In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ten Great Modern Horror Films

In this day and age, when it seems like we are flooded with mediocre horror fare every week – on the big screen and at the video store – it’s easy to ask yourself, how come no one makes good horror films anymore? Well, like any form of mass media, they’re still being made, it’s just that there is so much gristle to chew through, it can sometimes be hard to get to the meat. This is a list of ten modern horror films that I wrote earlier this year for DvdWolf. These titles exemplify what I love about my favourite genre of film. Some are more mainstream than others, but all are worth a space on your DVD shelf. Here they are in no particular order.

The Descent
2004, UK. Dir: Neil Marshall
One really needs to look no further than Neil Marshall’s sophomore effort - the fine werewolf movie Dog Soldiers being his debut – to see that kick ass horror flicks still exist. The Descent is a success on every level. The atmosphere is claustrophobic, the antagonists effective and the gore perfectly balances the tension – something that a good deal of Marshall’s peers seem to have either forgotten or chosen to ignore.

Session 9
2001, USA. Dir: Brad Anderson
Session 9 has many strengths. A chilling build-up, a great set piece – the abandoned asylum, a character in itself ala The Shining – and some great performances. Brad Anderson’s track record continued with the remarkable The Machinist in 2004.

Gin Gwai (The Eye)
2002, China. Dir: Danny & Oxide Pang
The Eye has always been my favourite Asian horror film. It has more prolonged bouts of creepiness than Ringu and is more linear and coherent than Ju-on. It is a great ghost story, told well in tandem with fantastic sound design. See it before the American remake comes out this winter.

Haute Tension (High Tension)
2003, France. Dir: Alexandre Aja
Haute Tension is a flick I like more and more as time goes on. It excels at all the things I love about horror films. While combining elements of Texas Chainsaw, Bill Lustig’s Maniac and Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, the screeching score, intense cinematography and visceral gore make this a revelation for fans of the genre. I know that many people like to shit on it because of the story’s outcome, but I’ve always considered it inconsequential to the overall bloody canvas on which Aja paints.

Open Water
2004, USA. Dir: Chris Kentis
This one is a perfect example of guerrilla filmmaking. The two leads put life and limb on the line to give what was one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had in a theatre. Open Water is simple, adeptly shot and really leaves you with a feeling of dread.

Espinazo del diablo, El (The Devil’s Backbone)
2001, Spain. Dir: Guillermo del Toro
Backbone is the ‘brother’ film to del Toro’s brilliant award winning 2006 film Pan’s Labyrinth. A lot simpler in story and tone, Backbone serves to remind us that del Toro can produce gold no matter what size budget he is working with.

Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
2006, USA. Dir: Scott Glosserman
Mask was the biggest surprise of last year. It takes documentary style conventions – seen in films like Blair Witch and Man Bites Dog – and takes them even further. Nathan Baesel as the title character is just so hard NOT to like. The very difficult line of horror and self-referential comedy – a popular avenue these days since the arrival of the Scream series – is skirted adroitly, but never crossed.

Ôdishon (Audition)
1999, Japan. Dir: Takashi Miike
Audition is one of infamous director Miike’s best works. It's a real slow burner that boils over with a finale that is still referenced to this day. An interesting concept that only avoids coming off the rails because of the mad genius at the controls.

My Little Eye
2002, UK. Dir: Marc Evans
This film was on the forefront of a sub genre that has now become somewhat saturated, but Eye still remains one of the best examples. The story unfolds in such a way that you are alongside the characters and therefore feel the unease and uncertainty, as well. Probably one of the lesser known gems on this list, but still no less worthy of a look.

The Abandoned
2006, Spain. Dir: Nacho Cerda
Cerda, the director of the infamous and controversial short Aftermath, takes a simple story and makes it fresh by using superb sound design. Only employing, for the most part, one location and two characters, Cerda is able to craft a film that oozes atmosphere. The Abandoned was part of Maple’s “8 Films to Die For” series and the best of them by a grand margin.

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