We all know that in terms of top films of the year I was already decided on The Raid 2 because it is simply one of the best film-watching experiences I have ever had in a cinema and since at home. In saying that, this is a genre blog and so my actual top 10 of 2014 will focus on horror cinema, especially as there’s a lot of diversity in this list anyway. I’m also increasingly concerned that I’m going to forget something really obvious and brilliant, so starting next year I’m going to keep a little diary of the things I see, complete with a few key words to remind me of what I saw and my instant reaction to it. With no further ado, here is a top 10 list of horror titles that made me forget about The Raid 2, if only for a little while.
10) Cheap Thrills
I realise this one was released last year, but only recently had chance to see it and simply had to put it on this list if only for the final shot of the film. It also holds the somewhat difficult achievement of making me feel quite queasy while watching. Ethan Embry and Pat Healy play desperate frenemies Vince and Craig who run into sleazy rich Colin (played to perfection by David Koechner) and wife Violet (a very different starring role for Sara Paxton) and repeatedly up the ante in order to win increasingly twisted competitions for the entertainment of the wealthy couple. The film is tense, grotesque and unfortunately feels all too real as the rich use the desperate to entertain and embarrass. But yes, that final shot says absolutely everything it needs to and more than I ever could.
From my first viewing of the trailer I wanted to like this film – however the final product is actually much different from what I expected and probably better as a result. Going in, I thought it would be heavily inspired by The Human Centipede, featuring long surgery scenes, which while would have been something of a spectacle, would have taken away from the human tragedies at the centre of the film. There is a great deal of comedy in the film, although the line between comedy and the outright disturbing is so blurred I was almost ashamed of myself for laughing so much at one scene in particular. Ultimately Kevin Smith goes a different way, forgoing the majority of the transformation in favour of more character interaction. It pays off and heads toward one of the most cruel endings I’ve seen in a film all year, perhaps ever.
8) See No Evil 2
This one I really did not expect to have on my top 10 list, but upon seeing it recently I actually enjoyed it a lot. While its nowhere near as subversive as some might expect from a film helmed by the Soskas (probably largely down to them not writing on the film), it is an entertaining slasher – my enjoyment of which is probably enhanced by not really watching a great deal of slashers. Katherine Isabelle strays from the performances I’ve most enjoyed her in (Ginger from Ginger Snaps and Mary from American Mary and delivers on a self-aware obnoxious and off-kilter characterisation of your archetypal slasher ‘slut’ (god I hate that term) who just happens to have altogether too keen an interest in serial killers. The rest of the cast are likeable (unusual in my experience for a slasher), plus Kane is in it and I really do love me some Kane.
7) House of the End of Time
A last minute entry into the Abertoir 2014 schedule, HATEOT was a real treat, combining time travel and the ghost story/haunted house sub-genre and probably more endearingly, featuring an older woman at the centre of the story. An often touching and yes, frequently scary (although some jump scares are too clichéd) Venezuelan genre piece that excels by not hiding any of its secrets from the audience, instead allowing them to develop and become important rather more organically. Also, this film serves as proof of my increasing tolerance of sci-fi elements within my horror.
In another instance of sci-fi invading the horror genre with all the right notes is Coherence, a film I was admittedly initially only attracted to because of the presence of Buffy’s Nicholas Brendan, but happily had way more to offer. I’ve already written a full review of the film here, which explains more about why more people should see this low key but exceptionally thoughtful film.
5) What We Do In The Shadows
New Zealand scored big this year on the horror circuit thanks to this and other horror/comedy Housebound. However, WWDITS scored higher with me in terms of rewatchability (ssh, it is a word) and so makes it on to this list. It is also probably the most broadly entertaining film on the list in the sense that I would choose to show it to people who had little to no interest in the horror genre. Packed with quotable one liners and hilarious sight gags it is hard not to fall in love with this mockumentary about vampire flatmates.
4) The Canal
Ultra-spooky and pretty damn stylish for a low budget feature, The Canal was another that really stood out to me. Combining Ringu and older British horror styles director Ivan Kavanagh has created a film that really creeps under your skin. Most horror fans will know where the story is headed, but the journey is so well done that you’ll remember the unsettling set pieces long after you’ve left the cinema. I always have to bring up the standard of the child actor in this film because he’s a little powerhouse and so at odds with the oft-cringeworthy kids in other films.
I’m still way overdue for a rewatch of Resolution, Benson and Moorhead’s debut feature and the viewing of Spring at Celluloid Screams has only enhanced that, given the duos ability to create their own horror mythologies and transform their films from standard horror concepts into something much more elaborate that stays with you for far longer. Spring has a rare, ethereal quality that draws you in, but holds you at arms length, never fully allowing you the full story, but giving you enough that you want to immerse yourself within that world – no matter how unpleasant it might be. A meandering, meditative love story, Spring is a rare film and I’m thrilled that it finds a place within the horror genre.
My expectations were high for this film, given my fandom for films about cults, but Faults delivers something altogether more satisfying. As soon as the end credits rolled I was gripped by a desire to see it again immediately – to fit all the pieces together and perhaps immerse myself even further into the game of emotional chess at the centre of the film. Mary Elizabeth Winstead delivers a performance I never expected from her and is a total delight, but equally her co-star Leland Orsor is pitch-perfect as a desperate man determined to recover from past mistakes. Stunning is the only word I can ascribe to the film, at least until that much need rewatch.
1) The Editor
Yeah, call me predictable but I love The Editor and there was no question that it was my stand out film of 2014. Brilliant soundtrack, spot on parody of often garbled Italian 1970s horror, men fighting off chainsaws in the nude with a rubber tree – The Editor has it all. Having seen it twice already I can’t wait to see it again as the jokes are so fast that by the time you’ve finished laughing at one, you’ve missed 4 more. There are standout performances from everyone involved, which at first sounds like hyperbole, but seriously, name me one featured character in that film that doesn’t get at least one strong laugh. The quality of the film however has made me question what a serious Astron-6 film could be like – if only they weren’t so damn funny! Full review here.
So there you have it, my top 10 of 2014. I realise there are a few omissions from this list and I’m looking forward to 2015 for opportunities to see films like The Babadook and Digging Up The Marrow, which I really wanted to see, but sadly missed the chance to. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from scaredsheepless.com – feel free to contact me on Twitter @caitlynmdowns for any discussion of any of the films on this list.