By Jerry Jones
The holiday season to me is as much like a good movie as anything I have ever known. It starts with a terrifying bang as Halloween rolls around and drifts into a tense malaise as Thanksgiving brings old relatives and new revelations. Christmas and New Years then enter, sweet and serenely, leaving our hearts content and ready for a new beginning.
This sweeping plotline that we live out year after year starts here though, with October, and all the terror that it brings with it. Of all events, big and small, from hayrides to haunted houses, nothing satisfies the palette quite like a good scary movie.
Yet, every year the field of true horror classics in film seem to die down, and we are left with a isolated selections of slasher films that do nothing more than flash nudity and bore us with ridiculous premises. Save for a few, of course. That’s where this list comes in: The best horror films you are not watching.
So many great titles exist under the radar of the big time film industry. Horror, after all, is best when done with a small budget. Nothing can ruin the atmosphere more than polished sets and A-list actors. The best horror comes from the obscure, poorly financed films by talented directors who exist to frighten and terrify us.
So, this Halloween, spend a little time inside with one of these excellent and slightly more obscure horror films. Available through a combination of Netflix, VUDU and your local rental store, they vary from easy to track down to special order status. As your terror builds to a frightening crescendo, you’ll be ready for a little sweet relief as October bleeds into November.
“Martyrs”: A disturbing French film that has deeply divided critics. Some view it as a brilliant horror movie with heavy existentialist undercurrents while some feel it’s just a gross slasher flick made to exploit violence. This divide has propelled it to the top of many “Best” lists. Whichever you feel, the tense and terrifying nature of this intelligent and critically touted thriller cannot be ignored.
“V/H/S 2”: The original “V/H/S” was a surprising critical success for a cheaply made, under hyped film. The sequel is even better. Five films from five different directors, each using a creative combination of handheld cameras, web cams and other creative filmaking technigques to create a home movie feel. For amateur filmmakers, “V/H/S 2” is practically a lesson plan in how to cheaply and effectively make a horror film.
“The Orphanage”: “El Orfanato” as it’s known in its native language, is a Spanish horror film about a mother, her young son, and his ability to communicate with the spirits inside of their new house. It’s an old concept, flawlessly executed, with story twists that will floor you. Consider this the classiest entry to the list, preferring genuinely creepy sets and tense atmosphere to cheap stunts and gore.
“The Collector”: “The Collector” is a cheaply made film borrowing concepts from much more successful films such as Saw. None of which changes how amazingly cheesy, satisfying, and surprisingly scary it can be. Watch it, then watch the sequel, “The Collection” in a row. The double dose of chintzy, gore-filled nonsense will leave you feeling quite satisfied and very entertained.
“Trick R Treat”: “Trick R Treat” is a Halloween themed anthology film, with an overlying story arch tying them all together. Well received critically, it’s an excellent under-the-radar film that fits Halloween like a glove. Light on gore, it favors atmospheric chills, storyline suspense, and general mystery to outright bloodletting. Yet, it still keeps a firm, bloody grip on the heart of the viewer.
“Master’s of Horror”: “Master’s of Horror” is not a single film, but rather a collection of many films stemming from popular filmmakers such as John Carpenter (“Cigarette Burns”) to amateurs and foreign film frighteners such as Takashi Miike. Films in the series are hit and miss. It’s the Russian roulette effect that makes watching a film from the Master’s Of Horror so much fun. Will you get a brilliant film or a dud? Spin the chamber and take your shot.