January – traditionally the time to make lists of things you liked or hated from the previous twelve months. Who am I to break with tradition? So here are my favourite five horror movies of 2015.
5. Creep (dir. Patrick Brice)
Found footage films suck. The big hitters (Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity numero uno) were OK, pretty good in places even. But in general it’s a gimmick that I can well do without. Except every now and then when a movie uses the format to do something interesting rather than as a cover for a low-budget. Creep is that movie.
Honestly there was no other movie that I saw last year that kept me guessing. At times it’s so awkward and odd that you would not be surprised if the guys are aliens, or a zombie attacks. Or anything. It starts with videographer Aaron heading out to a job, filming himself on the way. He meets Josef, a pretty weird guy who reveals that he has terminal cancer and wants to record a day in his life to show his unborn son. And that’s about as much as I want to reveal about the plot. It’s not a particularly twisty-turny plot but it does maintain a real sense of unease. As soon as you think you have a handle on it, it subverts the cliché you were expecting.
And all of the “Peachfuzz” stuff is pretty creepy. Hence the title I guess. *shudder*
4. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (dir. Ana Lily Amirpour)
A Persian vampire movie with a chador wearing, strangely vulnerable bloodsucker at its core? The film is not an obvious sell to gore hounds or those who think horror begins and ends with Blumhouse (whose movies I do enjoy but, well, they are what they are). But it is worth it. Set in the unreal Bad City it is a love story, gritty urban tale of drug addiction, revenge saga and vampire flick rolled into one. It even mimics the iconography of a Western in places adding to the sense of displacement. By turns hypnotic and brutal it contains images that stay with you long after the film ends. There hasn’t been a horror movie this poetic in years and not since Let The Right One In has there been such a touching friendship between a vampire and human. A beautiful and touching movie.
3. Deathgasm (dir. Jason Lei Howden)
And then sometimes you want something dumb and dripping in gore. For those times there’s Deathgasm. The premise is simple. Loser, drop out metalheads in suburban New Zealand discover a lost song from one of the great death metal bands. When they play the music it unleashes hell on earth.
Deathgasm recalls the early movies of Peter Jackson, with the practical effects, slightly creaky acting and buckets of blood of Bad Taste or Brain Dead. And like those movies it succeeds on pure inventiveness and verve, barreling along with enthusiasm and genuine laughs. It’s funny AND nasty, a difficult line to walk. Pretty much the perfect late night beer and mates movie. Really interested to see what Howden does next.
2. We Are Still Here (dir. Ted Geoghegan)
Sometimes homages to bygone sub-genres can be a little dry. By mimicking the style they often forget the class. Not an accusation that can be levelled at We Are Still Here which manages to hit the right stylistic beats of a 70s Fulci-esque haunted house movie whilst keeping a coherent story line and being genuinely entertaining. Sometimes pastiche is only entertaining if you know what’s being pastiched but this movie manages to be fun for everyone. Set in the late 1970s it has a classic set-up – grieving parents move to a new house in a new town where the neighbours are odd and the goings on in their basement are even odder.
This is a movie I saw at Frightfest and was my highlight of the festival. It maintains a suitably creepy atmosphere, being wryly comical at times whilst never losing sight of the fact that it is a horror movie. There is horror in the basement and for all the laughs at the period details and knowing set-up that horror remains, well, horrible. The slow, suspenseful build also has a great chaotic, all guns blazing finale. A solid, well-made ghost story of the type they don’t really make anymore. And it’s always good to see Barbara Crampton in something.
1. It Follows (dir. David Robert Mitchell)
Sometimes you can’t buck a trend. I’m pretty sure It Follows has or will top many best of 2015 lists. But when a movie is this good then it has every right to. A future classic it has everything – pretty teens in peril, a really scary premise, ineffective adults and enough subtext to keep the academic end of the critical spectrum in articles for years. Is it a parable of teen venereal disease? Probably. Is it about the disgust/attraction dichotomy at play in adolescent sexuality? Definitely. Does it have a strong female protagonist who owns her sexual activity in a way not usually seen in these movies? Oh yes. Is it any good? Without doubt.
After one of the most viscerally scary and thrilling openings of any movie of the year (the figure on the roof is really creepy) the movie follows Jay, a normal college student whose boyfriend reveals to her that he has infected her. Not with chlamydia but with a curse. A thing, an entity is now after her. It can take the form of anyone and never stops. The only way to get rid of it is to have sex with someone and pass it to them. Or maybe that’s just a rumour.
Coming on like Larry Clark’s Kids meets Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street, with hints of the original Japanese Ringu in there, It Follows will be around for a long, long time.
Special mentions – The Gift (dir. Joel Edgerton). Not quiet a horror movie but certainly horrifying. Joel Edgerton directs and stars as Gordo an old school friend of Jason Bateman’s Simon who bumps into him after Simon and his wife move back after some years away. All well and good but then Gordo starts leaving gifts and dropping by unexpectedly. A movie that turns the stalker narrative on its head and has you questioning who is the real weirdo by the end.
Also, a shout out to The Falling (dir. Carol Morley) a long overdue entrant to the British Folk Horror subgenre. Flawed in some ways but also beautiful and elegiac it is the tale of school friends and a strange fainting plague that could be hysteria, or a prank, or black magic. The Falling echoes The Wicker Man and Picnic At Hanging Rock and whilst it runs out of steam with a slightly underpowered final third, it is a unique and haunting piece.
GS Blogger: Bobby Diabolus