Written by: Matt Molgaard
I’ve seen a good 10 outlets declare 2014 a dud of a year. I couldn’t disagree more. There were at least 25 excellent films released this year, but as it happens, none were commercial films. But a lack of mainstream hits does not equal a miserable year for the genre. In fact, horror has never been the kind of genre that thrives due to mass amounts of top notch commercial releases. It never has! Of course we’ve seen some great mainstream releases over the years, but the genre has always found its footing in the indie realm, where entertaining films are birthed on a frequent basis.
You didn’t see The Canal on 3,000 screens, therefore it sucked? The Last Showing didn’t sell out nationwide, so it wasn’t worth seeing? The Cabining didn’t earn praise that rivaled Scream, so it couldn’t have been a wicked fun slasher?
Get the hell out of here.
And wherever you find yourself, remember that some of your favorite films weren’t mega-hits to begin with.
For those who have thick enough skin to take my comments in stride, and are still reading this, prepare yourself for a very important guide. It’s the guide to the 10 best horror films released in 2014 (not an easy list to assemble, by the way). None of which, for the record, were commercial releases.
10 Found: A tremendously bleak affair, Found is the story of a child troubled by a startling revelation: his brother is a serial killer with a penchant for severed head saving. It obviously has a dramatic effect on the youngster, and as the film unfolds, the boy’s life completely unravels. A brilliant indie from the relatively inexperienced Scott Schirmer, Found is melancholy in the greatest way possible.
9 Life After Beth: Part coming-of-age, part romantic love story and part zombie flick, Life After Beth is loaded with charm and wildly endearing characters. Dane DeHaan has already picked up plenty of fans with his work in Lawless, Lincoln, Chronicle and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but this is where he shines the finest (he’s gained a lifelong fan in me). This kid can act his ass off. So can John C. Reilly, who himself has a great part in the picture. As for Aubrey Plaza, she’s not only a talented actress, she’s unbelievably sexy. Seriously, unbelievably sexy!
8 Horns: Horns hasn’t been welcomed with open arms by all critics. But it should be. It’s a damn fine adaptation of Joe Hill’s true breakout novel. Anticipate a slew of strong performances (Juno Temple and Joe Anderson really shine), some fun twists and a decent mystery. It’s a little on the predictable side (even for those who haven’t read the novel), but it’s entertaining through and through, and it’s an awesome post-Potter pic from Daniel Radcliffe.
7 Shock Value: An almost-meta movie, Shock Value is busy flying under the radar when it should be earning unanimous praise from all outlets. It’s extremely dark and features some stunning performances. If Anthony Bravo’s depiction of a serial killer hired to play a serial killer in an indie flick doesn’t earn him respect from his peers, I have no idea what will. The guy is amazing… and creepy. Really creepy.
6 Zombeavers: One absurdly outlandish comedy had to make the list, right? Jordan Rubin’s comedic creature feature has everything that a B-movie fanatic could possibly ask for. Solid performances, gratuitous nudity, quality gore and an abundance of laugh-out-loud moments. It also flies by, clocking in at under 80 minutes sans credits, so don’t expect to find any lull in entertainment. This one is just an outright blast.
5 Exists: The found footage film of the year, right here. Eduardo Sánchez, who gave us the trend setting Blair Witch Project returns to his found footage roots with a tale about Bigfoot. Does the mythical creature exist? Hell yes it does, and it’s markedly more frightening than you may anticipate! Great characters and a stunning Bigfoot suit set this one over the edge. If you’re going to watch any found footage flick released in 2014, it has to be Exists.
4 The Dead 2: India: The Ford Brothers know how to shoot true gorilla format while injecting major style points. There are no laughs in this chaotic zombie tale, and that’s exactly how the story should have been approached. It’s too grim to lighten the mood with half-hearted jokes. It also feels alarmingly real, as insane as that sounds. The first Dead flick was great, the second totally and completely blows it out of the water.
3 Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead: Who would have thought four of the year’s 10 best films would be zombie features? Not I. But that’s how 2014 played out. The undead kicked ass this year, no two ways about it. The most entertaining of the impressive lot is the follow up to Tommy Wirkola’s Dead Snow, appropriately titled Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead. Everything that was captivating about the first film has been intensified for this sequel, which comes very, very heavy on laughs, gore and stellar action sequences. Wirkola is a genius, and he clearly knows exactly how to craft a film that holds the attention with vice-like power.
2 Housebound: Foreign films ruled the year. Housebound, which comes our way from New Zealand dabbles in comedy, ghost adventures and good old fashioned murder mystery.The characters are to die for (Kylie Bucknell, played by Morgana O’Reilly, really floats my boat, and has mastered comedy through facial expression) and the twists and turns are pitch-perfect. The sleeper hit of 2014, Housebound is mandatory viewing.
1 The Babadook: The Babadook did something I never expected, it scared me. Honestly, I was unnerved watching the film, flipping on random lights to ensure nothing lurked in the shadows of my humble shack. It’s not what you think it is, either. It may look like a dark creature feature, but there’s a huge surprise in store that proves far more realistic and relatable. Top notch work from Essie Davis and the young Noah Wiseman anchor an unbelievably well-written story of spiraling sanity. Don’t avoid it because you think it’s cool to steer clear of “what’s in”, the movie deserves every bit of love it’s gotten up to this point.