Before we officially begin looking forward at the big horror/thriller films 2016 has in store for us, we thought we’d take some time to look back at which films of the genre earned a permanent spot in our home video libraries last year. Most of these never made it to our local theaters so we thought we’d share our Top Ten Choices; possibly calling attention to some you may have missed. Before delving into them, we’d be remiss not giving a special Terror Dave ‘shout out’ to our friend, Jason Schoolcraft. He’s responsible for bringing most of these to our attention and his love of cinema made him the ideal person for helping us sift through the riff raff and directing us straight over to the good stuff! The following films represent our ten favorites. We’re not saying they’re critically the “best,” just that we liked them a lot and deemed them worthy of multiple viewings. Please feel free to share YOUR favorites of 2015 in the comments below!
Backcountry: I love a good “man vs. nature” film but finding a decent one can be pretty daunting. Sure there are plenty of them out there but, unfortunately, for every JAWS there’s about a hundred Sharknados. Personally, I like the ones where the animals aren’t super-sized, riding tornadoes, or boasting multiple heads. Despite our complacency, the fact is we humans are fairly easy prey items for plenty of real creatures living today. Two great examples are the Australian films, The Reef (2010) involving a shark and Black Water (2007) featuring a crocodile. Canada added another great entry to the mix this past year with a rather minimalistic story featuring two people, the great outdoors, and a marauding black bear. The tension between the main couple is occasionally reminiscent of Strangers and makes the viewer almost as quick to ignore the signs of a lurking bear as they are. By the time the animal actually does materialize, tension gives way to terror and you’ll think twice before ever veering off a forest trail again. Dave F.
Bone Tomahawk: I’ve never liked Westerns but 2015 managed to serve up two that have me reconsidering that. One was Quentin Tarantino’s stunning The Hateful Eight and the other Bone Tomahawk. Both starred Kurt Russell (2015 was a stellar year for Mr. Russell) with the latter venturing into the realm of horror. After members of a small town are kidnapped by a cannibalistic tribe of cave dwellers, it’s up to a band of unlikely heroes to save the day. Gore fans will enjoy some gruesome effects while there’s enough great story and character building to keep those with weaker stomachs tuned in. You genuinely care about these people and find yourself inspired by their facing of such incredible odds. Dave F.
A Christmas Horror Story: there is nothing better than a good holiday film to get you in the Christmas spirit. While most people indulge in films like Miracle on 34th Street or Elf, some of us like to add horror films to our holiday viewing. There have been many classic films that have come out over the years and A Christmas Horror Story is destined to be added to that list. This anthology-style film features four Christmas-themed horrors and the whole package is hosted by William Shatner, who plays a radio disc jockey who not only loves Christmas but loves to drink as well. The stories remind me of some of the better Tales From The Crypt episodes from year’s back on HBO – aside: did you know the inception of that show can be traced to Lethal Weapon? The first story features some teenagers investigating a homicide from the previous Christmas. Story number two finds a mother and father who notice that their son has changed after returning from cutting down a Christmas tree in the woods. Next is a story featuring Krampus, the anti-Santa, in an exciting and fun offering. Lastly, we visit the North Pole where Santa is battling zombie elves. Personally I have gotten tired of many of the Christmas-themed horror movies over the years as they just do not stand up to repeated viewings. This one on the other hand will be around for years to come! David A.
Cooties: This is one of those movies that could’ve gone either way. It has gotten mixed reviews but because I went into it with no expectations, I really enjoyed it. It is a horror comedy and has many laugh out loud moments as well as some pretty terrifying ones. We are all living in a time where we are educated about the importance of washing our hands constantly and using hand sanitizer because of all of the illnesses that are out there. This film takes that fear and exploits it to an extreme with a virus that breaks out at a school causing the students to become homicidal maniacs. You will recognize many of the actors including Elijah Wood and Rainn Wilson. This movie has cult-following written all over it and if you just relax and enjoy the show, you will be a part of an ever-growing legion of fans. David A.
Digging Up The Marrow: This is one of those movies that deserved a much wider release than it got. This mockumentary features director Adam Green (of Hatchet fame) who plays himself. He is approached by a man named William Dekker (Ray Wise) who claims that monsters are real and that he knows where they live. This movie is so well put together that if it wasn’t for the very recognizable Ray Wise, you would question if what you were seeing was actually real! You are torn between whether Dekker is telling the truth or if he is crazy and you feel for Green’s frustration. When the monsters do in fact show themselves it is such a shock and a truly horrifying moment! This is horror at its best and I cannot recommend this movie enough! David A.
Final Girls: Slasher fans revere the 1980’s like a wine connoisseur laments their favorite bottle’s peak year. It makes perfect sense since the elements back then that made them so popular (teen victims with IQ’s below room temperature and sex drives that would wear Gene Simmons out) just don’t click with today’s more sophisticated audience. That hasn’t stopped a few ambitious film-makers from trying to resurrect them on occasion but it can never be the same as if it were created during those golden years. Then comes Final Girls; a movie that reminds us of that old magic while staying true to today’s savvier film-goers. It also boasts a clever new concept which, in today’s reboot/remake/sequel driven world is about as likely to see as one of those recent 1.4 billion dollar winning Powerball tickets! The daughter of an actress who starred in a cult classic ‘80s horror movie finds her and her friends trapped in the very same film. This gives them “92 minutes” to figure a way out of it while avoiding the cleaver of a masked maniac. There are some amusing exchanges between the ‘80s teens and the Millennials along with some heartfelt moments between the screen “mom” and her real life daughter who was never able to make peace with her real-life mother’s death. Middle-aged fans like me will recognize nods to The Burning as well as the Friday the 13th franchise while everyone should appreciate the humor and stylistic touches. Definitely worth checking out! Dave F.
Howl: Both of us Daves love werewolves (even over vampires) and David A. listed his favorites a couple of years back in his Thirteen Werewolf Films with Bite piece. I have a feeling that if he wrote that today, there’d be a fourteenth entry and that addition would be the United Kingdom’s Howl. A group of unfortunate train passengers find themselves under siege by a pack of werewolves stalking the English countryside. The creatures are pretty grotesque and I appreciated the liberal use of old school monster effects. True, it probably could have benefitted from the “less is more” rule of thumb, but sometimes you just gotta see that monster! There’s gore, laughs, and further proof that male heroes don’t always come in brawny packages. Dave F.
Krampus: 2015 was a great year for ticket sales and featured some highly successful franchise returns such as The Lost World, Mad Max, The Avengers, and (most recently) STAR WARS. But while most of my friends saw Krampus once and STAR WARS multiple times this past December, the opposite was true for me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved STAR WARS and enjoyed all the movies I mentioned, but Krampus was by far my favorite. Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat) is one director that knows exactly how to convey the true essence of a holiday’s spirit; embellishing every scene with the perfect visuals. Krampus also manages to capture with satiric precision what a thousand Hallmark Channel movies never can; the immense stress most of us put ourselves through during the holiday season while losing sight of what’s really important. In the end, it isn’t Jolly Saint Nick that remedies the situation but Krampus; a darker version of Santa who hunts down the less faithful. The design of the movie’s villain is a loose homage to Pumpkinhead and assisting him on his dark deeds are some frightening yet imaginative “elves” and gruesome killer toys. It’s stylish and imaginative and worthy of repeated viewings. I saw it twice at the theater and anxiously await its Blu-ray release when I can see it again. Truly Krampus is a Christmas gift that will keep on giving. Dave F.
Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse: This is one of those films that I really thought I would hate. Though the trailers looked promising I assumed that they were showing the best parts of the film. The scenes in the trailers make the movie look really fun and I am happy to say that the fun continues beyond those couple of minutes of clips. The most recognizable person in this film is David Koechner, who as the scout leader, proves he was really not prepared. The payoff of this film is that it is just fun. The sight gags are funny and they even manage to bring some originality to a zombie apocalypse. David A.
Tales Of Halloween: Halloween is the perfect time of year for horror movie viewing and every year, there is a handful of “must see” films that I make sure to watch before the night when the barrier between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. Films like John Carpenter’s Halloween and Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat are at the top of the list and now this film, directed by eleven people no less, has been added to the Holy Trinity. This film features ten stories woven together with a Halloween theme. They range in quality from just ok to spectacular but even the lesser offerings are fun in their own right. It is chock filled with familiar genre faces in front of the camera as well as behind it and that’s what really makes this movie stand out. It never takes itself overly serious and is a perfect homage to not only horror movies, but to the Halloween season. This came out in limited release to mixed reviews but I am pretty sure that once it gets its official blu-ray release it will become the cult favorite that it was destined to be. David A.