20 Great Horror Films You Haven’t Seen Part 1
Unless you are a big horror movie fan, you probably have the same set list of films you watch every Halloween. Navigating the horror section of your local video store, Netflix or even Red Box can be like running through a mine field. Chances are you’re going to end up with some duds. The staff at Way Too Indie know this, we’ve ran this field many times.
Fellow writer C.J. and I are pretty big fans of horror films. I don’t know if we would refer ourselves as aficionados of any kind, but we love our horror and we are here to your rescue. We have each come up with lists of horror films that we feel have been overlooked, skipped over or just plain forgotten about.
We’ve decided to present these lists over two articles with each of us have chosen 10 films. 5 films from each of our lists will be shown today in alphabetical order. These 10 films from us would be our “20 through 10” if you will, with each of our Top 5’s being revealed in the same manner in this article. Listed alphabetically below are Way Too Indie’s 10 Great Horror Films You Haven’t Seen (Part 1).
28 Weeks Later
This vastly overlooked sequel to the immediate 2003 horror classic is one of the few films I’ve seen where each scene is better than the one that precedes it. The film takes a little while to get going but once it does its one spectacular set piece after another. The scares come big and quick and will leave you gasping for your breath. The film takes place in a quarantined London with only a few hundred people living in a blocked off area looking to slowly repopulate the city. An outbreak happens again and the survivors are forced to fight for their lives against a mass horde of the infected as well as the military who want everyone dead. [Blake]
I decided to give one of these slots over to a more recent horror film since the entire idea of this list is to showcase horror films that deserve more exposure. Mike Flanagan’s Absentia came out earlier this year after a successful festival run in 2011, and it’s easy to understand why it got so much success through film fests. Made on a tiny budget (about $70k), Absentia starts out with a woman finally deciding to declare her husband as dead after he went missing several years ago. As her younger sister arrives to help they begin to notice that some sort of otherworldly force might be responsible for the husband’s disappearance. What separates Absentia from other low-budget horror films is that Mike Flanagan puts his focus on characters and story. There are limitations that come with the budget, but Absentia’s willingness to spend time on creating well-developed characters makes the horror more potent. Luckily the film was enough of a success that Mike Flanagan was able to strike a deal for a new film with a budget that’s much higher than this film. Absentia shows that Flanagan has plenty of potential, and hopefully with a bigger scale he’ll deliver something truly special. [C.J.]
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
What if Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers and all the other big slasher villains actually existed? Behind the Mask takes place in an alternate universe where all the classic horror films are true, and it turns out that the field of killing teens is a competitive one. Posing as a documentary of an up and coming masked killer as he plans his big debut massacre, Behind the Mask pokes fun at genre tropes as its title character (played terrifically by Nathan Baesel, who makes Leslie seem like the nicest guy until he starts killing) lets the camera crew in on his big secrets. Want to know how people like Jason can walk so slow yet travel so quickly? Leslie Vernon demonstrates in one of the movie’s funnier sequences. What makes Behind the Mask really stand out is the way the film will gleefully indulge in the same clichés it skewers. Periodically the mockumentary video look will switch over to 16mm where key sequences in Leslie’s ‘movie’ will be shown, with the documentary crew eventually becoming a part of the slasher. The final act of Behind the Mask, which permanently switches over to film for its cinematic conclusion, shows that the slasher film isn’t truly dead yet. It may be predictable and easily broken down, but it doesn’t matter as long as people are having fun watching it. [C.J.]
William Friedkin’s Bug is one of the best ever made about paranoia. Other than the opening scene at a bar that lasts maybe 10-15 minutes, Bug takes place entirely inside a small motel room with only 2 people. Michael Shannon as a man obsessed with bugs and Ashley Judd who falls for him incessantly give mesmerizing performances as two lonely souls who trap themselves into a room in fear that everyone is after them. Friedkin’s directing is mercilessly intense and it never lets go of you the entire running time. There is a point in the film where you actually start to fear for the actor’s safety and that is a scary thing. [Blake]
The first of my two Dario Argento films that are on my list, Deep Red is more of a slasher flick masquerading as a Horror film, but the film has some downright chilling scenes. A killer stalks the streets of Rome and it’s up to a reporter and a pianist to solve the case. Deep Red is overlong by probably a half hour, but Argento’s craft behind the camera is phenomenal. Argento creates fantastic atmosphere and builds tension in his scenes with natural ease. [Blake]
The greatest strength that Ils possesses is how economical the whole thing is. Directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud make sure there isn’t a single ounce of fat, letting the film run at a very lean 77 minutes and cutting straight to the point. A French couple living in the countryside are disrupted one night when a group of hooded figures start terrorizing them. It’s evident from the start that whoever (or whatever) is attacking the couple has the upper hand which makes the majority of Ils a brutal escape/survival story as its two main characters try to get out alive. Moreau and Palud construct one sequence after another that’s designed to create as much tension as possible, and for the most part they succeed. Most of the tension in Ils comes from not knowing exactly who or what the villain is, and its presence is so intimidating that it looks like something paranormal has to be at work. The climax will probably cause some people to roll their eyes once the true nature of the villain is revealed, but there’s no denying that Ils is one hell of a nail-biter. [C.J.]
Lucky McKee’s film about a psychologically ill young woman was completely overlooked upon its release and since hasn’t had much of a following either. May is about a woman who works at an animal hospital and no matter how hard she tries she just can’t connect with anyone. She meets a mechanic who takes a liking to her until he finds out she’s weird. Very weird. May soon realizes that if she can’t find any friends, why not….make one? Angela Bettis’ lead performance is sublime and McKee takes his time with story to fully grow. Let’s not forget the final shocking scene of the film that made my mouth drop when I first saw it. [Blake]
Noroi (The Curse)
While most found footage films tend to keep their scale as small as possible, Noroi intelligently goes in the opposite direction. While genre staples like Blair Witch Project, [REC] and Paranormal Activity are limited to one location and amateur camerawork, Noroi culls footage from multiple sources and takes the form of a professionally done documentary. The film is framed as an unfinished doc about a curse the director discovers (naturally he vanished while editing the final product) and tries to end. Noroi’s first half, which presents a series of seemingly disconnected paranormal events before joining them together, is as captivating as it is unsettling. The film’s climax and epilogue don’t live up to the amount of dread built up in the first hour, but Noroi still manages to get under viewers’ skin. [C.J.]
Spoorloos (The Vanishing)
This Dutch thriller from the late 80’s will emotionally destroy you. A young couple is taking a trip via the highway and pulls off at a gas stop to fill up. While they are stopped the woman suddenly disappears. Three years later, the man (who hasn’t given up hope of finding her) receives letters from the abductor. What happens after they agree to meet will haunt you. Spoorloos will have you clutching your loved ones and never letting go. The film was later remade in America by the same director. Avoid it at all costs. [Blake]
If watching Wolf Creek for the first time isn’t hard enough, try watching it a second time. The film’s long first half that slowly introduces its three main characters is harder to watch knowing what’s in store for them. While camping in the wilderness the three friends get targeted by a serial killer in the area, and at this point the second half of Wolf Creek takes a brutal turn for the worse. A cat and mouse game ensues, but what director Greg McLean does so well is get across the feeling of total despair from its main characters. The barren outback setting and McLean’s twisting of genre expectations wipe away any predictability, and the killer’s advantages over his victims, while simple, make him all the more terrifying. Wolf Creek is feel-bad cinema, but it’s all the better for it. [C.J.]