“Perpetrator” is a singular work from an utterly singular filmmaker. Jennifer Reeder’s visionary films take place in a deadpan dimension populated with monstrous femmes and vibrate on a frequency that’s unlike anything else. Either you can tune into it, or you can’t. (To paraphrase Matthew McConaughey in that one movie, though, it’d be a lot cooler if you could.) (On Shudder.)
An obsession with the liminal is a hallmark of internet horror, and “Skinamarink” epitomizes its grainy-hallways-and-jump-scares aesthetic. Writer-director Kyle Edward Ball got his start with a YouTube channel where he filmed other people’s nightmares; that must have given him insight into the primal fear centers of the unconscious mind, because he manipulates them so skillfully here. (On Shudder.)
“Talk to Me”
A24’s surprise summer hit brings an anything-can-happen feeling back to horror that’s been missing over the past several years. The film pulls no punches in terms of its heroine’s physical and mental distress. But even when it gets dark—like suicide and psychosis dark—it’s still a thrill ride. (On VOD.)
Eli Roth returns to form with this good, old-fashioned turkey with a butcher knife stuck in its back. The jokes are sick, the kills are gory, and the movie is mean without losing its sense of fun. (A sign of a more mature filmmaker, perhaps?) Overall, it’s a welcome reminder of the visceral pleasures of slasher movies in their classic early-’80s style. (In theaters.)
“When Evil Lurks”
Demián Rugna is the type of filmmaker one might call a “sick bastard,” but in an affectionate way. The bad vibes in his latest film—about an inescapable, unstoppable evil that spreads through an isolated rural community—are so oppressive, you can practically smell them in your clothes like a campfire afterwards. It’s both deathly serious and over-the-top and makes no apologies for it. (On Shudder.)
The nature of festival runs—particularly for independent films—means that sometimes there’s a significant delay between a title’s festival premiere and its eventual release. With that in mind, two to look forward to in 2024 are: First, Jason Yu’s mindfuck chamber piece “Sleep,” which premiered at this year’s Cannes, was a hit in its native South Korea, and is slated for North America in March. “New Life,” a Fantasia premiere about which the less is said the better (in a good way), isn’t dated yet, but has been acquired by sales agent XYZ Films. Both should top your horror watch lists for 2024.
Read reviews of all of the horror films given 3 stars or more this year here.