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The Year in Horror, 2014: Rebekah McKendry’s Top 10 Horrors

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I noted in my FANGORIA Top 10 List from 2013 that fans were shifting from big studio pictures to the indie markets. In 2014 this pattern not only continued, it exploded! While major studio pics like AS ABOVE, SO BELOW, THE QUIET ONES, and OUIJA struggled to impress genre fans, indie flicks delivered top notch scares without the big budgets and massive P&A campaigns.

I will say on record that I’m getting sick of found footage films, possession movies, and found footage possession movies. But as much as I gripe about the trend being overdone, I ended up putting two of them on my 2014 top ten list. So even within the “everyone’s doing it” trends, someone is doing something right. I’m truly enjoying this indie surge and hope it continues to cultivate in 2015!

In no particular order:

THE BABADOOK (dir. Jennifer Kent, dist. IFC Midnight)

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I expect to see this one on many top 10 lists this year. Mister Babadook became a festival darling and the film was eventually treated to a small theatrical run, which left both fans and critics praising the uniqueness of the plot and scares. Though it is rather “artsy,” THE BABADOOK is not only one of the best films of the year, but also one of the best Australian horrors we’ve had in quite a while.

OCULUS (dir. Mike Flanagan, dist. Relativity Media)

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This was a very polarizing film. I was on the side of those who loved it and found it to be one of the more terrifying movies of the year. I appreciated how the film seamlessly blended multiple time frames together (often simultaneously) into one flowing story. Yes, I would have liked to know more about the story’s sinister reflections, but Mike Flanagan’s monstrous mirror still left me questioning my own abnormal reality.

WITCHING AND BITCHING (dir. Álex de la Iglesia, dist. IFC Midnight)

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I love the bulk of Álex de la Iglesia’s films, but he is really in his element here with this wacky and politically incorrect horror comedy. Now if only Iglesia’s DAY OF THE BEAST would get a release stateside! Someone needs to get on that in 2015… I’m looking in your direction, Drafthouse and Scream Factory.

HORNS (dir. Alexandre Aja, dist. Radius-TWC)

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Based on the Joe Hill novel, Alexandre Aja brings to life a strange story of a man who develops the power to extract the truth from those around him but also grows increasing large horns after his lover is murdered. This film does suffer from some oddly mismatched tones, but the overwhelming fairy tale feel combined with Radcliffe’s powerful performance made this film one of my viewing high points of the year.

THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN (dir. Adam Robitel, dist. Millennium Entertainment)

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I swear I saw at least a dozen possession-themed found footage films this year. This title rose to the top of the heap because of its innovative style, damn good acting, and a plot that is unexpectedly distinctive. I have yet to discuss this film with a fellow fan who was not traumatized by the flick’s disturbing and unique climax.

HOUSEBOUND (dir. Gerard Johnstone, dist. XLrator Media)

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With haunted house films over-saturating the markets, it was great to see someone do it right. The plot shifted continuously keeping even the most astute and well-trained horror fans shocked by the twists. Funny, but equally scary, HOUSEBOUND was a breath of fresh air this year. The leading actress, Morgana O’Reilly, set the benchmark for how a strong female character should behave in a horror film.

STARRY EYES (dir. Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, dist. Dark Sky Films)

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This small indie production feels big, and it established once again that producer Travis Stevens possesses some type of amazing filmmaking mojo, considering his other with recent hits like BIG ASS SPIDER, CHEAP THRILLS and JODOROWSKY’S DUNE. This innovative indie also features one of the top performances of the year: Alex Essoe as Hollywood hopeful, Sarah.

BIG BAD WOLVES (dir. Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, dist. Magnet Releasing)

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A brutal child murderer is on the loose, and the father of a victim, a cop, and the victim’s unwitting grandfather team up to find out if the main suspect is indeed the real killer… and it’s a comedy! This is a warped ride full of elements that lend to a much more depressing film, yet somehow make a brilliant dark horror comedy.

RAGNAROK (dir. Mikkel Brænne Sandemose, dist. Magnolia Pictures)

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This Norwegian film barely made a blip on critical screens this year, so I suspect this film is not for everyone. But I found it to be a thoroughly thrilling, fun ride. An archeologist sets out to find the true meaning of an ancient legend discussing Ragnarok, a/k/a “the end of the world.” The film feels like part NATIONAL TREASURE and part giant creature feature. It has a grand feel, which was lacking from many stateside horrors this year. And though the creature is digitized, it was well done and effective. This one is a fun popcorn movie.

GRAVITY FALLS (created by Alex Hirsch, dist. Disney XD)

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I know, I know. This is a kid’s cartoon on the Disney XD channel. I have placed a cartoon on my list for the past four years, including greats like UGLY AMERICANS and RICK AND MORTY, because I’ve love to see the horror genre repped in animation. And this year, GRAVITY FALLS has become one of my viewing staples. Before you question this show’s inclusion on my list… watch it! I could best sum it up as TWIN PEAKS for teens. Two kids, Mabel and Dipper, are sent to spend a summer with their grand-uncle, Stan, who runs a mystery-spot roadside tourist attraction in a very supernatural, otherworldly Oregon town. Looking for a gateway media to let your kids experience some horror-lite? Look no further. The show is full of monsters, mystery, and mayhem. But the humor and plots are surprisingly complex and toned more toward old audiences, resulting in a ravenous and equally large adult fan base. I watched the show’s creator, Alex Hirsch, get tackled by “grown-up” fans at 2014’s Comic Con. Now in the 2nd season, the show just keeps getting more creative and demonstrating more of its genre love.

My Honorable Mentions are as follows:

PROXY (dir. Zack Parker, dist. IFC Midnight)

This movie disturbed me to no end. I’m still thinking about it months later marking it as one of the more effective and resonating flicks of the year!

THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING (dir. David Jung, dist. Anchor Bay Films)

Though I tend to avoid found footage, it has become hard when the stomach-churning style makes up a sizeable chunk of recent releases. But whereas films like AS ABOVE, SO ABOVE left me with motion sickness, THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING was able to weave a fascinating and frightening tale, all while making a good justification for the presence of the ever-spying cameras. This flick has some chilling moments, and though the set-up is standard found footage fair, the concept of a man who sets out to get possessed by a demon is a fascinating one.

BLACK MIRROR (created by Charlie Brooker, dist. Endemol UK)

This British TV series is questionably horror, as it’s more sci-fi, so I did not think it right to include it as part of my actual top 10, but the show’s stark and disturbing look at our own culture has made it one of my favorite experiences of the year. The entire series, which debuted in 2011 but was not widely available in America until recently, is now streaming on Netflix.

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (dir. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, dist. Orion Pictures)

This meta version of the 1976 film does more than just rehash the original story. Utilizing the expertise of AMERICAN HORROR STORY cinematographer Michael Goi, the film floats back and forth seamlessly between multiple timelines and realities. Though the ending was expected, the build to it was well worth the standard, over-done slasher closing.

SUPERNATURAL (created by Eric Kripke, dist. Warner Brothers TV)

The epic fan fiction-based 200th episode reinvigorated the series, reaffirming the cult dedication to the Winchester Brothers.

IT FOLLOWS (dir. David Robert Mitchell, dist. Radius-TWC)

Although the film is constructed almost entirely out of repetitive set pieces with little plot explanation, it did contain some of the best jump scares of the year.

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About the author
Rebekah McKendry

Rebekah McKendry is the Director of Marketing for Fangoria Entertainment, and additionally she is a college professor teaching classes focused on film history and horror films. She is also an award-winning filmmaker. She has Bachelor’s Degrees in Film and English, a MA in Media Education, a MFA in Film, and she is currently completing her PhD in Media Theory focused on horror and exploitation cinema. She is especially passionate about grindhouse films, video nasties, and rare or lost titles.

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