Movie consumers and TV watchers find themselves in new golden age of horror — from major American studios to influential filmmakers in Europe and Asia, horror cinema has experienced a remarkable resurgence. If you’re in the mood for scares, try these for starters. Most are available on DVD or via streaming from Netflix.
“Audition” (1999). Japanese director Takashi Miike sedates the viewer with what appears to be a poignant love story until the last half hour. At that point the film becomes an astounding exercise in sadism as memorable for its psychological effect as its explicit imagery. This made it on to a Rolling Stone list of the “20 scariest horror movies you’ve never seen.”
“Final Destination 3” (2006). This is my favorite of the series. It toys with the you-can’t-cheat-death formula in clever ways, opens with a horrendous roller-coaster mishap and includes a singular scene of death by tanning bed. Directed by James Wong.
“The Funhouse” (1981). Tobe Hooper, the director who made his name with the micro-budget slasher classic “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” turned out an effective thriller about teenagers trapped in a theme park after hours. A comic highlight is Kevin Conway’s fine performance as a barker with a trouble-making mutant son.
“Hostel” (2005). Director Eli Roth’s classic about American backpackers kidnapped by Slovakians and sold to a business that allows clients to torture people to death for a handsome fee is in a class of its own. Unrelentingly violent, blithely sexist and imbued with a parochial fear of the Other, Roth’s film follows a clear vision and is assembled with utmost efficiency. It’s also shot through with a dark sense of humor. “Hostel II” is an inspired follow-up.
“Let the Right One In” (2008). Swedish director Tomas Alfredson creates a haunting, atmospheric and moving story about a bullied young boy who befriends an unusual girl living in the same apartment complex. One of the most affecting vampire movies ever made.
“Misery” (1990) Director Rob Reiner, working from William Goldman’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a successful pop novelist held captive by his biggest fan, is a comic macabre masterpiece. Reiner got terrific performances from James Caan and Kathy Bates.
“[REC]” (2007) is a Spanish found-footage thriller in which a TV reporter accompanies emergency workers into an apartment building only to discover that a virus is transforming residents into zombies. Very well done, this inventive flick spawned three Spanish sequels and an American remake, “Quarantine” (2008).
“The Ring” (2002). Director Gore Verbinski’s English-lanuage version of Hideo Nakata’s “Ringu” (1998) may be the best American adaptation of a Japanese horror film. Naomi Watts heads the cast as a journalist investigating a mysterious videotape that seems to bring death to anyone who views it.
“Vile” (2011). Young people traveling by van are mysteriously gassed and wake up in a house with devices implanted at the base of their skulls. They are told by a talking head on a video screen that the only way they can get out is by filling up the device with a specific kind of brain fluid produced only by experiencing intense pain. They then are obliged to torture each other in a bid to win their freedom. An agreeably nightmarish scenario, well executed on a small budget.
“Would You Rather” (2012). A young woman, unable to afford her ailing brother’s hospital bills, seeks help from a philanthropist who tells her all her expenses will be paid if she agrees to compete in a party game and wins. What he doesn’t tell her is that if she wins, she’ll be the only survivor. Filled with a grim humor, thanks to a fine performance by Jeffrey Combs as the philanthropist, this is a satisfyingly sadistic, claustrophobic thriller.