Horror movies that aren’t blockbuster franchises or festival players would rarely receive praise or recognition if not for the effort of some aficionados’ gleeful desire to get everyone they know to watch them and take them out of their obscurity. While Halloween is still two months away, this horror freak right here is hell-bent on giving the following horror masterpieces (not exaggerating, peeps) the justice they have all been crying for. You’re very much welcome, mothersuckers.
Horror movies involving kids as their central antagonist have always been extra creepy. While ‘Omen’ is the most popular and lauded movie with that concept, others have also tried to replicate its techniques with varying results that could be considered as fine but less-stellar. (See: Orphan, Children of the Corn) The one that could probably go head to head with the aforementioned classic is “Joshua.”
The movie gives us an introductory portrait of a family grasping at straws with the birth of their second child. Now that young Joshua’s parents’ focus is on her baby sister, he tries to take some of their attention back by terrorizing the household in degrees unimaginable. The pacing of the movie is slow, building up its sinister ambiance that will crescendo to the last act when the title character finally unveils a face so evil it embeds its mark in your head. The movie has a style that is a reminiscent of Roman Polanski; having subtlety and intelligence that only a few filmmakers nowadays can successfully pull off.
TOOLBOX MURDERS (2004)
Helmed by the director of the original “Chainsaw Massacre,” this gem faded into obscurity for reasons I’m not quite sure I understand. The tenants of an apartment building are being troubled by mysterious circumstances. Strange noises are being heard, teeth are being used as wall decors, and, well, people die. Later in the film, we meet with a balaclava-wearing man who is causing the entire conundrum and, he looks fucking scary as hell.
The plot is nothing new, but what separates “Toolbox Murders” from the rest of the pact is its well-fashioned throwback style and the punch it packs whenever tension is mounting around the characters of the movie. Here, Tobe Hooper proves he still got what it takes to direct an effective slasher film. The impressive set-design is noteworthy too as it gives the frightening villain a mutilating platform that made the atmosphere of the film even more creepy and claustrophobic, making the watching experience suspenseful as it is masterful-looking.
Madeline, a married woman who would do anything to be a mother, finds her dream shattered when she birthed a baby with a pale skin and without a beating heart. Having difficulty accepting that fate, she took her lifeless offspring into her home and held onto its little body until, unexpectedly, ‘it’ started to chew her nipples. That and gallons of blood and a psycho mother-in-law, plus an old lesbian lover fill the whole reel of Paul Solet’s 2009 movie. Here, the occurrences don’t try to evoke repugnance just for the sake of disturbing our psyche. It presents us a dramatic play of parenting gone berserk, demanding empathy and understanding amid the horrible actions done by the well-meaning but somewhat disoriented protagonist.
Disquieting and very low-key, ‘Grace” is a monster movie crawling, whimpering and springing up under the skirts of motherhood.
GINGER SNAPS 2: UNLEASHED (2004)
“Ginger Snaps” would have made the list if this is your usual countdown of the genre’s best. But as many will attest, the first installment is already popular among horror aficionados that it should be counted out. That’s not stated to discredit this movie, by the way, because “Ginger Snaps 2: Unleased” is so far from being an afterthought. This Emily Perkins-starrer is a rare breed of sequel that is bursting with originality and a moody tone that lesser counterparts could only hope for.
Against her will, Brigitte continues her struggle to fight off the werewolf genes at a mental facility for teenage women. She meets new friends that would tag along with her when she escapes. Meanwhile, a big angry werewolf tails behind her throughout this ordeal. The last quarter of the movie takes places at the empty house of her new friend played by an adolescent Tatiana Maslany from the popular show “Orphan Black.” She is so fucking good here. What transpired in the house, of course, is a delicious and twisted secret. This movie should have already set the standard for making sequels if only it is seen by a lot of people.
JENIFER (MASTERS OF HORROR, SEASON 1 EPISODE 4, 2005)
Forgive me if you are blindsided by the surprising inclusion of a TV episode here. As much as I wanted to reward a full-length film as my list-ender, let me tell you from here on out that ‘Jenifer’ deserves to be recognized for being a provocative piece of work that it is. It’s in a movie format anyway.
The story follows a police officer saving a disfigured young woman named Jenifer from being killed by a nameless old man. He takes her home as she appears to be mentally challenged (she doesn’t talk and only makes creepy sounds similar to a cat murmur) and have nowhere to go. He becomes drawn to her for reasons that are too weird to solidify. After a couple of loony scenes, it becomes clear that there are problems with Jenifer that will turn the lead’s life into a mess.
Directed by Dario Argento from the collection of the now kaput anthology series “Masters of Horror,” “Jenifer” is a weird bag of stuff. It is repulsive, erotic, sad and infuriating. The overall effect is… really something. It is probably the enigma of it that I keep on looking back at the movie and be cast under its befuddling spell. Needless to say, I highly recommend it.