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Being an avid horror fan myself, I am acutely aware of how rare it is these days to come across a horror film that actually satisfies my need for terror, shock and gore. Especially in mainstream cinema there seems to be a lot of repetition when it comes to storyline, average acting skills and predictable outcomes. However, there have been a fair few films that have stayed with me long after viewing for all the right reasons. Inventive and creative directing, unusual characters and truly terrifying situations make these 5 films some of the best horror films in recent times.
'American Mary' (2012)
American Mary revolves around student surgeon, Mary Mason, who is drawn into the sinister and dangerous world of underground surgery in pursuit of the big bucks. From a woman who wants to achieve the appearance of a human doll, to twins who want to swap body parts, her patients require Mary to perform the weird and wonderful upon them. The majority of the patients in the film are real life members of the body modification community, which makes for exceedingly interesting viewing. The film is directed by the Soska twins, who make an appearance in the movie. They have previously directed and written many short horror films. American Mary won 15 awards, including the festival trophy at Screamfest for Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, Best Director, and Best Picture. It was shot in a mere 15 days, and all effects used were practical which is something I really appreciate in a horror movie. This movie can certainly make you squirm with some of the gore and body horror portrayed and this is only emphasized by the fantastic practical effects. Overall, this is sexy, disturbing, and guaranteed to keep your horrified attention all throughout.
'Green Room' (2015)
Three words. Punks versus Nazis. If that doesn’t entice you I don’t know what will. I felt utter joy watching this movie, as I finally felt that there are modern horrors coming out that can actually do something different and scare you properly and not just follow a formula. However, I also felt like my heart was going to give out and that I was in imminent danger. That’s what I enjoyed so much about this movie, my complete anticipation of the brilliance I knew was coming, but also my complete reluctance to continue this shocking and brutal journey.
The film follows a young punk band who land a gig at a bar run by white supremist Neo-Nazis. Fantastic. The leader of the skinheads is none other than Patrick Stewart, who does an excellent job of portraying a cold, calculating and level headed Nazi. Everything is going well for the band (despite a tense performance of “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”) until Anton Yelchin walks back to the green room and witnesses the aftermath of a murder. Suddenly the band are going nowhere, and they are up against a shit ton of armed Nazis. I won’t spoil anything, because I really do urge film fans and especially horror fans to check this out. The film always defies your expectations and because the dialogue and actions are so natural, the events seem all too real and you really do feel just as trapped in the situation. The gore is among some of the most realistic and shiver-inducing as it gets, and is used so well making the impact greater. I consider myself a horror connoisseur, and it takes quite a lot for me to look away from the screen. However, during Green Room I found myself reaching desperately for a pillow to cover my eyes from the chaos ensuing. The cinematography, soundtrack, acting and pacing make this a very energetic and atmospheric movie, and I would love to see more like this in the future.
So in summary, this film is Badass (with a capital B). The punk look, sound and energy of the movie really gives it a unique feel, and has the audience tense, disturbed, shocked, and fearful all throughout.
'Train to Busan' (2016)
Train to Busan is a South Korean action/thriller, showcasing the events of a zombie outbreak on a train. A father and his young daughter fight for survival alongside other passengers, while a virus infects the country exceedingly fast. I am usually not a huge fan of zombie movies, I feel its a trope that has been done to death (although sometimes it has been done incredibly well) but this film completely changed my mind. Never before have I seen such a well choreographed movie and such strong acting in a Z film. And for further credit, the movie only mentions the word zombie once so it is certainly not shoved in your face that this is merely a zombie film.
Once the action starts it never stops, with heart-stopping and seamless fight choreography that had my jaw on the floor. I am a huge fan of movies that mainly have one setting as it allows the director to be extremely creative with what they do with this space and fill up the running time. The director Sang-ho Yeon's previous work has all been animated features, and I think this has served him very well with his first feature length live action movie, as he has a wonderful understanding of pacing, emotion, and especially the choreography.
This movie will frighten you, shock you, and more surprisingly probably have you crying at some point. I have seen this over 5 times now and the impact is no less for me on the 5th viewing than the first, which is something quite special.
Martyrs is a French film directed by Pascal Laugier that follows the story of a woman seeking revenge on the people who tortured her as a child. Laugier has stated that he was inspired by Hostel (2005), but instead of making a film about suffering he wanted to make one about pain. He certainly achieved his goal.
No horror movie I have ever seen has stuck with me like Martyrs did. It is a deeply depressing movie with incredibly bold subject matter. The concept behind the inflicted torture is to push a human to the very brink of death in order to see what lies beyond our world. This to me was a very interesting idea, especially when it comes to "torture porn". Usually the torturer is committing these atrocities to satisfy their own sick agenda, not acting as a collective group in pursuit of a scientific and spiritual answer to one of life's biggest questions: what happens after we die?
Again, all special effects were practical and contortionists were used to achieve the movement of a monster without having to fake it. Some of the scenes in the movie are extremely difficult to watch, but the experience itself is greatly rewarding for horror fans.
'Cabin in the Woods' (2012)
This is a film that the majority of you will have seen by now, and I think we all know why it deserves to be on this list. For those who have not, what seems like another generic horror film of a group of teenagers having a weekend at a cabin in the woods, is so much more.
The teenagers soon realise that they are not being pursued by one evil, but a greater one that purposely and routinely inflicts punishment on people just like them, to satisfy the needs of ancient gods. Sounds pretty far fetched, but the concept is executed with such humour and admiration for the entire horror genre. It perfectly satires the common horror tropes we have all come to know, and explains it in such an intelligent and innovative way. It is great fun to watch unfold before you as you go deeper into the characters' nightmare in search for the truth.
I implore any horror fans who have not yet seen any of these films to check them out as soon as possible. You won't regret it!