As I bleed all over my keyboard from a grisly kitchen accent involving my fingers, a sink of murky water and a rather sharp meat slicer it occurs to me what a great year last year was for horror movies. So difficult it was difficult to pin down just ten films which were fantastic examples of the genre. But here we are, ten films of which I suspect you already know what number one is. But then what choice did I have? I have to admit I missed a couple of films, Krampus and Crimson Peak, life just got too much in the way for me to see everything. Still, here we go:
10. The Final Girls
This year was a really good year for horror comedies – surely one of the hardest genres to pull off. One of the kings of the horror comedy Joe Dante failed to do it justice with Burying the Ex and the similar Life After Beth was almost unbearable (actually unbearable, I still can’t get through it). The Final Girls doesn’t really work that well as a horror movie, it’s too bright and sparkly to have any scares but the comedy is really funny, delivered by a great cast, plus it works really well on an emotional level. So yes basically I’ve started my top ten with a something that fails at what it sets out to do, but you know if we can boil horror down to just one thing then that thing is facing death, and this meta tale of a daughter getting a chance to spend time with her dead mother in a Friday the 13th rip off is all about that.
9. Lost River
Wow, poor Ryan Gosling. Okay so he’s rich, successful, talented and handsome but still, the poor guy. His directorial debut was torn to shreds upon its release and I don’t really know why. Okay maybe I do. It has a fairly simple story, is ponderous and doesn’t explain itself a lot of the time – it’s set in some future America where everyone seems to live on poverty row and get off on baroque/horror live shows. However, the plot seems to be more of a backdrop for some crazy and beautiful visuals and surreal dream-like imagery. You can certainly see influences such as David Lynch but there’s also a lot of horror references going on here too – from Argento Reds to Hammer gothic. It’s weird and dreamlike and not entirely successful but damn it’s a brave film to make when you’re just seen as a handsome sex symbol. I’m still thinking about Lost River after all this time, perhaps we all will be in twenty years time.
8. We Are Still Here
I’m always complaining about films being too long but if We Are Still Here was ten minutes longer I’m sure it would be much higher in the list. It’s dripping with cold, isolated atmosphere and the great practical effects really give it an old school charm. In fact it reminds me a lot of John Carpenter’s The Fog in story and in tone, which surely is a good thing. I just wish there had a bit more character development- it’s always good to see Barbara Crampton but her character is literally a one note greiving mother and nothing else. A few more minutes might have given her and the others a bit more depth. Oh but that’s a minor complaint… This is a quality horror that delivers a vicious, blood soaked climax.
7. The Town That Dreaded Sundown
Beautifully shot meta slasher that’s a film about a film about a real life bunch of murders. What works best is its understanding of how violence can warp and damage a community, perfectly acted in microcosm by lead girl Addison Timlin. Plus someone is killed with a trombone, always a winner.
6. What We Do In The Shadows
I might regret putting this not at the top of the list one day as it is so packed full of one liners and silly asides that I imagine it will become as quotable and re watchable as This Is Spinal Tap, the film it is most similar to. Four vampires living in a house share in modern New Zealand act like a rock band, traipsing around the streets behaving all superior to humanity whilst being unable to get into nightclubs. As clever a piss take of horror films as it is what it really nails is what it means to be a bunch of losers living in a dump together.
We haven’t had this much romance in horror since Geena Davis blew Jeff Goldblum’s brains out in The Fly. Here there’s still a lot of body horror but also a lot of hope as the weird romance blossoms between Lou Taylor Pucci and the Lovecraftian and exotic Nadia Hilker in a beautiful Mediterranean setting. It helps that both the leads are committed and brilliant, plus there’s also a hilarious smaller role for The Battery‘s Jeremy Gardner who seems to be drunk most of the throughout.
Talking of committed performances, Morgana O’Reilly as the rubbish criminal and so housebound lead of this brilliant New Zealand horror comedy has possibly the finest collection of withering looks committed to film. The fact that this was also one of my sister’s favourite films of the year says a huge amount about how appealing O’Reilly is in this role. Perhaps my sister can see something of her teenage years in Morgana – trapped in a house full of ghosts, memories and a mother who loves Coronation Street, and only her wits and put downs to pull her through. This could be the best horror film of the year which shows how high the quality is this year.
3. The Visit
Everyone has been down on M. Night Shamalamadingdong since Mel Gibson beat an alien invasion with a glass of water but I’ve never lost faith – hell I even own a copy of The Happening. The Visit proves me right all along that Shyamalan is still a great film maker. It also proves me wrong as I’ve been moaning on about how found footage is dead for years now and The Visit is a great slice of home film making… Well of course it’s not but maybe it just shows that if you want to compete in the found footage genre nowadays you have to master traditional film making skills first. Also this has one of the best last lines in a film ever and I’m pretty sure that helped rise this film in my estimation alone. Well not just alone, there’s also the great child performances, emotionally interesting characters, freaky scares and, literally, some weird shit.
2. Last Shift
Out of nowhere comes scraping and crawling this terrifying pure horror movie. Promoted as a genre take on Assault on Precinct 13 it is in fact more like a freaky-police-station-set version of The Shining. Whilst the story itself is fairly simple what director Anthony DiBlasi does with the mood and atmosphere is almost unrivalled. The setting seems to get smaller and more claustrophobic as the film progresses and there are many genuine scares that very few films can match. On top of that we have Juliana Harkavy as the tough but believable cop that we genuinely care about.
- It Follows
Other than horror comedies the big sub genre of 2015 was the art house horror. Lost River and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night were both beautiful and weird works in their own right but It Follows transcended its niche because not only was it hauntingly beautiful to look at it also had one of the best ideas for a horror story in a very long time. Not only that but it also had, brace yourself, strong characters, exciting set pieces, a knock out opening scene, incredible location work, massive attention to detail, genuine moments of horror, some great ensemble acting, (but also) a fantastic lead performance from Maika Monroe, that weird shell, no adults, the best soundtrack of the year, endless rewatchability and gave audiences an unnerving feeling that THEY were being followed for days afterwards. I know this film is still being hyped up after all these months but it really is a work of genius. Just please, please, please don’t let me back here in year’s to come talking about a sequel. It would be like doing a sequel to Halloween – it just wouldn’t work.