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.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hidden Horror: Addendum

After reading the one-hundred-and-one titles in Hidden Horror, I felt compelled to add a few of my own. For long-time readers, you're probably sick of hearing about some of these, but for those of you that have come across my humble scribblings recently, here are some underseen horror offerings that I think deserve way more love than they've received over the years.

Paperhouse (1988)

This is an early film from Bernard Rose, the director of the horror staple Candyman, and was adapted from the children's story Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr. I discovered this film during my video store tenure and I still praise it to this day. It's a thriller that relies on good storytelling and not big budget effects, something that's become an increasing rarity. Although the young lead's (Charlottte Burke) acting is sub-par at some points, a supporting cast that includes Glenne Headly and Ben Cross is solid and complimentary. The film is not overly scary - although it does have one of the best “jolt” scares I have ever seen - and with its captivating Alice In Wonderland-like imagery, it can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone. I keep bringing up this British gem because it STILL has not had any kind of domestic DVD release. Someone, somewhere has to step up. If it can happen for The Video Dead, it can happen for Paperhouse surely!

Mute Witness (1994)

I love this little suspense thriller from director Anthony Waller. After a clever setup, our protagonist Billy (wonderfully played by Marina Zudina) is thrown into harm's way almost immediately in what I still consider to be one of the strongest first acts in horror cinema. The perils of said character are enough to overcome some comic relief thrown in by way of Billy's bumbling sister and brother-in-law, who always seem to be one-step behind the action. An interesting factoid is a late cameo by Alec Guinness using footage that was shot nine years previous for an earlier version of the project. It was inserted in at the last minute when Waller needed additional material. While I admit the first half is superior to the second, I still feel this is a strong example of the genre and one that has been overlooked for far too long.

My Little Eye (2002)

This was made at the forefront of a subgenre that has now become saturated, but I still believe Marc Evans' jet black effort remains one of the best examples. The story unfolds in such a way that you are alongside the characters and therefore feel their unease and uncertainty as well as their isolation. This film is steeped in creeping dread that builds to sudden, and often unexpected, bursts of violence. For those who thought that Bradley Cooper's first foray into horror was Midnight Meat Train, you'll be surprised to see him show up here six years earlier. 

Altered (2006)

I discovered Eduardo Sanchez's sophomore effort while preparing for my Blair Witch Project tenth-anniversary coverage. I'm still shocked by how completely dismissed this film was when it was released. It is an ensemble character piece that unfolds really well and always feels fresh somehow. There is very little fat in this movie and apart from a few wisecracks and a segment where the sheriff shows up, it is played completely straight - a tough job considering the subject matter. A big highlight are the practical effects provided by Spectral Motion, who really brought it on this one. It’s fantastic stuff.

Ils aka Them (2007)

Of all the films that assaulted our senses during the French Horror Extreme of the 00's, I feel this effective home invasion flick from David Moreau & Xavier Palud is the least talked about. I can only assume its relative obscurity is due to it resembling a mainstream American effort that came out around the same time. When I got my hands on a DVD of this movie, I MADE everyone I knew watch it, as it a perfect example of smart, simple and tight filmmaking. The house and surrounding locations in the film are a production designer's dream and the fantastic sound design make it a thing to behold. Think High Tension without the gore and the audience splitting ending.

I left this list at five (believe me, it could've easily ballooned out of control as I can name just five Italian underrated gems) to keep things brief, but if you're looking for some more goodies, look up my “On The Shelf” section, as well. I haven't kept up with it recently, but features some cool horror indies like Splinter, Black Water and S&Man. I also recommend Time Out's Best 100 Horror List which I spent most of the last two years crossing off. Happy viewing!

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