Andy Deen’s Top Ten Films of 2015

Andy Deen’s Top Ten Films of 2015

So here we are , a little later than planned, my Top Ten horror films of 2015. The year was a strange one as it started pretty well especially with It Follows then it went very quiet until of course Frightfest kicked it and then all hell broke loose !! Some absolute amazing horror films that have really stretched the genre, there is so much thought now going into horror making for far more intelligent viewing than in many years previously.

howldvd10) Howl (Dir – Paul Hyett)

So I am a massive fan of Paul Hyett’s début feature The Seasoning House, which if you haven’t seen it then check it out, so I was really looking forward to Howl. Full of fantastic British actors and set in the confines of a railway carriage Howl brings the werewolf genre a new and fantastic addition. Funny, claustrophobic and full of wonderful physical effects , Howl looks amazing and the cast work so well in such a confines space. Well worth checking out and keep an eye out for Paul Hyett and his new feature coming in 2016!

 

reel19) Reel (Dir – Chris Goodwin)

When UKHS writer Nick Trenchard reviewed Reel , he just raved about it and said in his review “A must watch for any horror fan”. So with REEL being available to watch online and for FREE I did just that. Anyway I am not a huge found footage fan nor am I a gore hound , so I was not expecting to like REEL but I loved it. The story of an online horror critic Todd Smith who is stalked by a deranged obsessive . It is a phenomenal feature especially as the budget was an incredible $4000. The practical effects are jaw-droppingly nasty and look out for Reel 2 soon. And watch it for free here – http://hiddenhorizons.net/reel/ .

bloodsucking-bastards8) Bloodsucking Bastards (Dir – Brian James O’Connell)

The first night at Grimmfest threw up Bloodsucking Bastards which was a film I had very little knowledge of and beforehand Grimmfest big-cheese Simeon told me to expect The Office with vampires ! And that’s exactly what it was. Bloodsucking Bastards is a horror comedy that really does almost all the right notes. From the start we are introduced to a group of slackers working in an office call centre and then a new office manager takes over and all hell breaks loose. At times laugh out loud funny and with lashings of blood , it is definitely a film for a weekend night with a few beers and a few friends.

 

lgc7) Landmine Goes Click (Dir – Levan Bakhia)

The first of a few films on this list that I saw at Grimmfest. We had already got a review of Landmine on UKHS before I had seen it plus an interview with the director, so I knew what I was going to see! RUBBISH! Landmine Goes Click starts with a trio of young American tourists exploring the gorgeous Georgia countryside, then while posing for a photo one steps on a landmine. So where does the film go from there? Well you will just have to track this down and watch for yourself as Landmine Goes Click is one of the most unusual, hard-hitting and thoroughly nasty films you will see , yet it is in equal measure beautiful. A Must See as it goes to places you would never expect!!

thegift16) The Gift (Dir – Joel Edgerton)

One of the big releases this year The Gift follows the story of a married couple Simon & Robyn (Jason Bateman & Rebecca Hall) who move to a new home and Simon bumps into an old & creepy schoolmate Gordo (Joel Edgerton). After Gordo takes a present and they have an uncomfortable meal, Simon decides enough is enough and tries to put an end to their new friendship. But will it be that easy? A superb and immensely tense thriller that is full of twists and turns. Bateman is brilliant as Simon who while being initially the victim is immensely unlikeable  from the start while Joel Edgerton gives a wonderful turn as the socially awkward Gordo and as director gives one of the finest débuts in years.

Cruel-_-Unusual_poster_small5) Cruel and Unusual (Dir – Merlin Dervisevic)

Another directorial debut is Merlin Dervisevic’s Cruel and Unusual. The story of a man who is wrongly convicted of the murder of his wife. He is then incarcerated in an unknown location where he is forced to relive her death for eternity. Cruel and Unusual was a recommendation from a friend, and the only place I could find it was on Amazon UK on VOD. I rarely watch anything online but I plumped for it and by god it was a good choice. A stunning piece of cinema that is both utterly bleak and yet full of hope. Cruel and Unusual is a film that must be seen and WHY is it not available on DVD? It might not be everyone’s cup of tea , as it is slowly paced and very deliberate. But for me it was beautiful and so very emotional at times. As débuts go then almost as good as it gets.

turbokid14) Turbo Kid (Dir – François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell)

Where do you start with Turbo Kid? Well I caught it at Grimmfest on the massive screen and holy fuck!! A young orphaned comic book obsessed teenage boy spends his days in a post-apocalyptic wasteland riding round on his BMX scavenging so he can trade for water which is scarce. He then meets a completely bonkers girl called Apple and they form an odd and beautiful friendship. This friendship is put to the test when they cross paths with leader of the wasteland Zeus (Michael Ironside) . Turbo Kid is just a blast from start to finish, it is a throwback to Eighties action and post apocalyptic films but does it far better than 99% of them. Not just that but it is full of OTT action, blood and comedy. A film with a heart , a story and BMXs !! Definitely cult and definitely a classic.

itfollows3) It Follows (Dir – David Robert Mitchell)

Nineteen year-old Jay (Maika Monroe) has a sexual encounter with Hugh (Jake Weary) , then immediately afterwards he chloroforms Jay and she awakes strapped to a wheelchair with Hugh rambling about how sorry he is and how she must sleep with someone to pass on ‘the curse’ . Hugh also tells Jay that she will she ‘it’ and ‘it’ may take on the form of people she knows. Seriously if you have not seen It Follows where have you been? It Follows is a gorgeous throwback to late Seventies to early Eighties horror. It Follows looks amazing, and the lack of technology (apart from an e-reader) is brilliant . From the time Jay is cursed she sees people coming for her, and she is the only on who can see ‘it’. And when she runs ‘it follows’ . The thing that makes It Follows so scary is the dread! It made me uneasy throughout, I was quite literally on the edge of my cinema seat , yet there are few jump scares but the pacing is just bang on!! Every so often a horror film comes along and is a game-changer, and in years to come It Follows will be seen as such. There is just so much to It Follows that I could rant on for ages and although it is not number one I do think it is the best straight up horror of 2015 and I expect it will grow on me more as time goes on. Oh and the soundtrack is superb.

deathg12) Deathgasm (Dir – Jason Lei Howden)

Anyone who knows me, will understand why Deathgasm is so high in the list. I love horror films (no shit) but I also have a deep love for everything Heavy Metal. SO when a film comes along with a poster as fucking metal as Deathgasm then it had me literally shaking in my boots. I even gave up the chance of seeing one of my fave bands on a reunion tour to see Deathgasm on the big screen at Grimmfest, and I made the right choice. Deathgasm is the story of Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) a metalhead who is moved to a dead-end town in New Zealand to stay with his god-bothering Auntie & Uncle , oh and his obnoxious jock of a cousin. Once there he becomes firm friends with Zakk (James Blake) an off the rails metalhead and they then form a band called Deathgasm with two nerds Dion & Giles. The band unwittingly summon a demon and blood-soaked hilarity ensues . As a heavy metal horror Deathgasm NAILS IT. Funny, bloody, and with the most hilarious music video shoot (Black Metal fans will know what I mean when they see it), Deathgasm is a MUST SEE!

he-never-died (1)1) He Never Died (Dir – Jason Krawczyk)

And Number ONE for 2015 is He Never Died. Now I went into seeing HND at Grimmfest knowing absolutely nothing about it. All I knew was Henry Rollins was in it, that’s it! And I was completely and utterly blown away. Henry Rollins plays Jack a curmudgeonly bad-tempered loner. Jack goes to the same cafe every day, sleeps a lot, he visits a local church and plays bingo and oh yeah he is a cannibal. Then a couple of things throw him from his daily monotony. Firstly a couple of local gangsters knock on his door looking for a mutual acquaintance (with brilliant consequences) and secondly his teenage daughter, whom he has never seen, knocks on his door . Henry Rollins just makes He Never Died, he is almost monosyllabic yet delivers the lines with pinpoint accuracy and physically he just throws himself into the role. The acting is superb, the script and dialogue runs so smooth and is near perfect. And finally the whole backstory for Jack just wraps He Never Died into one of the finest horror films of the last 10 years. Just watch it. And finally it is currently being made into a TV series starring Henry Rollins which just makes me so fucking happy.

Below are the honourable mentions , films that I loved yet couldn’t fit on my list. Check them out!

Amigo Undead
The Stranger
Clown
Suburban Gothic
Honeymoon
Pay The Ghost
Blackwood
A Christmas Horror Story
Tales of Halloween
The Final Girls
Charlie’s Farm
Spring
Creep

DUD of the year.

Cherry-Tree-Movie-Poster-David-KeatingCherry Tree (Dir – David Keating)

I never like to slag films off but each year I always make room for the one film that made me angry. Cherry Tree opened FrightFest and was featured at Grimmfest. How?? Cherry Tree looks amazing and the poster was superb. However it is a dreadful horror film, it is all over the place and features so many horror tropes which it mixes up and spits out all in the wrong places. Faith is a schoolgirl who finds out her Dad is dying and then gets involved with her hockey teacher who is a witch and she tells Faith that she can save her Father’s life. The problem is that Faith (luckily on her 16th birthday) has to get pregnant and give birth to the spawn of Satan!! For me as the film progresses it gets worse and worse, I also really disliked the way the schoolgirls seemed to objectified throughout including an awful girls hockey game. The only good thing in Cherry Tree are the centipedes !! Just steer clear , avoid and don’t watch.

James Pemberton’s Best Films of 2015

JAMES PEMBERTON’S BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR- 2015

2015 where has it gone? It does not seem that long ago since it started back in January and now where in the final straight heading to Christmas and then past to the new year and 2016. So naturally it’s time we did our best of the year lists compiling and trying to remember what I saw in the past 12 months, what was great and not so great along with a brief list of non-horror films that I highly recommend. The list is not done as a countdown from 10 to 1 instead its done in the best of list etc…….

exmachinaEX MACHINA (Dir- Alex Garland, UK, 2014)

Novelist and screenwriter Garland, who penned the brilliant DREDD film, makes his directorial debut in this excellent Science Fiction drama which focuses on themes of Artificial Intelligence, power, control and female objectification. A brilliant cast featuring Domhall Gleeson as an employee who gets the lucky opportunity to go to his head bosses retreat, a shadowy computer inventor again played by Oscar Isaac, and take part in an interview with a female robot that he has created, called Ava, played by Aliciaa Vikander to evaluate her human quality’s. A game is played between the three that causes distrust, paranoia and obsession. As well as being one of the more intelligent takes on AI in a science fiction film, it also raises questions on the way men see women and how if we can create the perfect image of who we want then how much control and trust do we have over that. A film that will be worthy of repeat viewings and highly recommended if you haven’t seen it.

itfollowsIT FOLLOWS ( Dir- David Robert Mitchell, USA, 2014)

A horror film that has garnered a lot of critical attention from the non horror film press, IT FOLLOWS might have proven one of those love or hate films that can divide a genre audiences, especially when the mainstream press start to sing its praises. Either way it still garnered favourable reviews form both sides and in particular even though Mitchell has not directed a genre film prior to this he somehow manages to bring a fresh, unnerving and unique take on what is essentially an urban legend horror fable. In many ways the film owes a lot to the work of John Carpenter thanks in part to its suburban setting and it’s soundtrack (brilliant created by artist Disasterpiece) which conjures up a nightmarish soundtrack to the urban myth like horror that unfolds close to home. Still think THE STD HUNTING’S would have been a better title.

mmfrMAD MAX: FURY ROAD (Dir- George Miller, AUSTRALIA/USA, 2015)

Finally a big budget action blockbuster which works and even if it is one long chase sequence it is one hell of a chase. Containing some of the best action sequences in recent memory (aside form THE RAID and RAID 2) the film does it best by keeping simple, yet intense and thrilling. It also doesn’t pander or skimp on the violence which in this day and age of studios trimming down films to fit a 12A rating is refreshing and adds to the hard edge. As well as containing some fantastic character and production design the actors play the roles well amidst the chaos, with Tom Hardy suitably brooding and intense as Max, saying very little, yet the acting honours goes to Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa who steals the show as the tough as nails female heroine leading her convey of brides from the clutches of the slimy Immortan Joe and his band of lunatic cult army warriors the War-Boys. Stunning and breathtaking in every sense, it’s the sequel Miller has been wanting to make for ages and it was worth the wait.

Lost_Soul_poster[1]LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR MOREAU (Dir- David Gregory, UK, 2014)

The first of three documentaries on my best of list’s and one of the best to look at what could have been a brilliant film that ended up being mired in confusion, set backs, over demanding actors and a director being fired from a project that was essentially his. That director was Richard Stanley who was riding high after HARDWARE and DUST DEVIL and was given the opportunity by New Line Cinema to adapt HG Welles classic novel on a big budget. However it wasn’t to be, even if we get to see some of the brilliant design and art work that went into the movies pre-production process it was brought down to earth by Stanley not being able to keep control or focus on the demands of gigantic production crew and being faced by the antics and attitudes of grade A cunt Val Kilmer, who was big back then if you remember him. Booted off the film and replaced by veteran director John Frankenheimer (who was glad to get work) the film then faced the arrival and antics of Marlon Brando as Moreau who drove the production into further disarray. Documentaries based on chaotic productions such as MOREAU are always fascinating and after watching this again there’s even more revelations that come across as shocking and at the same time funny as hell. Part of you will understand after watching this that Stanley may have been in way over his head and may of not been ready for the demands of such a big production, yet part of you will sympathise with the directors plight and treatment on the film as well, and would wish to have seen his version rather than the end result which came out and eventually flopped badly.

thelookofsilenceTHE LOOK OF SILENCE (Dir- Joshua Oppenheimer, VARIOUS COUNTRY’S, 2014)

Admittedly some might question the inclusion of this on the main list and not on the non-horror list (maybe), but since in my best of in 2013 I included Oppenheimer’s previous documentary THE ACT OF KILLING, I thought I might as well include his follow up THE LOOK OF SILENCE, which follows the same path focusing on the Indonesian genocide and its after effects in the country. This time it follows Adi, an optometrist, who confronts the people who may have murdered or been complicit in the murder of his older brother in the 1965 genocide. Like his prior documentary it offers some disturbing and chilling revelations where the perpetrators of the massacres willingly gloat and recreate the murders they committed in mass numbers. Adi deserves brilliant praise for holding his own temper in confrontation with some former generals who ordered the slaughter who fire back with what is almost just straight out threatening his life. A worthy follow up that again offers an uncomfortable view on the past and how this one dark episode has been albeit pretty much interpreted in two ways, one that’s celebrated and looked upon as triumphant achievement and one that’s been ignored as a brutal mass slaughter of many innocent people. I still came out of this disturbed by the one interviewees revelations that the execution squad he was with drank the blood of their victims to stop them from going insane. It’s a faint reminder that horror can exist and has existed in real life and is more disturbing than any fiction.

hardtobeagodHARD TO BE A GOD (Dir- Aleksey German, RUSSIA, 2013)

One of the most maddening yet highly original films that I’ve seen this year. German’s final film, that has taken over a decade to complete (he sadly passed away leaving his son to complete the film) tells the story of a group of scientists who are sent to the planet Arkanar, a planet that is stuck in a medieval period, only to observe the inhabitants, yet not to interfere only to try and steer it into a more progressive age. It would be difficult to summarise any more of the film as it follows such an immersive narrative that is at confusing that it sometimes is difficult to keep up with whats going on. However that said the style of the film is one of such a unique perspective and take that displays an original brilliance that I haven’t seen in a film at the cinema for quite a while. Shot in black and white the camera acts like where almost an observer, floating around the muddy blood drenched castle landscapes and areas that seem to be covered in more rain in a day than Manchester gets in a month, with background extras and characters staring into the camera making crude gestures. A unique and bold film that is truly worth seeing though it might prove a tough watch for many.

thegift1THE GIFT (Dir- Joel Edgerton, USA, 2015)

Actor Edgerton made a strong and excellent directorial début with this dark and unnerving thriller where the past comes back to haunt the present. He also acts in the film as Gordo an acquaintance from the past of Simon, played by Jason Bateman, who is married to Robyn, played by Rebecca Hall. The couple are successful in life and have just recently moved into a fancy modern house. Gordo however seems a bit unstable and less successful, yet revelations from the past regarding his history with Simon starts to put him in a sympathetic light, despite his creepy presence, whilst Simon’s true underlining bullying nature is revealed making his wife doubt his real character. Edgerton knows how to craft unnerving tension throughout and is confident behind the camera as well as in front. Hall is superb as the wife who is forced to confront her husband’s true character and Bateman, who has mostly been in comedic roles, is excellent as Simon who seems to be the normal successful suburbanite yet has a true manipulative and conniving double crossing nature. At its heart the film is a revenge movie yet it is also a classic fable of how past deeds can come back to haunt you. One of the best mainstream films to come out over the summer period that doesn’t rely on superheroes or CGI effects, rather it places its emphasis on character and story whilst cranking up the tension and unease.

The-Dance-of-Reality-Poster-1000WTHE DANCE OF REALITY (Dir- Alejandro Jodorowsky, FRANCE/CHILE, 2013)

I would like to make a brief acknowledgement to the new HOME cinema in this list as it’s already shown to be a worthy replacement to Manchester’s Cornerhouse which closed down in April to relocate to First Street. Admittedly the name of the place is not that great, but the five cinema screens they have on offer has managed to give a chance to see some of the films that are in this list and one of them was this new offering from legendary cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky which I caught on a Bank Holiday Monday afternoon screening. Not as crazed as his masterpieces EL TOPO, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN or SANTA SANGRE, it is still marked with the directors trademark style and still features some outlandish and often graphic scenes. A semi autobiographical coming of age story, the film is more about the coming of age for the boy protagonist’s Stalin obsessed father which takes him on a quest of assassinating a communist leader, becoming an apprentice to a blind carpenter and eventually being captured and tortured by secret police. Highly original and beautifully designed throughout the film proves that even at the ripe old age of 86 the director still can craft a unique and individual vision.

deathg1DEATHGASM (Dir- Justin Lei Howden, NEW ZEALAND, 2015)

Definitely owing a debt to the earlier gore laden works of Peter Jackson, DEATHGASM, proved a highly enjoyable and brilliantly funny horror movie, which was one of the stand out films at Grimm Fest and was one of the best films to watch with a crowd. It follows metal head Brodie who meets fellow metal head Zakk and the two form a band along with another two outcasts. However when they play a tune from a music sheet they have found and which is also wanted by a devil worshipping cult, they unleash a whole slew of demonic forces on their drab home town. Combining some brilliant gore scenes with a great strain of dark humour the film is fun from start to finish and most of all it pays homage to the heavy metal scene as well as poking fun at it. The band’s attempt at making a music video is one of the highlight scenes in the film which references to those familiar with heavy metal, especially Immortal’s hilarious Call of the Wintermoon video (watch it on you-tube if you haven’t seen it). A crazed and hilarious gore filled horror that will delight genre fans with its energy and enthusiasm.

theforbiddenroomTHE FORBIDDEN ROOM (Dir- Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, CANADA, 2015)

It would be hard to write a plot synopsis for Guy Maddin’s latest film (co-directed with collaborator Evan Johnson) yet what the film does encapsulate is a highly original crazed unique kaleidoscopic vision that is unlike anything else I’ve seen at the cinema this year. Playing like a series of random story’s made to look like lost classic films from early cinema, it encompasses story’s of a submarine crew trapped at the bottom of the sea, a woodsman who turns up in the submarine and recounts a story of his love being kidnapped by a werewolf cult, Filipino vampires, skeleton women seducing men and taking their souls in some warped insurance brokers, a two headed statue bust which possesses its owners and a dead father helping his son and blind wife. All the story’s bleed into each other in a dream like pattern, with deliberately scratched images that are manipulated and warped digitally adding to the constant pattern of madness, early cinema references and strains of surreal humour throughout. A film that is worth seeing on a big screen it will leave you exhausted, confused though at the same time it is one of the best tributes to underground, lost cinema and genre cinema, where you can get lost in it’s insane dream like structure.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Of course there where some films that didn’t make the final cut or grade but where just as good. HE NEVER DIES seen at Grimmfest this year is a fantastic flick starring Henry Rollins who is excellent in the leading role. THE TRIBE is a truly unique, dark and brutal experience pitching as the worlds first film to use an entire cast of deaf actors. EXCESS FLESH was one of the stand out films at Grimmfest, a brooding and dark psychological tale of the female body image, obsession and insanity. AAAAAAAAH! Which I saw recently is Steve Oram’s directorial debut, a darkly comic look at a world where people live just exactly as us but communicate and act like apes, both highly original and somehow savagely relevant in a certain way.

NON-HORROR FILM LIST

I decided to add a brief list of films that are technically non-horror, however I will highly recommend checking these out as they remain some of the best I’ve seen this year.

foxcatcherFOXCATCHER (Dir- Bennet Miller, USA, 2014)

MONEYBALL director Miller enters into the sporting world again this time in the form of Olympic wrestling. A brooding dark study of power, ambition and control, brilliantly carried by some superb central performances from Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo who play the Schultz brothers who end up meeting disturbed millionaire John DuPont who promises them funding for the Olympic wrestling team for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. However DuPont increasingly becomes obsessive and disturbed, gradually descending into paranoia leading to tragic consequences. As Du Pont Steve Carrell delivers a brilliant performance of a man used to privilege and getting what he wants, but who is also mentally unstable and ends up being more a pitiful tragic character rather than a controlling monster.

Whiplash - 2014 - tt2582802 - PosterWHIPLASH (Dir- Damien Chazelle, USA, 2014)

A unique and subversive take on the tough love student teacher relationship, WHIPLASH is a stunning fast paced and often verbally brutal charged film where an aspiring student jazz drummer played superbly by Miles Teller, goes under the regime like teaching of Fletcher, played with stunning ferocity by J.K. Simmons. Fletcher is more like drill instructor than teacher as he pushes the pupil to the limit always wanting perfection rather than very good. A breakneck film that will leave you stunned once the credits roll.

 

precinctsevenfivePRECINCT SEVEN FIVE (Dir- Tiller Russell, USA, 2014)

The third documentary in my list is a brilliant rise and fall story of police corruption at its most brazen and ruthless. Michael O’Dowd stole money from crime scenes, took bribes, did drugs and eventually dealt drugs whilst offering protection for a Colombian drug lord that any honest cop would be chasing. He led others into is chain of corruption even robbing rival drug dealers whilst disguising there police uniforms. Was it the poor pay and the violent war zone like neighbourhood of the Bronx that drove these policeman to embrace corruption and its rewards and was it the charisma of O’Dowd that led them down the wrong path? He comes across as a charismatic interviewee and we are hooked by his recounting of what he did and his eventual fall from grace. It plays like a reverse version of GOODFELLAS with such the allure of corruption and the high financial rewards it brings and then with the eventual crash, burn and public humiliation. Interesting side fact Enzo Castellari shot parts of his post apocalyptic actioner THE BRONX WARRIORS after the producer accidentally missed his subway stop and ended up there, thinking that it would make a great setting.

99_Homes-poster-311x40099 HOMES (Dir- Ramin Bahrani, USA, 2014)

If anything Bahrani’s 99 HOMES is a true horror story as it focuses on the fall out of the 2008 financial crisis and its after effects that led to many family’s having their home foreclosed on by the bank and being evicted. One such character is Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) a builder who is evicted along with his son and mother onto the street out of his family home by ruthless real estate agent, Rick Carver (Michael Shannon). Desperate for work and to get his home back Nash takes employment under Carver and ends up selling his soul to this real estate devil, slowly learning the trade of eviction and corruption that it brings and becoming increasingly trusted by Carver though at the same time losing the respect and trust of his own family. Two brilliant central performances drive the film, with Garfield playing the desperate man trying to make a living and bring up his son and support him the honest way, and Shannon who is striking figure as the cold hearted and often brutally blunt Carver. A film that left me certainly exhausted after seeing it at the cinema, its a true and often savage commentary of the mess that has been caused and the consequences that occur due to the financial meltdown brought on by the greed of others.

Also should mention props to BIRDMAN a brilliantly darkly comic satire on superhero movies and the form of artistic reinvention, PASOLINI, Abel Ferrara’s look at the last 24 hours of the life of director Pier Palo Pasolini, and BLACK MASS a clichéd if efficient gangster thriller with Johnny Depp on great form as the ruthless true life figure of gang boss Whitey Bulger.

So that’s 2015, already 2016 is looking good with GREEN ROOM the new film from Jeremy Saulnier, BEFORE I WAKE from OCULUS director Mike Flanagan and at the start of the year the much talked about THE REVENANT from BIRDMAN director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and of course there’s bound to be something else that will come up and surprise us as well. Hope your Christmas has been good and see you on the other side!

Rosie Gibbs’ Top 5 Horrors of 2015

Rosie Gibbs’ Top 5 Horrors of 2015

deathgasm5 – ‘Deathgasm

Taking the cultural staple of heavy metal and the Devil naturally going hand-in-hand as its theme, this inventive horror romp was unleashed this year, from director Jason Lei Howden and starring Milo Cawthorne as loveable ne’er-do-well metal devotee Brodie. Our hero unwittingly releases an evil entity from Hell itself during band practise in his uncle’s garage, and along with his girl-next-door crush Medina and his misfit bandmates, he must save his normally sleepy New Zealand home town (and Earth!) from certain self-destruction. This is a no-holds barred giggle-along which is sure to become a modern classic – if you’re in the mood for in-your-face blood and guts by the bucket, witty dialogue and a killer black (or is it death?) metal soundtrack, this definitely delivers the goods on all that – essential horror viewing from 2015!

iood4 – ‘In Order of Disappearance

More of a black comedy / thriller than a horror outright, ‘In Order of Disappearance’ still presents us with a subtle measure of gore and there’s no denying this story still qualifies as a killing spree! Stellan Skarsgard plays Nils, a mild-mannered Swede who resides in Norway, earning a quiet and peaceful living as a road maintenance and clearance worker. After his only son is mistakenly murdered by local drug barons, Nils sets out for revenge – and by his hand (and with the assistance of his huge mother of a snow plough), bad guys aplenty of various nationalities and creeds start dropping all over the place. Hans Peter Molland directs this very enjoyable piece, and the beauty of snow-blanketed Norway doesn’t exactly work against it visually. Skarsgard is wonderfully understated as Nils and the supporting cast are top notch also, and while the storyline isn’t highly original, the film doesn’t try to present it as so – it’s simply a murder revenge tale outlined in classic subtle Scandinavian style, and all the better for it. ‘In Order…’ delivers an enjoyable and satisfying thrill for a good night in and deserves a place in any horror DVD collection worth its weight!

wloucover3 – ‘What’s Left of Us’ / ‘El Desierto

This one’s the hidden gem for me – it didn’t get a particularly wide release in cinemas but I was fortunate enough to get to review it this year for UKHS and it’s really something rather special. In Christophe Behl’s feature film directorial debut, we meet 30-somethings Ana, Jonathan and Axel, who have found themselves holed up in a well-barricaded Argentinian apartment after surviving your typical infection-based apocalypse. Over the weeks and months together, we see struggles unfold between the three as they cope with their isolation and co-habitation, with inevitable tensions arising. This film is a breath of fresh air from the usual dose of jump scares and high-end terror – if you want ‘less is more’ horror that makes you think and includes well-acted, engaging characters, this ticks those boxes. It also features the must-mention of the best, most original ‘zombie’ acting I have witnessed in a decade or two! ‘What’s Left of Us’ is well-worth seeking out – you’ll be very glad you did!

howldvd2 – ‘Howl

What can I say? This for me was the highlight of Manchester’s Grimmfest festival 2015. Director Paul Hyett this year brought us a tour-de-force, edge-of-your-seat belter of a werewolf tale with excellent special effects (that will last), on-point pacing, well-developed characters and a fresh storyline. Never before have I become so involved in a horror protagonist’s struggle and rarely have I been so thrilled by the sheer action in a horror film! Ed Speleers does an absolute star turn as put-upon rail worker-turned hero Joe and I was literally cheering him on under my breath during his final big push to escape the furry foes. The whole cast in fact is fantastic, particularly Rosie Day, Sam Gittins and good old Duncan Preston, and the werewolves are brilliantly designed. This is all in all an absolute must-see for every horror fan – so strap yourself in, prepare to be blown away and JUST SEE IT!

housebounddvd1- ‘Housebound

My absolute favourite of all 2015 horror releases (although it very nearly lost out to ‘Howl’!) is the simply excellent ‘Housebound’. Director Gerard Johnstone’s tale of coming home, secrets uncovered, reconciliation and ingenious use of household objects as defence weapons is an absolute joy and one of the best films I’ve seen in the last few years. Morganna O’Reilly and Rima Te Wiata are fantastic as the at-loggerheads mother and daughter trying to co-exist and crucially, work out whether or not their house really is haunted – and their quest leads to creative scares, moments of bonkers yet not over-blown humour and genuine pathos. Add to this its brilliant set design, unpredictable plot twists and likeable, well-acted characters – and viola, the result is perfection! Get hold of it, see it, treasure it!

‘Dud’ of 2015…

sotd1Soldiers of the Damned

In this film directed and produced by Mark Nuttall, we see Major Kurt Fleisher and his men stationed in Romania in World War II, instructed to escort a professor on her search within a secret forest location for a highly powerful occult artefact desired by one Heinrich Himmler. This is the one this year that sadly really didn’t cut it for me – it starts off promisingly with a few well-paced opening scenes but soon loses its way due to a rather confusing plot, wooden acting in places and clunky dialogue, mixed with uninspired scares to boot. Overall even at 99 minutes it felt far too long and as I said in the review, it’s not one I’d ever re-visit!

Top Ten Horror Films of 2015 by Christopher Stewart

Top Ten Horrors of 2015

cooties10: Cooties

It’s usually uncouth in horror films to kill a child, so when you get a film which takes the zombie sub-genre and makes it exclusively zombie children you know it’s a film that’s taking risks. Obviously this film is played for laughs, and they have a great cast for the job including Rainn Wilson (Super, The Office) and Elijah Wood (The Faculty, Maniac). However the actor who steals the show is Saw writer, Leigh Whannell, as the science teacher. Gruesome, gory and full of giggles.

itfollows9: It Follows

This one is going to be on most people’s top ten list this year, especially since it’s one of the better films that got a theatrical release this year. An oddball plot involving a vicious entity that will stalk indefinitely until it kills, a sexually transmitted curse, and non-stop paranoia, It Follows is definitely one of this year’s most original films.

wash18: We Are Still Here

While the haunted house film is still monopolising the cinema releases, We Are Still Here shows them how it’s done. The antithesis of the Paranormal Activity franchise, We Are Still Here gives us fantastic visual FX apparitions, buckets of gore, and original plot that keeps the audience gripped. Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) leads a refreshing cast of older actors who prove that we don’t need a group of teenagers being haunted to make things interesting.

summercamp17: Summer Camp

One of my favourites from this year’s Film4 Fright Fest. The directorial debut of [REC] producer, Alberto Marini, shows his spin on infection horror. One part 28 Days Later style Rage Virus, One part comedy of errors, Summer Camp is a roller coaster ride through genre tropes and takes the audience to unexpected places. Definitely one I’m looking forward to re-watching when it comes out on DVD.

DeepDark_Art-with-Tagline6: Deep Dark

Deep Dark is one film that I had the fortune of seeing by reviewing for UK Horror Scene this year and probably would have missed out on otherwise. Thankfully I got to see this film in all it’s weird glory. A send up of the art world while taking a trip through a Cronenberg-esque fantasy. It’s like Videodrome for all the starving artists.

 

the visit5: The Visit

If you had told me six months ago that M. Night Shyamalan was going to make a found footage horror film and that it would actually be fun and creepy, I would not have believed you. It’s this surprise that puts The Visit at fifth place on my list. Old people are rarely the villains in anything, let alone horror films, but these pensioners are exceptionally creepy. Shyamalan’s use of humour manages to balance out the fear that keeps our kid protagonists in danger for the film. A good example of found footage done well.

eat4: Eat

I had never heard about Eat before I picked it up on DVD but as soon as I heard it was about auto-cannibalism I was immediately intrigued. Not only does it have pitch black humour and biting (pun intended) commentary on trying to make it in Hollywood, Eat is probably one of the few films to make me cringe this year. Not for those with a weak stomach.

 

clown3: Clown

I saw Clown for the first time when I was at Glasgow Fright Fest in February and this was my favourite of the festival. Killer clown films aren’t the most prevalent sub-genre but when they do rear their grease-painted head, it’s usually the same kind of film. Clown takes the sub-genre off the rails and takes it down a path filled with tragic folklore curses and body horror. Funny, dark and original.

sunchoke12: Sun Choke

Another of my Film4 Fright Fest faves, Sun Choke is probably the most cerebral of my picks of 2015. An insight into the cycles of abuse, Sun Choke is a nightmare following a girl with severe issues lashing out at the world. Barbara Crampton (She’s been busy this year) shows that she can be cruel and kind as Sun Choke’s main antagonist. I feel that this film will be the most polarising of my choices. If you liked film’s like Under The Skin, Sun Choke should be right up your street.

deathgasm1: Deathgasm

When it comes to horror comedies, New Zealand can do no wrong. With Peter Jackson’s early splatter films, and films like Housebound, and What We Do In The Shadows (both were considered for this list and are my unofficial #11 and #12 picks), New Zealand just has the golden touch. Deathgasm spoke directly to my inner sixteen year old, with it’s references to heavy metal, and Dungeons and Dragons. Throw in a bunch of over the top gore effects and insane eye-less demons and you’ve got a recipe for the ultimate heavy metal horror.

PoltergeistDud of the year: Poltergeist

I found it a little difficult to decide on what was my least favourite of the year. Not that 2015 has been a bad year, especially if you’ve had the fortune to visit any festivals this year. However we have had some stinkers like Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension, sad disappointments like Crimson Peak, and snooze-fests like Hangman. When it comes to the film that really upset me this year, it goes to the Poltergeist remake. We didn’t need a remake to Poltergeist and seeing it against my better judgement was one of the biggest mistakes I made this year. Going in with the lowest expectations possible and this film still had me raging. It took all the charm out of the original, filled it with a bunch of CGI knock-offs of the original scares and added stupid gimmicks like a shoplifted drone so we could get some unimpressive shots of the dead world. Just an offensively bad film.

Deathgasm (2015) Review

deathg1Deathgasm (New Zealand, 2015)

Dir: Jason Lei Howden

Starring: Milo Cawthorne, Kimberly Crossman, James Blake

UK DVD TBC from StudioCanal

Plot: Brodie’s a metalhead, forced to move in with his aunt and uncle when his mum goes nuts from too much meth. Adjusting to his new surroundings is hard, his love of metal making him a social outcast. He spends his time playing Dungeons and Dragons with his friends, or eyeing up Medina, his cousin’s hot girlfriend. That is until he meets Zakk, a fellow metalhead. When the two of them discover some ancient music sheets while investigating the squat of legendary metal singer, Rikki Daggers, they soon unleash hell, literally. It’s up to them to stop the forces of evil from taking over, fighting through the town’s demonically possessed population.

It seems like a long time since my teenage years of mosh-pits and twenty-sided die but Deathgasm appeals to those things I held dear back then (although I still love a bit of death metal). Howden brings his expertise as a practical effects man, and his natural talent for horror comedy that I assume comes genetically as a New Zealander, to wow us with Deathgasm. Contributing to the country’s tradition of horror comedy with such films as Brain Dead, Bad Taste, and the more recent What We Do In The Shadows, Deathgasm shows that the crown for horror comedy is firmly resides in New Zealand.

deathg3Deathgasm gives us a heavy dose of splatter that shares a kinship with films like Evil Dead and Brain Dead. The stylised appearance of the possessed as well as the vast array of weapons against them adds visual humour to match the many gags that this film barrages you with. Chainsaws, Axes (Both traditional axes and awesome guitars), paintball guns loaded with dice, and a few more I won’t mention because when you see you will laugh your balls off, Deathgasm keeps it’s kills fun and inventive.

Brodie is the every man metalhead that we can all relate too, and Medina is the girl next door that we’ve all lusted after. It’s the familiar aspects of Deathgasm that draw you in. I think if you ever listened to metal, you’ve had a friend like Zakk. Yet it’s the gory fun that keeps you watching all the way. It captures both the awkward reality and the powerful fantasy of the metalhead mindset.

As for any film that tries to encapsulate just what it means to be part of a musical sub-culture, Deathgasm has a great soundtrack (keep an eye out, it’s being released on vinyl if you’re a collector) full of face melting riffs. Deathgasm is to the metal community what Kevin and Perry Go Large is to dance music. Good fun and good music.

deathg2If there was a film to rival the popularity of Turbo Kid at this year’s Fright Fest, it’s Deathgasm and I have to say that for me, Deathgasm takes the crown. While Turbo Kid is nostalgic to the 80s, I feel more connected to Deathgasm’s love letter to metal. Both have the gore but this one just rocks harder.

9/10