Now that Christmas is behind us and the New Year is just around the corner it’s time to get down and dirty and sort through the vast number of horror movies that came out this year. I’ve managed to chop together a list of, what I think, are the best horror movies put out in 2014.
The movies listed below are in ranking order, so number one is obviously the best, but don’t feel slighted if your favorite film isn’t higher up on the list. I think all of these movies were great and I had a real hard time settling on which one was truly the best this year. In all honesty I think number one and two could be interchangeable.
That being said, I’ve also thrown in three of the worst movies I saw this year. There are tons of shitty horror movies that get put out every year and many of them are just video files that get e-mailed to us. So, rather than point out some obscure horror film that most people will never see, I decided to narrow my worst films to movies that actually got a theatrical release. This way we can all share the pain.
And as an added bonus this year, I’ve included the category of “Most Okayest Horror Movie.” This honor is being bestowed upon the movie that inspired no love or hate in me and simply existed as a supremely average film. This was probably the hardest one to narrow down as I felt like I sat through so many films that were on the cusp of being good, but fell short in some way that really hindered the overall experience.
Now, enough with the set-up, here’s my list of the best, worst, and okayest movies of 2014.
BEST HORROR MOVIES
10.) The Taking of Deborah Logan
The best horror films are often those that manage to tap into our real fears. For me, I find the idea of alzheimers to be absolutely terrifying. The thought of losing my mind to an unstoppable disease just makes my blood run cold. “The Taking of Deborah Logan” tapped into that fear and created a movie that was both heart wrenching and unsettling. It also features some fantastic acting from Jill Larson who portrays the titular character. Larson is able to go from a kindly old lady to a deranged mad woman and back again with such ease that it makes Deborah Logan feel like a real and grounded character. Unfortunately the movie falls into some typical found footage trappings, but I think the overall package makes this film stand out as a unique entry in the subgenre.
9.) The Purge: Anarchy
“The Purge: Anarchy” is exactly what the first film should have been. A dumb chaotic tale about innocent people being stuck on the streets on the one night of the year when all crime is legal. I won’t pretend that this is an amazing film, but I thought it was highly entertaining. And a lot of that entertainment comes from Frank Grillo who does a great job of being a stoic badass waging a one man war for vengeance. This could’ve basically been a pretty decent Punisher movie and if that’s something you’re looking for than you might want to give “Purge: Anarchy” a shot. Just, be warned, this film has a political message and it delivers it with all the subtlety of a nuke. I don’t mind a film with a message, but when they beat you over the head with it it completely takes you out of the experience. If you can look past that, then I think there’s an interesting bit of film here that comes close to living up to the premise.
8.) Life After Beth
I’m a sucker for zombie movies with sympathetic zombies. Last year I really enjoyed “Warm Bodies” and was hoping that “Life After Beth” would be able to match up to the quality and tone of that film. It, unfortunately, falls short of what that film did. Still, I think “Life After Beth” is an enjoyable tale about letting go of people… even when they come back from the dead. Aubrey Plaza, clearly inspired by Linda Blair’s performance in “The Exorcist”, does a great job as a crazed zombie slowly losing her grip on humanity. It’s a charming film that doesn’t reinvent the zombie genre, but puts it to good use.
I know the slow plodding nature of “Godzilla” and the lack of kaiju action really rubbed people the wrong way, but I still thought that this was a great attempt at capturing the spirit of the original Godzilla film while injecting it with enough American spectacle to make it a visual treat. It didn’t “wow” me in the way “Pacific Rim” did, but it did manage to have a few fantastic set pieces. Even if they were very brief. It wasn’t everything that I hoped it would be, but it did renew my faith in Hollywood’s treatment of the big guy and I look forward to seeing what they do with him next.
We’ve always known that Zoe Bell was a badass, but in “Raze” we find out she can act too. This was a film that quietly came and went this year, but I really encourage people to give it a shot. Be warned, though, this isn’t a clean-cut action film. This is the most brutal and violent film of the year that isn’t called “The Raid.” It gets grimy and raw right off the bat and never lets up. And while the whole thing can be horribly depressing, it also has plenty of moments where you’re pumped up and ready to see Zoe destroy her opponents. The film also serves as a commentary on the exploitation of women, so if you like your action films with a little bit of depth, there’s that too.
5.) The Sacrament
If you know anything about Jonestown, then “The Sacrament” holds no surprises for you. When they said this film was inspired by those events, they weren’t kidding. Still, it’s an intense film and probably one of the few “mockumentary” films that actually felt grounded in reality. Ti West did a very clever thing with this film and that was creating a premise which involved Vice investigating a cult. By using a documentary crew like Vice, you can get away with having great cameras and professionally shot footage. This isn’t someone with a hand camera running through the jungle. It carries the weight of a professional documentary which makes the film feel that much more real. Also helping with the immersion is Gene Jones who does a great job of portraying the enigmatic cult leader Father. He hits you with that southern charm, but still manages to create a sinister undertone that leaves you constantly uneasy. And that’s what this film does well, it forgoes the big scares for creating a constant sense of uneasiness.
Oculus is the best “is this real or not?” film I’ve seen in awhile. As things were ramping up to the big finale I was constantly wondering what was real and what was an illusion. Very few films can keep me guessing like “Oculus” did and I appreciate when a film can keep me off balanced for the majority of the experience. Unfortunately, the film commits the sin of using lame ghosts to spice things up, but I still thought it was a well done piece that offered a great take on the haunted object story.
Here’s the thing: I really hated “Paranormal Activity 4.” In fact, I thought the series was essentially dead after that one. I remember telling someone that if the franchise didn’t do something drastic and different, it would be over. Enter “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.” While still sticking close to the PA formula, this movie broke out and felt like an entirely new experience. It incorporated a new setting and presented a different take on the story we had seen in the previous four films. It blended elements of horror, superheroes, and comedy together in a tight little package that made me believe there was still life in the “Paranormal Activity” franchise. And how about that ending? Crazy? Yes. Dumb? Possibly. But I totally loved it.
2.) The Babadook
Every year there’s a film that comes along and starts generating insane amounts of hype. “The Babadook” was that film this year. People kept calling it the scariest movie they’d ever seen and possibly the best horror movie of all time. Is it? No, I don’t think so. But that’s all subjective anyways. However, “The Babadook” is one of the better films you’ll see this year. It does a great job of exploring emotional subjects like repressed rage and resentment while tying it together with some creepy supernatural elements. It also left me thinking at the end and it was one of the few times I found myself eager to talk to other people about the film’s ultimate meaning. I can’t think of another film that has stirred as much discussion as this one in recent memory.
“Cheap Thrills” made me feel utterly disgusted and left me wanting to take a shower. It was great. It’s an intense movie that slowly ramps up the depravity in a way that made me believe that two people could do such absolutely horrible things to one another. It’s a simple premise, but the execution is what makes the film so remarkable for me. It’s beautifully shot, well written, and features great performances by David Koechner and Pat Healy. It’s a solid film that left me twisted up in knots all the way up to the end.
WORST HORROR MOVIES
3.) A Haunted House 2
I could’ve put this at number one, but I did that last year and kind of feel guilty about repeating myself over again. And to be honest, it’s not a completely horrible movie. It’s just lame. But I do have to acknowledge that it at least tried to do something different, unlike the other two films on this list, and just utterly missed the mark. I mean, I’ve never seen a grown man fuck a little doll. That’s certainly different. So good job “A Haunted House 2”, you surprised me with your sexual depravity. I can’ t wait for “Haunted House 3.”
2.) Devil’s Due
I was actually looking forward to seeing this one, but unfortunately it turned out to be a formulaic and uninspired experience. It was the most generic “found footage” film I saw this year and it didn’t really attempt to bring anything new to the subgenre. If this film had been released at the start of the “Paranormal Activity” craze it would’ve gotten a better reception, but too many movies have done what this movie did and done it better.
1.) I, Frankenstein
But if you want to talk about generic films, there was no bigger offender than “I, Frankenstein.” Everything about this film just screamed early 2000 edginess. I can at least remember certain scenes in “Devil’s Due”, but I can’t for the life of me remember “I, Frankenstein.” It’s such a bad movie. Terrible acting, generic characters, bland action, etc. There are no redeeming qualities for this film. I feel confident in saying that it was the worst thing put out in 2014.
MOST OKAYEST HORROR MOVIE
I really want to like “See No Evil 2”, it’s an inoffensive slasher flick in the style of an 80’s/90’s horror film. It’s like they were given a checklist of standard slasher movie tropes and they went about checking them off. They try to throw a twist at you towards the end, but it ultimately doesn’t really do much to change the film. If that twist never happens you could still end the film in the same way. It’s a twist born out of the necessity for shock value which only makes the film feel even hollower. There’s nothing wrong with a standard “paint-by-numbers” slasher, but this film could’ve been so much more. With the collective talents of Danielle Harris, Katherine Isabella, and the Soska Sisters I felt that there was a lot of promise here that the film never lived up too.
So that’s it. That’s my list for the best and worst of 2014. Have something to say? Want to disagree or agree? Head to the comments down below and let me know what your best and worst of 2014 were.