6 Brilliant but Underrated Thrillers You Need to See - Dangerously Genocidal


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Friday, 2 June 2017

6 Brilliant but Underrated Thrillers You Need to See

It’s a horrible truth, but finding good thrillers are nigh impossible. A big part of the problem is how easily thrillers are confused or heaped in with horror films. Because of that – and a regrettably small (by comparison) fan-base – the market for thrillers just isn't what it should be. There are so few good thrillers made that they often get lost in the Hollywood milling machine, or get harshly judged by critics for not being ‘mainstream’ enough. But they’re still there; little dark jewels just waiting for someone to find them. Here are:

6 Brilliant but Underrated Thrillers You Need to See

1. Breakdown (1997)

I remember seeing Breakdown for the first time. I was expecting another cheap, cliché horror passing itself off as a thriller, mainly due to the basic plot. You know; the old car breaks down, trucker offers a ride, person disappears… I’m sure you get the idea. No, I didn’t have high hopes – or any kind of hope, really – for Breakdown. The only reason I decided to just stick it out was due to my not-quite-faded schoolgirl crush on Kurt Russel (thank you, Tango and Cash).

I was wrong. I was so very wrong. Breakdown has its cliché elements, sure, but the movie is all the better for it – especially because of how skilfully the cliché’s are lampshaded and made to work for the movie as a whole.

The moment that Amy, wife to Kurt Russel’s Jeff, gets into the stranger’s rig you just know things are going to go wrong – and it does, in a big way. Every second between that moment and the final embrace is an action packed, nerve-wracking roller-coaster ride. Half the time you can’t even be sure who you can and can’t trust. And, for the time, the stunts are not to be sneered at. The driving alone is enough to make your hair stand on end.

And then there’s the end… I’m not going to spoil it for you, but if you’re a fan of the nail-biting, action driven type of thriller, then you just can’t go wrong with this beauty.

2. Disturbia (2007)

Disturbia is one of the slightly lighter thrillers on this list, but still completely deserving of its place. Starring Shia LeBeouf as Kale, you’re assured to experience a certain hyper-active feeling throughout the entire film. To top it off, the main character is pretty much confined to his house for the majority of the movie, so a certain measure of stir crazy jumps right off the screen and starts itching along your nerves as well. And what does dearly delinquent Kale do to pass the time? He starts to spy on his neighbours. He watches them so well that he even memorizes their routines.

But then he starts noticing something strange about the neighbour across the street. And that’s where the light-hearted, somewhat dramatic yet still comedic feel of the film takes a complete turn. Suddenly every moment starts feeling like Kale and his two friends are going to get caught in the act by a very sinister, very dangerous man.

I, for one, will never forget the way David Morse (the creepy neighbour) catches Sarah Roemer (Shia’s love-interest), in the act. The way he… ‘let’s her down gently’ gave me ice-cold chills. Don’t ask me why Disturbia wasn’t a massive hit, because I don’t have an answer for you that makes any kind of sense. Just watch the damn thing – it’s worth it.

3. The Skeleton Key (2005)

I think one of my favourite things about The Skeleton Key is the setting. Unlike 99% of movies that are all based in major cities (enough of L.A. and N.Y. already!), Skeleton Key takes place smack in the middle of a Louisiana swamp. Considering that the film has a central hoodoo motif, that’s just perfect. They certainly didn’t shirk on the cast, either. Our heroin, Caroline, is played by Kate Hudson; a young woman who takes a position caring for the elderly invalid Benjamin (John Hurt). His wife, Violet (Gena Rowlands) doesn’t like Caroline one bit, but due to the insistence of the estate lawyer, played by Peter Sarsgaard, she gives Caroline the job.

By this point we are deep in the Louisiana swamp. In an old, creaky, gigantic mansion. Without a single mirror. And a creaky attic. What could possibly go wrong?

If you’re going to watch this and expect the usual romcom Kate, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Instead she blends in perfectly with the dark feel of the entire film. But, more than anything else, it’s the ending that I love. It’s perfect. It’s logical. It’s risky, and it pays of in spades – any other ending than the one you get would just feel like a big cheat. And Skeleton Key doesn’t cheat. It gives you the perfect thrill all the way through.

By the way, I’m telling you to watch it more than once. Take the advice. You’ll miss so much the first time around that the second time will feel like you’re watching a whole new movie.

4. Julia’s Eyes (2010)

It’s my personal suspicion that Julia’s Eyes didn’t get the kind of coverage it deserved due to a certain similar thriller film (*Cough-The Eye-Cough*) that wasn’t all that good. Whatever similarities there might have been between that film and Guillermo del Toro’s Julia’s Eyes are purely bloody coincidental.

Julia’s Eyes is all about a young woman, Julia, who is losing her eyesight – just like her sister had before her. But although it looks like her sister committed suicide, Julia doesn’t believe it. She’s convinced there’s something else going on, and she goes out of her way to prove it. She does find some evidence, clues pointing towards an ‘invisible man’ – no, that’s not a supernatural reference.

It’s just a man that’s so absolutely mundane and forgettable that no one can quite seem to remember him - and somehow the entire premise is that much more creepy for it.

Like the others, I’m not going to spoil this for you. Needless to say, the ending is not what you’d expect – and when it comes to thrillers, that’s the best kind of ending to get.

5. Premium Rush (2012)

Although Premium Rush didn’t do badly, it could have done better – and not for lack of trying. There is something about Premium Rush that’s as much fun as the adrenaline it forces through your veins. The speeds to which Joseph Gordon-Levitt pushes that bicycle – being a bike messenger - is crazy, not to mention dangerous. The stunts that are performed are just as brilliant, and Joseph paid the price for it on set a few times, too. But every moment of that insanity keeps your nerves taught as you wait for some inevitable on-screen crash.

Our villain is player by Michael Shannon and, as usual, he brings a wonderfully over-the-top short temper and menacing feel to the whole thing. The film by-line says “Ride Like Hell”, and let me tell you, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I would want to put as much distance between myself and Shannon as I possibly could.

Word of advice – make sure you have something to bring you down afterwards. You’re going to be experiencing an adrenaline rush of epic proportions and it lasts from beginning to end. Trust me, by the time the film reaches its ending, you’re wound up as tight as a spring. That, I think, is a testament to just how well done Premium Rush really was.

6. Dead Ringers (1988)

I find it highly appropriate that Dead Ringer’s was released the year I was born, because it’s my favourite film on this list by a good mile. It is the epitome of the thriller genre, screwing with your mind every step of the way – just like the ‘two’ main characters’ screw with and manipulate every other person they meet. Jeremy Irons plays the double lead role as twins Beverly and Elliot Mantle; identical twins and rock stars in the gynaecology world.

I have to say this – throughout the film the existing and growing bond between Bev (quiet and shy) and Ellie (brash, confident and quite the charmer) is shown in an almost beautiful way. Their closeness is so intense that they swap out identities with uncanny ease – in many ways, they look like a single being split between two physical bodies. And that is as much as I’m going to say about that.

It’s the wedge of love and growing independence that finally smashes the balance between the brothers to smithereens, and the results are catastrophic for them both. The film is tense, and as grim as it’s beautiful. But it’s the ending, such as it is, that captures both the beauty and the horror in a single moment – and it’s what makes this film one of the best thrillers I have ever, and will ever, see. If you can pick just one film to watch from this list, and if you consider yourself a true fan of the thriller genre, this is the one I’m going to recommend.

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