The story may be fictional, but if the telling is masterful enough, the tension we feel is real. The movie is streamlined to the point that you have to admire its dedication to offering, without so much as a wink, a ghost story about the gradual opening of a locked memory and the catharsis that awaits its heroine.
The film opens with a brief prologue in on an expansive rural property and the immediate aftermath of a murder scene in a family home. Shift to 25 years later, and we see Jane Abbie Cornish toting her school-age daughter Alice Lola Flanery on long drives through the countryside so she can take photographs of empty houses, most of them set back quite a way from the road. Jane soon becomes caught up in a mystery surrounding these small white boxes wrapped in red ribbon.
Four years later, the same team is back with Velvet Buzzsaw in order to ostensibly skewer the shallowness and materialism of art profiteering, told through a gaudy blend of pretentious B-horror and on-the-nose satire. Other buyers, beware. Airtight narrative logic, or imaginatively deranged imagery?
But the movie also reminds us that as much as pictures often come first, plotting usually should come a very close second. Charlotte reaches out to her old teachers, Anton Steven Weber and Paloma Alaina Huffman , travels to Shanghai as Bachoff selects its latest student, and cozies up to Lizzie. They flatter each other. They flirt. Maybe Charlotte bears Lizzie no grudge.
Maybe they really do admire each other to romantic heights. When Shepard sticks to this aesthetic, the movie soars on grotesque wings. A little ambiguity goes a long, long way in horror. Equilibrium Year: Director: Kurt Wimmer In Equilibrium , Taye Diggs plays a future fascist law enforcement officer named Brandt, and near the climax of the film, Brandt gets his face cut off. But also like his face, the fact that I just gave away a meaty part of the climax should be easily disconnected from whether or not you should still watch Equilibrium. That black hole is obviously death—the center around which the film revolves, each murder one more push of centripetal force, the whole plot spiraling into a nihilistic conclusion.
In a good way…I think. There are, however, just enough twists on this especially trope-laden subgenre, starting with our heroine, who is deaf. That one disability, coupled with her remote residence in the woods, makes for a uniquely frightening handicap in repelling the masked intruder who comes calling. Unavoidably evoking The Strangers and Funny Games in particular, Hush nevertheless carves out its own spot in the niche. Our lead is an unusually intelligent, resourceful but realistic protagonist for this sort of setting, and her reactions to each new horror ring with truth.
The stakes and tension rise in a palpable, organic way that has no need to resort to further gimmickry or a third act twist. Mudbound Year: Director: Dee Rees Director Dee Rees uses the uneasy partnership between a white family and a black family in postwar Mississippi as a bruising metaphor for modern-day America.
In Mudbound , Jason Clarke is the patriarch of a recently relocated Tennessee clan that must work together with the Jacksons led by Mary J. Fast-moving only 85 minutes! Thumper has Beaver. To put it broadly, as of late, crime entertainment has been slowly dismantling the romanticized idea of cooks, kingpins and high-level dealers, instead emphasizing the unrewarding workaday nature of its entry-level employees.
Thumper , a film about such a community, withholds its primary plot device until it visually explains its environment, its town and its drugs. Inevitability grows like the shadow of the setting sun.
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Its climax covers us with darkness. Both men cling desperately to their last connection to humanity in a world devoid of it. As Rey gradually figures out how alone and unprotected he really is, volatile anger and confusion begins to bubble up to the surface. What follows is nearly two hours of pure white-knuckle tension as the duo tries to solve the murder.
It is a sparse, desolate thriller—a snow-covered neo-western—where violent acts bring about violent repercussions.
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Lambert and Banner want to fix that, trying to bring justice and redemption to the condemned few on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The film flirts with the all too real problems of life on Native American reservations, the blind-eye America turned to their once-perpetrated genocide and the real fact that the rape of young Native American women is a crime that rarely sees the perpetrator convicted.
It is a quiet, methodically paced thriller where a metaphorical kettle is at a constant near boil until it reaches a fever-pitch punctuated by extreme violence, and one of the tensest and most nerve-wracking stand-offs in cinematic history. Sheridan proves himself a capable director who frames most of the film in striking wide shots that capture the sheer nothingness of the landscape, and when lead starts flying, he keeps the camera steady—all of the action remains in frame, adding to the sense of desperation, sloppiness and overall pointlessness that each outburst of violence seems to harbor.
There, a montage takes us through the supply chain of the mobsters for whom XXXX works as a middleman; his superiors include big brass Jimmy Kenneth Cranham and a couple lower-level associates, Morty George Harris and Gene Colm Meaney. In mood, this introductory segment pulls as much from Soderbergh as it does Scorsese, revealing that, for XXXX and the movie he holds together, the modus operandi is calm, cool and collected. The catch: These are tough-as-nails man-babies who would pump you full of lead at the drop of a hat. In the end, Layer Cake is all about delivery—of drugs into the hands of eager buyers, but also, on the part of XXXX, of an attitude of cool that will both reassure his clients of his reliability and, reaching beyond the proverbial fourth wall, invite viewers into an elite, rarefied position from which they can look down on some shenanigans.
Through his candid, confiding narration, XXXX waves us into the milieu of organized crime—while remaining above it all. No wonder Craig ended up being tapped for the new Bond. Ruth wonders aloud why everyone is an asshole moreso, why assholes so easily get away with being assholes , and Blair seemingly wonders the same thing, punctuating his mundane neo-noir with gruesome violence and unexpected physical comedy a projectile vomit scene, in particular, rivals the classic back-alley puke-fest from Team America.
Two performers bare it all, both literally and figuratively: Creep 2 is one of the most surprising, emotionally resonant horror films in recent memory. But Damien Power holds our attention throughout Killing Ground. Power treats every beat in the narrative as an opportunity for disquieting his viewers, using a collection of techniques to progressively raise the hairs on our arms, but more importantly he maintains an enduring harmony across multiple plot threads and perspectives without losing either himself or us.
The film begins with our designated protagonists, married couple Ian Ian Meadows and Sam Harriet Dyer , and slowly, precisely expands to include two other involved parties. As soon as they arrive at their destination, they notice that someone else has beaten them there, setting up their own campsite at the same spot Ian and Sam had in mind.
It just burns. In Creep , Patrick Brice makes a mercurial study of these fears through the veneer of found footage.
As genre niches go, the found footage conceit wore out its welcome in a deluge of Paranormal Activity imitators over the span of the past eight years. Aaron is down on his luck and looking for fast, easy cash. Josef is a vibrating ball of pent-up, charismatic energy. Hence Aaron, whom Josef has hired as his personal videographer. Josef wants to record a single day in his life for his unborn son, whom he may never get to meet. So the two men strike out on an adventure through hill and dale, which sounds fine and dandy except that Josef is weird.
Really weird, in fact, and not the quirky, precious kind of weird that indie audiences find endlessly endearing.
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And Brice has a deft hand at fostering sustained terror. Rather, he treats them as bait, and anticipation as a red herring, executing his many misdirections brilliantly. The result is a tense, effective thriller that goes out of its way to highlight two strong actors in an unfettered celebration of their craft. This is nothing new for Flanagan, whose recent output in the horror genre has been commendable. Is this coincidence? Or is the director drawn to stories that reflect the struggle of women to claim independence in their lives by shedding old scars or ghosts, be they literal or figurative?
By the end, the children form a full-fledged army under the Commandant, mercilessly killing and conquering as a group. Cary Fukunaga True Detective directs. Cam Year: Director: Daniel Goldhaber As so many films in have shown us, the identities we create online—that we digitally design, foster and mature, often to the detriment of whatever we have going on IRL—will inevitably surpass us. Evil , answers the simple question: What if those hillbillies are just socially awkward fellows sprucing up a vacation home and the young college kids in question are just prone to repeatedly jumping to incorrect, often fatal, conclusions?
Think Final Destination meets the Darwin Awards. Patric and Haim are siblings who sense something is amiss in their new coastal California town, where a lot of people have gone missing lately. Despite its titular hat tip to J. Under the Shadow Year: Director: Babak Anvari For most of the film, Babak Anvari is crafting a stifling period drama, a horror movie of a different sort that tangibly conveys the claustrophobia of Iran during its tumultuous post-revolution period. Seeing Shideh defy the Khomeini regime by watching a Jane Fonda workout video, banned by the state, is almost as stirring as seeing her overcome her personal demons by protecting her child from a more literal one.
This South Korean story of a career-minded father attempting to protect his young daughter on a train full of rampaging zombies is equal parts suspenseful popcorn entertainment and genuinely affecting family drama. Dashing Dr. Robert Laing Tom Hiddleston wanders waste-strewn halls. Seems about right.
Frontier justice does quench our thirst, but the themes of social justice that drive the film are more satiating by far. It all adds up to a towering work, as profound as it is profane. Cop Car Year: Director: Jon Watts A lean, rugged neo-noir that tweaks genre conventions by putting two young boys at the center of its attention, Cop Car opens with credits shimmering like police lights.
They decide that the car has been abandoned. Apparently having both run away from home, the two speed around the cow-populated landscape like juvenile delinquents unconcerned about the potentially serious consequences of their actions. Such uninhibited, devil-may-care recklessness gives the material an immediate jolt of peril, even before Watts rewinds his tale to reveal the origins of the car and its owner. Tree surgeon Adam and his family move into an ancient farmhouse to start sizing up the land for developers and quickly fall afoul of the supernatural creatures lurking in the trees, which turns out to be a really bad idea.
A couple of Londoners holidaying in Cornwall stumble across a gorgeous abandoned house on the seafront and immediately decide they want to buy it. The owner, a grumpy old colonel, is happy to sell it to them on the spot, but his granddaughter is reluctant. Turns out the house has got secrets, and, yeah, a ghost. Best enjoyed with a glass of sherry. Not to be confused with the remake of or the new Netflix series this retro gem not only features some classic sequences of spooky happenings, but a philosophical take on the paranormal.
Dr Markway Richard Johnson is investigating the mysterious Hill House, whose inhabitants often die in odd circumstances. You should be innocent and receptive. This is a great, character-driven story with a dry sense of humour, and a mysterious heroine who feels oddly at home with the supernatural.
Abrasive, aggressive and deliberately difficult, this is the kind of film that burrows deep into your brain, only to resurface later at the worst possible time. Jane Natthaweeranuch Thongmee is driving back from a wedding with her boyfriend Tun Ananda Everingham when she hits a girl — in a panic, they leave the body lying in the road and try to get on with their lives.
Where would horror films be without photographic dark rooms? Even in the digital age, the dim red light and slowly emerging pictures remain classic tools of terror. This story has it all. There are also touches of dark humour throughout the praying mantis is a recurring motif and one of the most bone-chilling scenes has a hilarious payoff. Directors Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom skilfully create real characters and have the ability to communicate some of the most powerful and eloquent moments without dialogue.
The mystery deepens as more sinister evidence comes to light and the climax is truly chilling. This is one which will stay with you long after Halloween. A cautionary tale about the dangers of cyberbullying, Unfriended achieves the seemingly impossible and manages to make the standard sound effects of everyday computer programs terrifying. The Merrye children live out in the middle of nowhere, with only one another and their family chauffeur, Bruno Lon Chaney Jr for company.
Robert Zemeckis directs Michelle Pfieffer and Harrison Ford in this glossy supernatural thriller, with predictably high quality results. Zemeckis has admitted that this is his homage to Hitchcock, and true to form, the suspense builds deliciously slowly. When Claire starts seeing faces in the bathtub where else?
Oliver is initially patient but eventually finds himself falling for his much more reasonable colleague, Alice.
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Cat People is sad as well as eerie, with an increasingly paranoid atmosphere enhanced by skilful shadow play. Five years after her daughter Angela went missing, presumed dead, Claudia starts getting weird phone calls. A female voice claims to be Angela, and begs her mother to save her. A series of weird clues leads Claudia to investigate a weird cult… but when things slot into place too easily, it seems like someone might be luring her into a trap.
The Harrington family are driving home for Christmas when they decide to take a shortcut. Obviously, that turns out to be a bad idea. Picking up a mysterious hitchhiker is an even worse idea. And creepy, of course. Every ghost story introduces an element of uncertainty: are these things really happening, or are they in your head?
Grace Nicole Kidman has turned being neurotic into a fulltime job; her children apparently suffer from a sensitivity to light, which means the gothic mansion they inhabit must be swathed in thick curtains at all times. This makes things difficult for the new servants, who have turned up in a most mysterious manner A piano playing by itself, shaking chandeliers and some truly traumatic hallucinations add to the panic as Grace questions exactly who she is sharing her home with. The tension builds to almost unbearable heights before a truly haunting ending. An intelligent script with a superb twist, quality acting and an atmospheric set complete with graveyards, mist and autumn leaves — what more could you want in a creepy movie?
Well, that, and the fact that no one realised getting bitten by a ghoul would lead to death and reincarnation. The zombie imagery is some of the most haunting ever committed to film, as vacant-eyed ghouls wander in and out of the shadows, chewing on dismembered body parts as they lurch around, constantly in search of fresh meat…. Say his name five times into a mirror and the Candyman appears. Set in an urban tower block, this film demonstrates that horror can strike anywhere, not just in spooky old mansions in the middle of the countryside.
A child murderer is stalking the streets of Berlin and, as the police seem unable to catch him, tensions run high. Most of the film is improvised; the actors are really filming the scenes themselves, working from a loose outline of the plot, but without prior knowledge of what half the scares were going to be. What follows is the story of a mother who takes the search for her son to the limits of her sanity. It's a bona fide horror film but the ending might make you cry. Sneaky, too, since it managed to suggest that no one was safe. An awful lot of people must have breathed a sigh of relief once their own personal seven-day window was over.
Or is it? Either way, though, the film is terrifying. In a decaying house on an old plantation, an old man is dying. Is the old man actually under a spell?
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Why does he seem so terrified of his wife? And might Caroline herself be in danger? Insidious uses just about every trick in the book to creep out its audience, and for some people, that might seem like overkill. Part of the initial wave of soggy dead girl movies, Dark Water is occasionally very daft, but still effectively creepy. Yoshimi Matsubara is a divorcee, forced by circumstances to move into a crumbling apartment block with her young daughter, Ikuko.
Slowly, inexplicably, a small town is taken over by spirals. Some people become obsessed; others are killed, their bodies twisted into impossible positions. Unspeakably weird. A young boy is sent to a creepy orphanage, where the other boys scare one another by telling stories about the resident ghost, Santi, who was killed when the orphanage was bombed. Saskia and Rex are on holiday when Saskia suddenly, inexplicably, disappears. Rex dedicates his time to trying to find her, but to no avail.
It starts off slow: a middle-aged man is thinking about dating again, but rather than trying to meet women via traditional methods, he holds a series of fake auditions for a non-existent movie. Pretty much every character in this movie is an awful person, and the way they treat one another is disturbing on many, many levels. Also directed by Takashi Miike, One Missed Call is a parody of the endless string of soggy dead girl movies made in Japan at the time.
The premise is that, as the title suggests, teenagers are receiving missed calls on their mobile phones. Sure enough, the kids all die just as the missed call predicted. Every day, he tools up and goes out to kill the bloodsuckers; every night, they surround his house and try to kill him. Part melodramatic family drama, part psychological horror, A Tale Of Two Sisters is all scary all the time. But as always in these kinds of films, nothing is what it seems — you might need a second viewing to get your head round the ending.
The use of light and shadow in this movie is just stunning; the first time Powell arrives at the Harper house is a particular highlight. Also, the bit at the end where the psychiatrist explains everything in great detail is utterly superfluous. Getting the timing of a holiday wrong can have disastrous consequences, as City Of The Dead illustrates.
Um, oops. For no apparent reason, one day every living being in the English village of Midwich falls unconscious. For hours, no one can get near Midwich without passing out. When they wake up, every woman in the village finds herself mysteriously pregnant. Re-Animator director Stuart Gordon toned things down a bit for this creepy fairy tale, but not much. When a reclusive old lady dies in an isolated house out in the marshes, a young lawyer is sent to sort out her estate.
The wonderfully named Mimsy Farmer plays Sylvia, a scientist haunted by melancholy and hallucinations. But are her problems really all in her head, or is there something else going on? Dark and twisted and incredibly gory, May is as sad and sweet as it is creepy. A lot of that is attributable to Angela Bettis, whose performance is adorably unnerving.
In this unauthorised take on Dracula , the evil Count is depicted not as a tragic or romantic anti-hero, but as a horrifying embodiment of the plague — complete with an entourage of rats. Max Schreck makes a brilliantly weird-looking vampire, all teeth, ears and fingernails; his shadow is especially unnerving. Which turns out to be soon. The book explains that the town is plagued by vampires — and, helpfully, gives instructions on how to kill them. Vampyr is an early sound film, so while there is some sound and a little dialogue, most of the silent film conventions are still in place.
Bela Lugosi is the definitive Dracula.