In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best Horror of 2014

So, here we are again at the end of another year. I took a look back and threw together some faves, but I can’t help but feel that I’m missing something. There were a lot of horror titles that I didn’t get a chance to see, including Starry Eyes, The Borderlands, Kristy, Among The Living, Cooties, Berkshire County and Live, so this year feels a bit incomplete.

Sadly, the same goes for movie-going in general. I didn’t even do up a 2014 list for CAST because there were so many glaring omissions. Oh well, it just would have been Nightcrawler with a bunch of exclamation marks next to it anyway.

I don’t regret this though, as 2014 was a really great year for me creatively. I worked on a record number of projects and fulfilled a longtime dream of getting something into Toronto After Dark. And truth be told, I don’t think I watched less movies overall, just less new ones. The only thing I really cut out this year was gaming, but with Until Dawn and Uncharted 4 releasing next year, I plan to get back on that digital horse soon.

Anyhoo, here are my faves in no particular order.

It Follows
USA, Dir: David Robert Mitchell

I loved this flick. It's exactly the kind of thing I like to point to in regards to modern horror being alive and well. The success of its brilliant premise – that of a sexually transmitted haunting – was largely due to its classic urban legend-style simplicity. Anchored by a wonderful lead (Maika Monroe) and an unforgettable score by Disasterpiece, anybody who cares about horror should be flocking to theatres to see this when it releases wide in March.

The Babadook
Australia, Dir: Jennifer Kent

The massive hype about this film was well deserved. Used in tandem with all the great technical aspects that the genre has to offer, it was the perfect balance of psychological and supernatural horror. The story was much more layered than I was expecting, and actress Essie Davis was a real standout as the mother, Amelia. I really can’t wait to see where Kent goes from here.

The Guest
USA, Dir: Adam Wingard

Although this newest effort from Wingard & writing partner Simon Barrett was more of an eighties style action movie, damned if this wasn’t one of the most enjoyable films I saw at this year’s Midnight Madness. Dan Stevens is perfectly cast as the title character, emanating equal parts charm and menace. The synth accompaniment from Steve Moore was also another highlight in a year of great film scores.

The Harvest
USA, Dir: John McNaughton

I was really taken by McNaughton’s official return to the director’s chair after a ten-year absence. It's the type of story to which I really respond and the performances from young & old are stellar. I don’t know what kind of release this film is going to get, but I sure hope it doesn’t get buried like Joe Dante’s similarly themed (and rated) The Hole from five(!) years ago. Both films have a wonderful eighties, told-from-a-child’s-perspective sensibility that is severely lacking these days.

The Editor
Canada, Dir: Adams Brooks & Matthew Kennedy

I still have to smile knowing that this whole thing started out as a poster, just like the days of the home video boom that cultivated the very style that The Editor itself emulates. The movie is so much fun! Astron 6 infuses their comedic overtones into this love letter to Italian horror, creating a wonderfully absurd hybrid chock full of gore, girls and gut-busting ADR.

Honourable Mentions

I really dug Spring, Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead’s follow-up to 2012’s Resolution. First and foremost a romance – the popular byline is it’s a genre-centric Before Sunrise – I liked the character chemistry in this piece. Also, by moving their dialogue driven sensibilities from a stuffy cabin to the wonderful wide open vistas of Italy, Benson & Moorhead took a huge step forward visually.

2014 was good year for sequels, if you can believe it. The second installments of both The ABC’s of Death and Dead Snow eclipsed their predecessors and The Town That Dreaded Sundown was a beautifully shot, no-nonsense pseudo sequel that I think caught a lot of people off guard when it played Toronto After Dark.

At Fantasia this year, I caught a solid werewolf flick called Late Phases. It has a lot going for it, including a centered performance from Nick Damici and whacked-out creature effects from Bob Kurtzman. Think Silver Bullet by way of Bubba Ho-Tep!

Though its inclusion here maybe in part due to it still being fresh in my memory after playing Blood In The Snow, I was realy impressed with Nick Szostakiwskyj’s Black Mountain Side. Its pace will no doubt frustrate a good number of viewers, but I admired its commitment to the slow burn. I thought the cinematography was amazing and, in a real stroke of genius, the lack of a score only accentuated the isolation.

Worst of 2014? This might sound ridiculous, but I got nothing. I mean sure, Zombie TV was utter shit, but to be honest, I slept through most of it. No, seriously, I was really lucky this year, most likely due to staying away from mainstream fare. Although, even the few I did catch – Deliver Us From Evil for instance – were decent.

Lastly, I almost can’t believe it, but once again my list was largely domestic titles! Are we finally catching up with the rest of the world in terms of twenty-first century horror filmmaking?

I guess we’ll have to see what 2015 brings. Happy New Year everyone!

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