Subversive independent horror films have been making waves over the past few years and have also ushered some wonderful new faces into the cinematic landscape. Here are some of our favorites from the indie art-house horror scene: a genre that continues to excite and surprise as filmmakers continue to innovate:
The Transfiguration (2017) – Dir. Michael O’Shea
O’Shea takes the coming-of-age genre and infuses it with the vampire tale. Though this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen vampires used to reflect the transition into maturity–think of the 80’s classic, Lost Boys—the film’s cinema-verité aesthetic, makes it all the more real. This accessibility creates a haunting effect.
Raw (2017) – Dir. Julia Ducournau
The debut feature film of French director Julia Docournau tells the story of a young Veterinary student dealing with the perils of hazing, academic life, sexual awakening, and cannibalism (yes, you read that right – cannibalism). The film deals with femininity and woman in a way that is both frank, and often times funny. It is a remarkable film, not just for its honest exploration of women coming of age in a masculine world, but also for its inspired and imaginative directing. It is a film that is as empowering as it is frightful. This is one of the best offerings thus far in 2017.
The Babadook (2014) – Dir. Jennifer Kent
The Babadook is one of the best horror films I’ve seen in the best ten years. Jennifer Kent manages to blend a heartbreaking drama with some truly spine-chilling horror moments as she deals with a newly widowed mother trying to raise her “troubled son”. In the vein of great horror classics like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Shining,” The Babadook also serves as an important allegory. Kent’s skillful directing also really manages to set this film apart, when coupled with an Earth shattering tour de force performance by Essie Davis.
It Follows (2014) – Dir. David Robert Mitchell
David Robert Mitchell’s 2014 tribute to John Carpenter was loved by both fans and critics. Featuring an electrifying 80s style throwback score by Disasterpiece, this film was celebrated for serving as an allegory to STDs among promiscuous youth. In my opinion, it also deals with another, a more serious plague that affects young people; the stigma and rumors that follow young people around, particularly in high-school.
The Neon Demon (2016) – Dir. Nicholas Winding Refn
One of the best films of last year was Refn’s spellbinding Hollywood masterpiece about the dreamy up-and-coming model, Jesse, who navigates the dangerous and threatening LA landscape. The film is Refn at his absolute best, delivering a hypnotic visual feast that is entrancing and exciting. This film is notable as Refn largely abandons his previous masculine driven films to focus on female protagonists. Like there are in all of his films, there are plenty of moments in this film that are bound to impact and resonate with audiences for long after they’ve seen the film. Once you’ve seen it, it can’t be unseen.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) – Ana Lily Amirpour
Amirpour’s subversive debut is two parts vampire neo-noir, two parts spaghetti western. The film both manages to deliver a fun twist on the genre, while also examining the cultural divide in Iran between the older conservatives and the younger, more liberal youth. The film is set in the fictional “Bad City, Iran” but was filmed in Southern California with Farsi speaking actors, allowing Amirpour to get around the censorship laws that would have prevented her from filming the picture in Tehran. The black and white cinematography is breathtaking and it also features one of the best soundtracks in recent memory encompassing everything from Spaghetti Western-inspired guitar riffs to catchy pop-songs.
Under the Skin – Dir. Jonathan Glazar
One of the most enigmatic and astounding films of the past few years is Jonathan Glazar’s mysterious and riveting Under the Skin. Scarlett Johansson gives one of her best performances as the film’s creepy star and predator, who cruises the streets looking for male victims. Few films are quite so unnerving. This is also in large part thanks to Mica Levi’s chilling and ominous score.