Christmas time is here, and we figured we’d give you an extra little gift – the gift of recommendation. Chances are you’ve missed more than one of the films on the list you’re about to read, as they’re all unheralded beauties. For the most part they’re all quite different, but they’re also all quite successful in impressing longtime horror fans.
Merry Christmas, guys and gals, here are 10 flicks you might spot in a Walmart bargain bin that would make for killer Christmas gifts
Son of Ghostman
This loving nod to horror hosts blends some romantic elements with some campy elements with a very organic approach from a few very inspired leads. If you’ve ever wondered what a good chick flick dressed up as a horror movie looked like, you can get your answer right here. Kurt Larson writes, directs and stars in what is one of the most enjoyable horror titles I’ve seen in years. It’s absurdly underrated, but it should be a film we talk about on a regular basis.
Asylum Blackout is an absolutely paralyzing trek into the mind of a mental institution employee… or is it? Alexandre Courtès is no household name, but one viewing of this lovely little beast and you’ll be wondering why. It’s dreadful. It’s frightening. It’s claustrophobic in many ways. And it’s perfectly assembled, showcasing two stunning performances from Rupert Evans and Richard Brake, who is nothing short of petrifying.
I love this seasonal little chiller. Some might call it cliché, or predictable, or even cheap, but for my buck, Wind Chill hits all the right notes. The movie showcases a young Emily Blunt and a borderline stalker played by the awesomely quirky Ashton Holmes. It is part festive, part creeper and part ghost story. In fact, it’s such a divided piece one might question its ability to pull everything off convincingly. Like Phantasm, it’s got enough different ideas to create nine different movies, but it thrives as one, and should trigger a little nostalgia within older viewers.
The Cabining is a satirical piece designed to allow us a few moments to laugh at the absurdity of slasher films. But The Cabining is also well assembled and puts two super inspired performers in front of the camera and trusts them to conjure up chuckles and chills. And they succeed in a major way. There’s absolutely nothing “A-class” about the production, yet the viewing experience makes for as good a time you’ll have with any film. It’s still being slept on terribly, but you can help change that by seeking it out and having your mind blown.
The Windmill is a brand new production – one of my favorites of 2016 – that might find itself swallowed up by all the impressive efforts of the year, particularly those that received a stronger promotional campaign. That however, does nothing to change the fact that The Windmill attempts to exploit a few genre tropes while simultaneously employing some original and clever maneuvers. If you’re tired of seeing the same old slasher with a new title, and you’re tired of seeing new slasher figures themselves fall short of expectation, than take a peek at this movie. Not only is it a polished product, it actually has a very creepy and memorable villain on center stage.
The Hills Run Red
Why not keep the slasher chatter continuing on, eh? Dave Parker’s The Hills Run Red travels a number of safe avenues. But for every gimme it relies on, it delivers two daring, and that helps to distance itself from other low budget slashers. The main villain, Babyface, is genuinely frightening and the morbid spiral the film falls into during the final act should have you nodding your head in horror geek appreciation. This movie was made for us 35-45ers who’ve seen every slasher ever put out. Those of us that do fit that bill are probably undivided in our appreciation of the movie.
My Name is Bruce
My Name is Bruce is kind of like The Evil Dead if The Evil Dead had been first shot about five years ago, and Bruce Campbell showed up with the intention of improvising his way through the flick. It’s a goofy comedy that glorifies the persona we associate with Ash Williams. But everyone really has fun with the movie. It never takes itself too seriously, it never fishes too long for the laughter. It’s just a silly 90 minute ride with a handful of genre nods and the best chin in the business being his crazy self. In other words, owning this movie is mandatory.
Midnight Movie (Killer Cut)
Well, well, well. We once more find ourselves in the sights of the slasher. If you didn’t realize it, somewhere around five-to-10 years ago there was a small surge of slasher pics that popped up out of nowhere and surprised like it was nobody’s business. One of the titles helping to front that charge (a charge that saw introductions of movies like Cold Prey, Cold Prey 2, The Hills Run Red, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, The Reeker, etc.) was Midnight Movie, a fun, low budget meta-slasher with some inventive kills, respectable gore and break-neck pace. The movie has gone on to establish a small cult following, but it’s an enjoyable enough pic to have a significantly larger fan base.
Nick Damici and Jim Mickle are one of the greatest duos in the business. Their films, no matter the budget, are often highly entertaining, engaging affairs that hit the right beats and gift us noteworthy stories. Damici is a great writer, Mickle is a great director. The content they come up with is awesome, and Mulberry Street is the film that started it all, for both men. In the years to pass the two have gone on to build strong, respectable careers thanks to films like Stake Land, We Are What We Are and Cold in July – an excellent adaptation of an amazing Joe R. Lansdale story. Without this rodent heavy horror piece, we may not have any of those films, which is just a depressing thought.
Hey, you know the hilarious red head in the Broken Lizard gang? His name is Paul Soter, and he not only shines in the Broken Lizard flicks (Super Troopers, Beerfest, Club Dread, Slammin’ Salmon, etc.), he’s got a serious love for horror, and he directed a really atmospheric film about psychological breaking points and the kind of home invasion that leaves a mind permanently scarred. That film was Dark Circles, and it is true must-see material if you’re into home invasion flicks, or stories heavy with familial tension. It’s still flying under the radar, but it’s still an excellent picture, as well.