1. Under the Skin (2013) Director: Jonathan Glazer
(All Images we found on film-grab.com)
Under the Skin is undoubtedly the least accessible film on this list. While it certainly qualifies as Sci-Fi Horror, it’s anything but ordinary.
On the surface, the film is about a painfully attractive alien that preys on Scotland’s horniest douchebags. At its core however, the film is a deeply disturbing account of alienation itself.
As an eternal fan of the wildly talented and ever-stunning Scarlett Johansson, I must confess, the seduction scenes alone make the film worth viewing. But putting sex appeal and superficiality aside—as the film invites you to do—Johansson’s performance is truly mesmerizing. I doubt I’ve ever felt so much for a character in any horror film. At the same time, she’s completely terrifying.
The biggest complaint against the film is the scarce dialogue. Even when we do get some, it’s often hard to make out through the thick Scottish accents. But that’s kind of the point. It makes the audience just as alienated as the alien. In turn, it makes you focus more on the awe-inspiring cinematography. The long silences and striking imagery are exactly what make the film so unsettling.
Two years after its release, many of the scenes are still burned into my memory.
2. The Lords of Salem (2012) Director: Rob Zombie
Rob Zombie has already established a diehard fan base with gritty films like House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. But The Lords of Salem is a different story altogether. In fact, the film is so different from its predecessors some loyal fans even hated it.
Where his former work often nods to great 70s slasher films, Lords draws its inspiration from supernatural horrors like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist.
In particular, a lot of the cinematography and set designs are reminiscent of The Shining. On that point, The Lords of Salem looks incredible. If your movie ever looks like Kubrick worked on it, you’re doing something right.
But that’s where the parallels to the past end. The plot to The Lords of Salem couldn’t get more uniquely bizarre. In short, it’s about a subversive coven of witches that intends to take over modern-day Salem by facilitating the birth of the antichrist.
If that sounds unimaginative, I assure you, there’s enough brain melting surreal imagery in this film to write about for years to come. Between that and it’s incredibly original soundtrack, it’s bound to become a cult classic. It’s simply too weird for the casual horror fan to enjoy.
3. Antichrist (2009) Director: Lars von Trier
While Lars von Trier’s Antichrist maybe the most critically acclaimed of the films on this list, it’s anything but mainstream. We’re dealing with a full-blown artistic experiment here.
In that respect, it’s somewhat difficult to lump the film in with other horror films. Unlike many horror films, there’s something very real about Antichrist. It’s about interpersonal relationships, grief, sex, and mental illness. But its realness makes it all the more terrifying.
Until you see a film like this, you don’t really stop to think just how scary real life and real emotions can be. In part, Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg’s monumental performances capture this. But the immersive cinematography and the surreal hallucination sequences really bring you inside those chaotic headspaces.
Although it’s more dramatic and serious than the others on the list, it’s no less horrifying or impactful. Moreover, it’s not for the faint of heart. Be warned, there are extremely graphic images of genital mutilation.
Antichrist is a different kind of horror film. It’s brooding, cerebral, and cruel. It will make you profoundly uncomfortable. It won’t be forgotten anytime soon.