Onibaba/Black Cat From The Grove
These two films from Kaneto Shinodo are probably the pinnacle of the Japanese supernatural movies of this era. Both made in the 1960s (Onibaba in 63, and Black Cat From The Grove in 68) Shinodo’s style is sparse and haunting, creating an atmosphere of immense unease. The combination of long stretches of silence and the deep shadows in the black and white cinematography allows for Shinodo to tattoo images of horror into the viewer’s mind.
Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 film is certainly a one of a kind deal. Following seven girl’s who decide for the summer to spend it in a house which much to their surprise turns out to be possessed, and begins to pick them off one by one in increasingly surreal ways. To describe what happens in the film here I couldn’t begin to do it justice, the levels of Obayashi takes it are beyond comprehension and may induce laughter, but I guarantee you’ll never see anything like it again.
Bay Of Blood
To his slight misfortune Mario Bava was lumped into the giallo movement of the 60s and 70s, but he had a much more classical approach to film despite his low budget background. The film follows a family dispute over a valuable property, one which descends into bloody violence. Bava’s unique approach to sound design, where he drops in the odd musical note as and when he pleases, gives each kill their own distinct feel.
A small disappointment I have with the film is the title. Released in most territories as Bay Of Blood, it had the much more distinct name of Twitch Of The Death Nerve in a few European countries. A missed opportunity in my mind.
House Of The Devil
The film that established Ti West as the horror filmmaker to watch, where the he takes a simple story (girl needs money, so takes a job as a babysitter in a creepy house) and piles heaps of tension upon it. West does it in a very simple way; he methodically builds the tension by moving the camera in a slow and precise manner, which combined with a sparse sound design, causes unease to build up in the viewer’s stomach like a bubbling cauldron.
A werewolf movie told from the perspective of two teenage sisters, this is not only a horror movie, it’s also a family drama, a angst ridden high school movie, and a take down of the suburban dream. Director John Fawcett jumps from genre to genre freely, but it never feels lax or unearned, he does so that when he does dive back into the horror elements it startles it you all the more.
Come and See
A horror movie in the truest sense of the genre, Elem Klimov’s World War Two movie is perhaps the most horrifying on this list due to the fact that most of it is true. Following a young boy’s (Aleksei Kravchenko) journey through the war after joining the Soviet Union’s army he experiences horrors you couldn’t even imagine, resulting in his loss of innocence and mind. The final shot of his face covered in the turmoil he has gone through lives long in the memory.
The zombie genre is undoubtedly the most played out in films. So how do you leave your own stamp on it? Well with Bruce McDonald’s 2008 thriller he mixes it up by making what could be the thing that saves you also the disease; the human voice. Skipping past cliches at ease the film moves along at a fair old pace, giving it the feel of a mix of Alan Pakula-esque paranoia and a cheap Roger Corman genre picture.
Hour Of The Wolf
More well known for his introspective dramas, Ingmar Bergman is hardly a director of when it comes to horror. But with 1968’s Hour Of The Wolf he dove into the genre, telling the story of an artist revealing to his wife his inner most personal demons during ‘the hour of the wolf’ - the time between midnight and dawn. Bergman goes all out in this, at times reaching Bunuel levels of surrealism, showing that even the masters of cinema can slum it in the down and dirty trenches of horror filmmaking.
Let’s Scare Jessica To Death
Perhaps the scuzziest and nastiest film on this list, it also appears to be the most conventional. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Showing us the nightmare experiences of Jessica (Zohra Lampert) on a remote island, director John Hancock could’ve played it somewhat conventionally but he gives each scare his own twist, landing a right hook when the viewer was expecting a left jab.