Monte’s Best Horror Films of 2014
It was divisive year for genre filmmaking this year with numerous horror fans finding support of different films. That’s a very good thing for the genre because it means that filmmakers are starting to venture into different directions. While many of the films on my list may explore familiar themes, I found many did so with an inventive and individualistic approach. Here are my standouts for 2014. Enjoy.
- Under the Skin (dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Writer/director Jonathan Glazer’s impressive film “Under The Skin” is one of the best genre films of recent memory. With a near silent and purposefully ambiguous narrative, the film moves with a hallucinatory yet naturalistic aesthetic through the streets of Scotland, following Scarlett Johannson’s curious and deadly being. The purpose of the lead character is never fully realized, but it doesn’t matter because the journey is so ambitiously designed that the mystery becomes nothing short of consuming. “Under the Skin” is a brilliant addition to the science fiction genre.
- Babadook (dir. Jennifer Kent)
First time director Jennifer Kent has crafted one of the most effective haunting films of the year; a horror film that works on numerous levels while also being consistently chilling throughout. With influences from numerous genres and a monster that builds intimidation through the power of suggestion crafted exceptionally within the narrative. Kent designs a horror film that burrows and finds a lingering home in the mind of the viewer.
- Only Lovers Left Alive (dir. Jim Jarmusch)
Jim Jarmusch is one of the best directors working in film today; an auteur whose film composition is structured around the characters he meticulously builds. “Only Lovers Left Alive” is a story about the toils of eternal life and, far secondary to that, a story about vampirism. Jarmusch finds significance through character, steering the film in a seemingly aimless direction while shrewdly avoiding the pitfalls that other vampire films have faltered into. Time will pass but “Only Lovers Left Alive” is the kind of genre film that will only get better.
- The Sacrament (dir. Ti West)
Ti West takes horror to a realistic level in “The Sacrament”. The documentary style approach takes a group of journalists into the heart of the religious/socialist cult known as Eden Parish. The film is assisted by the technical design, moving the narrative forward by slowly unraveling the deadly truths through subtle touches. The film is further assisted by an impressive portrayal of the cult leader played menacingly by Gene Jones. “The Sacrament” doesn’t need to utilize supernatural forces to induce scares, instead taking the horrors of real life and making a nightmare.
- Housebound (dir. Gerard Johnstone)
“Housebound” in many regards has everything that I gravitate towards in a horror film. A clever mix of well-crafted scares assisted by touches of dark and blatantly lighthearted comedy, the film has a continuously unpredictable structure. While the funny moments offer playful tension-breaking opportunities, this haunted house tale steadily remains an unsettling and creepy film first and foremost. This was one of the most entertaining horror films of the year.
- Oculus (dir. Mike Flanagan)
Mirrors have always played a major influence in horror films, in many ways becoming an overused prop that is predictably and tediously implemented. Writer/director Mike Flanagan, along with co-writer Jeff Howard, ingeniously builds a woven narrative that is accommodated by exceptional performances. The focus never strays too far from the star of film, the evil Lasser Glass, which is provided a consuming history that adds a sinister depth. “Oculus” was the best mainstream offering this year.
- Honeymoon (dir. Leigh Janiak)
People change, it’s a theme horror has explored since the very beginning. “Honeymoon” explores an interesting aspect of change, one that involves the first steps of a changing relationship and individual identity. Taken from the perspective of the man in the relationship, “Honeymoon” takes an inexplicable event and slowly builds into the irrational terrors of the most non-committal men, mainly not fully knowing the person you just committed a lifetime with. With wonderful lead performances and a slow burning narrative that is both subtle and startling, “Honeymoon” was an unexpected surprise.
- Starry Eyes (dir. Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer)
What lengths will you go to accomplish a goal? Dreams take a certain, and sometimes consuming, amount of sacrifice. This theme is the driving force behind “Starry Eyes”, a film that takes aim at the Hollywood system but also the extreme self-destructive nature of those unwilling to accept rejection of their ambitions. The lead character is offered very little empathy, an actress willing to take the abuse to reap the suggested benefits. The film transitions into a surreal nightmare and effectively crafts a disturbing character study of aspiration.
- Late Phases (dir. Adrian Garcia Bogliano)
It would seem logical for a monster that feeds on a nightly basis to locate the easiest form of prey. That’s exactly what the beast lurking in the surrounding woods did when it picked a retirement community as a primary dinner buffet. Director Adrian Garcia Bogliano takes a no frills approach to his werewolf film, crafting an exceptional elderly character to challenge the fearsome creature and a well-executed design that highlights traditional horror attributes. The throwback style is refreshing, a compliment to what has made the monster movie effective for so long.
- Borgman (dir. Alex van Warmerdam)
The introduction to “Borgman” is one the best opening scenes I’ve seen in some time. This film is difficult to categorize, let alone explain, but it’s easy to see how horror has directly influenced every frame of this beautifully composed film. The imagery here is a standout quality while the fable-like storytelling accommodates the nonsensical devices implemented to forward the film. With a mix of dark comedy and sadistic motivations, “Borgman” is an unusual yet engrossing film that will only find further debate once the credits roll.
- Wolf Creek 2
- The Strange Color Of Your Bodies Tears