The internet can be a very negative place – I’m sure you know that. That’s part of why Modern Horrors exists. The popular opinion in 2015 is that horror is dead, but we (of course) disagree. In fact, this was almost a standout year for the genre. Not only did we have theatrical success stories with It Follows, Insidious 3, and Krampus – but the VOD space has been ripe with top-notch independent horror all year. It was no easy task to choose a clear cut “winner” in our predefined categories, but we made it happen.
The entire Modern Horrors staff was granted access to a document. This document contained the categories, and the nominees that are tied to each category (which were previously submitted by the team). Every staffer was allowed 1 vote per category – assuming they had seen each title that was nominated. After all, how can you say something is better than something else if you haven’t seen them both? We thought it was pretty fair, and while there were a few outliers here and there, we were surprisingly calibrated on our final picks. All of the films (except for one that we REALLY thought would be out in 2015) are available for public consumption. We did not consider films that have only seen a festival release. Perhaps we will do another list on those. So let’s get to it and celebrate the very best that the genre had to offer on 2015!
If you’ve taken the time to watch Bone Tomahawk, then this result should come as no surprise. Jenkins acted alongside mainstream staples such as Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, and David Arquette. The caliber of Jenkins’ performance was surprising to some, but what’s that saying? Iron sharpens iron? Yeah, that sounds about right.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times; the mystery of Goodnight Mommy has very little to do with the boys. Many have said the “twist” of the film is far too easy to spot, and that it becomes apparent way too early. If the purpose of the film were to confuse you about the reality of the boys, then then those people would be right, but it isn’t. This is all about Mommy and the mystery surrounding her. Is she who she claims to be? What’s with all of the missing photographs, obsessive cleaning habits, and extreme mood swings? And if she is in fact the boys’ mother – then why are they having such a hard time realizing this? This entire film is about the mystique of one woman, and that woman is Susanne Wuest. The performance turned in is chilling, empathetic, and disturbing. This film would not have been the same without her. Not even close.
Empty buildings are creepy – I think we can all agree on that. Add in the spirits of a deranged and murderous family, a small bladdered hobo, great practical effects, and some of the best sound design that the genre has to offer – and you have yourself a winner. This could have just as easily been dubbed the “surprise of the year”. It really came out of nowhere. Anthony DiBlasi is no stranger to the genre, but he has certainly set a new high-water mark for himself with Last Shift. Here’s to hoping more filmmakers follow suite with this “less is more” approach to horror.
While not a Slasher in the traditional sense, Headless follows one man on his demented path of skullfuckery. People are stalked, abducted, sliced, diced, eaten, and defiled throughout the duration of this retro-exploitation inspired flick, and that’s enough for us to include it in the Slasher conversation. This one definitely isn’t for everyone, but it’s sure to shock and disgust. Headless is also the perfect date movie. Okay, not really, but if you find a guy/gal that sticks this one out with you – then you may have just found your soulmate.
Let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room; the CGI at the end of Dark Was the Night is poor… very poor. But up until that point, we’re treated to some of the best tension building and creature lore that we’ve seen or heard in a while. That, coupled with an amazing performance by Kevin Durand, was enough for us to issue a pass on the shoddy creature design at the tail end of the film. Even when the creature looks as bad as it does – the tension is able to survive. And that’s impressive.
I’ve been banging the drum about this one for a long time – as has the rest of the Modern Horrors team. You Are Not Alone is the type of film that has to be met with certain conditions. It’s best when watched alone. If you watch with a group – don’t speak or look at cell phones. It’s a truly immersive experience, and anything that you do to break that immersion significantly degrades the product. I went so far as to watch this one in a Virtual Reality headset, and… holy shit. The first-person perspective of the film plays to that platform arguably best of all, and it’s something that I would pursue if I was the owner of the property… just sayin. Regardless, You Are Not Alone is terrifying, and it deserves your full attention once it’s released. We tried our best to keep non-available films off of the awards lists, but this one won by a landslide.
The Horror/Comedy category of this year’s awards was by far the most populated with nominees. For a sub genre that is so easy to get wrong, we had a surprising amount of titles get it right this year. Not only did several films get it right, but most knocked it out of the park. I really thought we’d have to talk this one out as a team, but Jason Lei Howden’s DEATHGASM won the category handedly. It’s an instant classic of the genre that is obviously not to be underestimated. If you like horror, comedy, or metal culture – then this one is for you. Even if you don’t like ALL of those things, this one is not to be missed.
I was late to the Bone Tomahawk party. Many of the other members on the team had seen it well before me, and they all commented on the same thing – a particularly gruesome death towards the end of the film. They all remarked on the film’s overall quality and grit as well, but none went without the ominous mention of what is now being called the Indian Pistachio. I thought there was no way that anything could live up to that amount of hype. I mean, I’ve kind of seen it all. How crazy can things get in a western? Really… really fucking crazy. Don’t spoil this one by watching online clips. Watch the film in it’s entirety – then let this one set in.
I know what you’re thinking – this one isn’t fair. And maybe you’re right. I mean is it really that surprising that a film with 5 times the budget of its competition wins the Visual FX award? Maybe not, but polish isn’t the only thing that we considered here. Krampus offered a creative spark that simply wasn’t found elsewhere. Even the CGI gingerbread men looked like they belonged within this universe. The visuals of the film are simply breathtaking. Congrats, Krampus.
A lot of grandiose claims were tossed around when It Follows was unleashed upon theaters across America. Some of those were well deserved while others were slightly exaggerated (to say the least). One thing is for certain though. The vibe of the film would be significantly different if not for the original composition created by Disasterpeace. The It Follows soundtrack is one of the few horror “scores” that I can put on and listen to in my leisure. It’s one area of the film that is absolutely worthy of the hype. When the inevitable It Follows sequel is released – let’s hope that Disasterpeace is in tow.
Short films are all the rage right now in the horror industry. They often serve as a “proving grounds” of sorts for independent filmmakers to show what they’re made of. In fact, some of the best feature films in recent memory have stemmed from a short films. In order for a short film to be successful, though – you typically need 3 things : An interesting (and easily compacted) concept, top-notch audio/video work, and to leave the audience wanting more. Chris Mcinroy’s Bad Guy #2 has all of those things. Its hilarious, disgusting, visually pleasing, and feels like part of a much larger (and awesome) universe. I’d watch a Netflix Original show set in the Bad Guy universe in a heartbeat.
Looks like we have ourselves a tie. It was bound to happen, and it couldn’t have happened to 2 better films. The story of a horror film is something we often take for granted, but these two films approach storytelling in two very different ways. Let Us Prey is a graphic thriller wrapped in symbolism and mythology, while Spring is undoubtedly the most romantic horror film I have ever seen. You could make an argument that neither of these are “true” horror films, and we wouldn’t be able to argue with you much. But the genre is expanding, and that is a very good thing. Both of these films can be enjoyed at face value for what they are, but if you’re interested in digging into them deeper – you will be rewarded for doing so. I believe that is the sign of a truly great story, and these two films did it better than anything else in 2015. Hands down.
Not only is Spring beautiful for a horror movie – it’s beautiful for ANY kind of movie. The combo of Benson and Moorhead proved to be successful once again after 2012’s Resolution put them on the map. The location, the performances, the story, the effects, … everything about Spring exudes a level of polish and beauty that we are oh-so-lucky to have within our beloved genre. These guys are an absolute force, and we can’t wait to hear more about what’s coming next. If you have neglected to watch this one, get on it.
Spring is also our runner-up pick for Film of the Year. Losing out by two votes to….
This was a close call between several films, but it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if you follow us throughout our various platforms. Let Us Prey captivated our imaginations in ways that were unexpected. Not only is it full of buried mythology and symbolism, but it works equally as well when taken at face value. It’s beautifully shot, the acting is top notch, the FX are brutal, and the sound design/composition is crisp and moody. The end result is something that may be outperformed in singular categories, but exists cohesively as a simply astonishing piece of horror cinema. It was a tight race this year, but Let Us Prey garnered the majority vote for Modern Horrors’ Film of the Year. Congrats!