Ah yes. The 2000’s. While most reflect back on the decade and primarily associate it with the “torture porn” sub-genre that came out of the SAW sequels and HOSTEL, there was actually a lot more that horror had to offer during that entire run. Sure, we saw a rise of remakes of every recognizable 80’s title and popular Japanese feature. But then there was still room for modern classics to emerge such as THE DESCENT, 28 DAYS LATER, TRICK ‘R TREAT, or imports like LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and [REC].
It was a fertile time for home video releases as well, and you couldn’t go wrong with a lot of the Anchor Bay horror releases prior to their Starz take-over. In every decade, there are always horror gems to be discovered if you dig deep enough! So, here are 6 that you might have missed that are totally worth hunting for.
PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER (2006)
In 2006, director Tom Tykwer took a nearly impossible to adapt book and managed to make a faithful film version of it. I’m talking about Patrick Suskind’s PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER. I had first heard of the novel because Kurt Cobain had referenced it as the inspiration behind the Nirvana track “Scentless Apprentice,” and when I finally tracked it down, I immediately fell in love with it, and went as far as to gift it to several friends. It follows Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a peasant born under the worst of circumstances, and a child abandoned because he himself had no scent. As he grew older, he discovers that he has the distinct power of breaking down the ingredients of any smell. Despite his abilities, he is ignored and shunned by society. Until one day he comes upon the perfect scent, that of a female virgin. He obsesses over capturing it and turning it into a perfume, and hence begins the murders. The movie version is quite good, and Ben Whishaw does an amazing job as the sympathetic, yet monstrous Jean-Baptiste. Dustin Hoffman also appears. And if you have a thing for red-heads, they’ve managed to collect the best looking red-heads ever and put them all in this one movie.
LITTLE ERIN MERRYWEATHER (2003)
A lot of movies have taken their love of John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece HALLOWEEN and tried to either replicate or homage it, with varying degrees of success. One of the more successful in capturing the spirit and tone of HALLOWEEN is the independent feature LITTLE ERIN MERRYWEATHER. It follows the traditional slasher formula but mashes it up with the “little red riding hood” legend in a unique and interesting way. David Morwick writes, directs and stars as Peter Bloom, a local college student investigating a series of murders in the area for his school paper. Could the killer be the extremely shy and awkward Erin Merryweather from his classes? Lot of cool imagery here, especially of the killer. Also a great, classy score, and animated opening that make this a special gem.
SATAN’S PLAYGROUND (2006)
In the same way that David Lynch sometimes takes us on non-narrative story arcs, I’ve always been a fan of the films of Dante Tomaselli. Stylistically, they take a cue from the Italian masters, such as Dario Argento by capturing vibrant and colorful visuals that look beautiful, but are in actuality pure nightmare fuel. His first 2 features DESECRATION and HORROR are not easy pills to swallow, but his 3rd feature SATAN’S PLAYGROUND is more traditional in its execution, and hence his most commercially accessible feature. It also stars a slew of genre names such as Felissa Rose (SLEEPAWAY CAMP), Ellen Sandweiss (THE EVIL DEAD) and Edwin Neal (THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE). While on vacation, a family gets lost in the woods and stumble upon the cabin of a demented clan of killers. But also lurking in the background is the legendary Jersey Devil. Can they escape the horrors of the Pine Barrens, both within and above?
THE LOST (2006)
Because of my love of Lucky McKee’s MAY, I stumbled upon the work of acclaimed novelist Jack Ketchum. And that led me to the debut feature of Chris Sivertson, THE LOST. Adapted by Sivertson from Ketchum’s novel, the story follows the evolution of genuine psychopath Ray Pye, who at 19, for no rhyme or reason, murders two young girls, just because. His friends keep it a secret although the town suspects. But could this young, good looking charming man truly be responsible of such evils? As Ray meets a new girl in town, his compulsions spiral out of control. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this, but it’s long overdue for a revisit. It left such a profound impact on me after my initial viewing and a big part of that is Marc Senter’s powerhouse performance. Truly chilling stuff. And by the time THE LOST was through with me, I remember feeling the same way I felt when the end credits for HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER rolled.
ALONE WITH HER (2006)
Another little independent movie that slipped through the cracks is Eric Nicolas’s 2006 cinéma vérité thriller ALONE WITH HER. Colin Hanks stars as Doug, a quiet, slightly awkward but seemingly nice enough fellow that has become smitten by Amy (Ana Claudia Talancon). Through following her, he’s discovered that she’s recently broken up with her boyfriend, and manages to infiltrate her life based on what he’s learned by stalking her. The film is told exclusively through Doug’s camcorder and surveillance footage, which he manages to set up in her place. Before long, he obviously has taken his crush a little too far, and becomes a threat to Amy and her friends. It’s really a scary movie in the sense of how real it is, and Colin Hanks delivers one hell of a creepy performance. Worth seeking out.
Last but not least is the debut feature from writer/director Paul Solet, GRACE! How strong is a mother’s love for her child? Sometimes it can defy death. And that’s what happens when Madeline (Jordan Ladd) is in a terrible car accident and learns that her infant has died in utero from the crash. She decides to forgo an induced labor and instead carry the (deceased) child to term. (Let that sink in for a minute.) Although baby Grace is stillborn, Madeline’s will is enough to bring the baby to life. But now there’s only one thing it feeds on. Human blood! A bold, unique and original way to kick off a filmmaking career, Solet’s GRACE is a one of a kind and highly recommended.