So here I am, writing my first blog post in more than four years. In the past I’ve found it difficult to make time for a blog, but, fortunately, time isn’t quite the issue it used to be. My concern now is where to begin. How do I kick things off? Of the million and one thoughts running rampant through my spongy brain right now, which would the kind and patient reader find remotely interesting? Well, I’d be willing to bet that one thing you and I have in common is a love for horror films. Seen any good ones lately? I find myself on a neverending quest for good horror movies. There was a time when I would watch every one that came out, but when I look back and consider the hundreds of hours of my life that I’ve wasted on bad horror flicks, I feel an urge to strangle myself with a piano wire. I’m a little more selective about what I watch these days. My tolerance for boredom has decreased significantly as I’ve gotten older, while the ease with which boredom begins to set in has significantly increased. Luckily, streaming video services like Netflix, Vudu, and Amazon allow us horror freaks more choices than ever before, with unprecedented convenience. It’s ironic that I now spend more time trying to decide what I want to watch than I spend actually watching something.
Anyway, if you’re like me and hate having to wade through the countless choices to find something good, maybe I can make things a little easier for you. Here are a few of my favorites of recent years. I haven’t ranked them in any particular order; all have horrified, frightened, or disturbed me on some level, and I don’t horrify, frighten, or disturb easily.
This 2009 film directed by Marcus Dunstan (of Feast and Saw fame) had me squirming on the edge of my seat. It caught a bad rap from critics, so I didn’t expect much going in, but it didn’t take long before it had me by the balls. The script was originally intended as a prequel to Saw, but I found the antagonist in this film far more menacing than Jigsaw. There are some similarities between the two franchises, namely with the clever implementation of booby traps, but the concept of this film is unique enough to stand firmly on its own. While I thoroughly enjoyed the sequel, The Collection, its predecessor is scarier, more intense, claustrophobic, and suspenseful. I recommend you watch them both, back-to-back with the lights off.
James Watkins (who also directed The Woman in Black) directed this 2008 British horror flick which stars Kelly Reilly, Jack O’Connell, and Michael Fassbender (Prometheus, X-Men: First Class). A normal everyday couple are out enjoying themselves on a lake in the woods when they are terrorized by a band of psychos. The tension is high throughout, and the film’s realistic depictions of violence disturbed the hell out of me. This one will leave you reeling. If you haven’t seen it yet, do. Just don’t expect to feel good afterward.
Another film that ground my senses with its realistic depictions of human savagery, this 2010 Spanish horror flick directed by Miguel Angel Vivas, to me, ranks as possibly the most disturbing home invasion film of all time. It got my adrenaline pumping right from the opening scene, and when it was all over, my jaw was practically on the floor. This one is fierce.
The Loved Ones.
I love The Loved Ones, a 2009 Australian horror film directed by Sean Byrne, starring the awesome Robin McLeavy (Hell On Wheels). I didn’t know anything about this brilliant piece of work before I watched it, but I’d heard it was damned good. After waiting three years for it to be released in the U.S. I finally got to see it, and I will tell you the same thing that was told to me: This film is damned good. It’s fun, original, insanely violent, and will keep you in a high state of suspense. One of the things I liked most about it is that it repeatedly implies that something horrific is going to happen, but then it doesn’t, allowing you just enough time to breathe a sigh of relief…before the film goes ahead and fulfills its promise after all. A definite must-see.
“Never cross the line. Never go beyond the frontier(s).” When discussing French extreme horror, the first three films most often mentioned are Martyrs, Inside, and High Tension. Those who know me know that I have a fondness for French extreme horror, and while I love the aforementioned films, my personal favorite of the FEH flicks has to be the 2007 Xavier Gens-directed Frontier(s). This film bleeds tension and suspense, and those are the primary qualities I look for in a horror movie. Perhaps my favorite horror movie of all time is Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (I’m also not ashamed to admit that I completely adored the Platinum Dunes remake). Frontier(s) is unquestionably the French version of TCM, without being a complete ripoff, and it’s far better than any of the other films in the franchise.
Another cruel home invasion movie that did me right, Darren Lynn Bousman’s (Saw II-IV) 2010 remake of the 1980 film, Mother’s Day, was an exercise in relentless brutality. Rebecca De Mornay was top-notch as “Mother”, and Jaime King (My Bloody Valentine) rocked it as the terrified home owner. The critics weren’t too crazy about this one, some calling it inferior to the original. I never saw the original, so the remake was a breath of fresh air for me. The tension was through the roof, the kills were bloody, the pace was furious, and the plot twists owned me.
Attack the Block.
This 2011 British horror/comedy directed by Joe Cornish is a complete blast. Written and produced by some of the same brilliant minds that brought us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Attack the Block delivers the same level of entertainment. The aliens are unique and effectively fearsome, the film is beautifully shot, and the characters (one of which is played by Nick Frost) are endearing. For those of you who like a little comedy with your blood, give this one a go.
I Saw the Devil.
One of the best horror/thrillers ever, Kim Ji-woon’s (A Tale of Two Sisters) 2010 South Korean film barely gave me a chance to catch my breath. The ferocity of its violence was beyond anything I expected. Choi Min-sik (Oldboy) portrays a villain so vile and psychotic he makes Jason Voorhees look like a house pet. Lee Byung-hun (G.I. Joe) is outstanding as the secret agent who is forced to become a monster in order to catch a monster. The two characters, in my humble opinion, are the two most fascinating rivals since De Niro and Pacino burned up the screen in Heat. Ji-woon’s directorial style is among the very best I’ve seen. He pulls no punches, pummeling you ruthlessly from beginning to end, and as the credits roll, you are left with a feeling of awe. If you enjoy revenge/vigilante/serial killer/horror/action/thrillers replete with extreme violence, I Saw the Devil is a film you don’t want to miss.
So there you have it, some of my very favorite horror films of the last few years. Oh, I like mainstream horror too: Sinister, The Cabin in the Woods, Zombieland, Drag Me to Hell, Insidious, I dug them all, and many others. I’m looking forward to films such as Evil Dead, Lords of Salem, and World War Z, but mainstream horror doesn’t tend to impact me on the same personal level as some of the lesser known stuff.
How about you? Anything you would like to recommend? Feel free to do so in the comments section.