18. The Brøken (UK/France, 2008, Sean Ellis)
Face your fears.
Nightmare Fabric: Gina, a radiologist, sees her doppelganger drive past her on the street. She pursues the car and ends up sneaking into the woman’s apartment only to discover a photo of herself with her father. Severely freaked out she is involved in a car accident and subsequently suffers amnesia.
She is plagued by memory shards of what occurred leading up to her crash, and soon realises her family are in grave danger. Lena Headey gives a career performance in an uber-spooky tumble down the rabbit hole that plays deadly games with a deeply unnerving twist on the antagonist/protagonist confrontation. Broken mirrors, broken minds.
Nightmare Logic: Fragmented.
Nightmare Impact: Shattering.
19. Martyrs (France, 2008, Pascal Laugier)
They have not finished being alive.
Nightmare Fabric: Two women, Anna and Lucie, who have been damaged soul mates since their time spent in an orphanage, are reunited fifteen years later after Lucie claims to have found her childhood abusers. But everything goes pear-shaped when Lucie loses the plot after the demonic phantom continues to terrorise her.
Later, Anna discovers a hidden underground chamber … and her grief will turn to agony. In one of the most brutal examples of the new wave of Euro horror Laugier divides audiences into those with stamina and those without. The hardcore that last the distance are rewarded with a bitter pill indeed. Martyrs takes no prisoners, suffers no fools.
Nightmare Logic: Excruciating.
Nightmare Impact: Exquisite.
20. The Children (UK, 2008, Tom Shankland)
You brought them into this world. Now … they will take you out.
Nightmare Fabric: Two families meet up at a secluded country home to spend the New Year holiday. There are four adults, four young children, and a teenage girl. It’s all fun and games until someone starts vomiting and later all four kids are seemingly infected with a strange virus. They begin to act increasingly strange and aggressively toward the adults.
Soon the adults and the adolescent find themselves overwhelmed. In an obvious throwback to the chilling horror scenarios of the 1970s, both in premise and in style, Shankland’s fundamentally disturbing concept is delivered with bang-on direction and performances, and a coal black sense of humour lying underneath like the oil dripping from a wrecked car. The apocalypse suggested at movie’s end is the poisoned cream on top.
Nightmare Logic: Feverish.
Nightmare Impact: Prime.
21. Left Bank (Linkeroever, Belgium, 2008, Pieter Van Hees)
Sometimes the truth is better left unsaid.
Nightmare Fabric: Marie is a young aspiring athlete, but she suffers a real blow when her doctor informs her she has an immune infection that will prevent her from attending the European Championships. To pass the time she moves in with new lover who has an apartment in the recently completed block in the upwardly mobile Left Bank.
The previous tenant vanished in mysterious circumstances and Marie becomes obsessed with finding out the reasons, but in the process begins to suffer terrible ailments and afflictions. The building is harbouring a very dark secret in its depths. This is a slow-burn thriller that slides down into the territory of Lovecraftian horror with ominous resignation, and a profoundly affecting dénouement is delivered. When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you.
Nightmare Logic: Whirling.
Nightmare Impact: Bottomless.
22. A Serbian Film (Srpski Film, Serbia, 2010, Srdjan Spasojevic)
Not all films have a happy ending.
Nightmare Fabric: Milos, a jaded porn star, decides to accept one last lucrative job so that he can retire and escape the grind with his wife and their young son. However, his employer, the movie’s evil and manipulative producer, is intent on involving the porn star in something far more corrupt than the usual skin flick.
When Milos refuses to participate in the producer’s sick fantasy it is too late; he has been Mickey Finned. He awakes, battered and bruised, in a fug, aware that he has lost a couple of days. As he attempts to find out what happened to him every person’s worst nightmare presents itself. A post-modern horror movie to rival everything you’ve and witnessed and survived before. Spasojevic’s searing socio-political assault continues to polarise viewers.
Nightmare Logic: Distressing.
Nightmare Impact: Ruinous.
23. The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (US/Netherlands, 2011, Tom Six)
Nightmare Fabric: Martin, a short, obese, middle-aged carpark tollbooth supervisor, spends his free time watching The Human Centipede (First Sequence) on his laptop, over and over. He lives with his disturbed mother, and is abused his psychiatrist. No wonder he’s a psychopathic timebomb. Martin makes it his mission to create his own human centipede, but with ten or more people. He begins haphazardly abducting victims, and setting up his perverse experiment in a derelict warehouse.
Things can only get worse. Writer/director Six ups the ante from the first movie, and makes an altogether more surreal and horrendous movie. David Lynch meets John Waters in the sewers after midnight. Filmed in colour, but released in black and white, with the exception of the colour brown, inserted for subtle, yet gross enhancement. 100% medically INaccurate!
Nightmare Logic: Barbed.
Nightmare Impact: Crushing.
24. Paranormal Activity 3 (US, 2011, Herny Joost & Ariel Schulman)
It runs in the family.
Nightmare Fabric: Apart from the prologue, set in 2005, the remainder of the movie is set in 1988, and focuses on young Katie, her sister, and her mother and boyfriend. The boyfriend sets up makeshift camera surveillance to try and capture what appears to be an apparition within the household. This spectre creates further disturbance, and eventually the young girls are taken to their grandmother’s house for protection, however, it is revealed, much to the horror of the boyfriend, that the grandmother, and numerous others, have a terrifying agenda.
A very rare example of a sequel – or in this case, prequel – that is better than the original movie. Despite the found footage conceit of the paranormal shenanigans appearing to have outstayed its welcome, on the contrary, the origin of the malevolent spirit proves to be the most frightening, and incidentally, the most fascinating, episode of the entire series. The movie can even be watched independently and exclusively.
Nightmare Logic: Infernal.
Nightmare Impact: Fiendish.
25. Evil Dead (US, 2013, Fede Alvarez)
Fear what you will become.
Nightmare Fabric: Her brother, his girlfriend, and two other friends take Mia, a young, recovering drug addict, to a forest cabin retreat. In the cabin’s cellar they discover the Naturon Demonto, a version of the Necronomicon, or Book of the Dead, and ignoring the book’s written warnings, one of the visitors reads a passage aloud, summoning a demon. A demonic force possesses Mia and the others lock her in the cellar. But soon enough the evil dead force infiltrates the others.
There’ll be tears before bedtime. Despite the initial upset that such a bona fide cult classic could be remade it quickly became apparent that Alvarez was oozing talent. Ditching the usual CGI for old school practical effects, and delivering washes of unbridled horror in earnest, this is a remake that is more than a stylish reboot, it can be rightly viewed as a sequel, set in the same cabin (albeit after a bit of reno) thirty years after Ash and the fake shemps first encountered the evil within the woods. Hell, the Oldsmobile Delta 88 is still there, it has to be the same place. The haters will hate, the True Believers will champion.
Nightmare Logic: Coincidental.
Nightmare Impact: Groovy.
Author Bio: Bryn Tilly is a seasoned film critic and cinephile based in Sydney, Australia. With a geek love of genre movies, especially horror, science fiction, and all things with a noir edge, he is the editor of http://cultprojections.com. Please feel free to subscribe, or simply Like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CultProjections). Additionally, you can check out his “nightmare movie” review archive at http://www.horrorphile.net.