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Not Quite Horror: The Best Of 2014

Best of 2014 Not Quite Horror.

Horror is enjoying a massive resurgence right now, with blockbusting franchises like Insidious and Paranormal Activity consistently pulling in big bucks worldwide (both have new installments due later this year), while quiet, brooding little indies that could, such as last year’s monster hit The Babadook, gain traction thanks to word of mouth by reliably rabid fans.

However, venture slightly outside the box and the general schedule is slyly peppered with dark delights. Nowadays, what seems like a safe bet for a quiet Friday night at the local multiplex is often scarier than something inoffensive, yet films more explicitly marketed as horror–like Ouijaare often about as frightening as the latest straight-to-DVD, Tinker Bell flick.

A little-known subgenre is throwing everything we thought we knew about straight horror fare out the window, while getting normal folk into theaters with labels such as “thriller” or “revenge” or “crime” (all of which correspond to the films listed below, as per the IMDb). Not Quite Horror has been around for decades, but it’s becoming more and more prevalent thanks to the bravery, or perhaps boldness, of directors such as Joe Dante, whose 2009 “kids horror” film The Hole boasts the scariest clown this side of American Horror Story.

Last year, in particular, was littered with a selection of strong examples of these kinds of films, some of which are from auteurs such as the legendary Cronenberg, from whom you’d expect something weird, while others come to us courtesy of the writer of a story of soppy robot/human friendship. The following are five of the best examples of Not Quite Horror that 2014 had to offer. In no particular order:

Blue Ruin
This quiet, tense little revenge chiller actually popped up on a lot of Best Of 2014 horror movie lists, which means genre fans really embraced it as one of their own. Boasting a stunning central performance from newcomer Macon Blair, the flick is bathed in eerie blues and greys, to match the titular vehicle, with quick, shocking bursts of gut-busting violence punctuating the quiet narrative. Even in the daylight, Blue Ruin feels terribly dark.
Blue Ruin Whiplash

Nobody who witnessed JK Simmons’ terrifying verbal and, at times, physical assault on poor Miles Teller could possibly forget it in a hurry. Whiplash is structured a bit like a horror film, with the tension slowly building up scene by scene until it, and indeed Teller’s drumming prodigy himself, reaches breaking point. Simmons is incredible as the sociopathic conductor pushing him to his limits, while Teller plays through blistered, bloodied hands and turns on everyone around him. To become great, everything and everyone else must fall by the wayside.
WhiplashGone Girl

David Fincher has another notable Not Quite Horror feature to his name (the bloodcurdling Zodiac) but, with Gone Girl, he truly outdid himself, tricking casual moviegoers into watching one of the most terrifyingly realistic portrayals of marriage in cinema history. It’s almost impossible to stay spoiler free on this one, but suffice to say Fincher’s take on the hugely popular novel of the same name boasts one of the maddest, bloodiest sex scenes ever committed to celluloid.
Gone Girl
It’s almost impossible to believe that this gripping take on the over-saturation of the news media is the directorial debut of the dude who scripted Real Steel, so intense, gripping and, ultimately, shocking is Nightcrawler. Starring a rail-thin Jake Gyllenhaal as the sociopathic Lou Bloom, the film shows rather than tells when it comes to gore (a brave choice for a mainstream, not-explicitly-horror film) while establishing itself in such a way that justice seems guaranteed, even though the dread-inducing atmosphere ensures we know it most definitely isn’t.
Stranger By The Lake
This acclaimed French indie was a major talking point due to its depictions of (allegedly) real on-screen, homosexual intercourse. However, the real shocks contained therein lay in the slow, purposeful unravelling of the relationship between two very different characters; a man presumed a murderer and his paramour, who’s pretty sure he witnessed the crime. Tense, startling and with an excruciatingly open ending that could be read several different ways, Stranger By The Lake is an innovative, utterly involving take on the usual murder mystery tropes.
Stranger By The Lake
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Written by Joey Keogh
Slasher fanatic Joey Keogh has been writing since she could hold a pen, and watching horror movies even longer. Aside from making a little home for herself at Wicked Horror, Joey also writes for Birth.Movies.Death, The List, and Vague Visages among others. Her actual home boasts Halloween decorations all year round. Hello to Jason Isaacs.
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