The Invitation (2015)
Directed by Karyn Kusama
Starring Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, Emayatzy Corinealdi
A man accepts an invitation to a dinner-party hosted by his ex-wife, which sets off an unexpected chain of events.
This one is a real slow-burn, and perhaps that’s the reason why it has been criminally overlooked. But in spite of its slow build-up, like a proverbial David Lynch film there’s always a palpable sense of dread that permeates the proceedings from the get go. With the exception of The Invitation, all of Kusama’s other films have strong feminist themes. But that doesn’t make this any less good. In fact, The Invitation still remains Kusama’s best effort thus far. It is a far more nuanced, character driven affair which takes its time with the narrative. The third-act though, is another story altogether. Exploding with an unexpected Samurai-esque ferocity in a series of violent blood-soaked acts it climaxes in an unforgettable finale, that will have you searching for your jaw on the floor.
Kill List (2011)
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Starring Neil Maskell, Michael Smiley, MyAnna Buring
After a botched job, an ex-military man becomes a gun-for-hire trying to adjust to civilian life. Little does he know that the next assignment he takes on, will lead him down a darker path.
Filmmaker Ben Wheatley has come a long way since Kill List debuted in 2011. In between cult-classics like A Field in England and Sightseers, Wheatley also has several mainstream efforts lined up as well. This month will see his feature length adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca debut on Netflix and 2021 will see the Tomb Raider sequel helmed by him hitting theaters. Looking at the recent developments it’s safe to say that this British auteur has done quite well for himself during the past decade. But there’s a reason why Kill List still remains one of his best efforts to date. Like Down Terrace a few years prior, this too possesses a sort of kitchen-sink social realism blended with a dissonant off-kilter tone. It’s hard to pin down Wheatley’s to a specific genre even though its most certainly a horror film. But there are so many different cogs and wheels from various other genres at play here, that at times you wonder where does one finish and the other begin? In the end though, anyone who watches Kill List will undoubtedly agree that it is an utterly unsettling film which overturns the established conventions of horror on its proverbial head, in a very violent fashion.
Directed by Panos Cosmatos
Starring Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache
A man gets driven over the edge when his girlfriend is kidnapped by a nightmarish hippie cult.
Wow. Where do I begin with this one? For starters I can state that this film brilliantly capitalized on Cage’s tendency for over-the-top craziness unlike his other recent efforts, barring 2017’s jet-black comedy Mom & Dad. No one, I mean no one, does crazy like this man and that be the truth. But in this nightmarish, hallucinatory landscape of acid-spiked weirdness, Cage’s unhinged performance seems almost normal. Cosmatos’ equally trippy debut film Beyond the Black Rainbow too was heavily stylized and visually arresting, but nothing will prepare you for the psychedelic insanity of this film. Infusing extreme cinema elements along with blood-soaked acts of violence further intensifies the madness at display here. Mandy is also one of the last films scored by Academy award winning Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson and his synth-heavy musical contribution here perfectly complements DOP Benjamin Loeb’s contribution to the film. Coming off as an odd lovechild of Clive Barker, John Carpenter and David Lynch, this surreal horror-thriller revenge caper is definitely an experience not to be missed.
Directed by Matthew Holness
Starring Sean Harris, Alun Armstrong, Simon Bubb, Andy Blithe
A disgraced children’s puppeteer must revisit his childhood home and confront his traumatic past.
Possum is the feature length adaptation of a short-story from the same name also penned by film maker Matthew Holness. Having helped co-create the British horror-parody television series Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place, Holness can certainly be described as an individual who has a firm grasp on the subject of horror. He therefore brings the wealth of knowledge and experience he’s amassed over the years regarding the genre in crafting his debut film. And what he’s created is a fascinatingly disturbing character study on the dark repercussions of childhood abuse and past traumas. Mission: Impossible alum Sean Harris brings his A-game to this unnerving tale, perfectly embodying the fractured, mentally unstable young man forced through his emotionally raw performance. Shot on 35mm film stock, this is old-school British horror at its finest, replete with atmosphere and nuance that is sure to leave a lasting impression on you. Also, if you have arachnophobia and creepy puppets…good luck.
The Void (2016)
Directed by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski
Starring Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Daniel Fathers, Kathleen Munroe
A police officer starts experiencing strange and violent occurrences after delivering a patient to a local hospital.
An unabashed throwback to B-movies from the 80’s era, The Void is any gorehounds wet-dream realized. Boasting some insanely impressive practical effects the film is an orgiastic splatter-fest of cosmic horror sharing many similarities to John Carpenters’ seminal effort – The Thing. The writer-director duo of Gillespie and Kostanski were said to have been inspired by Guillermo del Toro’s pursuit of adapting H.P Lovecraft’s At the Mountain of Madness for the big screen. Like del Toro they too wanted to do Lovecraft, but in a way that no one has envisioned or seen before. Looking at the finished product it’s abundantly obvious that they’ve achieved what they set out to do and then some. If blood, gore and tentacles are what the doctor ordered, please be kind and indulge.
I Trapped the Devil (2019)
Directed by Josh Lobo
Starring Scott Poythress, A.J Bowen, Susan Burke, Joceline Donahue, Chris Sullivan
A man becomes unhinged with paranoia after trapping what he believes to be the Devil, in his basement.
In a lot of ways Josh Lobo’s debut feature owes a debt to Charles Beaumont’s classic short-story and its subsequent adaptation The Howling Man, made for the genre bending TV series The Twilight Zone in the 1960’s. I Trapped the Devil can best be summed up as the feature length version which expands on the concepts explored in that particular Twilight Zone episode. Shot on a minuscule budget but boasting some impressive technical contributions I Trapped the Devil is a succinct but effective exploration on paranoia and its repercussions. Performance wise Scott Poythress was just a revelation. This man singlehandedly carries the entire film, I ain’t lying. His is the most pivotal role and he delivers in spades delivering an utterly convincing performance that will almost make the audience wonder, what exactly is really happening.
The Devil’s Candy (2015)
Directed by Sean Byrne
Starring Ethan Embry, Kiara Glasco, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Shiri Appleby, Tony Amendola
A down-on-his-luck painter gets possessed by demonic forces, when he and his family move into their dream home.
If you are a metalhead looking for a horror fix, just watch this. There I’ve said it. 2015’s The Devil’s Candy is another indie-gem that flew under the radars of many. Its metal music soundtrack got my undivided attention from the get go, the solid narrative and strong performances by the leads – particularly Ethan Embry and Pruitt Taylor Vance – took care of the rest. Even visually the film is quite impressive, successfully capturing a struggling artists descent into madness through its disturbing hellish imagery and Simon Chapman’s gorgeous cinematography plays an instrumental role in this process. The only minor quibble is that the film has a relatively short run-time, but don’t let that deter you from watching this stylish scare fest this Halloween.
Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)
Directed by Issa Lopez
Starring Paola Lara, Juan Ramón López, Ianis Guerrero, Rodrigo Cortes
A gang of children try to survive the cartel violence and the ghosts created through the persisting drug war.
Director Issa Lopez’s Tigers Are Not Afraid has clearly been influenced by Guillermo del Toro’s dark fantasy dramas like The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. The themes explored here are not too dissimilar but while del Toro’s efforts were primarily period pieces this film is set within the confines of the modern-day drug war of Mexico. This contemporary setting makes the rest of the film more relatable and less fantastical. There’s a gritty beauty to the camera work which captures the brutality of the cartel violence as well as the beautiful dark-fantasy elements at play here. Although the main cast is composed mainly of children, they do a stellar job in their respective roles. Hardcore horror fans may feel slightly disappointed by the shortage in scares but if you are willing to overlook this minor quibble, a poignant tale that will tug at your heartstrings awaits.
It Comes at Night (2017)
Directed by Trey Edward Shults
Starring Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Riley Keough, Mikey
A families’ rigid domestic order is tested when a younger family seeks refuge, in the aftermath of a disease outbreak.
This ambiguous psychological horror-thriller is a bit of a divisive one. Marketed as a conventional genre film at first, It Comes at Night turned out to be a real headscratcher for the general audience once it debuted. People came expecting a straightforward horror-thriller but instead what they got was a completely different experience. And in a day and age when movie going audiences prefer their films to be clear cut, this effort clearly didn’t appeal to them. A sad state of affairs because there is a lot to love here. Joel Edgerton delivers a carrier best in an emotionally understated performance that is thoroughly engrossing and convincing. The rest of the supportive cast bolster Edgerton’s excellent work through their exceptional efforts as well. Something that the director excels at is tone, with every ounce of paranoia and fear that the character’s felt being translated effectively to the screen with the assistance of cinematography, music and editing. If slow-burn, psychological horror films are right up your alley, reach out for this one.
Honourable mentions: Maggie, Cargo, The Wind, Belzebuth, Yhe Endless, Spring
Do you have any horror movie recommendations to add to this list? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…
Hasitha Fernando is a part-time medical practitioner and full-time cinephile. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.