The great Sir Alfred Hitchcock once said “A glimpse into the world proves that horror is nothing other than reality.” With that said, I want to welcome you back to another look into foreign horror. Today, we’re going across the pond to the British Isles. There are a lot of all-time great horror movies that come from the British Isles, like the iconic 1958 film Dracula. I’m a lot more current on British Horror films than I was for the Italian edition so I won’t ramble too much today and instead we’ll just jump into the list.
As always, a spoiler alert is now in effect.
5. Let Me In (2010) – R
Synopsis: A bullied young boy befriends a young female vampire who lives in secrecy with her guardian.
We’re starting off with a bit of a romantic horror film with Let Me In. A rather well-done remake of the 2008 Swedish film Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In), Let Me In stars one of my favourite actresses Chloë Grace Moretz as well as Kodi Smit-McPhee and Richard Jenkins. Instead of the film taking place in Sweden like the original, the remake takes place in New Mexico. It’s almost a shot for shot remake of the original, with some slight variations, but they did a phenomenal job with it.
Both films are based on a book and both aren’t anywhere near as good as that book is, but when is a movie ever as good as the book? The film itself is a masterpiece and hats off to director Matt Reeves for brilliant work on what was a difficult task re-making an already loved film for American audiences (and all those who don’t like subtitles). The film is shot in the eerie Los Alamos, New Mexico snow, mostly at night time and it is truly gorgeous and the dark, cold land gives a real genuine vibe to the tale and you feel Owen’s despair. That said, I cannot recommend this film, or the original, enough.
4. Hellraiser (1987) – R
Synopsis: A woman discovers the newly resurrected, partially formed, body of her brother-in-law. She starts killing for him to revitalize his body so he can escape the demonic beings that are pursuing him after he escaped their sadistic underworld.
At number four today is the original Hellraiser film. This surely is a very refreshing and original horror movie to watch. It doesn’t have the usual formulaic ingredients in it, such as monsters or a murderous psychopathic serial killer on the loose. No screaming teenagers and no dark haunted places. All we have this time is a cube, that opens doors to hell and unleashes the bringers of pain; Pinhead and friends, who want to play with you forever.
The movie doesn’t get its horror aspects from its normal usual scare or gross-out moments. It’s more a movie that works on its atmosphere and story development. Perhaps it’s also due to the restrained budget, that simply forced the filmmakers to be creative with the things they had at hand. Clive Barker and Doug Bradley introduced us all to the iconic horror antagonist Pinhead in this film and there is no replacing Bradley in my opinion. Except for the most recent iterations, I love every Hellraiser movie that has Bradley in it. The original is a masterpiece of atmospheric and psychological horror, everyone should see it at least once.
3. 28 Days Later (2002) – R
Synopsis: Four weeks after a mysterious, incurable virus spreads throughout the UK, a handful of survivors try to find sanctuary.
At number three today we have 28 Days Later. I honestly feel it would have been a disservice to not include this film as it has spawned a very successful franchise which has the third film coming sometime soon. 28 Days is one hell of a fun ride and has some absolutely terrifying zombie’s in it. I honestly feel that this film is the ‘father’ of all modern-day zombie flicks. Every other attempt wants to recreate the magic of 28 Days, but there really isn’t anything that can compare in this day and age. You will occasionally meet people who thought 28 Days Later wasn’t ‘scary’ or ‘gory’ enough.
These are the same people who will tell you that 2001 was ‘boring’, or that Memento was ‘confusing’. Ignore them. Others didn’t understand the purpose of the second half or were confused by its change of pace, feeling that it distracted from the movie as a whole. However, I personally regard the second half as very important because it makes a very succinct point: What is scarier, the end of the world, or having the world repopulated by maniacs?
That, I think, is where the real Horror of 28 Days Later lies. 28 Days Later, like the Romero zombie flicks of yore, is ultimately an allegory of the days we are living in, an age in which we are constantly confronted with violence by the media (much like the ape right at the start of the film), where violence begets violence, and humanity faces an uncertain future. Go see this film. While you’re at it, watch 28 Weeks Later as well, and when it comes out… go watch 28 Months Later.
2. The Descent (2005) – R
Synopsis: A caving expedition goes horribly wrong, as the explorers become trapped and ultimately pursued by a strange breed of predators.
We’re going down into the claustrophobic depths of despair at number 2 with the 2005 film The Descent. Where do I even begin with this one? It starts out sweet and serene as a husband and daughter await their mother and her friends who have been white-water rafting. It’s such a cute moment that totally belies the darkness to come. There are a lot of moments in this film that can be uncomfortable to watch, and I believe that is mostly due to the atmosphere of the film itself. It almost entirely takes place in the darkness of a cave and you feel just how disorienting it can be by watching our female protagonists.
Do you know that old saying “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”? Well, that should have been a tagline for this film. We have some over-confidence in our ladies which leads to even more disorientation and eventually betrayal and survival of the fittest. The creatures in the film are creepy and I honestly think they’re probably the basis of the cryptid The Rake, but they were designed based on Nosferatu. While the sequel, The Descent Part 2, was not as good as the original, I still enjoyed it and the two films are just a great sample of British horror. If you’re intimidated by confined spaces, you may want to steer clear of The Descent.
1. The Shining (1980) – R
Synopsis: A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future.
Here’s Johnny! Oh, you had to expect this. Our best British Horror film for the British Isles is none other than The Shining. With a legendary performance by Jack Nicholson and a strong supporting cast, you’ve got one of the best horror movies ever made. A chilling, majestic piece of cinematic fright, this film combines all the great elements of an intellectual thriller, with the grand vision of a director who has the instinctual capacity to pace a moody horror flick within the realm of his film-making genius that includes an eye for the original shot, an ice-cold soundtrack and an overall sense of dehumanization. This movie cuts through all the typical horror movies like a red-poker through a human eye, as it allows the viewer to not only feel the violence and psychosis of its protagonist but appreciate the seed from which the derangement stems. One of the scariest things for people to face is the unknown and this film presents its plotting with just that thought in mind. The setting is perfect, in a desolate winter hideaway.
The quietness of the moment is a character in itself, as the fermenting aggressor in Jack Torrance’s mind wallows in this idle time, and breeds the devil’s new playground. I always felt like the presence of evil was dormant in all of our minds, with only the circumstances of the moment, and the reasons are given therein needed to wake its violent ass and pounce over its unsuspecting victims. This film is a perfect example of this very thought. A sequel came from this film in the 2019 film Doctor Sleep, but it lacks the impact that The Shining had in my opinion. If you’re a horror aficionado, there is no doubt that you have seen this film. Most have, or have at least heard of this film. If you’ve never seen it, what the hell is wrong with you? Go watch it. Now!
Thanks again for joining me today for my day trip to British Horror! We’re gonna be back soon with another edition, so stay tuned. There are, after all, hundreds of thousands of horror films out there and we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.