From the Dark (2014)
From the Dark is a very straightforward vampire movie from Ireland. It breaks absolutely no new ground in concept, but it's very competent and suspenseful in execution. Our main characters are Mark and Sarah, a couple traveling through the Irish countryside when their car breaks down. With evening coming on, Mark decides to hike to the nearest farmhouse, only to find its sole occupant badly wounded and incoherent. When he brings Sarah back to the house to try to help the old man (who made a terrible discovery at the beginning of the film and was attacked by the thing he unearthed), they find themselves under attack from a creature that seems to fear nothing but light.
This movie's simplicity works in its favor. It doesn't try to mix up the vampire myth at all. There's a vampire (the bald, ugly Nosferatu type), the people it bites turn into vampires eventually, and there are two people in a farmhouse. Sarah is the real protagonist here, as she's left to fend for herself before long. Niamh Algar is a fantastic physical actress and really sells how far she's being pushed as she tries to figure out a way to escape the farmhouse even as her sources of light dwindle -- she's got a flashlight, then a lamp, then a burning newspaper...a candle...a pack of matches. After a certain point there's really no dialogue at all, and the movie stands steady as a tense physical confrontation between woman and monster.
Available On: Netflix.
Creep is another two-person horror movie written and directed by, and starring, Patrick Brice as Aaron, a freelance videographer, and Mark Duplass as Josef, the lonely recluse who hires him for a day's work. Josef, diagnosed with cancer, has two months to live and an unborn son on the way, and he wants Aaron to film a typical day in his life to leave behind for his son. There's just something off about him. He's too eager to be Aaron's friend, too free with personal details about his life, and his attempts at social interaction grow increasingly unsettling, until Aaron begins to suspect that being around Josef might be dangerous.
Unlike From the Dark, Creep is a dialogue-heavy movie, and it's all delivered naturally by Brice and Duplass. Everyone's met someone like Josef before, and has probably been at least a little unsettled. A lot of the tension here comes from the fact that we're never entirely sure -- and neither is Aaron -- that there's actually anything to worry about. It's possible that Josef is dangerously crazy, but it's also possible that he's just a lonely weirdo looking for a friend. The ending took me entirely by surprise. This is a found footage film, and found footage is something I'm never entirely on board with. Creep has a few of the hallmarks of the subgenre (particularly a few scenes where you have to ask why the person's still filming), but at least in this case the pretext is there, and the cleverness of the dialogue, the relationship between the only two characters in the movie, and a dark sense of humor throughout raise Creep well above the level of the rash of found-footage horror movies that have popped up in the wake of Paranormal Activity (and above Paranormal Activity itself, which I thought was frankly crap).
Available On: Netflix.