agonyinc_2t2su6 January 12, 2020

Throughout the opening weeks of publication, Agony founder and horror fan Andrew Nicholls will be contributing a list of what he believes to be the greatest horror movies released since the year 2000. This list will be published in five parts, with films listed in no particular order.

Obviously, as with all lists of this nature, plenty are bound to disagree with the movies chosen and it would be a little upsetting if that wasn’t the case. If you’re one of those people, please do offer your own suggestions in comment form at the bottom of the page. Or just tell us the films you loved yourself. Enjoy!


THE GREEN INFERNO (2013)

Director: Eli Roth
Starring: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns

Cabin Fever told you to stay out of the woods, and Hostel away from Eastern Europe’s darkest depravities. In the final chapter of Eli Roth’s Travel & Punishment trilogy, The Green Inferno warns that down in darkest Amazon, “Fear will eat you alive”. Tourists should just stay home.

A homage to the “cannibal boom” horror movies of the 70s and 80s, The Green Inferno sees a group of college students and self-proclaimed activists leave the safety of their white privilege to travel to Peru and protest against a timber industry that is flattening the Amazon. On their return their plane explodes and crashes into the forest where doom awaits them, as they are abducted by a tribe of cannibals with a craving for do-gooder flesh.

There’s little here that you won’t have already seen. The design of the natives- complete with bones through their noses, loin cloths and red dye covered skin- was more likely based off of stereotypes than creative thought, and there’s the usual gaggle of masturbation and sexuality-based gags that viewers come to expect from horror movies these days. But still, the film manages to survive, much like the activists at least attempt to.

As offensive, savage and gory as one would expect from an Eli Roth flick, The Green Inferno is critical of the first world’s ignorance towards the unknown, and is almost satirical in its portrayal of white, middle-class kids on gap years to “save the world”. Those with weak constitutions and a faint heart might find themselves looking away as eyeballs are gouged out, vaginas are threatened, and best friends are eaten alive.

Sure, it’s nowhere near groundbreaking but, if nothing else, The Green Inferno proves that while most isolated, indigenous tribes are peaceful people in need of protection from the encroachment of the Western world, others are just arseholes.


FINAL DESTINATION (2000)

Director: James Wong
Starring: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Seann William Scott, Tony Todd

At first glance Final Destination might appear little different to most teenage horror movies; it begins with a group of adolescents from the usual varying social cliques like wasters, jocks, mean girls, and outsiders, and eventually dooms them all. But there’s no knife wielding psychopath, no savage beast, no demon. Instead there’s power lines, leaking toilets, faulty ladders, jagged shards of metal and all manner of nasties choreographed by fate. It’s death that kills these kids, death itself, and “you can’t cheat death.

Following an opening sequence of signs and omens hidden in plain sight, the movie begins as a high school class board a plane for a class trip to Paris. One of them, Alex (Devon Sawa) has a vivid and horrifying vision of the aircraft exploding and freaks out, insisting it’s going to happen for real. After an altercation with another student he, along with five other students and a teacher, are ejected from the plane. Angry and upset, they watch in horror as, moments after takeoff, it explodes in mid-air.

The lucky six survived the crash due to Alex’s premonition, but as they soon find out, they’re now on borrowed time. They cheated death once, and he isn’t happy.

Final Destination is a modern horror classic. It melds together perfectly the existential crises and guilt its characters feel for even surviving their friends, with the carnage and bizarre twists and turns that follow them as they’re stalked by a sinister force wherever they go. The movie takes the cliche of killing teenagers, and spins it into something fresh. The death scenes are genuinely horrific, with the actions of the characters and the environment around them offering cleverly crafted, shadowy foretellings of what’s to come. You’ll keep guessing and looking away, until it’s too late.


BLAIR WITCH (2016)

Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Valorie Curry

It was a trip no one really expected to end up taking, but more than a decade-and-a-half after the original, director Adam Wingard takes us back into the woods near Burkittsville in Blair Witch.

The movie attempts to do the impossible by resurrecting and reinventing a film that managed to net nearly $250 million dollars off a budget of only $60,000, despite it seemingly being filmed during a hurricane by Michael J Fox. The original was the Marmite of movies. It defined the found footage genre, and still causes debate today. Some people hate it, feeling it’s hard to watch, ugly and slow. While others see it as terrifying and claustrophobic, inventive and riveting. So, what does this sequel do that the original did not? What’s different about it?

Well, for starters, it definitely makes the most of its increased budget. Blair Witch has retained the intense claustrophobia and darkness of the original movie, but it all feels cleaner and crisper. It’s not quite as believable as found footage as the first was, yet that doesn’t take anything away from the film’s quality as a whole. It’s also greatly modernised, with a drone even being used to demonstrate just how vast the wilderness really is.

The film takes place in 2014- that’s more than twenty years after Heather Donahue, Mike Williams and Josh Leonard fell victim to the spirit of Elly Kedward-, and follows James Donahue (James Allen McCune) as he and three friends venture, armed with 21st century camera tech, plain venture into the dark, dark wood in an attempt to find out what happened to his sister. Before setting out they meet up with Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry), who claim to have been the ones that found the original footage taken by Heather and her friends. In return for being allowed to tag along, the couple agree to help James and co. get where they need to be.

At first the mood is hopeful. James truly believes they’ll find the evidence they need to locate his sister. But soon they realise they’re lost and isolated, and noises at night, mysterious symbols and a menacing presence lead them to realise that the Legend of The Blair Witch is as real and terrifying as all the stories said it was.

Throughout Blair Witch is a real feeling of dread. The movie is a slow burner, with the scares gradually getting bigger and bigger until chaos ensues and the chaotic camerawork and sound editing of the first movie come into play. The more the audiences watches, the more fear they feel as they wait for the terror that’s waiting in every shadow and behind every tree.

Blair Witch brings The Blair Witch Project into the 21st century. It breathes new life into the legend, and gives a new generation of horror fans something to fear. Is it an equal to the original? Perhaps not, but as a continuation to what came before it’s truly refreshing.


DON’T KNOCK TWICE (2017)

Director: Caradog W James
Starring: Katee Sackhoff, Lucy Boynton, Nick Moran

Knock once to raise her from her bed. Knock twice to raise her from the dead.” In Caradog W James’ undeniably creepy horror yarn Don’t Knock Twice, Jess (Katee Sackhoff) and Chloe (Lucy Boynton) learn just how much demons hate to answer the door, but leave a few questions unanswered; Why does a demon require a second knock to rise from the dead after being woken up by the first? Are demons always killed by a first knock, only to be resurrected by a second? And what strange power do door knockers have? Should we as humans be using them in the fight against hell’s demonic horde? Would a doorbell do the same job? The questions are almost endless.

Mocking of its title aside, Don’t knock Twice is good. It isn’t groundbreaking and it’s not gonna jump out at you from many top one hundred lists (or maybe it will, it’s on this one), but with some legitimately scary moments, its got enough sprinkles of novelty and decent enough performances from its cast members to make it definitely worth watching more than once.

Kate is an artist, a sculptor amongst other things, with a difficult past that once gave up her daughter, Chloe, because of a series of nasty drug issues. Nine years later, that child is now a teenager in care, thick-skinned and quite unforgiving, and a long time friend of Danny (Jordan Bolger). One night, after rejecting the offer of moving back in with her mother and wealthy stepfather, Ben (Richard Mylan), the pair go out to a spot from their childhood to a neighbourhood now empty of homes, except for one. The house, legend has it, is home to a demonic witch, and the origin of the rhyme that gives the film its title. After joking around and talking about their childhood friend that went missing, the two knock twice on the door and leave.

Upon returning to their separate homes, both experience chilling disturbances and, after being frightened, Chloe decides to take up her mother’s offer and moves in with her and Ben. Things only get worse.

Don’t Knock Twice’s biggest strength is not necessarily its ability to scare, but the strong performances of Sackhoff and Boynton. Their complicated mother daughter relationship due to Jess’ drug-addled past and Chloe’s unhappiness in foster care really add weight to the movie. Sackhoff delivers an impressive performance as a mother truly trying to make up for her mistakes, and with Boynton we experience a transition between a typically snotty and bitter teenager to a likeable and easy to empathise with young lady.

As said before, on the surface Don’t Knock Twice may play out at times as the sort of horror film many movie fans have seen before, but it’s the small details, the nuts and bolts, that really make it impressive. It’s genuinely creepy, with a musical score that keeps the audience in ominous suspense and some quite beautiful cinematography. Credit must also be given to Javier Botet (who you may have seen since as the Crooked Man in The Conjuring 2) who, in some truly creative makeup, is just so freaky as the legendary witch, Baba Yaga, that won’t stop haunting the mother and daughter. It is those elements, and a slowly unfolding mystery at the hands of Detective Boardman (Nick Moran), that give the movie the life that makes it memorable.

Don’t Knock Twice. Don’t even knock once. Just run away, and leave the door alone.


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Throughout the opening weeks of publication, Agony founder and horror fan Andrew Nicholls will be contributing a list of what he believes to be the greatest horror movies released since the year 2000. This list will be published in five parts, with films listed in no particular order.

Obviously, as with all lists of this nature, plenty are bound to disagree with the movies chosen and it would be a little upsetting if that wasn’t the case. If you’re one of those people, please do offer your own suggestions in comment form at the bottom of the page. Or just tell us the films you loved yourself. Enjoy!


PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2009)

Director: Oren Peli
Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat

What’s scarier than a haunting within your very own home?

Paranormal Activity, unlike many films in the found footage genre, is quite ingenious, although you could initially be fooled that it’s simply more of the same. Claiming from the start to be the real thing, the movie opens with the usual statement supporting that fact. In this case a title-card thanking “the families of Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston” and the police department for providing the footage. All of that footage was shot by Micah (Micah Sloat) himself. The personal nature of the filming makes it all seem a lot more real, and a lot scarier. Or at least that’s the idea.

Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah have been together three years and seem very much in love, having moved into a house together in San Diego that looks almost like a show home. It’s immaculate and barely looks lived in. That’s easily overlooked. The couple have been bothered by indications of some sort of spooky goings-on in an upstairs bedroom. It’s Micah’s idea to film the house in a search for proof, leaving cameras running constantly in the hope that they’ll catch something sinister.

Paranormal Activity focuses on the mundane and the couple’s everyday life, with the activity captured by the camera increasing as the film goes on. It’s undeniably creepy. Micah’s cameras are left on constantly, with one even positioned on a tripod at the end of their bed. It’s that camera that’s most revealing, allowing the audience to see what goes on as the couple sleeps.

The events captured by the cameras are as eerie as it gets, mainly because there’s no obvious trace to be found of the special effects that made them happen. In fact, some of the goings on seem almost impossible without some sort of tampering. They just seem to happen by themselves, as though they’re real and not faked for the purposes of cinema.

Acting is also something that’s nowhere to be found, and that’s not said to be negative. It just isn’t there. Micah remains off screen, behind the camera, for much of the film, leaving Katie on her own in frame. She’s incredibly believable. It’s no wonder so many people believed Paranormal Activity was genuine.

Look on Youtube and you’ll find videos of audiences in fits of real terror while watching the movie. It’s disturbing to watch. For long periods of time nothing happens, nothing at all, but don’t expect to be bored. Those quiet moments merely prolong the inevitable.

Paranormal Activity is genre-defying. That can’t be disputed. It took the found footage genre, one that’s often been a cause of annoyance for movie fans, and made it something that actually had potential. The film isn’t as scary in its content as it is as an idea. These people are haunted, and you could be too. Who hasn’t wondered what’s going on in their own home?


GOTHIKA (2003)

Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Starring: Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr, Penelope Cruz

Ever watched a movie that made no sense in a lot places, yet somehow kept you watching and made you want to watch it again? That’s Gothika. With a preposterous plot that’s got more holes than Swiss cheese, it’s an absolute nightmare to watch at times. But that’s the point, this film is meant to be a nightmare, and to try to find logic in a picture like this is to take yourself away from its greatness.

Miranda Grey (Halle Berry) is a psychiatrist in a prison that could easily have been modelled on London’s infamous Bedlam. There she works with Pete Graham (Robert Downey Jr) and her boss/husband, Dr Douglas Grey (Charles S Dutton). On the way home from work on a dark and stormy night, Miranda swerves to avoid a ghastly looking girl standing in the middle of the road who, naturally, bursts into flames, before waking up a prisoner in the very institution she works in.

It gets worse. Pete breaks to her the terrible news that she’s locked up because she’s accused of the brutal murder of her husband. But how could that be? She tries to remember, but fails and merely draws a blank. Her former patient, and now fellow inmate, Chloe (Penelope Cruz), explains that no matter what Miranda says, no one will believe a word she says. She’s crazy after all.

After that, the movie introduces several intriguing characters, including the prison warden, Phil Parsons (Bernard Hill), and Sheriff Ryan (John Carroll Lynch), all of whom are teased as possibly being involved in the grisly murder that’s behind Miranda’s imprisonment.

The way in which all is revealed is all fairly anti-climatic, and only serves to add more questions that never get answered. But we won’t spoil things by saying what those are. Perhaps though, the movie leaving questions unanswered isn’t necessarily a bad thing, merely adding to its mystery and cementing its role as a nightmare.

Gothika is nonsensical at times and incredibly over the top, but it needs to be. It’s as mystifying as it is entertaining, and damn good fun.


THE AWAKENING (2011)

Director: Nick Murphy
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton

This is a time for ghosts”. As England’s decimated post-world war one population is eaten away by a long-lasting Influenza epidemic, more and more turn to the other side for answers. The big screen debut of director Nick Murphy and return to form of Afterlife writer Stephen Volk, old fashioned horror yarn The Awakening sees author and ghost debunker Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) travel to a boys boarding school to investigate some spooky goings on.

Set in 1921 the movie opens as our feisty and headstrong heroine exposes a team of con artists attempting to swindle money out of a group of gullible mourners. Upon receiving a visit from school teacher Robert Mallory (Dominic West) Florence is called to The Rockwood Boarding School For Boys to investigate reports of a ghost that is apparently scaring the students to death.

Carrying with her a toolkit filled with tripwires, bells, and sophisticated equipment she quickly gets to the bottom of things and adds the whole affair to a long list of fakes, certain that the whole mystery is nothing more than the work of naughty boys out of bed. That is of course until she sees the ghost for herself.

The Awakening is a good old fashioned, creaking floorboard haunted house chiller with a host of mysteries and backstories and family secrets. Director Nick Murphy nails the movies’ atmosphere perfectly, as Cathcart, along with Mallory, school matron Maud (Imelda Staunton) and left behind school boy Tom (Isaac Hempstead Wright), navigate through the story seemingly unaware of what’s going on around them. The scares, which include a dollhouse with tiny occupants that seem to react in real-time to the world around, are wonderfully crafted, and don’t rely on jump scares like many modern horror movies.

Similar in its setting and storytelling to The Haunting, The Woman in Black and The Others, The Awakening uses characters suffering from loss and survivor guilt to create a seductive atmosphere (which with the centenary of World War One recently having passed us, audiences will feel even more strongly) that makes it as human as it is haunting.


THE RITUAL (2017)

Director: David Bruckner
Starring: Rafe Spall, Sam Troughton, Jacob James Beswick

In The Ritual horror takes a dip into Nordic folklore as a group of former college friends take a fiendish trip into the wilds of Northern Sweden and prove that a lost-in-the-woods with spooky goings-on movie doesn’t have to use The Blair Witch Project’s overused found-footage formula to be scary, and what a relief that is. Does anyone really enjoy that format?

Based upon Adam Nevil’s novel of the same name, The Ritual begins as five friends from university- Phil (Arsher Ali), Dom (Sam Troughton), Hutch (Robert James-Collier), Luke (Rafe Spall) and Rob (Paul Reid)- meet for drinks at a pub to discuss plans for a lads trip away. Rob suggests hiking in Sweden but is promptly shut down by the others. Later that evening, upon exiting the pub, Luke and Rob stop off in a shop for a bottle of vodka. It’s there that tragedy strikes and Rob is killed by robbers, as Luke cowers out of sight.

Six months later, to honour his wish, the four remaining friends embark on a trip along the Kungsleden hiking trail in Northern Sweden, the guilt of his death weighing heavily on Luke’s mind. A ways into their journey, Dom loses his footing and hurts his foot. With an injury slowing them down, Hutch finds an alternative route. One that will take half the time, but also take them off the trail and into the forest.

On entering the woods the group happen upon strange carvings on the trees, and a freshly gutted elk carcass hanging from branches above. For some reason, they decide to press on, and are forced by torrential rain to take shelter in an abandoned cabin. Inside they find strange necklaces adorning the walls, and a strange wooden effigy of a decapitated human torso with antlers for hands. Things get worse after they wake from a sleep plagued by nightmares, as Luke wakes to find puncture wounds on his chest, and the group find Phil in the attic, naked and kneeling in pair in front of the effigy. They leave the cabin, searching for a way out. But all they find is death.

The Ritual is, undoubtedly, a dark fairytale, and it’s done very well. As soon as the friends step foot on the trail, even before they enter the woods, they are set upon by a dark force. It just isn’t obvious from the start. Their moods are affected by something, and they are filled with resentment for what happened to their friend. That’s understandable and could easily be dismissed, but their decision to leave the trail after Dom hurts himself is so stupid it could only be the work of something dark. Anyone that knows the Kungsleden, and Hutch seems to, knows that there are manned huts stationed every few miles along the trail. Why would anyone choose to trek through unknown woodland, when they would likely happen upon someone that could help Dom soon enough anyway? Demons, that’s why.

Or maybe it’s just a plot hole.

Dark fairytale theory aside, The Ritual is filled with extremely creepy imagery. At times it’s pretty unnerving, and the characters act just as they should as they try to survive their nightmare. They’re very, very human.

That nightmare is itself pretty special, and the director should be commended for its design. The friends aren’t haunted by just any run of the mill movie monster. Their tormenter seems to grow in strength as they grow more and more afraid. When it’s finally revealed its glorious, and a credit to its creators. Fans of The Witcher may recognise it.

The Ritual, like many films on this extensive list, doesn’t exactly break any new narrative ground, but what it does do, it does well. It takes note from films like The Descent, The Wickerman and The Blair Witch Project in its use of symbolism and gradually increasing cruelty and becomes something rich and intriguing.


<!‐‐nextpage‐‐>

Throughout the opening weeks of publication, Agony founder and horror fan Andrew Nicholls will be contributing a list of what he believes to be the greatest horror movies released since the year 2000. This list will be published in five parts, with films listed in no particular order.

Obviously, as with all lists of this nature, plenty are bound to disagree with the movies chosen and it would be a little upsetting if that wasn’t the case. If you’re one of those people, please do offer your own suggestions in comment form at the bottom of the page. Or just tell us the films you loved yourself. Enjoy!


IT FOLLOWS (2015)

Director: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Jake Weary

Casual sex can have a lot of consequences. It can lead to unwanted pregnancy, STDs, and can really tarnish a person’s reputation. It’s lucky then that abortion is legal, penicillin is readily available, and rumours quieten down. What can’t be avoided though, is the murderous force that kills you afterwards, and in It Follows, that murderous force isn’t HIV.

Jason Voorhees, Samara, Freddie Krueger, Michael Myers, Dracula, The Devil. Often times in horror movies the audience know what they’re facing. They know its name, they know what it does, they know how to stop it. They know what it looks like, they know its past, they know why it kills. It’s easier not to fear something when you know enough about it.

In It Follows, director David Robert Mitchell takes away the safety blanket that is knowledge and forces us to face something we know nothing about. We don’t know what’s coming, and that’s what’s terrifying.

College student Jamie (Maika Monroe) is out on a date with a prospective new boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary), when a game they’re playing has him point out a girl that, much to her confusion, she cannot see. Hugh becomes afraid and they leave. On another date, the couple have sex in a car, after which Hugh incapacitates Jamie with chloroform.

She wakes up tied to a wheelchair, terrified and expecting to be murdered. Hugh explains that Jamie is now a victim of a curse and will soon be pursued by a malevolent entity that only she can see, which can take the form of any person it chooses. If it catches her, it will kill her and go after the person that passed it on to her; Hugh. Soon they see a naked woman walking towards them.
Jamie spends the rest of the movie on the run from the creature that pursues her, searching for answers and a way to stop what’s happening without passing the curse onto someone else.

There’s one tried and tested stereotype in horror movies; sex has bad consequences. It Follows doesn’t break that rule, (but it does bend it. Sex equals death, but it also means life), it takes it literally. There’s something dark and supernatural stalking Jamie. It’s unstoppable, relentless, invisible to all but its intended victims, and able to change its appearance at will. The stalker, like horror movies, follows a set of rules. It only goes after one person at a time, and that person can pass its attentions on to someone else by having sex with them. It’s a curse passed through the genitals, like a sexual transmitted disease crossed with those annoying Facebook posts your mum shares. If the creature kills its target, it moves back up the list, taking each partner out in reverse. Luckily It can be slowed by walls, doors and other barriers, but its relentless in its efforts and always know where its target is hiding.

There’s an echo of John Carpenter’s Halloween in It Follows. Much like with Michael Myers, who was originally credited as The Shape in the first movie, we know nothing about what’s chasing Jamie. It’s different every time we see it, and has no backstory. It can look like whatever it chooses; a naked woman, a naked old man. Ya know, someone naked, because what’s more menacing than that?

It Follows is never obvious. Director David Robert Mitchell plays the long game with his audience, keeping them hunted, right until the end.


GHOST SHIP(2002)

Director: Steve Beck
Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Desmond Harrington, Julianna Margulies, Emily Browning

Every year people approximately two hundred people die on cruise ships, usually from from old age, falling overboard or food poisoning from bad shellfish. In Ghost Ship things are a bit different, in Ghost Ship it’s the spooks that kill them.

From Dark Castle Entertainment, the production company responsible for House On Haunted Hill and Thir13en Ghosts, features one of the most memorable openings to a horror films you’re ever likely to see. After a beginning credits made up of a jaunty orchestral score and old fashioned pink font for reminiscent of cinema’s silver age, the audience is taking aboard the Antonia Graza, a luxurious cruise liner, in 1962, as cheerful and smartly dressed guests dance across the main deck. What follows is just…shocking, and sets the mood and the scene for the rest of the movie.

Zip forward to the present day and a salvage crew led by Murphy (Gabriel Byrne) and Epps (Julianna Margulies) are celebrating a successful score when a pilot, Ferriman (Desmond Harrington), shows them an aerial photo he took of a seemingly lost ship in the middle of the Bering Strait. Tempted by what’s certain to be a significant payday for towing it back to shore, the crew, which also includes Greer (Isaiah Washington, Dodge (Ron Eldard), Santos (Alex Dimitriades) and Munder (Keith Urban), agree to let the young man accompany them in exchange for the location of the boat.

It isn’t long before the crew begin to realise something may be wrong, and that they may not be alone after all. Epps begins to experience apparitions of a little girl called Katie (Emily Browning), and other members of the crew become haunted by faces from the past. The ghosts may never let them leave.

 

Ghost Ship may never quite live up to the savagery of its opening scene, but the rest of the movie, which features some impressive set design, cinematography and costuming, is full of psychological gloominess that somehow manages to avoid the jump scares of modern horror movies and the gore of slasher flicks. The characters too, many of which are played by an impressive cast of recognisable faces, are likeable and entertaining, with backstories and vulnerabilities that bring them to life.

These characters aren’t stupid either. Once they realise that they may be in some danger, they don’t just linger or make stupid choices like their contemporaries do in a lot of movies, they actually attempt to leave the ship and tow it back to shore as they originally intended. We even experience them growing, as Julianna Margulies’ Epps almost becomes a modern Ripley.

The movie loves its twists, with the true fate of the original passengers not becoming entirely clear until the end of the movie, proceeded by a beautifully edited flashback that takes the audience right back to that fateful night.

Let Ghost Ship be a lesson. If you ever come across a spooky ship in the middle of the ocean, leave well alone.


Look out for part two very soon.

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