While there may be a shortage of theatrical horror films scoring a nationwide release, there are still plenty of titles touring the festival circuit and coming out via VOD and DVD that are equally worthy of your attention. Unfortunately, films that don’t get the big-studio marketing treatment often wind up passed over by a lot of horror fans... or, sadly, overlooked entirely. To shed some light on some of these lesser-known features, we ran a piece last month spotlighting a series of impressive films released over the past five years which may not have received all the publicity they deserved (due to financial limitations, being overshadowed by larger scale releases, or myriad other reasons).
For your consideration, today we're showcasing five more titles that may have passed you by, but are certainly worthy of your attention. We hope that even die-hard fans of the macabre will find a film or two on this list that might have slipped under their radar...
Directed by Joseph Kahn (Torque), this flm tells the story of a group of high school students remanded to detention, who soon wind up being pursued and picked off by a killer named "CinderHella." Fair warning: this film seems to get a love-or-hate reaction from viewers, and there isn’t a lot of middle ground. Detention is not going to please everyone, but even still, we regard it as a film that must be seen. Kahn riffs on a lot of other films (The Breakfast Club, for example), but it has a very unique quality about it. It also shares some basic tonal similarities to Cabin in the Woods, in that both films take a "meta" approach to the genre, and both enjoyed a theatrical bow on April 13th, 2012... but that's where the similarities end. Detention only graced a handful of screens during its theatrical run, but it is now available on DVD.
Iris (Brittany Snow) thinks she may have found the perfect solution to her brother’s mounting medical bills when she receives an invitation to a mysterious gathering that promises the opportunity to win large sums of money. But as we all know, nothing is free... and Iris soon finds herself faced with a steady supply of unappealing options in a deadly game of "Would You Rather." Helmed by David Guy Levy, this horror feature has a lot working in its favor: a competent cast, a top-notch script by Steffen Schlachtenhaufen, and a surprising amount of restraint in the level of violence depicted on screen. Would You Rather could have easily gone the way of the "torture porn" subgenre, but Levy keeps the onscreen violence to a minimum in favor of heavy atmosphere.
Co-writer/director Paul Campion makes an impressive feature debut with this film, which centers on a pair of New Zealand soldiers in the Channel Islands during World War II. The men are tasked with distracting Hitler and his army from Normandy just ahead of the D-Day invasion, but they soon discover the Nazis are using supernatural means to improve their chances of global domination. Campion comes from an effects background, having worked on a variety of big-budget Hollywood productions as a matte painter, and that is highly evident in the finished product. In spite of limited resources, he was able to make a feature that looks much more expensive than what his actual budget allowed, and shows cinematic prowess well beyond what one might expect from a first-time director.
Directed by Adrián García Bogliano (Here Comes the Devil), the Argentina-based Cold Sweat deftly blends horror and comedy in a premise which almost sounds preposterous: a couple of elderly men lure young women to their abode by way of an Internet dating site, then tortment and execute them using their secret stockpile of nitroglycerine. Bogliano co-penned the script and provides impressive direction, eliciting thoughtful performances from his leads (particularly the geriatric psychos, who bicker like a deranged version of The Odd Couple), and the premise is both original and delightfully bizarre. Though the film bears some similarities to torture porn fare, it has plenty of original aspects that make it unlike anything I’ve seen before. (The dialogue in this and Bogliano's other films is in Spanish, but his first English-language film Late Phases is currently in production.)
It seems that the magic is strong in David Cronenberg’s bloodline, as his son Brandon shows a great deal of promise in this body horror film. This darkly satirical look at our celebrity-obsessed society takes place in a bizarre reality where consumers pay handsomely to be infected with viral strains once carried by their favorite celebrities. Antiviral is reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s directorial aesthetic, but the younger Cronenberg brings his own unique point of view without being overly reliant on the examples set by his father. Brandon has worked on film sets in virtually every capacity (producer, makeup artist, boom operator, set photographer, and more), but aside from two short films, this is Brandon’s first time in the director’s chair. Thanks to a fine first outing, we're hopeful it won't be his last.