6. The Babadook
After her husband passes, a single mother struggles to raise her son Sam, who is terrified of the idea that monsters are under his bed, which keeps her awake at night and almost permanently exhausted. The only way she can get Sam to sleep is if she reads him a bedtime story. But one night, Sam brings her a pop-up book to read that she had never seen before–in fact, neither of them had.
The book, Mister Babadook, is about a seemingly friendly monster that wants to be friends with the reader–only as the book goes on, it becomes more frightening, which exacerbates Sam’s issues. The mother throws away the book, but it somehow reappears on her doorstep, now with new, disturbing pages added that directly reference her and Sam. And then The Babadook shows up for real.
This Australian horror film was received to great critical acclaim and commercial success, managing to create real horror in a domestic setting and creating a sense of danger between a mother and child. Inside The Babadook, however, is a great story about grief and acceptance of death, and an allegory of depression (as represented by Mr. Babadook). One of the finest horror movies of the decade, this is a horror film that’s a cut above the rest.
7. The Fury
A father (Kirk Douglas) searches for his kidnapped son Robin, who has been taken by PSI, a secret intelligence organization within the CIA, which attempts to harness the power of psychics to turn them into weapons. As the PSI experiments on the son, he becomes progressively more mentally unstable, all while a teenage girl with telekinesis discovers she has a psychic link to the imprisoned psychic. Meanwhile, Robin eventually goes insane and on a killing spree, using his psychic powers to torture those who had wronged him.
This Brian De Palma-directed horror film is a few steps above your average horror film: with a score by John Williams and a stellar cast, including Douglas, John Cassavetes, and Carrie Snodgrass, this 1978 horror thriller is well-regarded but little-watched. For those who enjoy the edgier New Hollywood films of the 1970s and horror films from this time period, The Fury is one you may not have seen before–and should.
8. The Host
A monster emerges from Seoul’s Han River’s depths, eats some of its victims and takes Gang-du’s daughter, Hyun-seo, with it. Afterwards, the government and the United States military quickly arrive and announce that the creature has been subjected to an unknown virus, and soon quarantines the population that made contact with the creature, including Gang-du and his family whom tried to fend off the creature during its rampage.
After the American military dumps hundreds of bottles of formaldehyde down the drain in Korea, a mass die-off of fish in the Han River–along with the appearance of a strange creature–years later follows. In 2006, the creature makes landfall and begins attacking locals, feeding on anything in its path. Taking a man’s daughter and disappearing back into the water, he US military arrives to quarantine the population that has made contact with the creature–but the girl’s family members enter the sewers to rescue her.
South Korea has been producing some of the best horror films of the past 15 years, and The Host–directed by Bong Joo-ho–is one of the most popular films of all time in its home country. After a great amount of critical and commercial acclaim both at home and abroad, The Host has found an audience around the globe and furthered the great esteem that South Korean films have garnered in the past two decades. One of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite films of the past 25 years, The Host is a movie all horror–and film–fans should watch.
9. Starry Eyes
Being an aspiring actress in Los Angeles can be a pursuit filled with crushing rejections and nearly endless negative feedback from agents and friends alike. Sarah, a young aspiring actress, is finding the pursuit filled with nothing but rejection in the industry and backstabbing by her “friends.” This is not helped by her trichotillomania (a disorder that involves pulling out one’s hair).
However, things seem to change when a mysterious production company chooses her for a vaguely defined role that involves her engaging in bizarre acts during a series of auditions. But the further she gets into the audition process, the more erratic her behavior becomes, and this is just the beginning of her transformation into another creature entirely.
This modern body horror film is visually dynamic and disturbing, serving as a metaphor of the difficulties actresses face in the Hollywood system. Alexandra Essoe gives an excellent performance as Sarah, while this Kickstarter-funded film is both an original and unnerving look at the darker side of tinseltown.
Perhaps the most truly unnerving horror film streaming on Netflix, Pontypool is about a radio DJ who finds himself at ground zero of some unknown event that’s affecting people, turning them into mindless, violent shells of their former selves.
As he raps along on-air as the situation grows increasingly out of control, he also discovers that it’s some sort of virus that’s spreading via language. This low-budget indie packs a punch, set in mostly one location and driven by dialogue and the unseen horrors occurring outside.
But it’s not a film that scares you with gore or violence: it gets you with its concept and how it plays on the increasing paranoia of the viewer as they slowly begin to realize just how far (and how bad) the situation has become. A must-see this Halloween season.
Author Bio: Mike Gray is a writer whose work has appeared on numerous web sites and maintains a TV and film site at MeLikeMovies.com.