One of the true blessings that has come from running this site has been the opportunity to cover a number of the best genre festivals the world has to offer. That statement has never rung more true than in 2014, as we found ourselves in position to attend Fantasia, Fantastic Fest, The Telluride Horror Show, & The Boston Underground Film Festival among a number of other worthy events. Between all members of our writing staff, we have been able to get our eyeballs on close to 100 films that our currently playing the festival circuit, or have only recently been signed to a distribution deal.
Following independent horror in 2014 has the familiar feeling of following college rock/punk/hardcore and the indie scene in the early 1990s. The mainstream was awash in mediocrity while under the surface a groundswell of innovative and exciting acts were getting ready to take the music world by storm with some of the most exciting groups the world would ever see. Watching the films listed below gives me that same sense of excitement. These smaller, more personal films have so much to offer an audience, and 2015 is the year that they’ll step out from the small confines of festivals and be made available to the world at large. These are my ten favorite festival/unreleased films of the year, and the top choice is my pick for the best film of 2014. Period. End of story.
What a year.
#10 DYS- As a long time fan of Ms. Michaud’s short films, I was thrilled to find that the Montreal native pulled no punches with her feature film debut. Dys- is often uncomfortable to watch even without the threat of a deadly virus turning people into bloodthirsty zombies. Dys- shows relationships at their ugliest and at their most frail. As always, Shannon Lark is captivating to watch on screen. This time around she plays a woman ready to leave her long time lover: the film starts with her bags packed and one foot out the door when the shit hits the fan. This is a film about falling apart in ways where the pieces can never ever be put back together. Michaud is a young woman with a phenomenal ability to craft stomach churning visuals and her future is bright indeed. Mike’s Complete Review
#9 STOMPING GROUND This was the year of Bigfoot and I’ll be damn Dan Reisser’s micro budget blend of romantic comedy and monster movie wasn’t the best of the bunch.When a white collar computer whiz returns home with his rural area girlfriend for the Thanksgiving break he decides he needs to prove his manhood by accompanying her at her childhood friends on a weekend long hunt ofA great big ape in the backwoodsOf the south. What transpires is often a pissing contest between two rivals until old stinky rears its ugly head.The film looks gorgeous and I will be damned if the bluegrass soundtrack isn’t the best one of the year. This one won’t stay on the shelf lawn so look for it when it comes stateside next year. Mike’s Complete Review
#8 SUBURBAN GOTHIC Ricky Bates follow-up to Excision is a biting satire of the white picket fence two car garage suburban America that no longer seems to exist. Raymond Gray Gubler is a treat to watch as a rubber faced, unconventionally handsome beanpole of a lead. Playing the role of the Bud Abbott straight man, he balances zinging one liners with being a grounded force that stabilizes the film and holds the variant plot points together. Ray Wise has never been funnierHasIn Archie Bunker type of racist sexist out of touch father that thinks he is dispensingTruisms with everyAwful statement that comes out of his mouth.Bates’ comic sensibilities fit right in line with those of legends John Waters, Mel Brooks and Lloyd Kaufman. This is a throwback film that isn’t afraid to offend its audience as long as you are in on the joke. Mike’s Complete Review
#7 EVANGELINE Karen Lam’ personal and disturbing film explores what it is like to try and survive after suffering unimaginable abuse. Evangeline is Lam’s award winning short film Doll Parts fleshed out to feature-length form. Lam draws inspiration from supernatural revenge thrillers such as The Crow while upping the horror quotient and creating multiple moments of intense dread and terror. As she’s demonstrated multiple times in her award winning short film work, Lam has an amazing flair for visuals and details, and Evageline is simply one of the most gorgeous independent efforts you’ll feast your eyes on this year with the story inspired by Canadian folklore.
#6 BLOODY KNUCKLES Fans of Evil Dead 2 and Troma films during its heyday will absolutely love Matt O’Mahoney’s balls to the wall horror comedy. When an underground comic book artist who lives to piss off the right wing and left wing offends a local crime boss, he loses his money maker in the first of many over the top gore soaked scenes. Bloody Knuckles may be the only film to date with a bondage wearing, heavy S&M influenced, power bottom gay superhero doing battle side by side with a rotting, severed hand. It feels like Bloody Knuckles has a mental clock running throughout making sure that it does something sure to offend SOMEBODY every five minutes. Mike’s Complete Review
#5 CREEP My God I love Mark Duplass. There’s just something about the man that makes me want to run up and hug him, or at least give him a high five and plate of pancakes. Creep might be Duplass in his finest role ever as a super upbeat father to be that reveals to a documentarian he has incurable brain cancer. At its core creep is a story of two lonely individuals that aren’t all that different from one another despite what you are led to believe at the outset. Perhaps the best word to sum up Creep is “uncomfortable.” It plays with conventions in subtle ways, doing enough to keep you off balance while a pit of dread continues to gnaw away at your insides. Mike’s Complete Review
#4 ALLELUIA Fabrice du Welz’ long gestating followup to Calvaire is a psychologically twisted story between a con man that gets in over his head and a love starved woman driven mad with desire and fear of withering away from loneliness. Their twisted romance winds up leaving a string of corpses as the two are unable to quit one another despite their mutually assured destruction. Alleluia examines how the all-consuming love often felt during adolescence can drive one mad with lust, rage and jealousy when experienced in adulthood. Mike’s Complete Review
#3 BAG BOY, LOVER BOY Director Andres Torres accomplishes something that hasn’t been done in nearly two decades by making New York City a seedy and dangerous place inhabited by scum, con-men and vipers. Bag Boy is a searing takedown of the phoniness and dog eat dog nature of the New York art scene. As Albert, Jon Watcher gives one of the most disturbing and uncomfortable performances of the year as an developmentally stunted young man obsessed exploited for his nativity until he can no longer separate art from reality. This is the kind of film that makes you want to hose your body down in Purell after watching it, yet I love it more and more every time I watch it. Mike’s Complete Review
#2 IT FOLLOWS Heading into the new year this upcoming release from Radius Pictures is one of 2015’s most anticipated films, and there’s good reason for that. It Follows is simple in concept and perfect in execution. Like a virus transmitted through intercourse, “It” will never stop coming for you. Even if you manage to pass on the curse, your relief is only temporary as “it” will work its way through the line until “it” returns to you. Director David Robert Mitchell manages to evoke Carpenter at his best with this modern cautionary tale. Yet instead of falling back on the tired “sex=death” trope, It Follows is one of the sharpest examinations of teenagers exploring their sexuality in a responsible fashion where the repercussions for their actions are fully understood. Oh, and that last shot! It will stick to your brain like peanut butter on the roof of your mouth. Get ready for your new favorite scary movie in 2015. Mike’s Complete Review
#1 SPRING Simply put, there was not a single film this year I loved more than Spring. Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson’s followup to Resolution builds on the success of their debut in every way. The Italian seacoast, villas and wineries lend the film a sense of beauty not often found in micro-budget genre films. Yet Moorhead and Benson never allow the lush visuals to detract from what they do best, and that is craft genuine and empathic characters with real emotional stakes that the audience never feels less than fully invested in. Lou Taylor Pucci gives a career making performance as a young man head over heels in love with a beautiful woman hiding a monstrous secret (Nadia Hilker). I’ve watched Spring four times now, and it never fails to make me hold my breath in its final minutes. Even though I know how it turns out, I still find myself so caught up in the moment that I think it might just turn out different each time around. Mike’s Complete Review