Best new horror movies
Heavily indebted to the suburban terror of John Carpenter (with a throbbing synth soundtrack by Disasterpeace’s Rich Vreeland), David Robert Mitchell’s dreamy pursuit drama has a premise that’ll have you scanning the horizon for oncoming killers. Never identified beforehand, they come at you after you have sex.
Here’s a horror film that’s been made with no reasonable way to discuss it beforehand. (You know the boat sinks in Titanic, but these surprise-laden plot twists are another matter entirely.) Let’s just say: cabin, woods, cute collegians. The trade-off is a movie that’s akin to looking under the hood of a Stephen King novel—a joy for mechanics.
It’s not as though black-and-white Iranian feminist vampire movies are clogging the marketplace, and this one, atmospheric and moody, is plenty good. Debuting filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour is an L.A.-based director who infuses her nighttime tale with weird Lynchian lulls, spaghetti-Western–sounding deep cuts and prickly gender politics.
Deceptively, this one starts off with a horror too many know firsthand: the depleted savings account, the dinner-table squabbles and the demoralized glares that come with joblessness. Our heroes are low-rent British criminals who lunge at a new gig, one that tips toward something especially dark: the cultish witchery of The Wicker Man.
A timid British sound recordist (Toby Jones) heads to early-’70s Rome for a gig on a gory giallo thriller, directed by a pretentious, Dario Argento–esque artiste. A mental breakdown is imminent, and impressively, Peter Strickland’s film snaps, too, tearing itself apart in a collage that’s close to experimental, yet never unmotivated.
Most movies are mazes to survive, even if you’re a master filmmaker like The Shining’s Stanley Kubrick. It must be the case that this godlike director thought of every angle, right? Maybe not: Documentarian Rodney Ascher takes this question as a premise, as he collects the weird fan theories of five obsessives, lost in their own scary hedge mazes.
The story of a 17th-century family forced to resettle near some very haunted woods, Robert Eggers’s debut is manna for horror puritans, but not much fun for actual Puritans. It’s a movie that has stunned audiences—not with shock effects or gore, but with a dank climate of clouded judgment and furious domestic retribution.
Channeling the smarty-pants verbosity of the Scream era, Adam Wingard’s home-invasion thriller suggests an impressive career about to bloom. (Brace yourself for his forthcoming The Woods.) In a shadowy rural mansion, a wealthy bickering clan and several bitchy houseguests are brutally targeted by crossbow-wielding strangers who ruin the party.
The elements are familiar—a rural house, a vulnerable family, some pissed-off demonic spirits—but filmmaker James Wan (the first Saw) knows how to use them. In both its setting and rock-solid craft, this blockbuster is a throwback to horror’s early-’70s heyday, a model that ain’t broke and don’t need fixing.
A grieving widow (the extraordinary Essie Davis) and her troubled preteen son are terrorized by the monster from a pop-up book in Aussie Jennifer Kent’s horrifying, utterly confident first feature—a debut for the ages. The unease here, rooted in personal loss and closer in spirit to a Polanskian psychological meltdown, remains suggestively unresolved.