CinemaVariety's Top 6 Horror Films of 2014
Compared to last year, 2014 was a pretty disappointing year for horror films. I liked a lot that were released this year, but I didn’t fall in love with many as I did in 2013 (The Lords of Salem / Maniac). However, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t some quality horror films released this year. None of the films on this list are perfect. But as far as horror films go, they all work well.
** This list is in order. **
#6 - As Above, So Below
Directed by John Erick Dowdle
I was not looking forward to seeing this film at all. I thought the trailers looked pretty cheesy and I am usually pretty good at spotting a shitty horror film just by watching a preview for it. But I like the director who also made some of my favorite horror flicks such as The Poughkeepsie Tapes and Quarantine. After reading bad things about it, I read almost just as many good things. I have to agree with the supporters for the film - critics were too harsh on this. It was an equivalent to a bad trip on hallucinogens. The whole idea of being trapped in the underground catacombs and having to continue deeper into the earth is my idea of a personal hell. I developed a definite dread as the film went on. That being said, As Above, So Below suffers from a weak last act that had me rolling my eyes a little.
#5 - Oculus
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Oculus was another horror film that I wasn’t too eager to see. I thought it looked a little cliche. Going into the film with low expectations definitely resulted in a pleasant surprise. The movie isn’t your average horror film - in fact, it could easily be classified as a dramatic thriller instead. The mirror in the film is portrayed as a blood-thirsty object and the affect that it has on the characters is an affirmation of that. Great performances by the two parents, especially the mother, are what made this film unsettling - not to mention the really awesome way the director blended the past and present.
#4 - Willow Creek
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
Willow Creek caught my interest after reading a positive review about in on IndieWire (one of my favorite websites for film news). I had never seen a horror film centered around big foot before and I wasn’t too sure if it could be done without coming across as ridiculous or comical. I had reservations while watching the beginning of the film, but as it went on I let my guard down a little and I’m glad I did. This film played on the same fears of mine as The Blair Witch Project did, and for that I appreciate its execution. My biggest fear is of the unknown and not knowing what is out there. The last portion of this film, which is in the photo above, started out making me nervous and ended up instilling actual fear in me. That rarely happens for me anymore. A much better big foot film than the mediocre Exists.
#3 - Afflicted
Directed by Clif Prowse & Derek Lee
Not only is Afflicted one of the best horror films released this year, it is also one of the best found-footage movies ever made. I applaud both the directors who also starred as the two main characters. The mockumentary style is overdone in the horror genre, but Afflicted breaths new life into it. It starts out with some really genuine and believable interactions between the characters. It felt so believable that I could have been watching an actual documentary. As it progresses, Afflicted works as an action film as well. GoPro cameras are utilized to create a really immersive experience in certain sequences. If Chronicle was more of a horror film - it would be this.
#2 - The Sacrament
Directed by Ti West
Ti West is obviously a director of great quality. But his films are always a hit or miss for me. His directorial debut, The House of the Devil, was a truly creepy slow-burn 80s throwback with a dash of satanic ritual which always satisfies me. However, his short in V/H/S was the weakest in my opinion and The Innkeepers felt like a horror film made for children. Thankfully, The Sacrament was a definite hit and is easily West’s best film yet. I have studied a lot about the Jonestown massacre and watched documentaries on Jim Jones so when I found out a movie was being made based on the massacre, I was very intrigued. The hand-held aspect of the film can actually be overlooked for once because it is a notable news crew (Vice Media who I follow and enjoy) making a documentary about the commune. The film builds up an atmosphere of true dread which caused me to feel very uncomfortable. Cults always get under my skin and the fact that this film is based on true events made it break my heart in a way. I drew tears out of terror and disgust as the “sacrament” takes place in the end. The Sacrament created a knot in my stomach and I can easily classify it as one of the most disturbing films ever made.
#1 - Starry Eyes
Directed by Dennis Widmyer & Kevin Kolsch
I was set on seeing this film after seeing both the teaser trailer and the official trailer. It looked as if David Lynch and David Cronenberg had a baby together and the outcome was Starry Eyes. The concept is of a young actress struggling to make it in Hollywood and the eventual sacrifice of her body in order to transform into a “star”. The whole film is symbolic about Hollywood turning you into something you’re not and it has many allusions to the Illuminati. If you loved Mulholland Drive, then this film is for you. The majority of this film plays as a psychological drama. However, the last thirty minutes takes a bloody turn and it shifts into overdrive as a brutal and unflinching horror. Body mutilation and transformation hits a strong chord in me. I watched in horror at the disgusting, yet beautiful, ending. Starry Eyes deserves its place as a future cult classic.