Giving out a horror award year in and year out can often be an iffy prospect. Last year for example, I ended up having to nominate four movies I didn’t even like. I wouldn’t say 2014 has been a banner year for horror, but it’s a definite improvement, at least in the upper tier. There wasn’t a huge quantity of options to choose from mind you, in fact I only really say five or six horror movies all year, but the five I was left with were five movies I was more or less happy to nominate.
- The Babadook: This movie was hampered by a horrible title, but it really is a pretty damn cool horror movie. Director Jennifer Kent does a very good job of finding scary things to do in the movie while still avoiding cheap jump scares. She creates a remarkably creepy atmosphere simply by filming an ominous popup book and also manages to inject the film with a very strong psychological level that actually seems to have been added for a reason and not simply tacked on to give her film the veneer of respectability.
- Oculus: This movie looked pretty terrible from the trailer (a movie about an evil mirror, really?) but it’s actually grown a decent fanbase and not unfairly. The film crafts an interesting set of rules for how this evil mirror functions in the world and also sets up an interesting structure in which it simultaneously shows events happening in two different timelines. The actual scare tactics are less innovative and more or less follow the usual haunting movie formula, but the characters are better than usual and the movie as a whole is good fun.
- Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones: When it was announced that the next Paranormal Activity movie would be a spinoff of sorts intended to appeal to Latino audiences it sounded like it would be a highly inessential side project and while it’s not a great movie exactly I don’t think it’s really the step down that most expected it would be. In fact I’d argue that it’s actually a clear step up from both Paranormal Activity 2 and Paranormal Activity 4. Still probably a movie that’s only for series completists, but it’s no embarrassment.
- The Sacrament: The latest film from indie horror auteur Ti West is probably his weakest, but it still has more good ideas in it than half of the horror movies coming out of the major studios. The film falls back on the clichéd format of the found footage horror movie, but uses it fairly effectively as it depicts the downfall of a Jonestown-like cult. In usual Ti West fashion, the movie has a lot of build-up but that climax where shit goes down is pretty well rendered and there are some moments of genuine suspense in it.
- Under the Skin: It might be a little bit of a stretch to call this a horror movie, but if you think about it the common characteristics are all there. You have promiscuous people getting stalked, at least one moment of horrific gore, a deffinate degree of suspense even if it isn’t the protagonist who’s in real danger. The milieu might be science fiction but it’s a very dark form of science fiction and those horror elements do exist. Besides, the alternative was Only Lovers Left Alive and there isn’t a single moment of that movie which is meant to be scary.