Barry Levinson, Blackfish, Cabin in the Woods, Cold Snow 3, Curse of Chucky, Don Coscarelli, Fritt Vilt III, Horror Films, John Dies at the End, Mike Flanagan, Oculus, The Bay, Top 15 Horror Films of the Last Five Years, Trick R' Treat, VHS 2, Wake Wood, You're Next
I’ve talked about underrated films of the last five years, but I never took the leap of actually ordering them. Its a dirty job, but honestly, this list was easy to make.
There are going to be spoilers. THERE ARE GOING TO BE SPOILERS. In my earlier reviews, I tried not to give anything away, and that led to some really vague, and not very memorable reviews. This time, I’m going to go more into depth on the films, and hopefully it will be more compelling reading.
I limited the scope of what I was doing, because when we talk about the great horror films, they’re all old. The Exorcist is always listed as the scariest film of all time, but its 41 years old. So is The Wicker Man. You mean to tell me we haven’t made a better film in 41 years? Alien is 35 years old. Psycho is 54 years old. Un Chien Andalou? Don’t ask.
There are people still making great films, its just that we don’t notice them. I would say that horror movies are smarter and better than they’ve been since the 1970’s, and those are the films I’ll be talking about.
There are going to be obvious omissions, the ones that come to mind are Cabin in the Woods and Trick R’ Treat, both movies that I am a big fan of. But they’re not on the list because they’re not scary. A horror film is intended to scare people, that is its primary purpose. I loved both of these films, but they didn’t make it.
There were some near misses worth mentioning.
Hammer Films presented the intriguing Wake Wood, about grieving parents with the chance to spend three more days with their dead daughter, and the mysterious town that provides the opportunity. Had this finished a little stronger before the stinger, it would have probably made my list.
Adam Wingard’s You’re Next and Norway’s Fritt vilt III were examples of intelligent slasher films, with You’re Next excelling in plot and the entire Cold Snow franchise excelling in execution. (The prior film Fritt Vilt II is a step-by-step remake of Halloween II.)
In terms of sequels, Curse of Chucky was way better than could have been expected. Creator Don Mancini makes a turn for the more serious and it was a great decision. The entire V/H/S series has been at least captivating, but the second installation is clearly the best of the lot, and had the Indonesian segment not ended on a joke (ugh!) this would have absolutely made the list.
Barry Levinson did a solid job with The Bay, but despite the mayhem that occurs on screen the most horrific parts of the movie, were the parts he didn’t fake, the lifeless, ochre yellow cloud on the floor of the Chesapeake, the result of careless farming that indiscriminately destroyed all sea life in the area.
I was interested to see Mike Flanagan’s Oculus, as his short film was riveting. I would describe it more as clever than necessarily terrifying, which is why it didn’t make my list, but Flanagan has already proven to be an unusual talent. (More on that later, hint, hint!)
John Dies at the End is more weird than scary, but its hard to find a more interesting film. True be told, I never understood Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm series, but the other projects he’s done have been fascinating.
Finally, the hardest film to omit, (mostly because it isn’t intended to be a horror film) is the documentary Blackfish. Blackfish starts off telling the story of one rather murderous killer whale, but broadens the scope.
To my horror, I found that the orca is a highly intelligent, utterly social creature that never leaves its family and roams up to a 100 miles a day, but we keep in isolation in small tanks. One of the worst scenes has a female being separated from her children. In obvious distress, she starts these deafening long range cries, which are signals to her offspring, since she cannot comprehend what has happened to them. After long hours with no response, she is comforted by a couple of other whales, but it is of no use. In Blackfish, it becomes apparent when these animals are broken in spirit, bored, dejected and simply waiting to die.
Watching Blackfish was a brutal experience. But with the preamble out of the way, let’s get onto the list!