6. The Hole in the Ground
Written and directed by Lee Cronin, The Hole in the Ground adapts common Irish folklore to the big screen with a haunting cinematic style. It emphasizes the brooding nature of rural Ireland with the chilling landscape of the Irish wilderness providing an atmospheric setting. The film highlights the fears of parenting, while also being steeped in age-old superstition that truly concerned many a parent throughout Ireland’s history. It may not be a film that engulfs its audience due to an enthralling concept, yet it repurposes a deeply Irish superstition in a way that demonstrates a genuine artistic style.
While not being wholly original, as it uses very similar imagery to what one would expect in a movie based around a possession from a supernatural figure, its style in doing so is what shines. Its overwhelmingly grey color pallet reinforces the gloomy atmosphere, in which a grim world causes a parent to be overprotective of his or her child. This film might not boast any sort of stunning developments, however, it provides a simple story with enough nifty camerawork and compelling presentation that allows the film as a whole to overcome its flaws.
This film initially appeared in film festivals in 2017 and was released in Germany in 2018, however, it did not reach a wide U.S. audience until this year. It is a haunting tale of German folklore, written and directed by Lukas Feigelfeld. It takes upon an air of authenticity in the way it feels as if it is a true product of German folktales and oral history of the rural Alpine villages. Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse features all of the requisite imagery: a horse-drawn sleigh, an altar of skulls, and a good deal of witchcraft.
This film is likely unfit for general audiences, as the events can often be overly intense and the imagery deeply disturbing. However, those who stick through the film’s more unsettling moments will be rewarded with a bewitching experience. The film does not rely upon cheap, sordid scare tactics, rather it opts for the atmospheric and genuine tone that lingers in an audience member’s mind for days. It has been critically raved about, with a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. As with many films on this list, this was not made for everyone, yet it will be deeply satisfying for those that prefer a more daring experience in a horror film.
8. Ready or Not
Not every entry on this list is an overtly serious film, Ready or Not qualifies as an entry into the darkly comedic spectrum of this list. It combines a sarcastic attitude with a zany concept to create a film that allows the audience to be encapsulated by the setting while laughing at the ridiculous nature of the farcical Le Domas family and their unorthodox practices.
Grace (Samara Weaving) begins the movie by marrying into this ultra-rich family, seemingly more of a corporation, via the youngest brother Alex (Mark O’Brien). Another standout of the film is the deeply scornful, eldest son of Tony (Henry Czerny) and Becky (Andie McDowell). Daniel (Adam Brody) is completely disillusioned with his bizarre family and their morbid sense of self-importance.
The film boasts an elaborate production design, rife with an ornately decorated Victorian mansion and a massively boastful estate. For the near entirety of the runtime Ready or Not toys with the expectations of its audience, ultimately clearly and concisely answering the audience’s questions in the film’s waning moments. Overall, it is picturesquely bloody and affixes just enough sentiment to care about each character and his or her struggle throughout the film. This film is both fun and rewarding for its audience, as it is more than a common, disposable horror movie that panders to its audience.
Crawl is not quite the film that its trailer purports it to be. While at its core it is a disaster film with a simple approach, Alexandre Aja’s most recent entry sustains a visual style throughout. Its lead characters- a swimmer (Kaya Scodelario) at the University of Florida and her father (Barry Pepper) along with his dog- are not simply disposable as characters in an inferior film.
This entry on the list will certainly not have as rave reviews, yet they were consistently solid as this movie accomplishes all that it strives to be- a fun summer movie that was made with care. The alligator-infested waters surrounding the father and daughter combo- not to mention the raging category five hurricane developing around them- are crafted with a well-detailed and realistic CGI.
This film will not be rewarding for those looking for a deeper meaning or challenge in a film, however, it displays the great artistry that this genre can achieve when executed correctly. Often these types of film can harken back to Jaws- a cinematic masterpiece- as the screenwriters conjure up convoluted ways to get its characters stranded in the water to be attacked by sharks. This film not only twisted the formula with a new menacing creature, but it also multiplies the amount and places the audience within a realistic situation, as evacuations on Southern Florida during hurricane season tend to be hectic.
This film does not compare with Jaws in its themes or characters either, but what movie does? Steven Spielberg’s first hit grapples with themes of guilt, obsession, and even class through its deeply intricate characters. Crawl is a worthwhile experience for those that enjoy this genre and caters itself to those who normally are infuriated by the cheap attempts to replicate the man versus beast formula.
10. The Lighthouse
Robert Eggers’ follow up to his first film- the critically and financially successful The Witch- is perhaps the most striking and intrepid films of the year, regardless of genre. His first motion picture did not cater to a horror demographic, rather it transported the audience into early 17th century America, using landscape and language as his main assets.
He replicates that as well with The Lighthouse, as he blends folklore, sailor speak, menacing seagulls, frightening weather, Greek mythology, and an intricate network of metaphors seamlessly. The film flawlessly encapsulates the vivid madness experienced by lighthouse keepers, as their reality is gradually distorted until the line between truth and fiction vanishes.
Eggers understands that misery is not the most enthralling thing to watch when no respite is given, therefore he claims that he wanted to be able to revel in his characters’ misery- a bold step that many films of this ilk would not dare to take. The aspect ratio of this film traps the audience in a claustrophobic state from the onset, setting the tone and resembling the tight quarters of the men living on this secluded rock. The score is brilliantly creative in that it uses the pounding blasts of the foghorn at the start of the film and cleverly incorporates them into the score, creating an utterly unique sound to match the distinct visuals of this film.
Robert Pattinson and Willem Defoe truly deliver stunning performances and transport the viewer into a dream-like state, thus creating a similar experience for the viewer in comparison to the film’s characters. The ceaseless blustering gusts that assault the wind-ravaged rock and the sting of salt in the air are conveyed immaculately in the vivid black and white. The atmosphere overpowers the viewer and the film thence crashes over its audience like one of those mighty waves that barrage the lighthouse and adjoining quarters.
Eggers truly crafted a concise and discomposing tale in which the audience will be so entranced that he or she will lose the concept of reality in Eggers fantastical world. While it is heavy on the metaphor and not so focused on telling a straight story- it is attempting to capture the true essence of the experience of tending a lighthouse. In the end, the Lighthouse offers an experience not quite like any other.