The problem with horror films is there are so many horror films. The occasional gem slips through the cracks and slides into obscurity. I wanted to right that wrong and suggest five horror films that deserve a larger audience.
The following five films are fantastic and worthy of a large audience. They are true game changers made by people who love horror and it shows.
Movies like Pontypool are rare because they are are told organically and are in no way reactive. They are confidently made and the point is to tell a solid story and not appeal to the lowest common denominator (jump scares!). I love that I was sitting on the edge of my seat while people talked about other people dying. The editing and fantastic cinematography capture every angle of the radio booth and the performances inside are gloriously refreshing. Pontypool did something different and that is a beautiful thing for horror lovers.
2. 'Wyrmwood: The Road of the Dead'
Wyrmwood is a fantastic Australian micro-budget zombie film that is taking the horror world by storm. It was a labor of love by directors Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner who initially planned on a six month shoot and saw that expand to a 3 1/2 year labor of love. The budget jumped from 20,000 to 150,000 and Screen Australia had to throw in 800,000 to get it finished. The script changed drastically and so did the characters. However, the final product is a bonkers delight that is loaded with blood, bruises and zombies that can fuel vehicles. It is like Mad Max met a zombie film and then became something else entirely. You kinda have to appreciate a singular vision that was filmed on weekends and holidays.
3. 'Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon'
Leslie Vernon/Mancuso is a wonderful creation because he is equal parts self-aware, funny and dangerous. Behind the Mask loves the horror genre and has a blast playing with the familiar tropes (virgins, backstories, walking). Director Scott Glosserman gathered a killers row of familiar faces (Robert Englund, Scott Wilson, Zelba Rubinstein) and introduced the world to a fresh-faced future killer.
I think what keeps this film going is the same thing that made Trick r’ Treat explode. It has a loyal audience who spread around the DVD and have a genuine love for it. It is the kind of film that has a loyal following but tiny audience. That is why I am happy to include it in the list. Also, It was awesome seeing it make the list of horror films that don't appear on "best of lists (Great list by the way. You will find some solid horror).
Creep takes the found footage world into unexpected territory by focusing on believable characters. It creates a modern, unsettling and believable bad guy who is totally refreshing. Mark Duplass is perfect in the role and I love how he manipulates and takes advantage of insecurities. He is the rare bad guy that I want to see more of and I hope a world is built around him. If you are looking for inspiration and want to create something in the film world I totally recommend you watch Creep. It is simple, smart and builds to a brutal conclusion. Let me know what you think when you watch it!
If you are interested check out a really solid podcast that breaks down Creep and other 21st century horror films.
5. 'Cheap Thrills'
Director E.L. Katz who formerly wrote for Fangoria does a great job of capturing the claustrophobia, humor and horror of the night of escalating dares. He draws strong performances from the cast and elevates the material to where even the most conservative of critic appreciates the work. The film can be frustrating and vague but I think that will only further discussion and leave more to the imagination of the viewer. It leaves you with questions in which there are no easy answers.
The movie has a nasty streak that will alienate many but capture a solid cult following. It wears you out but it doesn’t drain you with depravity. It walks a tight rope of gore and despair but manages to not fall into a nothingness abyss. David Koechner and Sara Paxton remain mysterious throughout as we never get any revelations about them (here is a great article about the villains). Are they really a couple? Have they done this before? The questions are welcome because it leaves you to come up with the answers.