Critical Picks: Revenge of the Son of 8 Horror Movies You Should See
More lesser-known horror movie gems.
Halloween may be over, but horror movies go down darkly all year long. Here are eight lesser-known, underrated titles that are sure to inject some terror into your nights.
Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
This is one of those movies that generates a considerable emotional power while watching it yet continues to haunt long after it's finished. It's a character-driven piece about a mentally troubled woman, Jessica (Zohra Lampert), who goes to the countryside to relax with her husband and a good friend. The group encounters a mysterious free spirit (Mariclare Costello) and Jessica starts to descend back into madness. Or is Jessica truly picking up on something far more sinister? Excellent performance by lead Lampert.
Black Christmas (1974)
John Carpenters' excellent Halloween was the most successful independent movie of its day and for good reason -- it's scary and stylish. It's also given credit for spawning the slasher movie trend of the late 1970s and 1980s. Four years earlier, however, director Bob Clark (who would later go on to make Porky's and A Christmas Story) unleashed this unsettling classic. The setup is simple: a sicko psychopath stalks college girls. But it's the lead performances from Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder and the almost unbearable tension that make this one of the best movies of its ilk, if not the best. For my money, it has one of the creepiest final shots in horror.
It feels unholy from its opening moments, yet there's something strangely compelling and beautiful in every frame of this avant-garde masterwork. It feels unwholesome.
Dark Waters (1993)
The 1990s were a bad decade for supernatural horror movies. But this atmospheric Italian feature (in English) from first-time director Mariano Baino was a refreshing exception. It's structured as a mystery-young woman journeys to a remote convent to find her sister who's disappeared-but its strength is Baino's aggressive style and doomy mood. It comes off like a true sequel to Dario Argento's Suspiria and Inferno; much better than the hideous third installment Argento eventually produced.
No, we don't need another serial killer movie. Outside of some notable exceptions, the ubiquitous serial killer thriller is one boring, moribund cinematic beast. Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Cure is a major exception. A string of bizarre murders occur across Tokyo and the police, led by detective Kenichi Takabe (Kôji Yakusho), are baffled by their possible connection. When a young man (Masato Hagiwara) is questioned as a possible suspect, Takabe is unsettled by the horrible truth. Kurosawa's blending of the familiar with the unreal is brilliant handled here. Disturbing in all the right ways.
It's a Western and full-on horror movie. Cannibalism makes for an appropriate metaphor for the savagery of Manifest Destiny and there's a strain of black humor running through it that works perfectly. Ravenous also contains one of the strangest (and great) scores courtesy of Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn.
Dead Birds (2004)
This one starts like The Wild Bunch and creeps into pure supernatural horror territory as it goes along. A group of AWOL Confederate soldiers rob a bank and then wind up in an abandoned plantation mansion to hide from a lynching party. But something lurks on the plantation and hunts them down one by one. Henry Thomas, Patrick Fugit, Michael Shannon, and Isaiah Washington are all great here. The movie's deliberate pace pulls you under and then jolts you when you're most vulnerable. Much like Ravenous, this was dismissed by its studio, but Dead Birds is one of the finest horror movies of the last decade. Highly recommended.
Call of Cthulhu (2005)
Despite being adapted several times for the screen (Re-Animator being the most notable one), the stories of H.P. Lovecraft have never really been done right. This lovingly crafted (and very faithful) version of Lovecraft's tale of cosmic horror evokes the creeping terror well and it's also a great homage to silent movie techniques and melodrama. In this era of aggressive stylistic unease and over-the-top violence, this old school take on the genre feels almost downright radical.