So, following from my previous post, here are five more films that, although having not yet met the test of time or magnitude of impression test that my top ten list demanded, are definitely strong candidates for inclusion. Sometimes it’s doing something very simple very well, sometimes it’s pushing the boundaries of what we consider horror, sometimes it’s approaching something with fresh energy and a new eye, but all of these are, at least in my humble and certainly limited estimation, worth watching.
Antichrist. It’s far less campy than the former and less extreme in its vision than the latter, but the skillful juxtaposition of the adjustments and negotiations common to any new couple with far more Lovecraftian changes make it tragic and horrifying by turns, as we watch the already-fragile bond between these two people fall apart, sacrificed alongside humanity and life itself to something utterly unknowable.
7) Kill List
8) The Loved Ones
This is sort of unusual, first because I’m generally really picky about found-footage films (The Blair Witch Project is on my top ten, but that’s it), and second because I’m recommending both the (Spanish) original and the U.S. remake. But honestly, this is one of the rare occasions where very little is lost in the translation. There are some tweaks made to important revelations at the end, but it’s pretty clear that they’re nods to two very different cultural contexts and don’t really affect what makes the films good. In many ways, they’re damn near shot-for-shot identical, and though this, to me, makes the remake superfluous (in a way that. for example, We Are What We Are isn’t because it so radically remakes basic elements of the original), I’m also not the kind of dickhead who’s going to be all “original or nothing” about it. Check out either one. The important thing is that both films are kinetic, claustrophobic stories told in a confined space, using an increasingly bizarre threat to force escalation - both in the figurative sense that circumstances become more dire, and in the literal sense that the only hope for escape the protagonists have is to go up, which also takes them closer to the source of the threat. There really is nowhere to run, and things just keep getting worse.
Calvaire, was a lyrical, sorrowful film about the costs of loneliness, disconnection, and isolation, the stunted and deformed shapes taken by desire long-denied. I’m all about that film too, but I feel like Vinyan is a considerable refinement of the same lyricism, applied to the costs of grief and guilt, and the way those things can drive people apart. It’s some of the same emotional territory covered by Antichrist, though in far more subdued, restrained fashion. It’s the story of two people both united and isolated by their shared loss, and how obsession with the desire to undo the loss, to unmake an unbearable tragedy, turns into a literal and metaphorical journey into darkness. The question “how far will you go?” applies in multiple senses here, and the final answer, the ultimate solution to what each person really and finally wants, is devastating.
And for all of these films, there are others that I think “well, what about this other one too?” I’ve gotten to watch a lot of surprisingly good films in the process of writing this thing, and this is sort of why I tend to resist lists - because they’re so constraining, It’s always nice to screen something that I don’t know anything about and come away from it pleasantly surprised by it (most recently, Starry Eyes), even if that means I also occasionally run across movies that I’m anticipating and by which I end up being disappointed (still looking at you, Banshee Chapter). With the availability of films from all over the world, with a bunch of different distribution options above and beyond theatrical release, with what seems like more and more filmmakers who take horror seriously instead of seeing it as camp or a series of clichés intended to service an uncritical fanbase, it’s a good time for horror. I fully anticipate having an entirely separate slate of films for another feature like this in a year’s time.