If you’re a true horror movie fanatic like I am, then you’ve probably seen almost every horror movie out there. But if you aren’t quite as on top of your scary movie watching, it’s possible that a couple of really solid horror movies passed below your radar.
Just because a horror movie doesn’t receive the acclaim and notoriety as something like The Conjuring franchise doesn’t mean it isn’t capable of delivering a solid fright. (Not to bash The Conjuring- I think it’s some of James Wan’s best work). Horror films are meant to invoke fear for entertainment purposes, and the best horror films do that while telling a well thought out story at the same time. Here are several horror movies that you may not have seen but are definitely worth checking out:
A 2011 black comedy slasher film directed by Adam Wingard, You’re Next expertly blends terror and humor. A family reunion in a secluded cabin (always a good idea) goes south when the family gets attacked by a group of assailants wearing animal masks. But when one of the houseguests turns out to be a survivalist, the tables are turned on the attackers and the movie becomes an incredibly thrilling battle between the hunters and the prey. It’s almost hard to know whom you’re rooting for in the film, with twist after twist leaving you unsure of whom you can trust.
The dialogue in this film is incredible, with most of the characters so useless and inefficient in a home invasion that it’s actually funny. My favorite horror films use music in a chilling and unique way, and this film knocks it out of the park with a killer opening scene set to “Looking for the Magic”. Let’s just say I will never be able to hear it the same way ever again.
A 2016 slasher film directed by Mike Flanagan, Hush is an incredible thriller about a deaf woman being stalked by a serial killer. The film asks a very interesting question: how can you possibly survive a home invasion when your killer literally has one more sense than you do? The killer plays a thrilling and suspenseful game of cat and mouse with his victim (superbly acted by Kate Siegal) in a film made even more fraught with tension by the almost complete lack of dialogue.
I honestly don’t know how this film didn’t receive more critical attention. The filmmaker knows he doesn’t need words to convey true terror, and the film makes expert use of its premise to truly terrify the viewer and leave you completely rooting for the lead. Flanagan and Siegal (real-life husband and wife) co-wrote the film together, and also collaborated on the Netflix show Haunting of Hill House. Clearly their partnership pays off, as Hush is a film I won’t soon forget.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
A 2005 American supernatural horror trial film directed by Scott Derrickson, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is less of a straightforward horror film and more of a drama that takes place after the fact. The movie takes the familiar premise of a demonic exorcism and shows us the aftermath: What happens to the priest if the possessed person dies? Are they responsible for their death? Can you prove demonic possession in a court of law?
Laura Linney brilliantly plays the skeptical lead defense attorney, defending the priest despite her own doubts about the existence of anything supernatural. The film portrays grief in a way that makes it seem just as horrific as the actual exorcism, as shown by the way the victim’s family is still just as tortured after her death as they were during her possession. Jennifer Carpenter gives an incredible performance as the possessed victim, with truly terrifying physical movements and vocal noises that should not be possible for any actress to do. The scenes of her possession culminate in a horrific barn exorcism so chilling that I still can’t watch Jennifer Carpenter in anything without wanting to break out the holy water.
No, not the Disney film, although that was fantastic as well. A 2010 American thriller film directed by Adam Green, Frozen takes a simple problem- three skiers forgotten on a ski lift- and turns it into a survival thriller. With the mountain closed for the weekend and the temperature beginning to drop, the characters desperately try to figure out how to survive. The dynamic between the three characters stuck on the slope begins to dissolve as their hope of survival disintegrates rapidly with every passing hour.
The best part of movies like this is the part the audience gets to play in trying to figure out alongside the characters: how the hell would you survive something like that? Let me tell you this much: you definitely don’t want to jump. Because wolves, guys. Wolves. I’m still afraid to go skiing because of this film, but I do feel like this film makes me more prepared than your average Joe if I got stuck on the slopes.
A 1997 Canadian science fiction horror film directed by Vincenzo Natali, Cube was Saw seven years before Saw came out. Five strangers wake up in a series of cube-shaped rooms with no memory of how they got there. Traps, paranoia, and insanity start to set in as they try and figure out why they’re there and how they can possibly escape. There are certain films with a premise so interesting that I find myself thinking about it years later; Cube is one of those movies.
It didn’t get nearly the critical attention it deserved (probably because it was Canadian) but it did spawn both a sequel and a prequel, and a remake is currently in the works at Lionsgate. Nothing compares to the simplicity of the first film, however, which brought horror down to such a small scale that you couldn’t help but suffocate along with the rest of the characters.