Josh Soriano’s TOP TEN HORROR FILMS OF 2014!

*Editor’s note: Our own Josh Soriano gave us his Top Ten of the year, so enjoy!-Jerry

I want to make a quick disclaimer before you read this: I’ve somehow managed to not see a fair amount of the most highly-praised horror films on everyone’s top ten lists this year like CHEAP THRILLS, STARRY EYES, ​or AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR. Not because I didn’t want to. In fact, I wanted to see them all quite badly (ironically, those were the three I had been looking forward to the most all year). Instead, perhaps in some strange form of self-punishment, I somehow ended up seeing the films that I had no desire to see like OUIJA, ANNABELLE or DELIVER US FROM EVIL (all which I recommend you skip). Before I realized it, a year had already passed. So, here’s a list of the 10 best that I actually did see this year (in no particular order).

Ti West and I were rocky ground before I saw THE SACRAMENT. I loved HOUSE OF THE DEVIL but felt he could have done more with the story and talent in THE INNKEEPERS. However, THE SACRAMENT ended up being my other favorite horror film of the whole year. I’m a sucker for anything cult-related, so true crime like The Jonestown Massacre are my bread and butter. The clever retelling here, aided by brilliant performances (A.J. Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Gene Jones) and West’s tense, taut directing, shape what could have been a by-the-numbers adaption into a nail-biting experience. Films as masterful as this prove that, these days, horror is where most of Hollywood’s hopeful are deriving from.

This one may have been my favorite of the year. Gerard Johnstone’s quirky horror film completely blindsided me with its ability to balance genuine frights and tongue-in-cheek humor so effortlessly. Add that notion with the fact that the plot twists and turns to a jaw-dropping climatic reveal that will leave your mouth agape in shock and you’ve got one of the most entertaining and unique horror experiences of 2014. Rarely have I seen a movie where the entire cast is spot on, hitting every beat whether it be a clever retort or shocking moment. I haven’t seen a more promising debut horror film from a New Zealander since Peter Jackson’s DEAD ALIVE.

Technically, this one is a cheat because it was released in 1995. Todd Haynes [SAFE] is one of the most terrifying films I have ever seen and was years ahead of its time with its ne0-nostalgic 80s synthesizer score and Robert Altman-like cinematography. Julianne Moore, in one of her greatest early performances since SHORT CUTS, plays a Californian housewife who begins to suffer from a mysterious disease known loosely as “Twentieth-Century Disease” that has too many non-specific attributes to be properly treated. Is it the smog? The chemicals in a beauty parlor? Could it all simply be psycho-somatic? You can call it body-horror, you can call it psychological horror. Regardless, I guarantee you’ll cringe at the uncomfortable “attacks” Moore goes through during the course of this film that had a limited DVD release but, 20 years later, has finally gotten the Criterion treatment it deserves.

No franchise reboot defied expectations quite like Gareth Edwards’ surprisingly impressive GODZILLA. Remember the Roland Emmerich crap-fest that was the 1998 reboot starring Matthew Broderick that left a bitter taste in everyone’s’ mouth? I don’t blame you if you’ve blocked it from your memory, it looked like “curtains” for the world’s most famous monster. So I was just as surprised as the rest when the 2014 reboot proved to be pretty fucking awesome. With the sentimentality of an Amblin Entertainment-era movie, Godzilla seemed to hit all the right touchstones to reboot the franchise while maintaining respect to the original. Despite all the bitching and moaning from the GOJIRA-purists calling him (of all things) “fat”, Godzilla has never looked more bad ass or frightening since his incarnation than in this reboot . When I saw it with an audience that stood up and started cheering when Godzilla stepped onscreen, I was strangely sentimental about the fact that the baddest monster in all history had made a well-deserving glorious return. It was a rare “magic of the movies” moment I hadn’t seen since childhood.

​ I’ve been a fan of Jonathan Glazer​ since SEXY BEAST. In many ways, the beauty of his films rival favorites like Paul Thomas Anderson and Stanley Kubrick. BIRTH, his beautiful and strange follow up to Beast had inklings that Glazer was maturing into a director that I wanted to keep my eye on. When I first caught promotional wind of UNDER THE SKIN, I had incredibly high expectations and I have to say, I couldn’t have been happier with the end result. Firstly, I give Scarlett Johansson mad respect for doing a film so left of the center. She isn’t someone I normally enjoy but her recent role choices prove she is a unique talent. Feeling like a combination of the hauntingly beautiful relationships in an Atom Egoyan film and fusing them with the frightening visuals of Matthew Barney, Skin is delightfully weird Glazer at his best.

I’m not the biggest fan of Adam Wingard. It wasn’t until YOU’RE NEXT did I feel like he had finally come into his element. Still, I was suspicious that Next may have been a fluke and that he’d return to the cinematography and character development of his earlier works that make it hard to connect with as a viewer. I have no shame in admitting that I was absolutely wrong. Wingard seems to have matured as a director and begun to develop a more cohesive style that propels THE GUEST beyond the near-perfect You’re Next. It’s technically not a horror film, but it has threads of sci-fi horror like 1987’s THE HIDDEN running through it. Even though it feels a little reductive of DRIVE at points, The Guest is a film that is clever and zany enough to entertain fans of opposite genres.

Humor and horror go together better than most people realize but, if done poorly though, comedy in a horror film can fall flatter than an Eli Roth concept. Álex de la Iglesia’s tale of a team of thieves whose post-heist getaway is sidetracked by a coven of witches was another of my favorite films I saw this year. I often hear people complain about watching subtitles, claiming they can’t pay attention to the film “while reading”. To me, that feels like you’re robbing yourself of opportunities to see something like Witching. Rarely do I laugh out loud as much as I did during this film and the underlining “war of the sexes” angle going on throughout the film is a brilliant touch. While it may not be exactly the same kind of horror film as EVIL DEAD 2, you can feel an influence with the way it handles the comedic aspects.

What I enjoyed so much about this film was how delightfully weird it was. I want to explain the concept but it almost seems like it’s a disservice to the film if I do. I can give you two reasons alone to see this movie. First off, you have horror icon Barbara Steele returning to a lead role (her last substantial role was in the DARK SHADOWS 1991 tv reboot), so that’s obviously awesome. Secondly, you have Heather Langenkamp returning to the screen in the largest role she’s had since NEW NIGHTMARE in 1994–and the horror icon roster doesn’t end there either. Both actresses return, in brilliant form, in this film which is a Polanski-like twisted tale of a disturbed and possessive woman and her friendship with a conniving young girl.

Adrián García Bogliano’s 2012 HERE COMES THE DEVIL was a peculiar and polarizing experience that I both enjoyed and yet completely didn’t connect with at the same time. His English-language debut, LATE PHASES, shows a change of pace for Bogliano with it’s somewhat sad and humanistic character study of a blind elderly man facing his demons while a werewolf terrorizes the retirement community he resides in. When the werewolf attacks begin (in all their blood-drenched bravado) it only propels the dramatic elements further, making it all the more of a heart-breaking film by the end. There’s an emotional depth and complexity to this film that you don’t always find in horror and its aided by the wonderful performances of cast Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Lance Guest and Tom Noonan. With this and CHEAP THRILLS, Embry has returned to cinema in two well-deserved meaty roles of 2014’s most talked about horror films and he doesn’t disappoint.

A lot of directors have attempted to recapture the style of 70s Italian giallo but few have come as close as Bruno Forzani and Hélène Cattet with 2009’s AMER. One of my favorite movies of that year, Amer was cleverly styled as a giallo, even though its subject matter technically wasn’t and thereby felt wildly original. Their follow up, THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS, is most definitely a giallo horror, following a husband who is investigating the disappearance of his wife–and it’s no surprise that the film is just as effective as their previous. Some have criticized that Tears is more style than story, and I can understand where they’re coming from, but a movie that showboats on style can sometimes work wonderfully (see BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW and BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO for shining examples).

Josh Soriano

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