This list is in alphabetical order.
Only Lovers Left Alive (voted by Rick)
Only Lovers Left Alive, the latest film from cult indie director Jim Jarmusch, stars Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as Adam and Eve, two century old vampires. Adam is an underground musician with a dedicated cult following. In his past time, he drives through the city in his classic Jaguar, collects music memorabilia, photographs, books, vintage musical instruments and old vinyls. He lives in an isolated home in the ruins of Detroit Michigan where he reunites with his enigmatic lover Eve. There, he enlists the help of one of his most dedicated fans (Anton Yelchin) to help collect the analog equipment he needs, and his doctor (Jeffrey Wright) to provide him with a steady supply of his favourite drink, type O-negative. Immortality is weighing on him and thoughts of suicide slowly take over. Not much happens, and not much needs to. Like most of Jarmusch’s films, Only Lovers Left Alive is really a mood piece, a sweet but slight hipster love story about bloodsucking vampires. There isn’t much in the way of scares or thrills, but Jarmusch’s idiosyncratic version of a genre film is worth mentioning no less. Only Lovers reminds us that great art and culture is everywhere, and more accessible than ever before to anyone who’s interested in looking. Beautifully shot by Yorick le Saux, and designed by Marco Bittner Rosser, Only Lovers Left Alive is richly atmospheric, and one of the most stylish productions in years. Its soundtrack ranks with Jarmusch’s most idiosyncratic, and the performances are all first-rate. This is a must see.
– Ricky D
Raze (voted by Felix)
A group of tough women with everything to lose are drugged, and kidnapped, locked in to cells and forced to fight to the death daily. Zoe Bell, as Sabrina, leads the charge in a cast of excellent character actors, as a woman who is being held hostage and forced to use her martial arts skills to battle a bunch of other innocent women, if she hopes to save her long lost daughter. At the mercy of an ancient cult, Sabrina can do nothing but massacre as many strong women as she possibly can while figuring a way out. The amazing fight choreography is toppled only by the disturbing gore which includes broken necks, smashed faces, and torn jaws.
– Felix Vasquez Jr.
The Sacrament (voted by Rick and Felix)
The latest film by one of the more exciting up-and-coming horror directors, Ti West (The House Of The Devil, The Innkeepers), is loosely inspired by the 1978 Jonestown Massacre and makes use of the well-worn found-footage format to tell its story. West has built a following on old-school 1970s-influenced horror, so it’s a surprise to see him following the trend for Blair Witch storytelling— with Eli Roth as producer, to boot. But with Tyler Bates’ score, West’s direction, and a stellar cast, The Sacrament might just be his best film yet.
– Ricky D
Spring (voted by Justine)
With their debut film Resolution, Aaron Moorehead and Justin Benson piled together their resources and created a startling genre-breaking horror film that surprised audiences with its meta-textual exploration of urban legends. The film broke down the conventions we most often associate with the horror genre before reconstructing them in a fresh and original way. The film was also set apart by its unique and abrupt dialogue, which teased tastelessness but won you over with its brash charm. Their much anticipated sophomore effort, Spring, was selected as part of the Vanguard section of Toronto Film Festival and similarly aims to deconstruct the horror genre. Spring can most easily be described as a romantic-horror: a monster movie with a heart set mostly in a small tourist destination in Italy. After the death of his mother, Evan(Lou Taylor Pucci) loses his job and gets himself in a fight that causes him to be pursued by police. With nothing left in California, he hops on the first available flight, which brings him to Italy. This adventure leads him to meeting the beautiful and mysterious Louise (Nadia Hilker). While Spring does not necessarily live up to the promise of its premise, it is without a doubt one of the most original monster features in recent years. Benson and Moorehead show themselves to be fearless writers and directors who are unafraid to take risks in both content and form, and the film seems to quiver with the ambition of youth. They are without a doubt filmmakers on the cusp of greatness, and in a few years Spring will no doubt be looked upon as an integral part of their journey. One can only hope their future work maintains the same level of inventiveness and energy.
– Justine Smith
Starry Eyes (voted by Rick)
The often-told tale of a struggling actress seeking her first big break gets a new spin in Starry Eyes, from writing-directing duo Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer. This supernatural mood piece is equally influenced by the art-house psycho-dramas of David Lynch and Roman Polanski, along with the Satanic panic movies of the 1970’s and the body horror films of David Cronenberg. The “starryeyes” in question belong to Sarah Walker played by Alex Essoe who gives one of the year’s best performances as the aspiring actress who pays a serious price for stardom. After a series of strange auditions from famed production company Astraeus Pictures, Sarah Walker finally lands the leading role in their newest film. The producer thinks she has a bright future ahead of her, but this once in a lifetime opportunity comes with bizarre ramifications. Kolsch and Widmyer’s screenplay sends Sarah into a severe physical and emotional decline wherein success comes with an extreme personal sacrifice. The imagery is striking underlying themes of transformation and reinvention all the way to the very gruesome, and extremely bloody climax. Powered by by a tour-DE-fource performance from Essoe, sharp editing and an ’80s-style synth score by Jonathan Snipes –Starry Eyes is one of the best films of 2014, horror or otherwise.
– Ricky D
Stage Fright (voted by Felix)
Mixing horror, comedy, and a musical together is tough work reserved for the most skilled directors, and director Jerome Sable pulls it off beautifully. Set on a performance arts camp, beautiful Camilla longs to perform like her famous mother, who was mysteriously murdered. When Camilla learns the camp is reviving her star making musical, she intends to try our, despite her brother’s insistence she avoid acting. But as try outs and the war for roles are waged, a kabuki mask wearing murderer begins violently murdering select targets in the camp, including the folks that dare to cross Camilla. Sable packs the film with catchy musical and dance numbers, while also staging some slick kills in what is one of the most pleasant horror hybrids of the year.
– Felix Vasquez Jr.
The Town that Dreaded Sundown (voted by Felix)
Working as a companion piece to the original film, and as its own product, The Town that Dreaded Sundown is a meta-reworking, where the town of Texarkana suddenly find themselves victim to a hooded serial killer. Are they a copy cat? A rabid fan? Or perhaps someone connected to the original case? Filled with brilliant direction, gruesome murders, and a surprise twist, The Town is what a remake should strive to be.
– Felix Vasquez Jr.
Under the Skin (voted by Justine and Rick)
Working from Walter Campbell’s script adapted from Michel Faber’s novel, Under the Skin is Jonathan Glazer’s (Sexy Beast, Birth) first feature in ten years. The film is firmly rooted in such sci-fi landmarks as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but the best way to describe Under the Skin, is as a direct descendant of Nicolas Roeg’s classic The Man Who Fell to Earth.
Scarlett Johnason stars as a creature from another planet. She travels here, landing in Scotland, and adopts human guise and the name Laura, with the intention of harvesting men for food. Most of Under the Skin operates on an almost subconscious level; It’s as existential as a sci-fi/horror film can be and a film that raises far more questions than it answers. It’s slow moving and contemplative – and while the horror elements are slight, there is one jump scare that will have you leaping from your seat.
Glazer reportedly spent ten years developing Under the Skin, and instructed the actress to cruise the streets and offer rides to random men while he secretly shot these encounters with a hidden camera. One such meeting involves Adam Pearson, a real-life sufferer from facially disfiguring neurofibromatosis, a.k.a. Elephant Man disease. Pearson’s scenes along with a wrenching sequence in which Laura leaves a wailing, unattended child alone on a rocky beach rank among the very best of any film released this year. At times the film walks a tight rope between mesmerizing and narcotizing. The denouement is shocking, casting an otherworldly spell that will leave viewers dissecting the movie for years to come.
– Ricky D
VHS Viral (voted by Felix)
For the third outing of the found footage anthology film, Viral tackles America’s insatiable hunger for instant fame, and how a mysterious ice cream truck takes us on a ride through three very spooky tales of grasping for fame, and how it quickly takes a turn for the horrific. With biting commentary about every American’s thirst for their fifteen minutes, Viral is the most socially relevant entry in the series yet.
– Fexli Vasquez Jr.
What We Do In The Shadows (voted by Rick)
This Kiwi take on vampire lore might just be the biggest surprise of 2014. What We Do in the Shadows chronicles the adventures of four vampire roommates trying to get by in a modern world as they struggle to keep up with the latest trends in technology and fashion; find love; irritate the local werewolves, and adhere to a very strict diet. Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, creators of the HBO hit series Flight of the Conchords, co-wrote, co-directed, and co-star in this hilarious mocumentary, which admittedly isn’t more than a series of ridiculously dotty sketches, but hilarious sketches no less.
Willow Creek (voted by Felix and Rick)
Director Bobcat Goldthwait presents the anti-found footage film, a horror comedy about big foot that’s filled with in jokes, suggestive humor, and one hell of a clever surprise ending. Revolving around two thrill seeking big foot hunters, they end up at the site of the famous Patterson-Gimlin big foot footage, and soon find themselves being terrorized by a clan outside their tents. Filled with brilliant sound design, and excellent direction, Willow Creek takes the tired formula and utilizes its best elements.
Felix Vasquez Jr.
WolfCop (voted by Felix)
Director Lowell Dean’s Canadian horror comedy is his own twisted origin story of the meanest, furriest superhero you’ll ever meet. After being lured out to a mysterious ritual on patrol, alcoholic cop Lou is drawn in to a mysterious incantation, and awakens to discover something about him is different. Dropped in the middle of a war between gang members and local politicians, Lou takes it upon himself to take a bit out of crime with his own brand of rabid justice that include claws, super strength, and a sharp shot. “Wolf Cop” is always funny, and delivers brilliant special effects, including Wolf Cop, who looks fantastic when bringing down petty thugs.
– Felix Vasquez Jr.
Dead Snow vs. Red Snow
ABC’s of Death 2
Wolf Creek 2
Above, So Below