A song by an artist that only true fans of said artist will enjoy/know. True gems that are found later in an album, a b-side. Rarely if ever played on the radio.
I felt the idiom “deep cut” would relate beautifully to the bloody subject matter of this look at overlooked horror films from the last 10 years. Sometimes in the stacked history of horror, we tend to cherish some more than others. Those others need to be praised as well, showing that there is so much to offer within our beloved genre. Not every hidden gem in horror will match everyone’s taste palate but that doesn’t mean they shouldn't be talked about and given a look.
Now, let’s dive into some of these glossed over grotesque beauties!
10. 2001 Maniacs (2005)
2001 Maniacs was something grindhouse fans were dying for. An homage/sequel to the 1964 classic Two Thousand Maniacs that starred Robert Englund sounds like an Eli Roth wet dream, and it basically was. The film, directed by oddball horror fixture Tim Sullivan, follows the events of six college students going to a Florida Spring Break party and ending up in the middle of a horrible American Confederacy obsessed trap.
While the film is a bit of an acquired taste for some film fans, the most hardcore of bloodhounds will enjoy the blood soaked murders and many horror homages.
Keep an eye out for producer Eli Roth who makes a cameo as a weirdo named Justin, a character he plays in his debut film Cabin Fever.
(Can be found on Hulu)
9. Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a love letter to arguably the best sub-genre in horror: the slasher film. Leslie Vernon is a masked murder that allows a camera crew to follow him and document what it takes to be one of the masters of slashing. The film takes place in a world where icons like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees exist; people in which Leslie name drops in the film like he is old friends with them. As a comic fan as well, I couldn’t help but think of Leslie Vernon as the Deadpool of slashers.
We get to see all the things it takes to make a superior slasher from behind the scenes like never before; deconstructing the genre deeper than Scream ever did. But the film still has a few moments that allow it to stand as it’s own wonderful film. I was impressed with the way they built Leslie to become a legend of his own; something "meta" films tend to lack.
Not surprisingly, this film also includes Robert Englund, famous for his role as slasher Freddy Kruger.
8. Frontier(s) (2007)
Disgusting. The only word to describe Frontier(s) is "disgusting." You have to be careful going into this film as it can easily offend the easily offended.
New French Extremity was the name given to the collection of horror films coming from France during the mid '00s. This movie was part of that movement and it was quite a gross piece of cinema. Xavier Gens, director of 2007’s Hitman, created this modern look at a group of young adults and a twisted family they run into. Think of it like Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a French political twist.
The violence is graphic, the setting is unique, and the characters give you something to sink your teeth into. This does what not many films can do: it will surprise you. I never thought I’d see a film featuring Nazis and table saws, but Frontier(s) brings it to you.
7. Martyrs (2008)
Let’s stay in France for a moment and talk about Martyrs, the horrific film by Pascal Laugier. When making this list, as soon as I got to 2008, I knew I had to put Martyrs on this list. I know it’s well talked about within the horror community, but I have to take any chance I can to tell someone about this pièce de résistance.
Martyrs tells the story of two girls and a sad tale of revenge. The premise is simple enough but it will take turns you never thought you’d see.
The film touches many different elements of horror: it has psychological horror, body horror, torture porn, and it also may or may not feature a haunting creature. The film starts with an impact and doesn’t let up until the final words. It also has one of the most intense second acts in film history.
Keep an eye out of the remake coming sometime soon. I’m usually not against remaking a film, but this one will hitting a little close to home for me. I’m excited to see if America can take this film as dark as the original did.
6. Thirst (2009)
Jumping from France to South Korea, Thirst is a Cannes Festival prize winning film and one of the best films from Oldboy director Park Chan-wook. If you haven’t seen this haunting take on vampirism, make an effort to find it because it’s something to behold!
Thirst brings that classic beauty to the vampire genre again but adds something new to the mix, making it stand out among the many in the genre. The film has brilliant cinematography and compelling acting; it’s no surprise that this film is one of the only on this list with so many awards.
Also, as a fan of controversy, this film is the first Korean film to feature full frontal male nudity. History making and award winning, this is what horror needs more of.
5. Frozen (2010)
No, this isn’t the Disney tale of two sisters trying to let it go.
This is a chilling story of childhood friends trying to not freeze on a ski lift. Frozen from 2010 is a lesson in horror minimalism. There’s not too much in the film other than screams of terror and an abundance of snow.
Director Adam Green slayed everyone with his slasher film Hatchet in 2006, and he followed it up with an entirely different breed of horror. The film is slow burning and builds a real sense of dread; something I think he lacks in his slasher work. Don’t think that means he won’t try to make you vomit, because there is a scene where I see more of someone’s femur than I ever expected.
Try not to let your little sibling find this DVD around the house; they'll pop it in expecting Elsa and Anna and instead get something way more horrifying.
4. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
Real life is sometimes the most horrific thing.
We Need to Talk About Kevin shows that something as real as parenting can turn into terror. Not since Rosemary’s Baby or MTV’s Teen Mom has being a mother looked like the worst job to have.
Tilda Swinton is my favorite British export and she gives this film such a beautiful sense of reality with her portrayal of Kevin's mother. The genre of horror is rarely blessed with such fine acting, and Tilda gives it her all.
Acting alongside her is John C. Reilly, who performs amazingly in this film so far from his normal genre of comedy.
But the real star of the show is Ezra Miller, who will be The Flash in the upcoming DC film. Ezra gives a performance that would send a slight shiver down Ted Bundy’s spine. His performance as Kevin is why I believe the film is the most awarded film on this list. He totally and utterly owns this horrifying role.
I do have to credit to the child actor who plays the younger Kevin; he handles some of the most chilling material in the early goings of the film.
If you haven’t seen We Need to Talk About Kevin, or read the novel from 2003, please do so as soon as you can. You’ll think twice about parenthood.
(Can be found on Amazon Prime Streaming)
3. Maniac (2012)
Rarely does a horror film deserve the word "breathtaking." Maniac manages to wrap it’s delicate hands round your throat and take your breath away.
What I believe to be one of, if not, the best remake of any horror film, Maniac is what happens when great filmmaking meets a great love of horror.
The horror film follows the original plot loosely where killer Frank stalks and murders woman. What this film does differently than the original is it gives the plot a real sense of heart...right before ripping it out of your chest.
While the original is a lesson in guerrilla filmmaking, this version becomes an art piece. Using POV camera work mixed with stunning cinematography to push the story forward, the genius that is Alexandre Aja really crafted something fresh. I also have to mention the wonderful performance from Elijah Wood; I think serial killing is what this hobbit was always meant to do.
(Can be found on Netflix)
2. Curse of Chucky (2013)
The return of everyone’s favorite murderous doll!
And what a wonderful return it was for Mr. Charles Lee Ray, better known as “The Good Guy Doll” Chucky!
Curse of Chucky wasn’t like the last two films that proceeded it; this film lost the slapstick comedy and gained a classic gothic horror approach. It had the suspense of a murder mystery but with the same wonderful quips that we know and love from Chucky. And yes, there was tons of blood as well.
I was glad to see that they kept the film to mostly one location, the isolated feel of the mansion allowed for the terror to actually build. It feels like no one will make it out of this place by the end of the night.
The film also makes a fair attempt at wrapping up stories from previous films as Alex Vincent, who played Andy in the first two films, makes a surprisingly cameo.
If you were burned by how the other Child’s Play films turned out, check this one out and see if it can change your mind about the franchise.
1. The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
Mental illness and horror have always seemed to go well together.
Psycho. Jacob's Ladder. Black Swan.
Those films have all looked at what happens when the mind slips, but The Taking of Deborah Logan dives into something much darker: What happens if your mind is slipping not because of Alzheimer's disease but because of something evil?
The found footage genre of horror has been over-used for years now, BUT I believe when used right and presented differently, the genre still has some years left on it. This film is a perfect example of that. It uses a documentary approach to allow the setup to be effective and helps further the plot rather than hinder it.
The cast really helps push this film to another level as the students who are documenting come off honest and real. But the real acting star is Jill Larson who plays the title character Deborah Logan! Jill eats up all the screen time they give her and really brings the film to something more than a simple shaky cam movie.
(Can be found on Netflix)