Rent or buy it on Vudu
Blasco (Ramiro Blas), a former bullfighter, drives a van that takes people around Spain. He’s a bully who doesn’t like feminists, and that doesn’t sit well with his three passengers on a fateful day: Mariela (Cecilia Suárez), a religious woman who has cancer, and Lidia (Cristina Alcázar), who takes her grumpy teenage daughter Marta (Paula Gallego) with her), to live with Lidia’s ex-husband.
But Blasco’s macho drivel is the least of the group’s worries. As night falls, they encounter a gurgling organism that spits a tiny worm into Marta’s finger, and not long after, Blasco drives his van into a disfigured woman standing in the street. When he takes her to the hospital, she spits out a translucent goo that turns Mariela into a snarling killer ghoul. From then on, it’s a slugfest between humans and evil mud.
This dark comedy horror from Spanish director duo Raúl Cerezo and Fernando González Gómez is more than an upset stomach infection flick. It’s also a surprisingly touching look at how people, especially parents and their children, forgive one another when trauma is a sticky-fingered parasite. I don’t know what the sloppy-tacky makeup effects cost, but the directors got their money’s worth.
I more admired than enjoyed this folk horror fable set in the lush rural landscapes of 19th-century Macedonia, where the supernatural and the ordinary share a strained coexistence.
When she turns 16, a mute girl named Nevena (Sara Klimoska) is taken from her mother by a Freddy Krueger-looking demon (Anamaria Marinca) known to locals as Old Maid Maria. With relentless cruelty, Maria teaches her new child the ways of a shapeshifter, a life that requires Nevena to slaughter the people she wants to become, including a young village woman (Noomi Rapace).
Macabre and visually striking, the film moves in a style of folk horror that is only one side of the pretentious. Nonetheless, writer-director Goran Stolevski and cinematographer Matthew Chuang have collaborated to create a film about a young woman’s quest for self-discovery that contains beautiful passages of sensuality and joy, but also shocking acts of brutality. There is also a subversive queerness: as Nevena grows into a handsome young man, she explores the male body and the expectations associated with it.
Clayton Witmer’s film is a deeply atmospheric and touching character drama masquerading as a vintage creature movie.
Ethan (Drew Matthews) is an introverted locksmith who lives alone in an American suburb near his brother (Ryan Davenport) and family. One night while driving, Ethan comes across a deer carcass and inside he finds a wriggling little creature, a cross between a spider and a lobster. He takes it home, where the little fellow breaks out of his cage and eventually grows to a monstrous size. When a neighbor is found dead one morning, Ethan has an idea who the killer is.
At just under two hours, the film is too long to live up to its creepy-crawling ambitions. But it is a magic weaver. I was particularly intrigued by how Witmer takes a monster metaphor in unexpected directions as he explores what it means to grow up in a small town and never leave it. Ayinde Anderson’s fine cinematography makes the North Carolina suburb where the film was shot look humble and sinister.
Stream it on Shudder
This Nico van den Brink fiction film is a conventional supernatural folk horror drama that nonetheless offers a good night terrors and a hell of a good ending.
Set in the Netherlands, the film begins with Jonas (Alexandre Willaume) and his research team working near a peat bog where Betriek (Sallie Harmsen) lives with her young daughter. They make a bizarre discovery: a long-dead corpse of a woman whose throat has been slashed perpendicularly. Meanwhile, Betriek’s father sets up a sensor in the yard after a deranged man shouts, “You’re making me do this!” as he attacks the family.
When Betriek and Jonas begin a romance, she tells him that the spooky happenings may have something to do with a family curse that followed the unsolved murder of her grandmother. She is right, and the curse has reached out for her and her daughter.
I don’t quite understand the demonic myth that powers “Moloch”; it has biblical roots and has something to do with a hungry female spirit. But that’s okay, because van den Brink’s film oozes suspense and hurls odd horrors, like an eerie scene where Betriek encounters a possessed child in an elevator. The freaky final scene is chilling.
Rent or buy it on most major platforms
Though there are borrowings from Ju-On: The Grudge, The Vigil, and other horror films, DM Cunningham’s compelling low-budget ghost story still terrifies.
The film begins on a stormy night in a cell as James (Peter Tell) recounts the harrowing events of a horrible day to his prison counselor (Sherryl Despres). Looking back, James explains that he was a police officer who once had to protect a body that was found near a cabin in the woods. He began seeing red poppies and a woman in a red dress – clues, he says, as to why he was there, who the victim was and what a colleague (Haley Heslip) had to do with it. As he recalls the bloody horrors that followed, we learn that James harbors terrible secrets that a sheet could never hide.
From pacing to chronology, this film is off-kilter; Dream states and reality share space in scenes that don’t flow from one to the next. But Tell’s darkly funny performance and Cunningham’s adventurous direction make it possible. That is, until the film’s many detours – from zombie comedies to sci-fi thrillers to Hallmark romances – rush to a confusing conclusion.