Much like my previous horror list, this is films you “MAY NOT” have seen rather than “PROBABLY HAVEN’T” – As I find that statement pretentious and smug and as if I’ve been hibernating up my own arse. Also like the previous, I expect some of the big horror movie aficionados to have seen most if not all of these; this list is mainly for the casual horror viewer and general film fan that may have overlooked or simply just never heard of. But don’t get me wrong, I want everyone to enjoy this!
13. Maléfique (2002) – Dir. Eric Valette.
Set entirely in a prison cell, a new inmate finds an ancient book hidden behind a loose brick in the wall beside his bed. It contains passages of evil black magic that himself and his cellmates believe can help them escape. But unbeknownst to them, they have unlocked a greater evil.
A very interesting concept held together strongly by an eerie atmosphere and some truly fucked characters. One is a mentally challenged, child-like psychopath who ate his infant sister, another is a transgender man who is presumably a murderer/rapist and the last is a seemingly well together man who brutally murdered his wife in a burst of temporary insanity. Our protagonist should really not be near these lunatics as he is in purely for fraud. The acting in this great and the effects were top notch for what it was. It’s clearly a low budget film as they confined it almost entirely to that prison cell. It does get a bit unnecessarily convoluted in the last 20 minutes or so, and a particular obvious moment at the end is driven home in such a way that it ALMOST spoils the film, but I think the effective first 3/4 of the film make up for that. A nice rarity I’d recommend seeking out if you can!
12. Bug (2006) – Dir. William Friedkin.
Another film set almost entirely in one location, this paranoid psychological horror follows the always incredible Michael Shannon as he plays a war veteran with severe PTSD who strikes up a romance with a woman in a motel, gradually becoming more unstable, he realises there is an infestation of bugs in their room, which he believes is part of a conspiracy by the US government. He brings the woman into his paranoid world as he tries to cling on to his sanity while trying to exterminate the bugs.
Easily one of the more bizarre films on my list, but DEFINITELY not the most. Tracy Letts wrote the screenplay and the play in which it is based on, that also has Michael Shannon in the lead role (I bet it was incredible!) which he reprises in this. Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr. provide what I consider to be the supporting cast as Shannon absolutely owns this role with his legit looking insanity. He is one of the best actors out there who can pull off being a fucking mentalist well. Despite the outlandish plot, it’s very much a political piece about the treatment of veterans and the experimentation that might have gone on during the wars. Rather than atmosphere or scares, this relies on pure psychological terror, though it has some very violent scenes, it’s power comes from the blurred line of reality and imagination.
11. The Signal (2007) – Dir. David Bruckner, Dan Bush & Jacob Gentry.
Told in three parts from three perspectives and somewhat reminiscent of Charlie Brooker’s, Black Mirror, The Signal follows a group of people who are trying to survive against psychotic and mentally deranged lunatics who have been affected by a mysterious signal that has taken over televisions, phones and radios.
Each story is interconnected by a different transmission that goes out. The over all feeling is an intense horror-thriller but each chapter becomes it’s own genre; The first is a typical, gory zombie horror, the second is a very odd, dead-pan, dark comedy and the third is a post-apocalyptic love story; each directed by different people. All three segments are brilliantly done and stand on their own; it’s a clever way to split up each point of view by having it a completely different world to each person, due to being somewhat effected by the signal. I believe this has some love over in the US among the independent circle but it’s pretty much completely unknown here. It did get an Irish release direct to DVD but it didn’t expand much further which is a shame, by all accounts an engaging, intense, brilliantly written and acted horror film chocked full of skull smashing violence and legitimately interesting characters. And without a doubt the fucking weirdest party of all time.
10. Red, White & Blue (2010) – Dir. Simon Rumley.
This gritty gem feels almost like an even more horrific version of Larry Clarke’s eye-opening teen drama, Kids. A HIV positive, sexually promiscuous woman whose only connection to people is meaningless sex, goes on a spree of one night stands, infecting all of her partners. She meets a war veteran who claims to have been honourably discharged and begins to have legitimate feelings for him. One of her recent victims realises he has contracted the disease from her and with the help of his band of knob-end friends, hunt her down to get revenge. That is of course if they can get by her new, volatile and clearly unhinged partner.
Playing out more like a BRUTALLY intense thriller, this has you on your seat with the same atmosphere as a grim horror, it’s all the ingredients of a proper horror; only to be merged seamlessly with a gritty drama. It unfortunately suffers from a serious dose of “Shit Marketing” – Some have called this “The most disturbing horror in years!” and I’ve even once seen it listed in the top 10 slashers of the decade! Fuck RIGHT off. Anyone who would back those statements is a fool. It’s a billion miles from slasher territory. It’s disturbing in a dramatic stand point rather than horror, that above statement almost suggests it’s like another type of A Serbian Film. This is an out and out revenge thriller with horror undertones. It earns it’s place in the horror genre despite being mainly a thriller. Acting, style, atmosphere and tone are all on top form. Highly recommended to both horror-heads and thriller-lovers alike!
9. Splinter (2008) – Dir. Toby Wilkins.
This extremely underrated creature feature follows a couple on a romantic getaway who are taken hostage by an escaped convict and his girlfriend who are in need of a vehicle. When their car tire bursts over a mysterious spiked creature, they make their way to a petrol station, only to be trapped inside, fighting for their lives against the parasitic splintered creature who can take control of any life form, living or dead.
This absolute GEM definitely caught me off guard and has solidified itself as one of my favourites in the last 10 years. It’s like a modern day version of The Thing only without mystery or build up. This dives straight into the survival horror action. Shea Wingam is a treat to watch as always, now more popular for his work on the MASTERFUL Boardwalk Empire. Though this does suffer from horror movie convenience, where a particular character will have a quirk or skill that can aid them greatly in the scenario, it doesn’t shit all over it like most horror films do. The creature in this is highly original and can be cringeworthy in it’s violence which is always crucial for a creature/body horror movie. Acting and practical effects are top notch and it legit has you on edge throughout. Definitely give the 80 mins or so to this one!
8. A Field In England (2013) – Dir. Ben Wheatley.
Probably the least horrific of all of the horror films here but definitely one of the most effective. Set during the civil war in 17th century England, a group of cowards run from battle and escape into an overgrown field only to be held captive by a supernatural being of a man who forces them to search for treasure he believes to be buried there.
The premise itself doesn’t exactly scream horror but when you watch it, it’s what you get! A constant eerie atmosphere and one of the most simple and horrific scenes in recent years. Quite literally someone walking, but the speed, music and acting make it goosebump inducingly creepy. There’s no shortage of strange violence and psychedelic imagery in this film. One mushroom filled scene in particular lasts the guts of about 5 minutes of non stop surreal flashing images, repetition and loud tones. Visually and atmospherically this is one of the finest films of 2013. It’s a mind boggling movie that requires a couple of viewings and feels like watching someone’s nightmares – Ben Wheatley’s to be exact.
7. Society (1989) – Dir. Brian Yunza.
This is without a doubt the strangest addition to any list and I’ll be writing as little as possible about it, but hopefully enough to keep you interested! (If that hasn’t wet your whistle already). Billy is a young man who feels somewhat disconnected from his extremely upper class family in their supremely posh neighbourhood. A local boy uncovers evidence of strange incestuous behavior among the residents and is then found dead. Billy tries find out what happened to the boy and what the mysterious act of “Shunting” is that is going on in his neighbourhood.
I literally don’t want to say anymore about this, it’s so baffling and strange and wonderful that I don’t want people to know what the fuck they’re about to see! The film was rumoured to nearly been given the infamous US rating of NC-17 but they managed to waiver it because they didn’t use any blood for particular scenes… if they had, it fucking DEFINITELY would have been. Amazing practical effects, a hilarious and freaky story and earns it’s place as one of the top 20 horrors of the 80’s. I’ll say no more! Go watch this and get your healthy dose of “What the FUCK!”.
6. Hardware (1990) – Dir. Richard Stanley.
Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a lone scavenger stumbles across an old cyborg head, he sells it to a merchant who then sells it to a space marine named Moses. He brings it to his scrap collecting girlfriends house, only for it to reanimate and rebuild itself into an unstoppable murder machine.
This ultra fun and ultra sleazy sci-fi horror began Richard Stanley’s 90’s popularity before the tremendous but slightly dated, Dust Devil. It’s like an ultra violent Terminator wannabee but stands on it’s own and brings a lot more cheese to the table. Dylan McDermott must be from the same planet as Keanu Reeves cause neither of them ever fucking age! I had seen him recently in the abysmal Olympus Has Fallen and then rewatched this thinking “Jaysus he looks like your man!” To my surprise, it was him! He’s great fun in this and one of the only Americans as it was all shot in London, Wales and Morocco, despite being US set. A great soundtrack too featuring one of the pioneers of industrial music, Ministry. This gem was swept under the rug for some horrid reason and definitely needs to reclaim it’s fame. It has Lemmy driving a boat made from a New York taxi while he’s playing Ace of Spades. How the FUCK isn’t this more popular??
5. Dream Home (2010) – Dir. Pang Ho-Cheung.
Possibly one of the most shocking additions to the list, mainly for one horrendous scene that I won’t explain as it would ruin it… but let’s just say it involves a hoover. A young business woman who has been dreaming of owning a home in Hong Kong with a harbour view, finally gets her chance, only for it to be taken away form her by another couple who were willing to pay more and move in. So in order obtain her “Dream Home” she embarks on a spree of brutal murders to see that it happens!
One of the finest serial killer films in a long time, if you can call it that… it’s certainly a spree movie anyway! Packed to the brim with some of the most shocking and brutal murders I’ve seen in a long time, one as I mentioned above, I’m surprised isn’t talked about more or even that controversial given it’s context. It’s full of the type of kills I’d write in a film… which indeed makes me sound like a loon but sure we write the best stuff! It got a category III in China which is the absolute HARSHEST rating anything can get and even then it was fairly heavily censored, which is a damn shame. The acting is great and really legit and it’s got some properly intense scenes, some are blackly funny too. Another direct to DVD in UK I believe, I think the legendary Kim Newman of Empire gave this high praise before too. He’s usually great at digging out rare gems! Defo seek this one out if you’re into your intense gore, but be warned, it’s fairly rough! I loved it!
4. Ravenous (1999) – Dir. Antonia Bird.
One of my personal favourite horrors that I’m proud to have as the banner for this article! Capt. John Boyd, a hero who claimed his title under the most cowardly of terms during the 1840’s Mexican-American war, is promoted and stationed at a fort. There, a wounded and unhinged man they rescued, Colqhoun, begins to tell them a story of a maniac cannibal, Ives, who ate the former group he was with. Boyd, Colqhoun and his group of men go in search for Ives in the cold snowy mountains of Nevada.
This is as absolutely RAW as they come but also chocked full of impossibly dark humour. Partially based on the true story of Alfred Packer, a man accused of cannibalism in the 1840’s (who was also documented in the hilarious Trey Parker & Matt Stone musical horror, Cannibal!: The Musical). A fan favourite from the late, great Antonia Bird, who had worked with Carlyle two years before in her stellar crime drama, Face. This is by far her most accomplished work, growing heavily in cult status as of late with it’s DELICIOUS new Blu Ray release (Sadly only in the fucking US! I need that here now!) – It did well at the time but sadly disappeared after a year or two. One of Carlyle’s best performances (Or at least on par with Begby in Trainspotting) and Guy Pearce as usual absolutely rocks it. The soundtrack too was excellent and was provided by Damon Albarn of Blur and pianist, Michael Nyman. Violent, funny, intense and engaging. One I HIGHLY recommend.
3. The Loved Ones (2009) – Dir. Sean Byrne.
The last of the oddities on this list here in the blackest of the black comedies in recent years! Though it’s most definitely a full on horror, you will find yourself snickering at the pure insanity that will follow.
A young teenager in Australia declines an invite to the prom from a seemingly cute and nice girl on the surface, but underneath she is of insane levels of fucking crazy! She kidnaps him with the help of her lunatic father who wants NOTHING in this world except for her to be happy. She plans her own special prom night in her home, filled with creepy music, creepy guests and vicious, merciless torture.
A supremely enjoyable Aussie thriller here with some of the most extremely grim moments I’ve seen in a long time. The violence will definitely have you wincing more than once and the characters are all fucking bonkers in their own right. Surprisingly, Blu Ray did wonders for this film, cause Australia is such a naturally good looking place, it looked extremely cinematic! Plus the torture scenes were a hell of a lot more real and harrowing that way… Without being supernatural or driven by zombies or whatever, it’s definitely the most outlandish films on the list and certainly one of the most enjoyable. Definitely not well advertised I must say, the posters make it seem like an angsty emo horror/shit-fest like The Covenant or something. Don’t let that deter you, this is a stupendously nasty and thrilling horror that’ll have you laughing your bollocks off at the same time!
2. 7 Days (2010) – Dir. Daniel Grou.
Here we have the most realistic and grim horror in the longest time. It’d normally be a drama but it falls under the horror category for the sheer brutality in it and really that’s what horror is about. It’s horrific shit going on throughout!
A surgeon finds out his 8 year old daughter has been raped and murdered. He decides to kidnap the man he believes responsible and take him to an isolated area for 7 days of brutal and unrelenting torture. A grieving cop is trying to find the man before he makes himself a murderer.
An incredible and accurate representation of the blood thirst someone would obtain had they been in his situation. I believe this had some inspiration on the enjoyable but massively flawed, Law Abiding Citizen; even down to some of the “techniques” used in this film. The fact there is no music or anything just sets the tone for the brutal realism in this film. But unlike slashers or serial killer films where innocent folk are being butchered and you feel somewhat bad, the fact this is a disgusting paedophile/murderer just makes you delighted that the horrible cunt is going through this utter anguish! Unfortunately this also suffers from BAdvertising – The cover is of a little girl looking like a ghost, which sells this as a paranormal or supernatural film, which is NOT ok. A bloody sledgehammer, now THAT’S a fitting poster. At no point does this film over-step it’s realism at all, none of it seems far fetched really. Acted to perfection and unflinchingly brutal this almost fly on the wall-esque horror-drama needs far more recognition.
1. Jacob’s Ladder (1990) – Dir. Adrian Lyne.
My final film is one of my all time favourites. Following the Vietnam war and obviously unhinged, a veteran mourning the death of his child now working in a post-office begins to see his world crumbling around him as he can’t decipher what is past and present and what is dreams or reality. Slowly losing his mind, he tries to connect this back to a traumatic experience that happened to him and his men back in Vietnam.
Without a doubt the best psychological horror of all time, absolutely engrossing from start to finish and constantly has you covered in goosebumps and asking questions. Tim Robbins absolutely nails the part of a veteran who is literally losing his fucking marbles. Some of the nightmarish imagery in this film is among some of the best in horror history I think. Relying purely on a cold and creepy atmosphere and low on real jumps bar one or two, this earns it’s place as one of the best horror films ever made. The utter confusion just adds to the creepiness and has you bending your brain looking for solutions. Acting on all parts is superb and features one of my all time favourite horror moments involving a hospital. A paranoid soaked horror/thriller that is never mentioned anymore. I caught this for the first time about 10 years ago and it has stuck with me since. It definitely needs it’s big break again!
Finally we’ve reached the end of my second horror list! I thoroughly hope you enjoyed reading it and that you even made it this far without vomiting or being bored to tears. Hopefully I’ve inspired a search for these classics or have reminded people of some great stuff to rewatch!
Click here to see part 1, for anyone who has missed it before.
By Kevin Shields