1. Joshua (2007)
Horror movies involving kids as their central antagonist have always been extra creepy. While ‘Omen’ is the most popular and lauded movie with that concept, others have also tried to replicate its techniques with varying results that could be considered as fine but less-stellar. (See: The Brood, Orphan, Children of the Corn) The one that could probably go head to head with the aforementioned classic is ‘Joshua’. The movie gives us an introductory portrait of a family grasping at straws with the birth of their second child. Now that young Joshua’s parents’ focus is on her baby sister, he tries to take some of their attention back by terrorizing the household in degrees unimaginable. The pacing of the movie is slow, building up its sinister ambiance that will crescendo to the last act when the title character finally unveils a face so evil it embeds its mark in your head. The movie has a style that is a reminiscent of Roman Polanski; having subtlety and intelligence that only a few filmmakers nowadays can pull off successfully.
2. Toolbox Murders (2004)
Helmed by the director of the original ‘Chainsaw Massacre’, this gem faded into obscurity for reasons I’m not quite sure I understand. The tenants of an apartment building are being troubled by mysterious circumstances. Strange noises are being heard; teeth are being used as wall decors; and, well, people die. Later in the film, we meet with a balaclava-wearing man who is causing the entire conundrum and he looks fucking scary as hell. The plot is nothing new, but what separates ‘Toolbox Murders’ from the rest of the pact is its well-fashioned throwback style and the punch it packs whenever tension is mounting around the characters of the movie. Here, Tobe Hooper proves he still got what it takes to direct an effective slasher film. The impressive set-design is noteworthy as it gives the frightening villain a mutilating platform that made the athmosphere of the film even more creepy and claustrophobic, making the watching experience suspenseful as it is masterful-looking.
3. Grace (2009)
Madeline, a married woman who would do anything to be a mother, finds her dream shattered when she birthed a baby with a pale skin and without a beating heart. Having difficulty accepting that fate, she took her lifeless offspring into her home and held onto its little body until, unexpectedly, ‘it’ started to chew her nipples. That and gallons of blood and a psycho mother-in-law and an old lesbian lover fill the whole reel of Paul Solet’s 2009 movie. Here, the occurrences don’t try to evoke repugnance just for the sake of disturbing our psyche. It presents us a dramatic play of parenting gone berserk, demanding empathy and understanding from us amid the horrible actions done by the well-meaning but somewhat disoriented protagonist. Disquieting and very low-key, ‘Grace’ is a monster movie crawling, whimpering and springing up under the skirts of motherhood.
4. Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004)
‘Ginger Snaps’ would have made the list if this is your usual countdown of the genre’s best. Let’s say this is that list. Heck, I would still put ‘Ginger Snaps 2: Unleased’ ahead of its predecessor. The movie can definitely stand on its own and rarely will you see a sequel that looks and feels so original. Against her will, Brigitte continues her struggle to fight off the werewolf genes at a mental facility for teenage women. She meets new friends that would tag along with her when she escapes. A big angry werewolf tails behind her throughout this ordeal. The last quarter of the movie takes places at the empty house of one of her new friends. What transpired there is, of course, a delicious and twisted secret. The theme for this movie is very different from the first one and I will tell you that this should be the standard for making better sequels. The unpopular formula did wonders. Fangs of varying kinds will sure to catch you off-guard.
5. Jenifer (Masters of Horror, Season 1 Episode 4, 2005)
Forgive me if you are blindsided by the surprising inclusion of a TV episode here. As much as I wanted to reward a full-length film as my list-ender, let me tell you from here on out that ‘Jenifer’ deserves to be recognized for being a provocative piece of work that it is. The story follows a police officer saving a disfigured young woman named Jenifer from being killed by an old man. He takes her home as she appears to be retarded (she doesn’t talk and only makes creepy sounds similar to a cat murmur) and have nowhere to go. He becomes drawn to her for reasons that are too weird to solidify. After a couple of loony scenes, it becomes clear that there are problems with Jenifer that turn the lead’s life into a mess. Directed by Dario Argento from the collection of the now kaput anthology series ‘Masters of Horror’, ‘Jenifer’ is a weird bag of stuff. It is repulsive, erotic, sad and infuriating. The overall effect is… really something. It is probably the enigma of it that I keep on looking back at the movie and be cast under its befuddling spell. Needless to say, I highly recommend it.