14. A Quiet Place
I’m not nearly as enamored of John Krasinki’s family survival tale as most of you — seriously, move to the damn waterfall — but as bad as the script is the film delivers well enough in other areas. Creature design, suspenseful set-pieces, and the central conceit all work towards building a highly effective monster movie about a family caught in the jaws of death. Krasinski, Emily Blunt, and young Millicent Simmonds do great work expressing both their terror and their desire to survive.
13. The House That Jack Built
As someone who’s never liked a Lars von Trier this tale of a serial killer recounting his kills is a surprising delight. A grim, brutal, and blackly comic delight to be sure, but a delight all the same. Dark humor and a not-so-subtle commentary on the artist’s act of creation carry the film’s 150 minute running time, but pockets of real horror punctuate the proceedings. Terrified victims find themselves stalked and killed, but just as unsettling at times is Matt Dillon’s lead performance and the cold manipulation of bodies postmortem.
12. The Cured
Ellen Page heads up this fantastic little genre effort that offers up an intriguing spin on not only zombie films as a whole but also variations on the formula including The Returned that show the undead returning to society. The film’s Irish setting suggests an easy leap to the country’s not-so-distant conflicts as factions develop based on interior differences, but the thematic metaphor extends beyond that to ideas of forgiveness, guilt, and prisoner reform. Viewers can take it as deep as they choose, but happily, it works pretty damn well as a visceral and purely surface-level horror/thriller.
11. Ghost Stories
This horror anthology started life as a stage play but finds new life on the screen for a wider audience. A skeptic investigators three stories of the supernatural, and while they offer a variety of thrills the films at its most memorable with a framing device which builds into something truly special. Humor plays a big role too, although it’s the unsettling weight of the past that sits at the film’s forefront.
10. The Domestics
Mike P. Nelson’s post-apocalyptic horror/thriller is a terrific example of taking the familiar and executing it beautifully. We follow a couple trying to survive a ravaged United States, and their journey offers a blend of action, terror, deception, loss, and cannibalism. Lots and lots of cannibalism. The film delivers some truly palpable set-pieces and real tension as humanity tears itself apart both metaphorically and literally.
9. I Am a Hero
Director Shinsuke Sato and writer Akiko Nogi do a fantastic job adapting the multi-volume manga hit into a feature film, and while genre pics running over two hours often feel bloated or lethargic I Am a Hero moves with tremendous energy while still allowing time for character. It’s a smart, serious, entertaining look at one man’s resistance to risk and how all it takes is a zombie apocalypse to help him find his inner strength.
Greed is no stranger when it comes to motivations for evil in horror films, but few use it so beautifully and intensely as this Indian feature. The cycle of greed and desire passes from one generation to the next, and it’s set against the backdrop of English colonization for added dramatic effect. That’s more than enough for a dark tale, but we also get demonic creatures, a hellish pit, gorgeous cinematography, and more.
A squad of American GIs go behind enemy lines to facilitate the impending D-Day invasion, but while Nazis remain their most relevant threat, there’s also a more imminent one — zombified people with super strength and a hunger for carnage. This is a glorious B-movie on a budget that opens strong with an intense Saving Private Ryan-like assault before shifting gears into a suicide mission with characters we actually care about, fun action beats, and bloody demises. See it!