- Mad God; Dir: Phil Tippett
Mad God is special FX guru Phil Tippett’s Magnus Opus and, is the culmination of thirty years of relentless work, creativity and, nervous breakdowns.
Beautiful, horrific and, filled to the brim with Goyaesque wartime imagery; Mad God is not a journey for the faint of heart but one which will reward you for your perseverance throughout the many hellscapes and, abominations showcased in Tippet’s legendary vision.
Tippett himself is quoted as saying that Mad God is best enjoyed with an edible… I tried this.
It certainly was a more fulfilling and, immersive experience albeit an emotionally unpleasant one.
Mad God is genius alchemized into the Hero’s Journey framed by Miltonesque hellscapes.
Truly unique and, unforgettable.
2. V/H/S 94; Screenplay: David Bruckner
Dir: Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto, Jennifer Reeder, Ryan Prows, Steven Kotanski, Chloe Okuno
Anthology movie V/H/S 94 gave 2021 the penultimate mascot which we had all been waiting for: Ratma’a.
The Storm Drain segment featuring Ratma’a or, Ratman is the most fucked up fun I’ve had while watching a movie in a long time.
V/H/S 94’s other stories brought forth a myriad of Lovecraftian nightmare creatures, Body Horror and 80’s style Schlock all stitched together by some of the most creative Indie directors in the business.
V/H/S 94 has enough unique monsters, creepy premises and, new Urban Legends to have you fast-forwarding the tape beyond the scary parts.
3. Hunter Hunter: Shawn Linden
Technically, Hunter Hunter is a 2020 release however, we never received a UK-wide release until 2021 so, I’m includng it!
Hunter Hunter is a barren, wintry Slow Burn with enough tension, shocks and, WTF moments to satisfy even the most weathered Horror fan.
The story may begin as a Survivalist Drama however, it slowly morphs into an Extreme Horror film complete with the most shocking ending of 2021.
This film will break your heart, extinguish your hope and, will leave you wishing that you didn’t believe the hype.
4. Titane: Julia Ducournau
Titane has reignited French New Wave or, French Extreme Cinema.
From the visionary director who brought us Raw, Ducournau presents us with her own warped love story about a girl and her… Car.
Titane promises what Cronenberg’s Crash merely flirted with: the sexual union of woman and, car.
This film is not purely shock value, and the director herself states that her “intention is never to shock…” but rather to run with the sentiment that love can overcome even the most violent and, broken of hearts.
Titane encompasses cinema’s obsession with ‘The Male Gaze’, its fascination with Heteronormative gender stereotypes, with women’s bodily autonomy and, instead filters these subject matters through a Body Horror lense.
Agathe Rousselle’s feature debut as complicated Protagonist Alexia will surely cement her as a star: she stuns, subverts expectations and, shocks with her incredibly physical yet feral performance.
5. The Boy Behind The Door; Dir: David Charbonier, Justin Powell
Taut, Indie Thriller The Boy Behind The Door was a Shudder-Exlusive hidden gem in 2021.
The story alludes to the very delicate yet harrowing subject matter of child abuse without ever falling into gratuity.
The films weapon lies within its ability to provoke tension while showing very little.
Because the story is mostly set in one location and, features a cast of only a few main characters, this adds to the atmosphere of anxiety and, anticipation which seeps from the screen.
I genuinely cannot remember the last time I felt so immersed in a work of fiction.
Captivating, emotional, and, anxiety- inducing, this film offers a satisfying payoff as reward for holding your breath for 80 minutes.
6. Antlers; Dir: Scott Cooper
In an isolated Oregon town surrounded by acres of woodland and Mines, Antlers offers a modern spin on a classic Cryptid Folktale.
A school teacher becomes preoccupied with her enigmatic yet clearly troubled young student who harbours a dark, unsettling secret.
Antlers felt a little disappointing due to the long time I had spent trying to watch it amidst multiple lockdowns coupled with the hype buzzing around this film.
The film still presents a tragic, Grimm Fairytale take on very real Traumas such as child neglect, drug abuse and, classism which are still rife in more impoverished areas.
The Cryptid or, monster in Antlers is genuinely frightening if somewhat underused: the special FX team really surpassed themselves.
Guillermo Del Toro produced this Native American Fable and, this may explain the overall tale of hope and, the perseverance of love amidst nightmares.
7. Coming Home In The Dark; Dir: James Ashcroft, Screenplay: James Ashcroft, Eli Kent
This New Zealand Psychological Thriller very much feels like a journey.
I watched this film with my partner one night and, we were both utterly enthralled.
Coming Home In The Dark feels heavily inspired by Sleepers with hints of Martyrs: a true story of heinous child abuse at the hands of authority figures.
The pace grabs you by the scalp and, forces you to both witness and, share the terror as experienced by the lead characters.
Coming Home In The Dark WILL manipulate your empathy and, you’ll spend time sympathising with very bad people.
The film is very much a journey shared by both antagonists and, viewers alike: it will leave you questioning your own moral compass while demanding to know what would you do if faced with such real world atrocities?
8. A Quiet Place II; Dir: John Krasinski
Another box office release which fell victim to the Pandemic, A Quiet Place II’s delayed release may have actually been Kismet at play.
During a time when we were all stuck indoors, this movie served as the perfect reflection of the tumultuous times which we were collectively enduring.
Written and, directed by John Krasinski, the sequel offers a more expansive insight into the world building as presented in the first film.
Once again we join the Abbott family as they traverse the dangerous landscape bordering their home filled with alien threats who use noise to hunt.
I particularly loved the character arc of Regan: a young girl whom resents her own disability (complete deafness) yet soon learns that her being deaf is in fact, her superpower.
We get to see more of the alien creatures which remain a very unique and, frightening design.
This film is as equally tense as its predecessor yet with even more heart.
A feel good film despite all of the drama, carnage, trauma and loss depicted.
9. Le Calendrier/ The Calendar; Patrick Ridremont
The Calendar is another Shudder (UK) exclusive and showcases a Christmas Fable focusing on a Paraplegic lady who appears to be mistreated and taken advantage of by everyone in her life.
The Calendar is another entry in my personal top 10 which alludes to themes of loneliness and, isolation as experienced by many disabled people…myself included.
Embellished with Faustian imagery, Jungian nightmare creatures and, carrying the timeless warning of: “be careful what you wish for”, this film is a rather unique experience.
There is one particular scene which I found difficult to watch however, it does serve a purpose: to act as the catalyst for our protagonists choices and, ultimately her Fate.
At its core, Le Calendrier is a commentary on our treatment of the disabled, of the ‘Other’ in society and, how we adapt in order to survive in the face of impossible choices.
10. Lamb; Dir: Valdimar Johannsson
A24’s latest headfuck, Lamb is the debut feature from Icelandic Poet/ Lyricist/ Writer Sjon.
In rural Iceland, an isolated couple live off the land farming sheep and, welcoming no visitors.
Noomi Rapace stars as Maria, a woman in mourning who appears to simply exist rather than live alongside her joyless husband.
When a unique newborn enters the lives of the couple, this triggers a cascade of catastrophic events as well as, a reveal which you won’t soon forget.
2021 was a real world horrorshow: why not discover/ revisit some of these titles to remind yourself that the worst is already behind you.
Happy new year, Horrorhounds!