Encapsulated Cinema: Buried, Red Hill, and The Loved Ones

Although most people probably wouldn’t lump this trio of snazzy, forward-thinking motion pictures into the horror genre, I am of the belief that all three are perfect examples of modern-day terror filtered through the unique perspective of their respective directors. Each filmmaker tackles a particularly horrific scenario in a stylish, original manner, and despite their relative distance from conventional horror, these movies prove that the genre is far from dead. If you find yourself whining endlessly about the state of the genre as of late, feast your eyes on these three features and breath a sigh of relief. Horror isn’t as stale and uninspiring as the American market would have you believe. Take a look.

Here they are in no particular order.

Buried (2010)
Who knew that spending roughly 90 minutes in a single location with Ryan Reynolds would be so impossibly engrossing and mindlessly entertaining? The talented and extremely busy actor shines in this decidedly horrifying tale of a civilian contractor who unexpectedly finds himself buried six feet underground somewhere within the tumultuous landscape of Iraq. His only hope of survival is the US government, which seems a little reluctant to offer up adequate support. Cinematic claustrophobia sets in almost immediately, especially if, like me, you find the idea of enclosed spaces to be infinitely terrifying. Working from a tightly-wound script by screenwriter Chris Sparling, director Rodrigo Cortés leads audiences on a frantic, overwhelmingly suspenseful journey for survival that ends the only possible way it could without completely compromising the rest of the tale. The experience might leave you completely drained, but it’s definitely a worthwhile excursion.

Red Hill (2010)
Although the film is structured like an early 80’s slasher flick, talented writer/director Patrick Hughes’ unconventional shocker “Red Hill” is actually an intelligent and strangely affecting revenge picture powered by a handful of intriguing performances and some top-notch pacing. The story centers around a small town cop who, after leaving the big city with his pregnant wife, is very much looking forward to a simpler days. However, his hopes and dreams for peace and quiet are immediately destroyed upon learning that a seemingly psychotic escaped felon is looking to violently settle the score with the Red Hill police department. What begins as a simple tale of vengeance quickly transforms into a compelling drama with enough surprising twists and turns to satisfy even the most hardened of thriller fanatics. What’s more, Hughes handles the on-screen carnage with just enough restraint to keep the film from descending into cheap exploitation. Surprisingly heartfelt and endlessly entertaining. I can’t recommend this one enough.

The Loved Ones (2009)
Despite my deep-rooted and frequently venomous loathing of the torture horror genre, I found Sean Byrne’s enormously enjoyable 2009 effort “The Loved Ones” to be a highly unexpected delight. The film’s familiar premise is easy enough — a rejected high school girl kidnaps her boyfriend-to-be and subjects him to a series of brutal punishments — though Byrne’s execution far from generic. The script packs just enough surprises to keep you guessing until the jaw-dropping finale, which, I must say, contains one of the most satisfying climaxes I’ve encountered all year. The feature’s real star, however, is Robin McLeavy, who delivers a powerhouse performance as Princess, a frightfully deranged teenage lunatic who ranks as one of the most unsettling on-screen psychopaths in cinematic history. Watching her torment poor Xavier Samuel often borders on black comedy. Assuming, of course, that your sense of humor is bleak and utterly demented. I predict eventual cult status and lots of critical praise.