This year was a strange one for me. I felt as if I didn’t watch as many films as usual, but when I sat down to think about it I was overwhelmed with the amount of stuff that I truly loved. This was a good year for film, and it was an even better year for VOD.
In more troubling news, this was the year that Body Horror came back alive with Afflicted and then died a few months later with Kevin Smith’s Tusk. I can’t imagine a worse feeling than having to sit through that travesty again, well maybe watching Annabelle.
Every year my list is dominated by horror, but this year a few other genres crept into my top ten. Every film on this list has an element of horror to it, be it as the core genre, or through the experiences of the characters, admittedly some much more than others but I stand by each and every choice on here.
So here are my top ten for the year, the numbers truly mean nothing.
10. Gone Girl (Oct. 3; 20th Century Fox)
David Fincher plots out a new thriller that at first glance I didn’t see as very compelling, but after I walked out of the theatre I couldn’t help but think I was more shaken than anything else I’ve watched this year. There is something deeply unsettling about not being able to trust the person you share a bed with. The film builds tension unlike anything I’ve watched this year, and mounts it at an all time high with the final shot. It left me feeling empty, and somehow I loved every minute.
9. The Babadook (Nov. 28; IFC Films)
I caught an early screening of The Babadook this fall. I sincerely had no idea what I was getting into, but from the opening shot I knew I was in good hands. The movie is grounded by two phenomenal central performances that ooze moody atmosphere. It’s astounding how deeply affected I felt by this mother’s story. It hit me in my core, and it hasn’t let up after three subsequent viewings. It’s really as good as everyone’s saying, so go out and see it. Spread the word.
8. As Above So Below (Aug. 29; Universal Pictures)
I shrugged this movie off rather quickly. I’ve been to the Parisian Catacombs, and while scary I didn’t imagine them as that great a setting for a horror movie. I was wrong. This is pure fun. I forgive the weird third act problems because they posit something so interesting and cool that I couldn’t help but be on board, as a concept it channels what I loved most about a personal favorite of mine: The Descent and compiles it with the surreal horror of a found footage movie. It’s not perfect but it’s a really good time.
7. Nightcrawler (Oct. 31; Open Road Films)
This is a movie that defies convention. It’s masterfully directed and features a career defining performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. He seriously is something to marvel at as Lou Bloom. He’s a sociopathic go-getter, who can’t stop spitting motivational bullshit to save his life. He is driven, and his goal is chilling because he succeeds. This movie may unnerve you, but given the same set of circumstances which one of you would turn away from “connecting” with people. This is a film that will be studied for years to come. I seriously haven’t stopped thinking about it since I walked out of the theater in October.
6. Under The Skin (Apr. 4; A24 Films)
Jonathan Glazer’s weird alien adventure throughout Scotland does just as much to disassociate you from the familiar landscape of the film as it does to connect you to the strange protagonist. Scarlett Johansson is irresistible in this strange Lynchian masterpiece that is as much about how we objectify others as its about feeling like a stranger in a strange land. While the abduction scene hit most hardest, I can’t shake the bedroom scene from my head, the red lighting, the awkward exchange, and that final reveal. Try to shake it I dare you.
5. Blue Ruin (Apr. 25; eOne Films)
Here is a very simple movie about the horrors of revenge. At it’s core Blue Ruin is brilliant. It manages to establish character motivations and the plot without a single ounce of dialogue for the opening act. It’s a herculean task that is made to look easy here. While the movie is standard revenge thriller fare, it pushes realism in light of anything else, daring you to think about those moments when you’ve thought about snapping, proving revenge is a lot messier than you think it is.
4. Snowpiercer (July. 27; RADiUS TWC)
The best comic book adaptation of the year wasn’t made by Marvel. Sorry, not even close. Here is a film that was made internationally, with a international cast, and a brilliant premise. But within the engaging story and characters there are brilliant action scenes and Bong Joon-ho’s direction can’t be found anywhere in North America. The result is a confident film with an important message that is unlike anything you’ve seen before.
3. The Sacrament (June. 6; Magnolia Pictures)
Ti West is a brilliant director. He is fearless and his films use that against you. He lingers in a moment, he builds uncanny dread until the audience can’t stand it any longer, and the final act of this film shows him doing what he does best. It’s a strange intoxicating journey into how people become indoctrinated under a personality, and the things they’re willing to do for that “higher power.” It will remain with me for a long time to come.
2. Starry Eyes (Nov. 14; Dark Sky Films)
What are you willing to do to get the part? Living in a city where people are obsessed with being “actors” you’re often confronted with that question. Because fame and instant success are an obsession, they are unhealthy, and Starry Eyes is the ultimate mediation on that idea. It’s terrifying, and shows you the dark reality of a casting agent. Fame is a drug, give someone a taste and they’ll be back begging you for more.
1. The Guest (Sept. 17; Picturehouse)
This is a smart stylized action, horror, comedy that almost defies classification. Its made up of a solitary idea of a haunted person helping haunted people. Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard push the limits of dark comedy in their followup to You’re Next and it works, brilliantly. David arrives into the narrative of the movie, and by all means he should be a destructive force, but somehow throughout the narrative of the movie we see him help those around him, well before destroying each and every one of them. It’s expertly directed, features the best soundtrack of the year, and doesn’t let itself be defined by anything other than pure style.