Deja Viscera: Forgotten Contemporary Horror
Every month, Marcus Irving and Ryan Horner are going to offer up six picks for horror fans that are a little off the beaten path. Films that they feel haven't gotten the attention they deserve. Each month will center around a different theme. The only condition for this first month is that the movies had to have been released in the last ten years.
2013 d. Josh C. Waller
Imagine an even bleaker, more cruel Fight Club. That's Raze. Sabrina (Zoë Bell, in her best role by a mile) is one of 50 kidnapped women forced to fight each other one-on-one to the death using nothing but their bare hands to entertain the rich. There is no other way out then to be the last one standing, so Sabrina must kill her fellow captives in order for her to once again see her young daughter. It's a dark and depressing setup, and it's taken to its absolute extremes. Each fight is as tough to watch as the last. The women are forced to absolutely brutalize each other, leading to many times where I had to look away from the screen. Raze is a bloodthirsty movie that's a challenge to watch at times, but more than worth it. Plus, it contains what is perhaps the weirdest cameo I've ever seen in a movie.
Midnight Meat Train
2008 d. Ryûhei Kitamura
Ryûhei Kitamura's first American movie is an absolute masterclass in horror filmmaking. Bradley Cooper is a photographer with a mission to expose the seedy underbelly of New York City, and he hits the jackpot with his muse, a mysterious butcher/serial killer, played by the ever intimidating Vinnie Jones, who takes the exact same subway train every night to murder its unknowing occupants. The butcher's weapon of choice is his trusty huge mallet that he uses to decapitate, crush, and pretty much completely destroy his victims. The violence is pulpy and gallons of blood fly everywhere with glee, painting the subway car time and time again. It's a joy to watch the visceral violence on display, and the mystery surrounding the butcher's actions and Bradley Cooper's increasing descent into madness make for one of the finest horror films in recent memory.
2013 d. Eric England
The body horror genre has a razor thin line to walk down. When it's done wrong, it's gross, off-putting, and difficult to watch. When it's done right, it's gross, off-putting, and difficult to watch. Contracted is indeed all of those things, but it's more than worth stomaching through it. It very bluntly tackles the subject of rape with great purpose and delivers a more than apt metaphor for what it does to a person with the disturbing makeup effects. It also contains one of the great twist endings in all of horror cinema.
2014 d. Jonas Govaerts
Sam is a misunderstood and hyper-imaginative young boy with an undisclosed darkness in his past. When he joins his Cub Scout troop on a trip into the woods, his peers seem to have no other goal than to make his life miserable and his superiors either join in on the ridicule or they pity him. Nobody truly seems to understand him until he meets Kai, the feral boy in the woods. No matter what, he is reminded that he is an outsider, much like the savage child. Spend enough time being treated like a monster, you might just become one. Cub is a nihilistic little slasher that embraces the crookedness of its subjects. It boasts an exhilarating synth score, imaginative framing, and some wild implements of death. All of this wraps around a fascinating and deranged origin story for a killer destined to become a horror staple. It takes a little while to get there, but, when it does, it is gloriously depraved and nobody is safe, not even the kids. (Animal lovers, tread lightly.)
2013 d. Jeremy Gardner
The Battery is the kind of a zombie film we have always deserved. It understands, better than most, that a post-apocalyptic world is intrinsically linked to tragedy and stillness. So, while the undead are a real threat, most of the film focuses intimately on the everyday lives of Ben and Mickey. Ben has embraced the rules of the new world; survive at all costs and kill as many zombies as humanly possible. He calls it being a realist. Mickey, on the other hand, is dungeoned by the loss of normalcy. He isolates himself to his music, refuses to take the “lives” of undead, and fantasizes of sanctuary. They may not have much in common, but they keep each other alive. The wasteland serves as a backdrop for their steady descent from humanity. It’s an absolutely gripping and often humorous film. While it might be sparse in the undead department, it isn’t lacking in severity. The Battery is devastating in the quietest of ways, choosing to patiently fill you with anxiety rather than outright startle you. I know you might be tired of zombie films, but don’t let this one fall through the cracks. The Battery is something special.
2014 d. Bobcat Goldthwait
Two years ago, I went camping with my girlfriend in the mountains. We found a serene and secluded spot between the river and a disheveled park in the forest. The day was spent hiking and the night spent lounging in our campsite. It was gorgeous. In fact, one of the best times we’d had and something we desperately needed. Then, that morning, I woke with a start. I could have sworn something had just tugged on our tent with a spine-tingling amount of force. I was about ready to decide that it was a dream when I heard the honking of a car followed by two men yelling: “There’s a bear down there!” The greatest recommendation I can give for Willow Creek is that it took me right back to that moment of fear when my girlfriend and I realized there was a bear outside our tent. Willow Creek concerns itself with a couple that enters the woods in order to find Bigfoot. It’s a slow burn that uses its time to frame a realistic relationship that matters when everything goes to hell. Those final twenty minutes are some of the most inspired and frightening sequences I’ve seen from the found footage genre.