2014 has been a good year for genre film. I actually had a difficult time identifying my top five–not because there were too few titles to choose from but because there were so many that I really enjoyed that saw release this past year. I had to whittle this list down from a much larger one and even still wish I had more than five slots. With that said, here are my top five horror films of 2014.
The House at the End of Time
The House at the End of Time is unbelievably good for a variety of reasons. It does an excellent job keeping the viewer in suspense and toying with his or her expectations. As soon as the audience thinks they have the film figured out, it goes in the opposite direction, leading up to a satisfying and unexpected ending. Also, the film features a likable and believable family unit that the audience is almost immediately endeared to. The bond between the mother and her sons is incredibly authentic. Ruddy Rodriguez does an excellent job playing the recently paroled Dulce at a variety of ages.
Setting a horror film in a retirement community is risky but it’s a risk that paid off ten fold. Nick Damici is exceptional as the curmudgeonly Ambrose in this Adrian Garcia Bogliano werewolf affair. His relationship with his son (played brilliantly by Ethan Embry) is authentic and Ambrose’s backstory is the perfect fit to prepare him for the situation he is thrown in to. The effects are done practically and although they are not perfect, I would gladly take them over CG any day of the week.
Honeymoon is proof that body horror is alive and well in 2014 and it is also a strong indicator that first time feature film director Leigh Janiak is a force to be reckoned with. She does an exceptional job bringing the script that she co-penned to life and coaxing her small cast into delivering confident, yet vulnerable performances. Janiak understands that a film is more enjoyable when the viewer enjoys spending time with its characters and she takes full advantage of that. The leads are so passionately in love with one another that one cannot help but fall for them and want to see their relationship succeed. That audience’s attachment to the characters makes the inevitable all the more dreadful and so much more painstaking to watch.
I had basically no expectations going into Starry Eyes. I hadn’t read any reviews prior to checking it out and I screened it a while before it hit VOD or home video, so there wasn’t as much buzz surrounding it as there is now. But I was completely blown away. It’s Cronenbergian body horror told as a metaphor for making it in Hollywood. Alex Essoe is absolutely phenomenal in the lead and the always affable Pat Healy turns in a great supporting performance as her lecherous boss. The ending is perfectly befitting and allows the viewer to watch everything go off the rails in the best/worst way imaginable.
Housebound is hilarious, touching, and surprising. It’s not so much scary as it is outrageously funny. But it is nonetheless infused with enough scares to warrant it a horror film. The performances are the picture’s greatest asset. A cast of relative newcomers and a first time feature film director came together to make what I consider to be the best horror film of 2014. Housebound delivers plenty of memorable laughs and takes a completely unexpected but highly effective turn in the third act. I cannot recommend this picture highly enough.
Honorable mention to Summer of Blood and Cheap Thrills.