When it comes to horror films, the good ones are few and far between, but when it comes to GREAT ones, well those are even harder to come across. Every year, movie theaters are flooded with the usual “possession” films or “ghost stories.” Not that that’s a problem. The problem lies in the fact that there seems to be no originality anymore, and when it comes to mainstream horror films, this ends up being their biggest downfall.
But if you’re willing to look hard enough, you’d be surprised at how many incredible horror films have been released over the past 10 years. Whether it’s scrolling through the current films On Demand, checking Netflix, or even digging through the DVD basket at a local store, there’s a good chance that you will find something that will not only surprise you, but make you question how many good horror films have you been missing out on?
It’s a sad thought knowing that the majority of the original and downright terrifying horror films have, and continue to, slip under the radar. If you’ve happened to miss these 10 in particular, you would be doing yourself a huge favor to fix that and catch up as soon as possible. NOTE: This list is in no particular order.
1. Lovely Molly (2011)
From director Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project, Altered) comes a film about a girl named Molly (Gretchen Lodge) who moves into her childhood home out in the country along with her husband Tim (Johnny Lewis). Soon after they move in, strange things begin happening. Molly starts to become haunted by old memories that she thought she had forgotten.
Tim is a truck driver who needs to leave and be away for his work, which leaves Molly, a recovering heroin addict alone at home. While he’s away, the memories that haunt her cause her to slip back into old habits and that leads to even more “odd” behavior. She starts video-taping the neighbors, talking to dead animals, and even seems to be sexually assaulted by nothing at all.
The whole film is an uncomfortable journey that will leave you guessing if this woman is being possessed, haunted, or if she’s just straight-up hallucinating. Half of this is credited to Gretchen Lodge’s performance as Molly. She is able to portray scared, vulnerable, and downright evil almost seamlessly. Her performance was even good enough to win her the award for Best Actress at the 2012 Fright Meter Awards.
2. Kill List (2011)
Every so often you come across a film that leaves you with more questions than answers, and you would be hard-pressed to find one that does so as much as Kill List. Director Ben Wheatley (Sightseers, A Field In England) tells us the tale of Jay (Neil Maskell), a retired hit-man, who has fallen on hard times and is persuaded by his friend to join him for one last “job.”
Jay is hesitant at first. He promised his wife that he was finished with that line of work after a botched job a year earlier. He knows that the money is too good to pass up and the more he looks at his son and his family’s financial situation, the more he realizes what he needs to do. What follows is what can only be described as complete madness.
Jay and his friend meet up with the client and is given a list of three people to kill with no explanation. Things seem a bit off right away when the client unexpectedly cuts Jays hand in order to sign the contract in blood. To say anything else about the plot would only spoil and cheapen the events that take place afterwards, including an ending that will hit you straight in the gut and leave you gasping.
3. The Loved Ones (2009)
Prom night should be one of the highlights of your high school career right? Boy or girl, you get to dress up and look nice, go out to dinner, then go have a great time with all of your friends. Hell, you may even get lucky. Unfortunately for Brent (Xavier Samuel), “lucky” isn’t how you would describe what happens to him.
Lola (Robin McLeavy), or “Princess” as she is called by her father, is a shy and quiet high school girl with the dream of taking Brent to prom. The only problem is that Brent already has a date: his girlfriend. Because of this, he refuses Lola’s request to be her date. She doesn’t take too kindly to this, so one day while Brent is listening to music, unaware of his surroundings, he is attacked from behind by a man and is knocked unconscious.
That man turns out to be Lola’s father. Brent wakes up strapped to a chair inside Lola’s house, which her father has turned into dance for their own private prom. We already know this isn’t going to bode well for Brent, especially after Lola injects a syringe filled with bleach into his voice box so he is unable to talk or scream. In a way, this feels like a “slasher movie,” but there are so many more psychological events at play that turns it slightly in a different direction.
4. Grave Encounters (2011)
If you’ve ever seen the TV series Ghost Adventures, then this plot may sound familiar to you. Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) and his “ghost hunting” crew travel to and lock themselves inside of an abandoned mental hospital for a night in order to see if the hauntings are true for their TV series Grave Encounter. Lance Preston even looks and acts like Ghost Adventures star Zak Bagans, so there’s little doubt as to what they were going for here.
Nowadays, really good found footage films are few and far between, so it’s a nice surprise to stumble upon a film that does it so well. We’re not stuck watching from behind one camera the whole time, it’s set-up just like the TV show it’s mocking. Before the crew stays the night, they take a tour through the asylum and place cameras where they think the most “activity” will take place. So as time goes on, we get the stationary view of these areas and we get to see these strange events take place before the crew even knows what’s happening.
From the way this has been described so far, it may just sound like a comedic parody of the popular TV series, but it’s far from it. Lance Preston may act like Zak Bagans when the cameras are rolling, but we soon find out that’s just for the show. He’s never actually encountered real life hauntings before so when things start going crazy, he’s as terrified as the rest of the crew.
Sure it has a few jump scares that seem to be ever present in the found footage genre, but few can pull them off as effectively as they’re done here. A particular scene with a little girl and another with a “tongue-less” man are the major stand-outs.
5. The Tall Man (2012)
When you hear the name “The Tall Man,” there’s a good chance that one character comes to mind, and that would be the main villain in the popular horror franchise, Phantasm. This film has nothing to do with that franchise or any characters involved in it, instead it takes the idea of Phantasm’s Tall Man and changes the concept into something much more real.
There are news reports from around the U.S. saying that an entity known as “The Tall Man” as been seen abducting children. No one’s been able to get a good look at what or who he is, but once the children are taken, they are never seen or heard from again.
This brings us to Julia Denning (Jessica Biel). She’s a widowed nurse in a small town in Washington called “Cold Rock.” She lives a quiet and peaceful life with her son until one day he appears to have vanished. Knowing about these reports of the Tall Man, Julia goes on a hunt to find the Tall Man and what he does with the children he takes.
Not only was this Pascal Laugier’s first film since 2008’s incredible, French-horror masterpiece Martyrs, but this was also his first U.S. film. If you’ve seen any of Laugier’s previous films, then you know one thing: the man makes a beautiful film. Half of the enjoyment of this is how it looks.
It’s very impressive to make a film that’s so dreary and dark, but yet so vibrant at the same time. And Jessica Biel plays a great and rare role (for her) as a horror-lead. You feel like you’re right along with her as she tries so desperately to find and get her son back. Was it a man the whole time? Or was it some kind of being like the Slender Man?