Horror, as undoubtedly one of the most popular types of film, has taken a nosedive into the carbon copy horror exploitation in recent years, with remakes of old classics lacking any soul, and the same formula being churned out into sequel after sequel!
As a result I believe horror films are under a lot of scrutiny from critics, to determine whether they have any originality or artistic merit. This scrutiny is unfortunate as those horror films that are written and directed well can create true terror. Unfortunately no matter how good a horror film is, most succumb to similar mistakes in the final moments. Ending a horror film assumes the need for a climatic end, but horror has a habit of being anticlimactic and overblown.
With all this in mind this post will be a compilation of 11 must see contemporary films of the past 10 years, providing intrigue and chills that are truly worth paying attention to. This list is in no particular order.
- The House of the Devil (2009) Ti West delivers, evoking a classic 70’s style with this film, as it follows Samantha, a student in desperate need for money to pay rent, as she takes on a shady babysitting job. The slow pace of the film is by no means its downfall, as West builds the tension and mystery of the so called ‘babysitting’. The stylistic choices are the ultimate draw of this film, especially through the consistent silence transforming into 70’s music and then eerily drifting back to silence. This film is slick and West hones the mumblecore style to fit perfectly with the suspenseful horror. This is a must watch for classic horror fans, evoking nostalgia and it even has a great ending (no spoilers!).
- It Follows (2014) This film is truly unique, as although the plot revolves around the usual horror themes of punishment for promiscuity, it executes it in such a unique way. The oncoming terror of a nameless randomised individual is heightened by the slow pacing, quite literally through the slow pacing of the walking. Director, David Robert Mitchell, combines the stunning electronic soundscapes of the soundtrack with the paranoia of teenagers. The elements of the film come together to form a unique, more art house style of horror, and the story is sure to keep you on your toes, much like the victims.
- Berberian Sound Studio (2012) Another unique gem amongst contemporary horror is Berberian Sound Studio, whereby Toby’s well executed performance as Gilderoy, the unassuming sound technician, is thrust into an Itallian Giallo horror sound effects studio. The raw power of sound effects and his descent into insanity is a breath of refreshing originality, as the film celebrates Giallo horror’s power in a unique way. This is an unsettling film, that separates it from the standard formula of horror, becoming a horror film within a horror film as Gilderoy battles with his sanity as a simple English sound technician.
- The Orphanage (2007) Guillermo Del Toro delivers a creepy and emotional tale of orphan ghosts with The Orphanage. He does this with his usual skill for delivering suspenseful and sinister events. The story does not seem so unique on the surface, but this Spanish film is very well executed and does not lack spine chilling moments. This is a superb ghost story, with all of the elements that make a horror film great.
- [REC] (2007) Onto another Spanish horror. REC is a film that combines zombie’s with found footage, the premises of REC suggest it’s just like any other horror film, which in a way it is. However, the rawness of the footage leaves you constantly on edge, not to mention the creatures that may be lurking amongst the darkness. Whilst its by no means art house, director Jaume Balagueró presents a successfully tense, and at some points terrifying, found footage zombie film, worth a watch for fans of found footage film.
- Final Prayer (originally titled The Borderlands) (2014) Moving onto another found footage film, Final Prayer follows a team of paranormal investigators as they investigate a small church in rural England. The film is refreshingly different, the setting of rural England combined with themes of religion is eerily effective in a found footage. The film truly creates chills, and lacks the falseness of films such as Paranormal Activity. Relatively unknown director Elliot Goldner presents suspenseful footage in a unique environment, and addresses religious paranoia in a disturbing way.
- Eden Lake (2008) Eden Lake is another chilling British horror film, addressing the issues of delinquent youth (aka chavs). The sheer brutality of Jack O’Connell’s character Brett is a shocking portrait of Britain’s issues with violent youth. The direction from James Watkins provides constant tension on behalf of the main two protagonists, as they fight for their life against the youth, painting a ruthless picture of the British countryside.
- Creep (2014) Mark Duplass stars in this unsettling portrait of an inviting stranger in Creep. His character’s consistently unsettling behaviour provides what the title of the film suggests. With such a small cast of only two actors this film is a simple but unnerving story, chillingly shows why you should never trust a stranger on Craigslist.
- The Witch (2016) This folk-horror tale of a family’s battles with religious belief and distrust of each other. The witch herself purely instigates the disarray in this family, as the moody and tense tone of this film frames the mysterious forest that this family fall apart in conflict with. The Witch does not attempt to fool anyone, as the melancholic and threatening narrative is persistent. This is a intense experience that goes beyond any normal horror film tendencies, and a fascinating picture of paranoia in 1630’s New England.
- Troll Hunter (2010) Troll Hunter is a Norwegian film that once again encompasses the popularity of found footage, but interesting it through traditional troll folklore. This is perhaps the most unique of all found footage, following news reporters as they uncover the mysterious activities of a troll hunter. Found footage truly works in this case, as the ridiculous idea of the existence of troll’s through folklore is shown as a fictional truth. Director, André Øvredal, both presents a satire of the fairytale stereotypes of trolls, and as truthful through the intensity of the unnerving encounters with the trolls.
- A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a vampire/Western film set in Iran, expressing views against Iran’s repression of women through horror. The black and white visuals reflecting this morally confused town. The Girl a figure of female rebellion through her vampirism, appearing menacing in a black cloak as a result of the imposition of the hijab in Iran. This is a truly unique film in horror, moody, stylistic and undeniably cool, a definite must see for any horror fan.
Of course there are many more films that could have been included in this list, but I wanted to keep it within 10 years and focus on those films that stand out from the crowded world of horror film, and were produced away from mainstream Hollywood.