In the year that Jeremy Clarkson got binned by the BBC, same-sex marriage was legalised in America, Bruce changed to Kaitlyn and it became cool to be a Belieber, cinema has again delivered an eclectic selection of entertaining films. Here are my picks of the 2015 bunch, based on the UK release dates…
Due to the countless classic horrors of times gone by, it has been a challenge in cinema to stand out from the crowd when delving into the fright genre. Let’s reflect on ten who avoided the cliché pitfalls and got it right…
10. It Follows
David Robert Mitchell’s indie chiller ‘It Follows’ took a trademark ‘pass it on’ theme of horror films and put a modern twist on it, with a terrifying curse moving from one victim to the next through intercourse. Sexy!
Acclaimed director James Wan created what is arguably the best known horror franchise of the century, the original dating back to 2004. It has spawned a whopping six sequels already with another due out next year. His other works in the field include Insidious and The Conjuring.
8. Paranormal Activity
The Blair Witch Project rejuvenated the found-footage style horror movie in 1999, so is slightly too early for this list but Paranormal Activity is the most notable film of its kind this century. The first, written and directed by Oran Peli, was a low-budget wonder but unfortunately the series has repeated itself ever since.
7. The Guest
Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens made the jump from telly to the silver screen last year in The Guest, directed by Adam Wingard. It implemented horror elements in a synth styled flick about a mysterious ex-soldier.
Scripted by the great Joss Whedon, this self-aware teen-comedy horror poked fun at the slasher stereotypes and had a lot of fun in the process. Chris Hemsworth featured in the leading role ahead of his Thor fame.
5. The Babadook
The Babadook is probably one of the more conventional choices on the list, but is a good example of solid execution. The debut feature for actress turned writer and director Jennifer Kent terrified audiences across the country last year.
4. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
The most recent addition to the list is black and white indie ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’. Set in a ghost town called Bad City and featuring a fantastic 80s soundtrack, this is the best thing to come out of Iran since…well since ever!
3. Shaun of the Dead
The team behind cult sitcom Spaced added their unique comedic twist to three types of film during their blood and ice-cream trilogy, the first and in my opinion the best of which was the zombie-horror Shaun of the Dead.
2. Under the Skin
Scarlett Johansson terrorises the streets of Glasgow in bizarre sci-fi horror Under the Skin, directed by visionary filmmaker Jonathan Glazer. A haunting, pulsing score and a chilling performance makes a strange but frightening cinema experience.
One of the many challenges in modern filmmaking is to achieve originality, perhaps even more so in the horror genre which has its own array of cliché and trademarks. ‘It Follows’, written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, is an indie chiller that plays up to expectations and subverts them, carrying on the recent up shift in modern suspense films. The plot centres around a sexually transmitted curse which is passed on to lead character Jay (Maika Monroe) in the backseat of her new boyfriend’s car. Faced with the terror of being stalked by creepy entities who take form in all shapes and sizes, she is told to quickly sleep with someone else to ‘pass it on’. Will this rid her of the horrific plague or will she be followed forever, always looking over her shoulder? This intriguing premise plays out with style, creative flair and a thrilling synth-heavy soundtrack, bringing eighties-like scares into the present day.
Quite often with stories of this ilk, Jay and her close-knit group of friends would be picked off one by one by whatever ghastly ghoul is on their tracks but the development of the narrative here isn’t driven by a death count. Instead, the characters strategise over how to overcome Jay’s threatening problem through reasonably intelligent discussion, the script flowing well and creating a believable back-story between the clan through in-jokes and anecdotes. There are still jump scenes that we’ve come to accept, Mitchell exercising a true knack for building suspense, and of course there are moments of sheer stupidity from potential victims as at one point Jay thinks it’d be a great idea to cycle alone to the local swing park in the middle of the night. Despite losing its way a little in the final third, struggling to come up with a satisfying conclusion and treading slightly into repetitive street, the high points will continue to haunt.
Maika Monroe came to the attention of cinema-goers with her appearance last year in genre-crossing horror-thriller The Guest, a film not dissimilar to It Follows in its visual style and score choices. Her acting carries an fascinating vulnerability which obviously works well in these sort of parts yet she has the strength and screen presence of a powerful female lead. Solid support comes from Keir Gilchrist and Daniel Zovatto in their roles as boys who want to assist Jay with her issue, openly willing to selflessly take one for the team and have her pass ‘it’ onto them. This makes for an interesting little lust triangle sideline with a twist but thankfully doesn’t deflect too much from the core concept.
‘It Follows’ might not be unique in its classic ‘pass it on’ storytelling device but the way in which the film is profoundly executed makes it one of the best modern horrors I’ve seen in years. It successfully avoids the formulaic pitfalls and has the added advantage of a brilliant central character in Jay, played superbly by Monroe. She’s young, on trend and instantly relatable to my generation at least which makes her creepy visions all the more terrifying. Maika Monroe is fast becoming my new movie crush and I could watch her running away from evil spirits all day long. If she is to become the face of modern horror, I am more than happy to go along for the ride.