It's only a week - or two if you're in the UK - until The Purge: Anarchy hits cinema screens. The film is James DeMonaco's sequel to his own 2013 horror hit The Purge but unlike its predecessor, Anarchy will follow a number of different people as they strive to survive the harsh outside during America's twelve hours of unsupervised violence.
The Purge is a perfectly serviceable film. More than that actually, it's rather good. But not great. Like many a contemporary horror flick, the piece boasts a few solid ideas that are only implemented with fifty percent verve. Visually striking, but when push comes to shove, not all that frightening.
Where, then, are all the great horror films these days? They're certainly around. However without the enduring backing from cash-rich studios and a far reaching media campaign behind them, these silently simmering gems are more underrated than undeserving. Some have struggled to even grace audiences, whilst others received a faulty reception upon release.
Let's peer into the promise of a few underrated modern horror movies.
Wolf Creek (2005)
Wolf Creek is the oldest film on this list and one that recently spawned a sequel, Wolf Creek 2. (How original). The Aussie production, directed by Greg McLean, follows a couple of British tourists and their Australian mate as they journey throughout the remote country. One of this film's scariest elements is its claustrophobic seclusion. Despite taking place entirely in a wide open landscape, Wolf Creek gives off a very genuine aura of no escape. It helps when you've got John Jarratt as the menacing antagonist.
Eden Lake (2008)
Before Michael Fassbender was sitting near the front row at the Oscars as part of the nominated crowd, the Irishman tried his hand at horror. Eden Lake is unrelentingly violent and truly horrifying. Fassbender stars alongside Kelly Reilly as a couple on a weekend away at Eden Lake. The bad guys here are a group of youths, but their collective sadism is far from youthful. At times this one veers perilously close to look-away horror, a trait that bolsters rather than diminishes its authenticity. It also picked up Empire Magazine's 2009 Jameson Award for Best Horror.
It only garnered around $32,000 at the box office but what Pontypool lacks in financial clout it makes up for in dexterity. Bruce McDonald's film takes the zombie genre and turns it inside out, with huge success. Using mystery as its key component Pontypool filters out gore for sheer enticement. Phone calls are terrifying and Stephen McHattie is insidiously perturbed as the charismatic lead. Tony Burgess' screenplay is a winner.
Speaking of winning screenplays, Christopher Smith - who also directs - delivers a deft narrative full of strange goings-on with this one. Part slasher, part psychological thriller, Triangle tells the peculiar tale of Melissa George and her shipwrecked crew who find themselves aboard a seemingly abandoned ocean liner. George is fantastic as our disturbed protagonist in a film that keeps its audience guessing even after credits have finished rolling. Listen out for the eerie silence.
The House of the Devil (2009)
When it comes to haunted house flicks, these days there's nobody better in the captain's cabin than Ti West. His 2009 outing is a master class in tension-building; forget blood, guts and limbs, this one is all about the creaking door and guzzling sink. Wonderfully captured by cinematographer Eliot Rockett, The House of the Devil is quite the love-letter to its particular genre. You won't find too many clichés here, just plain old scares.
As far as single location films go, Devil sits comfortably amongst success stories like Buried and Locke. It's not as good as the latter (though the genres differ greatly) but if titles are anything to go by, Devil ought to be quite the fright-fest. And it is. Helmed by John Erick Dowdle and, perhaps more significantly, produced by the former twist king M. Night Shyamalan, this throws five disparate individuals into a lift and reeks havoc. Reinforced by an injection of creepy imagery, Devil thrives on being simple-yet-effective.
The Innkeepers (2011)
Ti West is back and he's chartering the haunted house movie again. Only this time it's a haunted inn. The Innkeepers is a slow-burner, one of those that initially settles pleasantly without dazzling too much. Give it time though and this'll tingle those neck hairs. It's the same players as before - Rockett's cinematography hearty as ever - and the reward is almost as fulfilling. Who wouldn't love to stay at the Yankee Pedlar Inn?
Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
This one only received a limited release in US cinemas but deserved a lot more. Peter Strickland directs whilst Toby Jones stars as British sound engineer Gilderoy who is working on a 1970s Italian giallo film. Every element is crisp; from aesthetics to dialogue to scariness. We know the noises are fabricated, heck we can even see Jones slashing watermelons and other fruits, yet the movie's disconcerting atmosphere decides against releasing us from its truly chilling grip. Eventually reality paves way for something else. Something spooky.
There we have it. Which of the aforementioned films have you seen? Are there any other horror movies that you consider underrated? Comment below!
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