Although mainstream horror cinema has been slow to churn out titles, and as of late seems to have opted to focus primarily on remaking the classics of yesteryear, there are a vast quantity of low budget and independent horror films coming out every week. Due to limited means and the microscopic marketing budgets associated with independent filmmaking, it’s easy for quality films to slip through the cracks. In response, we created this recurring segment to explore some interesting horror movies that might have flown under your radar.
[If you missed out on our previous lists of forgotten gems, follow the links to Parts One, Two, and Three of our series.]
Now we present yet another five horror films from the past five years that you may have overlooked... but should definitely see.
Dream Home (2010)
It’s difficult to describe this multifaceted film, as it functions on so many different levels. On the surface, it’s a slasher, but it’s also a very dark comedy, and it's packed with social commentary. Hong Kong resident Cheng Li-sheung (portrayed brilliantly by Josie Ho) is in the market for her first home; unfortunately, her apartment of choice is out of her budget. So she does the sensible thing and starts murdering the residents of her coveted high-rise. Director Pang Ho-cheung flips the paradigm and makes the killer a female, instead of the typical male villain. He also reveals most of the major plot points very early in the picture, rather than dragging them out to create unnecessary and unwanted twists. Dream Home is one of the most intelligent and enjoyable films I’ve seen in years and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
I should preface this recommendation by saying that I appreciated this film much more the second time that I watched it. Otis was not really what I was expecting, but in spite of that it's a lot of fun. Poor pizza delivery guy Otis is obsessed with recreating his high school prom, and getting it right this time... even if people have to die to make it happen. The film boasts an impressive cast, including Daniel Stern (C.H.U.D.), Ileana Douglas (Stir of Echoes), Jared Kusnitz (Dance of the Dead), and Bostin Christopher in an early feature film role as Otis. The level of violence is pretty amped-up, but it's done satirically, which makes it feel less like torture porn and more like pitch-black comedy.
Dead Snow (2009)
Before he brought us the more mainstream Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola helmed this lesser-known but fun flick. The film is centered on a group of college students who take to a cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway. Unfortunately for them, a band of Nazi zombies crashes their party. Dead Snow is inventive, bloody, and humorous, and far more creative than a good deal of zombie films that have come out in the past ten years. It also pays homage to classic slasher films, with multiple references to a few of the greats. Some of the violence is hard to watch (for example, a character gets strung from a tree by his intestinal tract), but it's done in a tongue-in-cheek fashion to keep the mood as light as possible.
A stillborn child surprises her mother and the medical community when she shows signs of life... then begins to thrive on human blood. This film poses a lot of interesting questions as to what lengths a parent will go in order to protect and sustain the life of their offspring. Producer Adam Green pointed out that everyone involved worked for next to nothing, and that the end result is a labor of love; fortunately, their efforts were not in vain. The film is jarring and thought provoking, the performances are surprisingly good, and the concept is a pleasant change from the same storylines we’ve seen a million times. Grace may seem to bear surface similarities to Larry Cohen's killer-baby flick It’s Alive, but in reality the two couldn’t be more different.
Father’s Day (2011)
This co-venture between Troma Films and Canadian company Astron-6 is offensive, brutal, lewd, and absolutely enjoyable. Like nearly all Troma fare, it’s intended for fans of ‘70s grindhouse-style exploitation and over-the-top gore: there’s head-stomping, paternal rape, inappropriate stereotypes, and much more to offend nearly anyone, but as Troma President Lloyd Kaufman once told me, the studio is always pushing boundaries, and can be a bit too much "in the future" for some people. By my assessment, Father’s Day succeeds on all fronts, thanks in no small part to the work of Astron-6, who hit the ground running, intent on proving you can make a movie with a paperclip, a cell phone, and that nickel you found in a storm drain. (To avoid any confusion, that's a compliment.)