Adam MacDonald’s debut feature Backcountry made my Best Horror of 2015 list, and his sophomore effort seems destined to repeat a similar feat this year. Like that film, his follow-up focuses its terrors in the woods, but it trades our natural fear of hungry grizzly bears for supernatural horrors that are every bit as scary. MacDonald’s tale involves angry youths, devilish deals, and a demonic presence guaranteed to terrify, and it is not to be missed.
If you’re going to remake a film like Dario Argento’s Suspiria you really better come with your A-game. Luckily, director Luca Guadagnino only knows how to play A-games, and he delivers a film that honors the original while striking out in bold, dangerous, and striking new directions. This is a beautiful movie in its imagery, sounds, and themes, and it’s a nightmare for all those same reasons. A good nightmare, a great one even, that you’ll want to see on the biggest screen possible.
Alex Garland’s latest is one hell of an experience, and while it’s both a drama of the soul and a trippy science fiction film, it’s also more than a little horrific. From the nightmare of grief and depression to the terror of the unknown, the film brings darkness to life with beautiful visuals and colors that feel new as they strike your eyes. There’s also a scene with a bear that brings the horrifying goods, but while the visceral beats land hard, it’s the film’s emotionally haunting observations that will stay with you after the credits roll.
It’s not uncommon for memorably acclaimed horror films to get their start at the Sundance Film Festival — Saw, The Witch, and The Blair Witch Project are just a few — and this year’s breakout is Hereditary. The film focuses on a family in distress as grief, and malicious forces have their way with them, and the personal terrors come in the form of some terrifically frightening sequences. The two lead performances are far stronger than the genre typically calls for, and they raise the film’s effect by association as characters we’ve come to care about descend into a truly horrifying reality.
2. One Cut of the Dead
Of the roughly 73 zombie movies released (mostly straight to DVD) each month, 72 of them are immediately forgettable. They’re a horde of sameness, but this Japanese feature jumps out as a fresh take on the rotting flesh of zombie cinema. Of course, it starts like something far more familiar, but if you stick with its intentional setup you’ll be rewarded with something truly special that delivers laughs, bloodletting, and an endlessly creative take on the frightening nature of indie filmmaking itself.
1. The Boat
Survival tales are their own kind of horror stories, but this gem blends one man’s fight to stay alive in nature with the pesky interference of something wholly unnatural. It’s like a horror-tinged take on Robert Redford’s All Is Lost or a feature-length version of that bit in Dead Calm where Sam Neill is stuck on the sinking ship — but it’s also its own terrifically tense, suspenseful, and thrilling film. It’s one of the smaller films on the list and far from the scariest, but it’s the horror movie that’s re-entered my mind more often than any other thanks to its atmosphere, wit, and unpredictably appealing narrative.
Honorable mentions: Cam, The Endless, The Lodgers, Mandy, Marrowbone, The Nun, The Ritual, The Strangers: Prey at Night, What Keeps You Alive