2014 in Retrospect

By now you’ve seen countless of Top 10 Horror for 2014 lists, with the end of the year upon us, and I considered posting one as well.  2014 has been a great year for horror, though you wouldn’t know it judging by wide theatrical releases.  However, I feel wrong titling this list as the “top” or “best of” as, to be honest, there’s so many I still haven’t seen.  So instead, consider this my list of recommendations.  My reflection of the horror films throughout the year that resonated with me; the gems that may have gone overlooked.  In short: my absolute favorites.

The Guest

THE GUEST

Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Immediately go to your closest retailer or VOD of choice this Tuesday, January 6th.  This is, hands down, my favorite film of 2014.  While The Guest may not count as traditional horror, the obvious John Carpenter and James Cameron influences argue otherwise.  As does the blatant Halloween III homage and that the plot is set over Halloween, with the climax set amidst the most amazing Halloween party ever.  The setup is simple: a soldier shows up at the doorstep of a family, claiming to be there fulfilling a promise he made to their son to look out for them after his death.  Their teenage daughter soon suspects this soldier is not who he says he is.  The performances by leads Dan Stevens and Maika Monroe elevate the basic premise into something extremely special.  Maika’s performance as tough-as-nails Anna made her one of the best final girls in recent years. This genre bender is a masterpiece, complete with quirky humor.

Starry Eyes-

Starry Eyes

A cringe inducing allegory on ambition and a stark look at sleaze of the casting couch, Starry Eyes follows Sarah and her desire to reach stardom.  Alex Essoe carries the film as Sarah, from tragic vulnerability to vehement determination in achieving her goals.  Sarah lives in a complex of other Hollywood wannabes, a group of friends content with partying amongst each other, while Sarah persistently looks for casting calls and juggles a job at a Hooter’s style restaurant.  She gets her lucky break when invited to meet with the producer of a well-known company to discuss the lead role in their latest film, but must trade in morals and more to win the role.  Starry Eyes spends a lot of time setting up Sarah and her journey, but once her deal is struck the film picks up the pace and amps up the gore.  Sarah’s transition into stardom is both gripping..and gag inducing.

Purge: Anarchy-

The Purge: Anarchy

A hugely entertaining sequel to a mediocre at best predecessor.  Read why this film is worthy here.

Late Phases-

late phases

A blind Vietnam vet moves into a retirement community where the residents are being slaughtered every full moon.  Wait, really?  Instantly intrigued by the premise, I found this film had more in common with Bubba Ho-Tep that initially suspected.  Stocked with a solid cast (Ethan Embry, Tom Noonan, and Larry Fessenden) lead by Nick Damici as the gruff and independent vet, Ambrose, Late Phases transcends its gimmicky plot with a melancholic study on the forgotten elders.  The residents are largely forgotten outside of their community; their children have abandoned them and even the community’s security treats them like jokes.  Behind Ambrose’s abrasive persona lies guilt and depression, and it’s both heartbreaking and captivating to watch it unfold amidst the gory slayings every full moon.  I should probably mention I have a huge soft spot for werewolves, and as far as both makeup and transformation sequences, Late Phases doesn’t disappoint.  Horror and heart? Instant win.

Witching & Bitching-

Witching_and_Bitching

I’ve previously discussed how much I love Spanish horror, as well as why this eccentric comedy is a must see here.

Housebound-

Housebound

Another great horror comedy, but this time from New Zealand. After getting into some trouble with the law, Kylie is sentenced to house arrest in her childhood home.  Kylie is a bit of a loner, so this punishment is especially painful for her as she’s stuck under the same roof as her blabbermouth mother who is convinced their house is haunted.  But when she begins encountering strange events in the house, she starts to question if her mother may be onto something.  For a comedy, the film takes some surprising sharp turns that keep you guessing.  Kylie is so initially off-putting, but her mother’s quirks and personality distract and compensate.  In fact, all of the supporting cast make up for an irritating lead.  Housebound tries hard to balance the horror with the comedy elements, instead of favoring one over the other.  There are genuine scary moments as well as laugh out loud jokes, which is no easy feat to accomplish.

Afflicted-

afflicted 2013 poster

A horrific transformation story reminiscent of An American Werewolf in London that effectively uses the found footage style? Yes please!  Read why Afflicted worked so well here.

Honorable Mentions:

The Taking of Deborah Logan-

Taking of Deborah Logan

A documentary crew offers money to use Deborah Logan as the subject of their medical documentary on Alzheimer’s disease but is soon questioning if her eerie behavior is just a product of her disease or something supernatural. Jill Larson’s performance as Deborah Logan is downright frightening in the best possible way, and the first half of this unique possession tale will leave you with chills.  However, halfway through when one character wisely leaves as you most characters would, the film unravels.  The more that is revealed about the supernatural elements haunting Ms. Logan, the sillier it all becomes.  The disappointment of the final shot stings all the more with such an effective first half.

The Babadook-

thebabadook

An excellent film, to be sure, but nowhere near what critics lead me to believe.  It also doesn’t help that I’m not a mommy.  Read more about my thoughts here.

I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store.  What were your favorites from 2014?