5. I Am Not a Serial Killer
Directed by Billy O’Brien and released in 2016, this horror/thriller is about a kid who shows homicidal tendencies, who tries to hunt down a killer in his town. We follow the main character, played by Max Records, who is an outcast and is seen as the weird kid. His family runs a mortician business so he is comfortable around dead bodies, and maybe a bit too comfortable as his homicide-prone mind and interest in serial killers become too big of an issue.
As the kill count rises, the character who begins to follow the killer where the film takes a very strange and great twist, changing the whole idea of the film. All of this information begins to boil over as the film ramps up to an intense final act.
A great film with great dark performances, this is a film that didn’t get much recognition upon release, but remain one of the best horrors from the year. It plays with dark subject matter and a dark sense of humor, creating a frightening yet really fun film.
The oldest film on the list, this 1946 thriller stars Boris Karloff as the head of a mental asylum, and when Nell Bowen, played by Anna Lee, comes to take a look at the asylum, she begins to take issue with the treatment of the patients and begins to try and change how those admitted are seen and treated. Karloff’s character uses his political ability to get Nell committed into the asylum, and there, she tries to rally those incarcerated to rebel.
The film is not completely a horror film, but the stark black-and-white film and the horrific scenario bring an unease and creepiness to the film. Along with that, Karloff gives one of his best and most underrated performances, making this a movie that should be on everyone’s watch list.
3. Autopsy of Jane Doe
Released in 2017 and directed by Andre Ovredal, the film takes place primarily in the single location of an autopsy room where a father and son duo, played by Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox, begin to investigate the death of an unnamed woman. As they begin their process, they begin to notice how pristine the woman’s body is, unmarked and showing little signs of how she could have died, but as they continue, they begin to find strange clues that could lead to an answer.
This film is a great example of storytelling as there isn’t much filler with the mysterious dead body, and the film progresses in almost real time as the plot moves along with the autopsy itself.
With pacing this perfect, the tension only builds as strange things begin to occur as the two progress, and the audience progresses with them. The dark surroundings of the two only help the atmosphere as we move through this autopsy, and helps pave the way to an exciting and terrifying conclusion that is so worth the wait.
2. Chasing Sleep
Released in 2001, the film is about an insomniac professor named Ed Saxon, played by Jeff Daniels, who wakes up one morning to find that his wife never came home. As the film progresses, Saxon’s insomnia begins to worsen and strange clues begin to turn up about his wife. Mixed with hallucinations and prodding police questions, Saxon seems to finally have cracked and what we get is an intense mind-bending film.
The film, like plenty of psychological thrillers, makes the audience flip their beliefs throughout, making us question what actually happened to the wife and who might be responsible for it. With piling information on the wife, and Ed Saxon slowly breaking down into a possible insane person from a lack of sleep, we’re left on the edge of our seats as we wait to see what happens next.
With interesting Lynchian surrealism in some scenes and a tip of the hat to Polanski’s “Repulsion” in others, we get a launch pad that shows Jeff Daniels’ dramatic ability that later has defined most of his recent career. Dark and suspenseful, this is a must-see that can lead to many conversations about it.
1. House of the Devil
A great nod to 70’s and 80’s horror, and the one of the least appreciated horrors of the last few decades, Ti West’s “House of the Devil” is a MUST see. The story is about Samantha Hughes, played by Jocelin Donahue, who, in need of extra money, takes a random babysitting job she found on a flyer. Once going to the house for the job, she discovers that what she thought was a normal babysitting job is actually a bit strange, as she’s told she actually has to look after a couple’s aging mother.
As the night progresses, things take a crazy turn and the film takes a whole new take on a classic horror trope. Taking advantage of films that came before it, we get a fun, terrifying and wild ride throughout the last part of the film that was unexpected from the beginning, as well as a bit of a twist ending.
Utilizing its time period and the low-budget idea of a single setting, West creates one of the most memorable and insane films of that last few decades, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you definitely should.