6. Sinister (IMDB rating: 6.8)
The Ring brought the idea of scary, death-causing videotapes to the mainstream. It tells us quite a bit about Sinister when writer C. Robert Cargill says that he came up with the concept for the movie from a nightmare he had after watching The Ring. Coming from the director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Day The Earth Stood Still,
Sinister takes the murdering-video concept, mashes it with the haunted house concept, and comes up with a movie that Roger Ebert called ‘undeniably scary’. Horror movies usually try to steer clear of big names, but Ethan Hawke combines the traits of compassion for his family and the narcissism of a once-famous writer to hold the movie together.
The first two minutes of the movie, showing Super 8 footage, set the tone for the rest of the movie – there is something malevolent and inexplicable happening in the house that Ellison Oswalt, Ethan Hawke’s character, has moved his family into. His desire to write another bestselling true crime novel overpowers his desire to keep his family safe, and this conflict forms the crux of the movie, as he slowly finds more and more reels of snuff film footage.
These videos, shot on actual Super 8 cameras, briefly make you forget that you’re watching a movie and actually place you in the recorder’s shoes, but are short enough to not steal focus from the plot. The videos by themselves are worth a watch, but viewing them out of context would do a disservice to an excellent movie put together by Scott Derrickson.
7. 1920 (IMDB rating: 6.3)
Hindi cinema is not known for making good horror movies, but 1920 stands tall as one of the few exceptions. Better known for making comedies and dramas, director Vikram Bhatt delved into the horror genre after the breakaway success of 1920, but none of his other movies had the same charm and originality.
For this movie, Vikram Bhatt took a punt in picking unknown actors for the lead roles, a step the Hindi film industry is loath to take. 1920 follows the relatively familiar script of a haunted house and a ghostly possession, but instead of adopting the claustrophobic, lonesome imagery of other movies in the genre, this movie sets itself up in an atmospheric, almost serenely beautiful manor in the village of Palampur.
Set in the year 1920, the movie has a beautiful Gothic feel to it, and while the twists and turns are not necessarily shocking, they do keep the interest alive. The movie loses points for issues that have plagued almost all Hindi movies- the presence of songs at inopportune moments, and blatant plagiarism in a few scenes from well-known Western horror classics.
Despite that, 1920 has an engaging story, a cast which acts within its limits, and a deep desire to maintain the accuracy of what is essentially a period film. It deserves to be watched for the cinematography alone, if not for the fact that it might be one of the few Hindi horror movies worth their salt.
8. The Human Centipede (IMDB rating: 4.5)
The Human Centipede is the lowest-rated film on this list. It’s also definitely worth a watch – if you have the stomach for it. It’s not scary in the conventional sense, but is a different kind of horror – the kind that originated with Saw, but was truly perfected in all its clinical glory by Tom Six, who, when talking about the sequel to The Human Centipede, called it ‘My Little Pony compared to part two.”
Regardless of this claim, it is the first movie that merits a watch, because underneath the blood, gore and forced enemas, it is a movie that will stay with you for a long time.
Described as ‘100% Medically Accurate’ in the promos, The Human Centipede is said to be inspired by the medical experiments carried out in Nazi concentration camps. Within this context, getting German method actor Dieter Laser to play crazed surgeon Dr. Josef Heiter was a masterstroke.
Laser’s cold-blooded portrayal of Heiter, coupled with his knack for deadpan monologues as he goes about building his ‘human centipede’, brings this movie from the farfetched to within the realms of possibility. The three humans who form the ‘centipede’ act appropriately well, but their performances are overshadowed by the one delivered by Laser.
With the third part of the ‘Human Centipede Trilogy’ currently in production, and a director who in the first film tried to create his own ‘personal nightmare’, The Human Centipede has already made its way into modern pop culture as a movie to be watched from behind the couch, with half a hand over the eyes. It deserves to be seen, for no other reason but as a badge of honor for what one has the stomach for.
9. Kairo (IMDB rating: 6.6)
Rare is the horror movie that challenges its viewers. A ghost under the bed, scary faces coming out through the screen, that’s all it takes to successfully create something ‘scary.’ Japanese film Kairo (Pulse for English audiences) is more a depressing poem than a movie.
The director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to the more famous Akiro Kurosawa) is well-known for combining traditional Japanese horror with social commentary, and Kairo continues the trend in an almost prescient manner, talking about the isolation and emotional distances created by the Internet’s invasion of our lives.
Kairo is not the first nor the last horror movie that treats the Internet, or any new technology, as the unknown evil, but it does so with a restraint that is admirable. The movie lacks traditional scares, but maintains an overall creepy atmosphere throughout.
Kairo tells two parallel stories, the first of a young woman named Michi, whose friend Taguchi appears to be working on a computer disk of unknown origin. The second is of a young man named Kawashima who signs up for a new Internet Service Provider, only to be haunted by a disturbing website.
The characters in the film display a certain isolation in their roles, living in a world with no one to talk to, and much left unspoken. Much like Ringu, another Japanese horror movie that spawned an American remake, Kairo’s depth and characterization is what holds it together, more than the scary moments, which the movie has in plenty.
10. Angustia (IMDB rating: 6.8)
Angustia is the oldest film on the list, having come out in 1987. A Spanish-produced English language film, Angustia was mocking the film-within-a-film genre before it even existed. It starts with a unique disclaimer and warning, and then we’re introduced to characters watching a movie called The Mommy, the story of an overbearing mother and her extremely myopic, obedient son.
But this movie isn’t about The Mommy. It’s about the characters sitting in the movie theatre watching the movie. Confused yet? Wait till the part where a character in The Mommy goes to the movie theatre to watch The Lost World. Angustia remains self-aware as it adds these layers, and in its own way turns into an homage to horror films.
Shot on an obvious shoestring budget, Angustia would have best been enjoyed in a movie theatre and no background information. The famous ‘hypnosis scene’ is dizzying even on a smaller screen, and Zelda Rubenstein, all 4 feet 3 inches of her, is a show-stealer in the role of the overbearing mother.
There are various parts of the movie where the plot is sorely lacking, but it becomes quite clear that Angustia does not take itself seriously as far as plot or character development goes, focusing instead on individual moments of style. Spanish cinema has always prided itself on telling creative, interesting horror stories, and Angustia is no exception to the rule.
Author Bio: Ayush Kumar lives in Florida, wrapping up his undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering. His love for writing and for horror movies brought his talents over to TasteofCinema, and in his free time he writes and manages soundsmartabout.com, a website that gives you information on pertinent topics, but quickly.