Splice – From Vincenzo Natali the director of Cube, Splice involves Sarah Polley as a scientist and her associate Adrien Brody crossing a line in terms of getting to know a half-human hybrid.
Hostel and Hostel II These ones are directed by Eric Roth and are two sides of the same coin, the second focusing more on the machinations behind the scenes of the organization behind the evil abductions that have become a thriving business in the service of horrible people. Much of these films are gut wrenching as well as allowing the protagonists to vent and have a catharsis of sorts
Saw – I only have the first one and may have also seen a couple of the later sequels but have little interest in the premise because I have to turn these movies off as some of the suspense or dread builds before something terrible happens. But the first movie has a certain focus to it, and the low budget confines work in its favor in the hands of director James Waan.
Fido – Canadian movie with Carrie Anne Moss and with Billy Connelly as a pet zombie. I had this on DVD, enjoyed it, and then made the mistake of lending it to a guy that was going to produce one of my movies. He moved and never gave it back. So that is the horror aspect.
Dawn of the Dead (2004 James Gunn script) I am nostalgic about the original Romero movie, but this is a rare remake that is as good.
John Carpenter’s The Thing is technically a new adaptation of Who Goes There, but it is perceived as a remake of The Thing From Another World. It is the best version.
The Thing (2011) Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a scientist recruited to join a Norweigan team that is claiming a find in the Arctic. It is not a remake, despite the title, but a prequel showing the events leading up to Carpenter’s film.
Us (2018) effectively directed and conceived movie about doppelgangers on one level and on another about the arbitrary circumstances with which we find ourselves with advantages in life as Eloi as opposed to being in a life of disadvantage and suffering like Morlocks. There has been push back from the praise this movie has received, because of a rush to cater to diversity. But the movie viewed on its own terms is deserving of success.
Get Out (2017) Jordan Peele broke out as a feature director with this interesting mash-up of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Being John Malcovich. It is not especially scary enough to be straight horror and it is not really funny enough to earn the comedy classification it often gets. But there are scares and laughs.
A Quiet Place (2018) Solid cinematic directorial debut of John Krasinski. The premise of survivors needing to remain silent so they do not alert a monster lends itself to visual storytelling which is often a lost art. Solid.
Psycho (1960) versus Psycho (1998) The original Hitchcock film may seem quaint and slow, but it fits into the aesthetic of black and white and the late fifties. The remake replaces the line where the detective reacts to the story Norman tells with, “If it doesn’t gel it isn’t aspic” with, “If it doesn’t gel it isn’t Jell-o.” So that is an improvement over the original. The opening establishing shot of the city of Phoenix flies without any cut or dissolve right up to the building and into the window seamlessly thanks to digital technology, much as we can assume Hitchcock would have preferred to do, so that is no sin. A couple of scenes are shuffled around by the original credited screenwriter Joseph Stephano, and the director Gus Van Sant ads trippy flashes of abstract images of storms and the like during each murder, as well as including an overhead shot of the fallen Marion Crane and her bare buttocks in the shower that might have been in the original film’s footage but would have been omitted. Anthony Perkins owns the role of Norman Bates, and given the time period of the original it is believable that as an adult he might be so isolated and have a pathology about women. Vince Vaughn in the America of 1998 is less likely to feel isolation and avoid the city due to a sense of rejection. The shot for shot remake taking its guidance from Hichcock’s framings feels like it might have been a hollow chore for Van Sant, and he may have wanted to do it as an exercise but the proverbial storyboarded vision is Hitchcock’s so Van Sant is merely on-set director or co-director
The Babadook (2014) Bret Easton Ellis and Quentin Tarantino discussed this film on the BEE podcast, and both agreed that it was well done, QT stating that the acting was good and Ellis calling it the direction, but both also agreeing that they wish the monster itself had turned out to be a true monster and not a vessel for personifying a woman’s abuse and PTSD. This is a good point and there is a chance that much of the support for this movie is powered by those who actually like the issue behind it. I agree with QT and BEE, though as I praise the direction I don’t say “the acting” is the result. I tend to take good acting for granted, since there are a wealth of performers to choose from in a major film. I can blame bad acting on a director. But it is primarily the use of the frame that inspires my faith in a director. Jennifer Kent knows what she is doing here.
Halloween (1978) John Carpenter’s classic is easily the best, simple and full of what might be called concept shots, decisive and focused. Love it from the opening titles and Carpenter’s oddly catchy theme tune. It is okay to watch Halloween II, written by Carpenter and Debra Hill but directed by Rick (Bad Boys with Sean Penn) Rosenthal. It allows hospitalized Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) to be sedated for a chunk of the movie. Don’t knock out your protagonist !!! And it introduces ideas about Michael Meyers being the brother of Laurie Strode that is ret-conned in Halloween (2018) so you could skip to that more recent film.