9 Movies Like Lights Out (2016)

Staff & contributors

After the successful run of the first instalment, The Conjuring 2 brings back lead couple Ed and Lorraine Warren for yet another real life-based case of demonic possession. This time, it's the Enfield poltergeist, a case which gained popularity in the London Borough of Enfield between 1977 and 1979, and while the Warrens in the film show reluctance to take on a new job amongst growing skepticism, we're so glad they did so in the end. The franchise's second chapter is perfectly built: a good amount of character establishment, a fair bit of rekindling allegiance with the Warrens, and a lot of ingenious scaries. What makes The Conjuring 2 a pitch-perfect horror of its kind is precisely this multivalence, combining empathetic characters and well-crafted, yet extremely disturbing visuals. When the supposedly simple case becomes a fight between good and proper evil, the film shifts gear to an obscenely dark, vengeful mode. You can't tell from its beginning, but the second Conjuring is even more proficient, deeply troubling, and most of all, bold in the way it renders the possession horror genre a canonical must.

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Actor: Abhi Sinha, Bob Adrian, Bonnie Aarons, Emily Brobst, Frances O'Connor, Franka Potente, Jason Liles, Javier Botet, Joseph Bishara, Kate Cook, Lauren Esposito, Madison Wolfe, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Patrick McAuley, Patrick Wilson, Robin Atkin Downes, Shannon Kook, Simon Delaney, Simon McBurney, Sterling Jerins, Steve Coulter, Vera Farmiga

Director: James Wan

Rating: R

A zombie virus breaks out and catches up with a father as he is taking his daughter from Seoul to Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city. Watch them trying to survive to reach their destination, a purported safe zone.

The acting is spot-on; the set pieces are particularly well choreographed. You’ll care about the characters. You’ll feel for the father as he struggles to keep his humanity in the bleakest of scenarios.

It’s a refreshingly thrilling disaster movie, a perfect specimen of the genre.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Ahn So-hee, An So-hee, Baek Seung-hwan, Cha Chung-hwa, Chang-hwan Kim, Choi Gwi-hwa, Choi Woo-shik, Choi Woo-sung, Dong-seok Ma, Eui-sung Kim, Gong Yoo, Han Ji-eun, Han Sung-soo, Jang Hyuk-jin, Jeon Ye-eun, Jeong Seok-yong, Jung Seok-yong, Jung Young-ki, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Chang-hwan, Kim Eui-sung, Kim Jae-rok, Kim Joo-heon, Kim Joo-hun, Kim Ju-hun, Kim Keum-soon, Kim Soo-ahn, Kim Soo-an, Kim Su-an, Kim Won-Jin, Lee Joo-sil, Lee Joong-ok, Ma Dong-seok, Park Myung-shin, Sang-ho Yeon, Seok-yong Jeong, Shim Eun-kyung, Sohee, Soo-an Kim, Soo-jung Ye, Terri Doty, Woo Do-im, Woo-sik Choi, Ye Soo-jung, Ye Su-jeong, Yeon Sang-ho, Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jeong, Yu-mi Jung

Director: Sang-ho Yeon, Yeon Sang-ho

Rating: Not Rated

Horror movies have always been creepier to me when they play on our fear of the “unknown” rather than gore. Under The Shadow does exactly that. The story is based around the relationship of a woman, Shideh, and her daughter, Dorsa, under the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq war. As widespread bombings shake the ground beneath their feet, the two grapple with a more insidious evil that is faceless and traceless, coming and going only with the wind. The movie’s dread-effect plays strongly on feelings of isolation and helplessness. The scares are slow and it’s obvious the director takes great care in making every single second count and in raising the unpredictableness of the action. Like the bombs, the audience never knows when or how the next apparition will materialize. The former is always on the edge of fear, wondering what is no doubt there, but is yet to be shown on the frame. In terms of significance, Under The Shadow features too many symbolisms to count and will most likely resonate with each person differently. But one thing remains relatively unarguable: this is a wonderful movie.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller, War

Actor: Aram Ghasemy, Arash Marandi, Avin Manshadi, Babak Anvari, Behi Djanati Atai, Bijan Daneshmand, Bobby Naderi, Hamid Djavadan, Hamidreza Djavdan, Narges Rashidi, Ray Haratian, Sajjad Delafrooz, Soussan Farrokhnia

Director: Babak Anvari

Rating: PG-13

You don’t have to have seen a single game of tennis to enjoy this mockumentary about the longest match that (n)ever took place in the sport’s history. Andy Samberg plays Aaron Williams, the mullet-sporting adopted brother of Serena and Venus (whose family “reverse Blind-Sided” him) made immortal by his record-smashing, week-long battle with posh, dim-witted English prodigy Charles Poole (Kit Harington) at Wimbledon. Things only get more riotously ridiculous from the premise: the team behind sports spoof Tour de Pharmacy chronicle the winding journeys the rivals took to that climactic seven-day showdown, from forays into the world of innovative underwear design to stints in Swedish jails, by way of a surreal tangent into the storied faux-history of courtroom sketch art. Suffice it to say: the tennis isn’t really the point here.

Real-life figures from the sport (including Serena Williams and John McEnroe) ground the spoof in enough reality to make the zany humor pop, with the comedy coming from a very game Fred Armisen, Michael Sheen, Lena Dunham, Will Forte, and Howie Mandel. With eccentric humor in spades — from the puerile to the surreal — and a lean runtime, 7 Days in Hell packs in as many dizzying jokes as Aaron and Charles do volleys in their absurd history-making rally.

Genre: Comedy, TV Movie

Actor: Andy Samberg, Chris Evert, Chris Romano, David Copperfield, Destiny Soria, Dolph Lundgren, Filip Hammar, Fred Armisen, Howie Mandel, Jim Lampley, John McEnroe, Jon Hamm, June Squibb, Karen Gillan, Kit Harington, Lena Dunham, Ludwig Manukian, Lyssa Roberts, Mary Steenburgen, Michael Sheen, Serena Williams, Soledad O'Brien, Will Forte

Director: Jake Szymanski

In an age where recent horror films mostly use the jump-scare as a crutch to make their CGI-spawned (not to mention generic) creatures seem scary, The Babadook portrays real scares, relatable characters and a moving story. Jennifer Kent (director and writer) sets this on the backdrop of heavily Lars von Trier-inspired cinematography, elevating The Babadook from a shot at an amazing horror to a resemblance of an art house film. The unease felt during this film only increases as it creeps towards its conclusion. Whenever the Babadook (the monster of the film) is seen lurking in the peripherals of the camera, appearing in television sets and the shadows to create a sense of omnipresence that disturbs the viewer on a deeper, more primal level than that of so many recent horror films could even hope to reach. It leaves the audience with the sensation that they are being lowered onto a lit candle, spine-first. In short; the seamless acting, the beautiful shots, the slow-burning terror together creates a masterpiece that strides past any horror film of the past decade (maybe even further) and stands toe-to-toe with the greats without even breaking a sweat.

Genre: Drama, Horror

Actor: Adam Morgan, Barbara West, Ben Winspear, Benjamin Winspear, Carmel Johnson, Chloe Hurn, Craig Behenna, Daniel Henshall, Essie Davis, Hayley McElhinney, Jacquy Phillips, Michael Gilmour, Michelle Nightingale, Noah Wiseman, Peta Shannon, Pippa Wanganeen, Stephen Sheehan, Terence Crawford, Tiffany Lyndall-Knight, Tim Purcell

Director: Jennifer Kent

Rating: Not Rated

This is the follow-up film by the director of the (also) excellent and intense Blue Ruin. Like that film, Green Room often subverts genre expectations. The basic premise: a lefty punk band winds up taking a show at a skinhead club because they are desperate for cash. The show goes well, but afterward the band accidentally witnesses something they shouldn’t have and are trapped in the club’s green room. This film is brutal and intense, especially because you actually care about what happens to the characters. Bonus: Sir Patrick Stewart plays the leader of the skinhead organization, and gives a subtle yet effectively sinister performance. While some truly horrific acts of violence occur (especially in the back-half of the film) they really do serve the story. Still, there are a handful of scenes that may require more sensitive viewers to cover their eyes. You have been warned.

Genre: Crime, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alia Shawkat, Anton Yelchin, Callum Turner, David W. Thompson, Eric Edelstein, Imogen Poots, Jeremy Saulnier, Joe Cole, Joseph Bertót, Kai Lennox, Lj Klink, Macon Blair, Mark Webber, Mason Knight, Michael Draper, Patrick Stewart, Taylor Tunes

Director: Jeremy Saulnier

Rating: R

This is a gorgeous Danish period drama that’s based on a famous story and book in Denmark called Lykke-Per (or Lucky Per) by Nobel Prize-winning author Henrik Pontoppidan. Per, the son of an overbearing catholic priest, leaves his family house in the country side to seek a new life in Copenhagen. His passion about engineering was at the time contrary with the Christian faith, but manages to introduce him to the capital’s elite, and a chance at social ascension. Lykke-Per and A Fortunate Man are about nature versus nurture. Per’s passion about engineering and renewable energy (back in the 1920s) is set against his need to emancipate and the pride that was instilled in him by his upbringing.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anders Hove, Benjamin Kitter, Bille August, Carsten Kressner, Claus Flygare, Eliza Rønsbæk, Elsebeth Steentoft, Esben Smed, Finn Nielsen, Hans Holtegaard, Jacob Holm, Jakob Højlev Jørgensen, Jens Albinus, Jesper Ole Feit Andersen, Johannes Nymark, Julie Christiansen, Karl Fischer, Katrine Greis-Rosenthal, Katrine Rosenthal, Laura Kjær, Margit Holzhaider, Mei Oulund, Mette Munk Plum, Mikael Holst Nørlund, Mikkel Hilgart, Morten Hauch-Fausbøll, Naja Spuur, Nicolai Dahl Hamilton, Ole Lemmeke, Paul Hüttel, Per Tofte Nielsen, Peter Hald, Peter Plaugborg, Petrine Agger, Rasmus Bjerg, Sara Viktoria, Sarah Viktoria Bjerregaard, Sophie Marie Jeppesen, Tammi Øst, Tammi Ost, Tommy Kenter

Director: Bille August

Rating: TV-14

This is a slow but well-made movie about a Jehovah’s Witness family, directed by a former member of the organization.

The family is made of Alex, her mother, and her older sister. Alex follows her mother and her religious teachings with the utmost loyalty, especially as she refuses a blood transfusion that is crucial to her health. Her older sister starts showing signs of independence by lying to her friends about her family’s faith and dating a Muslim man.

Apostasy is about family bonds versus belief bonds. It’s not a movie that judges or preaches, rather it simply portrays the complex situations that structured religion creates.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aqib Khan, Bronwyn James, Christian Foster, Claire Hackett, Clare McGlinn, Daisy Cooper-Kelly, Jacqueline Pilton, James Foster, James Puddephatt, James Quinn, Jessica Baglow, Molly Wright, Peter Slater, Poppy Jhakra, Robert Emms, Sacha Parkinson, Siobhan Finneran, Steve Evets, Wasim Zakir

Director: Daniel Kokotajlo

This movie is distilled horror. A teenager sleeps with her boyfriend for the first time, after which he tells her that he was the latest recipient of a curse that is transmitted through sexual contact. After she becomes completely paranoid without any manifestations, the curse manifests itself in assassins that kill their way to her. A genuinely creepy film that’s also very smart.

Genre: Horror, Mystery

Actor: Alexyss Spradlin, Bailey Spry, Carollette Phillips, Charles Gertner, Claire Sloma, Daniel Zovatto, Ele Bardha, Heather Fairbanks, Jake Weary, Keir Gilchrist, Kourtney Bell, Leisa Pulido, Lili Sepe, Linda Boston, Loren Bass, Maika Monroe, Mike Lanier, Olivia Luccardi, Rich Vreeland, Ruby Harris, Scott Norman

Director: David Robert Mitchell

Rating: R