It’s that time of year, readers – where we take a look back at the horror, the suspense, the gore and the thrills — and make a determination of our choices for the best horror movies of 2015. In this case, we’re examining the many engaging feature films which have graced our screens – both big and small – over the past year! Let’s get going!
And honestly, who doesn’t love a list and the drool-inducing anticipation of a good countdown? Without further adieu:
The Best Horror Movies of 2015
15) They Look Like People (review)
Screened at this year’s Screamfest, They Look Like People was a marvel of low budget filmmaking — combining effortless performances from its three leads and generating a terrifying sense of paranoia (rivaled only by the go-to for such paranoid characters and their other-worldly “delusions”, the Polanski-classic, Rosemary’s Baby) in what is mostly a one location (read: suffocating) story. It’s one of those pictures which will leave you wondering long after it’s over — was it all for real, or was it really part of a character’s mental illness and imagination?
14) Insidious Chapter 3 (review)
Closing out the trilogy (most likely not the franchise), creator Leigh Whannell takes the director’s reins in this installment. Elise (Lin Shaye) takes a more active role in the story, and it allows Ms. Shaye to flex every muscle in her acting bag of tricks. A more enjoyable and frightening experience than Insidious Chapter 2, the third chapter takes us back in time, and gives us more insight into that creepiest of creepies, the “Bride in Black”. And the intro of another creature from the other side, known only as the “Man Who Can’t Breathe” adds even more nightmare-fuel. An exceptionally good sequel, Insidious Chapter 3 shows how easily quality can remain in a franchise, when so much of the original’s brain-power and talent-trust continue to foster their terrifying baby.
13) Gravy (review)
A cast of fantastic actors (including Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe and Tony Award winner, Sutton Foster), with special effects makeup and outstanding gore by Gregory Nicotero & company, Gravy is a goofy, bloody and rollicking good time. It’s a “home invasion” of sorts (although it takes place in a Mexican restaurant, not a home) with a large and diverse cast. A small group of psychos take the restaurant’s staff and few customers hostage on Halloween night — to play some vicious and dangerous games. With a score by Tears for Fears’ Curt Smith and a cameo from the hysterical Sarah Silverman, the film feels pleasantly unique. It’s not something we’ve seen before, and the fact that it’s a successful horror-comedy (they’re so awfully difficult to pull off) makes you want to sing its praises even more. Helping things along is the very funny script (ably handled by this seasoned cast). Absolutely worth your time at lucky number 13 on our list!
12) Ghoul (review)
Basically a direct rip-off of The Blair Witch Project, it’s another found-footage effort, but the comparison goes beyond that (which is why it’s shockingly, so damn good!). It’s a documentary film crew investigating the events surrounding an actual serial killer (look up Andrei Chikatilo and you’ll get some gruesome and disturbing history) in rural Ukraine — also where the film was shot. It’s got the set-up and feel of the aforementioned found-footage champ, but brings on board some terrific acting, genuine frights and suspense which will have you once again peeking through your parted fingers. Not terribly original, but if you want a well-paced and well-produced jump-a-second scare-a-thon, Ghoul will do very nicely!
11) The Abandoned (review)
Originally titled The Confines (when I saw it at the LA FilmFest back in June), The Abandoned stars The Lost Boys‘ Jason Patric and Louisa Krause as two security guards watching over a massive abandoned building of former retail/living space in the burroughs of New York. Though it’s not technically released until next month (it’s been on the festival circuit), I’m including this terrifying piece in this year’s wrap-up. It’s far from perfect (the payoff is sorely lacking), but the supremely-crafted tension and masterful performances from the three leads, ultimately outweigh those pesky third act story problems. Writer/director Eytan Rockaway will have you cowering in your seat, as he brilliantly uses the many seamlessly intertwined locations at his disposal to mess with your head. Well worth your time!
10) What We Do in the Shadows (review)
This one is on almost everyone’s best of list for 2015, and it’s clear why. This is an intelligent, expertly produced and acted horror/comedy triumph! It follows four ages-old vampires as they try to make it in present day New Zealand. Love lives, eating habits and learning the internet, we get all of the inside scoop on these buddies as a “documentary film crew” follows their every move. From the makers of Flight of the Concords, there’s barely a misstep in this laugh-a-minute howler. Speaking of howling, nothing can compare to the delight that is our blood-sucking group’s nemesis gang — a group of werewolves. Their motto? “We’re werewolves, not swear-wolves”, when discussing their strict rules on cursing. With that comedy gem, I’ll leave the rest to your viewing pleasure. Just see it. You won’t be disappointed!
9) Interior (review)
A big hit at this year’s Shriekfest (and many other festivals), it was a hoot of a scary film. It’s set in one location with a former film student (the brilliant Christopher Carullo) spending the night in the home of his ex-girlfriend (and her husband and little girl) to investigate some possible paranormal activity (the franchise to which Interior owes a big debt). This film (from writer/director Zachary Beckler) was so spooky and boasted such a terrific slow burn, I had one (if not more) of those moments of doubt as to whether I could weather the entire thing. It’s truly terrifying! Done on a very small budget, the film takes you places beyond the “bump in the other room” antics you would expect from a film akin to Paranormal Activity — and into some serious Stanley Kubrick mind-bending shit. Let the terror roll over you and enjoy this ride!
8) Good Night, Mommy (review)
A love it/hate it picture on the list, Good Night, Mommy is an Austrian film which will leave you (and I love films like this) with many tantalizingly unanswered questions. Two young twin boys (amazing performances from Elias and Lukas Schwarz) live in their rural home with their mother (Susanne Wuest) who has recently returned from some heavy duty reconstructive surgery. So she’s bandaged. It’s unclear to the audience as well as the two boys, whether this is actually their mother. She acts differently, and so their suspicions (and ours) are raised. Good Night, Mommy is a visually stunning picture, with terrific performances and early reveals which will leave you wondering what is still to come. To properly sum this film up in one word? Haunting. It stuck in my head for days. It’s been designated as Austria’s official selection for the Oscar’s Best Foreign Language Film race. There you go.
7) The Hallow (review)
Bar-none, some of the most brilliant and creepily effective creature effects we’ve seen all year. A young couple move to a very superstitious area of Ireland, only to have the crazy stories of the locals begin to quickly come true. This film is a marvel of tension building and suspense. Performances are all tremendous, and writer/director Corin Hardy has instilled in the film, a very big heart — which sets is apart from so many other horror flicks. And kudos are in order for the “car scene”. It’s a nail-biter and I’ll say nothing more about it. But it all comes back to the creatures of the forest surrounding the couple’s rural and decrepit home. The Hallow won multiple (very well deserved) awards at this year’s Screamfest. Keep your eyes peeled for a release of this film in your neighborhood.
6) Estranged (review)
A British import starring The Descent‘s Nora-Jane Noone, it follows the plight of January (Jessica Harper look-a-like Amy Mason) as she returns home following a debilitating motorcycle accident in South America. She’s lost her memory, and so her boyfriend takes her back to the UK to recuperate. Since January has only fleeting flashbacks of this place, the absolutely wacko events and strange family members (including Noone) surrounding her homecoming, can’t necessarily be considered dangerous, or can they? As strong an acting piece as anything on this list, Estranged is a brilliant horror film with secrets galore, breathtaking tension and a very satisfying ending — except for one big unanswered question (also mentioned in my review). I placed Estranged in the #2 position for the feature films at this year’s Screamfest. It’s a good one, don’t miss out!
5) Naciye (review)
Pronounced “nah-JEE-uh”, it’s a Turkish film screened at this year’s Screamfest. It was my #1 favorite out of the many feature films on that festival’s roster. It’s creepily odd, beautifully acted (including one heckuva barn-burner performance from lead Derya Alabora as the title character) and unsettling to say the least. It’s a very unique take on the home invasion flick and within the first few moments, you’ll fall in love — with the location (and its many indigenous felines — which writer/director Emre Cicek uses to great effect) and the strange places the film takes you. Naciye is truly a one-of-a-kind horror film!
4) Savageland (review)
In my estimation, Savageland is the most mentally disturbing film I saw in 2015. It’s a unique sort of found footage film. The set-up is enough to freak me out, and the film delivers on this chilling promise. Let me lay it out for you… Over one night, a small border town loses all of its population — aside from one. People are missing, with little evidence of where they went. Were they kidnapped? Some clues include bloody trails going off into the desert. The lone survivor (and now suspect) also happens to be a still photographer. He had one roll of film — allowing him to capture relatively few images in various parts of town throughout this dreadful and terrifying night. The film builds slowly, and is made to appear like a crime documentary (a la 48 Hours). As the story continues, more of the pictures are revealed. Let me stop there and leave you with this — some of the images stayed with me for days. Yup.
3) We Are Still Here (review)
Scream queen Barbara Crampton continues her bid to take over the horror world by pumping out terrific performance after terrific performance in great films (she’s had a tremendous 2015) by giving us this absolute gem of a scary flick. Borrowing from such genre classics as The Fog and A Nightmare on Elm Street, We Are Still Here is a true fright-fest set in the 1970s. This was another film which had me cringing and peeking out from behind my fingers at every turn. Believe it or not, if a scary movie is effective (like this one), I am still able to set aside my old-age jadedness and fall victim to its chilling charms. We Are Still Here is technically masterful, but nothing can compare to the sense of dread it creates and the absolute terror it instills. Co-stars Mars Attacks! Lisa Marie and horror regular Larry Fessenden. A fantastic film and sure to be a classic!
2) It Follows (review)
It’s a very divisive film. I’m not sure why, as I was smitten from the moment it began. You all know the story — some sort of demon being can be sexually transmitted between people. Like They Look Like People above, this film is all about the “what was that?”, “who is that?” paranoia and suspense. Other than the fever-pitch tension, the other stars of the film are the amazing score (a throwback to the ’80s and the work of John Carpenter) by Disasterpeace and as mentioned in my review, the very true and endearing friendships between the characters. And lead actress Maika Moore’s performance is top-notch. Frankly, I’ve not seen the film since that screening so many months ago, and the old saying, “You can never go back” keeps popping up in my head. It was such a terrifying and joyful horror experience, I’m not ready to let that initial “blown mind” feeling depart my head — when thinking about this “instant classic”.
1) Cooties (review)
This placement is a no-brainer. It didn’t do as well as I had predicted (or hoped), but it’s the only film this year to have received a perfect score from me… therefore it’s evident that Cooties gets the big love! It’s gory, hysterically funny and at times – downright terrifying. A cast including producer Elijah Wood, The Office’s Rainn Wilson and co-writer Leigh Whannell – makes for some comedy greats taking center stage as a bunch of rabid, zombified children (infected by some overly-processed chicken nuggets) take over the schoolyard. Frankly, I put this film up to Shaun of the Dead levels – in the horror comedy category. Like that recent zombie classic, Cooties has a heart, gets your heart beating with suspense/scares and pretty much all of the jokes land on their mark. In other words, it hits all the right notes, and deservedly takes the top spot. “Double rear wheel”, forever!
2015 Honorable Mentions: The Green Inferno (review), Portend (review), The Final Girls (review by fellow HFN contributor Matt Molgaard), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (review by fellow HFN contributor Matt Molgaard)
Which of your faves from the past year didn’t make our best horror movies of 2015 list?