1) Train To Busan
Starting off with a zombie movie? It’s a bold strategy, I know, but hear me out: Train To Busan ain’t your daddy’s zombie romp. Instead of yet another hackneyed zomcom to throw onto the compost heap, this K-Cinema gem is sure to please both undead haters and lovers alike.
Sure, you’ll have to sit down and read some of those gosh dang subtitles, as it is 100% Korean, but it’s so worth it. South Korean TV star Gong Yoo plays Seok-woo, a workaholic absentee father who, in a desperate bid to spend time with his daughter on her birthday, elects to take her on a train from Seoul to Busan. Then they pick up a sickly passenger, and things kinda go downhill from there.
Featuring emotional performances that are simultaneously grounded in reality while allowing the absurdity of the situation to come to full fruition, every character feels dynamic, which makes their untimely demises all that more evocative. The writing is strong, the effects are top-notch, and the action is fun and incredibly tense. I really can’t recommend Train to Busan enough. At least put it on your queue to sit and rot for years to come.
2) The Witch
Have any of you ever come up with a theme song/creepy child chant for a goat? No, I am not talking about Tom Brady’s pre-showering ritual. I’m talkin’ about Black Philip, baby! While the whole of The Witch is memorable, from its striking cinematography to its nightmarish visions, I do think it’s kind of funny that the part I remember the most is the twins singing their song about their family’s black billy goat.
First time writer-director Robert Eggers left nothing on the table in this balls-to-the-wall period horror, which showcases an exiled English colonial family trying to make it on their own in the woods of Massachusetts. Unfortunately for them, the titular witch stirs up some drama, which causes the family to tear itself apart.
Anya Taylor-Joy anchors the film as Thomasin, the family’s eldest daughter, especially in the last ten or so minutes. The Witch is one of the moodiest pieces on this list, so don’t come in expecting to be happy, because we’re not dealing with Glenda the Good Witch this time around.
3) Under the Skin
I don’t usually get freaked out or depressed by horror flicks. Like, ever. But Under the Skin destroyed me the first time I saw it, and, to be honest, I’m almost reluctant to revisit it. This is one of those rare movies that can just ruin your day. It’s raw and powerful, which is some feat, considering how sparsely populated it is as a story. The fact that director Johnathan Glazer and co-writer Walter Campbell spent almost a decade turning this from a sci-fi spectacle into a small thriller is worth the watch alone. The unsettling imagery and Mica Levi’s utterly haunting score are great bonuses, too.
Scarlet Johansson plays against type as a white woman who seduces men and…well, to say anymore would give stuff away, which I absolutely do not want to do with this. Just keep in mind while watching that many of Scarlet’s interactions are with non-actors, filmed on hidden cameras. This kind of guerrilla filmmaking guaranteed genuine performances, because people who don’t know how to fake it literally can’t. You won’t soon forget a movie as sinister and sad as this one.