7. RAW (2016)
directed by Julia Ducournau
“An innocent teenager, studying to be a vet, develops a craving for human flesh.”
There is so much I love about this film. It’s eerie, horrifying, visually unforgettable, and narratively substantive. The fact that this was Ducournau’s debut feature makes it even more impressive. I could not more highly recommend watching this film as soon as possible, especially if you love horror.
6. BERLIN SYNDROME (2017)
directed by Cate Shortland
“A passionate holiday romance leads to an obsessive relationship, when an Australian photojournalist wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave.”
Both a terrifying horror film and a deep character study, Berlin Syndrome took me by surprise last year. I haven’t been able to forget it since. Cate Shortland’s direction is incredible, and Teresa Palmer’s lead performance is unforgettable.
5. A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (2014)
directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
“In the Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, the townspeople are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire.”
God, I love this film so much! It’s hypnotizing, in terms of its visuals, its soundscape, and its lighting. Amirpour’s direction is spot on, and Sheila Vand gives an incredible performance.
4. BUSTER’S MAL HEART (2016)
directed by Sarah Adina Smith
“A family man's chance encounter with a conspiracy-obsessed drifter leaves him on the run from the police and an impending event known as the Inversion.”
Puzzling, intriguing, mystifying — it’s difficult to classify Sarah Adina Smith’s mesmerizing film. Rami Malek’s lead performance is incredible, and Smith’s direction reflects the inherent strengths of the film — it’s ability to move between genres with ease, to shock and to endear. Few films are as original and exciting as Buster’s Mal Heart.
3. THE INVITATION
directed by Karyn Kusama
“A man accepts an invitation to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife, an unsettling affair that reopens old wounds and creates new tensions.”
I didn’t intend for this list to be so full of horror films! With that said, Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation is one of the most memorable modern horror films to get released. It has a host of incredible performances, perfect editing, and incredible lighting. It’s eerie, unsettling, tense, and exciting. I might have to revisit this film again, soon — it’s been a few years since I last saw it.
2. MIDDLE OF NOWHERE (2012)
directed by Ava DuVernay
“When her husband is sentenced to eight years in prison, Ruby drops out of medical school in order to focus on her husband's well-being while he's incarcerated - leading her on a journey of self-discovery in the process.”
Ava DuVernay is a household name nowadays (and rightly so — if you haven’t seen Selma or 13th you should fix that). However, the film I would most recommend in her canon is her affecting drama, Middle of Nowhere. Featuring a great performance from Emayatzy Corinealdi, and with pitch-perfect writing and direction from DuVernay, this film is a truly somber and emotional film that has a razor-sharp focus on its impactful characters.
1. The Tale
directed by Jennifer Fox
“A woman filming a documentary on childhood rape victims starts to question the nature of her childhood relationship with her riding instructor and running coach.”
The Tale is a difficult film to watch. Not only does it deal with very traumatic and difficult subjects, but it also is a true story — it’s Jennifer Fox working through her own experience of abuse when she was a child. Not only is this an important film, but it’s also a very well-made, affecting, difficult to watch drama. In fact, it was my #2 favorite film of the year in 2018.