Original article written by Ray Schillaci of The Movie Guys
Every year I come out with a list of top ten horror movies to watch at Halloween. I’ve mentioned classics (i.e. Psycho, The Exorcist), cult (i.e. Phantasm, Basket Case), and foreign (i.e. Witching and Bitching, Juan of the Dead). Generally, I don’t mention ‘the year in horror’ because most of the time I could not come up with ten decent films in this genre that are near and dear to my bleeding heart. But this year happens to be the exception. 2015 is one of the best years we’ve had in the genre.
At least half of these films did not get a decent city-wide theatrical release. This was not due to quality, but unfortunately it ended up being all about economics. Either they were misrepresented, and not nabbed by a decent distribution company or their producers just did not want to take the risk and instead opted for a quick cash-and-grab home video release. Which actually puts them (and us) on the losing end since if they had chanced a little nurturing, they might have had another Friday the 13th phenom on their hands.
But with the great picture and sound that is now available on home video systems, and having the ability to invite a horde of horror fans to your house, you can get pretty close to the theatrical experience. Perhaps the only thing missing is the sticky floors (depending on your housekeeping skills). So, without further ado I present 2015’s top fright flicks to watch on this All Hallow’s Eve in no particular order. The reason being – each and everyone of them are very unique in their presentation. They also lead the horror pack way out in front of the usual Blumhouse fare that has started to become frightfully predictable (Insidious 3, Ouija, Sinister 2 and any number of Paranormal sequels).
Some have been divided on this, but I believe they are merely looking at the surface. This film has to be one of the creepiest films of 2015. It’s a wonderful blend of Carpenter’s Halloween and Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls. The old idea of ‘sex kills’ that was ushered in by Friday the 13th is taken to a whole new level with a genuine STD boogeyman (or person). Whatever “it” is delivers thrills and chills, and is perfect viewing for Halloween late night with all the lights off and speakers blaring.
This wonderful mix of horror, humor, and mystery has all the earmarks of a cult classic. It belongs in the pantheon of fright films along with Re-Animator, Return of the Living Dead, and Phantasm. The difference being, this low budget shocker is supercharged by Marcus Nispel (successful reboots of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th) and delivers scares with outrageous visuals and bombastic sound effects. It also helps that the man has a witty script and a great ensemble cast including a very enjoyable tongue-in-cheek performance by Stephen Lang. I can’t say enough about this film, but will conclude by insisting you get it on Blu-ray!
God, this film is unnerving. A difficult child, a distraught mother, and a storybook character that comes to life feeds into so many fears. William Friedkin says, “The Babadook is the scariest film I’ve ever seen”. Big praise coming from the director of The Exorcist. And for the most part, it’s pretty much deserved. This is not your usual horror film with jumps and scares. No, this one crawls under your skin and messes with your mind. It will also effect parents and children (who’ve had parental issues) more than those just looking for a simple scare. The Babadook is a slow burn, but the pay off is quite chilling.
The House on Pine Street
You’ll have to excuse me on this one. Not even sure if it’s made the VOD rounds yet. But it certainly is making a frightfully effective mark on the festival circuit. Here is one of the best ghost stories put to screen since Robert Wise’s The Haunting. It probably cost 1/10 of Crimson Peak’s budget, and has ten times the scares. The intense story of a young woman that copes with an unwanted pregnancy and starts believing that the house she is in is haunted proves to be a powerhouse of terror. This is not a bloody affair, but it rattles the nerves like very few have. Emily Goss as the young troubled soon-to-be mother delivers a stellar performance.
Some will argue that this is not horror. It’s more science fiction. They’re probably right, but the horror of the possibilities and what takes place is embedded in my mind long after the first viewing, which I’ll probably be watching again, and again. Alex Garland (writer of Sunshine and 28 Days Later) gives us the infinite possibilities of artificial intelligence in the form of a very attractive woman. Robot parts never looked so sexy, and deadly. Ex Machina is a fascinating tale that captures us from the very beginning, and leaves us nearly breathless to the very end. A young programmer wins a contest to participate in a highly secretive test that could be the next leap for mankind.
Closer to God
Like watching early Cronenberg or Friedkin, and that’s what makes this film so enthralling. Closer to God brings cloning to the forefront and pits it against the radicalization of fundamentalists. It’s also a nifty little Frankenstein tale with nods to Shelley’s monster. Director Billy Senese grips us with an opening that is hard to forget. It’s damn unsettling and sets the pace for this thought-provoking thriller chiller. Here’s another one that has slipped by way too many, but is available on iTunes and other formats.
Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead
Damn, if the Aussies just know how to kick our ass! Wyrmwood takes the zombie genre and turns it on it’s rotted ear with a Mad Max theme. A crackerjack mechanic makes the best of things during a zombie apocalypse. Although gas is rare in this not-too-distant future, fast-moving zombies are discovered to be useful as a delightful alternate. Throw in a mad doctor, a vicious military, and a zombie mind-melding, kick-ass gal, and you have the makings of a horror-filled anarchistic tale that is both non-stop action and fun. Of course, none of this is to be taken seriously, but if you like demented horror, humor with a slash and dash of gruesome then this one’s for the long-in-toothsome.
I’ll probably get some flack for this one, but where Cujo failed miserably along with half a dozen other films about animals turning on us, White God is a stunning example of someone getting it right. It could easily be mistaken for one of those wonderful Disney animal films as our young lead, Lili fights to maintain some stability from a broken home and protects her dog, Hagen, from her uncaring father. Dad eventually abandons Hagen and then it turns real ugly. But not just for shock effect. We witness both Hagen and Lili go down a very dark rabbit hole. Lili turns to partying, escaping her dismal life while Hagen eventually brings out the animal in himself to protect his life. We actually see Hagen relate to the other abandon canines and wage a war against humanity. When Lili gets wind of the canine revolt, she suspects Hagen to be a big part of it, and risks her life to reunite with him. This anomaly from Hungary/Germany/Sweden gets real dark (yes, it’s subtitled), and leaves us breathless with an image that is near indescribable. This is not a horror film in the regular sense. But it is one that puts you through Lili and Hagen’s horror. A horror that grips and leaves you breathless.
Dear reader, it’s hard to leave you on that note. Which is why I’m going to go out on a limb without the hangman’s noose and recommend a couple of horror shorts that are sure to give you a giggle with goosebumps at the same time. Director Patricia Chica and writer Kamal John Iskander (I have personally dubbed, ‘the gruesome twosome’) have a nifty little tale about abduction and pumpkin gutting. A Tricky Treat has been winning all kinds of accolades at film festivals. It’s sick, twisted and sure to make you squirm while you marvel at their ingenuity.
Then there is producer/director/writer Michael G Kehoe’s Hush. Kehoe has assembled a great cast and crew for this spine-tingling tale of babysitting on a dark stormy night. All the wonderful horror tropes are there, but what distinguishes Kehoe’s tale from so many others is the chilling ending that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Everyone I know who has seen this one is in awe, and what makes it even more exciting is that Kehoe actually lifted his short from a mere scene to his soon-to-be feature film! This is one to get excited about.
As mentioned before, this year was so great. I even struggled leaving out a few which is why I’m giving a special mention:
Another creepy slow burn that has you jumping and guessing at every turn. Rose Leslie turns in a performance every bit as memorable as her ‘Game of Thrones’ turn. Let’s see: a couple honeymooning in a cabin in the woods, strange noises, odd occurrences, and some very disturbing images add to the entire eerie effect that will make you want to turn the lights back on quickly.
The Final Girls
Okay it’s silly, but a wonderful homage to all those slasher films of yore. The Final Girls also bends the hell out of the genre with a similar take that we saw in Gary Ross’ Pleasantville and Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero, where today’s teens fall into yesteryears slasher film. They think they know the game, but the rules have suddenly changed.
Some of these films are available on VOD, Pay Per View, Netflix, Amazon, Blu-ray and DVD. Although, being the purist that I am, I will encourage you to seek out the Blu-ray for the dynamic picture quality and superior sound. Wishing you all a Happy Halloween and vicious viewing pleasures from my dark, dank basement where no one can hear you scream.