I’ve been an avid collector of Blu-rays right since the start. In fact, I was foolish enough (or brave enough) to support HD-DVD for at least a year or two before I fully switched over to Blu-Ray. I now have a spiralling collection of well over 1,200 Blu-rays with a smattering of HD titles still haunting the 1080p smittin shelves and it doesn’t look like it’ll be slowing down.
Most of these are horror. You see I’m also, for better or worse, a rather obsessive horror fanatic. I should probably state up front that I’m less a fan of being repulsed for the sake of it and more an addict of bone-chilling fear and thrilling popcorn entertainment. Which means I’d take either a genuine under-the-skin flick like Paranormal Activity or a slick fun remake like Friday the 13th (bite me) over a new Saw entry any day of the week.
Anyways, Halloween is approaching and I thought it might be the time to make a list of my personal favourite little-known horror blu-rays. There’s plenty of big names out there on blu-ray that you could entertain yourself with this year including classics like The Exorcist, The Blair Witch Project, and Dawn of the Dead as well as more modern thrills such as The Strangers, The Collector, and The Crazies. But I’m interested in shining a light on those corner dwellers – the little films that snuck out onto Blu-ray without you noticing and huddled into a dark place to catch you unawares at a later date.
So here it is, my Top 20 Horror Blu-rays that you’ve Probably Never Seen . . .
(I’ve listed the country best to buy the Blu-ray from next to each title)
In 20th place we have a Norwegian offering that’s hardly the greatest horror out there but is a well directed, slick 70’s throwback with hilarious opening titles to boot. It’s a survival horror as a group of teenagers are stalked through the woods by a bunch of hunters. It’s not wafer thin on plot and lacking soul, but has plenty of style and brutal kills to just about make up for it.
This tiny little movie by Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project) stars Amy Smart as a newly wed, honeymooning with her husband in China when they’re thrown into the midst of an ancient ritual and must survive a horrifying night of demons. It’s filmed in an almost documentary style which adds to the odd unease of the movie. It’s not a masterpiece but it’s an oddly refreshing and unsettling horror.
This found footage horror film is basically a remake of Cannibal Holocaust and as always – will either grate or terrify depending on your disposition toward docu-horror flicks. Personally, they always terrify me no matter how badly they’re made. Well luckily Welcome to the Jungle is actually a good little film and is a minor straight-to-dvd gem.
This British film is a great little midnight movie. It’s basically a stalk / chase scene that lasts for the entirety of the running time as a couple are hunted down by a truck driver during the course of a single night. It’s effectively directed and well acted with some great ideas and slick production and actually manages to find a way to make quaint UK roads seem scary.
Cargo is the first ever science fiction film to come out of Switzerland and it’s been heralded as one of the finest ever created. I would tend to agree, apart from it’s overly long running time and the stiff, cheap looking blown out finale that left me with a sour taste in my mouth. But for the most part this is a beautiful, captivating and unsettling movie.
The Signal is a brilliant indie horror movie that takes place during an apocalypse as a ‘signal’ infects most of the population and turns them into rabid zombies akin to 28 days later. The key here is that the stories told in three parts from different perspectives that overlap with a different director for each segment. It works really well and is a modest film that’s very entertaining and ambitiously dark.
Every critics favourite 80’s throwback horror of last year – The House of the Devil isn’t perfect. It’s ending lacks the oomph I was hoping for and it drags a little in the middle. But it’s surely the most affectionate and genuine nod to 80’s horror you could possibly wish for without ever feeling like a pastiche or it’s winking at the audience. No this film very simply could have come from the 80’s. It’s a sombre, slow-burning tale of a babysitter left in a strange house.
His follow up to Wolf Creek, Rogue sank pretty quickly without a trace, which is unfair as it’s one of the most entertaining croc flicks ever made. In fact, after Lake Placid it’s probably the best one out there. It starts off fairly badly with hammy dialogue and some stilted acting but it crescendos well and is all worth it for the tense and full on finale. It stars Radha Mitchell, Michael Vartan and an early Sam Worthington.
Written, co-directed and starring Joel Moore, this is Adam Green’s directorial follow-up to horror success Hatchet and it’s a far better film. In fact, it’s his second best film after Frozen. The story is pure Hitchcock as a reclusive telemarketer falls in love with a co-worker and his world gradually begins to unravel into a nightmarish spiral of events. The directing is a little standard and the budget isn’t as high as it deserved, but this is still a hugely involving and affecting film.
Just knocked out of my Top 10, this giant bug movie is perfect straight-to-dvd fodder that’s hugely entertaining and oozes charm, gags and splatterific gore aplenty. It stars a rather ill looking Chris Marquette (Fanboys) as an office clerk who leads an unlikely group of survivors to possible safety amidst a massive bug invasion. It’s the closest we’ll get to a sequel to Eight Legged Freaks. Oh, and it’s infinitely superior Japanese title was Giant Bugs Panic!
When I first saw this at Frightfest a few years back none of us were looking forward to it. But we were all knocked back by what was easily one of the most enjoyable and thrilling rides of the festival. It’s basically Sixteen Candles meets Night of the Living Dead and in the best possible way. If only it had a bigger budget it would be a true classic. As it is it’s a rare hidden horror gem perfect for a party night in.
This slow-burning western horror from the director of the brilliant S&Man and Mimic 3 may not be to everyone’s taste but it certainly was to mine. It takes it’s sweet time and nods along at a canters pace for the most part of its running time, but it’s so lavishly filmed and well acted that it’s hard not to be wrapped up in its world. The creatures are well thought out and the ending is brilliantly dark and sudden. It’s quite honestly probably the best looking straight-to-dvd film I’ve ever seen.
We didn’t know what to expect when we first popped this in. From the director of The Grudge 3? Pah, it can’t be good. Well shame on us because Splinter is a gorgeously directed, slick, fast paced, no-nonsense thrill ride. Essentially a siege film set in a small convenience store on the side of a road in the middle of nowhere as a small collection of protagonists are attacked by a parasitic creature that turns it’s hosts into misshapen, jagged monsters. With brilliant effects work this is a chilling and fun film that only just misses the mark on pure classic territory.
It may be a bit tame for some, but this beautiful post-apocalyptic tale of a band of twenty-something’s on the road amidst the devastation of a viral outbreak is a brilliant little movie. It’s been done so many times before in so many different ways but regardless – this film still really drew me into it’s world and I came away incredibly impressed. It’s a quiet, unassuming movie that won’t do it for everyone, but has my vote for sure. Plus it stars Chris Pines (Star Trek).
How this all-star cast movie directed by the helmer of City of God and The Constant Gardner managed to disappear without a trace I will never know. Sure, it’s an obscenely bleak and very dry picture with little fun to be drawn from it, but it’s exquisitely well shot and the acting is superb as is to be expected when you have such high calibre as Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore and Gael Garcia Bernal. It’s about a sudden epidemic of white blindness that blankets a city, possibly the World and the effects it has on a collection of victims who are bundled into an abandoned mental hospital for quarantine and left to their own devices. It’s chilling, beautiful, and intoxicatingly well made.
Pushing it’s way into my Top 5, this little Canadian film came as a real surprise to me when I eventually got round to watching it a few months back after missing it at last year’s Frightfest. It’s quite possibly the most original horror film I’ve ever seen and I daren’t talk too much about it for fear of spoiling it. But suffice to say it’s core genre is that of a siege movie that takes place at a remote radio station during a snow storm. This deserves to become a real horror classic and is the ultimate showcase of what straight-to-dvd movies should be. Something far too interesting for mainstream cinema.
This brilliant deadpan documentary-turns-horror film is so insatiably clever and wry it’s a miracle it works at all. But by Carpenter’s whiskers it does. A man named Leslie Vernon is determined to be the next Jason or Myers and allows a documentary crew to follow him around as he shows the painstaking backstage work that goes into being a slasher icon. What follows is an hilarious send-up of every slasher movie cliché and rule ever created. The brilliance being that the film works as both comedic rug-puller and tension cranking slasher movie all at the same time – eventually erupting into a full blown horror fest. Simply brilliant.
Produced by Alexandre Aja (Switchblade Romance, Piranha) this directorial debut is a brilliantly taut, focused stalker / slasher that comes across a little like a more Hollywood version of Switchblade set in an underground car park as an attractive businesswoman is pursued by a psychopath on Christmas eve. Normally showing the killers face deflates the tension. Particularly if he’s a handsome Hollywood actor such as Wes Bentley (American Beauty), but somehow P2 gets away with it and a fun, brutal game of cat-and-mouse ensues. Great midnight entertainment.
This startling film took me completely by surprise last year when I picked it up on a holiday in France. Starring Emmanuelle Beart and Rufus Sewell it’s about a holidaying couple who lose their son in the tsunami. As months tick by and he’s still not recovered – they decide to take matters into their own hands and travel into deepest darkest Burma to try to find him. This isn’t a traditional horror film and it’s certainly not the Asian ghost film it was sold as. No, this is an extremely mature and gorgeously shot descent into madness and terror that is a truly unique and traumatic experience. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes but I really can’t recommend this one enough. It’s opening title sequence alone is reason enough to watch it.
Before David Moreau and Xavier Palud botched The Eye remake, they created this absolutely stellar survival horror / siege film in their home country France. With wholly convincing acting, stunning direction and terrifying thrills, this horror about a couple who’s house is invaded by unknown entities over the course of a night is one of my personal favourite horror films of all time and really deserved far more fan fare than it got during it’s release. Make sure to check this absolute gem out if you haven’t yet.
– Al White