Another year, another slate of horror films that haven’t quite let go of the shaky cam/sequel formula. But this year’s offerings are full of fantastic films that explore unusual stories (Linklater-esque, even!), trippy visuals, and feminist-friendly narratives. And let’s not forget that this was the year M. Night Shyamalan really did have another good movie in him. Here are ten of 2015’s most interesting horror movies.
David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows uses sex as the vehicle for the film’s teens-being-haunted narrative. Flavorwire spoke to Mitchell earlier this year about his twist on horror tropes:
To me, it’s more about sex being a normal part of life. It’s the act of living that opens us up to danger. It’s not just about sex. It’s about life. It’s about dealing with mortality. I’m not denying there is a way of reading it. Maybe a preferred interpretation for me would just be: it’s the fear, at that age, of what that means and what you imagine that experience to be, and the fears that are connected. The fears of becoming an adult and entering the world, and all the things that follow that.
Jonas Alexander Arnby made his directorial debut with this Danish coming-of-age, social-realist werewolf tale that examines the primordial feminine force of an isolated young woman in a fishing village surrounded by men who try to quell her power.
Body horror meets Linklater-style drama in Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s indie Spring, which is a refreshing twist on the traditional monster movie, even if it doesn’t always have a satisfying grasp on the complexities of its male fantasy narrative. The film should also be applauded for it’s moody cinematography and actress Nadia Hilker’s emotionally involving lead performance.
Horror journalist Alan Jones on Fabrice Du Welz’s Alléluia:
Real-life “Lonely Hearts Killers” Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez have inspired many films, most notably 1969’s The Honeymoon Killers and Deep Crimson (1996). In the second searing opus in his Ardennes trilogy, which started with Calvaire, Belgian director Fabrice Du Welz piles on the dazzling style in a quirky update full of disturbing obsession, hypnotic eeriness and stylish voyeurism. An internet dating con artist (Laurent Lucas) meets his murderous match when he hooks up with a damaged morgue attendant (Lola Dueñas) and she falls hopelessly in love with him. Together they pose as siblings to prey on lonely women, until her intense sexual jealousy threatens their lucrative operation. This arresting chiller alternates between tension-filled, gritty drama, mordant Sweeney Todd imagery (complete with plaintive song prelude to dismemberment!) and trippy shock horror, while the two leads captivate as the besotted psychotic duo in a nightmarish odyssey that’s offbeat right up to its enigmatic conclusion.
Horror cinema veterans Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) and Larry Fessenden (Habit, Wendigo) join forces for the rural New England-set story We Are Still Here. Director Ted Geoghegan pays homage to the gore-filled filmography of Lucio Fulci (particularly The House by the Cemetery). But what’s most impressive about We Are Still Here is its commitment to the narrative’s old-school haunted-house lore, which has been overlooked in recent decades for shaky-cam scares.
Bruce McDonald’s Hellions imagines supernatural horror as a psychedelic dream experience, which is the most interesting reason to see the movie about a teen who tries to stay alive after encountering malevolent trick-or-treaters on Halloween night.
Bless Guillermo del Toro for Crimson Peak, for without it our mainstream horror offerings would be so boring. Del Toro’s gothic tale relies heavily on its gorgeous visuals, but sometimes grand, spooky, beautiful things are just fine.
Creepy twins and creepy masks are enough of a reason to see Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s Goodnight Mommy, but writer Max Bledstein offers other incentives:
This could all be easily exploitable for shock value, but Franz and Fiala are smart to mostly steer clear of cheap frights. Goodnight Mommy has a horrifying concept at its core (a mother and children being pitted against one another), and Franz and Fiala are content to let its disturbing implications wash over the viewer. The film doesn’t completely avoid gruesome imagery, but it saves most of it for the final act, at which point the gore resonates with its full potential.
This year was short on crafty horror-comedies, but RogerEbert.com’s Simon Abrams explains what makes Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s film, about ancient vamps who haven’t totally adapted to modern-day life, unique:
It would be very easy to take for granted what the creators of “What We Do in the Shadows” get right. Many scenes feel like master-classes in cringe comedy, like the above-mentioned blood-barf scene. And the group’s chemistry really can’t be overstated. This is especially true of scenes where Viago and the gang literally take flight while hissing at each other, like airborne feral cats. You’ve got to give it up for comedians who are this good at translating their apparent behind-the-scenes joy (watch the scene where they chase Gonzalez-Macuer around the house “Scooby Doo”-style, and tell me they’re not having a blast) into a tight hang-out comedy. It may seem like there’s nothing to “What We Do in the Shadows,” but it takes a lot of skill to be this silly.
A throwback to Takashi Miike’s early days as a master of V-cinema — experimental, grotesque, over-the-top genre films — Yakuza Apocalypse isn’t the typical horror fare, but uses elements of the genre for a true midnight movie experience. You won’t find vampires, schoolgirls, and men in frog suits beating the living daylights out of people anywhere else. Flavorwire spoke to Miike earlier this year about his movies:
For me, the use of violence in my movies, it’s not my intention to surprise or shock people. I think it comes out pretty naturally in the process of making my films. I think that you have to have a certain amount of love, or that kind of emotion, in order to produce balance. For example, there’s a character that comes up in my movie and gets shot and killed in the first frame. Then, that actor goes home and says, “OK, it was my job to get knocked down in the first part of the film by this character.” It’s not much of a workday for him. In that sense, I think that violence in my movies and love, for me, are two sides of the same coin.