While studios are focusing on their franchises and remakes, independent filmmakers are building a horror army that’s one to reckon with. This is now the 13th anniversary of our annual Best & Worst editorials, and what makes this year stand out is that the majority of films on my list came from an independent source – even if a studio eventually released some.
On paper, we’re moving the right direction. There’s a plethora of new up-and-coming horror filmmakers, and more and more horror films are being made outside of the studio system. The bad news is that it’s not a sustainable system, meaning we could be living in the golden age of independent horror cinema. Instead of bitching and moaning when a studio announces their next sequel/remake – take that negative energy and focus it in the right place…seek out and support an indie film you’ve been hearing so much about.
With that, let’s take a look at just how good 2014 was…
This is the first time I couldn’t narrow my list down to a top 10. In fact, I’m sitting on 20 films that all deserve some love – and if I can use the site as my own personal soapbox, so be it.
What I present to you are two batches of films, with the first 10 in no particular order, while the final 10 will be shared in the typical countdown format.
Best Horror Films of 2014: 20-11
Big Bad Wolves (Magnet Releasing)
From Israeli writer-directing pair Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, known for Rabies, Magnet Releasing got behind this psychological thriller that showed that the directors could create tension just as well as they could deliver gore. Big Bad Wolves is easily one of the most intense films of the year, and is filled with a wide array of crowd-pleasing surprises.
The Raid 2 (Sony Classics)
While Gareth Evans couldn’t top his The Raid – easily one of the best action films of all time – The Raid 2 is two straight hours of martial arts madness that puts Hollywood to shame. It’s almost gluttonous how much violence and mayhem is delivered in this foreign flick that was shot over the course of 100+ days, which is unheard of for an indie. The aforementioned shows on screen with the beautiful locations, incredible choreography, and insane car chases. If anything, it’s almost too much, if that’s even possible.
The Man In the Orange Jacket (Fantasia)
Playing at this past summer’s Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, I was shocked by Aik Karapetian’s colorful mix between Lars von Trier and Alex Aja’s High Tension. The Latvian film has strong social commentary about social class, to go along with beautiful visuals – not to mention some intense gore. Orange Jacket feels like the writer/director’s cathartic way of dealing with his own personal rage against the system.
Housebound (XLrator Media)
The best kind of horror is one that takes itself serious, but also has fun with the audience. Housebound, hailing out of New Zealand, is not only super scary and bloody, but also crazy fun (in the vein of People Under the Stairs.
The Purge: Anarchy (Universal Pictures)
I don’t know what happened from script to screen, but The Purge was trash, and I can’t even believe they were able to make a sequel. Thankfully, Universal got behind fans of the first and found a way to fix nearly all the mistakes of the first. Anarchy is the producers response to the criticism of The Purge, which resulted in an 80’s homage in the vein of Escape From New York that delivers on its promise. It’s also soaked in relevant social commentary and action. One of the best sequels of all time, Anarchy, which will be forgotten by mainstream moviegoers, will eventually achieve cult status among the horror community.
Starry Eyes (Dark Sky Films)
A movie about cults and Hollywood? Count me in! Carrying deep-seeded social commentary, Starry Eyes is another slow-burn horror that’s hiding more than a handful of surprises that will shock and awe. Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer have arrived, and give horror fans a film that literally has it all, including some of the most shockingly violent scenes of the past few years.
Mockingbird (Universal Home Entertainment)
Out of all the years we’ve been running Bloody Disgusting, I’d say the most pissed off you guys were is when I pushed you to check out Mockingbird, the found-footage cat and mouse game from The Strangers‘ Bryan Bertino. While the end to the film is disastrous, which is why it won’t be making my top 10, the “meat” on the bone is delicious. Personally, I thought the build was terrifying, as it had me constantly on edge. Sure, it became clear what direction it was headed, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t a fun ride. Surely there are a few of you who agree with me? Back me up, bro…
Oculus is one of those movies that most people seemed to hate, but I really found myself engaged with the retro slow-burn nature of it all. Oculus carries haunting imagery, with classic chills out of an old-school Carpenter film. Maybe expectations were high being that this hit theaters across the country, but for a little indie that could, I found Oculus to be remarkably scary.
We are so blessed to live in a day and age where a studio can “dump” a movie to VOD platforms, instead of feeling the need to edit the shit out of it for the general masses. After the Weinstein Company fought with director Joon-ho Bong about the U.S. release, Snowpiercer was eventually gifted to us in its full form. Tilda Swinton deserves an Oscar nod for her performance, while Chris Evans plays an awesome badass protag who kicks ass through this steam punk post apocalyptic horror tale. I adore the beak nature of the thriller, and its powerful finale that does not disappoint (although, there were some absolutely naughty alternate ways to end it).
Nurse 3D (Lionsgate)
After years on the shelf, Nurse 3D shocked us all by turning out to be an absolutely fantastic horror film that’s jam-packed with boobs, butts and blood! Personally, I found Doug Aarniokoski – who directed one of the worst movies ever made, Animals – had accidentally tapped into an interesting pulp-like fantasy world that any horror fan would enjoy.
Reminder that the above is in no particular order.