Zombies are the middle children of the otherworldly family. Vampires are the oldest brother who gets to have a room in the attic, all tripped out with a disco ball and shag carpet. Werewolves are the youngest, the babies, always getting pinched and told they're cute. With all that attention stolen away from the middle child zombie, no wonder she shuffles off grumbling, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha."

- Kevin James Breaux

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"Rants & Ravings About Horror" - Week 22: “The Best Horror of 2014!”

Week 22: “The Best Horror of 2014!”
I know its 2015 and we’re seeing some great horror films coming out this year – i.e. It Follows, Insidious: Chapter 3 and What We Do in the Shadows – and there are plenty more on the way but I was reading a recent issue of the magazine Fangoria (one of my favorites by the way) and in issue #339 (the one with the amazing article on the music of John Carpenter) they had the ballot for the 2015 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards which they do every year honoring the best of the best in terms of horror films from the previous year as chosen by their readers (and not a bunch of people in suits).  Reading this article got me thinking about what some of my favorite horror films of last year were as well as made me realize how many more I missed out on and still need to see.  So, I’ve dedicated this week’s article on going through this ballot and seeing what I come up with.  So if you want to vote for this year’s event go to their website (at www.fangoria.com) and see if you can still vote.

(As Above, So Below/Dracula Untold/Godzilla/Oculus/The Quiet Ones)

Hands down, my favorite offered in this category is Oculus.  This was an amazing film superior to all the other films in this category.  I got to view them all on the big screen and this film played extremely well with its clever and smart script and amazing art direction and cinematography.  My second choice would have been Dracula Untold which was better than I expected.  I not being a fan of the vampire film this brought something new and interesting to the over-told tell of Vlad the Impeller.  Godzilla was a great movie that suffered from having too many amazing actors having nothing to do other than stand around with their jaw dropped and the fact that whenever Godzilla wasn’t on the screen I wanted to fall asleep.  As Above, So Below gets points for being one of the more original ideas for a found footage horror style film but it also loses points for being a found footage horror film.  I don’t know why The Quiet Ones even made the list as this was a film with a great set up that falls apart half way through due to bad choices by the characters and a third act too dependent of mediocre CGI.

(The Babadook/The Battery/Housebound/The Sacrament/Under the Skin)

Hands down the best film of this category and of all horror films released last year in general is The Babadook.  This was a refreshing original horror film that hand something to say and didn’t pander to audiences.  It’s smart, well executed and has two amazing performances – one by a child actor.  There was no film that could compare.  I loved the subtle slow burn of both The Battery and The Sacrament which are both amazing films about two completely different things done in two completely different styles.  The Battery breathed new life into the zombie genre while The Sacrament proved that a found footage style film can work if in the right hands.  Unfortunately, at this time I’ve yet to see Housebound or Under the Skin although both are at the top of my list.

(Big Bad Wolves/A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night/The House at the End of Time/The strange Color of Your Body’s Tears/Witching & Bitching)

I regret that for the first time ever since I’ve been following the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards I’ve not seen a single film that was nominated.  Every one of these films are on my must-see list but I’ve yet to sit down and view any of them and I must apologize to my readers for this.

(Liar Ashkenazi/Nick Damici/Jake Gyllenhaal/Jared Harris/Daniel Radcliffe)

I’ll have to abstain from this one since I’ve not seen Ashkenazi’s performance in Big Bad Wolves, nor Nick Damici in Late Phases nor Jake Gyllenhaal in Enemy.  Enemy is the one film I hadn’t heard about until now and Damici was phenomenal in Stake Land (2010) and Mulberry St (2006) and he even has a role in The Sacrament, so, I’m sure his performance in Late Phases is just as good if not better.  Jared Harris steals The Quiet Ones for the most part but I’ve seen him in better and Daniel Radcliffe gives another great performance in Horns (as is par for the course with him since leaving the Harry Potter franchise).

(Essie Davis/Alexandra Essoe/Scarlett Johansson/Marta Milans/Tilda Swinton)

This is a tough one even though I’ve yet to see Johansson’s performance in Under the Skin not Alexandra Essoe in Starry Eyes nor Marta Milans in Devoured.  Tilda Swinton’s performance in Only Lovers Left Alive sees her at top form (as usual) because this woman never does wrong.  She usually steals every film she’s in but this film she is the star and she gives a performance that shouldn’t have been overlooked even by The Academy.  This being said, Essie Davis came out of nowhere with her performance in The Babadook as a broken mother taking care of a “special” child that drives her over the edge.  Davis’ performance sends chills down my spine every time which is why she springs to the top.

(David Asavanond/Tzahi Grad/Gene Jones/Michael Parks/Noah Wiseman)

Again I’ve missed three of these actors’ performances including Asavanond in Countdown, Grad in Big Bad Wolves, and Parks in Tusk.  Jones does give a great turn in The Sacrament but he is easily overshadowed by Noah Wiseman’s stellar performance in The Babadook especially coming from a child actor.

(Olvia Cooke/Anne Ramsay/Katee Sackhoff/Rima Te Wiata/Mia Wasikowska)

I missed Ramsay in The Taking of Deborah Logan and Wiata in Housebound.  Cooke was good in The Quiet Ones which was, unfortunately, such a mediocre film and Wasikowska (whom I usually love in everything) is over shadowed by all the other great performances in Only Lovers Left Alive, so Katee Sackhoff in Oculus goes home with this one this year.  Her performance in this film is a far cry from her other performances and worth taking a look at.

(The Babadook/Housebound/Life After Beth/Oculus/Proxy)

I should abstain from this one as I’ve only seen two of the three films.  As I’ve said before Housebound is on my must-see list as is Life After Beth and I’ve since added Proxy to that list.  Unfortunately, for me, my favorite two horror films of last year are up against each other but I have to go with Oculus because the film hinges on the suspense of all the time jumping and visual jumps that pull you into the film and never lets you go.  The Babadook also has a great script but it is the performances by the actors that keep your eyes glued to the screen.  

(Big Bad Wolves/Oculus/Only Lovers Left Alive/Starry Eyes/Under the Skin)

I’ve not heard the score for Big Bad Wolves (Frank Ilfman), Starry Eyes (Jonathan Snipes) or Under the Skin (Mica Levi) but Oculus has an amazing score by The Newton Brothers as does Only Lovers Left Alive, with music by Jozef van Wissem and SQURL. It is only with Only Lovers Left Alive in which the music itself is a character in the film and the score creates a very lush atmosphere and mood.

(Afflicted/Dead Snow 2/Horns/Late Phases/Starry Eyes)

I’ve not seen Starry Eyes (Hugo Villasenor & SOTA FX), Late Phases (Robert Kurtzman & Brian Spears) or Afflicted (Tamar Ouziel) but it doesn’t matter because I love the zombie and bloodshed and chaos of Dead Snow 2 (Steinaar Karstein & Mike Elizalde)! Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger’s work in Horns was amazing but Dead Snow 2 was one of the most entertaining zombie-war films ever made with excellent makeup FX and visual FX and mayhem that once started never stopped.  This was an amazing display of independent film making where quality was never sacrificed. 

(American Horror Story: Freak Show/Hannibal/Penny Dreadful/True Detective/The Walking Dead)

Right now, of this list Hannibal is my favorite show but I’ve not watched the current season on any of them.  Unfortunately, I’m a Netflix and bindge watcher so I watch the entire season once it has aired.  I’ve yet to see True Detective or Penny Dreadful but I’ve only heard great things about them.  In my opinion, The Walking Dead is a pale comparison to the comic book series and you never know what to expect from American Horror Story from season to season (which hasn’t stopped me from being addicted).

(Hugh Dancy/Josh Hartnett/Andrew Lincoln/Matthew McConaughey/Mads Mikkelsen)

Hartnett (from Penny Dreadful) and McConaughey (from True Detective) are out of the running since I’ve yet to watch their shows (but I will).  The best thing about The Walking Dead is the acting so you might think that Lincoln would be in the running but the show (for me) is inconsistent and not always strong, whereas both Dancy and Mikkelsen are amazing in Hannibal.  It’s hard to determine who is better as Dancy is the unhinged police detective whereas Mikkelsen is the more subtle and refined Hannibal.  It I had to make a choice it would be Dancy as he is given so much more range and levels to play off of than Mikkelsen.  Dancy also easily replaces William Peterson and Edward Norton in the role whereas Mikkelsen is good but he’s no Anthony Hopkins (yet).

(Nicole Beharie/Eva Green/Janet Montgomery/Anna Paquin/Sarah Paulson)

I should abstain from this one as I’ve never seen Sleepy Hollow (Beharie), Penny Dreadful (Green), Salem (Janet Montgomery) or True Blood (Paquin) and I’ve not seen Paulson in the latest American Horror Story: Freak Show.  Unfortunately (for everyone else in this group) I’m voting for Eva Green!  She is currently one of my favorite actress’ and I’m sure she outshines everyone else by a mile like she does in everything she does.  I look forward to the day (soon) when I can binge watch all of Penny Dreadful.

(David Bradley/Zane Holtz/Rory Kinnear/Norman Reedus/Finn Wittrock)

 Just like the previous category, I’ve not seen Bradley in The Strain, Kinnear in Penny Dreadful, or Wittrock in American Horror Story: Freak Show but Holtz is fantastic as Richie Gecko in From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series and Reedus…well, is Reedus in The Walking Dead.  The Walking Dead has yet to erase my opinions based on the comic book series but From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series easily is superior to the original film and this is partial because of the stellar cast.

(Gillian Anderson/Madeleine Martin/Melissa McBride/Billie Piper/Deborah Ann Woll)

I’m very familiar with Anderson in Hannibal and McBride in The Walking Dead but I know nothing about Martin (in Hemlock Grove), Piper (in Penny Dreadful), and Woll (in True Blood) but because I love Anderson more in her other show The Fall, I have to give this one up to McBride who since the start of the show has elevated her character further than anyone else has.  She’s one of the reasons I continue to watch the show (when I bother to).

(Hannibal/Penny Dreadful/The Strain/True Blood/The Walking Dead)

One last time, I get to say I’ve yet to view Penny Dreadful (Nick Dudman), The Strain (Steve Newburn & Sean Sansom) or True Blood (Todd Masters & Dan Rebert).  The Walking Dead (Gregory Nicotero & Howard Berger) has some of the most amazing makeup FX on television but doesn’t hold a candle to what crazy monstrosity will show up next in Hannibal (Franchois Dagenais) which never ceases to amaze me by being clever and original and contributing to the story at the same time. 

This category they let you put down your own film.

The worst film of 2014 was The Pyramid!  This is a monstrosity of a found footage film that breaks all the rules for no reason and has extremely subpar special visual FX not to mention a cast of characters that do the most dumb things from moment to moment to moment.  It was the first film in decades that I almost walked out of at the theatre it was so bad.  Avoid like the plague.


Well, there you have it.  A look into the great horror films of 2014 (as given to me by the 2015 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards!  I hope you enjoyed this list and feel free to drop me a line and tell me what you chose.

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