Just in time for the Halloween season, it’s time to break out the horror cards. Now, everyone knows the classics of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, and every year we add the same films to our same old October movie lists.
ROUTINE, BE GONE: I present to you five horror films from the recent decade that will have you scrambling for the remote and keeping your eyes open – simultaneously – not to mention a little humor thrown in there.
These are five films that you may not readily recognize, but you may have definitely scanned the DVD box cover, or surfed passed it on Netflix or Lovefilm, not knowing the treasures awaiting you…
5. Dead End (2003): A family road trip on Christmas evolves into a hellish nightmare only true horror fans themselves could create. A father, a mother, a daughter, a son, and the daughter’s doting boyfriend endure the ride together, as supernatural disasters and paranoia destroy their sanity. And yet, the supernatural elements never seem to go overboard; the movie truly plays out like a “Twilight Zone” episode, roping you and never letting you breathe, all the while keeping it shrouded in mystery.
The atmospheric cinematography and original score are definitely top notch, but it’s the realistic performance from all actors involve which really deserve the applause. Ray Wise holds it steady as the dad, but it’s Lin Shaye, who has usually been reduced to supporting comedic roles in films like “There’s Something About Mary,” who really shines through. Her insanity is just… incredible, much like this super gem.
4. The Descent (2005): The story of six female friends rock climbing, in the wake of a terrible family tragedy, sets the scene for this rough and tough thriller/horror from director Neil Marshall. As if the claustrophobia of these dark, damp caves weren’t enough, Marshall has to thrown in angry, monstrous humanoid creatures as well. One by one, the women fight off these girl-hungry beasts, learning from their gruesome villains while surviving as far as they can.
The best thing about this movie isn’t the great acting, or fantastic direction, or perfectly horrifying set design – it’s the fact that these women characters are never reduced to your typical horror heroines stereotypes. No big-breasted blondes; no moronic college girls ‘running up the stairs when they should be running out the front door’. These are real women, real friends, in a life-or-death situation.
3. Ginger Snaps (2001): Ginger Snaps is as hilarious as it is bloody and horrific, and biting with social commentary and dark feminine humor. It’s the story of two Goth teenage sisters, Ginger and Bridget, one year apart in age, best friends to the grave. They’re obsessed with darkness, death, and the macabre – until Ginger gets bitten by the town’s pesky werewolf on the night of her first menstrual period, and all womanly hell breaks loose.
A low-budget Canadian production has never looked so good. The two female leads have been trained and perfected; the direction is mortifyingly good with a sick, twisted humor and an eye for gore; the make-up is infused with energy and love from the crew; but most of all, it’s the script, which calls to mind the great girl-slang lingo of “Heathers” from the ‘80s. A dark, fun, and unforgettable werewolf ride.
2. House of the Devil (2009): This film – and by film, I do mean film – is a masterpiece. Filmed in ’09 but set in the late ‘70s / early ‘80s, House of the Devil is the ultimate homage to all of the beautiful, horrifying, and dearly missed Satanic horror films of the era it recreates: The Omen and The Exorcist, among others. It was released in very limited theaters, due to its mighty low budget and zero marketable stars, but because of its awe-inspiring prowess, it grew to be a midnight hit sensation in several big cities.
Jocelyn Donahue is Samantha, your average college girl trying to make a buck. She answers a vague babysitting ad, and her fate is sealed. On this eerie night, Samantha is lured out to the house of the Ulmans, one of the most disturbingly, quietly sinister pairs seen in horror films in years, and the ‘70s-infused terror begins. With a deadly perfect original score to match the era, gorgeous direction and set design, plenty of tricks and treats, and cameos from Dee Wallace Stone, Mary Woronov, and Tom Noonan, you know you’re in for the time of your life.
1. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2005): Behind the Mask makes #1 on this list for its sheer originality. No horror film, or comedy, reached this point of dark hilarity in the past decade. Nothing holds a candle. If this script were produced by some bigger names, it would be one of the biggest cult hits of the decade. It’s filmed in that great mockumentary style, made famous by Rob Reiner and Christopher Guest, and proves to possibly be the best use of the technique yet.
We follow Leslie Vernon, a really sweet, endearing, agile guy on his quest to be the world’s next greatest serial killer. Mind you, this film exists in a world where Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers were real men whose dirty deeds all took place in the same dimension. Leslie takes us the behind the scenes of his ingenious upcoming murders as he stalks a sad, terrified blonde, and we watch the horror unfold from the point of view of Leslie – and a team of greatly inept grad students, who are way in over their heads. This movie is so inventive, so creative, and so satisfying, I just… I just want to scream. Go out, rent it, and have a great Halloween.
Ross Tipograph is a film buff and Emerson College screenwriting major. When he’s not reviewing movies, he’s writing about costumes for Halloween.