I’ve been watching horror films for many, many years but this was the first year I was able to do so as a critic for B-D. Having to watch movies and consider which to rank in a “Best of the Year” list was quite daunting given the amount of movies that I watched over the past year. This is easily the most difficult list I’ve written to date, but I suppose that’s only a good thing; it means there were a whole slew of phenomenal horror movies this year.
I had my list cut down to about sixteen titles, and I struggled to cut any more for a long time. But, alas, it had to be done for you boils and ghouls. After ranking, and re-ranking my list too many times, after putting each film through the usual criteria for what makes a great film, in the end it came down to one simple question: how much do love this movie?
Any one of my top five films easily could have landed a spot as the number one title this year, but when the battle came between a horror comedy and a brilliant exploration of post-apocalyptic cinema, I had my winner.
Though this film is far from perfect, it really captures the dreadful enigma behind missing persons and the grievous effects it can have on those around them. As far as low-budget horror films go this is one looks wonderful. Somehow, Absentia manages to scare the crap out of you, without ever showing the actual monster, which is described as a giant silver-fish-like creature (gross) that steals people from the real world and drags them into some unknown realm. Absentia relies on the audience’s own mind to create a sense of dread and fear rather than using cheap scare tactics and loud noises, something that is not done nearly enough in modern horror.
When you get to the fifth installment in a franchise it’s not bloody likely that it will be good, let alone the best of the series. To be completely honest, I never felt any sort of affinity for the FD franchise until this film. The opening death sequence is breathtakingly executed, and the hits just keep on coming. Steven Quale does an incredible job of setting up the death scenes making sure to present tons of cringe worthy potential kill-weapons before the inevitable death actually occurs. The choreography is stunning, and the kills are brutal, but the best part about FD5 is that it doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is: a cheesy teen horror flick with gruesomely novel kill scenes.
Though it was quite a slow year for thrillers, Julian Gilbey literally takes action and tension to a new plateau in A Lonely Place to Die. This is one film that you will remember for years not only because of relentless intensity, but also because of the gorgeous cinematography. Although the end suffers from some sloppy script work, A Lonely Place To Die is a high-octane ride that will have you cringing from start to finish. This thriller marks Julian Gilbey as a big name to watch out for.
James Wan, director of Saw and Dead Silence, returns to deliver a penetrating film that will split audiences straight down the middle. Insidious takes some huge risks rather than playing it safe like most other haunted house movies, which leads to a truly uncanny (in the Freudian sense of the word) conclusion. The aesthetic appeal of the film is undeniable; the camera work is both creepy and beautiful in Wan’s emblematic style, and for that reason alone this is a film that will be watched over and over again by haters and non-haters alike.
The handheld cam subgenre has been played out to the point of annoyance, yet The Troll Hunter manages to be completely different from any that came before it. Although this is not a terrifying flick, it is one that truly captures the air of ancient Norwegian mythology and folklore by bringing ridiculous trolls to life. The CGI work on the trolls is amazing given the otherwise low budget feel. Unlike many films in the subgenre where characters behave completely irrationally, the camera crew in The Troll Hunter behave as anyone else would if they discovered gigantic trolls in the woods. Without a doubt this bizarre, edgy, and hilarious film will be a hit cult classic.
I’ve always felt that there’ss been a lack of really great alien invasion films (with the obvious exceptions), but Attack The Block ranks up there with the best of them. From the very British, dry humor to the gang of anti-hero protagonists, Attack The Block is extremely entertaining, engaging, and refreshing alien invasion movie that has had fans buzzing since day one. This is a wonderful directorial debut from Joe Cornish, plus the aliens look pretty badass with glow in the dark fangs.
Scream 4 totally rejuvenates Wes Craven’s tongue in cheek franchise and does for horror now what the original film did for horror in the 90s. After declining the third installment, Kevin Williamson triumphantly returns as the screenwriter to deliver an outrageously meta-fictional narrative that works wonders as a commentary on contemporary Hollywood horror. Scream 4 not only does justice to the original, but offers something wonderful to a whole new generation horror fans. Scream 4 spits venom at the horrid amount of Hollywood remakes, and it paves the way for horror to come. Not to mention the best kill scenes of the franchise.
I Saw The Devil is both one of the most intelligent and most stunning horror films I’ve seen in years; it’s The Bourne Identity of serial killer movies. Writer and director, Kim Jee-woon, brings an emotionally driven film with brutal action sequences that you won’t find elsewhere. Ultimately what it comes down to is a classic cat and mouse game between two men riding the fine line between good and evil, which I absolutely loved. I Saw The Devil is a shocking to the core genre-mash up that fully immerses you into its twisted little world.
Horror comedy is rarely a place to make a serious statement about the film industry, nor is it a place to offer thoughtful character development, yet Tucker & Dale vs. Evil manages to pull off both with gleaming success. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is gory, funny, witty, entertaining, in fact, it’s pretty much everything a horror comedy should be. Eli Craig dips this movie in a gross vat of tropes and clichés from a variety of subgenres, pays tribute to many horror classics, all while making you laugh your ass off at some douche-bag preppy college kids.
With The Divide, Xavier Gens, director of Hitman and Frontier(s), returns with a crazy, intense, stunning, disturbing, in your face post-apocalyptic flick like none you’ve ever seen before. While most large-scale doomsday scenario movies tend to focus on the actual event and the generosity of other people, Gens strays far from that path in order to focus on the devastating mental effects such a disaster would have on the survivors. The Divide recalls French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre’s, famous quote, “Hell is other people” as the survivors are left in a metaphorical hell with nothing but each other. Gens manages to utterly redefine the post-apocalyptic genre, but be warned, this is a heavy, depressing movie that won’t leave you feeling all mushy inside. I was lucky enough to catch this one early, and I truly cannot wait to see it again.
The Skin I Live in easily could have landed a spot in my top three had it focused slightly more on the process of complete surgical transformation rather than tending more towards drama and character interplay. An absolutely stunning film with shot composition to die for, you will leave this film feeling absolutely grotesque.
I struggled with The Last Circus for similar reasons; an intensely visceral film with aesthetic elegance oozing out of every shot, but it the slow pace for the majority of the film turned me off a bit.
Lastly, Midnight Son because it manages to be an incredible and original vampire movie in the height of vampire popularity. If you can stomach any more blood-sucking, I urge you to watch this.