The horror genre was anything but dead this year. Whether we saw genre filmmakers flip convention on its bloody head or screened modern-day thrillers with a classic horror vibe, there were enough freaky flicks to haunt everyone’s best of list. So grab your killer kids, malevolent mommies, and Craigslist creeps. Here are the 10 scariest movies of 2015.
This SXSW festival hit about a group of teens who spend way too much time online was a welcome surprise. True, its synopsis is laughable: A group chat’s members are offed by a supernatural cyber intruder (aka Internet ghost). But thanks to some pretty imaginative kills, courtesy of Nelson Greave’s script, and the authentic split-screen production from director Levan Gabriadze, the film actually works. And keeps you plugged in until its final SYL.
9. WE ARE STILL HERE
Ted Geoghegan’s award-winning directorial debut about a house that gets cranky every 30 years and demands a sacrificial soul or two satisfies both gore and supernatural tastes. When a grieving couple move to the snowy New England countryside, they become prey for a houseful of vengeful spirits and charred zombies. A slow burner with a few really good scares at first, the film escalates in gore and screams as the reel rolls on to its final bloody raucous.
It doesn’t take but a couple of minutes with starring actor Mark Duplass and his weird wolf mask to know where the title of this found-footage-inspired film came from. Duplass and co-writer/director Patrick Brice carry this little gem about a Craigslist gig gone bad. Entirely a two-man show, “Creep” isn’t your typical no-guts-no-glory horror film, but rather a thriller that sneaks up on you and then just watches you. As you sleep.
7. BONE TOMAHAWK
Filmmakers have been flipping genre conventions to wonderful effect over the past few years–think “A Girl Who Walks Home Alone at Night”, “The Cabin in the Woods”, and anything by director Ben Wheatley. Well, we reckon we have S. Craig Zahler to thank for the latest genre-bender to enter the canon of great horror: a grisly, cannibalistic western horror comedy. Starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, and David Arquette, Zahler’s film follows a crew of cowboys who set off across the Wild West’s scorching desert. Their mission: to rescue some innocents from cave-dwelling cannibals.
6. THE HALLOW
For those who can hardly wait for “The Crow” reboot to spread its wings, allow this woodland chiller to hold you over. It comes from director Corin Hardy, the man who’s attached to the aforementioned remake, and its storyline is simple enough–family moves to cursed land–but the visual flair for which Hardy is known gives the indie a rich complexity and depth that’ll make you truly believe the sinister forest has come alive.
5. SON OF SAUL
Hungarian director László Nemes rewrites the formula for a Holocaust thriller and ends up with a multi-award-winning nail-biter that just so happens to be his first film. With tight-cropped shots that don’t sugarcoat the horrors going on around his protagonist, Nemes takes viewers into an Auschwitz work camp for a profoundly intense survival tale about a man named Saul who’s sent to clean up a gas chamber’s mess, only to find a child is still alive. A child he believes to be his son. At once gruesome, harrowing, and hopeful, Nemes directorial debut just may be headed to the 2016 Oscars.
4. THE BOY
You’ve seen ‘em leather cad and wielding a chainsaw, dressed in Mother’s best and swinging a knife, and even dapperly dressed in Valentino Couture and brandishing a bloody ax. Well, go ahead and add shirtless and 9 years old to the list of American psychos who have imprinted many a horror fiend’s psyche. In Craig William Macneill’s chilling slow-burn debut feature, we are introduced to Ted Henley, the pint-size sociopath whose morbid fascinations culminate in ramifications that are deadly for Henley’s victims and bone-chilling for the rest of us.
3. IT FOLLOWS
Who would have thought a horror film that uses the almost-cliché death-by-sex horror trope as its gimmick would have not just audiences raving but critics as well? That’s just what writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s first foray into the genre does. About a girl trying to outrun the curse she’s contracted post-coitus, “It Follows” definitely delivers on the scares, but it’s the underlying moral that really gives us the willies.
2. THE WITCH
Not only is newcomer Robert Eggers’s haunting period piece one of the best films out of Sundance 2015, it’s one of the best–not to mention most frightening–films to grace the screen this year. Set in 1630s New England, the potent story unravels as Thomasin and her family slowly begin turning on each other after her infant sibling goes missing, leaving them vulnerable to the evil forces that lurk in the woods beyond their homestead. The film is still making its way through the festival circuit, but look for it to reach wide release come February.
1. GOODNIGHT MOMMY
Hello, Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz. The pair of Austrian directors popped onto the scene with their debut feature film, and it’s an art-house stunner that’s heavy on the funny games and light on dialogue. Their film “Goodnight Mommy”, about a pair of twin boys who are trying to figure out if the woman behind the bandages is actually their mum, everything you want in a scary movie: creepy crawlies, spooky masks, torture gore, camera tricks, and a plotline that keeps you guessing ‘til the very end.
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