Each year film-makers from around the world inundate us with literally thousands of horror films. Sadly, due to the incredibly competitive nature of the business, not every film which deserves it will get noticed and screened as widely as it should. This list celebrates these films and hopefully brings some of them out of the darkness and into more widespread viewing. As with all list based articles this one is subjective and far from complete.
I have taken as many precautions as I can to avoid spoilers.
7. The Devil's Business
The Devil's Business starts this list, though by no means should you think it any less deserving than the films that come after. The brainchild of writer/director Sean Hogan and starring the incredible talents of Billy Clarke, Jack Gordon, Jonathan Hansler and Harry Miller it is a simple, brooding film which doesn't try to over complicate the main story with anything that doesn't add to the sense of foreboding which permeates throughout the whole story.
The story is simple - two hit men wait in hiding in the house of their former underworld associate in order to kill him when he returns home. However the job goes wrong and the two men discover a secret Satanic altar in the home - sparking a descent into hell and madness. The sheer power of the film doesn't come from million dollar special effects but from an incredible, character driven story which sinks it's claws in so slowly you don't even realize it has you until you're engrossed.
6. Kill List
From the mind of Ben Wheatley, who has also brought us the charming Sightseers and the disturbingly creepy A Field In England comes this tale of two ex-soldiers who decide to kill people for money. There must be something about the "hit-men kill people, bad stuff happens" concept that audiences enjoy because thee was been quite a few films released lately which each explore the concept in their own ways. It has been argued that this isn't even a traditional horror film until the final half, however I don't think a good director necessarily needs a killer or a ghost in order to have real horror - and the first half of this film uses the paranoia and mental scarring of the lead characters to create a sense of unrelenting pressure which only builds as the movie heads into it's truly incredible last act.
Directed by Christopher Smith, and written by himself and James Moran Severance is a British/German horror film which made some waves when it was first released and again in the UK after a man recreated one of the scenes from the film to kill a 17 year old engineering student.
The film is both incredibly funny as well as containing the sort of creepy jumpscares and "killer-stalks-victim" mentality that helped the slasher genre first take off. To put it simply - a group of sales representatives get sent on a team building exercise to the woods of Hungary. Unfortunately for them the woods are also home to some crazed killers who don't take too kindly to the intrusion.
I don't even know where to begin with a film like Martyrs. To say it is one of the most incredible foreign horror films of recent years would still be underestimating how good it is. From the mind of Pascal Laugier who also brought us 2012's Slender inspired horror film The Tall Man, Martyrs is a bleak and disturbing film about two women, Anna and Lucie (played by Morjana Alaoui and Mylène Jampanoï) who are abducted as children and subjected to horrific torture and abuse, only to grow up and seek revenge on those who hurt them. What begins as a revenge mission soon turns into a literal hell of depravity and suffering as the film explores incredibly complex themes such as the nature of suffering and life after death.
I'm not going to lie - this is NOT a film for everyone. It is violent, it is disturbing and it will probably haunt you for at least a few days after having watched it - but if you can stomach the brutality and visual horror the French are becoming so well known for then you will find an incredibly contemplative, almost philosophical film with much more to offer audiences than just simply blood and guts horror sequences.
3. Here Comes The Devil
Writer/director Adrián García Bogliano, probably best known for his contribution to the ABC's Of Death brings us a tale of family drama and Satanic peril. A family trip to a cave system in Tijuana leads to disaster when a married couple lose their two children. After a frenetic search the two kids suddenly reappear without any explanation - however it is obvious to all, including the parents (for once!) that something horrible has happened to them and they are not the same children that they were before.
While the adults struggle with the idea that maybe their children were attacked by a sexual predator, the children begin to show signs that something much, much darker has taken place in the caves. The slow, sinister pacing mixed with well constructed characters - the parents especially as they do whatever it takes to help their children. There is very little horror that comes out of Mexico and makes it to our screens, but when something this good comes along one can't help but wonder what other gems are out there flying under the radar.
2. The Mist
Frank Darabont, best known for his work on The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption - two movies based on Stephen King stories added his name to another King adaptation with the 2007 release of The Mist - a tale of inter-dimensional wormholes and otherworldly horrors.
As with all things Stephen King though, to leave it at that would be to deny the rich undercurrent of social commentary and brilliant characterizations we are used to from the King/Darabont collaboration and The Mist is no different. Part monster movie, part survival horror and part religious commentary as a firebrand preacher quickly uses the opportunities presented to "bring people over to the Lord" and call for blood sacrifice to be made to appease God.
The film has made some controversy since it was revealed that Darabont had changed the original ending of the Stephen King novella - with a rumor even circulating that having read the revised ending producers had offered to double the films budget if he took it out and replaced it with King's ending.
Darabont stuck to his guns, however and his film, which the late, great critic Roger Ebert once described as a "competently made Horrible Things Pouncing On People Movie" has gone down in history as one of the greatest monster films of modern cinema, and the ending has quite literally become the pinnacle of horror endings - seriously, read nothing more on this film and just watch it. With news coming recently that Darabont was in talks to turn it into a 10 part miniseries now would be the perfect time to check out this little gem.
1. House Of The Devil
Director Ti West is rapidly becoming one of my favourite horror directors, simply because of films such as The House of the Devil. The film is a throwback to the moody, somewhat cheesy horror of the 70's and 80's but still piles on the horror when it's needed.
The film is centered around college student Samantha (played by the always spectacular Jocelin Donahue) as she decides to take on a 'baby-sitting' job for the creepy Mr. Ulman - played by Tom Noonan in his most ominous role yet.
Ominous is certainly a word I would use to describe the whole look and feel of this movie. It is slow, it is dark and it is quiet - but all the time you just know that something isn't quite right. As you watch it you can't put your finger on exactly what it is that is out of place. Then the film arrives in it's last act and everything falls spectacularly into place - almost jolting you with the sudden shift in the mood and speed of the movie.
What Ti West has done here is nothing short of brilliant. It is not without faults, of course and many critics disliked this film on it's release but West has crafted a fresh, original horror film using a formula that ran dry 10 years ago. For that alone he deserves an Oscar.
The Unnamed Others
As I said, this list is far from a complete one and there are literally hundreds of films which also deserve to be here. Now let's here what YOU think - what are your favourite horror films that nobody else seems to know about? Sound off in the comments below.