The horror genre is one which gets a bad rep. This is due to a large percentage of the films being predictable, exploitative, badly acted and featuring the same old horror tropes. Each year there is a slew of horror films that are released, and every now and then there will be a diamond in the rough. These gems often go unnoticed due to the market being saturated by garbage, and they will be pigeonholed in with the terrible releases of the year. These modern films have all gone under the radar, but are certainly worth checking out for horror fans.
10. The Canal
The Canal is an Irish horror film which has an old school feel in that it there is a heavy sense of dread that develops throughout the film, and this makes it a tense and gripping film from the get-go. This is largely achieved through the creepy camerawork, sound and lighting that is used, but also thanks to the excellent acting from Steve Oram and Calum Heath. The Canal follows David, a film archivist, who has suspicions that his wife is having an affair with one of her work clients. This stress is then furthered when David is given some troubling footage to work on of a crime that took place in his house in 1902. Unnerving twists and turns follow, and it is a genuinely chilling watch, which also contains gore and jump scares to keep you on the edge of your seat until it reaches its dramatic conclusion.
9. Lake Mungo
On the surface, Australian horror Lake Mungo may seem like every other faux documentary horror flick. This is not the case, and it is actually a fantastic psychological horror that is as creepy as it is moving and emotional. It is best to go into the film without too much prior knowledge, but the premise is the Palmer family grieving the recent drowning of their 15-year-old daughter, Alice. Soon, the family begins to notice strange things happening around their family home. This is all told in a faux-documentary style, seeing heavy use of talking head shots, news reports and documentary footage. This makes the family’s struggle to come to terms with Alice’s death even more emotive, and it is a sad yet fascinating exploration of bereavement that is combined with terrifying and chilling horror. Lake Mungo is widely praised by critics, and a unique film from Joel Anderson.
8. Session 9
Brad Anderson’s Session 9 is wildly underrated, and this is because it does not sound like the most original horror. The plot sees an asbestos abatement crew working in an abandoned mental asylum, and they soon begin to encounter strange occurrences whilst on the job. There are thousands of horror films that follow a similar setup, but Session 9 is unlike the majority of these movies. This is a film which has a claustrophobic, tense and unnerving atmosphere throughout, but it also relies heavily on character development, and this is paralleled by the revelations of a former patient’s troubling psychiatry recordings. The lighting and sound design also contribute to the powerful sense of dread that gives nods to many old school psychological classics, such as The Shining, and like all good psychological horror movies, you will be thinking about the film long after it reaches its climax.
7. Ils (Them)
The French certainly know how to make horror films, and Ils (Them) is a prime example of this. “Based on real events,” Ils is set in an isolated country house where a French school teacher and her husband are terrorized throughout the night by hooded invaders. Their car is stolen, the phone lines are disconnected and lights are switched off in the house, and they soon find themselves stalked by these unknown assailants. Like all the good horror films, instead of cheap scares and gratuitous violence, the disturbing nature comes from your own imagination and a fear of what is lurking in the shadows. The tension is palpable throughout the film, making it an engaging yet deeply disturbing film that leaves you watching through your fingers. This all leads to a shocking climax that is reached masterfully by directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud.
6. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is more comedy than horror, but it is an absolute must-see for any horror buff. Similarly to Shaun of the Dead, this film brilliantly parodies all of the classic horror clichés that have been used so heavily over the years, but it throws up a witty alternate take on these tropes. Tucker and Dale are two innocent and kindhearted hillbillies trying to take a fishing vacation, and they end up rescuing a college girl from drowning. After a series of misunderstandings, the other college kids are convinced that Tucker and Dale are murderous rednecks (common characters in horror), and they become hunted by the teens (who would usually play the protagonist, but the roles are cleverly reversed in this film). The misunderstandings and accidental yet brutal deaths come thick and fast, making this a hilarious, witty and original horror/comedy film.
Christopher Smith’s Triangle will not leave you in a cold sweat, but you will find it utterly gripping and it will leave you scratching your head upon its chilling climax. It combines both horror and sci-fi elements, and it is also an intelligent film which is well crafted and acted (particularly by Melissa George in the starring role). Without giving too much away, Triangle tells the story of a group of people who go on a boating trip, but after a storm they are forced to board a derelict ocean liner. They become convinced that someone else is aboard, and a startling discovery sets up a gripping chain of events. It contains many classic horror tropes and has enough blood and mayhem to keep most entertained, but it also has an added psychological element that will stick in the back of your mind for days after the credits roll.
4. You’re Next
Most home invasion films are genuinely terrifying; You’re Next is not one of these films. Instead, it is a black comedy which is a fun flick that all horror fans will get a kick out of. This twist on the home invasion subgenre is refreshing, but it still contains the necessary ingredients of thrills and kills to keep the audience engaged. This is achieved through a plot which twists and turns during the course of the film, but most notably through a number of highly creative and brutal deaths to members of the Davison family, who are at a family reunion at their vacation house (a classic setup). You’ll laugh as much as you will be shocked and thrilled, and fans of the subgenre will enjoy the fresh spin that director Adam Wingard brings, as well as the recognizable tropes which have dominated home invasion films since their inception.
3. A L’interieur (Inside)
Do not watch this film with a pregnant woman. A L’interieur (Inside) is a French home invasion movie that sees a widowed pregnant woman have a late night visitor from a strange woman dressed in black. A L’interieur makes Saw look like the latest Disney flick, but the bloodbath that ensues is only a tiny part of what makes this a deeply unsettling film. The tension is built masterfully by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, who use light and dark to perfection to keep viewers on the edge of their seat. The middle of the room may be lit, but the edges are kept in darkness so you are never entirely sure where the mysterious woman in black is lurking, or if she is there at all. The story is also well crafted and adds to the brutality of this brilliant yet horrifying film.
Martyrs is not for the faint of heart, and it is a film that even seasoned horror buffs will struggle to sit through. Not just a harrowing blood fest, it is also a film that explores some deeply profound themes. Due to its brutality, it is considered extreme cinema and is a hugely polarizing film. Those that do not mind gore and unsettling scenes will have plenty to talk about once the credits role, but it is also likely to be a film that you will only watch one time. The plot involves a young woman looking for revenge against a group who kidnapped and tortured her as a child, and this uncovers a deeply disturbing secret society looking to discover the secrets of the afterlife. Martyrs is heralded within the genre as one of the great extreme horror films, but it is certainly not for everyone.
1. The Loved Ones
Most teen prom horrors are predictable, dull and not scary. This is not the case for The Loved Ones, an Australian horror which is director Sean Byrne’s debut. The Loved Ones is a deranged, gruesome and original film which also contains some very dark humor. Brent is grieving the death of his father, wrapped in guilt and self harming, but he has plans to go to prom night with his girlfriend, Holly. He is asked to the dance by the obsessive Lola, and she does not take this rejection well. Lola and her father kidnap Brent, and they then have their own bizarre prom at her house, which is as troubling as it is hilarious. This is not for those with a weak stomach as the violence is brutal, but it is also an excellent film that is quite unlike any other teen horror you will ever see.