Fearsome Flicks You May Have Missed
For San Francisco, October is the year’s busiest month. There’s Dreamforce (yuck), Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (sweet), and a wealth of culture in the form of concerts, films, and outdoor events geared to soak in our annual autumn summers. Yet at the end of October is also Halloween, that holiday for monsters and ghouls, a celebration of the macabre in all its gory splendor.
The horror film as a genre has undergone countless permutations, from the heyday of Universal Studios monster movies to the 1980s rash of teen slasher flicks and up to the present, where horror has become an accepted genre of the art house sect. With so many spooky movies constantly being released, it’s understandable that you may have missed some of the best. For every Babadook that spreads like wildfire, there’s another equally brilliant horror film that falls below the cultural radar. Here are a selection of some of best horror films you’ve perhaps yet to see (and where to watch them):
1997. Sci-fi horror.
Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill.
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson.
If Alien first put the concept of the horror film in space on the map, then Event Horizon took it to an entirely new, hellish dimension. When a crew is sent to investigate a spaceship that disappeared 7 years ago into a black hole and has now mysteriously re-appeared, they have no idea what to expect. Neither should the audience, as director Paul W.S. Anderson does a phenomenal job of merging the fear associated with space with another kind of evil. This is a very different Sam Neill from the one you love in Jurassic Park, and if you ever dreamed of going into space, Event Horizon will make sure you never feel that way again.
Availability: Currently streaming on Netflix.
1999. Thriller horror.
Starring: Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, David Arquette.
Director: Antonia Bird.
Set during the aftermath of the Mexican-American war in the 19th century, Ravenous is a film that showcases just how crazy Robert Carlyle can be when he sinks his teeth into the right role (see his turns in The Beach and Trainspotting). When Captain John Boyd (a wonderfully understated Guy Pearce) is put in command of a desolate fort, they soon encounter Carlyle’s Colqhoun, a solider suffering from frostbite who tells a chilling story of how his troop was forced to eat other to survive. Things go quickly south from here, in a tense, exquisitely acted survival story where man proves once again to be the ultimate monster.
Availability: Playing on Oct. 30 at 9 p.m. at the Roxie and currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
1994. Fantasy horror.
Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund.
Director: Wes Craven.
When Wes Craven passed away in August 2015, the film world lost one of its most original auteurs of horror. From The Hills Have Eyes to A Nightmare on Elm Street to Scream, Craven continually reinvented himself with films that existed in a world where its characters become steadily more and more aware of the horror films that they were themselves immersed in. This was never more apparent then in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, a film widely ignored as simply the last-gasp of a long flaccid Elm Street series that traded scares for camp immediately after its landmark first installment. Built on a brilliantly meta premise where the actual actors from the original Elm Street and Craven are now working on a sequel when Freddy begins intruding into the real world, this is one of the more clever, underrated horror films of the past 30 years.
Availability: Playing as part of “The Nightmare on Elm Street Marathon” on Oct. 23 at 12 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission and currently streaming on Netflix.
2001. Psychological horror.
Starring: Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey.
Director: Bill Paxton.
Oh did you not know Bill Paxton directed and starred in a genuinely creepy film about a man who claims that religious visions have given him the power to see demons among us and must now kill them in the name of God? Frailty is a story told within the frame of one of Paxton’s now grown sons (played by Matthew McConaughey) telling his memories of his father to the FBI. The dark, cult-like atmosphere of this film makes it much more of a slow burn than your standard horror fare, but the ultimate pay off and intense performances are well worth the effort. Paxton is never better, and it’s a shame he hasn’t made another film in the genre since.
Availability: Currently streaming on HBO Now.
2007. Fantasy horror.
Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson.
Director: Mikael Hafstrom.
Chances are if you write a list of five horror films, one of them will be based on a Stephen King novel. In this case, 1408 is actually based on one of King’s many short stories, this one featuring a writer eager to debunk a the Dolphin Hotel’s infamous “Room 1408” and its reputation for being haunted. That room proves eager to make a believer of Cusak’s Mike Enslin as an escalating series of bizarre and frightening experiences occur during his evening. With a screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewksi (Ed Wood, Man on the Moon), 1408 benefits most from an inventive story and Cusak throwing himself fully into the kooky but compelling premise.
Availability: Currently streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu.