on the film from beginning to end.

Christopher Smith continues to impress with his filmmaking ability and BLACK DEATH is just another notch in his belt. The film is carried with ease on the strength of the performances and mood that is established early on. Much like the pestilence BLACK DEATH grows quietly within you except the film while dark and depressing is actually a joy to watch. You will take no pleasure in what happens to any of the character but can appreciate the style and skill at which the film was made. BLACK DEATH might be an acquired taste for some, but for fans of Christopher Smith I can’t recommend the film enough.