6. Stoker (2013)
The prevailing wisdom held that eccentric Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy”) was kept on a short leash for his English-language debut, a Gothic chamber drama loosely based off of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt” that many argued lacked the visceral edge and unapologetic bravado of the lauded Vengeance trilogy that’d made him into an international household name a decade prior.
Though generally regarded as a lesser effort, this perverse coming-of-age tale about a soft-spoken 18-year-old misfit (Mia Wasikowska) who, after the death of his father in a tragic car accident, becomes infatuated with his mysterious uncle (Matthew Goode), further cemented Park’s place among the finest craftsmen and genre filmmakers of his generation. An unwitting dry run for “The Handmaiden” that showcases the director’s innate gift for elevating genre schlock into high art, “Stoker” finds Park at full mast. While the script has plenty of twists and turns, it’s the way he carefully simmers up the tension and keeps the viewer at arm’s length until the incendiary climax, which reconfigures every scene before it, that makes the film essential viewing 10 years on.
7. Under the Silver Lake (2018)
With Neon recently announcing that David Robert Mitchell is officially tapped to helm a sequel to his 2015 horror film “It Follows”, now is as good a time as any to revisit the director’s woefully misunderstood neo-noir thriller starring Andrew Garfield as a 30-something slacker and would-be detective who likes to get high, re-watch old movies and spy on neighbors.
Audiences and critics scratched their heads in bafflement when “Under the Silver Lake” rolled up to theaters, one can assume expecting something remotely resembling a conventional mystery thriller with a straitlaced resolution that’d nicely tie every loose end for them. What they got instead was a deliberately convoluted, Pynchon-esque farce that slashes through tropes and retools the “stoner layabout-turned-amateur gumshoe on a murky quest to find a missing woman and decipher a complex web of conspiracy in Los Angeles” formula set up by spiritual cousins like “The Long Goodbye”, “The Big Lebowski” and “Inherent Vice” into a bizarrely timely Gen-X parable of sorts.
The film didn’t sit well with many viewers, but as long as you manage to tune into its off-kilter rhythms, you might just find a new cult favorite to obsess over and re-watch compulsively.
8. Revenge (2017)
In less daring hands, this grindhouse splatterfest about a young woman and all-around badass who takes the law into her own hands after being brutally abused and left for dead in the middle of the desert by her sadistic boyfriend and his posse of friends may have devolved into another forgettable, run-of-the-mill offering in a growingly over-saturated subgenre like the rape-revenge exploitation film.
Considering the grisly subject matter and stomach-churning bursts of violence, “Revenge” never had much of a chance of becoming a mainstream hit. Still, the lack of fanfare for Coralie Fargeat’s remarkably assured debut is nothing short of infuriating. Proving the age-old axiom that more is often less, the first-time French filmmaker doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel in her first rodeo behind the camera, instead fashioning a stripped-down portrait of righteous female rage with a striking visual palette to match that barely stretches past the 105-minute mark but still packs a mighty punch.
9. The Guilty (2018)
If you ever have 85 minutes to spare, another international deep cut worth tracking down that will get your heart racing is this airtight Danish thriller directed by Gustav Möller, which puts us in the shoes of a forlorn police officer named Asger demoted to desk work as an alarm dispatcher in Copenhagen who answers an emergency phone call from a kidnapped woman.
Not to be mistaken by Netflix’s cookie cutter English-language remake starring Jake Gyllenhaal, the original 2018 “The Guilty” wastes no time in setting up its story, allowing the tension to rise organically and somehow wringing razor-sharp suspense from a small location. Taking place entirely within a room in a police station, this expertly-mounted one-man show makes use of a simple, ingenious device — keeping the camera locked to Asger’s point-of-view at all times and forcing the audience to watch him from up close as he races against time to find the woman and solve the case with only a telephone and computer at his disposal. All the action might happen off-screen, but first-time viewers should still have a tough time shaking off the whole experience out of their systems.
10. Killer Joe (2011)
Movies about deranged serial killers aren’t exactly hard to come by these days given the current media-craze for true crime serials and whodunits, but it’s rare to find one as consistently gripping and joyously unhinged as this 2011 Tracy Letts adaptation.
Matthew McConaughey delights and chews up the scenery in the titular role as a dirty, foul-mouthed Southern cop called Joe Cooper earning an extra dime as a hitman. Things take a sudden dark turn when Joe is hired to kill the mother of a young drug dealer who, unable to pay his debt, offers up his sister as a down payment. Yikes!
While we can’t help but be grateful that the late William Friedkin came out of retirement with a taut remake of Humphrey Bogart’s 1954 classic “The Caine Mutiny” — now available on VOD — this would’ve also been a fine way for the Hollywood maestro to bow out. Feel free to double dip with any of the late director’s better-known hits (“Sorcerer”, “The French Connection” and “To Live and Die in L.A.”, just to name a few) for another full serving of edge-of-your-seats thrills.