Director: Sion Sono
Stars: Maketo Ashikawa, Denden, Mitsuru Fukikoshia, Megumi Kagurazaka, Hikari Kajiwara

Released in late July in few enough nationwide theaters to count on one hand, Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono’s brutal Cold Fish swam under the public’s consciousness, though it deserves extensive critical praise (which it received from the few reviewers who actually covered it) and viewer awareness. And that’s where we come in; the summer’s best horror movie, Cold Fish is a serial killer flick with real bite that’s a no-brainer for this list.

Purportedly based on “real events,” Sono’s dense horror-thriller follows a pushover of a father whose teenage daughter goes to work for a rival fish shop’s overbearing owner, who also happens to be a mass murderer with more than 50 bodies to his name and a propensity for dismembering his victims in an isolated cabin filled with religious iconography. As the dad becomes an unwitting accomplice, poppa’s own killer instincts come out to play.

The first half of Cold Fish is the darkest of comedies, patiently introducing sexual dysfunctions into its mix before erupting into a final act overflowing with blood, guts, and bleak tragedy. At nearly two-and-a-half-hours long, Sono’s film transpires with the patience of a comparably superior serial killer movie, David Fincher’s Zodiac; while Fincher’s subtly unnerving flick has the upper hand, Cold Fish carves its own consummate identity through sheer gruesomeness.