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July 4, 2016

Rolling Stone's Best Horror Movies of 2015: Reviewed

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I am an unequivocal horror movie fan. I'm not sure why I still love them, considering that true horror quality is difficult to come by in this age of the gruesome and gory 'torture porn' films such as 'Saw', 'Hostel', and 'Vile', the latter of which I didn't even bother finishing. And don't even get me started on 'rape revenge' horrors: give me something that makes the hairs rise up on the back of my neck, startles me either physically or mentally, or gives me something to think about.

I've been planning to do this post since the beginning of the year after wandering around the net in search of good horror movies. I came across Rolling Stone's list of top horror movies of 2015 and decided to watch each one. I have finally done so and have been pleasantly (or should I say horrifically) surprised to find that character development and plot have really begun to change the horror landscape. While we still find some low-budget mumblegore films, we are also being offered up really thoughtful and almost genre-defying films, and here are my thoughts on the movies that were included.

10. The Final Girls

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Not to be confused with 'Final Girl', which also came out in 2015, 'The Final Girls' is a horror spoof/parody of the classic film series 'Friday the 13th'. Using the same premise of a serial killer on the loose at a summer camp, this slasher film has no real surprises. Except of course for the fact that all the characters are stuck inside a film and must figure out how to escape. It is also much more than a terrible spoof of slasher films: the dialogue is clever, the transitions are smooth, and the film simply makes fun of the horror film tropes that have been stock standard plot points since slashers began, in particular the stereotypical plot point that highly-sexualised female teens (or at least those who reveal their naked bodies) are certainly among the first to take their leave. It is only the virgin who can overcome the evil of such a serial killer. This horror-comedy also flawlessly manages to make the characters real and thoughtful instead of simply waiting for their time to die.

My rating: 4 out of 5

I would like to make a mention of 'Final Girl', however. A think-piece in my opinion, it sees a young girl trained as the ultimate weapon against serial killers. She is basically a highly skilled lure for men who cannot resist being cruel and brutal to innocence. It did not receive good ratings in general, perhaps because as the viewer you're sort of dumped into a plot with no real backstory for any of the characters. Personally I loved the film noir-style of the cinematography. It also makes one question the state of a world where we cannot hope for justice unless we take it into our own hands, a place where we can only defeat brutes by becoming one ourselves.

9. The Visit

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M. Night Shyamalan's foray into handheld horror was 'The Visit'. In what seems like an innocent weekend away with their grandparents, a brother and sister are faced with increasingly bizarre behaviour by both of their elders. As with all handheld horrors, the film suffers from being too focused on the mundane throughout but the thrills are quite scary and the inevitable twist even more so. Shyamalan's view of the world - that everything is based on belief - is important for this film's premise because the two have never met their grandparents and simply believe what they have been told. Isn't that what belief is?

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

8. When Animals Dream

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For those who love the idea of werewolves, 'When Animals Dream' is a really interesting film to watch. For those who love to see werewolves, this is perhaps not your style. The first foreign film on the list, it takes place on a small fishing island where its teenage protagonist finds herself feeling more and more out of sorts with the people in her lives. The zeitgeist of the failing town appears to be indulgent of her as well as malicious towards her. She begins to feel her body changing, and it is not just a sexual awakening for her.  While visually appealing, the film's drawbacks include a slow pace and low character investment on our parts. The story is interesting enough to keep us curious but it doesn't really deliver on its promises in the horror genre. It should really be considered a supernatural thriller instead.

My rating: 3 out of 5

7.  We Are Still Here

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So to be honest I'm not really certain why 'We Are Still Here' has received such rave reviews. I was utterly bored with it. There were no real surprises for me. It certainly had its positive points, such as enticing moments of tension, creepy shocks, great special effects, and an interesting take on haunted houses in general, but I think these don't outweigh my impression of the gore being the drawcard rather than an interesting story and appealing characters. If you're looking for a good replacement for this spot, I would suggest 'Visions',  which is scary and has a lovely twist.

My rating: 2 out of 5

6. Crimson Peak

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I enjoyed this haunted house film much more. 'Crimson Peak' is a gothic horror with intriguing characters and good acting (Mia Wasikowska is amazing in these types of roles - check out 'Jane Eyre' or 'Stoker' if you're interested), a beautiful and unique setting, amazing costumes, and tension and scares. The haunting is artfully done, the story is well put together and the plot twist is memorable and disturbing. You should enjoy this one.

My rating: 4.5 out of 10

5. The Falling

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This is certainly one of the more stranger films on the list, not only because it's one of the weirdest movies I've every seen but also because it isn't a horror in any sense. It's not even a haunting. 'The Falling' is set at an English school where a mystery fainting illness appears to come over a group of girls involved with Abbie, the blonde favourite of both girls and boys. Abbie dies after fainting mysteriously. The friends she left behind are grieving her loss, particularly Lydia, who goes on a downward spiral, rebelling against the teachers at school and her mother, who strangely never leaves their home and making every effort to be close to Abbie again. It's a slow film and even worse, the mystery of the fainting sickness is never revealed. This was interesting but really made no sense eventually. And I think the marketing was a little deceiving, as you can see from the cover.

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

4. Spring

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This is definitely one of my favourites in this list. 'Spring' tells the story of a young man who has lost his purpose in life and leaves the US for Italy. Here he falls in love with a woman in a plot much like that of 'The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman'. The exception is that this woman is no normal pixie fairy love interest. She is actually something not of this world and the pair have to decide whether love will save them both. This independent film is artfully done and while it starts off slowly, it is all worth it in the end. The horrific moments are elegant without being artsy and the characters are also well-performed. This horror, if you haven't seen it, should be on your list.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5

3. What We Do In The Shadows

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I loved this film for its unique outlook on the 'modern' vampire. Melding together historical and nouveau ideas of what vampires are, 'What We Do In the Shadows' is a documentary spoof of the domestic lives of a bunch of vampires living in Wellington, New Zealand. From 'Nosferatu' to 'Dracula Untold' and 'Interview With the Vampire', there is a type of vamp for everyone. Throw in some hilarious biting mishaps, virgin meals, werewolves, and an annual ball and you have a creative comedy that will make you giggle. Its only drawback is that it can be a little slow.

My rating: 4 out of 5

2. Goodnight Mommy

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This film definitely belongs on every best horror movie of 2015 list. 'Goodnight Mommy' is an Austrian film following the lives of twin brothers who don't believe their mother, who has just returned from plastic surgery, is truly their mother. They begin to torture their mother emotionally and physically, waiting for her to admit who she really is. But all is not as it seems and the truth of the matter is well worth reading the subtitles for!

1. It Follows

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Also another film deservedly on this list, it is certainly one of the most disturbing. Playing on the concept of catching an illness from someone during intimate moments, 'It Follows' is truly terrifying. Jay is plagued by a some...thing following her at ever turn. No matter where or how fast she runs, it will catch up to her. This film is filled with suspense and uncertainty, and instead of relying on shock value for its ratings,the focus is on the tension, visuals, and the music, the latter being a detail that many horror films are forgetting about.

My rating: 4 out of 5

Have you seen any of these films and disagree with my rating or viewpoint? I'd love to know what you think! Please comment below!

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