2014 was a banner year for horror. The genre made a huge comeback with numerous great releases. Here's The Movie Sleuth's top five horror picks for 2014.
5. The Houses October Built **
The found footage genre is something that’s been crammed down our throats over the last few years and frankly, it’s getting rather dry. Filmmakers Bobby Roe and Zack Andrews set out on a quest this year to renew your faith in the genre and did so with flying colors with their piece The Houses October Built. Paying homage to the originators of the genre, we get everything we’d expect from a found footage horror film; shaky camerawork, static interference, night vision sequences and lightning fast editing. However, before this upsets anyone, these elements are paired with a refreshingly original story and work damn near perfect together as a whole package. Shot as a documentary by a group of friends, we’re whisked away on a journey throughout the United States looking for the country’s most extreme haunted attractions. The suspense is heightened from the start, as most of these locations are actual haunts in which we can visit if we dare. Being shot in first person makes the experience much more authentic and it becomes truly terrifying as we experience each haunt first hand. The real stars of the film are our haunt location actors whom make some of the scenes almost too intense and eerie to handle without grabbing for your pacifier. The audio work here is another aspect of the film that drives the nightmare home and really shines during moments of pitch darkness when the viewer is left helpless. The filmmakers do a wonderful job at blurring the line between fact and fiction. Pair that with stunning camerawork, nightmarish audio and convincing performances and the result is a beautifully cohesive gift to all horror fans.
Proxy is a meld of drama and horror that feels eerily similar to something Hitchock would put out if he were still alive and working today. This is a mostly realistic tale of three different women and their intersecting tales of violence and death. While some may have a hard time stomaching the maternal underpinnings of child loss, Proxy is the work of a director that knows exactly what he's going for. Zack Parker offers up one of the best genre pieces of the year while giving viewers a strong sense of character development and extremely tense moments of realistic bloodshed and death. This is a definite must see for fans of slow paced horror that manipulates its core audience into liking twisted female characters. Proxy sets itself apart from most other genre entries this year with a unique look, a story that is non-typical, an independent feel and three excellent actresses that all know how to deliver emotionally charged performances that feel natural and unforced. The interweaving stories are succinct while Parker finds himself at the forefront of this major resurgence in creative and story driven horror. Much like the other films on this list, Proxy doesn't abide by any expected horror archetypes. It crosses the fine line between psychological horror, modern drama, and realistic terror while helping bring good horror back to the forefront.
3. The Babadook **
Very rarely is there a horror film that will scare the bejesus out of you while completely draining you emotionally at the same time. Below its terrifying surface, Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook is a heartbreaking tale of despair and loneliness riddled with psychological elements. The film boasts some of the most stellar writing and most original ideas to ever grace a horror film in recent years. At some points it’s hard to tell which is scarier – the entity himself or the fact that as a viewer, you’re descending into madness along with our grief driven mother. From a production standpoint, the film is nearly flawless. The camerawork is pieced together perfectly in the most inventive manner while the audio work is truly nightmare material - good luck sleeping after hearing “ba-ba-ba-dook-dook-dook.” Kent does an absolutely brilliant job demonstrating an almost unbearable sense of dread throughout, keeping the viewer equally scared of Mr. Babadook while still sympathizing with our characters. Speaking of the characters, let’s just praise Kent a little bit for actually having some with brains for once. There are no horror movie stereotypes and you won’t see a blonde bimbo getting naked in the first dark room she walks into. Spectacular writing, creative camerawork, horrifying audio and powerful performances all come together to make The Babadook not just one of the best horror films of the year, but one of the best in recent history.
2. Starry Eyes
As a throwback to the devilish movies of the seventies, Starry Eyes makes a defined turn for the betterment of horror as a whole. The film modernizes classic horror tropes about demonic possession while blending themes about the inherent Hollywood struggle for fame and acceptance. Directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer both have a firm grasp on their old school influences while relying on the talents of a highly skilled Alex Essoe to play their main character, Sarah. Starry Eyes features some great looking lower budget effects, has a solid tonal quality throughout, mixes numerous genre ideas successfully, and has some of the most intimate and brutal kill scenes since Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer. Starry Eyes is a near perfect representation of how creative teamwork can assemble a film that might give viewers a little hope about the future of horror. Fans of Rosemary's Baby, The House of the Devil and other various incarnations of cinematic evil will see their apparent creative influences all over this movie but will delight at the modernized vision that Kolsch and Widmyer have instigated with Starry Eyes.
1. The Taking of Deborah Logan
Director Adam Robitel takes the found footage genre to new heights with his moody and transfixing Taking of Deborah Logan. The film was released directly to streaming services in 2014 and became an instant hit with horror fans and film junkies alike. Unlike many other films in this style, Robitel brings something fresh and extremely disturbing to his chosen format. The acting throughout is outstanding and his lead actress materializes one of the most memorable characters of the year with a hauntingly realistic portrayal of Alzheimer's and her downward spiral into strange and mysterious madness. If you've not see this one yet, you're doing your life a great disservice. Much like Chronicle, Robitel find new and ingenious ways to reignite the found footage style with a movie that's big on story, high on character arc, and scary enough to make grown men turn their heads in fright. Unlike most of these types of movies, Deborah Logan uses this style of camera work/story telling to its full advantage. It's not just a gimmick. Robitel lays down the foundation for a new mythology while keeping the effects to a bare minimum and the scares at full throttle. See this movie immediately, but make sure you have someone to watch it with. It's the best horror movie of 2014.