It's that time of the year to recap my favorite films from 2014. I wouldn't necessarily call this the best "horror" movies of the year, although there's a strong component of frightful stuff. As a fervent fan of the genre, I believe horror resides in many realms from family to science fiction to drama movies. Horror's many sub genres is what makes it so unique as a category and I enjoy reveling in it's many facets. Below is a list of my favorite Scary Movies of 2014. Unfortunately there's always more movies than time, so I've also included a list of some favorites praised throughout the community – and I will see at some point in 2015!
1. The Babadook
This Australian film has done what few could do: tell an original story in a compelling way with the perfect amount of surprise, tension, and emotional impact. This is a truly frightening film that takes one back to childhood fears of the dark, and parents to the darkest thoughts of childrearing. It has also given rise the best boogeyman since Freddy Krueger. I dread the thought of three sharp knocks – BA-ba DOOK! DOOK! DOOK! – knowing you can never get rid of Mr. Babadook.
This post-apocalyptic, sci-fi juggernaut was a limited release and one of the best films of the year. Set on a train that circles the globe continuously after an ice age sets in, the survivors of the planet form all elements of society the ill-fated back of the train to the upper crust at the front of the train. The cast including the marvelous Tilda Swinton is top notch, the action is riveting, and it’s an original and inspired thriller. At 2 hours and 6 minutes, the movie does sag in places but the ambitious storytelling and outright audacity more than make up for it.
3. Under The Skin Hypnotic, bizarre, and ultimately moving film about an alien putting in long days and trying to get food on the table like the rest of us. Along the way she/it discovers humanity. The mindtrippy visuals, unsettling high pitched score that evoke Kubrick, and the repetitive droning tone is not for everyone, but give in and the black mirror-floor room will haunt you for months.
4. The Book of Life The first major motion picture about Dia De Los Muertos turned out to be charmingly romantic, visually stunning, and highly original take on the Mexican folk holiday. It was entertaining from start to finish and though it relied a little too much of pop culture, it set itself apart from most animated films in dealing with death straight on.
5. Oculus This movie dripped with dread from scene one and quickly established itself as a horror movie with no rules, to the dismay of many. Letting go and getting lost in it’s absurdity definitely heightens the tension. If you can’t believe what you see, what can you believe. And where did this haunted mirror come from? Many questions are raised, few answered, and yet it’s one of the best rides of the year with a great performance from Karen Gillan.
6. Godzilla As a lifelong fan of giant monster movies, Godzilla is the one that rules them all. Part dino, part kick-ass, the Godzilla movie we’ve been waiting for was finally unleashed. Yes, Godzilla is fashionably late to his own film and didn’t get enough screen time but when he’s here, he’s in charge. I watched the destruction in awe, with amazing production values and dark gloss missing from so many other versions. 7. Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi (Released in the US as Witching & Bitching) If acclaimed Spanish director Pedro Almodovar made a horror movie, this would be it. Outlandish, over-the-top, and zany, this horror comedy is an entertaining battle of the sexes involving a gold heist and a coven of witches up to no good. It's wonderfully weird, gratuitously gross, and subversive filmmaking that Hollywood would never dare to make and often reminded me of the young Peter Jackson/Sam Raimi days. Don't let the subtitles deter you! This is perfect example of VOD releases are saving the horror genre and giving these rough diamonds an audience.
8. The Boxtrolls Trolls are typically monsters that live under bridges, but these trolls live in boxes and “steal children” at night to the dismay of the townsfolk. Thus sets up the battle between the citizens and the monsters in this touching, visually dazzling, and offbeat film. The English accents may deter some audiences in America but those willing to oversee the thin story and unhurried pace will definitely discover its heart and soul. 9. The Guest The director of You’re Next turns this drama thriller into a quiet home invasion film that morphs into something else entirely by the end. It’s insane and mesmerizing, especially when you realize the lead actor is Dan Stevens - the former fop/pudgy frump from Downton Abbey. Whoa. This guy has piercing eyes that perfectly convey an unhinged mind. Extra credit for being set during Halloween, featuring the official new scream queen of 2014: Maika Monroe. 10. Killer Legends This documentary explored four urban legends and their possible origins. From poisoned Halloween candy to killer clowns, this interesting documentary (from the makers of Cropsey) all-to-briefly covers the stuff that our nightmares are made of. Interviews with first hand-witnesses, former detectives, and actual crime scene photos add an air of authenticity and mounting dread that leave the viewers wanting to know more. The narrative style and connection with the viewer also keeps the audience engaged and thoroughly unnerved.
Honorable Mentions of 2014
Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead
The Strange Color of your Body's Tears
The Taking of Deborah Logan
Noteworthy in the Horror Community (and in my Queue)
The Houses October Built
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Big Bad Wolves