It’s Halloween, the greatest holiday, and today I wanted to unleash my ornery side by sharing horror movies that I think are much better than most people will admit.
I expect most people who read this list to shake their heads and mumble “Jason, Jason, Jason…” All I have to say to that is that you’re wrong, these are good movies.
Let’s start with the most divisive and well-known movie on this list…
This film is artsy, pretentious, and oblique…and I love it. A woman played by Jennifer Lawrence (mother) and a man played by Javier Bardem (him) live in a large, isolated home in marital bliss. They are visited by a man who refuses to leave and is coddled by Bardem character. More and more people inexplicably arrive, culminating in a violent cult-like climax that is completely bonkers and difficult to watch.
Why do I like this movie? The performances are stellar. I’ve always been underwhelmed by Jennifer Lawrence’s acting (even in her big roles), but here she emotes something primal and so pure that you want to protect her. Javier Bardem is good as the paradoxical him. Ed Harris is wonderful as the creepy first visitor.
I suspect the allegorical nature of the movie either didn’t appeal to many or it flew right over their heads. The film is rather experimental in nature and its unconventional narrative will automatically turn off many viewers.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a low-budget horror movie starring the great Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch. They’re coroners–a classic father/son profession! The local authorities bring in the body of a young woman for them to identify. This being a horror movie, you can guess that this dead lady has some scary surprises in store.
By no means is this a great film. But it is entertaining, has Brian Cox “slumming” in a horror movie, and has some effective tension using well-earned payoffs via the use of sound and lighting.
Never mind the awful title, this sequel to the acclaimed original entry in the series (Ginger Snaps), is a dark and entertaining film. While not quite as great as the first film, this one shakes off the standard “Sequels Sucks” rule to create a movie much better than people give it credit for being.
The metaphor of puberty equating to turning into a werewolf from Ginger Snaps is expanded on, this time with Ginger’s younger sister, Brigitte, and her reliance on a drug to keep her human. Reading that sentence back makes me realize this movie sounds dumb, but hear me out.
Brigitte takes monkshood to control her monstrous urges and transformations. The police throw her into a detox clinic and take her monkshood. You know what happens next.
There’s plenty of pointed commentary about drug addiction, our society’s problematic handling of addicts, and some truly good WTF moments. Brigitte is shadowed by a young girl named Ghost (a really young and outstanding Tatiana Maslany who steals this movie from the leads) at the clinic. Ghost helps Brigitte escape before…well, I won’t give away the end of the film, but it is dark and cruel.
These Final Hours is a road trip movie set in Earth’s last hours that will surprise and depress you. It’s also quite good.
James is on his way to a friend’s estate where he and his friends plan to booze, fuck, and drug their way into oblivion. Because why not, there are less than twelve hours until a cataclysmic event will wipe out all life on Earth. Along the way, James saves the life of a little girl (Angourie Rice in an early role) who is desperately searching for her dad.
What will James do? Will he take the girl and go to the party? Or will he take the girl on a search for her family? The answer is not straightforward.
What struck me about this movie is how real it felt. There is desperation, acceptance, and denial. The extremes of humanity are shown in detail: stomach-turning depravity along with unbelievable kindness. Sarah Snook (from Succession) has a small, but pivotal role in the film once James reaches his end-of-the-world bash.
And, lo, that concluding shot of Earth’s last few seconds is enough to leave tears in your eyes.
That’s all for this Halloween. I hope I’ve helped you find at least one good film you’ve not seen to watch tonight!