Horror cinema has come a long way since The Exorcist with some pretty big tumbles and pitfalls along the way. While we have had terrible disasters at the execution of this genre, there have been some achieving productions in the past decade as well. The selective fanbase of the horror genre with its sick, twisted tastes are well aware of the classics such as the aforementioned 1973 supernatural horror film and A Nightmare on Elm Street and Evil Dead franchises to the contemporaries like The Conjuring, Insidious and The Grudge. With The Blair Witch Project setting wheels to the ‘found footage’ style of horror movies and up and coming directors giving preference to creative plots and scares over senseless violence, here are four movies you might have missed as an ardent horror fan in the making:
A true-crime novelist (Ethan Hawke) discovers a box of disturbing home movies in his new house, the tapes with seemingly innocuous titles such as ‘Hanging Out’ and ‘Pool Party’ depicting gruesome murders of different families by an unseen force.Sinister draws some of its key components in theme and nature from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining with Hawke’s character being driven to utter madness and paranoia, hearing scuttling footsteps through walls and ceilings and waking up in the middle of the night to the playback of different murder tapes on several occasions. Although, Sinister churns a considerable number of horror clichés and the special effects employed in the execution of jump scares are careless and sometimes borderline sloppy, the film makes up for it with a thick plot, startling twists and a deeply disturbing revelation in the endthat make for engaging viewing. Smart and darkly comicon occasion, Sinister also challenges horror tropes to hilarious effect with Deputy So-and-So replying to whether he believed in “any of that otherworldly stuff” ― “Are you kidding me? I believe in all that stuff. I wouldn’t sleep one night in this place. Are you nuts? Four people were hung by their necks from a tree in your backyard.”
THE LAST EXORCISM:
An evangelical minister, Cotton Marcus, having a crisis of faith decides to participate in a documentary to expose the fraudulent practice of exorcism by his ministry. He receives a letter from a desperate father claiming that his daughter (Ashley Bell) is possessed by the devil leading to Marcus and the filming crew heading for the man’s home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a town steeped in superstition and crazy. Horror fans are always up for a good exorcism movie and this low-budget chiller shot with a shaky camera in the ‘found footage’ style qualifies. The narrative marked with confusion and a certain degree of inaction, which I’m guessing is deliberate, imparts a fiendish quality to the setting, a scarcely populated town that has more to it than meets the eye. It’s almost a suspense. Kudos to Ashley Bell who plays Nell with such sweetness and vulnerability at one moment and terrifying gall in the other as she drowns baby dolls, senselessly bludgeons cats, performs impressive body contortions (the movie does not use CGI) and mocks the Reverend with patronizing deliberation rendering the viewer instantly defensive ― “Reverend Marcus, I hear you don’t believe in me.”
The crew of a ghost-hunting reality television show, ‘Grave Encounters’, hosted by Lance Preston decides to shoot an episode inside the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, where unexplained occurrences have been reported for years. They voluntarily lock themselves inside the building for one night to carry out a paranormal investigation butsoon realize that the building is not just haunted by the ghosts of its former patients but is an altogether separate terrorizing entity which refuses to let them leave. A ‘found footage’ horror flick made with equal distribution of gore, creep and genuinebatshit crazy has found a cult following despite receiving mixed reviews. Never in the history of horror cinema has the trope ‘don’t-go-near-the-bathtub-in-which-a-mental-old-lady-died’ has been so terrifyingly executed than Grave Encounters. Aplenty with shocking jump scares that are capable of profoundly disturbing your whole molecular structure, the film also successfully maintains the theme of bewilderment and paranoia as every door marked ‘Exit’ leads into another hallway and the fact that the windows remain blackened with darkness even when it’s 07:00 in the morning.
Ten years before the present narrative picks up, the Russell family was struck by tragedy resulting in the murders of Alan and Marie Russell, the death of the former at the hands of their teenaged son, Tim. Now incarcerated, Tim reunites with his older sister, Kaylie who is still haunted by the events of that fateful night and is convinced that a malevolent supernatural force residing in an antique mirror, called the Lasser Glass, was responsible for their parents’ death. While Tim wants to put the past behind him, Kaylie, determined to prove her brother’s innocence, tracks down the mirror and the siblings find themselves losing their grip on what’s real as the mysterious entity of the Lasser Glass exerts its destructive influence.
Completely negating the necessity of shock value to impress and terrify viewers, Oculus weaves an ominous and disturbing tale of slow-dawning insanity that stealthily creeps up from behind your shoulder to softly whisper: “Exacting revenge on an eternally pissed supernatural entity is really stupid.” The mirror induces hallucinations and exercises complete mind control on its victims, its terror palpable in one particular instance in which the siblings run outside the house only to see their doppelgangers through the window standing before an anchor operated by an automatic kill switch which was originally installed by Kalie to smash the mirror. “It’s a trick to get us back inside,” Tim contends, with Kaylie responding, “What if it’s a trick to keep us standing there?”
By Mahima Verma