For the Halloween season, blood-lusting Film Critic staffers have revealed their favorite unsung horror for the past three years. You’ve heard about the classics — from Night of the Living Dead to The Evil Dead — but these are the films that have slipped into the shadows. Once again, we plunged into the dark depths of the horror realm to find a sacrificial offering of ten films that you haven’t seen. Just don’t blame us if your electric bill spikes after sleeping with your lights on.
Sure, it seems like a stupid concept, but anyone who has ever been stuck on a ski lift for more than two minutes has had the thought flash through his or her mind: what happens if I’m stuck up here? Hatchet director Adam Green takes that question and lets the helpless reality set in. Then he answers the questions, Do I jump? Do I climb the cable? And do I wait for help? None of those options work out well for the three trapped friends.
For those who are jaded enough to scoff at the original Exorcist being heralded as the scariest movie ever, writer William Peter Blatty gives us a terrifying demonic-possession movie that is often dismissed as a pointless sequel. You’ll be hard-pressed to call The Exorcist III pointless after its shocking decapitation scene. And just wait until the Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif, at his best) explains how he cut off a victim’s head without spilling a drop of blood, as if it were a masterwork of showmanship.
The late director Satoshi Kon showed us that Japanese anime isn’t just for social misfits and maladjusted adolescents with this superb psychological thriller, in which a Japanese pop star is stalked by a deranged psychopath in an unsettling, David Lynch-like story. Toeing the line between reality and nightmare, Perfect Blue‘s mature themes and sophisticated story twists make it easy to forget you’re watching an animated movie.
Uneasy spirits and restrained terror haunt every beautiful frame of this horror classic. Deborah Kerr plays a governess caring for two orphaned children, Miles and Flora, who might be possessed by the dead. While cinematographer Freddie Francis’s long depths of field and steady hand create an uneasy mood in today’s world of quick cuts and handheld shots, it’s the two children who send chills down your spine.
Judging from the box-office total, you probably missed Splice
when it slithered its way into theaters last summer. While the bizarre sexuality of a genetically engineered human-animal hybrid didn’t draw huge lines at ticket booths, it was the stuff of nightmares for horror fans. Director Vincenzo Natali channels eighties David Cronenberg to make Splice
intelligent and physically repulsive at the same time — no mean feat.
Check out the melting faces of Satan worshippers at a black mass gone awry, and do your best not to lose your lunch. While the first half of The Devil’s Rain
might not live up to its face-melting conclusion, what other movie pits a young Tom Skerritt against devil worshipping Ernest Borgnine and William Shatner? The ending alone is enough to make you nauseated.
While film snobs might name-drop Akira Kurosawa, horror hounds have their own Kurosawa, who ushered in a new level cinematic terror. Pulse (a.k.a. Kairo) is arguably Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s horror masterpiece. Don’t be put off by 2006’s shallow Kristen Bell remake; Kurosawa’s Pulse is a thinking person’s horror movie. As you’re mulling over the film’s existential questions about life after death, you realize that the hopeless spirit haunting the screen has been in the shot the entire time and you didn’t notice until it was too late.
Temper the urge to put a baseball bat through your best friend’s head after watching this overlooked new-gen horror gem about a signal sent out through electronic devices that turns its audience into blood-lusting killers. The story is told in three parts by three different directors, each with his own flavor of fear and dark comedy. While that creates some inconsistencies, The Signal‘s ability to cut from bloodcurdling screams to sinister laughs more than makes up for them.
Director George Ratliff’s Joshua builds on the fear of inherent evil. Joshua is a gifted 8-year-old and a masterful piano player. He’s also a jealous older brother who doesn’t care much for his new sister. Sam Rockwell is the father trying to hold his family together, but Joshua’s maniacal meddling pushes him over the edge. Can we blame him? How far would you go if your son drove your wife insane and killed your dog?
A groovy seventies prog-rock soundtrack. Supernatural mystery. Daria Nicolodi. Don’t be surprised if you mistake Mario Bava’s Beyond the Door II
) for a
Dario Argento movie: while the Italian horror director might take his cues from his cinematic colleague, Beyond the Door II
‘s scares are pure Bava. For those of us who may have been disappointed with Argento’s latest attempt at a giallo
revival, this overlooked shocker makes us want to find our black gloves to relive the gory days of the Italian horror genre.