1. Burnt Offerings
This movie already has a large cult following, but I’m constantly surprised by the lack of attention it gets. Released in 1976, the movie follows the Rolfs, who agree to become the caretakers of a comically large Victorian summer home. Their rent is only $900 for the entire summer; the only stipulation? Marian Rolf must prepare three meals a day for the owner’s mysterious mother, who resides in the attic. Burnt Offerings is an elevated haunted house movie that will keep you guessing until the very end. If nothing else, the smiling chauffeur will haunt your nightmares.
Darling, though a fairly recent release, is done in black and white, a 1950’s style homage. A young woman, Darling, housesits in an apartment infamous for its dark history. This movie is unique in that it refuses to follow the haunted house trope, instead tracing Darling’s decent into madness. The cinematography is breathtaking; every shot beautifully conveys a dark story. But the best thing about Darling is how utterly confusing it is. The director doesn’t spoon-feed the ending to the viewer; we are left to determine what happens for ourselves.
As a horror fanatic, I am not easily scared or disgusted. The Hostel and Saw series don’t make me queasy; the so called “torture porn” genre doesn’t faze me. This being said, I had to stop watching Frontier(s) halfway through and resume the next day. That’s how terrifying and gory this movie is. Often described as the French Hostel, Frontier(s) follows a group of young rebels fleeing political turmoil. Unfortunately, they look for rest in the wrong place, and find themselves at the mercy of a family of Neo-Nazis. As I said, this movie is not for the faint of heart. It’s 108 minutes of unrelentingly graphic terror.
Often, I am scared of such obviously gory movies, because often the torture porn genre skips the plot and goes only for the action. I am personally more interested in movies with a plot, one that keeps you guessing and on the edge for the entire movie. Frontier(s) delivers this. The protagonists are likable and relatable; you’ll find yourself rooting for each and every one of them. Fans of Martyrs are sure to love this gory underground classic.
4. Hide and Seek
Hide and Seek isn’t necessarily a horror movie, but it’s a dark thriller that will keep you on edge until the twist ending. Robert De Niro stars opposite Dakota Fanning as a father seeking refuge from his wife’s recent suicide. They search for solitude in a remote country home, but soon discover that the house refuses to let them repress their feelings. A strong psychological thriller with a surprising ending you’ll never see coming, Hide and Seek is the perfect movie for those of you who hate gore and love suspense.
5. The Uninvited
Much like Hide and Seek, The Uninvited straddles the line between horror and thriller. The movie begins as Anna is released from the psychiatric facility and returns home for the first time since her mother’s death. To her surprise, she finds that her mother’s previous nurse is now her stepmother. The tense familial relationships drive the movie forward, culminating in a twist ending and surprise reveal you will never see coming. For true horror fans, you may know this as the American remake of A Tale of Two Sisters. Though I’m usually opposed to remakes, I’d argue that this version is far superior to the original; both modernized and Americanized, The Uninvited promises terror — and delivers.
6. The Theatre Bizarre
Full disclosure: I vomited after watching this movie. Then I immediately recommended it to all my friends. The Theatre Bizarre is an anthology of six short films by a wide array of directors. The shorts get progressively harder to stomach as they progress: the penultimate movie features a woman who collects memories by sticking a needle into her own eye, and the final film, “Sweets” (the one that pushed me to being sick), explores the relationship between a food fetishist and her boyfriend. I personally love anthologies — 15 minutes is just enough time to really scare you — but The Theatre Bizarre differentiates itself with its framing segments. Essentially, a man wanders into a theatre to find a creepy, sinister cast of characters against an equally eerie backdrop. These performers then present each of the films. This frame not only works in the movie, it adds a great deal to the plot. The emcee is wonderfully scary; his mechanical movements only add to the terror.
7. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
A lovely throwback to the Scream series, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon straddles that same line between horror and comedy, finally arriving at a satirical thriller. A newbie reporter and her camera crew interview famous serial killer Leslie Vernon, a man highly regarded as an equal to Freddy Kruger, Michael Meyers, and Jason Vorhees. As the movie progresses, the crew become more and more involved in Vernon’s murders, and eventually find themselves acting as accomplices. Behind the Mask embodies everything you want in a horror movie: clever, witty, and most of all, scary.
8. Fermat’s Room
These past few years, my dreams have come true with the rising popularity of “Escape Rooms,” where you’re required to find clues in order to escape a small room. This is, essentially, the plot of Fermat’s Room. Very similar to the (also underrated) Cube series, this movie features hyper-intelligent mathematicians called to a meeting with the famous Fermat. Eventually trapped together in a room, the four must work together to solve clues in order to escape alive. This too, is an extraordinarily smart movie; the plot is dynamic and fast paced, and the riddles will keep you guessing long after the movie is over!