2015 has been another fantastic year for horror but, at the same time, I can’t help but shudder when I see films like THE GALLOWS, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION, and KNOCK, KNOCK make it to the big screen. Not only were these the worst horror films that I’ve seen this year but they take away from the hardworking filmmakers out there that are consistently delivering fresh and imaginative horror films throughout the year. These are the films that should be seen on the cinemas and not the latest studio funded found-footage film whose only intention is to make as much money as possible.
This is why I want to share my Top Ten Horror Films of 2015 with you as I hope by doing so that there will be a few titles here that will open your eyes to the better side of horror. Now some you may have already seen in the cinemas, some you may already have picked up on Blu-Ray or DVD, but there will also be some titles that have yet to see a wide release. But before I start to discuss which horror films made my top ten list of 2015 I wanted to start by paying respect to three honorable mentions.
Insidious: Chapter 3 is the final installment of the popular horror franchise. Directed this time by Leigh Whannel, Chapter 3 stars Lin Shaye, Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott and Angus Sampson. A prequel set before the first two films, Chapter 3 tells the story of what made gifted psychic Elise (Shaye) use her ability to fight the supernatural.
I have plenty of respect for James Wan and Leigh Whannell and for what they have done with the Insidious franchise. Although their journey has been somewhat shaky it has still remained an entertaining series of films and Chapter 3 is no exception. Darker, grittier and more dangerous than the first two films, As director Whannell has injected his own visual aesthetic into this film which lies comfortably in the world created by Wan. The pacing of the film is nicely structured, the cinematography is wonderful and Whannell’s talent for misdirection will have you jumping out of your seats with some pretty effective scares.
Since the success of The Sixth Sense and Signs director M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t has had some incredible lows in his career. But I personally give Shyamalan credit at least for his attempt to tell us stories but sadly films like The Village and The Happening have made him somewhat of a joke among horror fans. Thankfully his latest film, The Visit, is actually a very engaging horror film. Telling the story of Becca and her younger brother Tyler as they go to spend a week with their grandparents that they have never met before. Deciding to document the experience with her camera, Becca begins to notice something strange about her grandparents and sets in motion a chain of events leading to the discovery of a very dark secret. Not only is the film suspenseful but it also has a surprising amount of humour that comes with it which only adds to the charm of the film that is unless you are of a nervous disposition as there is one scene in particular which made my stomach turn.
Ted Geoghegan’s homage to all things Fulci, We Are Still Here stars Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig and Larry Fessenden. We Are Still Here follows Paul and Anne who move to an isolated New England farmhouse to start a new life after losing their son. After settling down in their new home, they become the prey of a family of vengeful spirits residing in their new home sparking off a battle between the dead and the living. Throughout the film We Are Still Here sure has its creepy moments and the crimson ending was something of a spectacle. I loved the performances here and it was great to see Fessenden ham it up in his usual way. Overall, I would have preferred a more serious tone to the movie but that didn’t stop me from enjoying what was otherwise a fantastic film.
So which films made my top ten list? Grab a drink, sit back and relax because here they come…
Todd Strauss-Schulson’s comedy horror The Final Girls stars Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman and Adam Devine. A playful love letter to the slasher films of the 80s, this enjoyable slice of cinema tells the story of Max (Farmiga) whom after grieving the loss of her mother finds herself pulled into the world of her mum’s most famous movie. Reunited in full Last Action Hero style, Farmiga and her on-screen mother Nancy (Akerman) are forced to stand together and follow the conventions of the slasher genre to survive the night and find a way home. With stunning direction from Strauss-Schulson and the stellar cinematography by Elie Smolkin, The Final Girls is a laugh riot packed with plenty of blood, guts and plenty of heart.
Deathgasm is the story of metal-thrashing Brodie whom along with his friend Zakk, starts a band. Soon after discovering that one of their metal heroes is hiding out in an abandoned house near their home the pair break in and find pages of an ancient spell that promises ultimate power to anyone that plays it. Sure enough, after the right chords are played their classmates, relatives, and surrounding neighbours are possessed by demonic forces leaving Brodie and Zakk to save the day. Now just because I’m not a metal fan doesn’t mean I didn’t get a kick out of Deathgasm. As Director Jason Lei Howden has crafted a bloody beautiful horror film that is incredibly fun and laugh riot from start to finish. Packed with outstanding special effects, perfectly timed gags and a rocking soundtrack, no one can resist the raw power of this movie.
In what is best described as Power Rangers meets Mad Max, Turbo Kid is a phenomenal film written and directed by the three-headed dragon that is François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell. In the film Munro Chambers plays The Kid, a teenage scavenger whose is kidnapped by the evil Zeus (Michael Ironside) and his sadistic side-kick Skeletron. Not only was this film incredibly entertaining but it took me right back to my childhood. The humour is top notch, the action/fight scenes are fantastic and the soundtrack is equally as amazing! I had so much fun watching this film and I can honestly say hand on heart that Turbo Kid is totally RAD!
There are only a handful of things that scare me and the end of the world is one of them. So knowing that this was the subject at the center of Zak Hilditch’s dramatic apocalyptic thriller it would be a lie if I didn’t tell you that my hands were sweating before I sat down to watch These Final Hours. By focusing on his characters and relationships instead of the impending apocalypse, director Zak Hilditch has delivered an end of the world scenario that feels entirely real. Lacking any over the top blockbuster style effects he employs a much more muted approach to the subgenre which makes a refreshing change. Yes it may appear a little rough around the edges but the main success of this film comes with its emotional impact thanks to some terrific acting from its cast so trust me when I say that this film is amazing!
Hangman is Directed by Adam Mason and starring Jeremy Sisto and Kate Ashfield. A found-footage film that had me on the edge of my seat, Hangman tells the story of the Miller family whom after returning two-week holiday unaware that an intruder has been sleeping in their attic watching their every move on surveillance cameras. Being entirely honest, I was thoroughly unprepared for Hangman. It is one terrifying horror film that built a sense of unease quickly and never let it up. It felt wholly real to the point where I had to remind myself that I was watching a film. As you can imagine this was incredible to witness and it is for this reason that Hangman deserves to be on this list.
Jason Krawczyk’s slow-burning comedy drama He Never Died is a film which is best seen without knowing anything other than the basics. Without spoiling too much, the film sees rock legend Henry Rollins as Jack, a social outcast who is thrust out of his comfort zone when his past comes back to haunt him. Anchored by a terrific performance from Rollins whose deadpan delivery is everything, He Never Died is a very strange yet compelling film which is easy to fall in love with. That’s all I’m going to say about this one so be sure to check it out when you can if you want to know more.
From Karyn Kusama, the director of Jennifer’s Body, comes The Invitation a thriller that will leave your jaw on the ground. Starring Michiel Huisman and Emayatzy Corinealdi, a couple who have been invited to a dinner party in a fancy L.A. home. After sensing something is amiss, David (Huisman) is about to experience a night like no other. A powerfully tense film that shows how people react to pain and loss, The Invitation is a deeply chilling film which becomes credible thanks to some terrific performances and a shocking climax. However, what is really scary about this film is that its events are entirely believable and that fact is enough to cause nightmares.
They Look Like People is directed by Perry Blackshear and stars MacLeod Andrews, Evan Dumouchel and Margaret Ying Drake. This ‘psychological bromance’ follows Wyatt (Andrews) who believes the people around him are turning into evil creatures. Bleak, disturbing and utterly unnerving, They Look Like People is a film that I found to be both terrifying and compelling and very different to other films that I have seen before. The pacing of this wonderful yet harrowing slice of independent cinema was spot on. It moves at the right pace and slowly draws the audience into the story without feeling stale. Right up to the devastating and nerve-shredding finale I was fully immersed in the world that is so lovingly put together by Blackshear and as such, adored every single passing minute of it.
Night Fare is a very dark, slick and sexy film from director Julien Seri who channels the visual aesthetics of Nicholas Winding Refn to deliver a brilliantly paced thriller. Accompanied by a gorgeous synth soundtrack from Alex Cortés, Night Fare reminded me of Refn’s Drive and combines heart-racing action and nail-biting tension which at time feels incredibly claustrophobic. The acting was wholly believable, the fight scenes are flawlessly choreographed and the chase scenes oozed adrenaline. I absolutely loved this film, the villain was fantastic and I can’t really wait to see it again.
Hands down, Summer Camp is one of the most entertaining horror films that I’ve seen in a number of years and I have Alberto Marini to thank for that. Summer Camp stars Diego Boneta, Jocelin Donahue and Maiara Walsh and combines elements of [REC] and unleashes a similar virus on an isolated mansion turned English language summer camp with sometimes hilarious consequences. Don’t be mistaken though as Summer Camp remains a horror film first and foremost, having its fair share of tense moments that will have you holding your breath. The cast are equally as good and do a fantastic job walking a tightrope between comedy and horror but it is refreshing to know that each member of the cast nails this every time. There are many stand out moments in this film that stayed with me simply because I’ve never seen them happen on screen before. Not only does this make the film feel incredibly fresh but it made the experience that much more incredible. It is for this reason that I can’t wait to see it again!
So there you have it, my favourite horror films of 2015. I hope you check them out at your earliest convenience. All that is left to say now is thank you for taking the time to read this feature and Happy New Year everyone!