15. The Head Hunter
A medieval warrior spends his days waiting for the townspeople to call for his help in vanquishing a monster, and when that call comes he prepares, heads out to battle, and returns with the beast’s head. Again and again he fights in the hope that one day he’ll face the beast who took his daughter. This is a fantastic set-up for a film, but director Jordan Downey doesn’t quite deliver it as expected — his budget was paltry meaning big action beats are absent, but the film is no less intense, exciting, and affecting for it. Beautiful production design and a haunting lead performance tell the story even without the expected creature fights, and it builds to a face-off that thrills despite the lack of funding. It’s moody, medieval horror like you’ve probably never seen.
Available to stream on Shudder.
14. Ghost Killers vs Bloody Mary (Brazil)
Horror flicks about Ghost Hunters who are mere entertainers and frauds before finally crossing paths with real ghosts are not that uncommon, but while a few have been comedic and most others tried to be more frightening, the bulk have ultimately been pretty damn underwhelming. This Brazilian romp is undaunted by the uphill battle required to deliver a good one and instead turns those expectations on their head by delivering a terrifically gory, obscenely objectionable, and very funny riff on an R-rated Ghostbusters. It’s a go for broke ride delivering a gonzo descent into the supernaturally outrageous complete with dirty language, shocking gags, and more blood than any single film has delivered in some time. Its sensibilities won’t sit well with some, but if you give in to its adolescent enthusiasm and adult thrills the result is a deliriously good time.
Currently on the festival circuit.
13. The Pool (Thailand)
Some horror films are silly, some are serious, and some — like this relentless tale from Thailand — are seriously silly. It’s a tale of survival as a man finds himself trapped in a deep pool that’s emptied out through a drain while he slept. It’s an abandoned area, the sun is baking hot, and he’s at risk of dying from thirst. Oh yeah, there’s also a crocodile trapped in there with him. It’s certainly a horrifying scenario, and the film squeezes every possible thrill out of it including ones you wouldn’t have imagined with his attempt at escaping the pool and evading the large reptile. It’s blackly comic at times and tense at others, and it’s absolutely its own uniquely frightening adventure.
12. Girl on the Third Floor
Haunted house films come in all shapes and styles, but they typically have a common goal in their desire to leave audiences unsettled and scared in their own homes too. The ghosts’ presence often involves misdeeds from the past, but writer/director Travis Stevens‘ debut feature adds a sticky wrinkle in the form of present day shenanigans reaching out towards past transgressions. There are consequences to every action, and guy with a history of making poor choices those consequences come courtesy of unwanted visitors, bodily fluids seeping from the walls, and lots of pain. As icky as it is creepy, Stevens’ film will leave you smiling and in need of a shower. That’s a compliment.
Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital via Amazon.
11. Come to Daddy (UK)
A young man’s hopeful reunion with the father who abandoned him as a child goes horribly awry in this violently stressful and blackly comic nightmare from director Ant Timpson. Elijah Wood headlines as a peculiar man desperately in need of a father figure, but he learns too late it’s best sometimes to leave the past behind us. Grisly violence erupts alongside sinister truths, and while you may feel terrible for laughing through it all that won’t stop you as one man’s journey out of dysfunction unfolds for our entertainment.
Currently on the festival circuit.