Imagine it. You’re sitting and watching a movie. It’s been an enjoyable flick so far. Then it hits another gear, makes a narrative choice you didn’t expect, and before you know it, you’re on the edge of your seat. We’ve all been there, right?
Well, those are the type of films I’ll be delving into. Typically, you’ll find these films in the horror or thriller category. There’s more leeway in those genres to take chances. Moviegoers want to see their expectations be subverted, because we’ve seen a million horrors or thrillers at this point. You have to be inventive nowadays to keep your viewer interested.
The following films are the most inventive and courageous that I’ve ever seen. These are films that kept me enthralled and guessing. Not only that, but as soon as they were over, they sent me running to my friends and family to recommend them. These are genuinely fun film experiences to take in. By the time the credits roll, your heart will be racing, your foot’ll be tapping, and you’ll be anxious to discuss.
5. “Red State”
To start off, I went with the film that inspired my love of the unpredictable. “Red State” is written and directed by Kevin Smith. It stars Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman, Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner, and more. It tells the story of three teenagers who set out to go on a sexual journey, but wind up in the crosshairs of the Five Points Trinity Church, a church full of dangerous fanatics.
“Red State” begins as a teen sex comedy, turns into a religious horror, and then ends as an action adventure. Every time you get comfortable, the film takes a big left turn. As a result, the already short 88 minute runtime flies by even quicker.
As a filmmaker, this is arguably Kevin Smith’s most ambitious film. He changed up his usual style of park the camera and get everything in one (“Mallrats” is the worst offender – there’s practically no coverage). The camerawork is dynamic here in “Red State.” The performances are fantastic, with Michael Parks and John Goodman as the standouts. All in all, it’ll do exactly what this list says – keep you guessing.
4. “The Cabin in the Woods”
For this entry, I’ve chosen “The Cabin in the Woods.” Written by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, and directed by Goddard himself. The film follows a group of stereotypical horror film characters going for a stereotypical spring break trip to a cabin in the woods that’s right out of “Evil Dead.” At the same time, a group of mysterious workers seemingly pull the strings from a shady, underground government facility.
That’s all I can tell you without ruining the film. Those who have seen it know which direction it heads in, and that it’s a genuine blast. Right as you think you get a handle on where things are headed, “The Cabin in the Woods” explodes. The cast includes Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, and more, who all turn in more than capable performances, but it is Kristen Connolly who anchors the film as the audience’s way into the plot.
“Tusk” is written and directed by Kevin Smith. Yes, that’s right, there’s two films from Kevin Smith on here. The film was inspired by a podcast episode, where Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier discussed a personal ad they found. The conversation morphed into the two of them plotting out what would become “Tusk.”
For anyone who didn’t listen, the film is impossible to predict. It’s about a podcast host played by Justin Long, who goes to Canada for an interview, but winds up finding a personal ad that brings him into the orbit of Michael Parks’ character. Unfortunately for Long, Parks has a very sinister and disturbing plan in mind. That plan? To turn Justin Long into a walrus. How do you manage to predict that?
The prosthetics on the Justin Long-rus are insane. They’re absolutely disturbing. I found it hard to even look at him when he was on screen. In a weird way, this helped with my investment because I had endless sympathy for the character. I wanted him to somehow find a way out of his horrifying predicament.
You’ll have to watch it to find out if he did.
2. “The Mist”
“The Mist” was directed by Frank Darabont, from a screenplay by Darabont and Stephen King, and based on a short story by King. If you’ve seen this movie, you probably know exactly why it’s on the list. It is somewhat predictable for most of the movie. It’s a very fun survival horror film that’s anchored by great performances from Tom Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Andre Braugher, and more. It’s a real ensemble piece.
Then that ending hits and all predictability doesn’t just fly out the window, it shatters that window to pieces on the way through. I saw this film in theaters with my mother and grandmother. We all agreed that it was a fun horror film, but the ending blew us all away.
If you don’t know what I’m going on about, you need to do yourself a favor and watch this movie immediately. Get the black and white cut if you can. It really adds to the experience.
1. “The Guest”
“The Guest” was written by Simon Barrett and directed by Full Sail University alum Adam Wingard. The film follows David Collins, played by Dan Stevens in a commanding, top notch, star making performance. David is a veteran who shows up one day to the house of one of his fallen brothers in arms. David explains to the man’s family that he asked David to come see his family for closure, should he die in battle.
Given the circumstances, the fallen soldier’s mother insists that David stay with them, so her and her family can get to know her son’s friend. As time passes, it becomes more and more clear that not all is right with David. That’s when things really pick up. The fallen soldier’s sister becomes suspicious first and investigates, leading to David’s past coming back to haunt him in a very big way.
That’s all I can say without spoiling. “The Guest” is a truly great film that takes you along for the ride the whole way. With his performance in the lead, Dan Stevens announced himself as an actor to watch, going on to find more and more success since with roles in “Legion,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and more. Wingard and Barrett went onto work with each other once more on “Blair Witch,” the surprisingly good sequel to “The Blair Witch Project.” Wingard has “Godzilla vs. Kong” next.
“The Guest” was a career making film you’ll have to see to believe.
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Universal Pictures.