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.

Sun Choke (2015) Review

sunchoke1Sun Choke (USA, 2015)

Dir: Ben Cresciman

Starring: Sarah Hagan, Barbara Crampton, Sara Malakul Lane

Plot: Janie (Hagan) is a troubled girl under the supervision of Irma (Crampton). Janie is being treated in her home and in recovery for a violent past. When her treatment seems to be going well, Janie is permitted to have time out in the rest of the world. However when Janie starts using this time to stalk Savannah (Lane), a girl she has become infatuated with, it becomes questionable how much good her treatment is or how much harm it’s causing.

Sun Choke is the kind of horrific mystery story that I find myself loving more and more as years go on. It’s the kind of film that makes you connect dots and gives out clues sparingly. The film begins with little introductions, starting with Irma testing Janie, a test that is aimed at children. The nature of their relationship is unclear, Irma may be Janie’s doctor, therapist, carer, her mother, or something else entirely. Whatever their relationship is, it appears to be a caring one. The nature of Janie’s problems or specifically the event that got her put in Irma’s care is left to the thoughts of the audience except for a couple of glances at traumatic events.

sunchoke2Gradually the film becomes darker as Janie is let loose on the world and first spots Savannah. Savannah is everything that Janie wants to be (or at least that’s how I interpreted it, Sun Choke is not the kind of film who’s characters actual say how they feel) and Janie becomes more and more invasive as she becomes more obsessed. Watching soon is not enough as Janie lets herself into Savannah’s home or gets close to her boyfriend.

Irma’s behaviour also becomes more troubling, punishing Janie in more and more severe ways. It’s the way the film starts to embody the theme of abuse, specifically growing up in an abusive environment and how it effects behaviour and perpetuates further abuse. Janie’s obsession with Savannah is an extension of this theme, it’s her attempt to escape her abuse through the life of someone else.

The cast of Sun Choke is amazing, focusing on the relationship between these three women. Hagan gives Janie an odd balance between childlike naivety and brutally vicious. Crampton’s Irma also has a similar duality, her caring side warring with her abusive side, making her abuse emotional as well as physical. Lane rounds it off as the innocent victim, the collateral damage in this cycle of abuse.

This is definitely a thinker of a film, I find myself comparing it to Under The Skin, another film I really enjoy but recognise that it’s not a film for everyone. It’s requires patience and thought, and it rewards you with a rich story and beautiful visuals.

sunchoke3During the Q&A with the director and Barbara Crampton, it was asked if this film potentially demonises mental illness. I don’t think that it does, Janie might be suffering from a mental illness but it’s the result of the abuse that she’s endured and the violence that results when that’s all you know.

Sun Choke was one of my favourites from this year’s Fright Fest. It’s an original story that’s dark and intimate and let’s you discover it rather than telling you it blatantly. It’s a film I can’t help but recommend highly.

9/10