As we put a nail in 2019, I thought we should all take a moment and call out some films flying so far below the radar that even deep cut spelunkers missed them. But not me! I called out a few of these early on, but now it’s time to count them down, along with a few others that have been released since then.
Just a few of the great films that were ultimately considered “too popular” to make this list include Level 16, Pledge, Starfish, and Harpoon. So anyone looking to drop some choice deep cuts and cult films on unsuspecting viewers, read on!
10. The Hoard
The Hoard is a comedy/horror mockumentary that chronicles the unravelling of a production team who are attempting to produce the ultimate reality TV show pilot ‘Extremely Haunted Hoarders’. You’ve heard the phrase ‘so bad it’s good’ but can a movie be ‘so good it’s bad’? Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed The Hoard quite a bit. In addition, it perfectly replicates the acting, shooting, and editing style of a reality show. Unfortunately, at an hour and forty minutes with no breaks, the concept threatens to outstay its welcome. That being said, the concept is intriguing and supremely well executed with some fun special effects thrown in. A worthy inclusion on your next found footage movie marathon, and available for free to Prime members or on VOD.
9. They’re Inside
When two sisters go to an isolated cabin in the woods to film a passion project, family secrets start to get in the way, as do masked strangers filming a passion project of their own. It seems that 2019 might be turning out to be the year for meta narratives in found footage, between the first two entries on this list and One Cut Of The Dead. Thus, Luke noted in his review that They’re Inside adds “considerable depth to what is considered by most to be a tired subgenre.” I admittedly count myself among them, but when he’s right, he’s right. It also has some of the most brutal turns in a film I’ve seen all year. Check it out for free if you’re a Prime member, or on VOD and Blu Ray.
8. The Night Sitter
A con artist poses as a babysitter to steal from a wealthy occult enthusiast. One of the kids she’s sitting unwittingly summons a trio of witches known as The Three Mothers. The Night Sitter got far less attention than either The Babysitter or Better Watch Out, and that’s a shame. This low-budget effort features fun performances, solid special effects, a bitchin’ neon aesthetic, and a fantastic synth score! This production team honed their skills over a series of short films, and then channeled that experience into a debut feature that should land on your annual Holiday Horror list! Check out the trailer today, then head on over to your VOD or Blu Ray vendor of choice.
7. Our Evil
A man with spiritualist powers is told by his mentor that a demonic entity is returning to destroy his daughter’s soul, and that he should take drastic measures to prevent this from happening. This Brazilian film is Samuel Galli’s debut, and goddamn are we looking forward to his career. Calling it “reminiscent of Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs,” Luke spoke highly of it in his review all the way back in 2017. With the benefit of multiple watches, Luke’s praise is well placed. While Our Evil takes some unconventional turns that cause the story to meander a bit in the second half, Galli wraps it up with a satisfying conclusion and solid performances. Catch it free on Prime, or on VOD. Physical media fans will, for now, have to import a disc from Brazil.
A troubled veteran is given a special drug that opens a door to a world of sex, murder, and revenge. To call Drew Barnhardt’s films ‘unconventional’ would be an understatement. Along with his first film, Murder Loves Killers Too, Barnhardt’s sophomore effort takes on familiar territory with a unique approach. Here, he tackles an old-fashioned exploitation revenge fantasy thriller while also addressing issues like race, class, and PTSD. Rondo addresses uncomfortable subject matter with uncomfortable scenes dripping with blood and satire. Awkward sequences with bizarre dialogue and uniquely strange performances ultimately culminate in a “satisfying and bloody conclusion” that impressed Anthony at 2018’s Fantasia Fest. Currently available on VOD and, unfortunately, DVD.
Gunned down in the snowy wilderness and desperate for shelter, Billy Cavanagh is taken in by kooky old lady Agnes, unaware that her isolated log cabin is being stalked by a bloodthirsty skinless creature hellbent on getting inside. In a mashup billed as Misery meets Ravenous, Charlie Steeds delivers “one of the most demented and well-executed FX gags” of the year, according to Luke. In a refreshing contrast, Steeds opts to spend most of the runtime of Winterskin in a close-quarters setting between two antagonistic characters. This decision pays off big time as the tension and drama take center stage until it’s time for Steeds’ more grotesque visuals to take over. This is another one that’s relatively easy to come by, thanks to a distributor willing to put films out for Prime members, as well as VOD. (There’s also *whispers* a DVD.)
A comic book obsessed serial killer teaches his son how to get away with a series of brutal murders until the boy befriends a mysterious man who threatens to expose everything. Tom Botchii’s feature length debut hits a lot of my personal touchpoints, but none more than the proverbial ‘small story told within a larger universe.’ Artik features subtle, visual world building throughout a brief runtime that tells a simple story about a boy and the toxic family from which he’s trying to escape. Luke was equally impressed at 2019’s Popcorn Frights, calling it “loud, violent, and downright strange.” Also available to Prime members, and on VOD and Blu Ray. This is not one to be missed, especially for anyone looking for a little antidote to comic book movie overload.
At her 8th birthday, Risa made an honest wish for friends so that she’s no longer lonely at home. She got her wish. Here’s another one we’ve been pumping up since 2017, but after finally coming to US audiences via Netflix in 2019, Danur may have unfortunately lost a bit of momentum. Now, while the ‘child who can see ghosts’ setup may not feel wholly original, Awi Suryadi takes it in new directions and demonstrates skillful ingenuity in his execution. What we’re left with are some of the most terrifying sequences of the year from, as Luke put it, “one of the great minds of modern horror.” It’s no surprise that it spawned a franchise with two sequels already. Head on over to Netflix to give it a watch!
2. Get My Gun
After an innocent prank, Amanda finds herself pregnant and out of a job. On the verge of motherhood and out of work, she becomes the target of a psychotic stalker who will stop at nothing to get her hands on the unborn child. In yet another entry that we’ve been high on for some time, 2019 was finally the year that Brian Darwas and Jennifer Carchietta’s revenge thriller broke through to a wide audience. Yet despite a streaming acquisition from Shudder and wide availability on Amazon Prime, this gritty, unique story is inexplicably overlooked. But give it a watch and you’ll find a contemporary tribute to classic exploitation films with a modern, feminist perspective. Back in 2018, I called it “one of the best revenge films in years” and that remains true to this day. Admittedly, the final act requires strong suspension of disbelief, but just enjoy the ride. Available on Shudder, Amazon Prime, VOD and DVD.
Far more than 10 movies deserve your attention this year, but a few of them on the bubble are worthy of being called out here. The Cannibal Club [Review] pits a Brazilian upper class couple against the powerful elite, and is available on VOD. The Pool delighted audiences at last year’s Fantastic Fest, and was (at least for a brief time) available to Prime members, but VOD options don’t seem to be available at the moment. (So, I guess what I’m saying is this one isn’t your fault.)
Meanwhile, The VelociPastor [Review] gained a small cult following this year with a wacky adventure story about a shape-shifting priest and his prostitute side-kick, but it unquestionably deserves a wider audience. Track it down on Prime, VOD, or Blu Ray. Finally, Saint Bernard [Review] showcases some of the best special effects of the year and is finally available to the public on VOD and Blu Ray thanks to Severin Films. But, without further ado …
1. The Unseen
A man who abandoned his family now risks everything to find his missing daughter, including exposing the secret that he is becoming invisible. I know, I know … the fucking irony of a movie called The Unseen topping a list of great movies no one has seen … but it’s true. And this is another one that took years to get formal distribution, following a glowing review from Luke way back in 2016! But it really is one of the year’s best overall, featuring deep characters, strong relationships, understandable motivations, and an intriguing story. And that’s to say nothing of the stellar special effects which, on this budget, are likely explained only by witchcraft. And it’s another one that Prime members pay nothing extra for, or check it out on VOD, or DVD for you savages out there!