Following in the footsteps of recent Taste of Cinema lists focussing on underseen contemporary genre films, this list celebrates transgressive cinema and their brave (or foolish?) fans that enjoy films unafraid of being brutal, nasty, and nonconforming.
Horror films, when done right, regularly deal with mankind’s own dark psychology, the visceral excitement of danger, the ecstatic rush of the shared experience and they have also proven repeatedly that horror is truly a director’s genre.
All the films listed below are well worth your time, and who knows, your new favorite might be right here, awaiting your discovery.
10. We Are the Flesh (2016)
Mexican filmmaker Emiliano Rocha Minter presents audiences with an Hieronymus Bosch-like vision of hell in We Are The Flesh. Easily one of the most transgressive horror films you’re ever likely to encounter, explicit incest and heroic doses of cannibalism permeate the post-apocalyptic wastes where this sordid tale unfolds.
Desperate and dangerously underfed, two adult siblings (Diego Gamaliel and Maria Evoli) hunker down in a debris-strewn warehouse more or less occupied by a menacing Mephistophelean-like figure (Noé Hernández).
There’s a bit of a riff on Hansel and Gretel for our two young innocents, though they don’t remain innocent for long, nor is their nightmare any kind of walk in the woods. We Are The Flesh is the kind of extreme and provocative filmmaking that will repel the squeamish while attracting the brave and boastful. Much of what Minter puts on the screen, while impeccably framed and artfully photographed, is just wrong: graphic sex scenes frisk with eruptions of brutal violence as extreme elements dog-pile on top of one another until everything topples down.
Fans who find Marquis de Sade tame and need cinema as outré as possible will get plenty of kick from this alarming and impressive beast. You’ve been warned.
9. Blue My Mind (2018)
Swiss actor-turned-writer/director/director Lisa Brühlmann delivers a strange coming-of-age body-horror fantasy for adults in her directorial debut, Blue My Mind. Having made a considerable splash on the genre film festival circuit, the sometimes surreal focus here hones in on 15-year-old Mia (Luna Wedler), the new kid in school whose desires to fit in seem to orbit somewhat around wild-child cool-kid Gianna (Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen).
Before long Mia finds that she’s going through more changes than just a new school, a new clique of gal pals, and the no longer so lingering glances of boys, Now an overwhelming transformation of sorts is finding her body going through radical changes, as if a literal Kraken has awakened within her.
As a dark fairytale of transformation and innocence lost, Blue My Mind is further strengthened by cinematographer Gabriel Lobos’s elegant lensing and the cold blue aqueous color palette that suggests what watery terrors are to come. Brühlmann’s film may feel like a first outing here and there, but it shows considerable promise and is an often ingenious reworking of a particularly splashy Hans Christian Andersen work. Recommended.
8. Prevenge (2016)
Perhaps best known for starring in and co-writing Ben Wheatley’s sinister 2012 comedy Sightseers, Alice Lowe is a triple-threat with Prevenge as it’s writer, director, and star. This audacious feature-length directorial debut from Lowe, who was six-months pregnant during filming, is about Ruth (Lowe), an expectant mother convinced her baby wants her to kill an unhealthy amount of people.
Prevenge is a risky, pitch-dark one-off that’s full of black comedy, graphic gore, and plenty of pathos. Genre fans of course will delight in the urbane body horror that, perhaps owing to the rather mundane British environs, plays out with a gleeful ghoulishness. A strange and often nightmarish distillation of Rosemary’s Baby as winnowed through Lowe’s impulsive, edgy, and intermittently murderous Ruth.
Richly delving into the wonders of child-bearing and the preconceptions that go with, this is a sinisterly original freakout, sure to amass a devoted cult and find appreciative fans in those who enjoy horror spiked with contorted comedy.
7. The Void (2016)
Written and directed by Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie, this nostalgic riff on 1980s horror films with freakishly fun and totally fucked up practical effects (think Clive Barker’s Hellraiser  and John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness  in particular) is a nightmare you’ll enjoy having, so to speak.
Shit gets real, really fast when sinisterly cult-like cloaked figures trap an unlucky police officer (Aaron Poole) along with unlucky patrons, patients and staffers inside an eerie hospital that most likely hides a portal to an unpleasant hellscape of evil. If that sounds a little Lovecraftian, it totally is, and if it sounds a smidge like Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), well it’s a little of that, too.
As The Void unravels, secrets are spilled along with a lot of blood, and it’s all such gruesome fun that repeat viewings are sure to ensue. Fans of Astron-6 (Manborg , The Editor , of which Gillespie is a co-founder, are likely to enjoy this similarly 80’s-centric film, but only if they can appreciate the more serious turn it takes –– there’s little comic relief here. Bonus points for an eerie soundtrack that is, you guessed it, very reminiscent of John Carpenter. Trust us, horror fans, don’t avoid The Void.
6. Under the Shadow (2016)
Babak Anvari’s assertive ghost story is made all the more modernistic thanks to a stirring feminist slant that is set amidst the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Shideh (Narges Rashidi) lives under constant threat of aerial bombardment with her husband Iraj (Bobby Naderi) and troubled young daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) in an outmoded apartment building in Tehran. The sinking feeling of dread the family endures is palpable from the start and this feeling builds as does the story.
Iraj is drafted to the frontlines leaving Shideh and Dorsa alone. Their building is bombed and an undetonated missile brings along with it an ancient evil in the form of a Djinn.
An unnerving fright fest, Under the Shadow supplies a strong sense of danger, an enraging subtext, and an uncompromising finish that’s both chilling and resolute. A masterful ghost story, miss this atmospheric and mood film at your peril.