Horror cinema is a film genre that is characterized by its desire to provoke feelings of dread, terror, fear, disgust, revulsion, horror, discomfort or concern in the spectator. Its plots often develop the sudden intrusion into an environment of abnormality of some force, event or character of an evil or heavenly nature, often of criminal or supernatural origin. It is in theaters of terror where a sensation of fear or dread is produced about the different causes generated by a certain character or professional actor.
Horror cinema was born alongside the cinema itself. The Lumière brothers shot the film L’arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat (The Arrival of a Train) in 1896. This film, as its name indicates, only showed the arrival of a train; only, since the cinema was an unknown invention for most of the spectators, they believed that the train would literally come out of the screen to roll them over; the first spectators of the film would scream and escape from the room terrified.
The first film considered to be a horror film was The Devil’s Mansion, directed and conceived by Georges Méliès, which premiered on December 24, 1896, in Paris. This gave way to all the horror films. During this era of primitive cinema, France positioned itself as the great director of the genre. Louis Lumière made Le squelette joyeux in 1897; Georges Méliès, in addition to the already mentioned The Devil’s Mansion, directed The Devil in the Convent (1899) and The Black Devil (1905); the pioneer in films made by women, Alice Guy was responsible for the film Faust et Méphistophélès (1903); Gaston Velle is responsible for La Peine du talion (1906); the Aragonese director Segundo de Chomón made La casa encantada (1907), Satan has fun (1907), La casa encantada (1908) and El hotel eléctrico (1908) among many other short films made in France. But what many consider the first deliberate horror film was made in 1910 by J. Searle Dawley for the Edison Studios (in the United States). It was the first adaptation of the Frankenstein myth.
In the 1920’s, the United States would develop a horror film that would explode in the 1930’s, of which we could highlight: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) by John S. Robertson, adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, starring John Barrymore; The Dark Legacy (1927), The Sinister Theatre (1929) and The Man Who Laughs (adaptation of the book of the same name by Victor Hugo) (1928) by the German Paul Leni and The Red Magician (1929) by the Hungarian Paul Fejos (the last two films named starring Conrad Veidt). Lon Chaney would consolidate in the silent cinema as a specialist in playing deformed characters. Especially scary is his interpretation of Quasimodo and the ghost, respectively, in: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) (homonymous adaptation of Victor Hugo’s work) by Wallace Worsley and The Phantom of the Opera (1925) (adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s homonymous work) by Rupert Julian. It was precisely at this time that one of the best directors in horror films began his career in the genre: Tod Browning with: Human Claws (1927) and The House of Horror (1927) both starring Lon Chaney. He would continue his career with the Universal Pictures’ masterpiece Dracula (1931), Freaks (1932), The Mark of the Vampire (1935) and Hell’s Dolls (1936), all of the latter, as well as Human Claws and The House of Horror, by the MGM production company.
In the 1930s Universal Pictures specialized in horror films, especially monster movies in the gothic style and influenced by expressionist cinema.
It was not only Universal that cultivated horror films in the United States. RKO Radio Pictures made important horror films: King Kong (1933) by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, the aforementioned Castle of Mysteries, Cat People (1942), The Leopard Man (1943) and I Walked with a Zombie (1943) by Jacques Tourneur or The Thing from Another World (1951) by Christian Nyby. Also some interesting films belong to MGM, Monogram Pictures or Paramount Pictures.
In a more contemporary era, the classic vampires and werewolves have remained more or less in force on the cinema screens, although usually departing from the classic Gothic style. This is demonstrated by films such as Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) and Tony Scott’s The Eagerness (1983); Tom Holland’s Night of Fear (1985); Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys (1987); Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula (1992); and Guillermo del Toro’s The Invention of Cronus (1993); Interview with the Vampire (1994) by Neil Jordan; From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) by Robert Rodríguez; Vampires (1998) by John Carpenter; the Swedish Låt den rätte komma in (2008) by Tomas Alfredson and Vampyrer (Not Like Others) by Peter Pontikis, of the same year; the Korean Thirst (2009) by Park Chan-Wook; I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) by Gene Fowler; The Legend of the Beast (1975) by Freddie Francis; An American Werewolf in London (1981) by John Landis; Howling (1981) by Joe Dante; The Company of Wolves (1984) by Neil Jordan; Silver Bullet (1985) by Dan Attias (based on The Wolfman Cycle by Stephen King); Canada’s Ginger Snaps (2000) by John Fawcett; Britain’s Dog Soldiers (2002) by Neil Marshall and some parodies like William Crain’s blaxploitation film Black Dracula (1972); Juan Padrón’s Spanish-Cuban Vampires in Havana (1985); A Vampire on the Loose in Brooklyn (1995) by Wes Craven; Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) by Mel Brooks and Teen Wolf (1985) by Rod Daniel. In the same line as Dracula by Bram Stoker, we would find another new version of an important myth: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1994) by Kenneth Branagh with Branagh himself playing Dr. Victor Frankenstein and Robert De Niro as the monster.
Science-fiction horror films, often linked to catastrophic or apocalyptic films or extraterrestrial films, became fashionable in the 50’s, and (leaving aside the Universal Pictures films already seen, directed by Jack Arnold, among others) one of its main figures was Roger Corman, a B series director (low budget films) specialized in the adaptation, free and colorful, of stories by Edgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher (1960), Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Obsession (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), The Raven (1963), The Mask of the Red Death (1964) and The Tomb of Ligeia (1964); as well as an adaptation of a short story by H. P. Lovecraft, The Palace of the Spirits, and from some B-movies usually related to science fiction such as It Conquered the World (1956), Emissary from Another World (1957), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), The Wasp Woman (1959), The Enchanted Sea Monster (1961) and Man with X-Ray in His Eyes (1963).
The special effects technician Ray Harryhausen was an indispensable character in the field of catastrophic and giant monster movies. Influenced by King Kong he would make a series of remarkable films: The Great Gorilla (1949) by Ernest B. Schoedsack, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) by Eugène Lourié, It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) by Robert Gordon, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) by Fred F. Sears, The Beast from Another Planet (1957) by Nathan Juran and the dinosaur film The Valley of Gwangi (1969) by Jim O’Connolly.
We must not forget a sub-genre of horror films, perhaps without a golden age or exploitation, but with a great validity during many decades and, in fact, some great milestones of horror films belong to this aspect. It is about the paranormal cinema, either of entities, ghosts, demons, or simply paranormal facts, many times treated from realism, since it is frequent to play with the skepticism of the characters. Unlike the cinema of serial killers or the cinema of zombies, it usually moves away from violence and visual horror to focus more on the terror of the unknown, since many times the evil force of these films is not usually visible or only at certain moments or when they invade the body of some innocent character, in the case of demons.
This subgenre of horror films and exploitation films started to create a trend in the 1970s, although many place King Kong as the first Eco-terror film, or one of its great influences, or simply a film prior to the creation of the subgenre but which shares similarities. Eco-Terror is characterized by the antagonistic presence of one or more individuals of a non-human animal species. The usual characteristics of these animals are usually either eliminated or, if it is a natural aggressive behavior, exaggerated. Fear is focused on an existing animal and intensifies it with an increase in its aggressiveness, a rational or irrational hatred towards the human species, a plague of that species, modifying it either with a natural or artificial evolution or simply showing the need of that animal to feed. Sometimes, especially in the 1970’s and 80’s, this subgenre usually presents elements of gore cinema and a very typical characteristic of slasher that consists of the protagonists of the film dying as the film progresses, leaving at the end only a few survivors who are the ones who will solve the situation, usually by killing the animal or belligerent animals. Some of the best known and most representative films of this trend are The Birds (1962) by Alfred Hitchcock, Frogs (1972) by George McCowan, Jaws (1975) by Steven Spielberg, Orca the Killer Whale (1977) by Michael Anderson, Piranha (1978) by Joe Dante, Alligator (1980) by Lewis Teague, Cujo (1983) by Lewis Teague (based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King), the so-called Italian film Shark: Rosso nell’oceano, the Spanish film Slugs, muerte viscosa, Anaconda (1997) by Peruvian Luis Llosa, Lake Placid (1999) by Steve Miner, Ovejas asesinas (2006) by Jonathan King and Sharknado (2013) by Anthony C. Ferrante, among many others.
The slasher was not born overnight, we can even find clear references and similarities in many films before the 1960s, but, since if we try to find out all the background we would never end up. We are going to situate its birth on two fundamental pillars, which many consider the first slasher films. These are the British films Peeping Tom (1960) by Michael Powell and Psycho (1960) by Alfred Hitchcock. These two films created a trend and consolidated some of the typical characteristics of this sub-genre, for example, the importance of the figure of the killer (subjective shot from his own point of view) or the stylization of the knife as the favorite instrument of the psycho killer.
There are also clear references in the gore cinema that emerged in the 60s from the hand of Herschell Gordon Lewis and in the giallo cinema of Mario Bava, Dario Argento and Sergio Martino (among others). From these, it picks up the uncertainty of the killer’s identity (sometimes with the face hidden by a mask, a phenomenon massively popularized in the 80s), the explicit violence (stylization of blood and deaths) and the sexual element assigned to young characters that many times are the protagonists of this type of cinema (as well as their relationship with drugs). In fact, the combination of drugs, sex and murder is a technique widely used by the exploitation genre, which used to exploit these three elements for its profitability and for its air of renewal and rebellion towards a cinema governed by a more traditional and censorial society. In this way, throughout the 1960s and 70s a tendency towards what would be the slasher with the arrival of the 80s was created and therefore we find some films perfectly classifiable in the subgenre.
In a section on slasher cinema we can’t miss the figure of John Carpenter, director of the film that many consider a before and after in the slasher subgenre and many others as the first truly slasher film, Halloween (1978). This film presents a demented killer who wears a white mask and stalks young outgoing girls, the introverted one being the heroine. She would later make The Mist (1980), a remake of The Thing (1982), Christine (1983) (based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King), The Prince of Darkness (1987), The People of the Damned (1995) (remake of the film of the same name in 1960), In the Mouth of Fear (1995), Vampires (1998), Ghosts of Mars (2001) and The Ward (2010).
The other great director of modern horror films is Wes Craven. He made his debut with The Last House on the Left (1972), a very controversial film because of its explicit violence and which is named as a reference for the new horror cinema, more focused on the visual and the fear of physical damage and destruction. Another influential milestone in horror films and slasher films was The Hills Have Eyes (1977), which had a sequel directed by himself. He is also the director of the adaptation of the horror comic Swamp Thing (1982). With A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) he would revitalize the slasher genre by giving the crimes a surreal sense. He also directed the TV films Invitation to Hell (1984) and Chiller (1985), the films Deadly Friend (1986), Shocker, 100,000 Volts of Terror (1989), the TV film Night Visions (1990) and The Basement of Fear (1991), among others.
Iconic characters of the slasher are Norman Bates, from Psycho, partially aware of his acts, presents a double personality, being the second one (his mother’s) the one who commits the murders, while he is reluctant to his violent acts and with the will to solve them in order to be a socially acceptable person; Leatherface of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with his face hidden by a mask made of human skin and armed with a chainsaw, suffers from some mental deficiency and is very influenced by his family, he believes that what he is doing is right because his family orders him to do so; Michael Myers of Halloween presents himself physically as a tall man in uniform with a mechanic’s suit and his face covered with a white rubber mask, he possesses an enormous strength and invulnerability to attack (or practically, immortality); he normally uses a big kitchen knife, he does not speak, he is intelligent to kill his victims but he does not present conscience about what he is doing, he moves by instinct, his mission is to kill and he does not ask himself why. This character would consolidate with the successful and numerous sequels as a villain at the level of Frankenstein’s monster or Dracula. Jason Voorhees, from Friday the 13th (1980) by Sean S. Cunningham (film that largely caused the explosion of the slasher and that popularized in a definitive way the topics of the subgenre), murderer of enormous size, immortal, masked with a field hockey mask and armed with a machete, lives in a forest near a lake and some huts and kills anyone who enters the forest, silent killer like Michael Myers, does not present any conscience about his acts or the concepts of Good and Evil. In contrast to the silent killers like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees we find Freddy Krueger (always played (except in the version) by the actor specialized in the genre Robert Englund), and Chucky, from Tom Holland’s Child’s Play (1988), sadistic and perfectly aware of their acts, the first one with a burned face, dressed in a hat and a Christmas sweater and armed with a glove with blades, the second one, a doll possessed by a serial killer without a weapon of his choice; they don’t kill for instinct but for pleasure.
The main characteristics of the slasher film are usually: a psychopath (often masked) and usually with a knife kills certain isolated young people who are involved in drugs and sex, usually surviving only the so-called final girl, which is usually the most innocent. Adults (parents, teachers or police officers) often play the role of saviors for the young people and often die quickly to intensify the tension, as the only salvation the young people had has inevitably been killed. It is necessary to say that with the arrival of the decadence of the subgenre and at the present time the topics of the slasher have been diluted, existing many films with important influences and some keys but abandoning other topics of this one. However, the explosion initiated with Halloween and promoted with Friday the 13th, must be worthy of study, since it enjoyed a popularity, box office, influences and in some cases important artistic quality.
By the end of the eighties slasher films were no longer as profitable and their production decreased. In addition, many films were advertised as slasher films but were far from the subgenre, as is the case of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Hellraiser, Child’s Play or Candyman. There are also several films that are even further from slasher, even from the horror genre, but marked by an era where psychopathic films dominated, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972), Rob Reiner’s Misery (1990), Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs (1991), David Fincher’s Seven (1995) and Michael Haneke’s Austrian Funny Games (1997), which had an American version of the same name in 2007, by the same director.
The zombie cinema has a wide representation of films throughout history. Its fundamental requirement is the presence of zombies and the struggle of the protagonists against them. It is said that the first zombie movie was Victor Halperin’s The Legion of the Soulless Dead (1932). This movie collected the topics that would define the zombie cinema until the arrival of George A. Romero: a villain has a legion of zombies working for him and who are his instrument for his sinister intentions, said villain is many times a Nazi doctor, a mad scientist or even aliens. Victor Halperin’s film would be followed: The Dead Walk (1936) by Michael Curtiz, I Walked with a Zombie (1943) by Jacques Tourneur, Revenge of the Zombies (1943) by Steve Sekeley, Invisible Invaders (1959) by Edward L. Cahn, Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) by Ed Wood and The Plague of the Zombies (1966) by John Gilling.
In 1968, George A. Romero creates the independent masterpiece The Night of the Living Dead. In black and white, with a tiny budget and amateur actors, he created and consolidated the new topics of zombie cinema, present today. The subgenre, from 1968, would be defined as apocalyptic films, where the zombie phenomenon is no longer a problem of a specific region as it used to be, but a global plague on which the extinction of humanity depends. Besides, nobody controls the living dead, they are unreasonable beings whose only mission is to feed themselves uninterruptedly. Individually they are usually not a problem, their danger does not lie in their intelligence, but in their number and their voracity. Finally, one of the features that most differentiates the modern zombie cinema from the classic one is the gore. The way in which zombies have to attack humans (by eating them) has led many directors to show (sometimes in a very explicit way) the feeding of zombies, thus taking advantage of the economic and artistic potential of explicit horror. The director of The Night of the Living Dead himself returned to the theme in Zombie (1978), The Day of the Dead (1985), The Land of the Living Dead (2005), The Diary of the Dead (2007) and The Resistance of the Dead (2009), films with a clear concern for sociological analysis and that focus as much or more on the behavior of the survivors and their confrontations and differences than on the invasion. Likewise, Romero would move away from zombie movies but would remain in horror films such as: The crazies (1973), Martin (1977), Creepshow (1982), Los ojos del diablo (1990) (together with Dario Argento), La mitad oscura (1993) and El rostro de la venganza (Buried) (2000).
Within zombie cinema, as well as slasher cinema, it is necessary to mention the special effects artist and make-up artist Tom Savini, who worked with George A. Romero in Zombie, Creepshow and El día de los muertos, as well as in the slashers Friday the 13th, Maniac and El asesinato de Rosemary, among others.
Gore or splatter cinema focuses on the visceral and the fear of the destruction of the human body. It is a rather diluted sub-genre, since the Slasher, the Giallo or the zombie cinema, among others, present many similarities. Gore cinema is considered to be those films in which explicit violence, murder, torture and mutilation represent the most important part of the film. This type of cinema, presents clear influences in the French theater Grand Guignol and we can find some antecedents in the French film Le systeme du docteur Goudron et du professeur Plume (1904) of Maurice Tourneur and in the first film of the history where a decapitation is shown, the American Intolerance (1916) of D.W.
If the 2000’s were a good time for horror films with their return to the 70’s, the 2010’s have been a complete expansion, exploding in diversity and going beyond violence and blood to cover areas of auteur horror that recover the best of Polanski or William Friedkin.
The unprecedented box office success and acceptance in popular culture has made it, without a doubt, the most important decade for the genre since the 80s.
We review in these 31 titles the main currents, names, authors and films of more importance within these years following a chronological order. Many important ones are missing, but space is limited and probably some of these other films represent their style or subgenre.
Direction: James Wan
Cast: Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey, Andrew Astor, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson.
James Wan’s first and genuine supernatural film of the decade, although he recovered details of his ‘Dead Silence’ (2007) and made them more commercial, picking up the trail of ‘Paranormal Activity’ (2007), the director injected his Mario Bava influences and created a 21st century classic with little money and good ideas.
The Crazies’ (2010)
Address: Breck Eisner
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker, Christie Lynn Smith, Brett Rickaby, Preston Bailey, John Aylward, Joe Reegan, Glenn Morshower.
Not all remakes are successful and, to tell the truth, George Romero has been quite lucky with his works from the 70s. Although it fails to capture any of his ideological concerns and the corrupt moral background of its protagonists, ‘The Crazies’ is an exemplary film of infected people full of action and suspense and a tone of despair that sets it apart from other similar films.
Black Swan’ (Black Swan, 2010)
Direction: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder, Barbara Hershey, Tina Sloan, Christopher Gartin, Sebastian Stan, Benjamin Millepied, Ksenia Solo.
Pure paranoia of echoes of Polanski, giallo and Satoshi Kon in which shines a broken Natalie Portman who manages to move from anguish to anger until she is frightening in her internal and external metamorphosis. The film that brought the European angle closer to the horror of 2010, and that could be considered the pioneer of the non-existent topic of high horror.
Stake land’ (2010)
Address: Jim Mickle
Cast: Nick Damici, Connor Paolo, Danielle Harris, Kelly McGillis, Michael Cerveris, Bonnie Dennison, Sean Nelson, Traci Hovel, Marianne Hagan, Tim House.
Jim Mickle, at the beginning of the decade a promise that had not yet passed through the Netflix independent author’s blender, took the Glass Eye Pix production to the top in this too forgotten post-apocalyptic road movie in the form of initiation cinema close to the western that was ahead of ‘The Walking Dead’ in many aspects.
Kill List (2011)
Address: Ben Wheatley
Cast: Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, Harry Simpson, Michael Smiley, Emma Fryer.
Folk horror has already been established as a term of use and disuse but in reality it has always been there. In this modest production it was silent and did not explode until its distressing end, but we must acknowledge Ben Wheatley’s experiment in mixing pagan country horror and hitman cinema.
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Address: Drew Goddard
Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Anna Hutchison, Jessie Williams, Amy Acker, Brian J. White, Tim De Zarn.
Driven by its mind-blowing final stretch, this horror comedy is often considered better than it is, but if it leaves a good taste in your mouth it’s because its climax – hurried and shorter than you remember in the reviews – is truly a monster mash marvel taken to epic scale.
Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Ethan Hawke, James Ransone, Juliet Rylance, Vincent D’Onofrio.
Scott Derrickson continued his estimable ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’ (2005) with a resounding reformulation of the bogeyman and pure evil along with modern haunted house codes, achieving one of Blumhouse’s greatest hits, which unfortunately reminds us of better times for the production company.
Lords of Salem’ (2012)
Direction: Rob Zombie
Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Christopher Knight, Dee Wallace, Clint Howard, Udo Kier.
Rob Zombie’s best film is this dreamlike exploration of Satanism and witchcraft according to the British house of horror Tigon, the most irreverent Ken Russell or the Fulci of his Eibon trilogy. A controversial work, with production problems that would have shown us a clear precedent of ‘The Witch’ (The Witch, 2015) but that is postulated as one of the most influential of this decade.
Warren File’ (The Conjuring, 2013)
Direction: James Wan
Cast: Lili Taylor, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Joey King, Ron Livingston.
We could put the second part as an example of a sequel that changes and improves many of the findings of the original, but the commercial impact of this makes it the key name to contemplate. Perhaps a little more blurred in the end of routine exorcism, the set pieces of the palms and the basement are from anthology, making Wan’s name the only one repeated in the list.
Under the Skin’ (2013)
Direction: Jonathan Glazer
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Paul Brannigan, Robert J. Goodwin, Krystof Hádek.
The film that outraged the Taro people in search of a complete nude of Scarlett Johansson and they found a silent chronicle of an atmospheric and alien visit to video art. A film that was born modern and is still talked about, its description of black space was shot by ‘Stranger Things’.
Babadook’ (The Babadook, 2014)
Address: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West.
Jennifer Kent’s voice in horror has not lasted long with ‘The Nightingale’ (2019), but her debut was such a marvel that to see her again over the years only makes her more reaffirmed as a modern classic, one of those who raised the horror film pure and simple as a tool with as much value and prestige as the most.
What we do in the shadows’ (2014)
Direction: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzales-Macuer.
Terror can also be a comedy. Taka Waititi already had a good handful of films to his credit, but if right now people are talking about ‘Jojo Rabbit’ (2019), it’s because of this hilarious vampire mockumentary that played with all the clichés of the genre and created a magnificent tableau of what a horror comedy should be. And it was a series, of course.
The Witch’ (The VVitch, 2015)
Direction: Robert Eggers
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Lucas Dawson.
The Witch’ is a horror film that borders on the dark fairy tale and the religious drama of the time with a feminist subtext, however, it is more valid as an aesthetic exercise and a proposal of terror based on the anachronism of the superstitions of the first colonists. A small jewel that its director has not been able to continue in the disappointing ‘The Lighthouse’ (The Lighthouse, 2019).
The Scarlet Peak’ (Crimson Peak, 2015)
Address: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam.
Guillermo del Toro went with all his arsenal of classic and fantastic horror films to recreate in great detail what must be a Gothic drama with supernatural echoes. The result is a very careful work of stylistic jewelry where the archetypal plot of blue beard and Edgar Allan Poe were the least of it.
Last Shift’ (2015)
Director: Anthony DiBlasi
Cast: Juliana Harkavy, Joshua Mikel, J. LaRose, Natalie Victoria, Sarah Sculco.
One of the jewels lost in the untapped VOD market that exploded in this decade. The classic story of a night watchman, here inside a police station, on the last night before it was closed. Like good ghost stories, these are more of a psychological influence on a prone mind from the start.
The Nightmare (2015)
Address: Rodney Ascher
Cast: Yatoya Toy, Siegfried Peters.
The documentary on sleep paralysis that put Rodney Asher, author of the documentary ‘Room 237’, on the map, and that is proposed, from the first moment, as a pure and hardcore horror film. The dramatizations of the stories of the different interviewees make the hair stand on end, but less than connecting the dots between their testimonies.
The Stranger’ (The Wailing, 2016)
Address: Na Hong-jin
Cast: Hwang Jung-min, Kwak Do-won, Chun Woo-hee, Jo Han-Cheol
This tremendous display of Korean genre cinema begins as a version of the typical Eastern crime thriller, but the atmosphere becomes increasingly rarefied as it embraces the supernatural and reaches its incendiary and chilling end. A theosophical nightmare that despite its humor takes very seriously the horror and dilemma of faith it poses.
Address: Can Evrenol.
Cast: Muharrem Bayrak, Mehmet Akif Budak, Fadik Bülbül, Mehmet Cerrahoglu, Elif Dag.
The explosion of Turkish terror in 2010 is a phenomenon that has not yet been assimilated in the West, probably because it has a good number of examples that go to the easy scare, however the name Can Evrenol rises above all his compatriots with a countercurrent story that mixes the textures of torture porn within a matrix of nightmare between Clive Barker and Argento.
The Neon Demon (2016)
Address: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Elle Fanning, Karl Glusman, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee.
The apocryphal remake of ‘Suspiria’ (1977) that improves on the official one. Nicolas Winding Refn had one eye on Argento’s Mothers Trilogy and another on Kenneth Anger when he made this ultra-stylisticated masterpiece of horror art. Despite some necrophiliac excess and gratuitous vampire lubricity, it is iconic with good reason.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
Address: André Øvredal
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton.
A chapter from ‘Tales from the Crypt’ trying new textures and elements of current terror. Following the pattern of ‘El Viy’, the autopsy of a corpse is posed as a night watching a dead woman who hides more than it seems, becoming a detective story and a night of old-school death scares ideal to recover on Halloween.
A Cure for Wellness (2017)
Address: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth, Susanne Wuest, Celia Imrie, Lisa Banes.
Gore Vervinski unfolds a whole carousel of Gothic sumptuousness in an apocryphal remake of the French ‘Traitement de choc’ (1973), with a Lovecraftian frame and an aesthetic approach to the Poe de Corman cycle, the Italian horror films of the sixties and the paranoid texture of Polanski’s cinema. An absolute marvel.
The Void (2017)
Direction: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski
Cast: Ellen Wong, Kathleen Munroe, Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Art Hindle.
A modest recreation of the Lovecraftian horrors of John Carpenter and Lucio Fulci that understands better the experience of the cosmic horror of their main characters than most of the official adaptations (perhaps only competing with the own films that it pays homage to and the recent ‘Colour Out of Space’) which is surprising coming from a crowdfunding that, in addition proposes monsters and practical fx hallucinating.
Let me out’ (Get out 2017)
Address: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Betty Gabriel.
There are films that are, at first glance, nothing more than a thriller with supernatural overtones, but their sociological significance can change the course of culture. And this is what Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning screenplay achieved, an excellent journey into the heart of made-up racism expressed in a delirium of Mad Doctors and Mental Prisons.
The Evil Within’ (2017)
Address: Andrew Getty
Cast: Frederick Koehler, Sean Patrick Flanery, Brianna Brown, Dina Meyer.
The rarity of the lot is this piece started in 2003 that exemplifies the concept of the cursed film from its very conception. The life project of a descendant of the Gettys, killed by drug abuse, was finished posthumously. A polyhedral, anachronistic, clumsy and fascinating craft nightmare from every angle.
Address: Paco Plaza
Cast: Sandra Escacena, Bruna González, Claudia Placer, Iván Chavero, Ana Torrent.
One of the best horror films in the history of Spanish cinema, in which Paco Plaza manages to mix his manners with a dark initiation story, a metaphor of menstruation, a real paranormal case of Íker Jiménez and the post-James Wan paranormal trend in vogue during the decade.
Address: Ari Aster
Cast: Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd
There are not many films from this decade that combine so well the author’s gaze with the masterful use of paranoia and misleading plot without giving up the images of pure horror, gore, esotericism and the look at the classics with a drama coverage. If Scorsese praises her, it is for a reason. If we didn’t follow a chronological order, it would go to number one.
Direction: Matthew Holness
Cast: Sean Harris, Alun Armstrong, Simon Bubb, Andy Blithe.
A simplistic view can see in it a repetitive journey of a man walking down the street with a suitcase in his hand, but within this traumatic nightmare is a complex psychological study of a man who may or may not be a pedophile, who may or may not be pursued by a spider puppet and who captures the oppressive horror of M.R. James’ British adaptations.
Address: Panos Cosmatos
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Bill Duke, Richard Brake, Hayley Saywell
Unclassifiable and dreamlike, Panos Cosmatos’ second film has part of ‘Cobra’ (1986), part of ‘Hellraiser’ (1987) and part of the cinema of revenge. A violent psychedelic odyssey that oozes heavy metal aesthetics and surrealist terror, violence, and resampling referential from Tobe Hooper to Larry Cohen. One of the essential experiences of the decade.
Review in Espinof: ‘Mandy’: the consecration of Panos Cosmatos as the total author of the crazy eighty
Doctor Sleep’ (Doctor Sleep, 2019)
Direction: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Zahn McClarnon.
Possibly Mike Flanagan is one of the directors with more than one film in this list, but with ‘Doctor Dream’ he has managed to create a Stephen King adaptation superior to the work on which it is based, a worthy sequel to Kubrick’s film, taking into account the material of the original novel and a work purely his own. Impeccable and elegant, in the 2019 Tarantino top 3.
Mike Flanagan reconciles King and Kubrick, establishing himself as one of the great names in modern-day terror
Daniel isn’t real’ (2019)
Director: Adam Egypt Mortimer.
Cast: Miles Robbins, Sasha Lane, Hannah Marks, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Faith Logan.
This re-reading of the archetypal story of the psychological duality of ‘William Wilson’ or Jeckyll and Hyde is patiently taken to the terrain of modern terror, gathered in classics such as ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ (Jacob’s Ladder, 1990) whose protagonist, Tim Robbins, is not by chance the father of the main actor. More plays like this one are needed.
Director: Andy Muschietti
Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff…
Separating the adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘IT’ into two chapters is a commercial move, but in reality it is a single film that works as a complete story that takes its true meaning when you finish watching its second part. A commercial, bloody, daring, epic and beautiful adaptation of the great American horror novel, with a Pennywise that has permeated popular culture in a surprising way. Inescapable and to be evaluated, it will pass as the ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ of this decade.