Let’s get something straight. This is a list of movie I consider to be my favorite of the year. I did not see every movie this year or every horror picture that was released, but I saw a bunch. Some of these movies had festival releases or were made in years past but just finally seeing a DVD/Blu-ray release after not receiving a VOD or theatrical release. This is what I consider a release from 2014. Just because movie was in the can doesn’t mean the movie was “released”. Just because a movie played one festival and had no wider distro does not mean I cannot consider it on my 2014 list. I like to be flexible. Otherwise you might see the movie Cooties on this list (but you can’t because it isn’t really available yet).
These are general opinions, not full reviews. My favorites have mostly been reduced to the Horror genre, and I’ve saved non-horror for my honorable mention section (in addition to movies that didn’t WOW me). Below that… the shit list.
There is no order to this list (there is an order provided at the end of the favorites).
While Grand Piano first hit at Fantastic Fest in 2013, I didn’t get to see it until it hit VOD for it’s January release. This has one of the greatest scores of the year with fever pace, perfect tension, perfect casting and acting. The whole thing feels like one great big exciting heart attack. I’m glad to have it over and over again. Eugenio Mira has given us a real treat in Grand Piano. I was fortunate enough to pick up one of the Grand Piano shaped 7 inches of the score from Mondo (post-flip) and think that it’s the perfect collectible to celebrate this nearly perfect release. Don’t blink, it’s a very quick movie that eats up nearly ten minutes in the credits.
The reason you hate it: the annoying kid. The reason I love it, the perfect build of frustration in the kid. It’s essential to the tension. The pop up book is iconic and I got in the on the pre-order fundraiser that got one made, so hope to be sharing plenty of pics when it arrives. If there is one criticism of this movie that I find valid it’s that the glitchiness of the Babadook ruins the supernatural perfection of the villain. Otherwise I’m all in from the brilliant performance of Essie Davis in the lead to the bone rattling “voice’ of the Babadook. Psychological Horror from down under that packs a punch especially for parents.
Did everyone expect The Conjuring 2 because this is Annabelle, a spin off, and NOT The Conjuring 2. Annabelle is a fun horror flick, good cast and solid origin story for the doll featured in The Conjuring. I hate having to explain why people didn’t like this movie or in fact, why I loved it. My theater experience was great with plenty of appropriate jump scares and an audience ready to jump. This isn’t Child’s Play. This isn’t even a killer doll movie really. I had a great time with it and it served to entice me even more into The Conjuring 2 whenever we finally get to enjoy that movie.
Everyone loves The Guest which is just fine by me. My favorite soundtrack of the year by far (not Score… soundtrack). The cast friggin delivers powerhouse performances that I pretty much feel is a guarantee from an Adam Wingard/Simon Barrett production. Last year these guys finally delivered on You’re Next (or the friggin’ studios did… FINALLY) and this year we get what feels like an 80’s, almost Wraith like movie only with less paranormal elements substituted with creepy lone stranger vibes. See it. Enjoy the thinking you know what’s going on… until the end when it isn’t what’s going on at all. This movie gave me a boner… not the lead… the movie!
You could hear the fucking proverbial pin drop. This is where I lose some of you. You’ll want to know why I would put a somewhat shitty movie on this list like VHS Viral. Answer: Parallel Monsters. Nacho Vigalando truly delivers a scary, alternative view of reality in only the way that he can. Fuck the wrap story. It sucks and I wasn’t perfectly happy with Dante the Great (though I think I liked it more than most). Parallel Monsters was good enough to put this way high up on my list and from what I’ve heard we have more to look forward to upon the Blu-ray release. Also, I thought Bonestorm was actually a lot of fun save for the Go-Pro camera angle. I loved the effects in that one. Stay tuned… you’ll be seeing this move on our countdown again. (wink wink nudge nudge)
Houses October Built
The only disappoint with this one is that it wasn’t a documentary about haunted attractions. That being said, the ending freaked me out, there’s plenty of occulty goodness and the scenes of the actors going through haunts are a perfect backdrop for a found footage movie. I hope that this doesn’t get written off because it’s a found footage movie. It’s quite effective.
The Quiet Ones
I still love what the new Hammer Films has been doing. The Quiet Ones doesn’t get much love, but to me this was the perfect blend of period paranormal research picture (with nods to The Entity) and quality 1970’s ghost movie. The only fail? Not casting Peter Cushing (because he’s dead) and maybe more aging a la the faux grindhouse movement, now much maligned by haters of digital alteration. The sound in this movie was brilliant. Everyone loves to hate on this one, and for some reason I hate on Oculus and for even some strange further reason I equate the hatred of Oculus with my love of The Quiet ones. Clearly, I’m not well.
A fantastic premise gives way to an emotional roller coaster (for me) that had exquisite kills that were interesting, a tight finish and a thrill a minute pace. I had to ask myself at each stage of the film what I would have done in a particular situation, and more often than not I found myself just as trapped as our lead. Good tension. Good effects. Great premise that knocked the “gaming horror” trend on its ass. I haven’t seen the 2006 original, 13 Beloved.
When I heard that I had to watch a vampire based found footage movie I was pissed! It sounds like someone trying to capitalize on the success of the found footage style and Twilight… which was sooooo wrong of me to do. It is a shining example of why I have tried to make it my mission to actually WATCH movies rather than review them off premise or trailer alone. Afflicted has an endearing cast, good twist and plot as well as some pretty friggin awesome effects. This is an example of the POV/Found footage style of shooting working to the advantage of characters rather than the style simply making the viewer feel like an outsider.
Ti West just did a great job with this one. I’m still not sure if I prefer this over House of the Devil, but the fact that that is even a question should say something about the presence and general awe of this movie. Sure it tends to wander into familiar ground, but Gene Jones at Father offers an inspirational piece of acting that carries the movie forward and allows for a feeling of division in the viewer that truly epitomizes the cult horror paradigm while introducing the viewer to that same concept in reality. We always ask how one could fall for Jim Jones and his Kool Aid suicide cocktail? I think The Sacrament answers that question. Glad to see Eli Roth, Ti West and Joe Swanberg team up.
Dead Snow 2
I loved the original Dead Snow. Nazi zombies just seem to work. The practical effects of the original were good fun and the movie itself was fun while having certain horrific moments that provided a moderate scare. Now take all that and shove it out the window. Dead Snow 2 is a gore movie with loads of effects that work to great advantage. I laughed. I oogled. I felt really great coming out of Dead Snow 2. Zombie Haters be damned there are plenty of good zed word flicks out there. Dead Snow 2 being a shining example of what can work in both a sequel and a zombie movie.
Everyone hated Tusk…. That just seems to be what I read on the internet. This is simply not the case, and I will go further as to say that I adore this movie. It disturbed me, had stunning effects work that skeeved me out. All performances worked for me and the story itself was actually… kind of… heartwarming. I mean right before things went bat shit crazy, and I felt completely nauseated by the transformation through which Kevin Long’s character had gone. I’m glad that Kevin Smith made this movie, and I’ll make sure to enjoy the rest of the movies in this same vain if he decides to make them (Moose Jaws?… sign me right the fuck up). Smith did an important interview on Jason Ellis that can set everyone straight about the origins, distro model and “failure” of Tusk. Spoiler: it wasn’t a failure at all! Fuck your hate.
Found footage movies about alien beings that come down and do some abducting and killing in the woods? And they look like something out of Without Warning (or at least a more traditional Sci-Fi alien)? This is one movie that had me scared to go camping… or maybe even walk outside in my backyard at night. I cannot wait to own this one, and I hope that all the Sci-Fi/Horror fans can get behind it despite having that dreaded FF attachment. I have also realized that I can’t spell the goddamn title of this movie. Oh bother.
This was just silly good fun, and I think it’s worth your time. It has a pretty great soundtrack (available now) and practical effects out the ass that aren’t exactly great but are absolutely perfect for a movie called Wolfcop. I’m talking about beautifully bad effects that impress at times and others look like the latex or rubber that they are. The best part… it all works to the movies advantage. Bad. Good. It’s a movie called Wolfcop that features one of the best alcoholics in the history of horror cinema. I’m sold. Bring me a sequel and for fuck’s sake people… you can show more tit than that! Please. Pretty Please… great… now you turned me into a begging letch.
Great poster too.
The only time I wanted to cry more at the end of a horror movie was The Mist. Get through the first half hour or so where this thing sets you up to have the walking rug dropped on your head. I know that Willow Creek got a lot of attention this year, and while that movie did wow me, I still think that Exists is the more horrific picture involving found footage and big foot. At the very least, I would see both movies to compare them and see how Sanchez and Goldthwait create a very different movie from common threads. When Exists turns on, it goes balls to the wall. Do you know how many fucking things I watched about Big Foot this year? I watched a Vinegar Syndrome double feature, Exists, Willow Creek, some generic hunting Big Foot show that actually showed Sussex County, NJ (25 minutes from where I live) and I think I watched part of Harry and the Hendersons again. Apparently the Squatch is having a good year.
Starry Eyes felt a little like Thanatomorphose at times with a strong occult thread and dark, seething underbelly that felt dirty and wrong and just plain perfect. One of the best scores of the year, great cast, great ending. I love that we have seen more cult, demonic or demon worship or occult horror hitting the screens this year. Starry Eyes may be the best of those. Great poster. We’ll be seeing the score shortly from Waxwork Records on vinyl.
The Septic Man
While it hit the festivals in 2013, it released on DVD this year. I admit that this one is a guilty pleasure movie for me filled with perfectly disgusting moments that will make the norms cringe. I found it terribly fun. The comparison to the Toxic Avenger is completely warranted and the only thing I’d say about that is that, I loved the Toxic Avenger and love Troma and this feels like a Troma movie with a bit more art and slightly less gratuitous aesthetic.
It was released in 2012 but it just received a DVD release this year… it was so perfect for such a small budget that I couldn’t leave it off this list even if my only admittedly, lax release date standards had kept it off the 2014 list. Yes, it has flaws. It’s allowed to when it has such strong points with a very good cast, solid practical effects and plenty of homages to your favorite horror movies and video store memories. I haven’t met a person who truly hates it yet, and it has a sequel in production now thanks to a crowd funding campaign. Headless is going to be gory and fun. Make us proud, Scott Schirmer!
Damn did I enjoy this movie. The number one complaint was that Godzilla wasn’t in it enough. To that I say you should probably go rewatch the original and then shove this complaint squarely up your ass. It has a nice build up, plenty of action and effects with a good cast that helps support the action themes while still keeping it plenty Kaiju. I saw it twice in the theater and then again on Blu-ray. Every time was a treat especially that opening title sequence.
If this flew under your radar, I’m not surprised. It is a Spanish Horror movie with Jack Taylor as an evil dead doctor that might be anything but dead. It only fails in the over the top performance of the lead actor which keeps it lighthearted and fun rather than an all out terror fest. It’s a nice blend of Wax Museum horror and torture porn (which I do not consider a derogatory term in the slightest). Jack Taylor is a master of his craft. There’s almost a Coffin Joe feeling to him at times.
Here Comes the Devil
Is another 2012 release that finally saw a US Blu-ray this past March. Finally having the chance to enjoy it, Here Comes the Devil has a brilliant opening sequence that leads into a strange cautionary tale and mystery that ends in catastrophe. Between the blend of dark sexual energy and parental morality leaves a story that evolves slowly but eerily giving the faintest suggestion that it could happen to you… if you wanted to finger bang your significant other while your kids play in rough terrain completely out of sight.
Return to Nuke Em High
If you thought that this Troma classic, remake, retelling… resplattering wouldn’t make this list you don’t know Doc Terror. I am a fan of Troma and their style of sex it, gore it, splatter it, fuck it, sequel it. Return to Nuke Em High just epitomizes what Troma is especially since the movie itself is a Volume 1 and we get a Volume 2. This release had one of the best damn posters of the year. As always, support Troma releases and Troma acquisitions and enjoy this more modern take on an old favorite that realizes what it is and then tries to go even more over the top. This may offend some traditionalists who can’t stand remakes. You have been warned. (Side note: cannot wait to get my Class of Nuke Em High vinyl from Ship to Shore)
Memory of the Dead
This one goes ALLLL the way back to 2011 for its initial release, but Artsploitation picked it up and ran with it for a March 2014 DVD release. How to sum it up? Think Argento color. Fulci splatter. Think of years of Euro Horror congealed into one fun romp with beautiful special effects that leave you drenched. Memory of the Dead was just about the last time we heard from one of my favorite labels of 2013 (since they took up Chris Alexander’s second feature film project), and we hope to see more from them in 2015 including the follow up to Blood of Irina. As I write this it appears that a new movie is getting the Artsploitation treatment, and it should be out later this year.
Wolf Creek 2
While the original Wolf Creek took some time to develop, the sequel hits it off hard and gory right from the outset and doesn’t stop all the way through the end of the movie. I laughed. I cleaned blood of my classes. I learn Australian history. One of my favorite releases of 2014 that left me wanting a third sequel and return to the beautiful, gory set pieces of the torture porn hay day. If you’re not laughing at these jokes then you probably should stick with Crocodile Dundee and play with your “knife”.
I’m a sucker for strange time and space plots that end up in supernatural turmoil. Haunter has all the hallmarks of a Nacho Vigalando flick, but is much kinder and perhaps more American. The characters are kind, the plot twist is supernatural and original. This is good for the haunted house and spook crowd while still feeling a bit mean and murderous too. The baddie in this one… total creeper.
Man did this gore fest take me surprise. I was truly impressed by this demonic beautiful movie with plenty of skin and goo to keep me thoroughly entertained. James Sizemore’s Goat Witch was probably my favorite short of the year and played on the exact same things that made Demon’s Rook so successful. Simplicity. All I can say is… MORE! James Sizemore, you better give me more of this shit soon because it’s got the makings of a subgenre revival!
Welcome to the year of tech horror. There were more than a couple tech horror movies this year, and while I think that The Den and Open Windows tops the list there are plenty of bad ones too. While it wasn’t quite as prevalent as say gaming horror or pregnancy horror, tech horror is something to be weary about because it seems to lend itself to being “easily fucked up”. That is to say that you can destroy atmosphere with tech. You can ruin pacing. You can feel ordinary and you can appear as though you are capitalizing on the obvious or… “just trying to be different”. The Den has plenty of scary moments that feel real. It has a strong lead actress and ending that damn near crushed me into pixels. The premise alone may seem played out, but I urge you to give it a watch. IFC Midnight had a pretty good year.
Speaking of tech horror (or rather a thriller really). Speaking of Nacho Vigalando whose name has been mentioned twice already in this list. Speaking of Elijah Wood who was also in Grand Piano and who kicked mucho ass in last year’s remake of Maniac… speaking Sasha Grey who is an amazing adult film star and who has transitioned to our horror world beautifully… welcome to Open Windows. A great tech horror piece that starts of with mystery and ends in a strange case of “what the fuck” just happened. Open Windows is a complex thriller with plenty of action that uses its tech to full advantage and provides moments of sexual titillation balanced with perfectly built suspense. A real favorite of mine and the movie that made me realize that Timecrimes is only a jumping off point for Vigalando. There’s more to come and we get to enjoy every second.
If you need them ranked here you go:
- Grand Piano
- The Guest
- Open Windows
- Starry Eyes
- Houses October Built
- Wolf Creek 2
- The Quiet Ones
- Dead Snow 2
- The Sacrament
- Demon’s Rook
- Return to Nuke Em High
- Memory of the Dead
- The Den
- Here Comes the Devil
- The Septic Man
- 13 Sins
- VHS Viral
Note: Honorable mention category movies either had something that really worked well while not hitting quite as hard as my favorite list OR were not horror. I’ll just briefly tell you what I loved or disliked about a picture and movie on.
All Cheerleaders Must Die – Great ending that saved a potentially ordinary movie.
Under the Skin – This movie is beautiful but strange with some extremely sexy looks at Scar Jo, and with, again, a strong ending. Very quiet movie.
Blue Ruin – Not quite horror, but very good release. Superb score. Great ending. There’s a reason this makes everyone’s best of lists.
Cold in July – Michael C. Hall delivers a brilliant performance in this thriller. It’s a well throughout non-horror picture with a good twist. Definitely deserves all the praise it has received.
Cabin Fever Patient Zero – Let the gore flow. I enjoy this one quite a bit actually though I think it failed to meet the originals “eww” factor. Still some nice gore pieces and excellent background on the origin of the series. Better than the sequel.
ABCs of Death 2 – A staunch improvement from the original. I only enjoyed 30% of the original. I enjoyed 60% of this one.
The Taking of Deborah Logan – Some genuine scares and creepy moments in this one. I can’t say that the whole movie captivated me or kept my interest, but nonetheless a solid release from a new director.
The Honeymoon – Moments of really great tension, but overall I was left just a little confused. Still, it’s nice to see Ygritte (from Game of Thrones) back and in the shower… wait … did I say that?
Town that Dreaded Sundown – I like the direction of the remake and enjoyed the movie overall, though I think outside of some strong kills, this was a bit clean for an original that was so dirty. The tributes paid to the original are appropriate and kind.
Odd Thomas – Upon rethinking this one and watching it again in parts, Odd Thomas is just bat shit crazy in a sort of socially acceptable way. Good cast and story.
Patrick Evil Awakens – the original Patrick has such a cult following that its remake almost seemed doomed from the start, but I’ll tell you that I enjoyed it. Good casting and except for some questionable effects a good picture overall.
Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears – This is one beautiful movie with a great score. I enjoyed it more than Amer. Despite being a Giallo bug, I didn’t quite get into this one as much I might have enjoyed the classics. Lacks that 60’s/70’s aesthetic. A real art picture.
Paranormal Activity The Marked Ones – This movie can get fucked… until the end… once you hit the end this movie is a beast and I was very impressed. If only they could have backfilled the rest of the movie with as much juicy scares as were present in the finale.
Almost Human – I strongly disliked this movie on my initial viewing, but the second time made me enjoy the practical effects and some of the creepier moments. Still not a strong contender on my favorite lists, but it bears mentioning because it took a second viewing to enjoy it.
Coyote – While I can’t say that I enjoyed this movie, I can say that it is challenging with plenty of raw moments that are downright sick. It’s not exactly a horror picture though as much as it is a hard portrait of reality with surreal drippings thrown in every so often to keep the audience guessing.
Collar – Hey Ryan Nicholson… I like the way you do gore! Between some of the splat I felt a moderate lull. I’m happy to have supported Gutterballs 2 in its fundraising campaign, and I’ll keep checking out his films as long as Nicholson makes them.
Her- … not a horror movie, right? Nope it isn’t, but it has a great sense of morality. I’m a total mush when it comes to movies like this, so it bears mentioning. You should watch it especially if you’re a hyper-techno wizard or if you liked the MS Helper Paper clip guy and thought he/she looked cute.
Guardians of the Galaxy – I had a good time with this one. I didn’t love it as much as the world did, but it did exceed my expectation and furthered my enjoyment of the Marvel mythology. I look forward to a sequel or any addition that includes these characters into the Marvel world. Great job. Great score. And yeah, I cried at the beginning.
Captain American: Winter Soldier – there are scenes in this movie that actually make me realize that I can be incredibly moved by superhero movies. Great scenes of action.
Cross Bearer and The Cemetery – Two Adam Ahlbrandt flicks got Blu-ray/DVD’s release this year. Great gore, and an excellent effort. I enjoyed both though I think I built up my expectations unfairly for both releases. Still I’m happy to enjoy another Ahlbrandt picture when it comes, and I’d like to watch this again when I’ve removed some of the external build up.
On my Shit List:
Note: Shit List movies are movies that had some issue. That is not to say I hated the movie outright, but I either expected much more or I was pissed about some aspect of the release.
The Pact 2 – Everyone LOVED the original The Pact. I did not. I was hoping that something would evolve in The Pact 2 that would help me to understand why people loved the original movie… no evolution. This bored the pants off me.
See No Evil 2 – What a great opening! That gave way into a predictable stalk and kill with unexciting kills and no atmosphere. I was really hoping the Soskas would do something great here since I enjoyed the original and all of the Soskas’ other movies.
VHS Viral – Hey, remember when I praised this movie in my favorites of 2014? Well it also makes the shit list for everything I disliked about that movie, specifically… one of the worst wrap stories in an anthology horror picture. I suppose the Blu-ray release with the “added segment” will deliver the final yay or nay.
REC 4 – Not a bad movie, but when the subsequent three movies in the sequel including the sequel to the remake Quarantine are so strong, REC4 gets the axe because it really didn’t live up to one of my favorite franchises and delivered an unimaginative end.
Cam2Cam – man does this movie get hyped up or what for a tech based horror picture? I enjoyed the closing moments of the movie but if I’m watching tech movie from 2014, I’m watching Open Windows or The Den.
I, Frankenstein – I gave this movie a chance on Netflix. If I had paid for it, I would be a very angry egg. Bad CG. No likable characters. The monster… not a monster at all.
Oculus – the opening 20 minutes were absolutely great. Then the rest of the movie happened (except for the apple scene).
Leprechaun Origins – Because this was actually a good idea that looked bad, felt ordinary and didn’t make me feel very “leprechaun”.
Green Inferno – Because sometimes studios fucking suck, and don’t let movies get released when they’re goddamn supposed to!
And for good measure, here’s what I didn’t see.