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A couple of small-town kids taking a joyride in a police cruiser amounts to far more than a youthful prank in tense thriller Cop Car. The two boys unknowingly steal the vehicle of the corrupt and sadistic Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon), who will do anything to retrieve his car and the incriminating evidence inside it. The clever kids prove to be surprisingly formidable adversaries for the angry sheriff as he pursues them across highways and back roads.
Director Patrick Brice’s Creep is a found footage thriller that creates maximum suspense from its minimalist style. Mark Duplass stars as an eccentric recluse who recruits a videographer (Brice) to record what he says is his final testament before dying of a brain tumor. The man is obviously not what he claims to be, and things get weirder and weirder as the videographer keeps shooting, even with his own life potentially in danger.
Martin Scorsese’s crime epic The Departed won four Oscars, including Best Picture. It follows covert operatives from opposite sides of the law in Boston: One is a spy within the police department who’s working for local organized crime, and the other is an undercover cop who’s infiltrating the mob. Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio play the two double agents, with Jack Nicholson as the underworld kingpin and Mark Wahlberg as the cop overseeing the investigation.
Although it’s based on a Stephen King novel, Gerald’s Game is more psychological thriller than horror flick. Director Mike Flanagan finds a creative way to approach what’s essentially a single-character story.
Jessie (Carla Gugino) is stuck handcuffed to a bed in a remote lake house after her husband dies of a heart attack during an attempt at sexual roleplay. Via flashbacks and imagined conversations, Jessie comes to terms with her past while finding a way to escape from her increasingly desperate predicament.
Dan Stevens is unsettlingly eager as the title character in Adam Wingard’s retro-style thriller The Guest. David Collins (Stevens) shows up at the family home of a U.S. soldier who was killed in Afghanistan, claiming that they were friends who served together.
Something’s clearly not right with David, who might be a violent psychopath or might be hiding an even stranger and more sinister secret. Wingard mixes sci-fi and horror elements into his paranoid conspiracy thriller, which is held together by Stevens’ fascinating performance.
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A nature writer and renowned wolf expert played by Jeffrey Wright travels to a remote Alaska town that’s being plagued by wolves in Jeremy Saulnier’s ethereal thriller Hold the Dark. Wolves aren’t the only dangerous predators in town, though, and the characters confront the darkness of human nature along with the dangers posed by nature itself. Saulnier builds an eerie atmosphere punctuated with bursts of intense violence, keeping the audience on edge along with the characters.
Jake Gyllenhaal is delightfully sleazy as freelance videographer Lou Bloom in writer-director Dan Gilroy’s Los Angeles noir Nightcrawler. Lou spends his nights looking for gruesome crime scenes that he can document so that he can sell the footage to local TV stations.
Nightcrawler is an indictment of unscrupulous media coverage, and it’s also an engrossing thriller about a sociopath who’s willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead (including staging his own violent crime scenes to record).
Tom Hanks takes on a rare outlaw role in Sam Mendes’ Depression-era drama. Based on a graphic novel written by Max Allan Collins, Road to Perdition stars Hanks as a hitman who seeks revenge for the murder of his wife and son.
Hanks’ Michael Sullivan isn’t really a villain, although he kills plenty of people, abiding by his own code of honor and sense of morality. Mendes creates a moody period drama, with dark musings on mortality and vengeance.
Hermione Corfield gives a powerful performance in Rust Creek as a college student on her way to a job interview who gets stranded in the middle of nowhere and is hunted by a pair of backwoods brothers. She stumbles across a local criminal operation (including drug dealing and murder) and must evade her pursuers while surviving in the wilderness and figuring out who she can trust to save her.
A group of former Special Forces operatives (played by Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal) reunite to steal a massive amount of cash from a Colombian drug lord in J.C. Chandor’s Triple Frontier. The real thrills come less from the heist itself and more from the monumental effort required to transport literal tons of cash out of the remote South American jungle.