10 Criminally Underrated Horror Films To Watch This year
It's late October, so you've probably been watching your fair share of horror movies, TV shows, and this disco song called "Soul Dracula" that you can thank me for showing you later. But if you've run out of options and have access to a streaming service or two, maybe check out one of these scary flicks. At the very least, you'll sound like the best kind of snob at your Halloween party when you say "You watched Friday The 13th yesterday? Oh, how lovably DROLL of you, Ted!"
Mom And Dad Finally Manages To Harness The Raw Power Of Nicolas Cage (Hulu)
For years, filmmakers have tried to fit the Nicolas-Cage-shaped peg that is Nicolas Cage into square holes. Most of the last two decades of his career have been marked by "WHAT is he doing and WHY is he doing it?" reactions, but the last year or so has shown a glimmer of hope. 2018's Mandy was violent and colorful, his role in Into The Spiderverse was another great element in a near-perfect movie, and it seems like he's solid in Richard Stanley's Color Out Of Space adaptation. And then there's Mom And Dad, which is basically commentary on Cage's acting style itself.
The movie is about kids waking up to suddenly find that their parents are trying to kill them, and Cage and Selma Blair huff and grunt and scream their way through doors, walls, and the script as two suburban parents who have flipped. But it's kind of always been this way for Cage. He's been constantly thrust into bland, one-size-fits-all hero roles, and has nearly always been way too off-base for them. But here the film steers into the skid. Cage is a normal actor gone wild playing a normal dad gone homicidal. You get the sense that after years of films like The Wicker Man, Knowing, Next, and The Sorcerer's Apprentice, he has finally found a home.
Apostle Is Terrifying Horror From The Director Of Perfect Action Films (Netflix)
I will watch anything that Gareth Evans does. The Raid and The Raid 2 are proof that martial arts films can be more satisfying than anything nominated for Best Picture. His first major film, Merantau, is absolutely worth seeking out (and is the acting debut of two stars from The Raid). He also had a short about a violent cult in the found-footage anthology VHS 2 (which was in my list of underrated horror films last year). But recently, Netflix released his film Apostle, which goes back to the cult well and stars the impossibly handsome Dan Stevens, a man who I'm sure has slept with my wife. I have no proof of this, but look at him. He just has.
But while Evans is best-known for directing action, and the awesome 2015 film The Guest has proven that Stevens can definitely pull off a dude on a mission to break as many limbs as possible, Apostle is a slow-paced period piece. Stevens plays a drug addict who's been sent to an island to rescue his sister from a cult. And while it definitely has its gory parts (you'll never look at a drill bit the same way), mostly it's just an unsettling visit to a community that's caught under charismatic (and supernatural) powers.
It just goes to show that if a dude can direct a near-flawless action sequence, he probably has the chops to tackle the timing and visceral nature required for horror too. Also, at one point Dan Stevens loses some fingers in a meat grinder and I yelled "NO, FUCK YOU, MOVIE" at the screen.
Related: 21 Horror Movies That Were Even Scarier Behind The Scenes
Murder Party And Hold The Dark Are The First And Most Recent Films Of A Modern Horror Master (Netflix)
Watching more and more of my friends jump aboard the Jeremy Saulnier train over the last decade has been a treat. The first film I saw of his was Blue Ruin, a thriller about a man who gets revenge on the asshole who killed his parents and finds himself embroiled in a mad dash for survival, and I was delighted when people discovered Green Room, his ode to punk music, box cutters, and hating Nazis. So if you're like me and are an evangelistic fan of those films, get pumped, because his debut feature Murder Party and his latest film Hold The Dark are both available on the 'flix, as the teens these days call it.
And these couldn't be more different in tone. Murder Party is outlandish, gory, goofy, and has virtually no budget to speak of. Hold The Dark is polished and quiet, and involves a disconcerting and brutal look at loneliness, death, and myth in the Alaskan wilderness. And while it would be dumb and pretentious to say that making a slower, more serious movie means that a director has "grown up," watching these (along with Blue Ruin and Green Room, which are also on Netflix!), show that Saulnier has only improved with time.
The Suspiria Remake Is Bold, Bleak, And Beautiful (Amazon Prime)
Some of you probably haven't seen the original 1977 Suspiria. And that's cool, since the 2018 remake isn't one of the ones you get more out of because they're subverting the source material. Instead it stands all on its own as a cold, gorgeous, distressing look at motherhood and femininity and tragedy. It's about a dance academy that's being controlled by a coven of witches, the violence can be both understated and extreme, and the glorious Tilda Swinton plays three different roles.
Look, I know that "three different roles" makes it sound like we have an Austin Powers situation here, but trust me, and trust Tilda fucking Swinton. She can pull it off. I also know that, at a length of two and a half hours, Suspiria threatens to turn into a dragging affair that forgets to be entertaining as it attends to the whims of its director. But Luca Guadagnino (who previously did the fantastic, very non-horrific Call Me By Your Name), is a master of pacing, and Suspiria becomes the rare horror film that's worth having the runtime of a modern Avengers flick.
Related: 10 Criminally Underrated Horror Movies To Watch On Halloween
Black Christmas Began The Slasher Trend, And Still Stands As One Of The Best (Amazon Prime)
There's a lot of discussion to be had about which horror movie began the big slasher wave of the '70s and '80s, ranging from drive-in fare like The Last House On The Left to foreign shockers like Bay Of Blood to Hitchcock's Psycho. But in terms of what we think of as a slasher, especially when it comes to structure and character types, 1974's Black Christmas stands at the beginning of that particular evolutionary line. Released four years before Halloween, it tells the story of a bunch of sorority sisters who are stalked and killed at Christmastime.
Directed by Bob Clark (who is best known for, holy shit, A Christmas Story), Black Christmas has something that many of the films it spawned doesn't: an unsettling, claustrophobic atmosphere. It refuses to give us any sense of satisfaction, keeping you in a state of murky dread, as it never reveals its killer and never teases a Black Christmas 2: Season's Cleavings. Also, check out the cast: Margot Kidder before she was Lois Lane, John Saxon before he was Cop Dad Supreme in A Nightmare On Elm Street, Olivia Hussey from Romeo And Juliet, and even Kier Dullea from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I think it goes without saying that this is their most important work.
Attack Of The Mushroom People Is The Director of Godzilla Doing Straight Horror (Amazon Prime)
After the success of films like Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra, director Ishiro Honda felt a little trapped by the kaiju genre he'd helped pioneer. This feeling would haunt him for most of his later career (he'd made his name with romances and dramas), so he'd take any chance to do something even slightly different. And one of those things was Attack Of The Mushroom People -- which sounds like it might fall in line with The War Of The Gargantuas and King Kong vs. Godzilla, if you just go by its goofy Americanized title (it was originally called Matango).
But that name is definitely a diversion. Shipwrecked on an island, a group of people are exposed to poisonous fungi that mutates them beyond recognition. The special effects almost got the film banned in Japan, due to comparisons with the horrific burn injuries many suffered from the atomic bombings just two decades earlier. But while this feels less overt than the nuclear metaphors at play in Godzilla, it makes it no less effective. Matango is a disturbing sci-fi film hiding in goofy sci-fi clothing, and it shows that Honda was far more than just a destroyer of miniature tanks.
Society Is A Satire About Class With A Gross Twist (Amazon Prime)
If you've been alive in the past few, well, centuries, you've probably heard arguments about inequality. And you should. Rich people can often barely be bothered to treat the poor like they're people, preferring to see them as the world's unsightly window dressing. So Society, a film that you may not have seen (but have probably seen GIFs from) is perfect for 2019. In it, a teen finds out that his family and their wealthy friends are literal monsters that meld with each other and feed on people.
Sure, it's not subtle in the slightest, but director Brian Yuzna, who got his start producing films like the equally gruesome Re-Animator and From Beyond, never intends for it to be. By the time a climactic "orgy" begins, you're supposed to consider these upper-class mutants the grossest people on the planet. Because being a nasty asshole to the less fortunate IS just as disgusting as enveloping people in a fleshy alien cluster of mouths and assholes. Karl Marx said that, I believe.
Jungle Finally Shows That Daniel Radcliffe Is Free Of Being Harry Potter (Amazon Prime)
One of the drawbacks of being a lead character in a famous fantasy franchise is that you'll be forever associated with that character. Just look at Mark Hamill. He got a second wind in his career due to his perfect portrayal of the Joker in cartoons, but when it comes to live action, he'll always be Luke Skywalker to a majority of us. Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe faces the same issue. Sure, he starred in stuff like the tepid The Woman In Black and cult films like Swiss Army Man, but if you saw him on the street, you wouldn't yell, "Hey, it's actor Daniel Radcliffe, who was billed fifth on the poster for Now You See Me 2!"
But Jungle, which basically plays out like The Revenant with less Oscar posturing, might be enough to change your perspective on him forever. Based on a true story, Radcliffe plays a man who becomes lost in the Amazon for three weeks, resulting in an excruciating journey as he finds himself beset by the cruelest psychopathic killer of all: nature. It plays more thriller than straight horror, but there's something about watching the former child star writhe and shriek and hallucinate that finally makes you forget that he spent a decade with a lightning bolt on his forehead.
The Golem Is A Wonderful Twist On Jewish Folklore (Netflix)
There's an ancient Jewish legend about a rabbi who built a "golem" out of clay to protect his people. And for a long time, the most famous representation of the story on film was 1920's German classic The Golem: How He Came Into The World. (Which is actually the final film in a trilogy, with the first two movies being lost. Cinema history is great and frustrating!) But recently, we got another take from the Paz Brothers, in which a woman who has lost her child decides to create a golem to save her village from marauders.
However, the form of the golem is tied to the creator's emotional state, and so it comes in the form of her dead son. So filtered through a story of a mother's grief and religious persecution is a movie about a monstrous kid that can tear people apart. It's not perfect, and some of the CGI looks like it recently escaped a PlayStation 3 cutscene, but adding this dash of parental Frankenstein horror gives this particular take on the myth a boost to another, terrifying level.
Ravenous Is An Amazing Cannibal Time Capsule (Hulu)
The late '90s were not fun for horror fans. Sure, you had the Scream films, but those were mostly providing commentary on horror movies from a decade earlier. Other than that, we were being pursued ceaselessly by I Know What You Did Last Summer clones, each one starring whoever had most recently graduated from a TV teen drama. And then there's Ravenous, a satirical cannibal film, and if you're wondering how it was received, just know that it had the 142nd-highest opening weekend gross of 1999 ... out of 145.
Set during the Mexican-American War and based on the story of the Donner Party, Ravenous concerns soldiers who, due to various unfortunate circumstances, have begun to nibble on each other. And turn back now if you're hoping that this particular human deli section will be more "tell" than "show." While Ravenous seems like it would be a prime opportunity to deliver commentary on "the things that war does to a man" through many hoarse monologues, it mostly deals with the ramifications of eating all your friends and how that would leave you feeling. Spoiler: For the most part, it leaves you feeling pretty shitty. Thanks for the tip, Ravenous.
Know of a fun horror movie that would fit on this list? Let Daniel Dockery know on his Twitter!
For more, check out 7 Movies That Don't Realize They're Horror Movies - After Hours:
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