It's a scenario as old as movies. You scour the internet and your old Fangoria magazines to find a horror film that has slipped by while you were busy with something else. You finally come across one, you watch it and...it was alright. A few days later, you're already struggling to remember important plot points because it simply wasn't all that original or special. I'm here to illuminate the dark corners in which truly memorable horror lurks. The kind of movie that makes a nest inside of your subconscious and can ultimately only be removed by self-lobotomy.
1. Megan Is Missing
Sometimes horror is about more than things that go bump in the night, deeper than wondering what you may or may not have just seen disappear beyond the farthest streetlight. The best horror films, the ones that are remembered most fondly, are the ones which act as an embodiment of deep rooted fears shared by a society at the time of their release. The most poignant horror rushes on like a cold knife to the gut, and shoves realities we would rather not face down our throats, until we are left breathless. Megan Is Missing is one of these films. It's not about a multi-tentacled abomination that your friend may or may not secretly have become while you were trying to get laid, it's about the private darkness inside of your neighbour. Your nice neighbour who's always lending you stuff. Who waits until his wife is out of town and his chilren are safely tucked in and asleep to fire up his laptop and watch unspeakable atrocities for the small price of 9.99$ a month and his soul. The movie follows two 14 year old girls going through the growing pains and loneliness of adolescence. Megan is introduced to a nice older boy online. After chatting for a while, she goes to meet him. She is never seen by anyone again. What ensues is the most abject episode of Catfish imaginable. That's all I'm willing to say about it. It uses webcam and other "found" footage to paint a picture of these two girls' lives which is so realistic and tragic that it hurts. You have known these girls. You may even have been these girls. By the time the horrible last scene cuts to black like the aftermath of some profound personal apocalypse, you are changed. You know these things happen all the time, and there is no comfort nor solution to be found. You can sift through list after list of "most extreme horror movies" and see all the decapitation and piles of intestines in the world, and it will be nothing compared to this movie. It is the only film to ever cause me a sleepless night.
Ever since the early 2000s, there has been a tidal wave of zombie films. A lot of them bad, a few good, and most doing nothing at all to stand out. In comes Pontypool. This Canadian film offers us a new breed of infection. It is a masterclass in low budget horror filmmaking. In a flash of War of the Worlds genius, it was decided that it would all happen in one location (a radio show recording studio), we would mostly hear what is happening from testimony from outside sources, and we would only know as much as the characters know at any given time.
Stephen McHattie's mellifluous radio shock jockey voice delivers the terror directly to our cerebral cortext and we feel as if we are right there in the midst of it all with him. It has often been said that you need to ''show, don't tell'' when it comes to movies. It's not bad advice, film is a visual medium after all, but Pontypool makes a compelling argument that sometimes audio and description alone can be just as powerful. For an extremely independent movie, most of the acting is incredible. Not spoiling what makes this movie ingenious is proving to be difficult, but you really need to see it.
3. Mr. Jones
Having watched this movie and verified that it has an internet presence, I can confirm that it exists and I didn't simply imagine it in a nyquil induced nightmare. But even though it does, no one seems to have seen it. It is perhaps one of the most obscure yet fascinating horror films I know of. It's not difficult to theorise that most people would be put off by the general negative reviews it has received, but I strongly disagree with those views. A couple moves to a cabin in the woods for a year to clear their heads and make a nature documentary. While there, they encounter the elusive artist, Mr.Jones. Nothing more need be revealed.
Mr. Jones is a totally unique movie that expertly blurs the line between dreams and reality, creating a disorienting and addictive effect. It's somewhat pretentious, and definitely won't appeal to everyone, but if you love it you will absolutely adore it. It contains sculptures that look like the ones in Blair Witch Project grew up with a lot of anger and developed a psilocybin habit. Also, it's definitely got the clearest, most high definition film out of any of the found footage movies out there. The last half-hour is a nightmare put onscreen and will either make you want to watch it again, or comment on this article in complete frustration. Polarising? Yes it is. Memorable? Absolutely.
4. Starry Eyes
I miss movies about ominous cults pulling strings behind the scenes. This slow burn, psychological and body horror movie is a throwback to older horror movies that would take their time to establish characters and suspense before going batshit crazy, but with a modern sensibility. Said characters being mostly self-involved hipsters who talk about doing things more than they actually do them, you are fully onboard when they start dropping like flies, each in a more brutal way than the last. How far would you go to be famous? To have people idolise you and want to be you? Would you demean yourself? Would you do things that you would typically find morally reprehensible? That's the question which makes up the rotten core of this movie. The answer is as glorious as any double rainbow. The soundtrack is also top shelf, almost as good as the ones from It Follows and Beyond the Black Rainbow. And it was funded on Kickstarter! After the lacklustre Harbinger Down, I was starting to think that crowdfunded horror was doomed to always dwell in poorly made lameness. But no, with smart and creative filmmaking teams out there being funded by their fans, there's no limit to the greatness that we can expect in the future. Hollywood will continue churning out total crap like The Forest and The Boy, while the underground market will be bursting with stuff like Astron-6's upcoming practical effects smorgasborg: The Void.
What better to end this list with than a completely ridiculous, over the top, leave your logic at the door thrill ride of a movie? Lamberto Bava's Demons is a masterpiece of ''screw it, why not?'' decision making. All reasoning is cast aside in favour of going with the coolest option. ''should we compose an original soundtrack?'' ''Nah, screw it, we'll just use rock and metal songs like White Wedding and Fast as a Shark.''
''Should we find a plausible way of getting the demonic infestation started?'' ''Nah, screw it just have some throwaway character somehow scratch her face on a statue that's in a theatre lobby for no apparent reason, then have the scratch burst out pus and blood later! Yeah!''
''Ok, so this movie has gotten out of control, most of the characters are dead, and we only have about 200 bucks left in the budget and 10 minutes of film, what do we do?'' ''Have the main characters get on a motorcycle and slice everything with katanas, then a helicopter inexplicably come and rescue them.'' ''I love my job. Want some more cocaine?''
What I'm saying is, it's unforgettable.