A father, an infant, and a post-apocalyptic hellscape: this is the driving force of Netflix’s Cargo. Directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, Cargo features a delightfully nuanced performance from Martin Freeman as Andy, a desperate father trekking his infant daughter across a post-outbreak Australia. While Cargo tends to be more of a drama, it has its fair share of horrifying moments as Andy moves from one bad situation to the next in order to find a safe place for his daughter.
Post-apocalyptic films are a dime-a-dozen nowadays, but Cargo makes a good case for its existence. The plot is a ticking time bomb, building up minute by minute, scene by scene, until it explodes in a satisfying conclusion that pulls surprisingly hard on the heart strings.
The camera captures Australia as a barren wasteland. Sweeping through the swamps and plains with certain grandiosity but not shying away from closing in for quieter moments. The characters in Cargo aren’t stupid and admirably the directors don’t treat the audience as stupid either. Cargo is an epic, moving, if not entirely unique post-apocalyptic film that is well worth your time.
While not a horror film in the conventional sense, Calibre features two people dealing with one of the most horrific scenarios imaginable. Vaughn and Marcus, played by Jack Lowden and Martin McCann respectively, head up to an isolated Scottish village for a hunting trip. After a night of heavy drinking, they set out in the early morning to spend the day hunting game. But things take an incredibly dark turn, forcing the friends into one horrific situation after another, testing the limits of their moral code and what they are capable of.
Matt Palmer directs this nail-biting tale of terror and suspense with a deft hand. The camera work is minimalist but elegant and Palmer lets the camera linger as the characters, and in turn the audience, work out how to deal with the horrific things on display.
Calibre is a story about how far humans can go to avoid dealing with internal terror and the consequences of our actions. It’s a story about what makes us human and how far we can bend our morality and systems of belief before things come crashing down around us. Calibre is a thrilling film that begs to be watched with the windows open, letting a chilly breeze raise the hairs on your neck.
Zombies. That word alone can be more than enough to keep some audiences away in this age of zombie movie oversaturation. Ravenous, or Les Affamés, is a French-Canadian zombie flick that is here to reignite your interest in the genre.
Directed by Robin Aubert and featuring gorgeous cinematography from Steeve Desrosiers, Ravenous is an artful and quiet movie that features one of the most interesting takes on the zombie apocalypse ever put to screen. These are not your typical bloodthirsty zombies; they are something more human than that.
Ravenous as a whole strives to be more human. It has slow moments that allow the viewer to breathe in the beautiful scenery and sit with its characters before ripping away the calm in a frenzy of post-apocalyptic brutality. It subverts expectations in a way that doesn’t feel clichéd and offers something more meaningful than just zombies for the sake of zombies.
It is very easy to be over anything to do with the undead at this point, but Ravenous offers something much more nuanced and skillful than your typical genre fare. It wants to be something more and mostly succeeds. That alone is worth pressing the play button for.
2. Gerald’s Game
Director Mike Flanagan has become something of a Netflix horror darling over the past few years with the release of Hush and Before I Wake. So much so in fact, that he will also be helming the upcoming Netflix horror series The Haunting of Hill House. But where he really solidified his place as one of the most interesting talents working in Netflix horror is with 2017’s Gerald’s Game.
Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, Gerald’s Game stars Carla Gugino as Jessie Burlingame. Jessie and her husband, the titular Gerald, travel to a remote lake house in order to bring back some much needed passion in their failing marriage. But, circumstances soon arise that leave Jessie stranded, alone, and handcuffed to a bed frame. What follows is a spine-tingling fevered frenzy of survival horror that will keep you at the edge of your seat, watching the screen through your fingers.
Gerald’s Game is anchored by a powerful performance from Carla Gugino, who spends much of the film’s 1 hour and 43 minute runtime on screen. She displays both subtle moments of devastation and louder moments of pure terror with expertise. Flanagan skillfully leaves bread crumbs around every corner, foreshadowing future events and tying moments of Jessie’s past into the dire situation she finds herself in.
The movie works not only as a harrowing horror film, but also as a commentary on how damaging suppressing past trauma can truly be and how we all carry secret things within us that we hide from the world and even from ourselves.
1. The Ritual
Anyone who knows their horror knows H.P. Lovecraft. Anyone who knows H.P. Lovecraft knows that his unique (if somewhat outdated) brand of cosmic horror doesn’t often translate well to the screen. A few films have tried in the past, but few get as close to capturing the Lovecraftian essence as The Ritual.
Based on a novel of the same name, The Ritual follows four old friends as they embark on a hiking trip through the Swedish wilderness, hoping that the escape will help them cope with a shared tragedy suffered only months earlier. But, as you may have expected, things don’t go quite as planned and the trip quickly spirals down a path of madness and terror.
Director David Bruckner expertly captures the hard-to-pin-down cosmic atmosphere that made H.P. Lovecraft a household name of horror. This atmosphere paired with an investing relationship drama at the film’s core, great acting across the board, and stylistic modern visuals make The Ritual a true masterpiece of horror cinema.
It’s like a Laird Barron short story come to life in the most thrilling way possible. There’s so much more that could be said, but the less you know about The Ritual before you go in, the better. If you’re a fan of Lovecraft or horror in general, you owe it to yourself to check out this film.