I have to admit, I was watching horror flicks right down to the wire to make sure I got as many as I could in before making my annual top 13 list. There were some I had high hopes for that didn’t make the cut like Let us Prey and, believe it or not, Paranormal Activity – The Ghost Dimension. And then there were the usual pleasant surprises that just had to make the cut. Unlike other years, there was no question about my #1 movie. I love it so much, I’ve made it my favorite movie of the 21st century.
Oddly enough, there are no cryptid movies on the list this time around. Didn’t really see any worth considering, other than Zombeavers. That’s right, I said Zombeavers.
OK, enough of my preamble. Will you join me for the countdown?
#13 – A GIRL WALKS HOME AT NIGHT
Admittedly, I’m not a big vampire guy (though I do love Near Dark!). This Iranian art-house vamp flick may be a little slow for some, but I loved the change of pace. And the fact that it was in black and white gave it huge points in my book. Heavy on atmosphere and subdued performances, I give it two fangs up.
#12 – ORB
You all know I love alien movies. I can’t make a top 13 list without including at least one. Knowing that, I watched just about every alien-esque movie that came out last year. Most were total duds or just plan confusing. Not so with Orb, a neat gem that reminded me a lot of the movie Bug (the Ashley Judd one, not the awesome 1975 drive-in creature feature with Bradford Dillman). Three siblings are confined in a lake house. One of them is a vet who is admittedly crazy, but says he has something captured in the basement. Aliens + paranoia = Hunter bliss.
#11 – BACKCOUNTRY
You like Jaws? How about moving the action to land and substituting the shark for a bear? Yeah, that hits the spot. Based on a collection of camping gone wrong stories, this one literally had me holding my breath. It was one of those Netflix random discoveries that makes my subscription worth it. This city boy is staying the hell out of the woods now.
#10 – GOODNIGHT MOMMY
Ah, those crazy Austrians and their demented children. This subtitled affair is a slow burn of sheer craziness. I figured out the twist early on, but it didn’t matter. The execution makes this a must-see for true horror fans. Kids are creepy – especially twins who collect hissing cockroaches and are left on their own like feral children. TV star mommy with a shrouded face thanks to mucho plastic surgery makes for a very unsettling home in the middle of freaking nowhere. And I love what those boys do with super glue. Bad kinder!
#9 – ALMOST MERCY
You know that weird kid that everyone swears will grow up to be a school shooter? Well, in Almost Mercy, he has a friend – a strange girl, no less – to keep him grounded. Or can she? I can’t get over how good this movie is. It’s bleak, funny, sarcastic, loaded with social commentary and drenched in blood. And if you think you know what it’s about by my description or the blurb on IMDB, try again. Watch this so you can be one of the cool kids.
#8 – THE GREEN INFERNO
Man, a lot of people have dumped all over this cannibal gore fest. I guess I just don’t run with their crowd. The latest movie from Eli Roth, starring his lovely wife, Lorenza Izzo (who was also in Knock Knock – yowza), delivers on what it promises to be – a brutal movie about conservationists getting what they deserve, at least according to Trump. The gore in this one was way over the top for a theatrical release, and for that, I applaud Roth. And you will truly hate the asshole activist leader. Watch it on an empty stomach. Or if you’re truly badass, watch it during a pig roast. Mmmmm, long pig.
#7 – CREEP
2015 was the year for Mark Duplass, who gave us a great indie horror movie like Creep, and a big budget clunker like The Lazarus Effect. Creep is a 2 man show about a dude hired online to film a guy going about his regular day because he’s dying and wants to leave a record of his life behind for his child. Duplass is downright unsettling. You will never be able to get ‘Tubby Time’ or ‘Peach Fuzz’ erased from your brain after watching this. This is part of a series of low budget horror flicks that Duplass is slated to make for Netflix. You have to check it out.
#6 – BONE TOMAHAWK
Of course an author who wrote a horror western (Hell Hole) is going to love a horror western movie. The fact that it stars my hero, Kurt Russell, had me all in from the word git! Part The Searchers and part The Hills Have Eyes, Bone Tomahawk is a dusty ride through dangerous terrain with the ragtagiest bunch of ragtags ever assembled. The spooky race of Trogs that have kidnapped a woman and Russell’s deputy are freaking bizarre. Saddle up and hit the trail!
#5 – WE ARE STILL HERE
Horror movies need more main characters north of 40 (coming from a man living in that altitude). You get better, more believable actors and a sense of gravitas that can’t be found in most tits ‘n zits flicks. Barbara Crampton is one of my all time faves (and yes, I met her last year!), so I had to watch this one. An older couple settle in to a house that is very haunted, but by what? There are several scenes that actually disturbed me and made me jump. And the third act is just bat shit wild. After watching this, I dare you to go into your basement with the lights off. Go on, I triple dog dare you!
#4 – THE VISIT
M. Night Shyamalan is back! The Visit is about the most fun you’ll have with a horror movie. And, it’s found footage done right. The performances by the kids are great and grandma and grandpa are simply off their rockers. If I was staying with them overnight, I’d need a diaper (like grandpa and his dirty diaper shed) and 10 Xanax. This is one I can watch again and again. Naturally, there’s a twist at the end, and the payoff is damn good. Let’s hope M.’s days of The Happening are behind him.
#3 – THE FINAL GIRLS
This wonderfully original premise has a girl who gets reunited with her deceased scream queen mom by transporting into the 80’s slasher flick that gave Mom her start. I loved living in an 80’s slasher movie for an hour and a half, considering I was a teen during that golden decade. The Final Girls is snarky, nostalgic and touching as all get out. My wife actually cried when we watched it. And she’s as jaded a horror fan as I am. It’s a trippy movie with lots of blood, just enough laughs and a few salty tears. This one really took me by surprise.
#2 – SPRING
In any other year, this would be my top movie. Maybe because I’m getting older and soft, but I can’t get Spring out of my head. It’s a horror love story. That’s right, a horror love story. Set in Italy and beautifully shot, the story centers around an American 20-something who stumbles into and falls in love with an exotic, mercurial beauty who just happens to turn into a different creature every night. These are the two best performances of the year, hands down. It was done so well, I was ready to pledge my love for Louise despite her monstrous nature and the possibility she may kill me. I had vivid dreams about this for nights afterward. I haven’t had a movie affect me like that in at least 20 years. Right after it ended, I ordered it on Amazon. This will be one I go to every year.
#1 – IT FOLLOWS
There is nothing I don’t dig about It Follows. First, it’s a totally fresh idea wrapped around familiar territory. From the opening scene of a neighborhood that brought me right back to Halloween to the nerve jangling synth soundtrack, I was smitten. A curse in the form of a shape shifting ghost that will follow you until it catches you and kills you can only be transmitted by sex. That’s right, VD meets an ethereal Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. I posted a full review when I saw it that you can read here. It Follows is my favorite horror movie of the past 30 years. I don’t think I’ve been this jazzed by a movie since The Thing. I’ve watched it several times and it only gets better. I listen to the ass kicking score when I write. I may even tattoo a scene from it on my body one day. Yep, you can count me in as an unapologetic, rabid fan.
If you want another top 13 list that is very different from my own, check out my partner in Monster Men crime’s list. Old Jackie has quite a few great recommendations even I have yet to watch. Between the 2 of us, you definitely have enough movies to keep you busy during a big ass snowstorm!
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I’m holding out hope that I’m not the only person left who remembers some of these lesser movie beasts. I’ve always had a special fondness for monsters, be they ugly or mean or downright murderous. Think of it. If you looked half as ghastly as them, wouldn’t you be a bit on the irritable side, if not downright homicidal? Everyone knows about Jason and Godzilla and Frankenstein, but there are so many others out there that just came and went. Here are 5 that left an impression on my warped little brain over the years. Please seek them out, but don’t put your fingers in their cage!
I rememeber seeing this in the drive in when I was a kid. The thing about this mad beast that really got to me was the piercing scream he’d let out every ten minutes, turning my little bladder to ice. In the late 80’s, I rented this at a video store and was accused of never giving it back, so this movie really sticks in my head. You can’t beat the synopsis I found at IMDB. “Woman is raped at cocktail party. Years later, her son grows up to be a big hairy murderous monster who stalks a group of teens shipwrecked on his island.”
This has a great cast of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas. While on a train to God-remembers-where, a monster thaws from its icy prison and begins to murder the passengers. What scared the spaghettios out of me at the time was this dude’s face. Seriously, out of all the horror movies I’d watched as a kid, this face is the one that haunted me right through adulthood. Let’s just call him scary-red-eyed-Jesus. And he’s not even the monster that took over the train!
Think a bunch of maneating, shambling plants can’t be scary? Guess again, sucker. These things moved with the slow, measured assurance of a Michael Meyers decades before he donned his William Shatner mask. This is an all time great, but sadly forgotten monster movie. Check out the book that inspired it. Both are excellent.
4. FROM BEYOND
This gem is from the mid 80’s by the same team that brought us Reanimator. This was another loosely adapted Loevcraft story where a mad scientist (score!) develops a machine that lets us see into other dimensions. Unfortunately, they can come into ours as well, and some things are just not meant to be, like Justin Bieber’s career. What the crazy doctor eventually becomes is nothing short of awesome.
I’ll end with a relatively recent movie that very few people ever bring up. The creep in this fantastic British flick is a deformed man living in the tunnels and passageways of London’s underground. He wails like a rat and looks like all kinds of hell, plus he has some wicked strength, despite the seeping infections all over his flaky, gnarled body. If I stumbled across him in a subway, I’d probably drop dead immediately.
Those are my 5. I know there are tons more out there. Which ones did I miss that you love and remember, in a twsited kinda way? Let me know so I can include them in a future post!
To see the monsters I lived with in Forest of Shadows, click here.