10 Unconventional Contemporary Horror Films



SHOCK chooses 10 contemporary films that function as horror movies.

SHOCK likes to test the waters of tolerance for what films can be thought of as horror. This, on occasion, leaves many of our so-called “purist” readers frothing at the mouth.  But the lines of genre are always blurred. Is 1954’s GODZILLA a horror? Or how about JAWS? They are, but they’re many other things as well.

This writer has prepped a list of 10 unconventional contemporary films that are not considered horror movies by most.  But, we believe that they most assuredly are. What do you think?


DAS EXPERIMENT (2001) – Dir. Oliver Hirschbiegel

DAS EXPERIMENT was a barely seen German export from the man who gave us DOWNFALL – but this is a film that needs more attention.  Based on a real-life experiment where people were asked to play the roles of prisoners and a second group was asked to play the prison guards.  The film stylishly demonstrates how rapidly fascism can rise within a civilized society and how anarchy can ensue (think LORD OF THE FLIES on crack).  This film is scary on an entirely relatable level; some of the most frightening monsters lay buried within us. There was also an American remake.


KIDS (1995) – Dir. Larry Clark

This Larry Clark film is frightening on so many levels that we don’t honestly know where to begin. KIDS is shot like a docu-drama and is an unfiltered and unrelenting glimpse of urban tweens and teenagers drifting through life.  The talented actors in this film made its gritty realism possible, while making the viewer feel like a fly on the wall.  What you witness is eye-opening and shocking, but in many ways, very plausible. To see teenagers this way, well, let’s just say, you may think twice about having your own kids.  The various sex scenes are disturbing at best, especially the rape scene involving Casper and Chloe Sevigny’s character Jennie.


IRREVERSIBLE (2002) – Dir. Gaspar Noe

Immediately after the eerie first note Thomas Bangalter’s score oozes out, the pace is set for something uncomfortable and sinister. The potent continuous tracking shot pulls the viewer into a nightmare experience, like getting on an insane roller-coaster; once committed, there is no turning back. Just like IRREVERSIBLE.  This movie unfolds like a nasty drama, but seriously, IRREVERSIBLE is a backwards nightmare that threatens to continue once you reach the end (as the ending is really the beginning) and maybe force you to relive it all over again.  The intro alone is almost vomit-inducing, but the discomfort that ensues in the tunnel sequence will scar your mind permanently.


BAISE-MOI (2000) – Dir. Virginie Despentes & Coralie Trinh Thi

Translated from French and depending on your translation can either mean LOVE ME or in this case RAPE ME. BAISE-MOI is a twisted and vicious tale directed by two talented ladies, Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi;  this is what THELMA & LOUISE tried to achieve.  What can we say about a flick called RAPE ME, how can one even begin to argue whether we’re dealing with a horror film or not . Check it out, if you dare.


TIDELAND (2005) – Dir. Terry Gilliam

TIDELAND is a really depressing tale told hauntingly from the point-of-view of a recently parentless child named Jeliza-Rose.  It is an awkward and uncomfortable cinema experience from Monty Python alumni Terry Gilliam, who had been on hiatus from filmmaking for some time. The world scene from Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferlan, Alessa from SILENT HILL) is incredibly imaginative, while being completely horrific and alien at the same time.  Additionally, the movie is shot from a child’s point of view and shows us how bizarre an adult world can be to a naive little girl.  TIDELAND is a sad and hard film to navigate through – be warned.


FAT GIRL (2001) – Dir. Catherine Breillat

This wonderful film almost didn’t make the list simply because for the most part, it plays out like a slightly awkward, yet charming coming-of-age tale of two girls exploring the world, their concerns, their blossoming sexuality, and life in general.  However, in classic true-to-Catherine Breillat-form, the ending is so damn blind-sidingly horrific, devastating and sad, I was gasping for the air that had been kicked right out of me. No spoilers here (pay attention though, the film delivers some hints and foreshadowing) so give this tale a whirl.


REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2000) – Dir. Darren Aronofsky

Aronofsky’s take on Herbert Selby Jr.’s (LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN – another shocker) novel is a great example of how the lines between drama and horror can blur so wonderfully together to form a hybrid of terror.  Say what you will about this brilliant visual attack on the mind, it is downright jaw dropping.  REQUIEM is a testament to hopes and dreams that can radically spiral into madness depending on the paths we choose – choices fueled by inner weakness and sickness.  Human disease is often more unsettling and horrible than any imaginary beast lurking in the shadows.


LOST HIGHWAY (1997) & INLAND EMPIRE (2006) – Dir. David Lynch

If there was a lord of nightmares, David Lynch would be it… Lynch delivers two hard-hitting experiences into madness with LOST HIGHWAY and INLAND EMPIRE. It is almost as if Lynch was inside our minds tapping the vein and siphoning out the things that clamber within our darkest recesses of our minds.  Like ERASERHEAD, these two films take us on a mind-numbing journey into madness and personal distortion. You never know what to expect and we are in constant fear of what is lurking in the next frame. 


SE7EN (1995) – Dir. David Fincher

We have talked in great lengths about Fincher’s masterpiece; to claim this film is anything but a horror movie in disguise is futile for sure. The entire picture is so densely packed with dread, fear, and uneasiness.  David Fincher even employs the old-school but trusty Hitchcock approach to horror and suspense – the less you witness, the more effectively fear is created (a technique famously used in ALIEN).  Most of the film utilizes this technique masterfully… remember the Polaroid featuring a bladed-strap-on dildo?  Nothing is shown here except the pic and the brilliant performance of Leland Orser. Almost immediately, your mind fills in the rest – effective and primal horror. Oh, and let’s not forget the climax scene and the mysterious box, once you piece everything together, you overflow with the same emotions experienced by Mills – 100% dread!


OLDBOY (2003) – Dir. Chan-wook Park

A Shakespearean tragedy injected with a heavy dose of meth…This hyper tale of revenge is mind-blowing and terrifying. A kinetic journey, that pushes us ultimately to a climax that will wrench out your guts and then force you deal with the terrible aftermath.  To sit through 2 hours of absolute madness with Oh Dae-su arriving at a revelation that no one dared to imagine is utterly sad and terrible – we immediately empathize with Oh’s personal hell, and his horror is completely overwhelming.


Feel free to share some of your thoughts and own examples of “hidden” horror films…