The Ten Best ‘Unseen’ Horror Films of the Noughties: Part 1
From Final Destination to Shaun of the Dead to Paranormal Activity, the 00’s has seen numerous box office smashing horrors. However, as with most genres, some of the greatest horrors of the last decade were little seen at the cinema and made little money at the box office. Some have been unfortunate enough to become cult hits on DVD, and some are destined to remain little seen gems. Here are my contenders for the ten best under seen horror films of the 00’s:
Since the likes of Halloween and Friday the 13th, the slasher film has been a huge part of horror cinema. Like The Horseman (coming up later in the list) for torture films, Tony, directed by Gerard Johnson, does something very interesting and different to the slashes genre, by setting the film in a block of flats and having the killer be an unemployed man who lives alone and just wants some company. The titular character is played the unknown Peter Ferdinando, who gives a stunning portrayal of a man sick of being unwanted and useless.
The film is prone to lashings of black humour, such as strangling the man who comes to repossess his television with a TV cable. It also features a stark, realistic portrayal of grim, back end London streets, ripe with matey drug dealers and aggressive, bullying drunks. Perhaps the scariest thing of all about Tony is how sympathetic the killer is – Tony is an average man driven to madness by his surroundings. Though a low budget and limited release, Tony makes great use of its budget, and is excellent as a British slasher film and as a character study on what turns people to murder.
Pitting one of the most controversial directors of all time, William Friedkin, with the one of the strangest and best actors of the decade, Michael Shannon, this Tracey Leets adaptation is one of the darkest and most disturbing psychological horrors of modern times. Featuring a staggering and terrifying performance from a then-relatively unknown Shannon, Bug revolves around a woman (a mostly distressed Ashley Judd) who picks up a strange drifter and takes him her motel room. The man claims to have been experimented on by the military; she isn’t so sure. From there, the film becomes a gruelling, claustrophobic portrayal of delusion and severe mental illness, with squirm inducing moments to behold. The film was met with mixed reactions when it first opened, due to the strange and disturbing nature of the film, but now stands as one of Friedkin’s most underrated films, and is worth seeing for the talents of the incredible Michael Shannon alone.
The Horseman (2008)
One of the most controversial and talked-about genres of horror in the 21st century is ‘torture porn’. From the brutal highs of Saw and Wolf Creek to the atrocious lows of Hostel and Captivity, torture porn has been one of the most dividing genres, and one that has often churned out cheap, nasty and downright unpleasant films. However, The Horseman, directed by Steven Kastrissios, is a rare example of a torture film that is actually very well done.
Following a man avenging the death of his daughter at the hands of a group of pornographers, The Horseman features a raw, emotional lead performance from the relatively unknown Peter Marshall. Whereas torture films usually feature minimal plot and maximum gore, The Horseman features an interesting character study of an average man turned psycho by the events surrounding him. This Australian film also features a rather touching friendship between Marshall’s character Christian and a young female hitchhiker he picks up. If you only see one ‘torture porn’ film of the last decade, The Horseman is a worthy choice.
The Loved Ones (2009)
Before Peter Jackson became known as the Oscar-winning director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, he was known for a series of strange and often gory comedies, such as Bad Taste and Braindead. Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones, hailing from Jackson’s home country of New Zealand, calls to mind the early Jackson efforts in its demented characters and gleeful bloodletting.
Brent (played by Xavier Samuel, sticking to the right side of ‘kids with issues’ rather than being irritating and miserable) takes his girlfriend to the prom, and in doing so, turns down Lola Stone (Robin McLeavy).However, later in the evening, he is attacked by her father (the supremely creepy John Brumpton) and taken back to their house, where he is tied to a chair and tortured. Unlike most films of the same kind, The Loved Ones knows it is a demented, crazy horror, and proceeds to throw in gleeful violence (knives in feet), insane twists and some extremely uncomfortable father-daughter moments. While Samuel is great, McLeavy gives one of the best performances in any horror of the last decade, going all manners of psycho. If you like your horror with lashings of torture, blood and teen high school parody, you need to watch The Loved Ones.
Speaking of claustrophobic films, Frozen is up there with the best of them. While overshadowed by Ryan Reynolds in a coffin-thriller Buried from the same year, Frozen is just as sweat inducing, with arguably more danger and realism involved. From Adam Green, Frozen centres around three young adults (played charmingly by Kevin Zegers, Shawn Ashmore and Emma Bell) who sneak on to a ski lift at night, and get trapped there, with no workers in sight and an empty resort for the next week. From there, the film veers nicely between gore (a jump from the lift gone wrong), tension (a hovering pack of wolves) and body horror (hands stuck to icy rails). Featuring three engaging, realistic leads and enough blood to satisfy any gore hounds, Frozen is an under-seen and underrated gem.
So there you have, parts 10-6 of my list of the best unseen horror films of the 21st century. Join me again next time when I’ll be ranking the top 5!
By Harry J. Ford
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