Horror has always been a diverse field, with subgenre on top of subgenre, each offering different takes on the fears and worries of the audience. One person might respond to vampire films but have no desire to watch a werewolf flick, while another might love a great haunted house movie but run away from slashers.
Some recent releases play around with these classic subgenres: For instance, "The Last Witch Hunter" gives an action spin to well-worn witch legends, while Guillermo del Toro brings his unique sensibilities to "Crimson Peak." But plenty of other streaming and rental offerings are conducting experiments of their own.
The five films on this list update well-established subgenres to create something well worth watching for any horror fan.
Burying the Ex (2014)
Odds are that you love something created by Joe Dante, the director of "Piranha," "The Howling," "The 'Burbs" and both "Gremlins" movies, plus five episodes of the ‘90s kid series "Eerie, Indiana." Most recently he worked his cinematic magic with “Burying the Ex,” which combines elements from zombie flicks, EC and Warren horror comics and break-up comedies.
Max (Anton Yelchin) and Evelyn (Ashley Greene) seem to be the perfect couple until they move in together and she begins to take over. Just as he's about to break up with her, she’s stuck and killed by a car. That would be the end of that, except that they wished to remain a couple forever, no matter what. Just as Max starts to hit it off with Olivia (Alexandra Daddario), Evelyn lurches back into his life.
Like many of Dante's films, this one isn't afraid to dive into the comedic elements and then ratchet up the gore. The result is a fresh, fun extension of the old anthology horror comics with a lovable cast and wonderfully gross special effects.
If there's anything we've learned from horror movies, it's never go in the woods; bad things always happen there. That's definitely the case for Wit (Wrenn Schmidt), Mike (Aaron Staton) and Sean (Pablo Schreiber) in Christopher Denham's "Preservation."
Husband and wife Wit and Mike head to an abandoned preserve with Mike's soldier brother Sean for a weekend of camping, but tensions quickly rise due to the couple's marital troubles, an impending baby, and Sean's potential post-traumatic stress disorder. Oh, and also the masked killers who sneak into their campsite at night, cut them out of their tent and mark their foreheads with Xs ... without waking them up.
Looking like something out of a doomsday prepper's fever dream, the stalkers chase the protagonists through the woods. Because of the small cast, the audience becomes even more invested in their survival, with each death carrying a lot of impact. As the movie gears up for the finale with one of the campers alone against the bad guys, matters become more complicated as their true faces are shown.
Late Phases (2014)
The basic plot of "Late Phases" — a blind Vietnam vet prepares for battle with werewolves — sounds hokey, but the film is anything but that. Written by Eric Stolze and directed by Adrián García Bogliano, it starts with the aforementioned sightless soldier Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) moving into a retirement community. That same night a werewolf attacks and kills his neighbor, but the police write it off as a just another animal attack, like the others that occur on a monthly basis.
Convinced he’s facing a werewolf problem, Ambrose spends the next month utilizing his combat knowledge to prepare for the next full moon. Along the way, he rubs his neighbors the wrong way because of his gruff demeanor (and the fact that he uses an old shovel as a cane), makes friends with a local priest and continues his distant relationship with his son, played by Ethan Embry. In the end, however, everything revolves around whether all that preparation will pay off.
"Late Phases" might be something of a slow burn with actual monster attacks reserved mostly for the beginning and the end of the film, but the building tension mixed with Damici's captivating screen presence make it worth watching.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
A horror comedy, "What We Do in the Shadows" comes from co-writers/directors Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, who also star. The mostly improvised film is presented in the documentary style, with a crew following a group of housemate vampires as they prepare for an upcoming monster mash. There’s the Impaler-esque Vladislav (Clement), the Victorian Viago (Waititi), the Nosferatu-like Petyr (Ben Fransham) and bad-boy Deacon (Jonny Brugh).
They had been going about their usual lives of trying to get into the nightclubs of Wellington, New Zealand, and finding something to eat until Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) entered their lives, first as a potential meal and then as a fellow vampire. He not only brought with him the ability to get invited into more clubs, but also a pal named Stu (Stu Rutherford), who introduced them to the wonders of the Internet and martial arts. With a bigger clique than usual, the vampires and Stu continue their misadventures, which put them into conflict with a local pack of werewolves and much of the local monster community.
While "What We Do" pokes fun at just about every version of vampire fiction, from "Dracula" to "Twilight," it also contains poignant moments in which characters reflect on love, loss and death that will undoubtedly remind some viewers of the British "Office." It's the expert mix of comedy and true-to-life emotional beats that makes this movie something special.
To paraphrase the tagline of an MTV series, you might think you know what's going on in "Housebound," but you have no idea. And that's the way it should be. Another New Zealand film, Gerard Johnstone's "Housebound" revolves around rebellious Kylie (Morgana O'Reilly) as a failed ATM robbery lands her in court once again. Instead of getting locked up, however, she's ordered to head home and spend time with her mom and step dad under house arrest, ankle bracelet and all.
But, the three of them might not be the only ones inhabiting the house. When her mother calls into a radio show to say the place might be haunted, Kylie is incredulous, but with each failed search for a prowler and other phenomena, she — and we — become more convinced something unusual is going on.
"Housebound" is a funny movie, but don't mistake it for anything other than what it is: a tense thriller expertly designed to keep you off balance and questioning what you believe is real as it races toward its unexpected conclusion.