Fright Club: Best Vacation Horror Movies

When aren’t vacations a horror show? Remember that time the car a/c broke and your dad wouldn’t let you roll the windows down because the wind made his hearing aids whistle? God, that sucked. But our research had led us to believe that there are worse miseries than driving cross country with Mark Madden. Hundreds, actually – traveling abroad, camping, boating, island adventures. Here are a handful that will make you want to just stay home.

5. Wolf Creek (2005)

Using only digital cameras to enhance an ultra-naturalistic style, writer/director Greg McLean’s happy backpackers find themselves immobile outside Wolf Creek National Park when their car stops running. As luck would have it, friendly bushman Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) drives up offering a tow back to his camp, where he promises to fix the vehicle.

If this sounds predictable and obvious to you, rest assured that McLean has plans to burst every cliché in the genre, and he succeeds on almost every level.

His first triumph is in the acting. Jarratt’s killer is an amiable sadist who is so real it’s jarring. You find yourself hoping he’s an actor. His performance singlehandedly shames the great Tobe Hooper and Wes Craven, whose backwoods horror films relied so completely on caricatures for villains.

A horror film this realistic is not only hard to watch, but a bit hard to justify. What makes an audience interested in observing human suffering so meticulously recreated? This is where, like a true artist, McLean finally succeeds. What is as unsettling as the film itself is that its content is somehow satisfying.

4. Eden Lake (2008)

The always outstanding Michael Fassbender takes his girl Jenny (Kelly Reilly) to his childhood stomping grounds – a flooded quarry and soon-to-be centerpiece for a grand housing development. He intends to propose, but he’s routinely disrupted, eventually in quite a bloody manner, by a roving band of teenaged thugs.

Kids today!

The film expertly mixes liberal guilt with a genuine terror of the lower classes. The acting, particularly from the youngsters, is outstanding. Most impressive, Jack O’Connell’s performance as the young psychopath is chilling.

There’s the slow boil of the cowardly self-righteous. Then there’s this bit with a dog chain. Plus a railroad spike scene that may cause some squeamishness. Well, it’s a grisly mess, but a powerful and provocative one. Excellent performances are deftly handled by the director who would go on to helm The Woman in Black.

Don’t expect spectral terror in this one, though. Instead you’ll find a bunch of neighborhood kids pissed off at their lot in life and taking it out on someone alarmingly like you.

3. The Descent (2005)

A bunch of buddies get together for a spelunking adventure. One is still grieving a loss – actually, maybe more than one – but everybody’s ready for one of their outdoorsy group trip.
Writer/director Neil Marshall begins his film with an emotionally jolting shock, quickly followed by some awfully unsettling cave crawling and squeezing and generally hyperventilating, before turning dizzyingly panicky before snapping a bone right in two.

And then we find out there are monsters.

Long before the first drop of blood is drawn by the monsters – which are surprisingly well conceived and tremendously creepy – the audience has already been wrung out emotionally.
The grislier the film gets, the more primal the tone becomes, eventually taking on a tenor as much like a war movie as a horror film. This is not surprising from the director that unleashed Dog Soldiers – a gory, fun werewolf adventure. But Marshall’s second attempt is far scarier.
For full-on horror, this is one hell of a monster movie.

2. Deliverance (1972)

Nine notes on a banjo have never sounded so creepy.

Deliverance follows four buddies staving off mid-life crises with a canoeing adventure in southern Georgia, where a man’s not afraid to admire another man’s mouth.

James Dickey streamlined his own novel to its atmospheric best, and director John Boorman plays on urbanite fears like few have done since. Dickey and Boorman mean to tell you that progress has created a soft bellied breed of man unable to survive without the comforts of a modern age.

The film, while steeped in testosterone, also mocks modern man’s desire to conquer nature. It does so by viewing the manly weekend through the eyes of four different types of men: Burt Reynolds’s alpha male, Ronny Cox’s open-hearted optimist, Jon Voight’s introspective intellectual, and poor, doomed Ned Beatty’s smug businessman.

Solid performances, particularly from Voight and Reynolds (this is the guy you want on your zombiepocalypse team), and startlingly effective photography fold perfectly into Boorman’s harrowing tale. This raw, unsettling authenticity helps Deliverance sidestep a hixploitation label, but you’re not likely to look at rural Southerners the same way again.

1. Funny Games (’97, ’07)

A family pulls into their vacation lake home. They are quickly bothered by two young men in white gloves. Things, to put it mildly, deteriorate.

Writer/director/genius Michael Haneke begins this nerve wracking exercise by treading tensions created through etiquette, toying with subtle social mores and yet building dread so deftly, so authentically, that you begin to clench your teeth long before the first act of true violence.

The teen thugs’ calm, bemused sadism leaves you both indignant and terrified as they put the family through a series of horrifying games. And several times, they (and Haneke) remind us that we are participating in this ugliness, too, as we’ve tuned in to see the family suffer. Sure, we root for the innocent to prevail, but we came into this with the specific intention of seeing harm come to them. So, the villains rather insist that we play, too.

His English language remake is a shot for shot repeat of the German language original. In both films, it is the villains who sell the premise. Whether the German actors Arno Frisch and Frank Giering or the Americans Brady Corbet and Michael Pitt, the bored sadism that wafts from these kids is seriously unsettling, as, in turn, is each film.

1997:

2007:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48s781bxWF8

Day 13: Eden Lake

Eden Lake (2009)

It’s crazy this film hasn’t been seen more. The always outstanding Michael Fassbender takes his girl Jenny (Kelly Reilly) to his childhood stomping grounds – a flooded quarry and soon-to-be centerpiece for a grand housing development. He intends to propose, but he’s routinely disrupted, eventually in quite a bloody manner, by a roving band of teenaged thugs.

Kids today!

The film expertly mixes liberal guilt with a genuine terror of the lower classes. The acting, particularly from the youngsters, is outstanding. And though James Watkins’s screenplay makes a couple of difficult missteps, it bounces back with some clever maneuvers and horrific turns.

Sure, the “angry parents raise angry children” cycle may be overstated, but Jack O’Connell’s performance as the rage-saturated offspring turned absolute psychopath is chilling.

There’s the slow boil of the cowardly self righteous. Then there’s this bit with a dog chain. Plus a railroad spike scene that may cause some squeamishness. Well, it’s a grisly mess, but a powerful and provocative one. Excellent performances are deftly handled by the director who would go on to helm The Woman in Black.

Don’t expect spectral terror in this one, though. Instead you’ll find a bunch of neighborhood kids pissed off at their lot in life and taking it out on someone alarmingly like you.

Listen weekly to MaddWolf’s horror podcast FRIGHT CLUB. Do it!

Fright Club: Before They Were Stars

We spend a lot of time examining skeletons in the closets of major celebrities – the god-awful horror movies where they got their start. But today, we celebrate that handful of aspiring actors who get their start in really decent horror movies – some you’ve probably seen, some you may not have. Before these guys were stars, they lucked into a good one, so check them out!

5. My Little Eye (2002)

This quasi-found footage style gem is hardly flawless, but it creeps around dark ideas and delivers some nasty moments. Five youngsters volunteer to live Real World-style for a year, being filmed for an online channel contest. If they all stay for the full year, they win a million dollars. If anyone leaves, they all lose the cash.

Co-written by James Watkins, who appears again on this countdown, the story remains claustrophobic until the introduction of one handsome, lost hiker (Bradley Cooper) who’s not what he seems.

This is just Cooper’s second feature, releasing shortly after Wet Hot American Summer, and his onscreen presence breathes life to an intentionally drab atmosphere. His character is a catalyst for horrors aplenty, but his performance offers a glimpse of good things to come.

4. A Nightmare on Elm St. (1984)

Johnny Depp made his film debut in Wes Craven’s groundbreaking nightmare. Craven said in interviews that he almost didn’t cast the future heartthrob, thinking he was too pasty and weird for the role, but his daughter’s swooning convinced him.

Depp plays Glen, boyfriend to bossy Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), epicenter of Freddy Krueger’s revenge from beyond. Though his performance doesn’t necessarily predict an Oscar-nominated future, he delivers his lines more thoughtfully than most of the cast. Plus, what a death scene!

3. A Perfect Getaway (2009)

This is another underseen flick, boasting some solid performances that make the most of decent, twisty writing in a identity reversal horror story. In his second feature, Chris Hemsworth is half of one of the three couples traveling through Hawaii that get mixed up in a mystery surrounding serial killers. The ever-versatile Steve Zahn plays beautifully against type, while Timothy Olyphant offers another hard-edged but fun performance.

For the film to work, you need to always be guessing as to who may or may not be the killer. Hemsworth’s performance is one you revisit, is-he-or-isn’t-he style. He’s menacing from his first appearance, but shows some of the versatility that would help him climb quickly out of supporting roles.

2. Eden Lake (2008)

Again with James Watkins! He writes and directs this brutal and brilliant culture clash, but his real talent may be in casting. Michael Fassbender proves here what everyone knows by now – he is a brilliant, limitless actor. His Steve takes girlfriend Jenny (Kelly Reilly – also excellent) to an old quarry about to be revitalized as an upscale community – to the distaste of the low scale community currently roaming its beaches.

Fassbender plumbs his character’s depths. By turns smug and cowardly, superior and kind hearted, Steve is a real human being – the kind rarely seen in a horror film. And while Reilly’s strength is another uniqueness that makes the film stand out, the introduction to Jack O’Connell’s evicerating talent as alpha thug is no doubt what makes Eden Lake so painfully memorable.

1. American psycho (2000)

The star-studdedness just keeps growing! Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Chloe Sevigny, Justin Theroux, Reese Witherspoon! But, of course, the main reason to remember the film is the lunatic genius of Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, soulless Wall Street psychopath.

He’s helped, of course, by director Mary Harron’s faultless direction – effortlessly balancing the blackest of comedy with inspired bloodletting. So many scenes are iconic by this point, all of them involving Bale as the beautiful shell of a human being, filled mostly with vacuous musical taste and a lust for blood.

Listen to the whole conversation over on FRIGHT CLUB!

Fright Club: Best British Horror

We are thrilled to have Senior British Correspondent Craig Hunter of SCREENRELISH join us to look at some of our favorite British horror movies. From classics of Hammer to some of today’s most disturbing films, we count down the five best.

5. Dracula (Horror of Dracula) (1958)

In 1958, Hammer Films began its long and fabulous love affair with the cloaked one, introducing the irrefutably awesome Christopher Lee as the Count.

Their tale varies a bit from Stoker’s, but the main players are mostly accounted for. Peter Cushing steps in early and often as Van Helsing, bringing his inimitable brand of prissy kick-ass, but its Lee who carries the film.

Six foot 5 and sporting that elegant yet sinister baritone, Lee cuts by far the most intimidating figure of the lot as Dracula. Director Terence Fisher uses that to the film’s advantage by developing a far more vicious, brutal vampire than what we’d seen previously.

Still the film is about seduction, though, which gives Lee’s brute force an unseemly thrill. Unlike so many victims in other vampire tales, it’s not just that Melissa Stribling’s Mina is helpless to stop Dracula’s penetration. She’s in league. She wants it.

Ribald stuff for 1958!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTyBClMmoyQ

4. Kill List (2011)

Never has the line “Thank you” had a weirder effect than in the genre bending adventure Kill List.

Hitman Jay (a volcanic Neil Maskell) is wary to take another job after the botched Kiev assignment, but his bank account is empty and his wife Shel (an also eruptive MyAnna Buring) has become vocally impatient about carrying the financial load. But this new gig proves to be seriously weird.

Without ever losing that gritty, indie sensibility, Ben Wheatley’s fascinating film begins a slide in Act 2 from crime drama toward macabre thriller. You spend the balance of the film’s brisk 95 minutes actively puzzling out clues, ambiguities and oddities.

As Kill List drifts toward its particular flavor of horror, Wheatley pulls deftly from some of the most memorable films of a similar taste. For those looking for blood and guts and bullets, Kill List will only partially satisfy and may bewilder by the end. But audiences seeking a finely crafted, unusual horror film may find themselves saying thank you.

3. Eden Lake (2009)

The always outstanding Michael Fassbender takes his girl Jenny (Kelly Reilly) to his childhood stomping grounds – a flooded quarry and soon-to-be centerpiece for a grand housing development. He intends to propose, but he’s routinely disrupted, eventually in quite a bloody manner, by a roving band of teenaged thugs.

James Watkins’s screenplay keeps you nervous and guessing with some clever maneuvers and horrific turns.

The acting, particularly from the youngsters, is outstanding. Fassbender’s bravado strikes an honest note, and Reilly’s Jenny is capable, smart and compassionate. More than anything, though, the film owes its unsettling ability to stay with you to an unnerving performance from the up and coming Jack O’Connell.

It’s an upwardly mobile urbanite nightmare, well made and crafted to stay with you.

2. The Descent (2005)

A caving expedition turns ugly for a group of friends, who will quickly realize that being trapped inside the earth is not the worst thing that could happen.

This spelunking adventure comes with a familiar cast of characters: arrogant authority figure, maverick, emotionally scarred question mark, bickering siblings, and a sad-sack tag along. And yet, somehow, the interaction among them feels surprisingly authentic, and not just because each is cast as a woman.

Writer/director Neil Marshall makes excellent use of the story’s structure. Between that and the way film and sound editing are employed, Marshall squeezes every available ounce of anxiety from the audience. Long before the first drop of blood is drawn by the monsters – which are surprisingly well conceived and tremendously creepy – the audience has already been wrung out emotionally.

1. 28 Days Later (2002)

Activists break into a research lab and free the wrong fucking monkeys.

28 days later, bike messenger Jim wakes up naked on an operating table.

You know you’re in trouble from the genius opening sequence: vulnerability, tension, bewilderment, rage and blood – it marks a frantic and terrifying not-really-a-zombie film. (They were not dead, you see. Just super pissed off.)

Danny Boyle is one of cinema’s visionary directors, and he’s made visceral, fascinating, sometimes terrifying films his entire career – Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, Millions, 127 Hours – but 28 Days Later is certainly his one true horror film. And it is inspired.

The vision, the writing, and the performances all help him transcend genre trappings without abandoning the genre. Both Brendan Gleeson and Cillian Murphy are impeccable actors, and Naomie Harris is a truly convincing badass. Their performances, and the cinematic moments of real joy, make their ordeal that much more powerful.

Listen to the whole conversation on the FRIGHT CLUB PODCAST.

Fright Club: Best Horror Movies You May Have Missed

We’ve spent more than a month celebrating the best horror movies of each decade, and what that made us want to do is to throw a little party for those under-the-radar gems you may not have caught. This list could go on for days, but we narrowed our recommendations down to a half dozen of our very favorite, woefully underseen horror flicks. Have a look, and if you’ve missed any of these, take our word for it: you need to see these.

6. Eden Lake (2008)

The always outstanding Michael Fassbender takes his girl Jenny (Kelly Reilly) to his childhood stomping grounds – a flooded quarry and soon-to-be centerpiece for a grand housing development. He intends to propose, but he’s routinely disrupted, eventually in quite a bloody manner, by a roving band of teenaged thugs.

European horror tends to do a nice job with the upwardly mobile middle class’s terror of untamed young things. Kids today! The best of these films mix a contempt for proper manners and liberal guilt with a genuine terror of the lower classes.

The acting, particularly from the youngsters, is outstanding. Sure, the “angry parents raise angry children” cycle may be overstated, but Jack O’Connell’s performance as the rage-saturated offspring turned absolute psychopath is chilling.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4g1wYEAWOrs

5. The Woman (2011)

There’s something not quite right about Chris Cleese (an unsettlingly cherubic Sean Bridgers), and his family’s uber-wholesomeness is clearly suspect. This becomes evident once Chris hunts down a feral woman (an awesome Pollyanna McIntosh), chains her, and invites the family to help him “civilize” her.

The film rethinks family – well, patriarchy, anyway. Writer Jack Ketchum may say things you don’t want to hear, but he says them well. And director Lucky McKee, in hi smost sure-footed effort, has no qualms about showing you things you don’t want to see. Like most of Ketchum’s work, The Woman is lurid and more than a bit disturbing.

Nothing happens in this film by accident – not even the innocent seeming baking of cookies – nor does it ever happen solely to titillate. Deeply disturbing and absolutely not for the timid, this is a movie that will stay with you.

4. The Snowtown Murders (2011)

John Bunting tortured and killed eleven people during his spree in South Australia in the Nineties. We only watch it happen once on film, but that’s more than enough.

Director Justin Kurtzel seems less interested in the lurid details of Bunting’s brutal violence than he is in the complicated and alarming nature of complicity. An unflinching examination of a predator swimming among prey, Snowtown succeeds where many true crime films fail because of its understatement, its casual observational style, and its unsettling authenticity. More than anything, though, the film excels due to one astounding performance.

Daniel Henshall cuts an unimpressive figure on screen – a round faced, smiling schlub. But he brings Bunting an amiability and confrontational fearlessness that provides insight into what draws people to a sadistic madman.

There’s not a false note in his chilling turn, nor in the atmosphere Kurzel creates of a population aching for a man – any adult male to care for them, protect them and tell them what to do.

The Snowtown Murders is a slow boil, and painfully tense. It’s hard to watch and harder to believe, but as a film, it offers a powerful image of everyday evil that will be hard to shake.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJlVmJQPwxo

3. Them (Ils) (2006)

Brisk, effective and terrifying, Them is among the most impressive horror flicks to rely on the savagery of adolescent boredom as its central conceit. Writers/directors/Frenchmen David Moreau and Xavier Palud offer a lean, unapologetic, tightly conceived thriller that never lets up.

A French film set in Romania, Them follows Lucas (Michael Cohen) and Clementine (Olivia Bonamy), a young couple still moving into the big rattling old house where they’ll stay while they’re working abroad.

It will be a shorter trip than they’d originally planned.

What the film offers in 77 minutes is relentless suspense. Creepy noises, hooded figures, sadistic children and the chaos that entails – Them sets up a fresh and mean cat and mouse game that pulls you in immediately and leaves you unsettled.

Watch it. Do it.

2. We Are What We Are (Somos le que hay) (2010)

In a quiet opening sequence, a man dies in a mall. It happens that this is a family patriarch and his passing leaves the desperately poor family in shambles. While their particular quandary veers spectacularly from expectations, there is something primal and authentic about it.

It’s as if a simple relic from a hunter-gatherer population evolved separately but within the larger urban population, and now this little tribe is left without a leader. An internal power struggle begins to determine the member most suited to take over as the head of the household, and therefore, there is some conflict and competition – however reluctant – over who will handle the principal task of the patriarch: that of putting meat on the table.

Writer/director Jorge Michel Grau’s approach is so subtle, so honest, that it’s easy to forget you’re watching a horror film. Grau draws eerie, powerful performances across the board, and forever veers in unexpected directions.

We Are What We Are is among the finest family dramas or social commentaries of 2010. Blend into that drama some deep perversity, spooky ambiguities and mysteries, deftly handled acting, and a lot of freaky shit and you have hardly the goriest film on this list, but perhaps the most relevant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQ4-UOB3Y-U

1. The Ordeal (Calvaire) (2004)

A paranoid fantasy about the link between progress and emasculation, the film sees a timid singer stuck in the wilds of Belgium after his van breaks down.

Writer/director Fabrice Du Welz’s script scares up the darkest imaginable humor. If David Lynch had directed Deliverance in French, the concoction might have resembled The Ordeal. As sweet, shy singer Marc (a pitch perfect Laurent Lucas) awaits aid, he begins to recognize the hell he’s stumbled into. Unfortunately for Marc, salvation’s even worse.

The whole film boasts an uneasy, “What next?” quality. It also provides a European image of a terror that’s plagued American filmmakers for generations: the more we embrace progress, the further we get from that primal hunter/gatherer who knew how to survive.

Du Welz animates more ably than most our collective revulsion over the idea that we’ve evolved into something incapable of unaided survival; the weaker species, so to speak. Certainly John Boorman’s Deliverance (the Uncle Daddy of all backwoods survival pics) understood the fear of emasculation that fuels this particular dread, but Du Welz picks that scab more effectively than any filmmaker since.

His film is a profoundly uncomfortable, deeply disturbing, unsettlingly humorous freakshow that must be seen to be believed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hn3oba5HmH8

To hear the whole conversation, tune into our FIGHT CLUB podcast.

Fright Club: Best Horror 2000 – 2009

We have a new winner! Prior to this time travel cataloging exercise, we embraced the misunderstanding that the 1970s offered the best in horror. Nope. Pruning our list of the horror films released between 2000 and 2009 to just five proved honestly impossible. It was so hard! Too hard, actually, so we cheated: we are going to give a quick nod to the top 5 that didn’t make the list, and then we’re going to make #5 a tie. It had to be done!

So, our apologies, love and respect to the five best films that did not make this list: Eden Lake (2008), Frailty (2001), The Orphanage (2007), Martyrs (2008), and Calvaire (The Ordeal) (2004).

No, onto the tie!

TIE! 5. Wolf Creek (2005)

Using only digital cameras to enhance an ultra-naturalistic style, writer/director Greg McLean’s happy backpackers find themselves immobile outside Wolf Creek National Park when their car stops running. As luck would have it, friendly bushman Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) drives up offering a tow back to his camp, where he promises to fix the vehicle.

If this sounds predictable and obvious to you, rest assured that McLean has plans to burst every cliché in the genre, and he succeeds on almost every level.

His first triumph is in the acting. Jarratt’s killer is an amiable sadist who is so real it’s jarring. You find yourself hoping he’s an actor.

A horror film this realistic is not only hard to watch, but a bit hard to justify. What makes an audience interested in observing human suffering so meticulously recreated? This is where, like a true artist, McLean finally succeeds. What is as unsettling as the film itself is that its content is somehow satisfying.

TIE! 5. 28 Days Later (2002)

Activists break into a research lab and free the wrong fucking monkeys.

28 days later, bike messenger Jim wakes up naked on an operating table. What follows is the eerie image of an abandoned, desolate London as Jim wanders hither and yon hollering for anybody. In the church, we get our first glimpse of what Jim is now up against, and dude, run!

Prior to 28 Days Later, the zombie genre seemed finally dead and gone. But Danny Boyle single handedly resurrected the genre with two new(ish) ideas: 1) they weren’t dead, 2) therefore, they could move really quickly. Like Romero, though, director Danny Boyle’s real worry is not just the infected, it’s the living.

Danny Boyle is one of cinema’s visionary directors, and he’s made visceral, fascinating, sometimes terrifying films his entire career – Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, Millions, 127 Hours – but 28 Days Later is certainly his one true horror film. And it is inspired.

4. The Ring (2002)

The Ring – thanks in large part to the creepy clever premise created by Koji Suzuki, who wrote the novel Ringu – is superior to its source material principally due to the imagination and edge of fledgling director Gore Verbinski. His film is visually arresting, quietly atmospheric, and creepy as hell.

This is basically the story of bad mom/worse journalist Rachel (Naomi Watts) investigating the urban legend of a video tape that kills viewers exactly seven days after viewing.

The tape itself is the key. Had it held images less surreal, less Bunuel, the whole film would have collapsed. But the tape was freaky. And so were the blue-green grimaces on the dead! And that horse thing on the ferry!

And Samara – from plump-cheeked cherub to ghastly figure crawling from your TV…yikes.

Sure, it amounts to an immediately dated musing on technology. But still, there’s that last moment when wee Aidan (a weirdly perfect David Dorfman) asks his mom, “What about the people we show it to? What happens to them?”

At this point we realize he means us, the audience.

We watched the tape! We’re screwed!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PkgRhzq_BQ

3. The Loved Ones (2009)

Writer/director/Tasmanian Sean Byrne upends high school clichés, maneuvering between gritty drama and neon colored carnage in a story that borrows from other horror flicks but absolutely tells its own story.

Brent (Xavier Samuel) is dealing with guilt and tragedy in his own way, and his girlfriend Holly tries to be patient with him. Oblivious to all this, Lola (a gloriously wrong-minded Robin McLeavy) asks Brent to the end of school dance. He politely declines, which proves to be probably a poor decision.

The Loved Ones is a cleverly written, deeply disturbed piece of filmmaking that benefits from McLeavy’s inspired performance as much as it does its filmmaker’s sly handling of subject matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olB5Wrg8Sxc

2. The Descent (2005)

A caving expedition turns ugly for a group of girlfriends who will quickly realize that being trapped inside the earth is not the worst thing that could happen.

Writer/director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers) must be commended for sidestepping the obvious trap of exploiting the characters for their sexuality – I’m not saying he avoids this entirely, but for a horror director he is fantastically restrained. He also manages to use the characters’ vulnerability without patronizing or stereotyping.

He makes even better use of the story’s structure. Between that and the way film and sound editing are employed, Marshall squeezes every available ounce of anxiety from the audience. Long before the first drop of blood is drawn by the monsters – which are surprisingly well conceived and tremendously creepy – the audience has already been wrung out emotionally.

The grislier the film gets, the more primal the tone becomes, eventually taking on a tenor as much like a war movie as a horror film. This is not surprising from the director that unleashed Dog Soldiers, but Marshall’s second attempt is far scarier. For full-on horror, this is one hell of a monster movie.

1. Let the Right One In (2008)

In 2008, Sweden’s Let the Right One In emerged as an original, stylish thriller – and the best vampire flicks in years. A spooky coming of age tale populated by outcasts in the bleakest, coldest imaginable environment, the film breaks hearts and bleeds victims in equal measure.

Kare Hedebrant‘s Oskar with a blond Prince Valiant cut falls innocently for the odd new girl (an outstanding Lina Leandersson) in his shabby apartment complex. Reluctantly, she returns his admiration, and a sweet and bloody romance buds.

This is a coming of age film full of life lessons and adult choices, told with a tremendous atmosphere of melancholy, tainted innocence, and isolation. Plus the best swimming pool carnage scene ever.

The unsettling scene is so uniquely handled, not just for horrifying effect (which it certainly achieves), but to reinforce the two main characters, their bond, and their roles. It’s beautiful, like the strangely lovely film itself.

Listen to the whole conversation on our FRIGHT CLUB PODCAST.

Halloween Countdown, Day 22

Eden Lake (2009)

It’s crazy this film hasn’t been seen more. The always outstanding Michael Fassbender takes his girl Jenny (Kelly Reilly) to his childhood stomping grounds – a flooded quarry and soon-to-be centerpiece for a grand housing development. He intends to propose, but he’s routinely disrupted, eventually in quite a bloody manner, by a roving band of teenaged thugs.

Kids today!

The film expertly mixes liberal guilt with a genuine terror of the lower classes. The acting, particularly from the youngsters, is outstanding. And though James Watkins’s screenplay makes a couple of difficult missteps, it bounces back with some clever maneuvers and horrific turns.

Sure, the “angry parents raise angry children” cycle may be overstated, but Jack O’Connell’s performance as the rage-saturated offspring turned absolute psychopath is chilling.

There’s the slow boil of the cowardly self righteous. Then there’s this bit with a dog chain. Plus a railroad spike scene that may cause some squeamishness. Well, it’s a grisly mess, but a powerful and provocative one. Excellent performances are deftly handled by the director who would go on to helm The Woman in Black.

Don’t expect spectral terror in this one, though. Instead you’ll find a bunch of neighborhood kids pissed off at their lot in life and taking it out on someone alarmingly like you.

Fright Club, Round 2: Eden Lake

 

Join George and Hope this Friday night, 11:30, at Studio 35 Cinema and Drafthouse for Round 2 of Fright Club! We’re showing the underseen indie horror gem Eden Lake starring Michael Fassbender. It’s a unique and terrifying picture that deserves a big audience. Enjoy some of Studio 35’s great draft beers and hang out with some scary film fanatics – what could be better?

Studio 35 is located at 3055 Indianola Avenue. Tickets are $5. Drink specials abound.

Join us!

Your Scary-Movie-a-Day Guide to October. Day 12: Eden Lake

Eden Lake (2009)

It’s crazy this film hasn’t been seen more. The always outstanding Michael Fassbender takes his girl Jenny (Kelly Reilly) to his childhood stomping grounds – a flooded quarry and soon-to-be centerpiece for a grand housing development. He intends to propose, but he’s routinely disrupted, eventually in quite a bloody manner, by a roving band of teenaged thugs.

Kids today!

The film expertly mixes liberal guilt with a genuine terror of the lower classes. The acting, particularly from the youngsters, is outstanding. And though James Watkins’s screenplay makes a couple of difficult missteps, it bounces back with some clever maneuvers and horrific turns.

Sure, the “angry parents raise angry children” cycle may be overstated, but Jack O’Connell’s performance as the rage-saturated offspring turned absolute psychopath is chilling.

There’s the slow boil of the cowardly self righteous. Then there’s this bit with a dog chain. Plus a railroad spike scene that may cause some squeamishness. Well, it’s a grisly mess, but a powerful and provocative one. Excellent performances are deftly handled by the director who would go on to helm The Woman in Black.

Don’t expect spectral terror in this one, though. Instead you’ll find a bunch of neighborhood kids pissed off at their lot in life and taking it out on someone alarmingly like you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkJxIqGV-cE