1. It Follows
Yes I know, it’s predictable. But it’s predictable because It Follows was easily the best horror movie of the year. That doesn’t mean I think it’s a perfect movie by any means. It could have defined its rules a little better and the characters could have been a little smarter, and yet it works because it doesn’t need to add up. Everyone points to a ghost-VD metaphor, but you could just as easily replace that metaphor with any kind of sexual trauma, (see a character’s mother thrusting at them while having a death grip around their neck) and that’s why this film is special. This is a film where the metaphor works the more you let it in and process it, even if the character choices always don’t. It’s haunting, nuanced, and leaves you with the terrible inevitability that we can never escape the specters of our own pasts.
2. Ex Machina
This is a Sci-Fi movie you say. Not a horror move you say. Yet this movie is dripping with tension and fueled by one nightmare of a crisis of conscience. Watching the main character struggle with the possibility that he is being manipulated by both parties is nail biting and most importantly leaves you questioning your own motives. Also, Oscar Isaac gives a terrific performance as a man who foolishly believes he can wield a god-like power over the world. Though it may not be strictly a horror movie Ex Machina is a chilling genre movie and one of the best of the year.
Sometimes horror comedies mistake goofy mayhem with being funny. What We Do in the Shadows has no such issue; it’s gut bustlingly funny. This is the best type of spoof, the one that’s lovingly crafted with an attention to the details of what makes the serious films in the genre work. This is the This is Spinal Tap of vampire mockumentaries as nearly every joke lands and the cast does a magnificent job of driving forward what could have easily been a one joke movie. Everything works in this, the running jokes, the one off jokes, the reoccurring gags, the subtle ones and the over the top ones. This is not just one of my favorite horror films of the year, it’s my favorite comedy.
4. Crimson Peak
Crimson Peak is a gorgeous film. A sight to behold in its stunning set design. This is a film that was marketed to a large wide audience but with an extremely niche appeal but I fit into that niche. It’s a gothic romance that lives and breathes and sweeps you away to a magical realm that only Guillermo del Toro could have fashioned. Those that went to see this wanting a straight forward horror film were probably bored, but for those with the right temperament and proper expectations Crimson Peak is one of the most breathing-taking, beautiful cinema experiences in recent history.
Goodnight Mommy got some mainstream attention in early September due to a pretty strong word of mouth. But, man to say this is not a mainstream horror movie is an understatement. This is a creepy and disturbing film that has the power to test audiences with its visuals and the experience it creates. Watching anything that involves children potentially under threat from their parents is always disconcerting and this is no exception. Yet Goodnight Mommy really shines when it demonstrates its understanding of the feeling children have when they aren’t sure their parents have their best interest at heart and the film builds on this and builds on this maddening both the characters and the audience.
Krampus is entry level horror done right with an emphasis on imaginative creature effects and filled with menacing and claustrophobic atmosphere. Tons of people have drawn comparisons to Gremlins because of the creepy monstrosities but this could also easily be compared to the likes of Tremors with plenty of action adventure elements mixed into the mayhem. Anyone who wants to point to the differences between the legend and the film are missing the point, as unlike a lot of Christmas horror movies, this is one that isn’t afraid to be a Christmas movie. It drives home its legitimate Christmas moral saturated in the hues of honest to goodness horror. At the end of the day what I like best about Krampus, is that it is a throwback to when people weren’t afraid to make legitimate Horror movies for kids that might actually scare them.
As horror goes Goosebumps is less about scaring and more about creating a live action family friendly adventure film. The callback to the assorted creepy crawlies from the books will give any child who lived through the 80s the nostalgia sweats, and does a nice job of integrating them in for a whole new generation in amusing and unique ways. Jack Black is admirable as our guide through the world and it bounces along that creates a fantastic experience for anyone that would be willing to pay the price for admission. In reality this is Jumanji with a thin veneer of horror, but it’s a rollicking good time for the whole family.
There’s more plot contrivances in this film than there are ghosts but when they are on screen they are genuinely terrifying. Most ghost movies go easy on the physical violence and as a result the threat wanes quickly, but not in this movie. The results are gory and violent and the addition of the townspeople conspiring against the inhabitants of the home adds to the looming possibility of real peril. We are Still Here is by no means a great film, it’s filled with some hokey acting and vague plotting but it does an expert job of showing how a ghost movie doesn’t have to be all slamming doors and shaking cameras.
9. The Voices
You won’t see anything this year, last year or the next like The Voices. Ryan Reynolds is excellent as a man who can’t quite keep his grip on reality, and he uses his natural charm and charisma to create an unsettling portrait of a man who’s inevitable slide into madness is as terrifying as it is heart wrenching. Yet there is an undeniable humor that permeates the film and helps paint a complete, fascinating, and chilling portrait of mental illness.
10. Bone Tomahawk
Kurt Russell. The man has the screen presence and the moustache of a god and Bone Tomahawk does nothing to change that. First and foremost this is a traditional western with all its trappings, including the slow build and pacing with a hell of a violent payoff. If you are a fan of westerns and horrors this is a fantastic mash-up and one filled with some great performances.
1. The Gallows
2. The Lazarus Effect
3. The Vatican Tapes