This year, I finally launched the horror podcast I’ve been dreaming of for a while now – Don’t Split Up! So in honor of the fact that I’m now paying much closer attention to horror films, I offer you my Top 10 horror films of 2015:
10. The Visit
M. Night Shyamalan has been the butt of a rising tide of jokes with each subsequent film release since probably The Lady in the Water. Even Will Smith couldn’t save him from the embarrassment of After Earth. So the trepidation we all felt his new film The Visit was announced. But The Visit turned out to be a surprisingly serviceable little found-footage horror film whose plot was serviced well by Shyamalan’s signature twist.
A movie about a bunch of teens on a group skype call sounds dumb. The idea of watching an entire film that takes place only on a computer screen? Somehow this movie worked really well. It mines the well of cyber-bullying to great effect, and uses its limiting format to create some truly clever scares. You won’t be sorry you watched this little gem… until the next time you turn on your computer.
We’ve seen way too many vampire movies. And zombies are getting played out too. We have a significant lack of werewolf movies, let alone great werewolf movies. Enter Howl, a small-scale British film that doesn’t spend too much time making you wait around. You get werewolves. What else could you want from a movie called Howl?
7. Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
Yes, zombies are getting played out, but that means you get some great zombie comedies (zom-coms). Enter Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. I don’t think it’s just that I’m a former boy scout that makes me love this film. It’s smart. It’s funny. It plays with the genre conventions and features some creative, disgusting zombie kills. If you enjoyed Shaun of the Dead or Warm Bodies, you’ll love this movie.
6. Love in the Time of Monsters
We found this little gem when the producer reached out to Don’t Split Up! after our review of Zombeavers. We watched Love in the Time of Monsters and loved it so much we invited the writer, director and two leads on the show for a fantastic interview about what it takes to make an indie horror comedy (spoiler: lots of love). This movie is tremendous fun. Get it now and show ‘em some love!
5. It Follows
It Follows was a surprise hit – a small, indie monster movie set in the ruins of Detroit. The film subverts the slasher film’s Final Girl trope with an STD demon that faces off against a troop of intrepid friends. Probably my favorite conceit of It Follows is that the film features nudity – like most horror films, but none of the nudity in this film is gratuitous (even though it’s about sex). Instead, all the nudity in It Follows is truly gruesome, which adds an extra layer of horror to an already terrifying film.
4. Bone Tomahawk
Bone Tomahawk was my #2 film of the year overall, so why is it only #4 here? Because Bone Tomahawk is a Western as much as it’s horror. The next three films are more purely horror films, so I bumped them higher on my list. But don’t think for a moment Bone Tomahawk isn’t terrifying because it is. Imagine if The Hills Have Eyes had been a Western. This is a genre film that is two genres at the same time, from start to finish. Plus, the cast is outstanding.
Remember how your parents always told you all that heavy metal you always listened to was the Devil’s music? (Surely that wasn’t just me.) Well this New Zealand horror film suggests that mom and dad might have been right. A sort of demon-zombie horror combo, this horror-comedy is really a love letter to heavy metal. It’s a pleasant treat, especially if you’ve been known to throw the horns up from time to time. \m/
2. Goodnight Mommy
Don’t watch a trailer or read too much about Goodnight Mommy before you see it. It’s Austrian, there are subtitles and it’s profoundly disturbing. The film takes a conceit we’ve seen in dozens of thrillers by now, and rather than using the conceit as the big reveal, the film pushes deeper into the horror to deliver something truly horrifying. If that’s too vague, just watch the movie, then come back so we can talk about how scared we both are.
1. The Final Girls
Rare is the horror comedy that spoofs a genre while lovingly inhabiting it too. Scream does this well. So does A Cabin in the Woods and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Just when you thought we’d run out of ways to spoof slasher flicks, here comes The Final Girls to show us there’s still plenty of fun to be had. This film is smart, scary and funny… really funny. The characters and story are handled so masterfully it looks easy, but this is a tremendous achievement. If you want the maximum bang for your buck, rewatch the original Friday the 13th before seeing The Final Girls. But either way, you won’t be sorry you visited Camp Blue Finch.
Best Horror TV Shows:
Ash vs. Evil Dead: I’ve been not-so-patiently waiting years for Sam Raimi to return to the world of the Evil Dead, and 2015 was the year my impatience was rewarded not with another film, but with a 10-episode, 5+ hour horror-comedy romp. We find that not much has changed for ole Ashley Williams. And after he accidentally (of course) releases the Deadites back into the world, we’re treated to his misadventures as he tries to put the evil, evil genies back in the bottle book Necronomicon. Ash vs. Evil Dead has everything you want: tons of gore, amazing practical effects and so much abuse of Bruce Campbell. This show is pitch perfect, and I am now impatiently awaiting Season 2. Thankfully I won’t be waiting long.
Scream: The original Scream is one of the great slashers and one of the great horror spoofs. I knew Scream the TV show would be a winner when in the first episode, a character explained why a slasher flick can’t work as a TV show. Yes, it’s on MTV, but I enjoyed this show tremendously. And it still caught me off guard. I can’t wait for season 2!
Best Horror Films that Weren’t Technically Horror Films:
The Revenant: Man vs. Nature and a revenge flick – The Revenant had a couple of the most terrifying sequences I saw on film this year (bear!). Leo is tremendous, as is Tom Hardy (that guy may be my favorite actor right now). And the film is gorgeous. It’s shot in all-natural light with tons of long, grueling tracking shots.
Everest: This film haunted me for days. It’s Man vs. Nature, but really Man vs. Man. We conquered Everest, then we defeated each other.
The Big Short: This movie is about the 2008 housing crash. It’s really about greed. It’s hilarious, but no amount of funny can make what happened – and how it’s happening again – any less terrifying.