This is the second part of my list of favorite horror films. I’ve tried to omit the obvious classics and the widely known new school horror flicks. This is for those of you willing try something obscure this Halloween, something a little different
The first hour of this film might as well be a romantic comedy. A widower, who happens to be a famous director, gets convinced by his son to go back into the dating pool. The widower’s producer concocts a scheme to help him meet Mrs. right: write a part for the woman of his dreams, then hold auditions. This plays out to comedic effect. If you were to shut it off after the first sixty minutes you’d think you were watching a quirky film about a widower finding his mojo. You’d suspect that the second plot point would be when the actress discovers his ruse. You couldn’t be more wrong. The true nature of this film is a snake in a mailbox, patiently waiting to sink its fangs in your wrist. The second half is a David Lynch fever dream, filled with horror and grotesqueries.
You wake up in a room shaped like a cube with green webbed panels. Ladders and submarine doors are embedded and in the walls, the floor and the ceiling. You travel from room to room, trapped in this MC Escher image, littered with death traps. You meet six others along the way. None of you remember how you got inside this structure. Each of you are partially responsible for it’s creation. This is the Cube. A high concept survival horror movie with a Sci-Fi twist.
I still think this is underrated. Brilliant first act is lifted directly from the Stephen King short story that it’s based on. This film leans heavily on John Cusack’s charisma. He spends much of his screen time alone. If you don’t like him than I can’t sell you on this. It’s the story of a jaded author reduced to writing haunted hotel paperbacks. He’s never seen a ghost, but it wasn’t from lack of trying. When he’s sent a postcard telling him not to go to 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel, he just can’t help himself. What I like about this story is how it pits it’s hero’s sarcasm against the entity’s fatalism. Horror rarely has so many “Fuck yeah” moments that keep you rooting for the hero.
Rubber begins with an obstacle course of chairs positioned in place of traffic cones. A state trooper’s vehicle drives through them one by one. Then the trooper emerges from the trunk with a glass of water. Thus begins the most awkwardly meta film experience you will ever have. The movie is about a sentient tire that makes heads explode through telekinesis, or something like that.
This is a radio play turned feature film. At first it seems like another rage virus zombie apocalypse story. The angle being that it’s told from a radio both. It turns out the contagion is a form of madness, like in The Crazies. The virus is not spread through blood or saliva but rather through language. It’s a thought virus, activating a long dormant insanity in anyone who comprehends it. I’m a big fan of conceptual horror like this.
Arguably the reddest film ever made, red gels, red lenses, red costumes, and buckets of blood. This is the reason why Dario Argento still gets to make movies. The soundtrack by Goblin will drive you up the wall on a pile of sitar strings
Series 7: The Contenders (2001)
Remember the senator’s daughter from Silence of the Lambs? Now she’s out of the well, pregnant and shooting people in connivence stores. She’s a contender on a reality TV show where the only prize is your life. Contenders are chosen by a lottery, that just so happens to select her ex-boyfriend. This post dates Battle Royale and pre dates The Hunger Games. This is still my favorite take on the dystopian reality TV genre made popular by The Running Man.
Three… Extremes (2007)
Three short films, one from Hong Kong, one from South Korea and one from Japan. Three of the darkest short stories you will ever see. Dumplings is about a modern day fountain of youth, run out of the back of an abortion clinic. Cut is about a director who’s forced to give an extra a proper audition, or a contraption will slice his wife to pieces. Box is a ghost story about identical twins, one who lived.
Session 9 (2001)
Things go south for an asbestos crew working an abandoned insane asylum. Either, they’re not alone or one of them is hiding a terrible secret. This was filmed in a genuine mental hospital. Come for the story, stay for the atmosphere. Silent Hill 3 payed homage to this film by designing part of a level around Session 9‘s poster.
Lake Mungo (2008)
A talking head documentary. Is it a ghost story or an elaborate hoax or both? Lake Mungo follows a family’s account of their daughter’s death, and the premonitions she had leading up to it. There’s one jump out scene toward the end, but trust me you will be rewinding it again and again. The film uses a healthy dose of skepticism as a red herring, like a good episode of The X Files.