These Are the Best Horror Movies of 2014, According to Our Expert

These Are the Best Horror Movies of 2014, According to Our Expert

Dec 26, 2014

Welcome to the Last Horror Blog, a biweekly column about all things related to horror.


2014 was an odd year for horror cinema in that there was no one title that stood out and dominated the conversation amongst fans. There was also a much appreciated dearth of sequels and remakes, with many filmmakers focusing on totally new and unique stories. Even the juggernaut-esque Paranormal Activity series took things in a slightly different direction with the spin-off entry The Marked Ones back in early January.

There were sequels this year – including the latest V/H/S and ABCs of Death entries – but 2014 was really more about indies and new ideas. Because so much of this stuff doesn’t get the big studio push, it was easy to miss out on a lot of good frights in the past 12 months if you weren’t regularly checking movie sites and blogs.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled my annual "best of" list. This year I’m featuring mostly theatrical releases, but I’m also including two new Blu-ray versions of beloved films – because one restores a lot of missing footage, and because the other is essentially so exhaustive in what it offers that it’s the definitive edition that fans should own. If you think that’s cheating, too bad. Go write your own list. I’m kidding – I love you guys.

As always, these are presented in no particular order.

Big Bad Wolves

Calling Big Bad Wolves a horror movie is probably a bit of a stretch, but one of the things I’ve always loved about the genre is its ability to weave itself into narratives that weren’t really focused on supernatural hijinks or masked killers. You can have horrific moments in movies that are not ostensibly horror movies.

This Israeli film was released in 2014, but didn’t land here in the States until earlier this year. It finds a cop and a revenge-driven father kidnapping and torturing a man who may (or may not) be responsible for a series of savage murders. Think of it sort of like a better version of Prisoners and you’re on the right track.

 

Horns

Alexandre Aja – the filmmaker who gave us High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes remake – tackles Joe Hill’s popular novel about a young man who grows demonic horns out of his forehead that compel everyone around him to share their darkest secrets. He uses these newfound powers to unravel the mystery of who really killed the love of his life.

Horns is a bit of a departure for Aja, a filmmaker mostly known for his gory violence. Horns never really piles on the splatter, but it does feature a great performance from Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe as the guy who’s sporting the new cranial appendages. Aja remains largely faithful to the novel (until the end, anyway – which necessitated some changes to work on the screen), and the end result is one of the more touching genre efforts of 2014.

 

Oculus

I have never been a fan of haunted-mirror movies, and when I saw that was the core element of Oculus, I immediately groaned inside – then spent the next hour and 45 minutes being captivated by this movie centered on a haunted mirror.

Oculus tells two intertwined stories about a family who acquires a haunted mirror with a dark past. In the main story, the siblings return to the family home to prove that the mirror is supernaturally powered and destroy it. The substory fills in what happened when they were kids.

There’s an air of unease that runs through the entire movie – and the mirror’s powers are the kind that have you constantly on guard as you watch, wondering if what you’re seeing is real or another elaborate ruse by the piece of glass hanging on the wall. Some folks don’t like the ending, but it makes sense within the confines of the narrative.

 

Tusk

Kevin Smith’s second horror effort is sure to be the most divisive title on this list – and to be honest with you, I’m not even sure I like it. Basically, Tusk is Smith’s take on The Human Centipede, only based on a Craigslist post that was later discovered to be a piece of performance art.

The gist of it, if you don’t know, is that Michael Parks is lonely and really likes walruses – and when Justin Long goes to interview him, things don’t go quite as planned. I don’t want to spoil everything about the film for the five of you who didn’t hear about it earlier this year, so I’ll just leave it at that. This is a really weird movie, but if you’re a fan of Smith you’re going to want to check it out. You may or may not like it – but it’s so out there that I feel like it has to be on this year’s list just for the goofy audacity factor alone.

 

Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut

Clive Barker’s Nightbreed is nearly a quarter of a century old, but for years we’ve all heard the stories about how the released version of the film wasn’t what Barker intended – and that roughly 20 some minutes were cut by the studio. It was like an urban legend – the idea that this footage somehow survived and would one day be restored – except that it actually happened.

Scream Factory swooped in to help horror fans see the unexpurgated cut of Nightbreed 24 years after it became a cult classic. The two-disc set released in 2014 is amazing – mostly because of what it represents. This is Barker’s vision, and whether or not you think the restored footage adds or detracts from the overall product (and I’ve heard compelling arguments on both sides of that issue), it’s worth celebrating that we can finally see the film in the way he intended.

 

Afflicted

Found-footage films get a lot of grief from folks (and to be fair, they earn most of it), but sometimes you find one that really clicks for you – which is how I feel about Afflicted. My pal Scott Weinberg summed it up pretty well when he said it was a lot like Chronicle, only with vampires.

The film, which marks Derek Lee and Cliff Prowse’s feature film directorial debuts, finds the duo playing a couple of guys who travel the globe filming an Internet series. When one of them suddenly contracts a mysterious (and dangerous) disease, things start to go horribly wrong.

 

Halloween: The Complete Collection

This massive 15-disc set chronicling all of the Halloween franchise (including the Myers-less Halloween III: Season of the Witch and Rob Zombie’s divisive remakes) makes the list not because there were new Halloween movies this year, but because it’s hands down the best home video release of 2014... and anyone who loves horror should own it – or at least be aware of its existence.

Scream Factory puts all the movies together in one complete set, and then crams in a truckload of extras – including some new ones for this release. After years of constant rereleases of these movies, it’s nice to finally have them all together in one definitive set.

 

Late Phases

Werewolves just don’t get enough love – but at least they got some time in the spotlight this year in Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s first English-language feature, Late Phases.

Bogliano teams up with Stakeland star Nick Damici to craft a tale wherein Damici plays a blind man who’s attacked by what the locals think is a dog. The disabled man has different ideas, though – believing that his attacker wasn’t just some feral mutt, but instead is a full-on lycanthrope.

Damici’s character doesn’t let his vision impairment slow him down – he gets ready to confront the beast head on during the next full moon.

Bogliano proves he’s a filmmaker to watch with his work here, and Damici is always entertaining. Late Phases isn’t a homerun, but it’s certainly amongst the better horror offerings of the past year.

 

Starry Eyes

Here’s an indie that basically came out of nowhere and took the horror world by storm. This is yet another title that was helped by Kickstarter fundraising, proving that good things can actually come from crowd-funded projects.

I don’t want to say too much about the film’s plot because it works more effectively the less you know, but it centers on a young actress (Alex Essoe) who’s willing to pay almost any price to be famous.

Like The Late Phases, Starry Eyes isn’t perfect, but it does give you a whole lot of hope for the genre’s future. Indie filmmakers could be the thing that saves us from an endless sea of reboots, remakes and uninspired sequels.

 

The Babadook

Jennifer Kent’s Australian genre effort The Babadook proves a lot of things: Australia can still make effective horror movies, women are just as capable as men when it comes to creating fear, and you don’t always need a lot of gore or violence to make your horror movie effective. Sometimes, a good old-fashioned bogeyman is more than enough.

The film focuses on a mother and her son – and the struggle that ensues when the child becomes convinced they’re being stalked by a mythical creature called the Babadook. Kent takes the simple premise and milks maximum shocks out of it.

I really expected The Babadook to be a tepid, paint-by-numbers story of a child in danger – and had Hollywood made it, that’s almost assuredly what it would have been. I was pleasantly surprised to find Kent’s vision is much darker and enchanting than anything I was anticipating, and that’s why The Babadook is earning praise from everyone who sees it. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make a compelling horror film – you just have to find new ways to approach old tales. Kent has done that here, and thanks to her efforts The Babadook is the best horror film of 2014. 

 

 

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