Top 10 of 2015
At first, 2015 did not appear to be a particularly ground-breaking year for horror, however, as this list will prove the diversity of the genre was on full display and has brought out some real gems. I’ve had to be strict with myself and leave out those films which I watched in 2015 but were released in late 2014 which otherwise would have certainly made this list. The Calling, The Babadook and Honeymoon are the three stand outs and I would consider them honourable mentions to this list. Now for the actual list…
10 – Deadman Inferno
Zombie comedies have been done to death, so I was hardly terribly excited for Deadman Inferno when it played at Abertoir Horror Festival, but pleasantly surprised by it. No, it isn’t anything particularly new and the jokes are well-worn but there is an odd charm to it that makes it enjoyable even if you can call the next line before it is spoken. The film even manages to fit in a genuinely touching moment amongst the often-slapstick carnage. If you’re looking for a fun film, look no further than this.
9 – The Witch
It is a testament to the quality of The Witch that it appears on this list, considering I was disappointed with it due to a lot of early hype, but the film itself is probably one of the best of the year. It is somewhat confusing that distributors seem to have marked it as a potential mainstream hit as the slower pace and certainly the more authentic dialogue seems unlikely to prove incredibly popular with a more casual audience. Still, the film is beautifully made and brings some excellent and memorable shots to the table. It isn’t quite the classic I was expecting, but a damn good film nonetheless.
8 – Aaaaaah!
Steve Oram’s directorial debut is undoubtedly an odd one, given that it does away with dialogue completely and has its impressive British comedy cast grunt and groan their way through a strange and largely unfocused narrative. Some would even perhaps struggle to apply the horror label to it, but one of the climactic pieces has stuck with me due to its bleakness. This film won’t be for everyone, but it is certainly an achievement.
7 – Fatal Frame
Another one I wasn’t expecting all that much from, considering it was an adaptation of a novelisation of a video game (adaptation fatigue or what?!), was Fatal Frame. To me, a video game adaptation was pointing toward a high-octane, loud-noise fest that would leave me frustrated and disappointed. Happily, however, Fatal Frame is more of a gentle ghost story which uses the relationships between characters and impressive creepy moments, largely forgetting the source material. It does become a little heavy on the exposition towards the end which is evidence of trying to fit a bit too much into the story, but the rest is strong enough that it can be forgiven.
6 – Tales of Halloween
Destined to be a seasonal hit for years to come, Tales of Halloween brings together a number of horror directors for an anthology which balances some comic tales amongst a few more macabre. The result is a dynamic, vibrant film that was a ridiculous amount of fun to watch with a festival audience. Unlike some anthologies where the wraparound is tacked on as a necessary evil, Tales of Halloween, revolves completely around it, crossing over characters into different stories making the final product feel far more collaborative. All I could find myself saying after the credits rolled was how much fun I’d had, and I’ll definitely be watching it for Halloweens to come.
5 – He Never Died
He Never Died is one of a few films this year that lived up to my expectations. Henry Rollins appears to have been born for this role as a deadpan, anti-social cannibal whose world revolves around bingo games until his past comes back to haunt him. Fiercely funny and engaging, He Never Died is very much proud of being its own thing and carries it out solidly. Of all the films on this list, this one has future cult hit written all over it.
4 – Sensoria
Unfortunately, I seemed to be a minority in my love of this film at Abertoir Horror Festival. A slow-burning, creepy ghost story that is light on jump scares but high in atmosphere, with an excellent leading performance. An utterly brilliant and unnerving soundscape turns the building into a character and while there are a few threads that don’t really come to much which could have elevated the piece further, the final product is a haunting journey that pays off well.
3 – Bone Tomahawk
When I first heard that the last film of Abertoir Horror Festival 2015 was a 2-hour plus horror/western hybrid I was less than impressed and prepared myself to struggle through a genre that I’ve never been a fan of. However, Bone Tomahawk’s lengthy run time seemed to absolutely fly by with great character dynamics, a witty script and some incredibly brutal sequences to round it off. This film also marks the first time I’ve enjoyed Patrick Wilson in anything, which is quite a feat. My only complaint is that there is relatively little for Lili Simmons to do, despite (or maybe as a result of) being set up as the most competent character but the flow of the rest of the film somewhat makes up for that.
2 – Nina Forever
A scene from Nina Forever has stayed with me since I saw it, such was the dramatic impact that remains undiluted through its repetition throughout the film. It is a quirky film with some incredibly dark comedy and a wonderful soundtrack. The chemistry between the cast is thankfully brilliant as the whole thing hinges on the time we spend with them. Not quite a zombie film and not quite a ghost story, Nina Forever throws off many genre trappings and becomes a really quite special and self-assured film.
1 – The Invitation
My second viewing of The Invitation cemented it as my favourite film of the year, which was somewhat surprising given that the tension within the film rests on an explosive reveal and with many films with a secret at the heart of them, the second watch loses that tension. However, this is not true of The Invitation, with strong performances and solid pacing allowing the viewer to effortlessly follow the character dynamics. While all the cast put forward compelling performances, Tammy Blanchard as Eden gives a gripping performance that is probably my favourite of the year. The Invitation’s real strength is the way it defies expectations, making call-backs to serve character development rather than throw in more violence and finally, it has a final shot that is the most arresting, heart-breaking and shocking of the whole year and maybe even for longer. Amazing.
So, that concludes my list. I have missed out on seeing some of the potential heavy-hitters like It Follows, Crimson Peak and We Are Still Here, which may end up becoming honourable mentions on next year’s list. Feel free to comment on your favourites and have a wonderful New Year!