It took a while for 2015 to warm up, as far as horror movies go. But it’s tough to look at a full twelve-months and fail to pinpoint at least twenty strong, solid, or downright fantastic horror films.
While there are many ways to design a “best movies” list, my choices are not ranked in any particular order. (Aside from alphabetical, that is.) My “top” favorites, for example, are It Follows, He Never Died, and Crimson Peak, and to me it feels sort of silly to rank/compare films that are so wildly dissimilar. Bottom line: I’d recommend all of these movies — some a bit more fervently than others. Here we go!
Bone Tomahawk — “The Searchers meets The Hills Have Eyes” is the first thing I thought after seeing this enjoyably verbose horror / western mash-up. And I stand by that statement. (full review)
A Christmas Horror Story — Toss this one into the “a whole lot better than I expected it to be” pile. It’s your standard five-in-one horror anthology, but there’s only one clunker in the bunch, there’s a lot of creepy creativity in the others, and there’s even a a few freaky twists in Act III. Might not be as fully satisfying as Krampus (see below) but the two would certainly make for a solid double feature. (full review)
Cooties — A very energetic cast propels this goofy horror comedy through a few rough spots. The switch this time? All the zombies are kids. (full review)
Creep — Proof positive that you don’t need a lot of resources to craft a quality thriller. Don’t read too much about the movie before checking it out. It’s got a few very creepy surprises. (full review)
Crimson Peak — Guillermo del Toro’s lush, lovely, classically creepy “gothic romance” evokes all sorts of classic cinema, from Wuthering Heights to The Haunting — and it is, without question, one of the prettiest scary tales you’ll ever see. (full review)
Cub — Terror strikes a cub scout troop in this devious Belgian import. Suffice to say that we probably won’t be seeing an American remake of this one any time soon. (full review)
Deathgasm — This rude, raucous, and certifiably insane import from New Zealand adds a welcome dash of hardcore lunacy to the horror/comedy mash-up. It’s about two hard-rockin’ Kiwi kids who accidentally summon a demon with their music. (full review)
Digging Up the Marrow — Hatchet-man Adam Green and his pal Ray Wise take on urban legends and horror film fandom in this odd but appealing faux-doco horror/comedy. (full review)
The Editor — “The giallo satire we’ve all been waiting for. All nine of us.” (full review)
Ex Machina — OK, fine. This is sci-fi. Not horror. It’s just so damn good I felt like including it. Also it is a pretty creepy film if you think about it. (full review)
The Final Girls — The classic slasher formula gets a very clever upgrade with this super-meta tale of horror fans who get sucked right in to a mid-’80s horror flick. The “sucked into a movie” gimmick doesn’t always work (The Last Action Hero), but then again some times it does. Like here. (full review)
The Gift — A devious and deeply depraved thriller that seems pretty simple on the surface, but is actually quite the nasty little gut-punch. It’s about a guy who runs into an old school chum — only it turns out that they weren’t exactly chums, and that sometimes old grudges are never forgotten. (full review)
Goodnight Mommy — A pair of creepy young twins torment their bandage-bound mother — or is it the other way around? Lots of weird jolts and shocks to be found in this off-kilter but very well-made Austrian import.
The Green Inferno — The Italian cannibal flick gets a fresh homage via Eli Roth, and the results are a grim, gruesome experience. Aside from a few missteps in the comic relief department, this tale of American kids who stumble across a tribe of Peruvian cannibals does a fine job of emulating the sub-genre “classics” like Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Feriox. (full review)
He Never Died — Henry Rollins is always amusing when he pops up in a movie, but this clever film noir / supernatural thriller combo platter provides the man with his meatiest role yet. It’s about a seemingly immortal man who learns that he has a daughter, which is news to his numerous enemies … and you get the idea. Trust me on this one, and please avoid the trailer, which gives away a lot more than it should. (full review)
Insidious Chapter 3 — Sure, it’s just “more of the same,” but it’s always nice to see a horror franchise that manages to sustain a sense of class, creeps, and cleverness across an entire trilogy. (full review)
It Follows — Easily one of the most divisive horror films of the year (except where film critics are concerned, that is), this one is about a young woman who contracts a sexually-transmitted demon (of sorts) and discovers that there’s no way to avoid its wrath. Well, maybe there is one way, but it’s pretty awful. Gorgeous to look at, darkly funny, and wonderfully weird, It Follows is the best horror film of 2015, if it’s me you’re asking. (full review)
Krampus — We all expected something good when we learned that the director of Trick ‘r Treat (2007) would be tackling the Christmas season for his next tongue-in-cheek horror flick, and Mike Dougherty did not disappoint. The flick takes a little while to warm up, but a great cast and some pretty awesome monster FX combine to deliver a generous portion of yuletide mayhem. (full review)
Nina Forever — A young man is haunted by the ghost of his deceased girlfriend whenever he finds himself engaged in sexual activity. Sounds like a really terrible comedy from the 1980s, doesn’t it? Nope. It’s actually a very smart, weird, and offbeat piece of romantic horror from across the pond. (full review)
Some Kind of Hate — A halfway house for violent teens is haunted by the wildly ferocious spirit of a young woman who died there. This is a rough, confrontational indie horror film that recaptures some of the “misfit strikes back” vibe that horror fans will no doubt recognize from Carrie (1976) and its countless knock-offs. (full review)
Spring — Not all horror films are violent. (full review)
Suburban Gothic — More of a wise-ass comedy with a horror set-up than a full-bore scare-fest, but this glib indie benefits from a quick wit and an excellent cast. (full review)
Tales of Halloween — If you like your horror stories in bite-sized pieces, you could do a whole lot worse than to throw this creepy anthology into your regular October movie rotation. While most of these movies wedge four or five scary tales into one frame, this one boasts no less than ten(!), which means there’s a little here for everyone. (full review)
Unfriended — Much like 2014’s The Den, this one looks like little more than a webcam “gimmick flick,” but is actually quite a bit cleverer than it looks. A group of snotty young jerks find themselves “haunted” by a malevolent online presence — and of course it has something to do with a terrible secret they all share. (full review)
The Visit — M. Night Shyamalan returns to the horror genre with this offbeat, laid-back, and unexpectedly engaging thriller about two young kids who spend some time with their estranged grandparents — accent on “strange.” (full review)
We Are Still Here — A couple move into a creepy, old, isolated house, only to discover that… yes. Something evil is afoot in this chilly thriller that combines standard supernatural tropes with 1970s-era TV movies and a nice dash of Giallo-style pay-off. (full review)
What We Do In the Shadows — This vampire mockumentary is drop dead hilarious. Get it? Drop dead? Ugh. Fine. That’s why I write the reviews and not the movies, I guess. But see this movie tonight and you’ll thank me tomorrow. (full review available in my fancy new e-book!) <— shameless plug.
Did I forget something good? Is there an under-the-radar indie thriller that may warrant inclusion on this list? Are there any plain old stupid omissions? Feel free to let me know on twitter. I may just update this piece to 30(+) films in a few weeks.
Want even more awesome thrills and chills? Check out Nerdist Presents: The Hive, now available on VOD!