Man Bites Dog (1992)
Two filmmakers, André Bonzel and Rémy Belvaux, have stumbled upon the ideal documentary subject: Ben (Benoit Poelvoorde). He is charming, witty, rambunctious, and unabashedly thrilled by unprompted acts of violence. While André and Rémy tail Ben, they find themselves ensnared in their subject’s increasingly vicious acts. A stunning — and uncommonly funny — entry of French Extremity, Man Bites Dog is as stomach-churning and visceral as it is abjectly hilarious. An ultra-violent critique of Western culture’s propensity for making celebrities out of mankind’s worst monsters, Man Bites Dog is just about as dark as satire goes (be warned: that NC-17 rating is no joke).
Available on HBO Max and The Criterion Channel.
New Nightmare (1994)
Don’t get it twisted: we’re not including another Wes Craven picture just to be cute. Very few directors do meta like Craven. And there’s no greater testament to his penchant for self-awareness than New Nightmare, the seventh installment in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise … kind of.
Now, describing the plot of New Nightmare is a trip for anyone familiar with the series … and absolute nonsense to anyone who hasn’t managed to cross paths with the wise-cracking, knife-fingered Freddy Krueger. Without giving anything away, New Nightmare takes place in the “real world,” where actress Heather Langenkamp (playing herself) is haunted, quite literally, by the Nightmare on Elm Street films. From a prank caller who sounds an awful lot like the menacing slasher villain to horrifying nightmares that appear to bleed into real life, Heather (and other members of the Nightmare cast) can’t help but feel that the new sequel Craven is working on is pulling Freddy into the real world.
Available on Tubi.
Bride of Chucky (1998)
After three increasingly fine entries, the Child’s Play franchise was in need of a new groove. And few grooves are likely to put a pep in your step quite like 1990s sass. Far funnier, irreverent, and self-conscious than any of its predecessors, Bride of Chucky is the most nu-metal slasher ever made, and we mean that as a compliment. Taking a page straight out of the self-referential text established by Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, Bride of Chucky finds the pint-sized, possessed Good Guy doll (voiced by Brad Dourif) exactly where we left him: torn to ribbons by a giant fan, with his torn-up remains shoved unceremoniously into an evidence bag.
Luckily for our plastic villain/antihero, Chucky’s one-time girlfriend, Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly), is dead set on bringing her murderous lover back from the dead. Chalked-full of cheezy cultural references that drag the ’80s icon kicking and screaming into the ’90s, Bride of Chucky is a gourmet slice of genre cheese that benefits greatly from the distinct Hong Kong flair of director Ronny Yu. Few fourth-go-round sequels feature this many split diopter shots.
Available on SyFy.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
Bless its heart, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil doesn’t have a bad bone in its body. Which is truly a feat considering this entire movie is dedicated to murdering teens and pointing out how the slasher genre is prejudiced against an entire socio-economic demographic. The eponymous Tucker and Dale, played by Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine, are two best friends en-route to a weekend getaway at their fixer-upper lakehouse. Along the way, they run into a group of teens from the city who unfairly size up the (completely harmless) duo as backwoods psychopaths.
While Tucker and Dale start settling into their weekend, the teens begin to fall prey to a series of…alarmingly fatal accidents. The preceding misunderstandings escalate into an all-out bloodbath. Joyfully subverting the long-held horror trope of sinister rural folks, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is a fantastic horror comedy grounded by two fantastic central performances.
Available on Hoopla, Kanopy, and Magnolia Selects.
Piranha 3D (2012)
Alexandre Aja is a polarizing figure in horror, but don’t let his bleak and brutal approaches in High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes fool you: Piranha 3D is a total blast. Packed to the gills with gnarly sequences, blood flows freely and intact flesh doesn’t stand a chance. Centering on a riotous spring break at a lakeside destination, the unearthing of prehistoric piranhas turns this party into a glorious gorefest.
Featuring a stellar and committed performance from Adam Scott, Piranha 3D often feels like it’s better than it has any right to be. And indeed, there are plenty of B-movie homages that don’t quite nail the vibe. But under Aja’s direction, this one is a hilariously grisly good time.
Available on STARZ Amazon Prime Channel, STARZ Roky Channel, Starz, and Spectrum on Demand.
Happy Death Day (2017)
For a modern twist on horror tropes, Happy Death Day absolutely understood the assignment. Starring Jessica Rothe as Tree, a college student stuck in a time loop, the movie offers a plentiful amount of creative kills as Tree’s death resets her day. With a creepy as hell masked killer stalking her, Tree will have to die many, many, many times if she hopes to learn enough to outsmart her assailant.
What’s extra fun here is that Tree, well, she’s not great. Now don’t get us wrong, her selfish ways shouldn’t damn her, but boy it sure can be fun to watch her get wrecked a couple of times. But of course, there is more to her than meets the eye, and she ultimately stands out as a rather complicated and wholly compelling final girl. With a fun and bloody take on the time loop format, this wry slasher is pretty damn original for a setup we’re more than familiar with.
Available on Spectrum on Demand.
Look, we may not get any more Scary Movie films any time soon. And, let’s be honest, that’s not a “bad thing.” That series had its time and place. But it has left a gap in the horror satire market. Enter: James Wan, keen to cash in the novelty-sized blank check he earned by making DC movies and money-printing Conjuring flicks. A glorious fever dream and a schlocky good time, Malignant is the funniest movie of 2021. How Wan got away with all of this, we don’t know. But we’re so glad he did.
The plot (excuse us as we laugh at having written the words “the plot” — okay, we’re back), follows Madison (Annabelle Wallis), a woman who finds herself stalked by an entity who forces her to witness grisly murders. While assisting the baffled police, Madison begins to suspect that her visions are somehow connected to her mysterious past.
Malignant is what you get when you put Larry Cohen, Frank Henenlotter, and Dario Argento in a blender. It’s a love letter to a wildly specific corner of genre cinema, that commits to its own bit at the expense of being, oh you know, “accessible.” But that’s what makes it so dang good: if you’re picking up what it’s putting down, Malignant will make you lose your mind.
Available to rent. Available to stream on HBO Max as of January 27th.