Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 20: Horror Films of 2014

With Blood Brothers being dedicated to cult genres and the often overlooked films from all over the world, it was only fitting that here at the end of 2014 we deliver our top 20 horror films. There is a slew of different styles and sub-genres that made the list and quite a few great films that didn't quite make the cut. So feel free, look at the list, click on the links for full reviews if applicable, and leave us some comments on what we missed or what should have been cut.

The Top 20 Horror Films of 2014:

20. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)
            Horror remakes may carry some bad aura with them thanks to the sheer amount of them that pop up each year, but a flawed original and clever spin make this one worth the watch. In a weird way, it’s also a sequel to the 70s mockumentary styled horror flick as the original film plays a huge part in the plotting of the film. It retains some of the elements of the original (it even uses a lot of fun homage moments), but injects a modern twist on the slasher. Director Gomez-Rejon does slather it in a nice stylistic touch too with his consistent pans and clean color schemes, which adds to the fun.

19. The Possession of Michael King
            Possession films might be all the rage in the low budget horror genre and the found footage style is getting repetitive, but The Possession of Michael King gets props for some fun subtle elements (the ants!) and for some wicked strong pacing.

18. Beneath
            There were two films called Beneath released in 2014 and this one is NOT the giant fish flick. This one plays out more as a psychological horror flick as a group of miners get trapped in a mine and some individuals start kicking the bucket one by one. The reason this basic concept works is the sheer tension and connection the audience has with the miners that we care to see just what happens to them. Strong execution is what makes this film work so well.

17. Under the Skin
            While Under the Skin can often be described as a crazy ass arthouse version of Species, that description rarely does the film justice. It’s truly one of those films that must be experienced. It’s a bit of a slow burn and the lacking dialogue with vague plotting can be frustrating for some, but the overall experience of the film makes it a must see for the year.

16. Willow Creek
            Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait goes all sorts of Blair Witch Project for his horror film about Bigfoot and the couple that goes out to find it. While scrutiny surely abounds for the film for it’s slow pacing and rather uneventful plotting, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t on the edge of my seat for the entire second half – even if we don’t see almost anything. There is a tent sequence that had me holding my breath for ten minutes straight. Talk about doing something with nothing.

15. The Taking of Deborah Logan
            Not only did one found footage possession flick make the list this year…BUT TWO! The Taking of Deborah Logan is, again, a film we have essentially seen before, but the thoughtful approach to storytelling and the pacing are expertly unrolled for us as we see Deborah Logan slowly drift towards a teeth-clenching finale.

14. The Sacrament
            Ti West might be one of those directors who divides fans with his low energy and big atmosphere style, but The Sacrament might be his most consumable film yet. It might not be strictly horror in many senses of the term, but the unnerving way that the story unfurls and the ridiculously strong acting that goes with it makes for a film that feels almost too real for its own good at times.

13. The Babadook
            Australia stakes a big claim to the psychological horror-or-maybe-its-real genre with The Babadook in some very intriguing ways. Buoyed on the stellar performances of the two leads, a mother and son must overcome grief and stress by fighting off a children’s monster known as The Babadook. The film plays out more as a horrific portrayal of mourning in many ways, but the stellar blend of nightmarish imagery and tension makes for an edge of your seat flick.

12. The Battery
            Made for what looks like $100 and a six pack of beer, The Battery succeeds by not relying on special effects and scares like so many zombie films do. In fact, it wholly presents itself as a low-fi character study about two ex-baseball players who must rely on each other to survive the post-zombie apocalypse. It’s less about plot and more about how two people would handle the kind of world ending catastrophe they have had to endure. Not to mention it loves to go into awkward situations with such dark humor that it’s hard not to appreciate its charm.

11. Honeymoon
            Another ‘atmosphere before scares’ flick that came as a huge surprise in 2014, Honeymoon is once again a small film with big execution. A couple heads up to a cabin in the woods to celebrate their honeymoon when weird things start happening to the bride and the husband becomes desperate to uncover the truth of what is happening. It’s simple. It’s built on the strength of the script where every detail comes back (whether it seems trivial or not) and the performances hook the audience. The twist might not be as satisfying to some, but the trip there is legit.

10. Wolf Creek 2
            Like what The Collection did to me last year, Wolf Creek 2 is a horror film that plays itself more like an action flick. While it certainly retains a few of the elements that made the first Wolf Creek such a massive hit and critical success (particularly in the first and third acts) the rest of this sequel is a bit more over the top and ridiculous. A massive chase sequence consumes most of the film and features the snarky villain Mick doing crazy things like running over kangaroos with a semi. It’s a strange film for sure, but it’s just the right amount of terrifying, hilarious, and outrageous.

09. Afflicted
            At this point, I have given up on trying to make ‘found footage’ horror go away and I just hope against all hope that they start making more ‘good ones’ instead. That’s what we get with Afflicted. The premise isn’t wholly out there or even overly clever after the main twist presents itself, but the execution of this minimal budget flick is impressive. The stunts and camera tricks to pull off some of the more outrageous beats make the film come off as far cooler than the script should have any right to be. That being said, it does create a rather intriguing universe for a franchise to be developed in…so here’s hoping for that.

08. The Canal
            Psychological horror is one of those subgenres that can be very tough to pull off. It’s very easy to be mundane. Not for The Canal though. This ripe and atmospheric flick blends the psychological horror of despair and grief with a slick and vicious ghost story that even goes as far as to steal a few elements from J-Horror to accomplish its tasks. The results are impressive to say the least.

07. Big Bad Wolves
            Perhaps not the strictest of horror films as the genre goes, Big Bad Wolves is one of the most devastating films of the year on this list. It plays out like a big dark mystery flick with just enough horrific events and perfectly placed dark humor that it leaves the audience riveted throughout…even if the concept is very, very simple.

06. Dead Snow 2: Red Vs Dead
            Horror comedy can be a subgenre that every one has a big ambitions with, but few people do it like Tommy Wirkola does. His long awaited sequel owes quite a bit to the early works of Peter Jackson in many ways – especially in its blend of outrageous violence, gore, and slapstick humor, but the resulting mix of Zombie Hunters versus an undead Nazi army is easily one of the best concoctions of horror and humor offered up in the last ten years.

05. Oculus
            Evil mirrors are not necessarily the most confidence boosting subjects for horror, but the clever story telling approaches with two parallel tales make Oculus a shockingly effect horror flick. It blurs the lines of reality and nightmare just enough that half the time the audience is unsure of the direction just as the two protagonists are…a move that makes the film work as a multi-watch too.

04. Horns
            Horns is the kind of film to really split fans of the genre in a lot of ways. It’s a film that blends so many genres (love story, horror, dark comedy, murder mystery, fantasy) that if you are not willing to buy into the approach there is almost no way that you will enjoy it. However, if you are willing to go along for the ride then Horns is a blast, crafted on fun performances, a winding tale of awkward and often uncomfortable situations, and some truly awesome visuals from the now legendary director Aja.

03. Rigor Mortis
            Another genre bender, Rigor Mortis is both an homage film to the foreign horror styles of Chinese hopping vampires and J-Horror ghosts and a strange and brutal telling of its own regard. It throws in violent gore, kung fu, comedy, and huge bits of fantasy to tell its story of a depressed man thrown in a battle with the forces of evil in a run down apartment complex. Needless to say, the combination is fucking awesome.

02. Killers
            The Mo Brothers have crafted a unique little niche of Indonesian horror and their film about two serial killers in competition with one another over online videos might be their best yet. The performances and narrative both create an atmosphere of sympathy and utter abhorrence for these two men for their mix of vicious violence and strange connection that will make you wonder…how many of us have a killer inside?

01. Starry Eyes
            Cronenberg and Polanski ought to be proud of their impact on the horror genre because their style and impact creates films like Starry Eyes. Atmospheric and character driven, Starry Eyes is hinged on one very, very impressive performance and a strange ability to blend cult elements with body horror and nightmarish slasher pieces. This was a black swan piece that came out of nowhere to take the reign on this list.

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