Some will argue that a few of the titles on this week aren’t really horror movies, but the truth is, the horror genre is expanding. The requirements for a “scary movie” no longer list a masked serial killer, a virgin, or supernatural elements. Horror films can be tense, thought-provoking features that could or could not happen in real life, but still keep you up at night, worrying that these same events may happen to you. It’s an exciting time for the genre, and many promising newcomers are leading the way, like Gerard Johnstone, Jennifer Kent, Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, and Ana Lily Amirpour.
10. ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
Adam and Eve have been together for centuries, traveling the world, reading hundreds of books, living off of the sweet nectar that is human blood, and basking in the love that they hold for one another. No distance and no amount of time can pull them apart, but Eve’s little sister Ava is going to take a stab at it. ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE is a sexy, stylish cool vampire movie that’s enticing with it’s heavy ’90s look and feel, dreary music, and strong chemistry between stars Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. I would’ve preferred a more eventful finale, but I really adored the characters of Adam, Eve, Ava, and Marlowe, and would like to see this same group of actors work together again.
Kylie Bucknell and her mother Miriam have never really gotten along. They’ve always butted heads, with mainly Kylie doing the butting, and Miriam waiting patiently for her daughter to open up and accept her. The two mostly avoided each other until Kylie is caught trying to break into an ATM machine and is sentenced to house arrest in her childhood home, where her mother still lives. Confined to the perimeters of her lawn, Kylie battles her boredom with endless hours of television and occasional digging through boxes and exploring random old rooms.Kylie’s always shrugged off Miriam’s superstitions, and chalked it up to her mother being crazy, but for some reason, staying in this house has altered her perception a little. She hears creaks in the floorboards, feels a presence in the air, and before she knows it, Kylie’s convinced that they aren’t the only ones that live there, and their unwelcome occupant is no longer in the land of the living. HOUSEBOUND isn’t just one of the best horror movies of the year from breakout writer/director Gerard Johnstone, it’s simply one of the funniest movies of the year, and is a movie every lover of film can enjoy, be they horror fan or not.
Before the mirror, everything that happened in the Russell family’s new home was pretty much what you’d expect. Kaylie and her little brother Tim spend most of their time chasing each other through the hallways, playing laser tag and make believe. Their mother, Marie, shuffles in the movers, directing their movements like a traffic cop as she points to where each piece of furniture should live, and their father Alan begins working almost instantly in his new home office. All is well and merry until the ancient, gothic Scottish mirror claims a space on the wall of Alan’s work space. Soon after, the mirror takes its toll on the family, as Alan spends more and more time alone in his office, and takes on a much colder, more withdrawn persona, like a man committing adultery. Marie starts to believe that Alan’s eyes are wandering because she has aged past the point of beauty, and falls deep into a hole of self-pity, unable to care for herself or for her children. But what starts out like a midlife crisis ends in a nightmare, as the family falls prey to the power of the mirror and the events that follow land Tim in a mental institution and Kaylie in foster care. Before they part ways, Tim and Kaylie promise each other to reunite as adults and destroy the mirror once and for all. Whether or not they succeed is up in the air. OCULUS is a thrilling, creepy commentary on the temptation to give into curiosity, and whether or not it’s best to hang on to your pride, or to let the events of the past go and move on with your life. What’s intelligent about this movie is that supports both arguments, and leaves it up to the viewer to decide what’s the best route to take. It also doesn’t delve too deeply into the “whys” and “hows” of the mirror’s actions, keeping the story moving at a swift pace while allowing the film to hold its mysterious tone. OCULUS also playfully toys with time, and perceptions of time, just like a mirror.
7. CHEAP THRILLS
Craig lost his job today. Times are tough, and businesses are cracking down on the amount of money they shell out to hard-working employees each month, no matter how badly they need it. Craig definitely needs it. He received an eviction notice on his door this morning, so with no more steady income, and a newborn baby in the house, Craig’s wife may not be so understanding when he comes home with the bad news. To avoid that argument for a few hours longer, Craig heads to the local bar, and drinks away some of the little money he has left, because: why not? What’s the point? Life’s about to get a lot tougher, and there may not be a silver lining this time. Just when it seems that things are at their worst, a strange turn of events occurs. Craig runs into an old buddy from high school, Vince, and as the two are catching up, they meet a well-off couple named Colin and Violet. The couple apparently get their kicks from daring random strangers to perform various dares of their asking, and giving money to whoever wins the round. As the night grows mature, the dares get more and more bold, until Craig starts to ask himself if a worry-free life is worth performing such horrible acts. Sure, he’d have an instant answer to his problems, but what if the game never ends? What if Craig has entered into a two-man challenge where only one man leaves? Pat Healy and Ethan Embry are enthralling as the reunited best friends whose deep-seated issues are aggressively brought to the surface in the worst possible ways. CHEAP THRILLS isn’t as much a movie as it is a sick, twisted, appalling ride, and I loved every minute of it.
In the future, climate change has corrupted the world, leaving few survivors. Those who are lucky enough to escape the frozen tundra with their lives are forced to spend the rest of their existence aboard the Snowpiercer, a never-ending train that circles the globe and houses all of the necessities to ensure life-everlasting upon its speeding wheels. The patrons of the train may not stand on soil or collect paychecks, but they are still destined to squeeze into their assigned section of the same caste system that has claimed millions of individuals throughout history. The poor reside in the tail of the train, living in filth and eating the disgusting, gooey food blocks that resemble gel candles more than they do anything edible, while the rich are bathed with an overabundance of the finest foods and libations at the head of the train, never wondering how long it will be before their next meal arrives. All seems stagnant and predictable until Curtis, a working class hero from the back of the train, decides to lead a revolution and force his way to the front, with the help of a few friends and outlaws. Bong Joon-ho, director of the cult classic monster movie THE HOST, creates a brilliant. exciting genre film in this adaptation of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige. Not only is this movie just plain fun to watch because of some truly beautifully choreographed action scenes, but it’s also packed with invigorating political commentary on social class, climate change, and necessary rebellion.
5. A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
A dark hooded figure strolls the empty streets of Iran, looking for her next victim. She is the darkness, and she carries death with her everywhere she goes. Honorable men need not fear her, for she is the bringer of vengeance; an answer to the cries for help that ring out in the night. She is alone, and she likes it that way. Arash is a hard-working loner who takes care of his junkie father, who hasn’t been the same since his mother passed away. Without the aid of any family members, Arash tries to keep he and his father afloat by working honest day jobs and leading a simple, aloof life. When their paths cross, the connection is instant, but can Arash love a girl who harbors such horrifying secrets? Director Ana Lily Amirpour tells a tragic, romantic tale of star-crossed lovers in a cold, war-ridden world. A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is sleek and sexy, yet mysterious and subtle, with a ferocious, charming performance by lead actress Shiela Vand. If you’re a fan of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, you’ll really dig this movie.
4. UNDER THE SKIN
Scarlett Johansson has made some really interesting choices lately, with HER, a science-fiction futuristic fantasy about computers taking on personalities of their own, LUCY, where she starred alongside Min-sik Choi as a woman who turns tragedy into triumph when the drugs leaked into her body turn her into an unstoppable super-human machine, and UNDER THE SKIN, a sci-fi horror film shot guerilla-style with Kubrick flare. In a succubus-stylized manner, Johansson, known only as “The Woman”, lures unsuspecting men into her lair and traps them in a sea of darkness, left wading for all of eternity — or until she needs them. She’s far from human, but the more time she spends in her feminine skin, the more begins to feel…something. Empathy. Longing. Desire. Emotions are a weakness that we’re all privy to, no matter how removed we think we are from our peers. Director Jonathan Glazer has made an incendiary feature that mesmerizes and holds its audience captive, both by its artsy visuals, and its unsettling score. I’m excited to see what else he’s got up his sleeve.
3. BIG BAD WOLVES
When a pedophile begins killing the children of a little Israeli town, all of its citizens are severely affected, from the police officers down to the teachers. Gidi, the father of one of the victims, kidnaps a man he believes to be the murderer, and enlists the aid of Micki, a dirty police officer, to help him torture the truth out of Dror. If they can get Dror to admit his crimes, then they can finally rid the streets of his heinous acts and stop him before he submits another innocent child to such horrible degradation. The only problem is, Dror didn’t do it. Not only does he appear completely harmless, but he doesn’t cave to the torture, further proving he is falsely accused by his psychopathic captor. Micki stumbles between his desire for the truth and his guilty conscience, as he soon finds that his interrogation tactics pale in comparison to those that Gidi practices. Whether or not Dror actually is the one to blame is a question that hangs overhead for the entirety of the movie, down to the final shocking moments. For a film with such a heavy premise, BIG BAD WOLVES is oddly funny, thanks to its well-timed humor and sharp actors. With such a hauntingly beautiful score and such strong performances, this little film out of Israel proves that it’s a contender.
2. STARRY EYES
Hollywood is no place for the weak. Over thirty-eight million people live in California, and at least three million of them call Los Angeles home. With its focus on fame, and so many people trying to make themselves known in an industry already filled with talented people, getting your foot in the door is no easy task. It may take years to make your mark, and even then, you may still never become a face that people photograph and put on the cover of a magazine. You may never become one of the few names that’s passed between hushed lips during the lunch break at an office downtown, or the girl that is sent free clothes by top tier designers, just because they hope that you might wear them in public. You may never hold a golden award in your arms. So, what if someone gave you a short-cut? What if someone handed over an offer for instant, A-list success, and all you have to do is give up your soul? If you honestly look at the odds of stardom when you take the high road, cashing in a get-rich-quick scheme doesn’t seem so awful. Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch are a deadly force to reckon with, as they stun and shock audiences across America with their brave, sadistic venture into the occult and the hypnotizing powers of stardom. The two have created a noteworthy new addition to the old conversation of how much one should be willing to give up to see their name in big shiny lights, and whether or not those sacrifices are worth the outcome.
1. THE BABADOOK
After the loss of her husband, Amelia finds it hard to cope with every aspect of her life. Simple, daily activities, have turned into difficult, time-consuming tasks that Amelia just doesn’t have the strength to endure. Getting from one moment to the next is hard enough, but raising her son on her own in the wake of such sorrow is asking too much of her. Samuel can feel his mother’s contempt when she recoils from his touch, and does his best to cope as well, with not only losing his father, but in a way, his mother as well. Together, the two struggle through life at an uncomfortable, awkward stride, until one day a book appears on the shelf and brings the little amount of progress they’ve made to a screeching halt. MISTER BABADOOK is the title that screams out from the cover, and the story inside is just as eerie and strange. The monster in the book scares Samuel so badly that he begins imagining that the Babadook himself is creeping through the halls of their home, and as much as she fights it, it isn’t long before Amelia sees a dark figure lurking in the shadows as well. THE BABADOOK isn’t just an extremely impressive debut feature for director Jennifer Kent being as it’s one of the most frightening films in years, but it’s also a unique, creative look at how we deal with grief, and what can happen when we let the black monster in our hearts swallow us whole. Mister Babadook is a clever, easily recognizable villain that could very possibly become an iconic character in the future, just as Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees reign as kings of cult culture in today’s horror community. Essie Davis gives a bone-chilling performance as Amelia, the guilt-ridden single mother who falls deeper and deeper down a self-loathing spiral into the hell that waits for her, just another demon coming to terms with its own lack of humanity. Will she be able to pull herself out of her own grave, or will the monster that tugs at her heels be too strong to shake?
1. THE SACRAMENT -A tense, brutally realistic commentary on how religion can be used as a tool for evil if wielded by the wrong people.
2. GRAND PIANO – Very Hitchcockian and Elijah Wood is terrific.
3. THE PURGE: ANARCHY – Exactly what we wanted in the first movie, which is to see the Purge in action, in the streets with total chaos and lawlessness.
Shout-out to GONE GIRL and THE GUEST. I loved them both, but they walk of the line of being a horror movie pretty narrowly.