Halloween weekend is upon us as we’re hitting the halfway mark in our countdown of the top 25 deadliest delights in horror. Here’s the next 5 nightmare-fueling selections in our rankings.
Director Park Chan Wook’s (Oldboy) dreamy Korean vampire epic Thirst isn’t standard horror movie fare. The story follows a priest that is unexpectedly transformed into a vampire after undergoing a medical experiment. After covering familiar vampire lore, the film becomes a strange, sometimes laborious study on sacrifice, love, and humanity. Thirst is a wonderful twist on often romanticized vampire stories that explores the real-life repercussions of becoming a blood-thirsty creature of the night.
The film came at a time where vampire drama was (and arguably still is) suffering from a severe lack of fright and pathos. Thirst delivers on both. As with all of Wook’s work, the film visual feast and even the gore has a picturesque quality. The effects are also dazzling as his vampire glide across rooftops with mystical grace. While not as narrative tight or stylish as his masterpiece Oldboy, Wook succeeds in creating another piece of inspired cinema that leaves you unsettled.
Fun, hilarious, action-packed — these aren’t qualities you typically attribute to a horror movie, but Zombieland embodies all of them. This vivid “zom-com”stars Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson as an odd-couple pair of survivors in the navigating the zombie apocalypse in search of safety and Twinkies. The movie ditches self-seriousness in favor of punchy camp, but also manages to do some heartfelt introspection on loss and friendship.
Zombieland is a rare entry to horror that dares to be optimistic. The zombie genre has always been about ever-encroaching death and desperate survival, but Zombieland pivots by giving us characters mostly well-adjusted to dealing with the living dead. This allows the movie to focus more on thrills than chills as zombies are dispatched with glee. Add the most hilarious cameo ever filmed and you’ve got a terrific two hours of entertainment.
It’s difficult to craft an effective horror movie, even harder as a PG-13 period piece. Yet 2001’s The Others manages to be not just effective, but excellent. This classic-style haunted house thriller hinges entirely on Nicole Kidman’s performance and the actress did not disappoint. She stars as a widowed mother of two who discovers her home is invaded by mysterious spirits. What develops is an eerie, mysterious tale that keeps you guessing until the very end.
Director Alejandro Amenábar crafts an atmospheric feature that relies on mounting suspense rather than jumps scares or gore. The story’s ending is one of the most surprising and expertly executed plot twists in modern cinema history. The Others is a movie that transcends every trapping of the genre to emerge as an example of high quality film-making.
Few directors are as polarizing as Takashi Miike. He walks a thin line between auteur and madman. There’s no better evidence of this than his gut-wrenching torture fest Audition. Released 1999 in its native Japan, but not reaching the states until 2000, Audition catalogs the story of a widowed father urged to search for a new wife by his son. To do so he holds a series of phony “auditions” to find the ideal mate, finally settling on a mysterious woman. Naturally, she’s serial killer with a panache for dismemberment. Such is love.
The story serves as little more than a reason to create wince-inducing sequences of horror, but that isn’t an entirely bad thing. Horror is often gauged by its ability to terrify and disgust — that would make Audition on of the most effective to date. It’s not for the faint of heart, something of a challenge in endurance really, that tests the very limits of tolerable violence. What makes it tolerable is Miike’s deft work behind the camera. He has a unique way of making grit and gore gleam on-screen. The film becomes something akin to macabre performance art — something you can’t forget no matter how hard you try.
Every now and then a movie seems to come out of nowhere and make a huge impression. The Descent is such a movie. The movie follows a group of estranged friends who seek to rekindle their connections via spelunking in a remote cave system, which turns out to be inhabited by flesh-eating humanoid monsters. What results is one of the best, most terrifying “creature features” to come along in a long time.
Not simply satisfied with being a standard monster-mash, The Descent is also explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and survival. The all-female cast is put through the ultimate test as surviving and protecting each other are often mutually exclusive. The film has two different endings, altered from its native English release for US audiences, but both remain effective. It’s all a bloody, gruesome study on the desperation of surviving against outer and inner demons.
That makes for another five in the books. Be sure to share your thoughts on our selections thus far and look for the Top 10 to drop soon!