11. Housebound (2014)
An underappreciated production from New Zealand, “Housebound” is a more than decent mix of comedy and horror, with a great local cast, headed by the talented and foul-mouthed Morgana O’Reilly. The movie recounts the story of Kylie, a young criminal sentenced to house arrest, where she is to be supervised by her estranged mother and her distant stepfather.
After starting to believe the house is haunted, Kylie unravels a mystery that involves institutionalized children, an old murder, a savant, and a menacing neighbor. Thus, making an educated guess on who or what the bad guy is becomes part of the charm of “Housebound”.
12. Dark Places (2015)
A police thriller with accents of horror, “Dark Places” is an international production that features Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Chloe Moretz, and Christina Hendricks. And if that didn’t pique your interest, the film bases its entire premise upon reopening a long forgotten murder case. The culprit? A criminal who destroyed our main character’s childhood and whose actions have been attributed to her imprisoned brother.
Not only is the entire investigation based on flashbacks and bits of the past, but “Dark Places” even features its own “true crime” club. While some may not see the horror in its premise, many will try to hone their detective skills from the very first minutes of the movie.
13. We Are Still Here (2015)
Although Larry Fessenden might have been the only recognizable name on the poster, “We Are Still Here” enjoyed a warm reception in its opening week. The movie’s plot follows a beaten path: after a personal tragedy, a family moves into a new house. Soon enough, a haunting ensues, and “We Are Still Here” quickly starts borrowing tropes from more famous productions.
Fortunately, there are a few clever twists that managed to put this movie on the list. One of them is the fact that the protagonists are not teens, children, or easy to impress in general. The second is that “We Are Still Here” has more than a few points in common with another Fessenden movie: the chilling and mysterious Jug Face. That last part is what makes the movie stand out in a crowd of never-ending haunted house productions.
14. Mercy (2014)
Although it features a couple of familiar faces, “Mercy” doesn’t offer much in terms of characters or a storyline. However, since the movie does take its time to build a proper twist, and since the antagonist is different from what you’d expect, the film does have a small place on the list.
Not unlike “The Visit”, but without the social subtext, “Mercy” is built upon the story of two kids who get sent to their ailing grandmother. As stranger and stranger things start happening, the two children and those who decide to aid them get caught in a decades-old conflict.
15. The Harvest (2013)
A harrowing tale of loss and obsession, “The Harvest” was supposed to mark John McNaughton’s return to shape. What initially starts as a teenage drama between a wheelchair-bound boy and an outspoken girl gradually turns into horror as you find out more about the boy’s ‘family’ and its motives.
The slow, almost claustrophobic pace, which rarely appeals to classical tropes, is what makes “The Harvest” shine. Add that to the fact that the two main heroes are helpless against an avalanche of human horrors, and you start to feel or rather ‘fear’ the drama. Hard to say if “The Harvest” features a main villain, but the viewer will be the judge in the end.
16. The Pact (2012)
The strength within “The Pact” lies not in its supernatural layer, but in the brief detective story underneath. The film follows a young woman who tries to find out more about her mother’s death and the recent disappearance of her sister. After our characters analyze similar disappearances, we realize that the initial suspect, a malevolent spirit, has serious competition.
Surprisingly well paced, “The Pact” doesn’t rely on its twist, but rather on the determination of its heroes. Additionally, we get to see Casper Van Dien in a role that actually allows him to try his hand at acting.
17. The Tall Man (2012)
Much like Jessica Biel’s career, this French-Canadian horror film was largely forgotten in late years. While “The Tall Man” does have its hiccups, the multitude of potential “bad guys” and its many twists and turns recommend it for this collection.
The movie follows Julia (Biel), a young nurse who lives in a small town that has recently been plagued by child kidnappings. Unlike other movies with similar setups, “The Tall Man” does not degenerate into a slasher film, but rather builds upon its initial premise, relying on horrors such as trauma, parental abuse, and inescapable poverty.
18. Sinister (2012)
The success of “Sinister” owed more to the main character’s descent into madness than to the actual nature of the movie’s villain. But that’s not to say the latter isn’t interesting. The movie starts with a writer’s investigation into a series of strange deaths, all involving children as suspects. The investigation gets creepier and creepier as it gradually becomes a foray into the supernatural.
The film’s constant tension and its inevitable ending give the audience more than they bargained for. Furthermore, Ethan Hawke’s praiseworthy efforts as the main character make the viewers forget that they’re essentially watching a “cursed object” movie.
19. Clown (2016)
Based on a simple narrative, this Eli Roth feature was severely underappreciated at its launch. While overshadowed by other more famous killer clowns, Roth’s monster features a small detail that puts it on the list. Thus, the transformation of a loving father into a murderous creature is not determined by instability, but by an accidental mix of the natural and supernatural.
In other words, while you do know who and what the bad guy is, you won’t be hating him for his deeds, but hope for a positive resolution. He is as much a victim as his actual victims.
20. The Witch (2015)
We know this festival darling has been mentioned multiple times on Taste of Cinema, so there is no point in going through its strong points again. However, the inclusion of this Robert Eggers debut on the list is worth explaining. The Puritan family at the center of the story has multiple enemies from the start, so it’s hard to pick a villain, especially since the main characters aren’t exactly lovable themselves.
The ‘magic’ of “The Witch” exists in the natural way it introduces these enemies and in how it manages to make us forget that, sometimes, you don’t need a complicated plotline to confirm the presence of evil.
We know there were multiple movies worth mentioning, but fortunately for our readers, this is not necessarily a top 20. Recent productions such as “The Conjuring 2”, the ‘Insidious’ series, “Eliza Graves” or “Oculus” could have been discussed, along with less promoted films such as “Demonic”, “Jessabelle”, “Dark Skies” or “The Awakening”.
If we went even further down the timeline, titles such as “Dorothy Mills”, “Dead Silence”, “Wind Chill” or even the now praised “Ghost Ship” deserve a note. However, by this point, you’re either watching some of these films or completely ignoring our suggestions.
Author Bio: Vlad Stoiculescu is a writer and senior copywriter living in Bucharest, Romania. When not digging up obscure horror films for Taste of Cinema, he writes marketing materials, scripts, short stories and, believe it or not, children’s books.