At this time more so than any other in film history, it is easy to be overwhelmed with film viewing choices. With the flood of new releases available to audiences in both cinemas and especially at home, it is now easier than ever for excellent horror, crime and suspense thriller films to slip through the cracks.
The 16 films discussed here are not necessarily obscure but are certainly all deserving of a larger audience and more critical acclaim. Please note there are no non-English language horror films listed here as we devoted an entire article to that field here. This article covers 2009 to the present and is in chronological order by release year.
1. Triangle (Christopher Smith, 2009)
Screenplay by Smith
Smith scored his biggest critical hit to date with 2010’s Black Death-a medieval cross between Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968) and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973). While Black Death remains substantially overrated, Smith’s far more accomplished Triangle seems to have flown far below the critical radar.
Triangle is the mend-bending story of a group of friends who take shelter on an apparently abandoned ocean liner after being stranded in the open sea by a storm. As the group realizes they are not alone, what follows is altered reality horror at its finest featuring a great lead performance from the always fully committed Melissa George and some brilliant nightmarish imagery.
Complex and very smart, Triangle deserves far more attention than it has thus far received.
2. Bitter Feast (Joe Maggio, 2010)
Screenplay by Maggio
Produced by independent horror cinema icon Larry Fessenden who also acts in the film in the role of a police detective, Bitter Feast is a dark kidnapping film set against the backdrop of the culinary world as a disturbed chef abducts his harshest critic.
Veteran character actor James Le Gros turns in the finest performance of his career as the twisted chef in this overlooked gem.
3. Carancho (Pablo Trapero, 2010)
Screenplay by Trapero, Alejandro Fadel, Martin Mauregui & Santiago Mitre
This grim and affecting slice of neo-film noir about a shady lawyer’s attempt to build a better future for himself with a drug-addicted nurse stars award-winning Argentinian actor Ricardo Darin, who turns in another highly memorable performance to be discussed along with his notable work in Fabian Bielinsky’s brilliant neo-noir The Aura (2005) and Juan Jose Campanella’s Oscar-winning The Secret in Their Eyes (2009).
Carancho is one of a number of films mentioned in this article that demonstrate that neo-film noir is alive and very well. Fans of that subgenre should also see the entries for Point Blank, The Silence, The Yellow Sea and Cold in July elsewhere in this piece.
4. Frozen (Adam Green, 2010)
Screenplay by Green
Best known for the 1980s horror cinema love letter Hatchet and its sequels, Green delivers his most mature work with this film about a trio of friends stuck on a ski lift facing several days of freezing temperatures with no possibility of help.
Complicating matters for the three is the hungry pack of wolves gathered below. A tight suspense thriller of place combined with elements of the revolt of nature horror film, Frozen shows a level of promise regarding Green’s talent that has yet to be realized.
5. A Horrible Way to Die (Adam Wingard, 2010)
Screenplay by Simon Barrett
Wingard and Barrett’s award-winning 2011 take on home invasion horror You’re Next may have received much more exposure and praise but the filmmaking duo’s foray into the serial killer subgenre A Horrible Way to Die deserves at least as much critical attention if not more.
Barrett’s clever and highly accomplished screenplay puts an escaped serial murderer on a collision course with his traumatized ex-girlfriend but all may not be as it initially appears. A tremendous achievement on an obviously very low budget, A Horrible Way to Die remains largely overlooked.
6. Point Blank (Fred Cavaye, 2010)
Screenplay by Cavaye & Guillaume Lemans
A male nurse saves the life of a wounded thief and ends up on a frantic race against time to save his kidnapped wife in the intense and superbly crafted French crime film Point Blank.
The quality of this film attracted much international attention. South Korea’s 2014 The Target is a remake and an undated American version has been announced. One of the major figures in the world of European neo-film noir, Fred Cavaye wrote and directed the acclaimed prison break film Anything for Her in 2008 and re-teamed with his Point Blank lead actor Gilles Lellouche for 2014’s cop film Mea Culpa.
7. The Reef (Andrew Traucki, 2010)
Screenplay by Traucki
A group of friends stranded at sea by a storm attempt to swim to the nearest island. As they do, they are subjected to attacks by a ravenous shark. The Reef exists in the same part of the genre world as Chris Kentis’ 2004 low-budget theatrical hit Open Water but is the superior film in every way.
Traucki previously made another suspense thriller of place/revolt of nature horror film combination in 2007 called Black Water about a group of friends stuck in a swamp menaced by an aggressive crocodile and the screenwriter/director substantially improves on that formula with this suspenseful and gripping film.
8. The Silence (Baran bo Odar, 2010)
Screenplay by Odar based on the Jan Costin Wagner novel
Fans of the dark crime films of the Nordic countries such as the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy will find a lot to like in this slow-burn German film about the disappearance of a young girl that draws the attention of both police detectives and the perpetrators of a decades-old child murder.
The Silence employs a very deliberate pace not unlike George Sluizer’s original 1988 The Vanishing and deserves to be seen by a wider audience. Screenwriter/director Baran bo Odar’s next film Who Am I-a suspense thriller about a renegade computer hacker-is soon to be released.