In 2015, I saw The Babadook, an excellent horror film about a widow dealing with a difficult young son. One of his picture books that depicts a terrifying monster known as the Babadook seems to haunt them. The movie is available on Netflix, and I highly recommend it.
I didn’t see a horror movie that matched the suspense or artistry of Babadook this past year, but I did watch several interesting (and not so interesting) horror pieces.
The Witch (2015) follows a Puritan family in 17th century America who descend into paranoia when witchcraft is suspected to cause a tragedy. Though not “the scariest horror film in years,” as Collider says, it is a disturbing and beautifully shot indictment of religious hysteria (though the fervor is apparently warranted, due there being little suspense as to the actual existence of witches) with a script based on authentic old(e) school texts. Almost humorously dramatic at times, Witch features a straightforward plot and a thrilling ending. One disappointment: after hearing that the pet goat deserved an Oscar, I found his appearance to be far too brief.
The awkward, funny, and unsettling Creep (2014) depicts an ill-advised answer to a Craigslist ad. A videographer, the very tall Aaron, travels to an isolated location to meet Josef in order to film him for a day. Josef announces that he is dying of cancer and wants to make a video for his unborn son. His penchant for jump scares and a threatening wolf mask he calls “Peachfuzz” unnerves Aaron, but he feels sorry for the needy Josef. Creep is a found footage film that is sometimes too obviously improvised, but its creepy conclusion makes up for its flaws. Available on Netflix streaming.
In Honeymoon (2014), two newlyweds, Bea and Paul, embark on a honeymoon to a cabin in the woods near a lake, with no cell service or cable. The first half of the film focuses on the couple and their almost annoying giddiness and inside jokes. Their naturalism might not be incredibly gripping, but it is essential to the story’s turn for the worse. The lovers’ believable affection for one another makes their deteriorating relationship all the more effective. Bea starts behaving strangely, but she pretends nothing is wrong, in spite of Paul’s increasing agitation and alarm. Honeymoon is good for what it is, a small, slowly unfolding horror movie. Available on Netflix streaming.
Fade to Black (1980) is a bizarre and campy story of a cinema-obsessed young man with a Marilyn Monroe fixation and a nasty mother. Unsurprisingly, this loner snaps and turns to violence and full-time escapism as he dresses as monsters from classic films. If this sounds good to you, see it, but it might be too goofy for most.
I had only heard good things about It Follows (2014), but, though atmospheric and beautifully shot, it felt like a let-down. The the rules of a curse in which a sinister “thing” follows its victims are too vague to be particularly suspenseful. The characters are not very well-developed, and the sexual transmission of the curse (suggesting sexual abuse, STDs, fear of sex, etc.) struck me as unoriginal and unimaginative. Available on Netflix streaming, for those who disagree with me.
While Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak (2015) is a visually sumptuous gothic romance, it is not particularly scary, shocking, or haunting. Its portrayal of men and women in a horror film is rather refreshing, but the story did not stick with me.