Doesn't it seem like the rich are willing and able to treat anyone like shit in order to get richer? Doesn't it seem like all the peace, luxury, and experience they buy is stolen from the world's poor? Aren't you tired of how no one cares because all that suffering happens somewhere we don't see it? Can you picture their lawless, drug-fueled orgies on their "private islands" and in capitol buildings? Well do I have a movie for you. It's absolutely disgusting, and gruesome, and cartoonishly so at times. I haven't seen anything as body-and-soul gross as Society, and I'd be willing to bet you haven't either.
NOROI: THE CURSE (2005)
Noroi is one of the most dread-filled movies I've ever seen. More than any other found footage horror, Noroi creates and maintains a feeling that you're not supposed to be seeing what you're seeing. The mystery manifests itself in increasingly unnerving ways and uses recurring imagery like the mask to bring together its tale of spirits and beyond. There are some found footage horrors I've seen that might have more unique or unexpected premises or endings than Noroi, but I don't think I've seen one that's a better made film or a better told story. And I was never as uncomfortable with them as I am in some of the late scenes of this movie.
GREEN ROOM (2015)
Is Green Room horror? I'm really not sure. It's definitely a thriller. In many ways Green Room flips on its head what one might expect from a fight-for-survival movie. There isn't just one killer; there's a compound of them. There isn't a slim chance of escaping; there's no chance at all. A need for survival doesn't eventually turn its leads into strategists or superhumans; their ideas are half-baked and desperate. The script is clever enough and the performances are strong enough that you care about the characters, even if their DIY punk-rock aesthetic is mostly just that — aesthetic. This movie is my favorite roller coaster.
THE THING (1982)
Look, what do you want me to say about The Thing? Do I even need to say anything? We're talking about some of the best practical effects in movie history. We're talking about some of the most disgusting monster designs in horror. We're talking about such tense paranoia and distrust that the characters have to swim through it while walking around the research base. The isolation, the cabin fever, the increasing frustration; everything feels so real (as long as you don't look at how thin the wall is when they crash through it). This film failing at the box office is all the proof you need to know that good art will flop and flounder on the ground while the audience is preoccupied with a cute alien buddy. Which is from a good movie too. But I'll take this one any day.
THE BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHER (2015)
Dread. Dread. Dread. Dread. Gloom. Gloom. Gloom. Gloom. Must I continue? The Blackcoat's Daughter is a movie about finding comfort in darkness, and relief in evil. This is conveyed nearly entirely through the film's atmosphere which is thicker than a bowl of oatmeal and is a hearty meal for patient horror fans. Thinking about this movie now I don't think of it quite as much as a movie as I do a mood, the experience is this creeping, crawling evil that spills across the floor, working its way up the walls, enveloping your entire body until nothing is left but you and the black coat wrapped around you.
THE MIST (2007)
When you think it can't get worse, it does, and before you can process that, it gets even worse still. That's what The Mist feels like: an infinitely spiraling nightmare that you can't wake up from. Each horror is topped by something even more horrific; and each act of cruelty that people commit is topped by another, too. The helplessness the characters feel in the face of the unknown is hard to not feel yourself. And the ending of the film, an ending that Stephen King agrees is better than the end to his original version, is one of the most shocking thingSs I've seen in film. Just like the rest of the film: it's a nightmare that keeps spiraling and spiraling. And just when you think it can't get any worse, it does.
Hereditary is many things, but at its core Hereditary is a Greek tragedy. As a teacher explains to his class in the film, a Greek tragedy is often about characters trying and failing to fight against a fate that was preordained by the gods. Does never having a chance to succeed make it more tragic? Yeah, I think so. Well, the horror in Hereditary is buried several generations deep in the family at the center of its tragedy. That tragedy unfolds genetically; the preordained fate being passed down in flawed or misshapen genes that perpetuate disease through the branches of the family. But it isn't simply body horror, it's soul-dread, it's family-shattered dread, it's a spiritual bear trap whose shape you can't see until the teeth are already closing on your neck.
THE VVITCH (2015)
If Hereditary is a Greek tragedy, The VVitch is a Christian tragedy. In Christian tragedy, good people make mistakes and then have to accept the punishment, no matter how cruel. This is the most fire-and-brimstone movie I've seen in my life. The ingrained fear of evil, of the devil, is instantly recognizable to anyone who grew up in a church. In Puritan Christianity, there's no doubt about whether or not there's a witch in the woods, there is. There is a devil, and he's coming for you. And the slightest mistake can be the foothold he uses to crawl into your life and tear it apart like a whirlwind. The sin of pride is committed in the first scene of the film. From then on, it's the punishment.
EXORCIST III (1990)
The Exorcist is still unnerving to this day, if you're willing to not be a 21st-century horror snob unimpressed by anything not released by A24 (yes. I've written about several A24 movies here. Shut up.). The Exorcist II sucks. And The Exorcist III is a great supernatural horror/mystery that would've probably stood strongly on its own if the studio hadn't tacked the Exorcist name on there. Directed by William Peter Blatty, the original writer of The Exorcist, this film feels like it was directed by a writer. The meticulousness with which it treats its details is evident. Certain shots even focus simply on items on a shelf, or a cluttered desktop — shots that feel like a descriptive paragraph in film form. An incredible demon performance by Brad Dourif brings to life a supernatural evil that my brain actually responds to by saying, "Yeah, that's not a human." And it has one of the most earned "jump scares" in horror. Give it a watch. Don't be a snob.