5. It Follows (2015)
Region: UK, US
What if having sex meant contracting the world's WORST STD? That's the idea plaguing young Jay (Maika Monroe), who sleeps with her new boyfriend and is promptly informed she's now in Death's crosshairs and being followed. The "it" follows her wherever she goes, frequently in the guise of people she knows or people who have died. The only way to shake herself loose of its murderous plan? To pass on the curse by sleeping with someone else.
Only two years old and already a modern horror classic, It Follows is the best John Carpenter movie made by someone else. That somebody is David Robert Mitchell, who nailed the ‘70s and ‘80s slasher feel with long tracking shots, a synth score and a plot to scare you off sex for life.
4. Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
The first Nightmare film since the 1984 original to bring something new to the franchise. Wes Craven is often credited with reviving horror in Scream, but it's really this intertextual meta-horror that injected fresh blood into the gasping genre.
In the film, the original cast and crew play themselves twenty years later as Heather Langenkamp - who starred as Nancy Thompson in the first flick - is on the cusp of reprising her role in a new Freddy film. This turn of events causes the fictional Krueger to cross from fantasy to reality, and begin invading the nightmares of Langenkamp's son.
Craven's original intended version of Freddy makes his appearance here, a far more menacing, fearful creation than the quasi-comic he ended up in sequels.
3. The Hallow (2015)
A big fan of the horror genre, Corin Hardy chose to branch out into a new territory for his filmmaking debut. He knew there would be creatures involved, but didn't want to churn out another vampire or zombie flick. So he turned to Irish fairy tales and made The Hallow.
Joseph Mawle stars as a conservationist who moves to rural Ireland with his wife and newborn baby to start a new life. His treks into the local forest - for his job - are aggressively discouraged by locals, who warn against stirring up the evil within. Not giving a blind bit of notice, things turn very bad, very fast. Cue a series of intense sequences, including one in a car that possibly rivals the nail-biting Scream 2 scene.
It's still reminiscent of classic body horror like The Thing and Bodysnatchers, and there's a few tips of the hat to The Descent and Pan's Labyrinth, but the most explicit nod goes to Sam Raimi. Check the credits for a neat Evil Dead easter egg.
2. The Babadook (2014)
Region: UK, US
Once in a while a new entry in the horror canon comes along that reminds us all of what the genre is capable. Jennifer Kent's monster feature won over critics and audiences, a slow-burner that preys on childhood fears to chilling effect. Essentially taking a storybook villain and making him real, Kent repurposes the Freddy Krueger idea and crafts an even more dastardly being. A creature that lives on the page and in your nightmares.
The work of a first-time filmmaker can sometimes be hit and miss. They can show promise for the future. Not here. Kent shows an assuredness, a confidence in her material, that presents like the work of an established director. A large part of that is down to the performances she cajoles from her leading cast; Essie Davis is a revelation as a mother desperate to shield her child from the horrors of this taunting beast.
1. The Descent (2005)
The idea of exploring an uncharted cave system is enough to make many of us hibernate for winter. The idea of that very scenario with the possibility of something else lurking down there in the dark with you? Yeah, I'll be hibernating for LIFE.
The women of The Descent step up to that plate bravely in Neil Marshall's thoroughly enjoyable 2005 horror, that finds a bunch of life-long pals heading into caves with more than a touch of tension already in play. This is an exercise in how you execute claustrophobic terror; fully-rounded characters, great story, and killer set-pieces.