10 Filmmakers Who Slashed Past the Sophomore Slump
Making movies isn’t that hard anymore. Anybody with a camera can make a movie these days, and everybody with a phone has a really high-quality camera that can get the job done – and often has. So making a movie isn’t a very hard thing to do in 2019. Now, making a good movie – that’s a rare and triumphant feat. So rare in fact that since 2010 there have been approximately 23,454,202 horror movies made and only 23 of them have been good (umm… citation needed). So making good, memorable movies is hard. But do you know what’s even harder than that? Making two really good memorable movies.
As it turns out, I finally saw Us by Jordan Peele and it’s really good. In fact, it’s so good that I need a bit more time to really flesh out my feelings on it. Us got me thinking about sophomore films and how they compare to their creators’ debuts. And since calling this feature “10 Sophomore Movies to Watch Before Jason Writes his Piece About Us, Jordan Peele, and How His New Movie Compares to His Old One” would be too long we’re simply calling it “10 Filmmakers Who Slashed Past the Sophomore Slump.”
So without further ado, here are ten movies that may or may not have outdone their creator’s debut:
Ritual was Keating’s first film, and for many it’s still his best – which is saying a lot considering his body of work. Personally, Darling is my favorite movie of his but it was Pod, his second film, that made me into a fan. Pod is Keating’s most dangerous work. It has a mysterious yet frantic quality that makes you lean forward but cover your eyes at the same time.
Alex Garland has written some of my favorite science fiction stories in any medium, and with his directorial debut Ex Machina he successfully created a beautiful world that felt both sparse and exotic. With his second film, Annihilation, Garland pushes us into an alien situation and forces us to confront what it truly means to be human. Filled with grotesque and haunting imagery, Annihilation will stay with you.
With Murder Party, you can tell Jeremy Saulnier was having fun. It wasn’t until Blue Ruin that we got to see him make a film. More measured and subdued than the over-the-top Murder Party, Blue Ruin has Saulnier’s trademark violence but with better pacing and buildup.
Mama definitely had potential. I think the horror community finally agreed on something – that there were creepy moments in Mama but the film ultimately fell apart at the end. Now IT was a whole different story. The potential Andy Muschietti showed with Mama was entirely realized in IT, and then some. We’ll ignore for a second that the source material for Muschietti was pretty damn good to begin with because IT was brilliant in its own right.
I have to admit right up front, I have not seen James Wan’s first film Stygian. I couldn’t seem to find it in time for this feature, but as soon as I do you’ll be the first to know. Instead let’s jump right into Saw – the film that made Wan into a star. The first Saw is still my favorite in the long franchise. Its pacing was kept under control, its story was less convoluted, and the twist was one of the best in years. You have probably seen this already but it is worth another watch.
Moorehead and Benson just know how to create great movies together. Resolution was a great movie, yet somehow it’s Spring that has firmly lodged itself into my psyche all these years later. Spring is the horror movie I recommend to both other horror fan and normies alike. Spring borrows from many genres to tell its love story; horror is just one of them, and it’s well worth the price of admission.
The Devil’s Candy
I’m breaking my own rule a bit here, and I’m doing so because The Devil’s Candy is perhaps a bit overrated here at Modern Horrors. I still prefer Sean Byrne’s debut The Loved Ones. But The Devil’s Candy is still worth a watch. It’s a disturbing descent into madness that’s punctuated by a brilliant performance from Ethan Embry.
David F. Sandberg’s full-length feature film Lights Out was a bit undercut by the brilliant short film that preceded it. It was admirable work, stretching this 60-second idea out over 60 minutes but it just wasn’t as fresh feeling by the end. Subsequently, Annabelle: Creation was filled with fresh scares that proved Sandberg is the real deal.
When I first heard there was going to be an Evil Dead, remake I was worried. There’s a certain “je ne sais quoi” about Sam Raimi films that is really hard to mimic. Thankfully for us, Fede Alvarez took the idea of Evil Dead and created something entirely its own. He seems to have a knack for that. Alvarez’s sophomore effort Don’t Breathe isn’t exactly what it seems and is much more to unpack than it lets on.
I always thought Grave Encounters was a bit of an also-ran of the found footage genre, but it had some clever ideas. When it comes to Extraterrestrial, Colin Minihan takes more chances and is rewarded with a much more entertaining experience. If you’re a fan of alien encounter movies this one is for you.
Well, I’m not sure yet. We’ll see. I still have to process the heavily symbolic Us. On its face I liked Us a bit more, but I still have a lot to decipher about it first. For now, watch these movies and check back in with me in a month.