With technology and science advancing every second towards widening the periphery of human knowledge, the sense of fear is gradually diminishing. As a massive fan of the #horror genre, I was worried that horror movies will be reduced to cheap jump scares or just slasher/gore porn. Then, in 2013 came The Conjuring, which not only revived the genre but also set a pretty high benchmark for quality horror movies. 2014 came in with another surprise in the form of It Follows only for 2015 to diminish the genre to its cliched tropes with movies like #Horror, The Visit, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and many more. Indeed, there were a few good films — The Witch, Green Room and The Gift — but 2016 literally knocked it out of the park with The Conjuring 2, Hush, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Neon Demon and The Shallows.
Then came the usual bunch of jump-scare movies that boasted of stars like Lauren Cohen (The Boy), Natalie Dormer (The Forest) or had a nice marketing team (Lights Out) to bring in the audience. That led to many horror movies being overshadowed due to their incapability to reach the target audience or create the right buzz. There's a fair chance that you have watched some or all these movies but just in case you missed any, here is a list of movies that define the horror genre in this day and age.
7. 'Don't Breathe'
After remaking Evil Dead, #DontBreathe was Fede Alvarez's second foray into horror, along with Evil Dead star Jane Levy. The story revolves around three teenagers who want to leave their present lives to start something new. In order to do so, they regularly rob rich people's homes. After that one, final job, they target a house that belongs to an old war veteran (played by Stephen Lang) who has a huge sum of money stashed in his safe. They are further relieved to know that the old man is blind. After breaking in and waking up the blind war veteran, they realize that it's not the old man who is in danger — it's their lives that are at stake.
The movie is claustrophobic because once the characters are in the house, there isn't a single situation in which they're able to leave, trapping the audience with them. As the majority of the movie is set in the dark, there are some absolutely brilliant displays of cinematography. The young actors manage to keep their performances very real and gripping. There are some sheer moments of panic and some that really test your tenacity to not puke.
After making some cliched and horribly written horror movies, Pawan Kripalani reincarnated the Bollywood horror genre with Phobia. The story follows Mehak (Radhika Apte), who is scarred due to her traumatic past and therefore lives in isolation. As a result, she contracts agoraphobia, which is the fear of stepping outside her house. Soon, she understands that there is something lurking inside her home. She can't stay inside and she can't step outside, and thus begins the tale of what is real and what is not.
It is easily the most underrated Indian movie of 2016, and even I was going to give it a miss (thankfully, I didn't). Radhika Apte delivers a career-best performance and the supporting cast also chips in very effectively. The confines of the house are so well established that you know that there is nowhere to hide or run. Kripalani also risks putting in some surrealistic imagery, further illustrating Mehak's mental fragility. Also, the twist at the end might force you to re-watch it all over again.
5. 'The Blackcoat's Daughter'
Oz Perkins's directorial debut follows the story of two girls who must battle a mysterious evil force when they are left behind at their boarding school over winter break. Rose, being the senior, tries to spook Kat out because she is new at the school and a bit docile in nature. As their stay starts to stretch longer than they expected, things begin to get way more sinister than the official description of the movie describes.
The movie feels a little disconnected until the second act because the story keeps shifting between the two girls in the hostel and a hitchhiker. The amazing performances by Kiernan Shipka and Lucy Boynton and the soulful cinematography is bound to keep you hooked until the third act of the movie. It is the creepiest movie that I have seen since It Follows and as it has a fair share of gore.
4. 'Train To Busan'
Yeon Sang-ho's #zombie horror flick follows the story of a father and his daughter. The father, separated from her wife, decides to take his daughter to meet her mother on her birthday. Just like Shaun Of The Dead, we get to see fleeting incidents that suggest that the epidemic has arrived. As the title suggests, they board the train to Busan, just as an infected girl jumps aboard. One by one, the passengers begin to get infected. Now, the uninfected must find ways to stay alive.
Sang-Ho utilizes the CGI to a very gut-wrenching effect. The zombies do not feel all rubbery like the ones from World War Z because they are actual, physical actors doing the insane stunts and crazy twitching. The movie escalates to be something more than a "just a zombie" film because Sang-ho strikes a balance between the story and the action by slowing down the movie from time to time to focus on the characters. Each and every actor and actress gave very grounded performances despite the bizarre scenario. The confines of the speeding train gives way for some innovative and tense sequences and unlike all zombie movies, it has one of the best endings I have seen in modern-day cinema.
3. 'The Wailing'
Another South Korean classic directed by Na Hong-jin takes the horror genre to a whole new level by putting body horror, suspense and sorcery all in one pot while also not making it feel over-stuffed. We follow the story of a bumbling cop who lives in a small village away from the city. As a stranger enters the town, things begin to go awry as all the villagers get infected by a mysterious disease. Things take a more serious turn when the cop's own daughter gets dragged into this fight between good and evil.
The Wailing has some amazing cinematography and follows the slow-burn process of telling the story. This movie, without question, has some exceptional performances and the characters are also well written. As the movie takes it time to establish the characters, you will end up feeling worried and scared about what is going to happen next. Don't be deceived by the comedic tone of the first 30 minutes, because when the real stuff begins, it'll hit you harder than you expect.
2. 'The Eyes Of My Mother'
Nicolas Pesce, in his directorial debut, spins a horrifying tale about a family living in the country and how a certain incident sends this quite, "innocent" trio into a downward spiral. I don't want to give away much of the plot so that you can check it out for yourself.
Kika Magalhaes gives a riveting performance, and I would go out on a limb and say that her performance might even match up to Anthony Hopkins's Hannibal Lecter. The movie is entirely in black and white, providing an odd disconnect between these characters, which furthers the feeling of fear. Even though the first two acts of the movie might feel kinda PG-13, it gets a whole lot weirder and gorier than you can ever imagine.
- Movie Review: The Eyes of My Mother(2016)[Spoiler Free]
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1. 'Under The Shadow'
Babak Anvari, another new director, tells the story of the Iran-Iraq war through the eyes of a mother and a daughter. As the war closes in on their home, the husband leaves to tend the wounded while the occupants of the building evacuate to move to a safer place. Shideh (Narges Rashidi) stubbornly stands her ground and stays at in the abandoned building with her daughter, Dorsa (Avin Manshadi), and soon they begin to realize that they aren't the only occupants of their home.
I was actually expecting this movie to be nominated for the Oscars in the International film category but I was glad to know that it had won the "Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer" award at the BAFTAs. On the surface, this movie might look like a jump scare-based horror, but there is a lot going on underneath. The performances are great and it adds to the already tense setting of the film. This isn't just a good horror movie but a great movie period.
Have you seen any of these movies? Which ones did you like and what horror movie are you looking forward to in 2017?