Needless to say, this is less of a true best-of list and more of a "favorites" recap. Don't get me wrong; for all intents and purposes, this is my list of the top terror treats from the preceding twelve months. Some of the release dates are hairy, but I feel like I stayed within the accepted parameters of these types of inventories. Remember when I said I had one more film to watch? One more horror nugget to chock into my brainpan? I'm glad I fit the sonuvabitch into my schedule because it ended up being #1! Let's dig deeper...
1. He Never Died ~ Technically, this dandy hits DVD in February, but it has already kissed the festival circuit. I'm betting that it will land on next year's terminal indexes. Too bad! I'm ahead of the fucking curve! I really, really enjoyed all five selections, but Died was the only choice cut to blow my mind in 2015. I'm not hyperbolizing or romanticizing my pick. It's that good. Without giving crucial plot details away, Henry Rollins plays Jack, a levelheaded loner implicated in seedy acts of malfeasance. He doesn't want to hear from his ex-wife. If pressured, he'll spend time with his grown daughter (who he has known for two months), but don't expect jovial conversation. Oh, and he doesn't die. Ever.
"Why doesn't he die, Dom?" That's for you to find out, asshole! All I wanted from this flick was Rollins being a badass and fucking shit up. I got that and so much more. The dialogue is expertly crafted, the concept itself is unique, the characters are fleshed out (even the ancillary players) and writer/director Jason Krawczyk broaches themes that force you to think. Yep, it's a psychological piece. Luckily, there is also a freezerload of brute violence. Find a way to eat this film!
2. The Final Girls ~ If the "retro slasher" fad is ever going to perish (and it should), this is the vehicle to put a period at the end of that sentence. It's basically perfect. There is a common denominator shared by these five creepers, and it's character depth. I cared about these folks, so guess what? I was invested in their plight. Whuda thunk it!? I'm not saying it's easy to write this well, but so many filmmakers don't even try. Screen authors (I'm tired of typing "writer") M.A. Fortin and Joshua Miller fucking nail it. The narrative is surprisingly emotional, and it's that sentimental core that motors the rest of this woodsy Winnebago. Another car reference...something is wrong with me.
The actors are genuinely funny. And hot. Malin Akerman sizzled so much, I thought our heat pump had conked out and overheated. The (non-Malin) visuals are breathtaking. Take the climax, for example. It's moored to flashy, florid colors that command the scene. NOTE: Girls was originally my #1 before I caught He Never Died. I don't typically go for self-aware genre fare, so you know I'm giggity over this galbanum.
3. Clown ~ Here we have another "hairy release date" situation. A near totality of global markets released this film in 2015, in spite of the fact that it hasn't seen the light of day in America yet. It was produced by Eli Roth, so some sort of studio should be jumping to obtain distribution rights. Or maybe his name is a hindrance. I don't know. Right this very second, I don't care. I just want to tell you how rad Clown is, not that it will need selling once it gains exposure. As far as killer clowns are concerned, this is the best reel-to-reel exploit since Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Bold words? I hear you, but IT was inconsistent, and you know it. What's left, aside from dozens of straight-to-video cheapies? Plenty are entertaining, but they do not approach Clown.
Don't let Eli Roth's association scare you; he had zero creative input. Again, it comes down to style, ingenuity and character development. Clown is smart. If you find greasepainted goons creepy at all, then holy shit. The central antagonist's final form is goddamn monstrous, and I relished the journey that Doomed Dad (that's my name for him) takes. In other words, I was never bored with the exposition. Formidable flick. Keep it on your radar.
4. Stung ~ Yes! Nowadays, it's enlivening to see a "giant insect" entry that isn't crawling with CGI and doesn't have the Syfy logo branded onto its ass. There are digital effects, but they aren't pervasive. Besides, the mutant wasps on display are equal opportunity offenders, meaning they also manifest via practical means. Stung has a 90's vibe. Mosquito did spring to mind, but this is the superior creature feature. The cast is docked by Jessica Cook and Matt O'Leary. They help make the movie (their chemistry is a bullseye), as does Lance Henriksen as a cogitating codger. I've given Lance a tough time in recent years for appearing in literally anything and everything, but Stung prodded my better judgment. The man is still a bad mutha.
I don't need a second block of text. View Stung. The end.
5. Deathgasm ~ Do you miss heavy metal b-movies as much as I do? I'm hoping that this Kiwi splatter fest reignites the flame lit by Black Roses and Rocktober Blood. This isn't exactly an 80's throwback, though. Well, it is and it isn't. One will notice strains of Demons and The Evil Dead, but the bands in our favorite nostalgic cheesers weren't this extreme. Brodie forms a black metal collective with a neighborhood malcontent and together, they inadvertently beckon a gnarly demon slicker. The Wal-Mart title is Heavy Metal Apocalypse. Ugh. To be fair, Deathgasm is essentially an apocalypse story, but it's a better sit than that title would suggest. Frankly, it's a blast. A fucking bloody blast.
Bone Tomahawk - Came so goddamn close to breaking into the top five. Hell, I could make an argument for its deployment into the top three. But life is about tough decisions, Larry. I'm not going to explain why it's worth renting/buying. If you haven't seen it, you are going to see it. Larry, listen to me. You are going to see it.
Tales of Halloween - You know I'm an anthology nut, Agnes, and this one is above average. An opulence of fun spooks, even if some vignettes are weaker than others. Reasonably awesome sauce.
The Hallow - A novel premise buttressed with nifty beasties. Bobby Joe, once you figure out where it's going (it won't take terribly long), you're simply waiting for it to get there. That's the only real drawback. Still rock solid.
We Are Still Here - Barbara Crampton throws down in this moist "haunted house" picture show. If we're adjudicating purely on acting skills alone, she's the top scream queen of the past thirty years. Don't you dare disagree with me, Alan. Oh, and I dug the villains. They're nasty fuckers.
Headless - Skullfucking. Incest. Necrophilia. Bowling alley. It occupies the same subgenre as The Final Girls, but the two slashers could not be any further apart in terms of tone and budget. It made me happy, Gus!
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 8:28 PM