The Top 25 Horror Films of 2021

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With nearly all festivals offering an online experience in 2021, for obvious reasons, I was able to devour more horror movies than ever before.

From big-budget mainstream Giallo homages to shoestring independent trailblazers it was a blistering year full of future cult classics and polarising boundary pushers. Not to mention some flat-out no fucks given flicks that pounded the batshit button to death, then resurrected it to pummel it some more.

The horror community took time out from the usual Rob Zombie is shit and Midsommer isn’t actually a horror film at all debates to engage with the issues of feminism, bigotry, male toxicity, cancel culture, gender fluidity, and wokeism raised by genre filmmakers.

No more so than the heated exchange that engulfed the movie that tops this end-of-year list after one of its festival screenings. It was a truly fascinating insight into both the current mindset of horror fans and the rapidly morphing landscape of movie morality. The crux of the matter centered on trigger warnings and the responsibilities of both festival curators and filmmakers to safeguard viewers from being exposed to painful callbacks to their personal traumas.

It will be truly fascinating to witness how future genre creators respond to this apparent sea change. Will directors see it as an opportunity for catharsis and closure or will it act like a bloody red rag to a bull?

As ever there are some inclusions that will cause consternation over their horror credentials but it really was a special year in terms of blurring the edges of genre classification. 

And so here are the 25 horror films that shone brightest for me through the often murky darkness that was 2021.

25.

IN THE EARTH

The world is being ravaged by a deadly virus and a field scientist and his guide find themselves dragged into a surreal nightmare scape deep in the forest. Logic and meaning are the first casualties as they become the quarry of a crazed axeman.

Ben Wheatley tapped directly into the zeitgeist with this pandemic shot folk horror. Druggy and delirious, it is a trippy head fuck that will only age better over time.

So eminently, impossibly cult it is almost painful.

Available now on HULU

24.

CENSOR

Enid is a fastidious film censor gatekeeping British sensibilities during the early 1980’s video nasty phenomena. Embracing her responsibilities with a demure vigor, she wages war on rewindable violence with a relentless snipping of the censorship scissors.

As mounting hysteria envelopes the booming videocassette market, she finds herself at the epicenter of volcanic moral panic and the target of public outrage.

Worse still, her sibling survivors’ guilt is manifesting within the blood-soaked frames of the very flicks she is employed to sanction. Gripped by mania, Enid becomes obsessed with the
low brow high body count slasher flicks of hack director Frederick North and her mental health goes correspondingly South.

Prano Bailey-Bond’s subtle satire has garnered gushing reviews on the pandemic-ravaged festival circuit. However, whether its blend of horror history lesson and mischievous Grand Guignol will thrive in the more open waters of genre fandom is a different matter entirely.

At times Censor plays like an acid-burned love letter to expressional suppression and at others a weirdly affectionate nostalgia trip into a bygone era of rabid social programing. These are tangible byproducts of its determination to neither claim a definitive standpoint on censorship nor a narrative chokehold on the viewer’s autonomy.

This non-judgemental, almost spiritually pure vantage point is what gives Censor both a sense of freshness and a wave of paradoxical homesickness for what was essentially a political cauldron of artistic suffocation

If you lived through the Video Recordings Act of 1984 and have fond memories of circumnavigating the draconian measures of the British Board of Film Classification then stop reading this and hunt down Censor immediately.

You are going to adore it.

Available now on Prime Video and iTunes

23.

VICIOUS FUN

Joel, a horror movie critic for a major genre magazine (a very thinly veiled Fangoria), is romantically obsessed with his desirable roommate. After stalking her latest boyfriend to a Chinese restaurant he ends up getting utterly shitfaced with him and blacks out in a janitor’s cupboard.

When he regains consciousness the restaurant doors are chained up and it has become the venue for a bizarre support group for an eclectic group of twisted sociopaths.

This spirited curtsy to the golden age of 80’s horror beautifully balances the bloodied fingerprints of respectful tribute and the synthesizer soundtracked formalism of parody. Crucially, Vicious Fun shows an aptitude for judging both tonal shift and a keen eye for the deployment of discernible tropes, the two most essential peaks in the vital signs of a horror homage comedy.

Cody Calahan‘s buoyant and slick entry into the Canuxploitation canon is a total blast. Bespoke tailoring for packed genre festival screenings and midnight movie maniacs.

The definition of a crowd-pleasing horror flick, Vicious Fun does not betray the sly semantics of its title.

Available now on SHUDDER

22.

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror

An astonishingly expansive and texturally footsure study of folk horror’s enduring influence on the arts, especially cinema. Utilising mixed media, archive footage, evocative film clips, and eclectic expert analysis it illustrates masterfully how bygone mindsets have shaped the destiny of human creativity.

With a universal appeal that reaches way beyond the boundaries of its broad paganistic church Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched will delight anyone with even a passing interest in the integral mechanics of popular culture. Not to mention those who enjoy a constant conveyor belt of disturbing images, spooky reflection, violent debasement, and rural nudity.

In exploring so articulately the ramifications of folkloric superstitions on modern storytelling, this monumental documentary has itself become a vital piece of social history. As gracefully woven and robustly chunky as the very finest of Summerisle sweaters.

Available to buy now from SEVERIN FILMS

21.

THE BLOCK ISLAND SOUND

The Block Island Sound is a real-life strait off the coast of Rhode Island. The first area of the USA to implement wind turbines it is home to a close-knit and resilient community. Harry Lynch lives there, with his widowed dad Tom, and is becoming increasingly concerned with his fathers’ interludes of withdrawn behavior and trancelike sleepwalking. Not to mention vacant staring at dogs.

American Vandal producers Kevin and Matthew McManus return to feature films with an intelligent and immersive snapshot of dysfunctionality and paranoia. Exquisitely grounded, with iridescent sparkles of horror and Sci-Fi, The Block Island Sound deploys genre tropes as dramatic field marshals rather than bombastic shock troops.

In terms of narrative trajectory, The Block Island Sound is best discovered for yourselves as Dutch explored Adriaen Block did in the early 1600s. That said, you can expect some deliciously left-field deviations and fiendish reveals before the fantastically well-executed final reel. Paying attention to some of the more subtle passages of dialogue early in the film will serve you well in decoding the cleverly bookended conclusion.

By refusing to lazily plunder the cinematic thrift store of shlocky gore and cheap jump scares, the McManus brothers have crafted a delicate study of sibling dynamics, mental surety, and the seductive lure of the conspiracy rabbit hole.

Available now on NETFLIX

20.

THE FEAST

A dysfunctional family and their guests face the wrath of an awoken supernatural force during a deadly dinner date with Welsh folklore. 

The Feast opens with an early juxtaposition involving false black skin. One character is removing a detoxification face pack whilst the other is donning tight cycling gear. This taught symbolism is typical of this viciously intelligent movie as a whole, where nothing is as it seems and everyone is living a bitter lie.

On the surface, the film is a grubby rubbernecking of relationships crumbling under the strain of expectation, mental frailty, and greed. However, as we are slowly submerged into the toxic atmosphere of this beautiful abode in the gorgeous Welsh countryside, it becomes clear that The Feast has a deeper agenda than the flaky histrionics of a fucked up family.

The Feast may well be an intellectual oasis of sorts for folk horror fans but it never forgets it is supposed to be an outright horror flick as well. It has no qualms crushing the accelerator of midnight movie excess to the floor when the fancy takes it. The imagery is gruesome and the set pieces gory and vociferous with some scenes highly discomforting to watch. Those of a sensitive gastronomic nature will be buddying up with their gag reflex for some of the more degenerately flavoursome scenes.

Essentially a modernist eco-fable, The Feast does what all folk horror does best. Using the fading memories of the past to throw ancient prisms of light on the scorched earth policies of contemporary living. Forcing us to reevaluate the personal and environmental cost of burning our indigenous bridges in the name of profit and progress.

Available now on PRIME VIDEO

19.

THE RETALIATORS

Lone parent pastor Bishop, whose name must lead to much denominational confusedness, fails to defend his Christmas tree from someone probably big in the rock music industry. Preaching that violence is not the answer to conflict, he soon changes his theological tune when one of his precious daughters becomes collateral damage in the local meth war.

Empowered by the most hilarious anger montage in recent memory, he is offered the opportunity for cold-hearted, consequence-free, cathartic revenge. 

Will he repair his damaged belief system in time to gift wrap a tacky bracelet or simply smack the living fuck out of stereotypical biker gangs and feral sex offenders?

Armed with a relatively fresh thematic plot twist, fans of extreme Asian cinema may be familiar with, the film’s overriding intention is to please genre fans. In doing so it forges its own schlocky identity and retains a significant portion of artistic dignity.

Deserving of its imminent cult status The Retaliators is a rollicking post-pub bulldozer that refuses to do anything other than ram entertainment down your throat, while Tommy Lee spanks a stripper’s buttocks.

Coming  soon in 2022

18.

MARTYRS LANE

Leah is a ten-year-old vicar’s daughter who feels strangely ostracised by her own family. Playing second fiddle to the needs of the parish and being bullied by her bolshy older sister is part and parcel of her lot in life. However, what truly troubles her is the indifference and emotional frostiness of her highly-strung mother.

When Leah steals the contents of her mum’s cherished locket she literally opens the window to a spectral playmate with a sinister agenda.  A dangerous game of truth versus lies ensues that will force her family to pick at the painful scabs of a past tragedy that still dominates and defines their lives.

Initially, Martyrs Lane may seem like a relatively generic, even cliched, ghost story. Bedraggled angel wings, minacious whisperings from beyond the grave, and creepy soil-caked dolls are just a few genre tropes you will be familiar with. That being said, there is an equal number of creative and narrative innovations to broker a fresh sentiency that makes it one of the finest supernatural horror films of the year.

Ironically, and in delicious juxtaposition to the film’s narrative arc, it is sheer honesty that sets Martyrs Lane apart from its peers. A bold and creatively deft approach to immersive cinema that pays lip service to its predecessors yet stoically refuses to mimic them.

A superior and classy escape room of a movie that makes you jump out of your skin whilst intelligently exploring what it takes to live comfortably within it.

Available now on SHUDDER

17.

THE MEDIUM

A film crew is documenting the life of Nim, a Taiwanese shaman who acts as a conduit for an openhearted goddess known as Ba Yan. Equal parts curse and gift it is a destiny that cascades down her bloodline.

When her wayward niece Mink exhibits clear signs of possessional turmoil, those around her are convinced it’s Ba Yan transferring her ubiety to a fresh generation. However, a misguided acceptance ceremony designed to welcome her in leaves the door wide open for something far less benign to transgress the supernatural divide.

The filmmakers are thrown into the epicenter of a desperate fight for spiritual autonomy against an unknown enemy of epic evil.

Equal parts transcendental Art House drama and high-end demonsplotation shocker, it’s a film that is as determined to excel technically as to shamelessly entertain. Despite the plethora of manipulative and genuinely terrifying set pieces, it retains a solid grip on its perceptive examination of the cultural hangovers of superstition and folklore.

Ironically, and in delicious juxtaposition to the film’s narrative arc, it is sheer honesty that sets Martyrs Lane apart from its peers. A bold and creatively deft approach to immersive cinema that pays lip service to its predecessors yet stoically refuses to mimic them.

 This genre triumph is packed to bursting point with genuinely disturbing shock tactics, balls to the wall exploitation and full send jump scares. However, it’s the gorgeously rich character interactions, poetic visuals, outstanding set design, and ferocious narrative curvature that make it one of the finest possession horror films of the year.

Available now on SHUDDER

 

16.

SHOT IN THE DARK

William Langston is a young man lost in a fog of guilt and grief. His fertile writing career is in the mud and he has returned to the suffocating bosom of his hometown in order to wrap himself in the comfort blanket of his old friends. However, the group dynamic he encounters has become depressingly eroded by the contempt of familiarity.

Emotionally detached, and perpetually self anesthetised on Makers Mark, Wiliam experiences moments of despair that leave his finger hovering over the trigger of a chin cradled shotgun. Tortured by the heartbreaking memories of a past tragedy, he is about to enter the deadly orbit of a seriously sadistic serial killer who will shake the foundations of his self-destructive mindset.

The film works overtime to project the powerful influence retentivity has over the processing of trauma and loss. Drip feeding dream state flashbacks and naturalistic character interactions to build a world for William that is extraordinarily palpable. The music, cinematography, and sound design strive tirelessly to make the viewers’ experience as aggressively tactile as possible.

This astonishingly subtle movie isn’t so much edited as tenderly nurtured in a carefully cultured petri dish and is a triumph of story continuity. Every aspect of the movie is geared towards skewing impactful dramatic blows to coexist within the ambiance of reserved naturalism.

Assured, compelling, and ultimately disconcerting Shot in the Dark is a beautifully crafted deconstruction that broods with a calm intelligence rarely found in such a popular subgenre.

Coming soon

15.

TWO WITCHES

A woman receives the evil eye from a foul hag with truly horrifying consequences for those close to her. As the carnage blossoms, it becomes clear that the malefic crone has her crusty fingers in more than one possessional pie.

Drawing heavily upon 70’s Euro-horror for the bulk of its creative choices Two Witches pillages this goldmine of decadent visuals and insane plots with style and respect. Its audacious structure, biting dissection of feminity, and crisp modernity give it an identity and transgressiveness all of its own. 

Much of the filming and post-production took place in the grip of the pandemic lockdown and the filmmakers should be commended for such a polished end product. One wonders how much of the innovative configuration and otherwordly atmosphere was a happy accident as a result of the restrictions.

Some of the set pieces border on the repetitive but the flick counteracts this by moving in some extraordinarily unusual directions to refresh the narrative page and utterly confound expectations.

Be warned, however, the film is prepared to go explicitly and emphatically where The VVitch merely hints, and even God-tier trigger lord  The Sadness, feared to tread.

Coming soon

14.

THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC

Three orphan men and their families visit the institution that shaped their childhood. However, a presence of pure evil has infested the orphanage and a relentless barrage of supernatural carnage ensues.

Loosely based on the 1981 Indonesian B-movie of the same name this gruesome exercise in unsettling body horror is one for the purists. It never pretends to be anything else other than a violent examination of human cruelty wrapped up in an Evil Dead style demonic death shroud.

Gorehounds will lap it up including some of the most horrific scenes of self-mutilation since Lords of Chaos and enough gushing lifeblood to give Shogun Assassin an inferiority complex.

Available now on SHUDDER

13.

COME TRUE

Avoiding home and sleeping under the stars on playground slides 18-year old Sarah is mentally exhausted. When she does drift off she slips down a nightmarish rabbit hole and is hounded by a freakish shadow being.
Desperate for unmolested slumber she enlists for a 2-month stint at the local sleep clinic. Once exposed to their groundbreaking study techniques Sarah’s night terrors intensify in lucidity and her twisted dreamscape threatens to endanger everyone.

High in concept and low in budget this hugely entertaining Sci-Fi horror uses discombobulating imagery and a densely incubated sound design to suck you into a netherworld of misdirection. Pragmatically acted and ambitiously written Come True delights in weaving an intricate rug before whipping it gracefully from underneath our feet.

Less vicious and brain-melting than the recent Sci-Fi horror hit Possessor, Come True is also sharper, more deceptively grounded, and eminently more accessible.

This stylish and compelling mind fuck of a film will satiate horror junkies and fans of the fantastic alike. Come True is another commanding example of how the purposeful autonomy of independent cinema transforms clever ideas into exhilarating genre escapism.

Available now on Amazon Prime

12.

BOY #5

Marjorie is an overburdened social worker plagued by guilt after one of her young charges takes a fatal heroin overdose. Struggling to tread water in an underfunded workplace and traumatised by the suicide she witnessed her mental health is more compromised than she is willing to admit.

Homeless youth Nathan crash lands into her fragile world after being arrested for killing and eating a dog and assaulting a policeman. As Marjorie strives to find the key to unlock his guarded quietness she becomes sucked into his fantastical and highly disturbing narrative.

Crafted for less than £10,000, using unknown actors cast locally, Boy# 5 represents a triumph of artistic dedication over the manacles of meager resources. In Blending social hyper-realism and the Vampire lore of classic literature, director/writer Eric Steele has landed a telling blow for independent filmmakers everywhere. The fact it is a debut feature shows astonishing aptitude and creative confidence.

A fly-on-the-wall care system procedural that embraces the disillusionment of the kitchen sink drama as readily as it does the tortured romanticism of blood-sucking immortality.

Weighing in at a spritely 72 minutes, Boy #5 still manages to find a wide enough window to be thematically enriching. The destructive radius of addiction, the combustible nature of professional surety, and the vulnerability of grief are all put up for discussion.

However, the film’s core agenda seems to be the indifference of the current UK government towards mental health and child homelessness. Never preachy, always believable, it fashions a credible world from reclaimed fabric and uses it to enrobe a metaphor for an all too commonplace endgame.

Coming soon

11.

THE BOY BEHIND THE DOOR

Fellow little leaguers Bobby and Kevin are opportunistically abducted in broad daylight. Bobby manages to MacGyver’s his way out of a locked car boot and has sweet freedom at his mercy. However, he refuses to leave his buddy behind and breaches the lair of a truly twisted entrepreneurial monster.

As is mandatory for any micro-managed survival horror flick, you will spend a large chunk of the run time shouting sage advice at the characters and berating them for poor choices. In this case, it is prudent to consider that they are scared youngsters functioning on the outer fringes of life experience and emotional development. As such, this tense film is a remarkably adroit study in the art of self-preservation.

As our young hero suffers exponentially increasing savagery he too reluctantly ups the levels of ferocity needed to survive. Bearing witness to the psychological erosion of his own formative ideals in the face of extreme provocation is hard to watch, but intelligently executed.

Ultimately, the film is desperate to leave you breathless, hanging on the edge of your seat rooting for our brave young protagonists. It gives no ethical fucks how it gets there, and to be honest, the toxic narrative does lead to some triumphant instances of empathetic air-punching through its noxious fumes.

Available now on SHUDDER

10.

SEAGULL

After 8 years of self-imposed exile living off-grid on a secluded beach, Rose returns to the dysfunctional bosom of her fucked up family to hold them to account for past misdemeanors. Shadowed by a masked machete-wielding familiar she sets about terrorising a fractured household wallowing in the misery of festering secrets.

A genetically twisted descendant of the British ‘New Wave’ of social realism this marvelous little film is a simmering micro pot of emotional inertia, co-dependant alcoholism, and bitter retribution. A movie so anchored by its classic cinematic roots that at times I found myself longing for a black and white aesthetic. That being said, Rami Bartholdy’s bracing cinematography complements the mood of the piece perfectly, without overwhelming its delicate tempo.

As the narrative layers are slowly peeled away through character interaction and lurid flashbacks, Seagull sustains a level of mystery and enthrallment rarely seen in projects of such meager resources and subtle psychological minimalism. Languid and methodical it may be, but dull and derivative it certainly is not.

It’s a strangely addictive experience, driven by low-key reveals, relatable protagonists, and a hardcore reliance on audience intelligence.

Stunning.

Coming Soon

9.

MALIGNANT

Madison Lake is lucid dreaming the bloody demises of a group of connected people. As the hunt for the killer intensifies an outlandish revelation opens the flood gates to an ocean of bloody carnage.

Using the Giallo film as a template James Wan serves up an irresistible mix of B-Movie camp, exploitation histrionics, and vintage body horror.

Easily the most fan-centric horror film of the year it was met with an astonishing amount of derision, ridicule, and even outright hatred. Thus leaving those that make, curate, and write about horror movies scratching their heads as to what genre aficionados really want from their fright flicks.

Made with incredible care, remarkable technical expertise, and clear affection it is a total blast from clunky start to utterly ludicrous finish. Surely destined, and indeed designed, to be the most enduring cult classic of this generation.

If you ever wondered what a drug-fueled creative partnership in the late eighties between Frank Henenlotter, Quentin Tarantino, and Dario Argento would have looked like then wonder no more.

Available now on PRIME VIDEO

 

8.

POST MORTEM

A soldier has a traumatic near-death experience and becomes a photographer of the dead. With the cold ground too frozen to bury the victims of Spanish flu a young girl persuades him to come and ply his trade in her home village. With a near-endless supply of chilled cadavers on tap, he sets about providing lasting momentoes for grieving relatives.

However, the overwhelming sense of death and general spookiness is nothing less than a honeypot for transcendental evil and an avalanche of supernatural shit hits the phantasmagorical fan.

This Hungarian ghost flick boasts the most fear fertile central premise of the year and does not waste it. Gorgeously shot and acted it is both a charming throwback to the studio horror pictures of yesteryear and a cheeky companion piece to the modern high concept horror of James Wan.

The deliciously freaky slow burn as the insidious presence emerges gives way to a genuinely bonkers final reel that is as hilarious as it is hideously frightening.

Packed to bursting point with ideas and imagination some of the intricate set pieces are horror movie theatrics at their most compelling and entertaining.

Coming Soon

 

7.

HELLBENDER

Teenage wildling Izzy lives with her mother in the depths of the Catskill woodlands. Cocooned from social interaction due to an immune system disorder, she spends her days hiking, swimming, drawing, and smashing out dark and introspective folk metal bangers with her ultra-cool mum.

However, when her isolation is compromised she becomes irreparably drawn into the savage orbit of her deeply sinister heritage.

Humming with intellect, energy, and trippy enthusiasm it’s an infectious shot of sideshow dramatics that positively crackles with the spark of organic, fully autonomous, filmmaking. At times, Hellbender plays like a movie made for the sheer head-spinning joy of it. Fresh, funky, and fearless in its expressionist freedom and contagious artistic spirit.

What really surprises about Hellbender is the grim and gory heart that throbs at its core. Mischievous and playful, yes. However, its narrative undercurrents of mass infanticide, casual cannibalism, and supernatural survival instincts are full-on fucked up.

This is DIY cinema at its very finest. Made by cinema aficionados who fully understand what constitutes an entertaining genre flick. Fashioned from raw creative honesty and genuine ebullience, Hellbender is a gauntlet thrown down to the lazy stagnation and boring regurgitation of studio-generated horror fare.

Coming Soon

6.

BULL

Psychotic gang enforcer Bull resurfaces after a decade-long absence to hack a path through the people who wronged him and locate his estranged son. His former employers and family are well versed in the morally bankrupt code of extreme retribution, but nothing can prepare them for the systematic storm of casual slaughter that blows their way.

It has been some time since director Paul Andrew Williams revisited his grim cinematic roots, and Bull proves he has lost none of his unwholesome grit and pragmatic menace. 15 years after he unleashed the powerhouse naturalism of London to Brighton, he’s back in the grungy groove with a genre-bleeding Brit flick of gut-churning power. 

Like Shane Meadows‘ impossibly dark Dead Man’s Shoes before it, Williams siphons horror tropes down his thriller’s throat, then pumps its stomach onto the screen to test the fortitude of our own. If anything, Bull embraces the mechanic in a more enthusiastic fashion as it wallows gleefully in slasher configurations, torture porn nihilism, and Grand-Guignol gore.

The frequent violence, which often detonates with little warning, is executed with an insouciant relish that amplifies the seedy savagery that engulfs Bull. With shocking practical effects that further augment its horror credentials, the wince factor is surprisingly high, with arterial callbacks to the bloody British crime flicks of yesteryear such as The Long Good Friday and The Squeeze.

Ending with an audacious reveal, one that is sure to spark heated debate, the desire to rewatch this spiteful shitshow of human detritus is triggered immediately. 

Bull is a relentlessly bleak and harrowing experience. A squalid glimpse behind the curtain into a circle of human trash drained of empathy by their own compulsion to exploit the weak.

It is also a barnstorming hybrid of crime thriller and horror flick that has the courage of its convictions and a car crash mentality that is impossible to look away from.

Coming Soon

5.

MAD GOD

An intrepid operative on a sabotage mission enters a rudimentary capsule and is lowered for miles into a depraved world of nihilistic barbarism and filthy futility. Armed only with his wits and a slowly disintegrating map, he must navigate a path through a horrifying dystopia filled with mechanical nightmares and deathly eco-systems built on abuse and suffering.

Our hapless adventurer encounters a race of hessian textured turd people whose entire existence is one of casual expendability and brutal pointlessness. However, they are just the initial fodder in a production line of pain that leads to the mind-blowing origins of life itself.

World-class contender for the longest cinematic gestation period of all time, 33 years to be exact, Mad God is an extraordinary labour of love from the fertile imagination of special effects guru Phil Tippett. The name may not mean much to you, but it is an unavoidable fact that much of his iconic work forms the very fiber of your fondest movie memories.

The holographic chess battle aboard the Millenium Falcon and the ominous advance of AT-AT Imperial Walkers trudging through the snow. The jaw-dropping realism of the scaly beast in Dragonslayer. The epic boardroom meltdown of ED-209 in RoboCop. The goosebump-inducing first encounter with dinosaurs in Jurrasic Park. The heartstopping siege of alien arachnids in Starship Troopers. None of these would exist save for the creative genius of Mr. Tippett.

To say he is well respected in the industry would be a criminal understatement. When Guillermo del Toro hails you as a “master” you know you are bossing your field. Consequently, Mad God is one of the most hotly anticipated animated films in history. 

For such a niche, or should that be Nietzsche, enterprise Mad God has surprisingly ample scope for connecting to huge swathes of varying fanbases. Animation aficionados will be enthralled and appalled in equal measure. Lovers of in-your-face trippy head fucks will be in heaven. Gorehounds and ambulance chasers of the human condition will lap up the carnage and degradation. Fantasy and Sci-Fi buffs will revel in its uncompromising attitude and polluted intellectualism. Body horror and torture porn fiends will find exactly what they seek.

However this anarchic thrill ride finds you, it will drill into your psyche and cling there like a parasitic worm.

Keep an eye out for release details HERE

4.

29 NEEDLES

Meet Francis Bacon. A sadistic narcissist with a broken belief system that makes the Russian nihilists look like inspirational meme designers.
Sky-high on the toxic fumes of his own degenerate cravings, he is on a fuck mission of unhinged sexual depravity to suppress the inner demons that chafe his soul.
However, each deeper dive into debasement only seems to quicken their appetite.

The resulting acid bath for the senses is astonishingly accomplished considering the resources. Technically adroit and occasionally beautiful, its unflinching coda and hard-nosed arthouse aesthetics recalls the notorious early work of Jörg Buttgereit and at times the fearless intensity of Claire Denis

There are things happening here, particularly in the multi-floored free for all fuck den that Francis frequents, that will have your WTF siren howling like Nicolas Cage on a 6-week coke bender. Not since Takashi Miike dropped his Visitor Q bomb have the limits of fetishistic cinema been so severely tested.   I am also fairly sure 29 Needles obliterates the record for intensive on-screen masturbation. Stick that in your The Lighthouse Robert Pattinson.  

29 Needles is a jaw-dropping exhibition of the raw horsepower of truly independent filmmaking. A lovingly fashioned, grown-up film destined for infamy. If you can handle the oceans of body fluids and backbreakingly heavy subject matter then you will have an experience you will not erase from your violated mind in a very long time.

Available now from UNEARTHED FILMS

3.

DAWN BREAKS BEHIND THE EYES

Melodramatic Margot and her crosspatch husband Dieter have inherited a beautiful but decrepit castle. Forced to stay the night, it does not take long for their state of mind to mirror that of the creepy keep.

Sadomasochistic tendencies erupt from the foundations of their crumbling romance as bitterness and resentment take a chokehold on their relationship.

Like Argentine Giallo throwback Crystal Eyes and the much-loved One Cut of the Dead before it, Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes shows what can be achieved by a small team of dedicated filmmakers who share the same acuity and are not afraid to take risks. All three showcase the same affinity and enthusiasm for the art of cinema and an easy crew camaraderie that bleeds from set to screen.

The film’s title is a direct reference to the revitalising power that rides on the coattails of every beautiful sunrise. Using dawn as an extended metaphor for hope and renewed expectations, specifically in the face of familiarity and disillusionment.

With that in mind, this exuberant flick is exactly the kind one desperately hopes to stumble upon at a pioneering festival like Frightfest. One of restorative freshness that blows away the musty cobwebs of platitude and randomises the stuffy pigeon holes of genre cinema.

A swooning love letter to the voluptuous European cinema of the sixties and seventies. Glitter-bombed onto LSD blotter paper and signed off with a rebellious fuck you to cinematic conventions.

Coming Soon

2.

TITANE

A deranged car show model has sex with one of the exhibits and sets in motion a chain reaction of bloody carnage and seriously unhealthy co-dependency.

Julia Ducournau’s Raw topped a previous end-of-year list of mine. Any other year her second film would have done the same.

Insanely intelligent and fiercely controversial it is the cinematic equivalent of dancing like no one is watching.

The director possesses a rare talent for bold aesthetics and even bolder narratives. The mercurial way she harnesses the most outlandish of concepts and caresses them into tangibility is astonishing.

The whole movie world waiting to see exactly where her maverick imagination will take us next.

Available on Blu-Ray from Jan 7th, 2022

1.

THE SADNESS

An alternate version of Taiwan has been under the cloud of the Alvin virus for years. As precautions relax the virus breaks the shackles of its dormant protein chains and unleashes its true purpose. Melding the bond between the dark side of sexual desire and unchecked mega-violence to devastating effect.

The infection tears through the population creating rabid packs of cold-blooded sadists. Ebony-eyed machines of indiscriminate rape, spiteful torture, and casual homicide.

A sweet young couple becomes separated and must navigate this raging ocean of brutality if they are to be reunited.

Director Rob Jabbaz, a native Canadian working out of Taiwan, has definitely had a fucks given bypass with this astoundingly gory apocalypse outing. Bursting with heart-stopping set pieces and jaw-dropping moments of the deepest depravity, it powerslides out of the blocks and doesn’t relent until it leaves you rocking in the corner.

The pace of this film is something to behold. Seriously, if slow burn entries like The VVitch, Hereditary, and The Wailing left you cold, then this is the wall of cinematic napalm to warm you up.

Almost every scene is born to carry a trigger warning, not least a train carriage attack that manages to usurp Hammer Girl in the subway slaughter stakes.

The instant cult classic appellation is seldom more appropriate than when aimed at The Sadness. It is a vicious and unforgiving freight train of a flick. Perhaps more incendiary, both physically and verbally, than it needs to be.

Blessed with a committed and competent cast the acting is dynamic and believably hysterical. The infected remain perfectly sentient as they act out their dehumanised fantasies, and as such, they get to deliver some of the most shocking lines since Linda Blair handled a crucifix.

How readily you gobble up its juicy coagulums of humanistic decay will speak volumes about your own levels of desensitisation and methodology of catharsis. I suspect therein lies the concept at the intellectual heart of this thunderously offensive genre film.

In terms of pure visceral hardcore horror movie making, nothing came even close to eclipsing The Sadness this year. 

Available when RAVEN BANNER pluck up the courage to release it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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