Hopefully it’ll be a long time before you pop your clogs, unless you’re of course a very old person, who’s looking for those little modern gems you might have missed. Well old timer, you’ve come to the right place! A lot of people moan about modern horror. “Oh, wah, wah, wah!” They cry! “Why can’t there be movies like, The Shining or The Exorcist anymore? Instead we get crap remakes like, Shutter and The Grudge.” Well, first of all I actually think The Grudge remake is better than the original and secondly, I’m here to tell you that the quality of horror is not declining with age. Quite the contrary in fact. If you care to look overseas, in particular, you will discover a delightful array of little modern masterpieces just waiting to be discovered by your fair hands. So without further ado, let’s delve into the enchanting world of modern horror, as I proudly present my wonderful list of the top 10 modern horror films to see before you die (so those of you on life support better get seeking these out now!).
Those complaining of tiresome remakes had better steer clear of a heavily flawed film called, Quarantine and turn to its almost flawless original, [REC]. This Spanish found footage horror follows a chirpy TV reporter who follows a bunch of fire-fighters into a mysterious apartment complex only to find that it’s inhabited by zombies. [REC] is found footage horror done absolutely right! It blows the likes of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity out of the water. It’s a genuinely scary and viscerally thrilling film that will have you digging your nails into your polished leather, slapper red, sofa. It also features a heart-stopping climax which you’ll find hard to watch, and not because it’s outrageously gory or anything, but because the level of tension and sheer scariness is through the roof! [REC] is a seriously scary film. P.S. I don’t scare too easily.
9. The Cabin in the Woods
A lot of people seem to miss the point of Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods (maybe I’ll do a post on it soon) and I don’t judge you, because it took me an hour or two to actually “get” why The Cabin in the Woods is so mind-numbingly clever. For those of you lucky enough to not have seen it yet, all you need to now plot-wise is that it follows a group of friends who stay in a cabin where terrible things happen. What follows is a madly entertaining and humorously satirical journey which is sure to leave you confused, bewildered and slightly flustered. It’s an incredible tale of the unexpected that seems to get more entertaining with each watch. I also think that it has possibly the greatest ending to a film of all time, just because it’s the last ending you’d ever expect. Heck, even the opening titles are shockingly unexpected! The Cabin in the Woods is a wonderfully crafted slasher film which is both a satirical criticism of, and love letter to our beloved genre.
Laugh and the world laughs with you… Weep and you weep alone. Well if that infamous line is true, then the world won’t be laughing too much after you’re done with Oldboy! There’s little more to say about Oldboy than what’s already been said. Just be sure you seek out this original before Spike Lee’s remake rears its ugly head. For those of you who don’t know, Park Chan-Wook’s masterpiece follows a man who has been imprisoned for 15 years in a strange room that’s like a cross between a prison and hotel, who is then released and has 5 days to track down his vengeful captor. What unfolds is a gripping, stylish and dazzling journey that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until its shocking and absorbing finale which contains possibly the sickest twist ending ever. Oldboy fires on all cylinders, delivering one hell of a memorable film. The directing is also sensational and features the greatest single shot fight scene that I’ve ever seen.
7. I Saw the Devil
What Korean horror film could possibly be better than Oldboy? Most will probably disagree with me, but I think I Saw the Devil is even greater. Whilst some might not regard Oldboy as a horror film, most would surely see I Saw the Devil as one. It follows a seriously psychotic serial killer who makes the mistake of brutally murdering a policeman’s girlfriend. Suffice to say that the policeman goes on a dazzling quest for revenge you’re not likely to forget in a hurry. I Saw the Devil features some of the greatest directional sequences I’ve ever seen. There’s a jaw-dropping 360 degree taxi kill, an electrifying first encounter and a tension-filled battle at a psycho’s farm house. Oh, and did I forget to mention a hugely emotional and intense finale? Kim-jee Woon’s masterpiece features dizzying action and a gripping plot. This is cinema at its most exciting.
6. Let the Right One In
Let The Right One In (or LTROI to save finger energy) is the only Swedish film on my list, but if there’s one Swedish film you see, make it this one. LTROI is a beautifully crafted and haunting love story, the twist being that it’s a love story between children and one of them is a vampire. What? I hear you cry. Isn’t that just a Swedish version of Twilight? Well how dare you, I cry back! LTROI spits on Twilight, stamps on it, throws it onto a bed of nails and flushes it down the dirtiest toilet imaginable. Whilst Twilight glamorises the idea of being a vampire, by making everyone young and sexy (or at least they try to be) LTROI shows the true hardship of being a vampire. There are lots of long static shots to evoke a sense of realism which hits the viewer quite hard emotionally. The central love story is also so sweet that you can’t help but find yourself involved. The film also features some very grisly scenes, the peak being an incredibly directed swimming pool shocker! I’m not the biggest vampire fan, but this is something very special indeed.
5. Eden Lake
Eden Lake is a savage British horror film directed by James Watkins. It follows Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender on a romantic weekend at a picturesque lake called (you guessed it!) “Eden Lake”. However, as is the case with all romantic weekends, they get attacked by a psychopathic bunch of young hoodies (or as we call them in England, “Chavs”) who are hell-bent on killing the couple, after Steve (Fassbender) accidently kills the head chav’s dog. Eden Lake is a breath-taking thrill ride which is really about survival. It’s an incredibly tough film to watch as it deals with the disturbing idea of kids killing kids; however it’s most definitely worth the watch. It’s also nice to see the ‘villains’ have some decent character development so that they’re not the usual two-dimensional killing machines. The explicit violence also feels unnervingly raw and real, which adds to the sense of realistic doom. Jenny’s (Reilly) descent into hell is an emotionally draining one which will stay with you for a long time, as will the powerful and disturbing ending.
For some reason Frontier(s) seems to get quite a bit of hate. People say that it’s a boring and predictable knock-off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, however I disagree. Whilst Frontier(s) does contain a deranged cannibal family picking off young adults, it also features a whole host of other delicious elements to create one of the best slashers ever made. Frontier(s) isn’t a rip-off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes and Hostel, it’s better than all three. Frontier(s) is a French gem by underrated director Xavier Gens who also more recently crafted the brilliant and criminally underrated, The Divide. To me Frontier(s) is an intense horror rollercoaster which every horror fan should cherish. It’s not afraid to break past the boundaries of horror like most American horror films. By the end of the film I feel emotionally drained and could almost burst into tears. It’s such an exhausting journey of survival and also features a kick-ass final girl who goes on an exhilarating quest for revenge. The film is also much more intelligent than your average slasher due to the use of complex characters, a political undercurrent and an unforgettable Nazi villain. Just like Eden Lake, the heroine’s descent into hell is incredibly draining and powerful to watch. The film also contains my favourite movie death scene (you’ll know when you see it). I think Frontier(s) is a masterpiece, but you may disagree.
3. Calvaire (The Ordeal)
We head over to Belgium now with another controversial pick. The Ordeal, like Frontiers, is often wrongly described as a rip-off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Straw Dogs due to its creepy backwoods setting. However, The Ordeal is really a different kind of beast altogether. I’m confident that I could write a 10 page essay on this atmospheric film, describing why it’s one of the greatest films ever made and enjoy writing it. I don’t want to go too much into plot because experiencing it without knowing anything about it for the first time is a truly memorable experience. All you need to know plot-wise is that it’s about a singer’s car that breaks down in the woods. It’s safe to say that what follows is a genuinely scary (not many films can scare me, but this one did), unsettling and disturbing ride which you’re not likely to forget in a hurry. It’s so jam-packed with memorable scenes and moments that I don’t know why it’s not considered a horror classic. Fabrice Du Welz has crafted something truly brilliant here with a fantastic central performance by Laurent Lucas. What’s truly scary is how it leaves you with so many disturbing questions with no answers. The film is not dissimilar to something David Lynch would create due to its nightmarish atmosphere and dizzying directing. So if you’re in the mood for something different, why not give The Ordeal a try? It’s chillingly ambiguous ending and final line of dialogue will stay with me forever.
My 2 and 1 options are really quite interchangeable as they’re both of such a high quality, yet are so different. Martyrs is either an absolutely love it kind of film, or an absolutely despise it kind of film, it all depends on whether you allow it to affect you or not. Just like The Ordeal and Satan, the less you know about Pascal Laugier’s masterpiece the better. I see it as a sort of serious version of The Cabin in the Woods, in the way that it plays with your expectations of horror films. The film completely changes directions at least four times and two of these times are in the opening 20 minutes. Martyrs is an absolutely gripping and shocking film that is not for the faint-hearted. It’s quite possibly the most disturbing film I’ve seen, and I’ve seen quite a lot of disturbing films in my short and unfulfilled life. It hits you on an extremely deep and emotional level, whilst also delivering some of the most gruesome and disturbing shocks ever committed to film. The final 30 minutes are notoriously difficult to watch, but you’ll be glad that you did. Martyrs is one of those rare torture-porn films which uses violence for a reason and shows it realistically, for what it really is. I could go on about Martyrs all day, but I won’t because I’m sure that you’re all busy people. It also has one of the most heart-breaking scores I’ve heard.
And we stay in France for my number one pick which is horror’s next big duo’s Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s, Inside. The only people who should not see this film are those of a nervous disposition and those who are pregnant. Inside tells the terrifying story of a madly psychotic woman (played with chilling insanity by Beatrice Dalle) who decides to cut open a woman’s pregnant stomach on Christmas Eve. So Inside is obviously the perfect Christmas movie that even your granny can enjoy. So why is it my number one? Because it’s probably the most nail-bitingly intense 80 minutes I’ve ever experience, that’s why! The film builds a hellish atmosphere for the first 30 minutes, or so before the head-spinning carnage ensues with chilling images such as, Beatrice Dalle stealthily standing behind a heavily pregnant Alysson Paradis whilst holding a large pair of scissors, which is sure to chill you to the bone. The film largely takes place within the claustrophobic confines of a house and it’s full of eye watering suspense and an unholy amount of blood to create quite simply one of the greatest horror films of all time. It also has masterfully unsettling electronic music. The haunting final image and score has stayed with me to this day. It’s a masterpiece of terror which you’re likely not to forget in a hurry.
Honourable mentions: Kill List, High Tension, Noroi: The Curse, The Descent, Inland Empire
Be sure to check out these beautiful films immediately! Please tell me your favourite horror films of the modern variety below.