2002: 28 Days Later
28 Days Later is a lot like ‘The Walking Dead’ – a guy wakes up in a hospital to find that the world has collapsed. After traveling through an empty London (which are real shots taken from several vantage points while holding up morning traffic), he discovers a small group to team up with.
Watching 28 Days Later on a television from the last five years may leave viewers wondering if Danny Boyle had a budget much larger than the cost of a camcorder. The old HD image leads to gorgeous impressionist shots of the English countryside, and contributes to the film’s feeling of authenticity. These aren’t the zombie films of yesteryear – the zombies’ speed and power make them a massive threat for these survivors. But, like all the best zombie works, the film is really about the horror humanity is willing to inflict upon itself in times of crisis.
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2003: Haute Tension (High Tension/Switchblade Romance)
Finally, some French Extreme Horror!
Haute Tension tells the story of two friends trying to escape a killer that brutally murdered one of their families. The film hardly relents throughout its runtime, truly earning its name by keeping the tension sky high.
While the stalking and violence are the exciting components, the editing is what makes the film what it is. Inserts of feet on tiptoes and mirrors with (or without) someone in the frame keep audiences on the edge for the worst bits. The phenomenal pacing bolsters the thin plot, and builds perfectly to the final confrontation.
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Saw is one of the greatest horror films of all time. Forget that it spawned a franchise and helped popularize the torture porn genre, it’s a solid film on its own.
Two men find themselves mysteriously chained up in a bathroom, and must follow their captor’s rules to have a chance at escape.
Saw is best known for its violence, but this film’s plotting is what steals the show. The characters’ journeys, as they work through how they ended up where they are and what they must do, is told at a perfect pace. There’s constant tension, dark irony and fantastic twists to go along with the iconic elements like Billy the Puppet, the traps, recordings and catchphrase – “do you want to play a game?”
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