The horror films of 2015 are a troubled bunch. The big box office horror offerings failed to capture the genre fan’s attention, many of them flopping. Think Poltergeist, Sinister 2 and Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. There were some surprises, for certain, Krampus for example. Even The Visit went a long way to re-establish M. Night Shyamalan’s directorial reputation with a witty, fun little treat. Blumhouse, despite fellow HNR co-host The Black Saint’s general distaste for all things Jason Blum, ate up the profits with small-budget box office successes. But, how many were actual critical successes? A few, perhaps.
Horror seems to be moving to VOD releases, a strange zone between Film Festivals and Theatrical releases, replacing the shrinking DVD/Blu-ray market. Many of the films discussed throughout the year landed on VOD – some of which are well deserving of a larger theatrical release – with films like It Follows, We Are Still Here and Spring coming to mind. 2015 was a busy year full of surprises and disappointments. What follows are 10 horror films of the year that made a significant impression on me, films I will likely remember and rewatch again and again in the years to come.
10) Tales of Halloween
The anthology film headed by Axelle Carolyn, Shaked Berenson and Mike Mendez – among others – offers up a delightful look at the Halloween season with ten different stories of terror, gore and laughter. The film is now on my list of horror movies I will watch each October alongside Trick r Treat (2007). “Sweet Tooth” (Dave Parker) quickly establishes the tone and pacing of Tales of Halloween while “Friday the 31st” (Mike Mendez) and “Bad Seed” (Neil Marshall) wrap up the film with hilarious and witty takes on horror staples. Love this film!
09) Dig Two Graves
While director Hunter Adams’ Dig Two Graves has not yet made it to Theaters, VOD or DVD yet, it ranks within my top 10 due to catching the premiere at the Nevermore Horror Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina. The film manages to capture my attention much like A Winter’s Bone did back in 2010; it has a similar tone and color palate, but it is definitely a much different film. Adams’ has a patient pacing to the film that adds to the dread and foreboding. Samantha Isler is a stand-out treat with Ted Levine and Troy Ruptash backing her up with extraordinary performances. Dig Two Graves is a film to look out for.
08) Crimson Peak
One of the most anticipated films of the year, Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak delivers the romantic, Gothic ghost tale I was craving from one of my favorite directors. The film is far different than most ghost tales we get these days moving away from the found footage peek-a-boo stories. Crimson Peak contains the best cinematography you can possibly get, creepier ghosts and a majestic, haunting location. The film is rich with color, characters and chills. It is a delight to be savored for the years to come.
07) Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
One of the biggest surprises of 2015 is the horror comedy from director Christopher (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) Landon called Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. Full of crimson gore and laugh-out-loud comedy, the film is far better than the marketing and title promised. It too improves upon itself by offering a collection of characters to root for, to laugh with and follow enthusiastically as they slice and dice through hoards of zombies to save their town. Great gags, awesome effects and witty dialog make this movie a cult film in the making.
06) Digging Up the Marrow
One of the better creature features of 2015, Adam Green’s Digging Up the Marrow mixes found footage with an imaginative monster lore to bring one of the more interesting treats of the past year. The film, sadly overlooked, features a terrific performance from character actor Ray Wise and creature designs from Alex Pardee. There is also some witty self-awareness as Adam Green tries to validate his efforts with likes of Tom Holland, Mich Garris and Kane Hodder. It also has some great memorable scares sprinkled within such a making the most out of a “turn-the-headlights-on-and-shit-your-pants” staple.
For every film referencing the eighties in tone or content, none do it as well as the New Zealand gore-fest Deathgasm from director Jason Lei Howden. The film is steeped in heavy metal and insane gore effects as a group of head-banging wannabe’s play a long-hidden tune written to raise a demon from hell. The film benefits from great performances from its leads, especially Milo Cawthorne and Kimberly Crossman. But it is the nasty, goo-ridden gore that will continue to bubble to the surface long after seeing Deathgasm. The film is gruesome, great fun.
04) It Follows
The scariest horror film of 2015 is It Follows from director David Robert Mitchell. The film follows a young woman who gets haunted by a vengeful spirit after having a one-night stand. The “thing” that follows her takes many forms and will never stop. The representation of that sheer determination to kill our heroine is what makes the frights so successful, either with the long shots of the creature coming directly toward her or suddenly appearing out of the shadows. It will never stop. The film is intelligent with a social commentary edge and terrific performances from the leads. It is also a film that will haunt your nightmares.
It is damn hard to make a unique zombie film with the sheer amount of horror films with flesh eating ghouls or the high profile – and successful – television shows like The Walking Dead. The Australian effort from Kiah Roach-Turner, Wyrmwood, stands out from the rest with its kinetic pacing, unique characters and imaginative approach to the zombie apocalypse. The film stands alongside Dead Snow as one of the best zombie films of the past decade. It also helps that Bianca Bradey as the doomed Brooke is totally kick-ass.
02) The Final Girls
More people should see The Final Girls, it is as simple as that. This film from director Todd Strauss-Schulson offers a genuine one-of-a-kind look at the slasher genre as its lead, Max (Taissa Farmiga), is transported into the eighties horror film that stars her recently deceased mother (Malin Akerman). Together they must face off the killer with tons of meta referential sight gags, brilliantly set-up shots of mayhem and a touching, emotion story hidden at its core. A true gem and one that should not be missed.
Michael Dougherty’s December holiday offering, Krampus, is the best time to be had at a horror film in the theater all year. Full of creative and disturbing creatures and practical effects, the film makes the most of its PG-13 rating with a deliciously dark theme and creepy atmosphere. It also has an amply amount of heart and wit. Combine that with a great cast that all deliver, you get the best horror film of 2015. It instantly claims a spot in annual rotation for horror viewing during the festive holiday season along side Gremlins and A Nightmare Before Christmas – or maybe even Silent Night, Deadly Night, whatever your bag. It also has one of the more satisfying endings of the year as well. Cannot wait to see it again.