It was a year of ambitious failures (Last Shift/Felt/Crimson Peak), ubiquitous sequels (Sinister 2/Insidious Chapter 3), overhyped drek (The Gallows, The Visit), classics unnecessarily remade (Poltergiest) and true stinkers (Ebola Zombies). Luckily for us, there were also some winners. Here’s our list of the some of the Best Horror Movies of 2015.
Goodnight Mommy is a slow burn – fire even being a prominent feature of the film (the young twin stars are pyromaniacs who burn bugs with magnifying glasses). The performances are off-the-charts, and the Mise-en-scène juxtaposes Teutonic orderliness / Architectural Digest (the mom reads copies of HÄUSER – The Magazine for Architecture & Design) with the chaos within the home’s walls. The twin direction, if you will, of Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, is in another league.
There are even a few uncomfortable laughs, particularly in a scene involving overly earnest, folksily-accented Red Cross solicitors, whose appeal for donations couldn’t come at a worse time. A tentative start rewards viewers patient enough to be assaulted by the finish.
It’s brazen and ballsy enough to provide ample depth and backstory for a film which is, on the surface, about being trapped in the backwoods. Just as much effort is put into the camaraderie as there is the scares, a lesson it could teach some of those 80s classics we all grew up on.
Much like the outstanding Goodnight Mommy explored mother / son relationships in heretofore unforeseen ways, White Raven breaks down male friendship dynamics when a “boys weekend” in the BC forest turns these guys into men real quick.
She Who Must Burn
The final act of She Who Must Burn is the veritable definition of harrowing. It is a masterfully-directed piece of cinema, so bone-chilling that this reviewer is still reeling.
The film calls to mind (but does not emulate) movies as diverse as Straw Dogs, Kill List, Martyrs and Take Shelter.
Furthermore, it takes an artistic device, pathetic fallacy, that is utilized so often and so hamfistedly that it has practically become cliché, and reclaims it to great effect.
Save Yourself is the real deal. It’s nicely paced, smartly crafted, and uniformly well-acted.
Ryan Andrews’ talent behind the camera is undeniable. But the real takeaway from Save Yourself is the sheer awesomeness that is Tristan Risk. Her indelible portrayal of Beatress in American Mary (one of our favorite horror films of recent vintage) introduced her to horror audiences as someone with a great deal of potential, and Save Yourself is the film that is going to fucking make her. She’s that good. Do yourself a favor and Save Yourself.
Genre-hybrids like Spring are a very tricky proposition. The balancing of ingredients needs to be handled deftly, and in clumsy hands, neither genre comes off well and the result is something unpalatable.
But when crafted delicately, a genre-hybrid can elevate and transcend both elements. As the Austin Chronicle put it, “Sometimes the most thrilling thing a film can do is shake the shackles of its own preordained genre as you’re watching it.”
Spring, about a troubled soul Evan who romances a mysterious Italian woman Louise, deftly handles both the romance and the horror superbly, and as such becomes something that is profoundly beautiful and uplifting.
What We Do in the Shadows
The jokes come fast and furious and there’s hardly a bad one in the bunch. Like the best mockumentaries, What We Do in the Shadows has a keen awareness of the source of its mockery but also displays a lot of affection for it.
The actors are a delight, and they make a tremendously cogent ensemble. One could tell that they had as much fun making the film as the viewer has watching it. Each character has quirks and subtleties that make them extremely endearing, and the film displays both ingenuity and a lot of heart. In the end, What we Do in the Shadows is that rarest breed of film – one that is both charming and hilarious in equal measure.
A killer boobs movie? Damn right!
Director Greg Lamberson and Screenwriter Paul McGinnis take what, in lesser hands, would be a one-joke throwaway and turn it into a film that’s riotously funny, impressively gory and pretty darn smart to boot.
Any sense of propriety is tossed aside by the time her “dirty pillows” start sprouting sarlac-pit like teeth and Lovecraftian tentacles. Killer Rack is fun and playful, toying with movie conventions (a cop and his rookie partner, Bartles and James, chat about useless exposition in a diner and a homicide detective is chastised for his ineffectual double entendres). It’s also an incisive commentary on our superficial, beauty obsessed society. Jessica Zwolak is utterly charming and engaging as heroine Betty, and Debbie Rochon owns every scene she’s in as the nefarious Dr. Kate Thulu.
Plus, any film that features Troma head Lloyd Kaufman singing and dancing in a toe-tapping musical interlude is aces in our books!
Horror-action hybrid Turbo Kid is a fun new Canadian-New Zealand co-production. Set in the post-apocalyptic future of 1997, Turbo Kid is a loving homage to some of the great genre films of the 80s, and a damn fine film in its own right. It deftly pulls off that delicate balancing act between homage and outright parody, and what results is an intoxicating love later to films of the spandex era.
Despite featuring some truly impressive gore set pieces, Turbo Kid is a child’s adventure at heart. Watching the film is a giddy sugar rush akin to downing a whole bag of Halloween candy in one go. Laurence Lebouef is a delight as Apple, and in a just world, would win an Academy Award. And Michael Ironside as Big Bad Zeus chews the scenery with gusto as only he can. And the soundtrack kicks all sorts of ass.
A Belgian there’s-something-in-the-woods flick Cub is a gripping little fright flick which deserves some attention on these shores.
Sam is the runt of his cub-scout litter. On a camping trip, he forms an unlikely, tentative kinship with feral child Kai. They do something horrific to the cub leader’s dog, which Sam gets solely blamed for. Soon, all civility goes to shit and Cub turns into Lord of the Flies by way of House of 1000 Corpses.
Cub delivers the goods. There are some phenomenal kills and a suitably bleak ending. The subtitle-averse who skip Cub because they don’t like to “read” movies will certainly be missing out on something pretty special.
The Demolisher is The Nail Gun Massacre gone to grad school, a sharp urban thriller with a superficially similar antagonist. It’s its own genre too: vigilante melodrama. A psychological study of “Bruce,” a kind of PTSD Batman (capably portrayed by Ry Barrett) who cleans up the streets armored in police riot gear.
Dialogue is sparse and exposition is minimal, but the tension is thick. The atmosphere is stifling, with the wide-open, empty, night time streets appearing claustrophobic as Bruce’s world closes in on him. A truly evocative electro-score sets pulses pounding.
Book-ended by some pretty clever support group empowerment messages, The Demolisher is, dare we say, inspiring and a force to be reckoned with.
DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT THE REALLY AWFUL MOVIES PODCAST AND STAY TUNED FOR THE WORST OF 2015!