1. GOODNIGHT MOMMY (2014).
Twin boys, Lukas and Elias, welcome home their mother after she undergoes reconstructive surgery. With the mother’s face beneath bandages and her behaviour becoming more detached and erratic, the children become suspicious of the woman who has returned home. Despite being a relatively unknown Austrian horror, Goodnight Mommy, a film which I stumbled across on one of my late-night cinematic journeys of warped discovery, is fraught with suspense and dread.
2. THEM (2006).
A couple living a peaceful, isolated life in the countryside are awoken one rainy night by a gang of hooded assailants who begin to torment and terrorise them throughout the night. Regurgitated and reimagined by Hollywood as The Strangers, this is a film that is sure to have you feeling helpless and hopeless, as the terror doesn’t relent. If you are seeking a sense of quasi-realism, I’d watch it on a gloomy night with the rain pelting the windows.
3. A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (2003).
Two sisters are reunited after one has been institutionalised in a mental hospital for a number of years. Returning to a normal life in their country home, in which the widowed father has remarried, the siblings begin to resent his new wife and strange events start to unsettle the harmony within the house. With A Tale of Two Sisters, Kim Jee-woon (I Saw The Devil, A Bittersweet Life) proved that he isn’t afraid to tackle a variety of genres and, unquestionably, that he is a master of South Korean cinema. Much like The Grudge and The Ring, this will, quite literally, creep up and scare the bejesus out of you.
4. STRAW DOGS (1971).
An academic, David, from the United States relocates to rural Cornwall with his new wife, Amy, only to be ostracised by the local thugs of the town, one of whom is Amy’s former lover. Before long, the torment begins to escalate and shocking violence ensues. As with The Wild Bunch, which saw him introduce blood and guts to the western genre, Sam Peckinpah, once again, does not hold back, not for a second. The violent rape and extreme violence saw the film being banned in 1984 by the British Board of Film Classification.
5. FUNNY GAMES (1997).
A family at their lakeside holiday home are inexplicably terrified by two young, psychotic men whose intentions are deeply disturbed and ultimately violent. Like much of Michael Haneke’s filmography (Hidden, The White Ribbon), Funny Games chooses to confuse, taunt and distress both the characters and the viewer by blurring the lines between reality and fiction, breaking the fourth wall, and subjecting all parties to extreme manipulation. This will mess with your mind.