This past year or so has seen a lot of change in my film tastes. Long gone are the days when I’d stumble my way through a Buñuel just to look a bit smarter over a pint of beer – my recently watched list on Netflix now almost exclusively comprises of horror films.
It might have something to do with the fact that in-between Cultured Vultures and the 9-5, I appreciate shutting down my brain and unwinding with something not necessarily shallow, but a film that won’t be rivalling Welles’ finest any time soon. There are plenty of detractors of the genre that say, “oh, another fucking Paranormal Activity” and “why are we remaking this again?” and to an extent, they’re justified.
Horror has suffered from a lack of ambition lately. Too many studios are reticent to give visionaries backing in favour of the same old tired formula. Apart from the recent It Follows and the acclaimed The Babadook, you might struggle to think of any contemporary horror films that are noteworthy, efforts that try their best to rip up the template.
But as long as the directors of the best indie horror movies below stay around, the genre should be okay.
10. The Battery – 2012
I cannot fanboy over this film enough. As well as coming in at #6 on my ‘Top 6 Non-Romero Zombie Films‘, The Battery makes the cut again here.
It might have a couple of uneven spots and or two coarse edges but it certainly sticks in the mind, something which a big budget horror struggles to match. If you love your zombie films and want something with a bit more between the eyes, you could hardly ask for more from Jeremy Gardner’s debut feature.
9. The House of the Devil – 2009
It’s time for a confession. I initially wrote Ti West’s film off as I had genuinely confused it with this. They hardly even sound the same.
Moving swiftly on, this is a surprisingly excellent horror in the vein of John Carpenter’s finest with a dash of modern horror brutality thrown into the mix. More unsettling than horrifying, you should check it out if you have a fondness for the old-school. Be prepared for a seriously slow burn though.
8. Martyrs – 2008
I cannot shake this film from my brain. I could take the thing out of my skull, put it through the dishwasher and it would still come out completely traumatised from the last twenty minutes of Martyrs.
Once you’ve sat through this French export all the way to the bitter end, it’s hard to envisage another film that will push the boundaries like Pascal Laugier so triumphantly achieved here. It says a lot that the screenshot above is just about the least NSFW image I could find.
7. Stake Land – 2010
The film that gave me the idea for this article, Stake Land is one of those films on Netflix that you take by face value and sadly scroll past. I’m glad that Netflix’s constant recommendation badgering brought me around to it.
A vampire film with roots in the zombie apocalypse (zombocalypse?), Stake Land has stunning cinematography that belies its meagre budget and a dramatic tone that gladly avoids becoming overwrought, as so many similar films do. A dodgy final 15 minutes aside, this is the best vampire film since Near Dark.
6. Pontypool – 2008
Another zombie horror that breaks the mould, Pontypool has been warmly welcomed by the horror community for refusing to be conventional. It’s not scary (even for a second) and is more of a chin stroker, posing questions of its audience as a town is gripped by a mind-consuming mystery epidemic.
“Basically, we should all go and explore nature and put the technology away,” cries the Romero-reminiscent social commentary, and that’s hard to argue with.
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