5. Border (2018)
Based on the 2005 short story “Gräns” by celebrated Swedish horror author John Ajvide Lindqvist (“Let the Right One In”), director Ali Abbasi presents an incredibly transgressive and utterly unpredictable one-of-a-kind genre experience with Border.
In a brilliant and unforgettable performance, Eva Melabnder is Tina, a customs officer with something of a reputation owing to her extraordinary sense of smell; it’s like she can sniff the guilt on anyone who might be hiding something. When Tina meets a suspicious-looking man named Vore (Eero Milonoff) both of their lives will change. Tina knows Vore is hiding something and what’s more, she feels a strange attraction to him. And if that weren’t odd enough, they both have a strange, almost alarming physical appearance as if neither belong to this world.
No spoilers here but things get dark, lyrical, strangely sexy, and absolutely batshit crazy from there.
Not only have you never seen anything like Border, you’ll probably wonder as I did, how did an oddball movie like this even get made? Who would bankroll something so strange and expect to make a profit? Well, thankfully someone did because Border is a messed up miracle and an utterly original mindfuck. This is one that will resonate with certain viewers and have them urging their friends to see it for themselves.
4. Évolution (2016)
Arriving a dozen years after her last film (2004’s Innocence), French filmmaker Lucile Emina Hadžihalilović’s Évolution is a provocative and hauntingly atmospheric cine-essay on gender fluidity. Max Brebant is brilliant as 10-year-old Nicolas, an islander residing with his mother in a village whose only inhabitants are women and young boys. Strangely akin to a Kafkaesque nightmare, the boys are each subjected to a strange and sinister medical treatment in the grim hospital that menacingly looks out upon the sea.
Of all his peers, Nicolas is the only one who questions these unpleasant aesculapian treatments and the odd nightly meetings the women hold each night upon the shingle. What the shit is going on?
Strongly surreal and endlessly unnerving, Évolution is a poetic experiential horror fantasy that may well only appeal to a certain and specific alcove of admirers, though cinematographer Manuel Dacosse’s prize-winning work will impress even the most mainstream audience members.
3. The Beach Bum (2019)
Writer/director Harmony Korine took his time following up his decadent, neon-lit, and extravagant cult hit Spring Breakers (2012) with this, the ultimate shaggy-dog saga, as well as his finest film to date, The Beach Bum. Matthew McConaughey is perfectly cast in a role he was born to play, as the bedraggled beat poet Moondog, a Dude-like layabout, laissez-faire sophisticated in women’s dress and fanny pack, reciting poems that in real-life were penned by the late great Richard Brautigan.
As Moondog, a South Florida eccentric, once famous for his verse, now seems to drift around his beachside town’s many places of ill-repute, smoking weed, guzzling booze, and bedding beautiful women, after all “that’s what feeds the juices up here in my nugget, man.”
Moondog navigates from one loony contingency to the next, reconnecting with his lovely but estranged wife, Minnie (Isla Fisher), hang time with crass millionaire rapper and BFF Lingerie (Snoop Dog), Margaritaville American institution Jimmy Buffet, and a rogue’s gallery of washups played by the likes of Zac Efron, Jonah Hill, and Martin Lawrence, The Beach Bum never rests.
Aided by a fabulous, feel-good soundtrack, fully envisaged by Korine’s go-to cinematographer Benoît Debie, who makes even Florida’s seediest spots a fervently and deliriously colorful trip, The Beach Bum wants you to feel the hedonistic highs along with Moondog.
2. Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)
The third feature from Mexican writer-director Issa López, Tigers Are Not Afraid, is a deliciously dark fairy tale set in a Mexican village that’s quickly becoming a ghost town due to the Huasca cartel killing any and everyone who gets in their way.
Paola Lara is astonishing as ten-year-old Estrella, who is haunted by the ghost of her mother who manifests herself to her daughter rather frighteningly, wrapped in plastic and whispering some freaky, fucked up shit. Terrified, Estrella seeks refuge, of a sort, in a gang of five children all orphaned by the violence of the drug wars ricocheting around them.
López tells her cautionary tale with a magical-realist vibe in the manner of a storybook for unloved children that has, not unwarrantedly, drawn favorable comparisons to Guillermo del Toro (particularly his films The Devil’s Backbone  and Pan’s Labyrinth ).
A ravishing and complex work, Tigers Are Not Afraid melds fear, pain, passion and joy in a tale filled with fairies, horned demons, smoking guns, shattered dreams, and redemptive hope. Neil Gaiman has called it “a fairytale for today, beautiful, shocking and chilling” and who are we to disagree?
1. In Fabric (2019)
This ulta-stylish deference to Euro-horror from sly English writer-director Peter Strickland (The Duke of Burgundy ) is his most outlandish, over-the-top, and batshit brilliant coup de cinema yet. In Fabric ostensibly tells the tale of a cursed killer dress and the ill-starred humans in helpless orbit around it.
Overlooked and underappreciated single mom Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) braves the bustling winter sales season at a literally hellish department store where an eccentric and rather spectral saleswoman Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed) entices her into purchasing a voodooed garment. Unsuspecting, Sheila’s fate is sealed, and she won’t be the first, nor the last, to fall under the dress’s strange and savage spell.
As madness descends, so does Strickland’s uncanny knack for displaying tactile pleasures, visual responses, and barbed perceptions of consumerism and the occult.
Tim Gane’s score perfectly suits the fetishistic adulations to the psychedelic sex-horror and near-maudlin melodrama of Jesús Franco and Jean Rollin. And there’s enough blood-curdling shrills to conjure Dario Argento and David Lynch to the table, too, but Strickland’s bizarro mashup of flagrant psychedelia, giallo, midnight movies, and softcore erotica still makes him an absolute original, as imaginative and resolute as they come.
Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.