2015 was an exceptional year for horror. From found footage to creature features to comedy-horror hybrids, we were spoiled for choice with what to watch. The flip-side to this, of course, is it’s impossible to see everything.
With massive, mainstream releases such as Sinister 2, Insidious: Chapter 3 and The Visit hogging the headlines, it’s especially difficult to catch all those little indie gems scattered along the way.
The following are just five of the myriad of great horror movies that were released last year but flew, sadly, under the radar. A couple may be slightly more difficult to track down than others, but these are all equally worth your time:
A found footage master-stroke in an age in which the format has become hopelessly dull, Unfriended seems like an eye roll worthy experiment in utter tedium on paper: An obnoxious group of friends are on Skype when the spirit of their dead classmate starts messing with them. This is probably why most genre fans turned their backs on what is actually a hugely entertaining, very scary flick imbued with a harsh, no-nonsense anti-bullying message. Topical and current, but relevant enough that it should age well, Unfriended is a found footage film with a clever gimmick that manages to elevate itself above both of those concepts extremely well, while providing some serious, very memorable shocks along the way.
The assured debut feature from English filmmaker, and creature feature aficionado, Corin Hardy split critics right down the middle upon release–but even more pressingly, it wasn’t nearly as embraced by horror fans as it should’ve been. Splicing elements of body horror, xenophobia and ancient mythology with the very real struggles faced by new parents, The Hallow is a character-driven, classic horror story that is refreshingly light on jump scares (those that do feature are expertly executed). The monsters are gooey and predominantly practical, the performances well-judged and the atmosphere consistently dread-inducing. It will definitely make you think twice about taking that trip to the idyllic little island of Ireland.
Landmine Goes Click
A Georgian horror starring a couple of twenty-somethings formerly known for their roles on squeaky clean kids’ TV shows doesn’t sound like the most interesting prospect, but director Levan Bakhia’s hugely affecting, borderline exploitation movie truly must be seen to be believed. To give away too much of its plot would be to spoil its many horrifying delights, but suffice to say it involves three friends, one of whom is stuck standing on a landmine for much of the film’s running time. Brutal, harrowing and unforgettable, Landmine Goes Click is the kind of movie you watch once and vow never to sit through again, not least because its most shocking sequences have already been forever burned into your memory.
After 2014’s exemplary Late Phases comes this very British (it takes place mostly on-board a night-time commuter train) take on the werewolf sub-genre. Favouring the men-in-suits angle over computer-generated blur-monsters (blursters?), Howl is a much lighter offering than director Paul Hyett’s previous flick, the downbeat but effective chiller The Seasoning House. Luckily, the comedic elements don’t override the scares, which come hard, fast and bloody. The body count is relatively high for a film of this nature, and it’s not too easy to guess who’s next for the chop either. Would make for a nice palate cleanser after Late Phases‘ moving, but sad, ending (particularly as each boasts terrific transformation sequences).
Considering Halloween is horror fans’ official day of worship, it’s bizarre there aren’t more movies catering to our annual celebration of all things macabre and spooky. Carpenter’s seminal film, and a handful of its sub-par sequels, take care of the slasher scares, while Trick ‘r’ Treat has the anthology down pat, but we don’t have nearly enough fun horror movies set in or around this time of year. Hellions is a trippy, bizarre but ultimately quite terrifying Canadian offering that pitches a pregnant teenager against a group of demonic trick-or-treaters to queasily spooky (as opposed to gory) effect. Won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but those who give it a chance will find their curiosity rewarded with something uniquely strange and different.