It’s mind-blowing to stop and think that we are already one-fifth of the way through the 21 st Century. But here we are. The first two decades of the new millennium have gifted us with some truly incredible horror films. Many of which have been embraced by fans and critics alike. Sadly, there have been many more flicks that slipped through the cracks in one way or another. Some never received recognition outside the horror community; other titles lingered for far too long without securing distribution, and a number of noteworthy offerings seem to have been all but forgotten.
With that in mind, we are looking back on ten horror films from the 21 st Century that don’t get the love they deserve.
When she was a child, Cheng Lai-sheung (Josie Ho) could see Hong Kong’s famed Victoria Harbour from her apartment. But as time passed, the old buildings in front of her home were demolished to make way for a huge residential project that now blocks her view. Increasingly disappointed and upset, she vowed to one day save up enough money for her family to move into a new apartment with a magnificent sea view. In order to get what she wants, she must take matters into her own hands… even if it means getting her hands seriously bloody.
Whenever I’m asked to recommend a horror film, this title is among the first to come to mind. My best guess as to why it hasn’t gotten more appreciation in the states is that people seem to have an aversion to subtitles. But I can assure you that if you give this a chance, you will not be disappointed. Josie Ho’s performance as a woman who will stop at nothing to secure a condo in her favorite high rise is brutal, unflinching, and wholly captivating. The film packs in a bit of social commentary on the housing market circa 2010 and simultaneously manages to be supremely entertaining.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
Beautiful Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) isn’t a party girl but, when classmate Chloe (Whitney Able) invites the Texas high school student to a bash in the countryside, she reluctantly accepts. After hitching a ride with a vaguely scary older man (Anson Mount), the teens arrive at their destination. Partying ensues, and Mandy’s close pal, Emmet (Michael Welch), keeps a watchful eye on the young males making a play for Mandy. Then two of the students are murdered.
It boggles my mind how All the Boys Love Mandy Lane played the festival circuit starting as early as early as 2006 but didn’t manage to secure a stateside home video release until late 2013. Making matters worse, it’s currently out of print on physical media. It’s tough to say why this twist-filled slasher treasure has never gotten the love it deserves but believe me when I say that it’s well worth seeking out. The film is currently available as a VOD rental and for purchase as a digital download.
Eirik (Tomas Alf Larsen) and his girlfriend, Jannicke (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), join newly coupled Mikael (Endre Martin Midtstigen) and Ingunn (Viktoria Winge) and single wisecracker Morten (Rolf Kristian Larsen) on a snowboarding excursion to a remote mountainous region in Norway. When Morten breaks his leg, however, and requires medical attention, the friends take shelter at an abandoned nearby ski lodge. Little do they know it also harbors an unseen, psychopathic killer.
Cold Prey is among my favorite slasher films. It forgoes a lot of the self-referential meta-commentary that a lot of post-Scream horror movies tried to replicate. The film, instead, gave viewers a good old-fashioned dose of stalk-and-slash cinema that delights and terrifies in equal measure. Its sequel, Cold Prey II is also criminally underrated. However, the less said about the rightfully maligned third installment in the series, the better.
One day, a widowed blue-collar worker has a revelation: he must destroy those revealed to him as demons. He then begins the serial killings of `God’s Hand Killer’ across Texas, but he also has two young sons, the younger of whom idolises him and believes in the cause, while his older brother is revolted but cannot bring himself to stop his father. Twenty years later, the elder son walks into a police station and confesses.
The late, great Bill Paxton’s directorial debut is a true delight but it hasn’t gotten much love outside the horror community. It managed to pull in a little over $13 million at the domestic box office against a budget of $11 million. But aside from its dedicated fanbase, it has gone largely unseen. This terrifying tale of a demon-hunting father and his young sons doesn’t have a clear-cut hero or villain. And it challenges conventional ideas of good and evil. If you’ve somehow missed it, please stop what you’re doing and give it a look.
The Skin I Live In
Ever since his beloved wife was horribly burned in an auto accident, Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas), a skilled plastic surgeon, has tried to develop a new skin that could save the lives of burn victims. Finally, after 12 years, Ledgard has created a skin that guards the body, but is still sensitive to touch. With the aid of his faithful housekeeper (Marisa Paredes), Ledgard tests his creation on Vera (Elena Anaya), who is held prisoner against her will in the doctor’s mansion.
The Skin I Live In was absolutely a film ahead of its time. It tackled the subject of sexual identity long before it was a (slightly) more common theme in cinema. Director Pedro Almodóvar questions gender norms and tells a suspenseful, gripping, and often horrifying story in the process. I suspect The Skin I Live In went overlooked, in part, because it’s a foreign language film. And possibly due to the fact that it was a little too revolutionary for some viewers in 2011.
When a demon takes possession of her, high-school hottie Jennifer (Megan Fox) turns a hungry eye on guys who never stood a chance with her before. While evil Jennifer satisfies her appetite for human flesh with the school’s male population, her nerdy friend, Needy (Amanda Seyfried), learns what’s happening and vows to put an end to the carnage.
Speaking of films that were ahead of their time: Jennifer’s Body is a fiercely feminist tale set to the backdrop of high school hell. Perhaps the world wasn’t ready for it in 2009 and thus why it flopped at the box office. However, it is a layered and intelligent flick that needs to be seen. Critics and fans alike are starting to come around to it (finally). If you have avoided it based on its less-than-savory reputation, give it a shot and make up your mind for yourself.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes
In an abandoned house in Poughkeepsie, New York murder investigators uncover hundreds of tapes showing decades of a serial killer’s work.
It’s hard to believe but The Poughkeepsie Tapes took a full ten years to make it to physical media. It screened at Tribeca in 2007 but never made it to theatres and then saw a short-lived VOD release in 2014. Finally, in 2017, Shout! Factory rescued the film from obscurity. I suspect that a lot of fans of the film eventually lost interest when they couldn’t find a way to legally watch the flick for such a surprisingly long period of time. This is one of the few features from recent years that legitimately scared me and I wholeheartedly recommend checking it out. This mockumentary tale of a prolific serial killer told through archival footage truly rattled me the first time I watched it.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Nice, normal-looking Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) has an obsession with movie-style slashers like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. Leslie decides to follow in the footsteps of his heroes, and, ever the self-promoter, invites a documentary filmmaker (Angela Goethals) and her crew to follow him around as he constructs his own grisly legacy.
Behind the Mask enjoyed a successful festival run and has definitely found its audience on home video. But co-writer and director Scott Glosserman has spent years trying to get a sequel off the ground and even turned to crowdfunding as well as preselling copies of the Blu-ray to finance a follow-up effort. But all for naught. The film has been rightfully appreciated by horror fans but industry executives and financial backers have failed, time and again to see what a truly unique viewing experience it is. Setting the picture in a world where slasher villains are completely real was a smart move that allowed for ample self-referential jokes that make the flick stand out from the gaggle of Scream wannabes.
Young couple Steve and Nell move into a once fashionable, but now decaying, apartment block in Los Angeles, and soon realise that a number of young female residents have met unusually violent deaths. Before long, Nell makes some disturbing discoveries about the building’s manager and her fellow tenants.
I have written at length about how enjoyable and truly underappreciated this film is. It is far superior to the 1978 exploitation film (The Toolbox Murders) of which it serves as a (very) loose remake. Toolbox Murders is unpredictable, spooky, and inventive. It melds supernatural horror with slasher tropes and the result is an incredibly enjoyable and often overlooked gem whose praises I regularly sing. It’s not perfect. It’s a little rough around the edges. But it’s undeniably entertaining. If you’ve avoided this one for whatever reason, I hope I can convince you to give it a chance.
Trick ‘r Treat
Interwoven stories demonstrate that some traditions are best not forgotten as the residents (Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker) of a small town face real ghosts and goblins on Halloween. Tales of terror reveal the consequences of extinguishing a Jack-o-Lantern before midnight and a grumpy hermit’s encounter with a sinister trick-or-treater.
This Halloween anthology flick lands on the list for many of the same reasons as Behind the Mask. It has been widely embraced by horror fans but Warner Brothers has never given the film the respect it deserves. The studio dropped it from their theatrical release schedule and unceremoniously dumped it on DVD two years later via their now-defunct Warner Premiere label. Much like Behind the Mask, a sequel has been talked about time and again but has yet to materialize. Trick ‘r Treat is considered by many fans to be the best Halloween film since Halloween and I would have to agree.