First off, The Big Bad Wolf and I would like to express immense gratitude to our entire crew. It has been a huge year for the site and we are extremely thankful to our staff and contributors, as well as those who continue to support the site and the CT HorrorFest. With that said, New Years Day 2015 is the perfect time for us to unleash some of the Horror News Network Staff movie picks of 2014.
Bill Burns – Under the Skin
Two of my favorite films in 2014 were actually premiered at festivals in 2013, Jim Jarmusch’s languidly existential tale of vampire ennui Only Lovers Left Alive and Álex de la Iglesia’s insane satirical occult battle of the sexes Witching and Bitching, but my pick for 2014 is Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin.
Frustratingly vague but weirdly fascinating, Under the Skin is an otherworldy film. cold, sterile, and awkward, perhaps the most utterly alien film since Nicholas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth. We are given no answers or reasons or certainties. Is the protagonist an extraterrestrial temptress, a female serial killer, a delusional woman alienated from a sexist world and, by extension, from her own body? Who is preying on whom? Is the protagonist truly inhuman or are the deceptive and horny men the predators, taking advantage of an innocent being?
Scarlett Johansson’s vacantly blank affect is put to perfect use, and Scotland’s desolate environs reflect an unearthly foreignness that suggests that we are all visitors on this planet. Micachu’s dissonant and unnerving soundtrack enhances this largely visual film through its strange aural fixations. The central metaphor of the film is skin, a tabula rasa that has no inherent meaning except what we project onto it. Our bodies are fantasy and reality, repulsive and beautiful, freeing and imprisoning at the same time. The protagonist’s exploration of her own body and the bodies of others is horrifyingly expressed through images of submerging, engulfing, and consuming. Her lovers are enticed and then their bodies are subsumed into a thick, viscous void; their identities frozen, imprisoned by their carnal lusts and inability to move beyond sex and gender. As the protagonist goes from partner to partner, victim to victim, she starts to understand herself and what it means to inhabit a body, which, ironically, liberates her from the confines of flesh.
Taking cues from Cronenberg’s pioneering work with body horror, Under the Skin transcends the flesh and breaks through into the truly terrifying realm of philosophical and metaphysical horror.
Sean McLaughlin – The Babadook
With each passing year, it seems horror films are striving to be more and more complex and gore-rific. With all of this “can you top this???” machismo going on, it seems that the best movies in the past few years are the ones that keep it basic. They follow a simple formula: present a scary situation, engage the viewer, and let your audience decide if they’re in without insulting their intelligence with unnecessary gore-porn or gratuitous (and predictable) scares. 2013’s The Conjuring took the prize last year, and 2014 saw the brilliant Australian import The Babadook seize the crown.
Why is The Babadook worth your time? Director Jennifer Kent takes us back to a time when nothing was more frightening than your own imagination, where terror is waiting around each corner to test your sanity as well as your bravery. For the characters (including the amazing portrayal of single mom Amelia by newcomer Essie Davis, reminiscent of international actress Naomi Watts’ turn in The Ring), a spooky child’s tale manifests itself into both waking life and dreams, children as well as adults.
But noteworthy performances and overall creepiness aside, The Babadook stays true to the roots of horror cinema by presenting tension and a frightening reality that haunts the main players to no end. It doesn’t beat you over the head with ghosts or blood or supernatural supernovas, but this film may just force you to watch, white-knuckled, questioning your interest in any of these artificial devices in the first place. The Babadook keeps it simple, and in the process became one of the best horror films of 2014.
Lynn Sorel – The Purge: Anarchy
My pick for this year’s best horror film is the “The Purge: Anarchy”. For me it was the most fun horror film I’ve seen in awhile, with a joyful amount of explosive violence, and characters you could really root for. It has also what many films today lack, which is a good story line. The follow up to the 2013 ‘The Purge’ tops the original on all levels in my opinion. The original film was done as a home-invasion style story, with very little view of what was happening on the streets on Purge night. ‘Anarchy’ takes the action up a big notch, with full view of the violence in the streets. While many of us liked the first one, this is the Purge film many horror fans wanted. The first film was small scale and set on one family, while ‘Anarchy’ takes us into the streets and focuses on several groups of people. A story of vigilante justice ties them all together seamlessly. The political element is also taken further this time, with the development of an uprising against the “New Founding Fathers”.
In many ways, ‘The Purge’ is a political statement about current affairs in America, particularly the huge divide that has formed between the rich and the poor. Personally I really like this element of the films and think that it adds more meaning to the stories, rather than it being about random violence. For people who have not seen the films, they may look like exploitation films, but they are so much more than that. They also have an enemy we can all enjoy a fight against; injustice and a corrupt government.
The acting is top notch, with great performances from the entire cast, especially Frank Grillo, who plays Sergeant Leo Barnes. The strong and meaningful story, combined with incredible violence, is what really makes these films for me, and why I choose “The Purge: Anarchy” as my pick for 2014.
Larry Dwyer – The Taking of Deborah Logan
There’s been some good and there’s been some bad in this years crop of horror films. Okay, mostly bad, but we still need to talk favorites, right? I’m well aware that Mr. Sean McLaughlin is throwing “The Babadook” out there as his top choice and it is well deserved; a very frightening tale that left me turing on the lights before I went to bed. “Starry Eyes” deserves a mention here as does “Blue Ruin” but I’m going to go with one I reviewed quite recently, “The Taking of Deborah Logan”.
“The Taking of Deborah Logan” is a breath of fresh air in a very stale “found footage” genre. Effortlessly mixing the sad tale of an older woman suffering the pains of alzheimer’s disease with a brutal possession film, “The Taking” left me scared and speechless; two things I don’t get very often. From the brilliant performance of Jill Larsen in the title role to the skillful direction of Adam Robitel, I can easily call this my favorite horror film of 2014.
2014’s I still need to see: “Animal”, “I Am a Ghost”, “Housebound”, “Pieces of Talent” and “What We Do In the Shadows”.
Most anticipated for 2015: “Krampus” and “Human Centipede 3”.
Blood E. Bastard – WolfCop
“Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” – Edmond Gween
It was this exact sentiment that led me to choose WolfCop as my 2014 horror film of the year. After viewing dozens of horror films this year, the choice was difficult as you can see from the other great picks on this list. For me, WolfCop not only hit all the horror spots dead on, but the comedy ones as well.
Alcoholic cop, Lou Garou (Leo Fafard) is at the center of a series of deaths, first as the investigator, then ultimately as his own prime suspect. Within the plot there is a large, more complex conspiracy at play of which Lou is an unknowing pawn.
Writer/Director, Lowell Dean helms WolfCop seamlessly through the narrow passages of horror and comedy. The transformation scenes are as memorable as the granddaddy of them all, American Werewolf in London, but the best part of the film is the tease that WolfCop2 is on the way!
Happy New Year from everyone at Horror News Network!
What are your favorites of 2014?