The horror genre is a tough one to get right, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to crack. The best films are able to suspend belief and inject cringe worthy fear and anticipation into the most grounded of souls. Over the years I’ve added quite a few horror titles to my Blu-ray collection. Some of my favorites include classics such as Halloween, The Shining, The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The Silence of the Lambs, Alien, and the ever polarizing The Blair Witch Project. And while those are loads of fun to watch, most of them look and sound dated. They simply miss the pop and sizzle that modern movies carry when it comes to presentation power. So, today, we offer you a list of five killer movies – all made after the year 2000 – that will deliver Shocktober direct to your home theater room with the added allure of modern audio and video qualities.
It Follows (Blu-ray, 2015)
This is the most recent release of our five picks, and it very well could be the best. After all, our Mike Edwards proclaimed it to be “one of the best horror movies [he] had seen in quite some time,” and I would have to agree. It Follows is an instant classic that details the terror experienced by a young woman that is cursed with a burden of a demonic stalker. What’s better, is the film delivers its story with classic styling that makes it feel like it was born during yesteryear.
The film features a 2.35:1 cinemascope image that will absolutely delight large screen and projector viewers with a beautifully aged image bathed in earthy hues. The overall video presentation is practically faultless with outstanding color, clarity, and blacks to die for. The audio side is punctuated by a robust DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack that delivers the goods. Dialog is amazingly sharp and intelligible, surround atmospherics are off the charts, the musical score is superb, and low frequency effects are potent enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck.
Buy It Follows On Blu-ray at Amazon
The Babadook (Blu-ray, 2014)
The Shout Factory delivers director Jennifer Kent’s first cinematic release, The Babadook, on Blu-ray. The film details the nightmarish experiences of a single mother and her disturbed young son. Things go from bad to worse once the duo reads a book about a monster that hides in the dark. The storyline is fresh and original, capturing quite a bit of critical acclaim at its time of release (98% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes).
The film’s audio merits include a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that is layered with creepy sounds, atmospherics, and great surround activity. While low frequency effects are rare, they have plenty of pop when used. Dialog is highly intelligible. The overall presentation does so many things right, setting the stage for a story that is sure to send chills down your spine.
Much like It Follows, The Babadook pleases the eyes with an enthusiast grade cinemascope aspect ratio. The overall image is loaded with fine details and a sharpness that's pleasing to the eye. Dark scenes show a hint of crush here and there, which only help to hide the sinister being that haunts the film’s horror-scape.
Buy The Babadook On Blu-ray at Amazon
The Devil’s Backbone (Blu-ray, 2013)
While pricey to buy due to its Blu-ray release as part of the Criterion Collection, The Devil’s Backbone is a Guillermo del Toro horror gem. The film takes place at the Santa Lucia School during the Spanish Civil War, a home to orphans, abandoned children, and the ghost of a boy that was brutally murdered on school grounds. The setting for this film gives it a fresh feel within the horror genre.
The video presentation (1.85:1) features an excellent hi-def. transfer from the original 35mm camera negative. This particular release features a remastered image that improves upon previous releases; del Toro and his team of transfer supervisors kept some of the film’s imperfections, giving the image a beautiful cinematic texture. Viewers are treated to excellent levels of fine detail, improved shadow detail, and a very natural image. Colors are simply superb.
Audio quality is also up to the task with a remastered Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1 presentation (English subtitles are available). While subtle and rather front-heavy, the audio track does a great job of injecting a chill into the room. Surround activity is perfectly executed with stellar moments of motion of sound. Low frequency effects, while sparse, do dig deep when they appear.
Buy The Devil’s Backbone On Blu-ray at Amazon
The Cabin in the Woods (Blu-ray, 2012)
Lionsgate hit a homerun with its decidedly unique and imaginative horror classic: The Cabin in the Woods. The story follows five college friends that travel to a remote cabin buried deep in the forest. Of course, what they find is anything but a vacation or a relaxing stay. There are quite a few surprises along the way that keep the film fresh and original, while giving plenty of nods to horror films of the past.
The film is delivered in a highly detailed and sharp 2.40:1 aspect ratio. As Mike Edwards says in his full review, “video for Cabin is excellent to say the least.” Overall coloring includes hints of black and yellow hues that coat the film with a sinister visual appeal. Finer details are pronounced.
The Cabin in the Woods delivers on the audio side with an awesome DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix. Viewers are treated to loads of surround activity that effectively heightens tension as the movie’s plot takes hold. Overall fidelity is spot-on. While the movie starts off rather tame on the bass front, low frequency effects dominate the second half to levels that will have bass-heads smiling ear to ear.
The Cabin in the Woods is currently selling for a mere $3.99 on Amazon, making it a must buy for Prime members.
Buy The Cabin in the Woods On Blu-ray at Amazon
Let the Right One In (Blu-ray, 2009)
Last but not least, we present a romantic horror film about a bullied 12-year-old boy that befriends a strange neighborhood girl. There’s just one small issue: the girl is a vampire. He accepts her for who she is, but that move has consequences that ripple far beyond his reach. The film scored a rock-solid "98%" by critics on Rotten Tomatoes and has received heaps of praise from viewing audiences, too. It’s a solid movie that is a must see for fans of horror.
Presented in its original cinemascope 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Let the Right One In delivers excellent image quality. The overall color palate is rather stark, but that plays nicely with the film’s storyline. Black levels and shadow detail during nighttime scenes are quite good. Clarity is excellent.
The film is coded with both English and Swedish DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio tracks that are deliciously balanced and razor sharp (English are subtitles available for those that want to hear the full audio effect). If you’re looking for a devilishly thunderous experience, you’ll need to look elsewhere. However, the film’s audio presentation will stealthily envelop your theater room with suspense and terror. Bass is used sparingly but effectively.
Buy Let the Right One In On Blu-ray at Amazon
If you haven't seen one of the above five films, then definitely take advantage of this haunting season and take the plunge! And if you have a favorite horror film from the last 16 years that isn’t mentioned, let us know below!
Image Credits: Causeway Films, Criterion, Starz/Anchor Bay, Lionsgate, Magnolia Pictures