This was an amazing year for film. Not just mainstream film, but pretty much any genre of film you can think of had a great year. There were so many good films out in 2014 that we’ve had a hard time here at Psycho Drive-In trying to organize our year-end lists. So as we get closer to the end of our retrospectives, we’ve juggled and shuffled and came up with more great movies you should check out. Here are the Psycho Drive-In Top Ten Favorite Horror Films of 2014! And be sure to check out the conclusion to see what’s coming up! Afflicted Yes, Afflicted can essentially be described as Chronicle with vampires. But you know what? Who cares? Chronicle was a very impressive exploration of the transformation of some kids into superheroes, and Afflicted is a very impressive exploration of the transformation of a dude into a vampire. But not just a vampire; a very informed-by-graphic-novels kind of vampire. This is the vampire as tragic superhero. And it’s awesome. In the film Derek Lee and Clif Prowse are video-blogging their trip around the world and while in Paris, Derek hooks up with a mysterious lady at a club. In the ultimate act of douchery, Clif and a couple of other friends decide to interrupt their naughty-times, but instead of getting a frat-boy laugh, they find Derek bloody and battered. From this point on, the film is about Derek getting sicker and sicker, before he starts getting stronger and stronger. There’s a larger world that’s implied before all is said and done, and as one would expect with a story like this, there is tragedy and horror along the way. It’s getting harder and harder to pull off the found-footage style of film, but Afflicted does it with style and finesse. And even when you think you know what’s coming, you’re in for a surprise or two. Animosity Animosity is the first feature film written and directed by Brendan Steere, and features a virtuoso performance by Tracy Willet in the lead role of Carrie Bonner. The film was made on practically no-budget, faced any number of financial problems before reaching completion, and ended up being shot a few days at a time in every season, causing issues with continuity. But Steere, editor Steve Burgess, and cinematographer Jesse Gouldsbury pulled it off — thanks in no small part to the strength of Willet’s performance. Animosity is the story of Carrie and Mike Bonner (Marcin Paluch). They’ve moved to a new home out in the middle of nowhere and are intent on starting a family. Unfortunately, there are strange things afoot and before too long Carrie starts to wonder if Mike is hiding something from her. He is. The supporting cast does a good job with the material; they’re not up to the standard one might expect from a film with a standard budget — even a low one — but not one of them gives it everything they’ve got. But Tracy Willet is the real find, here. Without her, this would have ended up being a pretty interesting film, but maybe not one that would have stuck in people’s minds. Her performance as Carrie discovers just what is going on is simply amazing. It’s the foundation upon which Steere is able to build one of the most impressive debut no-budget films I’ve seen in years. The filmmakers were learning as they went and because they filmed in chronological order, the film gets better as it goes on. Granted, those opening ten or fifteen minutes can be rough to watch, with sound issues and questionable decision-making, but once Steere, Burgess, and Gouldsbury get into their groove, Animosity just keeps getting better and better, until with the final fifteen minutes, they’ve put together a film that not only has great ideas, but looks amazing. This is one that’s probably not going to be on a lot of lists, but that’s only because not a lot of people saw it. Help rectify that. Watch Animosity. The Babadoook Being a single parent is hard. I don’t know first-hand, but if The Babadook is to be believed, even a demonic monster from a horrifying children’s storybook isn’t anywhere near as frightening as dealing with a troubled child on your own. The Babadook is the first feature film by Australian writer/director Jennifer Kent and it is horrifying. The film is about Amelia (Essie Davis) a struggling nurse who lost her husband in a car crash on the way to give birth to their son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Now that Samuel is seven years old, he’s having some trouble dealing with life in general. His behavior is erratic, he has trouble sleeping, he acts up at school, and is preoccupied with an imaginary friend/monster, The Babadook — after finding a disturbing, seemingly hand-made book on his bookshelf that his mother doesn’t recognize. First word of advice for parents: DON’T READ FREAKY BOOKS TO YOUR KIDS WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW HOW THE BOOK GOT INTO YOUR HOME!! From this point on, all bets are off. For the longest time we don’t know whether or not the Babadook is real or Samuel’s imagination, and then we don’t know whether Amelia is being haunted or having a nervous breakdown. It’s almost a relief to find out that the monster is real, but that doesn’t mean Amelia and Samuel don’t go through some horrific shit on the way to that discovery. The Babadook was a true surprise; especially for a first-time writer/director. There are hints of great things to come by Kent and I can’t wait to see what she does next. Borgman Borgman is a Dutch film by writer/director Alex van Warmerdam and it is like nothing else you’re going to watch this year. I’m tempted to leave it at that, but I suppose I should qualify why it’s on this list. But maybe I don’t owe you nothin’. Okay, okay. How about this? Borgman is the story of a man, Borgman (Jan Bijvoet), who, when we first see him, is being hounded out of his weird underground lair by some townsfolk and the local priest. He escapes, warning a couple of other strange subterranean vagrants that trouble’s coming as he makes his escape. He ends up on the doorstep of an upper middle-class family and before we know what’s going on, he’s worked his way into their life and gone about his business — which is apparently harvesting souls or something. What??? Yeah. That’s what I said. The film opens with a cryptic mock-Biblical quote: “And they descended upon the earth to strengthen their ranks.” And that’s exactly what we get. Who “they” are is open to interpretation, but Borgman has a network of creepy fuckers who don’t mind murdering, lying, stealing, or doing whatever else is necessary to recruit others to their never-stated cause. Calling this a horror film is a bit of a misnomer, as it’s more of an existential fable filled with dread and anxiety, but I’m gonna go ahead and say it. This is one of the scariest, most disturbing films on this list, if only because of the casual approach it takes to corruption, deceit, and ultimately the defilement of the family unit. And if those shots of Borgman, naked and squatting over the sleeping Marina (Hadewych Minis), influencing her dreams don’t give you nightmares, then you’ve probably already had your soul harvested by these fuckers. Housebound Continuing our horror-filled jaunt around the world, we come to the New Zealand comedy-horror film Housebound. Gerard Johnstone, the writer/director of New Zealand TV series The Jaquie Brown Diaries, knocked it out of the park with his first feature film, finding a perfect balance between horror, mystery, and comedy in a way that can’t help but bring pre-Middle Earth Peter Jackson to mind. In Housebound, Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) is put on house arrest after a botched ATM robbery back in the house she grew up in, under the care of her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata). Miriam is pretty sure the house is haunted, but has lived there all these years anyway, and is glad — sort of — to have Kylie back under her roof. Kylie doesn’t believe in ghosts, but before too long she begins to change her tune. This is a film that knows what it wants and knows how to get it. The script is funny when it needs to be, scary when it needs to be, and heartwarming when you least expect it. It’s difficult to do a good haunted house story these days. We’ve seen just about everything, so a film like this has to rely on good jump scares, excellent atmosphere, and the timely release of information that will inform the heroes about what is going on at the same time the audience is brought into the loop. Housebound has twist after turn and does a very good job of keeping the viewer on their toes. You’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next with this film, and that’s reason enough to make it onto the list. The fact that every aspect of the production is top of the line is why it made just about every other 2014 horror list in creation. Sometimes I don’t mind following the crowd. Every now and then, the crowd is right. Rigor Mortis What do you get when you cross a retired vampire hunter with a suicidal ex-movie star in a horrifying dilapidated tenement building that also happens to house twin ghosts, a sorcerer, and an old woman who just wants her dead husband back? Oh, and did I mention that it was in Hong Kong and the ex-movie star is played by Siu-Ho Chin, the real-life star of the Mr. Vampire film series? Rigor Mortis is stylishly directed by first-time helmer Juno Mak and it is gorgeous from start to finish. The film is a bizarre mixture of emotions, depression, CG-enhanced ghosts and monsters, and wire-work combat. It takes a little while for the real story to come to light, as the script zigs and zags around a number of side stories exploring tales of loss and madness and what vampire hunters do when there are no more vampires to hunt. This isn’t a fun film, really. It’s all very serious and the quality of the performances help to elevate the material into something special. That then goes sort of batshit crazy in the back third of the film. I went into this one not knowing what to expect and was extremely happy with what I found. Starry Eyes In their second feature film, Starry Eyes, co-writers/co-directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer decided to go old-school and tell a tale of getting ahead in Hollywood thanks to means nefarious. And by nefarious, I mean nefarious in the most demonic of senses. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Kolsch and Widmyer were able to raise just over $50,000 they were needing to make this film on their own, and were also able to attract one of my favorite contemporary actors, Pat Healy, to join up in a small but important role. The film is about Sarah (Alexandra Essoe), a struggling actress trying to get her big break while also working at a Hooters-style restaurant called Big Taters (where Healy plays her boss with a sense of believable passion and just a touch of sleeze). Her friends are nearly as destructive to her as they are supportive, and she suffers from an anxiety-disorder where she tears her own hair out in disturbing fits. When a casting director for production company Astraeus Pictures witnesses this after a particularly disheartening audition, she is given a second chance. And from there things get satanic. To be perfectly honest, the script is good, but not groundbreaking. There aren’t a lot of twists that you don’t see coming, but when you’re performances and your direction is this good, that’s beside the point. Essoe is perfect as Sarah, bringing just the right amount of desperation, pride, and anxiety to the role to make it believable. She wants to be a star, but when all is said and done, we really feel the pressures that force her to do horrible things. There’s a little bit of Rosemary’s Baby in here, along with a touch of House of the Devil, but not in any sort of retro way. This is a clear vision about Hollywood that doesn’t have a lot of good to say about the powers that be. It’s no wonder they decided to self-finance. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears is the second feature film by the French directing duo Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani (the first being the strange eroticism of 2009’s Amer) and it is not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. Especially if you’ve seen Amer. The film tells the tale of Dan, who returns home from a business trip to discover that his wife has disappeared. In his attempts to find her, he becomes tangled in a web of intrigue and lies amongst the inhabitants of his apartment building. In a way similar to Rigor Mortis, there are a number of interesting and entrancing stories being woven together here under the sumptuous stylistic flourishes of classic giallo. In fact, the style of the film is so overwhelming that some viewers may lose the thread of plot — and it is a thread. Essentially, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears is an exercise in crafting a visual style that would have been visionary in 1975 and is still striking even today. The film draws on influences from all of the giallo masters, but reinterprets them in a way that breathes new life into the genre. When not even Argento himself can make a film like this work today, that Cattet and Forzani can is an achievement unto itself. Don’t let the cries of style over substance put you off. Giallo has always emphasized style, and even in the classics there was less substance than one might remember. This film is an amazing intellectual and artistic exercise in crafting a truly period work outside of its period. Just be ready for a lot of creaking leather, orgasmic mouths, and primary colors. And murders, of course. It is a giallo, after all. And one of the best in years. Tusk Kevin Smith wrote and directed a movie about Michael Parks performing amateur body mods on Justin Long to turn him into a walrus and I kind of loved it. Most of it. Any part without Johnny Depp, at least. While Tusk started out as a joke horror film, with its origins in a real online ad on a European version of Craig’s List, by the time the film concludes it has transformed into an absurdist existential parable of transformation, inhumanity, and the sources of empathy. Yeah, I said it. It recalls both the low-brow schlock of Ssssss (1973) and the higher-brow absurdity of Ianesco’s classic play, Rhinoceros. Whether intentional or not, I found Tusk to truly resonate as an absurdist work of body horror that doesn’t take itself too seriously, while also never really even attempting to play up the tension of Long’s possible rescue. He’s fucked the moment he starts drinking that tea Parks gives him. From there on out, the film is just about exploring the oddly endearing madness of Parks’ Howard Howe while we wait for the friends of Long’s Wallace to find out what has happened to him. Unfortunately, that discover comes at a cost. And that cost is Johnny Depp. Depp provides some of the most unfunny, awkward, and annoying “comedy” in any movie I’ve seen in recent memory. And the worst part is that he’s totally unnecessary to the plot. Cut him from the film and Tusk could be a classic fringe horror comedy. Leave him in, and it just doesn’t quite reach those heights. Willow Creek I love Bobcat Goldthwait. Always have. I love Bigfoot. Always have. Then, Bobcat made a Bigfoot movie and I was in heaven. Willow Creek is a found footage film about a Bigfoot enthusiast, his not-so-enthusiast girlfriend and their trip to the site of the original 1967 Patterson-Gimlin footage that kicked off the modern era of Bigfoot Geekery. There are the usual caveats about found footage films; the characters are a bit self-obsessed and annoying; if you’re tired of the stylistic approach, nothing I say will change that; and it owes more than a little debt to The Blair Witch Project — way more than a little, this time. And yet, Goldthwait’s script and the performances by Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson pull you into the story, until you find yourself sitting in a tent in the middle of the night, with strange sounds outside. There’s a twentyish minute sequence towards the end of this film that is the most nerve-wracking, edge-of-my-seat experience I’ve had watching a film in decades. That sequence alone would have earned Willow Creek a spot on this list, but luckily, the rest of the film is solid, too (particularly a heart-breaking cameo by veteran character actor Peter Jason, who tells an awful story about his dog). If you love Bigfoot like I love Bigfoot, then you really can’t afford not to check out Willow Creek. How about that, eh? Next up will be our Top Ten Favorite Crime Thrillers of 2014 and just for those of you who don’t like all this violence, crime, and craziness, on Monday we’ll have one last list that is, for the moment, affectionately being called our Top Ten Favorite Oscar Bait Movies of 2014. That’s filled with the stuff you’ve maybe seen already. But they’re still good. We’re not fucking hipsters for fuck’s sake. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... 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