Dario Argento comes back again to the list with this vicious film. What strikes you most about Opera is just how visually stunning it is, and considering how overlooked this is amongst Argento’s work, that becomes a surprise. Of course, Argento’s weaknesses come to the fore here, but those are cast aside by his plentiful strengths on show. Who knew the use of needles would be so shudderingly effective?
The Omen (1976)
A premise that could so easily go down the ridiculous route, yet led by Gregory Peck, The Omen takes every moment, shocking or otherwise, as seriously as it can; Richard Donner’s film already has us. With an abundance of deaths that we have now seen countless times in other films, return to the one that did it the best just due to how shocking and unexpected it was. A horror film that hit all the right notes and, even today, still holds up. The foreboding nature of The Omen continually has its audience feeling that chill down their back. Once you add in that score, then folks, we have a classic horror film that spectacularly does the job that has left parents checking for specific birthmarks on their child ever since.
The Orphanage (2007)
Full of sadness, The Orphanage’s twists and turns devastate you more and more in this haunted house-style film. J.A. Bayona has made a gorgeous and hauntingly beautiful film that creeps around, keeping us continually at a heightened state of tension throughout, thanks to some fabulous cinematography from Oscar Fuera and score and sound design from Fernando Velázquez and Oriol Tarragó, respectively. Yet coupled with the fantastic story, it is the performances from our two leads that work; we are riveted throughout by the growing distancing between mother and son. You just want to knock them on the head to resolve their issues, but by the time the opportunity comes, the damage has been done—one of the best on today’s list.
The Others (2001)
Alejandro Amenábar knows how to build tone and suspense in his films; this racks up to an almost excruciating level in The Others. You find yourself leaning in as the characters whisper or the faintest of sounds are heard; you can’t help it; you are just hooked. So when those shock moments happen, they get you and you good. What makes The Others stand out and has caused so many copycats over the years is how simple the film is. There is nothing overly flashy here, just great acting and direction. This is a classic mystery horror made in modern times, and it still connects now 20 years later. If you haven’t seen The Others and have not been spoiled by the ending, then oh my, you are in for one hell of a treat.
There is a great intensity to Orphan that never really lets up. This is despite the film being quite a slow burn. You are immediately aware that something is off with Esther, and as the film begins, some of The Omen-Esque set pieces for some unlucky souls. Farmiga and Sarsgaard do well in their roles as struggling parents, but let’s be honest, this film is all about how great Isabelle Fuhrman is. The most shocking thing about Orphan? That it took 13 years for a sequel to get released, a long franchise scuppered.
One Cut of the Dead (2017)
You can’t help but love Shinichiro Ueda’s film; there is just wonderful energy to the film that surprises. One Cut of the Dead opens with a rather impressive 30-minute plus one-take scene that wears you down before it settles itself. By the third act, it has picked up the pace of the first and barrels relentlessly towards you. Ueda wisely takes from every film possible to meld it together to create this very fresh film. So fresh that a French version was recently premiered at Fantasia Fest! A film that celebrates the genre and revels in it. Wonderful.
If you have not seen Oldboy, then what a terribly twisted treat you are in for here. Just when you think the film has gone too far, it finds another level and another level. Park Chan-wook’s film is as smart as it is impressive; it is as close to a masterpiece as the great director will ever get to. You can argue that this is not a horror and more a revenge thriller, and that’s fine. But, to me, this is a horror; are the themes horrific? If you sat down and thought about it, does it tick a lot of genre boxes, hell, yes. Without a doubt one of the best revenge films ever made. Just ignore that sequel; it doesn’t add a thing that the Korean original brings.
One Missed Call (2003)
Takeshi Miike doesn’t have measures, and while One Missed Call falls foul of most J-horror of the time of looking too much like its contemporaries, this one is its own film. A killer first act reels us in as Miike settles for a more traditional approach instead of his usual absurdist filmmaking choices. It works for this film, and while you would love for a bit more of Miike to come out, this still works. Not the best J-horror ever made, but comfortably in the top 10. A good old bit of creepy revenge mystery.
One Hour Photo (2002)
Robin Williams could play a comedy role blindfolded with his arms tied behind his back. Yet, he positively shined when he went into the dramatic realm and with One Hour Photo, horrified as the sociopathic Seymour Parrish. He focuses on showing the chaotic spiral that someone can take as they go deeper into their fantasy world. Best and worst of all, nothing from his performance is forced. It all feels wholly natural. He is a lonely man in a purposely sterile world. The film builds and builds as we become more uncomfortable until it cannot hold back anymore, and it and Seymour unravel into a bloody climax.
Grief and horror have gone hand in hand for quite some time, and Kaneto Shindō makes us so aware of this in his film. Everything matters in OniBaba; not a second is wasted, and as you sit and watch the movie, you become increasingly contemplative about your own life. However, as that goes on, suffocation comes to you; like the characters, you cannot escape your situation. Sound design and lighting are integral to how you feel about the film. So ensure your sound is great and that you are watching the film in a clear way.
The Old Dark House (1932)
Almost lost from existence like the majority of films from its time, it is a minor miracle that The Old Dark House is still here for us to view. The opening of The Old Dark House is an awful lot like that of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it won’t be the last film you will feel has been generously taken from it. James Whale knows how to get the scares out of his audiences and even today 90 years after the original, it still gets you while not being afraid to bring the laughs. A film is very much a movie long before its time. This is a gem of a film, and if you can catch the restoration, please do so; it is such a treat.
That is everything from us today, come back soon as we begin to get through the last half of the letters. The fun is nowhere near over just yet. To check out our previous letters have a click below!
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