Elliott Maguire’s Top 10 Films of 2015

Elliott Maguire’s Top 10 Films of 2015 

howl-hyett-poster10. HOWL
After being a huge fan of Paul Hyett’s debut The Seasoning House, expectations were high for Howl. And expectations were met! This ticks so many boxes, full of fun, gore and great acting, and is so slick looking it’s frustrating that it didn’t get a bigger cinema release. Swap the setting to the States and shove some CW network actors in there and this gets shown everywhere. Hunt it down on a full moon night with some beers and friends.

9. SPRING
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Resolution, even though many were, but with Spring, directors Benson & Moorhead have won me over. A beautiful love story set in a terrifying supernatural world, this had the sense to not take its premise too seriously, but it’s characters very much. This is a romance for people who hate romances. Go in with no spoilers.

aimyiac18. AIMY IN A CAGE
The first of two late additions to my list, I just could not leave this out. It’s like nothing out there, and needs to be experienced. To quote my review: “what if Tim Burton and Hunter S. Thompson had a baby, which then wrote a script, which was then directed by Terry Gilliam, but he gave up halfway through and handed it to Darren Aronofsky, who raised Stanley Kubrick from the dead and let him have final cut?” That still doesn’t sum up this trip.

7. LATE PHASES
Similar in pace to Spring but more definitively horror, Late Phases let’s the fantastic Nick Damici take front and centre as a blind OAP veteran trying to survive in a retirement village that hides some grisly secrets. At once a character study and breathless horror, this is another that tugged at the old heart strings.

unfriendedposter6. UNFRIENDED
I expected nothing from this. The concept of a feature length Skype chat didn’t sit right with me. But imagine my surprise when this turned out to be a lightning paced, fiendishly inventive thriller! The build up to the horror is expert, and the technique allows an intimacy with the victims like we haven’t really seen before.

5. SINISTER 2
I loved this sequel. Sinister is the most terrifying mainstream horror of the last couple of years, so it was going to be tough to follow. But what director Ciaron Foy does here is inject that Stephen King feel that you would only “get” if you read his books. It’s hard to define, but the cornfields, the innocence being manipulated, the mythology, the domestic sub-plot…and any film that involves murderous kids is a winner for me. Beautifully shot, well-paced, and inventive, I want more!

wash14. WE ARE STILL HERE
Where the hell did this come from?! Take The Shining, and filter it through the blood-soaked eyes of Giallo horror, and you have this mini-masterpiece. The skill here is keeping the story nice and contained, so that lots of time is spent with the heroes. A beautiful throwback horror with some fantastic practical FX.

3. LET US PREY
As soon as the stylish Goth opening kicked in with a Carpenter-esque synth score, I knew this was for me. The always great Pollyanna McIntosh and Liam Cunningham lead us head first into hell, and I’m still in shock at just how ballsy this film was. Every shot could be straight out of a graphic novel, everything moves at breakneck pace, and before you know it you’re swallowed up in a dark, nasty, energetic descent into darkness. Lots of fun for the whole family this flick.
2. CRUEL SUMMER
The second late addition to the list, this micro-budget British thriller inspired by a true story is one of the most brutal, unforgiving but believable films I’ve seen. I won’t go into detail, but find it. For the astonishing direction, brave performances, and uncompromising script. This is the film that Eden Lake and F wish they were.

itfollows1. IT FOLLOWS
I’m a big fan of minimalist horror, and loved how spare and direct this film was. The roaming camera work, delirious score, and heavy themes and threat meant you could never relax. When the boogeyman can come from anywhere, and will never stop, how can you get away? Although I would have used the concept slightly differently, there is something about this that stays with me. It feels timeless, yet timely. For sheer re-watchability, this had to be my number one.

Honourable Mention:

HANNIBAL
No movie on that list can compare to the beautiful horrors that this show has given us for the past three years. Deeply intelligent and uncomfortably profound, this made horror art, it made bloodshed art, it made FOOD art. As the season three finale ended, and the series ended for good after the network cancelled it, I was gutted. But after the way it ended, I kind of don’t want it to come back. It ended in the most perfect, most disturbingly romantic way. Still really going to miss it.

 

babadookTHE BABADOOK
Maybe the hype ruined this for me, I dunno, but I found myself one step ahead of the Babadook from the start. Not scary, with annoying characters…this years Black Swan for me. A film everyone loved but I found insultingly predictable.

Andy Deen’s Top 10 Horror Films of 2014

Andy Deen’s Top 10 Horror Films of 2014

Well it is that time of the year when I look back over 2014 and give a few thoughts on what I consider to be the best films that came out in 2014. Now when I say came out I mean either were shown in the cinema or had a DVD, BluRay or VOD release in 2014. There are no re-releases or re-issues , but that said 2014 has been full of wonderful releases thanks to people such as Arrow Video, 88 Films, Masters of Cinema, BFI and many more.

WerewolfRising10) Werewolf Rising (BC Furtney) Now the first of three Werewolf films in my Top 10 , Werewolf Rising has been widely slated across horror circles (with the exception of James Simpson). It currently has a rating of 2.5 on IMDB. But I found so much to love in BC Furtney’s feature. Melissa Carnell is a great lead and Bill Oberst Jr is at his best. A film I went into with no expectations that really made me sit up and take notice. Well worth a watch and don’t believe the haters.

9) Wolfcop (Lowell Dean) Wolfcop has featured on UKHS a few times through 2014. From it’s really well run Kickstarter to it’s superb artwork and posters. So when I caught it in October I was expecting a lot , and Wolfcop delivered! Making a horror comedy is difficult, there are just so many ways to slip up but Wolfcop pulled it off with aplomb . From the name of the lead Lou Garou ( a play on loup-garou which is French for Werewolf) to the amazing transformation scenes and hilarious love scene, Wolfcop hits the spot and brings a fresh , face-ripping horror with wonderfully well structured comedy moments and a lovely 1970s vibe. I cannot wait for Wolfcop 2 !!

Late_Phases_poster.18) Late Phases (Adrian Garcia Bogliano) Well the final werewolf film in the Top 10. Late Phases is the story of a blind American war veteran who moves into a retirement village where people are dying from mysterious monthly animal attacks. Lead actor Nick Damici is superb as the bitter, cantankerous and sarcastic Ambrose who just holds everything together throughout and gives one of THE performances of the year. The Werewolves are well done and also Ambrose’s lack of vision really adds to the tension which kicks in with a super brutal attack on his first night. Keep a look out for director Adrian Bogliano !

7) Big Bad Wolves (Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado) Released on DVD in 2014 Big Bad Wolves (but I may add NOT a Werewolf film) is more thriller than pure horror although some of the areas the film enters are truly horrific. It is difficult to discuss BBW without giving away huge spoilers, so I tread carefully. A brutal child killer is terrorising Israel and maverick cop Miki is convinced of the killers identity. A harsh, violent and at times brutal film BBW is just edge of seat stuff that had me completely gripped and left me almost breathless. A dark tale that at times is infused with some wicked humour , BBW is a must see although I will add I did find it a little predictable and easy to read!

raze16) Raze (Josh C Waller) Well out of all my Top 10 Raze is probably the one that came from nowhere. It dropped on my mat with no fanfare and I had to be honest not even registered it was being released. Raze is the story of Sabrina (Zoe Bell – Kill Bill) who wakes in a compound with 50 other women and they must fight to the death until just one remains. If they refuse to fight they are told their loved ones will be killed. The compound is run by the incomparable Doug Jones & Sherilyn Fenn. Raze is at times utterly brutal and the 19 fight sequences are fantastic. Zoe Bell makes the film her own with a performance that brought brutality yet compassion . A bloody violent film that blew me away. Proper low budget exploitation filmmaking at it’s best. No frills, no weapons , it is just survival of the strongest & most brutal.

5) The Babadook (Jennifer Kent) . I was lucky to get to an early screening of The Babadook before all the media attention had really kicked in, and I went in almost knowing nothing of the storyline. And what an absolute joy it was (especially on the big screen). The story of a single mother coming to terms with her husbands death (on the way to take her to hospital to give birth) and struggling with her son who has severe behavioural problems, but she also has the added problem that after reading what looked like a child’s book there may be a monster lurking in her house. The Babadook is a tremendous debut for Jennifer Kent and the acting from the two mains Essie Davis and the phenomenal Noah Wiseman is at times jaw-dropping. A pure horror film that has so many layers. Brilliant.

4) You’re Next (Adam Wingard) Although released in 2011, You’re Next didn’t get a UK DVD release until January 2014 which is why it is on my list as I didn’t see it until then. There probably isn’t much left to say about Adam Wingard’s home invasion belter, but if you have not seen it then you have missed out on a dark, violent, funny and very clever film. Sharni Vinson is superb as Erin and this is the film when Adam Wingard stood up and shouted “LOOK AT ME” and everyone in the horror community (and from much further afield) were stopped dead in their tracks by a piece of genre cinema that could in 30 years time be looked back on like TCM is now . You’re Next could well be the defining film for a generation of horror fans.

Housebound3) Housebound (Gerard Johnstone) Now Housebound may well be unfamiliar to many people as it has not had a UK release. I saw it at the Grimmfest festival in Manchester and some of the Grimmfest crew had already mentioned that this was a winner. Hailing from New Zealand , Housebound is the directorial debut for Gerard Johnstone . The story of Kylie Bucknell (played by the stunning Morgana O’Reilly who is better known from Aussie soap Neighbours) who is caught by police after a bungled cash machine robbery. She is sentenced to house arrest and has to move back into her childhood home , which she must share with her mother who she cannot stand. Her mother is a well meaning gossip who is convinced the house is haunted. And after a series of late night bumps and whispers Kylie slowly starts to believe that her mother may well be onto something. Housebound is just wonderful, it is a hilarious well crafted piece of cinema that has a story, script and actors to put it on the top of most horror films around. It takes the conventional haunted house tropes and turns them 180 degrees and adds a huge dose of comedy that just had me in stitches throughout. The pace of Housebound is spot on and from the first minute to the very last I was totally glued to the screen. An absolute triumph that should be picked up very soon and NEEDS to be seen by as many people as possible.

BATTERY 0012) The Battery (Jeremy Gardner) I picked up The Battery after reading a review on UKHS from our writer Dave Wain (HERE). It was another film that received very little fanfare for it’s UK DVD release. All I can say is that The Battery is one of the greatest zombie films ever made. Just when I thought I had seen everything in the zombie genre then this beautiful little film came along and completely turned me inside out. The Battery is the story of two former baseball players as they travel through New England which is littered with the undead. A gorgeous zombie buddy movie that had me screaming with laughter , jumping with fright, almost crying and just sitting utterly mesmerized by the skill of director/actor/writer Jeremy Gardner who packs so fucking much into 100 minutes . The Battery could have failed so easily due to the fact it is predominately just 2 characters , relatively slow paced and it is up to the viewer to empathise with them. But The Battery is just pure gold and is so very highly recommended and for multiple viewings.

What_We_Do_in_the_Shadows_poster1) What We Do In The Shadows (Jermaine Clement & Taika Waititi) Now through 2014 I kept a very close eye on WWDITS. I read the synopsis, saw the promo pictures and, as I love Flight of The Conchords , I was very excited. WWDITS is a documentary about four vampires who share a flat in Wellington , New Zealand . We follow Viago (Taika Waititi), Vladislav (Jermaine Clement), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and Petyr (Ben Fransham) through their day to day trials and turmoil that comes with being immortal blood suckers. From the moment we see Viago rise from his coffin to wake his flatmates we are drawn into the hilarious world of the vampires. The reason it works so well is that we see the vampires doing all the day to day boring things that us mere mortals do. So they argue about who does the housework, how to keep newspapers and towels ready for when they feed (so the blood won’t stain the furniture) and much more. There are hilarious scenes when they go for a night on the town but can’t enter the nightclubs as they need to be invited in, and the werewolves of Wellington are just brilliant. I could talk all night about just how perfect WWDITS is. Clement and Waititi have taken a genre that is so revered and they have just made an absolutely spot-on comedy that never once takes the piss but lovingly sees the comedy in a vampire faced with the monotony of everyday life. And I haven’t even mentioned Nick, Stuart or THE BEAST!!

If there is a funnier horror comedy then I haven’t seen it! You MUST SEE What We Do In The Shadows (if you can on the big screen) and just enjoy one of the best films from this millennia.

So for me 2014 eventually ended up as a good year for horror. The first six months were pretty poor but a few stormers in October pulled it out of the mud. Definitely a year for more independent horror and there was a lot more horror blogs, sites and podcasts new to the arena. As for 2015 well let’s see, but there are a few very good films (hopefully) on the horizon and there are still many films from this year I have yet to see.

Finally as editor of UKHS I would like to thanks all our readers, our Twitter followers and Facebook likers. A huge thanks to all the writers who have contributed throughout 2014. And after a few problems of late due to domain problems and database issues, I am happy to announce it is all sorted and UKHS will be running as normal with lots more news, reviews and interviews . Have a very happy and horroriffic 2015 , and thanks again for reading and everyone’s continued support.

Andy Deen

Late Phases (2014) Review

FF bannerLate_Phases_poster.1Late Phases (2014)

Dir: Adrián García Bogliano
Written By: Eric Stolze
Starring: Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Lance Guest, Tina Louise

95 mins.

UK release: Frightfest 2014

Grumpy war vet Ambrose (Damici) moves into a sleepy retirement community, only to discover the place is besieged by werewolves.

It’s sadly rare that a blind person takes centre-stage in any film, let alone in horror, which requires so much to be glimpsed around dark corners. But such is the case with Late Phases, a blackly comic, heart wrenching, incredibly poignant portrayal of a stubborn man, his fractured relationship with his son, and a pack of werewolves who are running riot in the retirement village in which he’s just reluctantly taken up a spot.

In less capable hands, protagonist Ambrose could’ve been a horrible, bitter asshole but the talented Nick Damici (who’s becoming something of a genre staple, following scene-stealing turns in We Are What We Are and Cold In July) makes him an incredibly nuanced, likeable character in spite of his obvious stubbornness. A man who is all-too-aware of his own mortality, Ambrose flatly tells nosy neighbours “I’d see you out, but I’m blind” and has impassioned discussions with a local priest (played by the wonderful Tom Noonan) about the meaning of life and the supposed existence of God.

It’s a difficult role – not least because Damici has to remain bug-eyed for the entirety of the flick – made near impossible by the looming presence of bloodthirsty lycans. Played straight, as a simple father-son conflict drama, Late Phases could’ve been great, but with the inclusion of the mythical creatures, and the scare factor that comes with them, it’s outstanding. Where similarly-themed genre offerings might shy away from showing everything, utilising clever cuts to make the transformation sequences seem more viable, here director Bogliano gives us the money shot in a gloriously extended sequence that shows every contortion, every hair, every split piece of skin.

Late_1.1Late Phases actually boasts some of the most effective werewolf transformation sequences in horror, even if technically its protagonist doesn’t get to see them. And it’s scary as hell, too, with the first, particularly brutal, kill dropped on Ambrose’s very first night in the village. Stuck having to listen through the walls, his neighbour’s blood-curdling screams are terrifying, and when his beloved guide dog – his only real friend – falls victim, too, the threat becomes horribly real. There’s an element of sameness to werewolf movies and, particularly in recent years with the rubbishy CGI creations of the Twilight franchise, they seem to have lost their bite. Late Phases is inventive with the subgenre, even with something as simple as one of the beasts darting past a window or when a group of them crowd around a body.

Director Bogliano, who has several no-budget genre credits to his name including the B short in ABCs Of Death, has truly created something wonderful here. The script, by Eric Stolze, who penned Under The Bed, straddles a careful line between melodrama and genuine pathos, with a streak of perfectly-judged, pitch-black humour running underneath. However, major kudos must go to Wojciech Golczewski, for a superb score that is omnipresent, yet not invasive.

From the opening moments to the final, bloody, brutal battle, it trundles along, championing Ambrose and signalling something sinister is afoot but never overstaying its welcome. Much of mainstream, modern horror relies on signalling a scare is coming with a shriek of violin or a shock of piano keys, but Golczewski is cleverer than that. He weaves his notes in until they become one with the film, until they are part of Ambrose’s journey.

Speaking of whom, Damici gives a revelatory performance as Ambrose. Empathetic, resourceful and relentlessly cranky, his deadpan delivery is a joy to behold and a voicemail he leaves his son is disarmingly poignant. When he explains that, by the time he went blind, he “couldn’t stand to look at the world anyway” it’s difficult not to agree with him, and the amount of fight he puts up in the final act is truly remarkable, not just in spite of his disability.

Late_3.1Late Phases is that rare surprise in horror – smart, poetic, funny and very scary, it serves as a much-needed reminder that sticking to a formula isn’t always the best idea, and that sometimes, even the most seemingly overdone creatures can be given life to feature again.

Gorgeously shot, beautifully scored, with a pitch perfect lead performance from Damici and arguably the best werewolf transformation sequence since John Landis’ seminal creature feature, Late Phases is a genre masterpiece with more depth, more scope and more vision than much of the current landscape combined.

Rating: 9/10