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It's the Booze Talkin': 2014 Was A Pretty Good Year for Horror Fans!

At the end of the year we are inundated with best of lists, top 10s and so many other articles commemorating a year in review. And while this may be just another look back at the past twelve months, it is honestly a pleasure to talk about all the groovy things that have continued to make me proud to be a horror fan. I could easily complain – and I certainly have – that the studio system seems intent on trying to piss us off with such awful entries as ANNABELLE, OUIJA, THE QUIET ONES and the abysmal THE PYRAMID. Thankfully however, there was much to love this past year in horror, and this is a bit of a shout out to some of my personal favorites.

Who would have ever imagined that television would continue to offer up such a satisfying array of thrills and chills? With such hits as “The Walking Dead” and “Hannibal”, or even the ultra-strange and provocative “Bates Motel” – with the phenomenally talented Vera Farmiga - it is hard to not find something to entertain in. Two of my favorites happen to be a little on the odd side, but I couldn’t resist the intriguing “Penny Dreadful” and its fantastic cast of characters. And speaking of a fantastic cast… As a longtime fan of Jessica Lange, it is always a pleasure to tune into whatever weirdness Ryan Murphy conjures up for her on “American Horror Story.” Call me crazy but I still love that show.

As mentioned, it is easy to dismiss most of the major studio releases, but what about the independent flicks? In my very own top 10 films of the year, two genre movies found a home. UNDER THE SKIN is strange as f*ck, but absolutely hypnotic harkening back to such filmmakers as Ken Russell and Nicolas Roeg’s early works. And then there is THE BABADOOK which haunted me thanks to the incredible performances from Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman. Also quite powerful was its surprisingly intense dramatic – and very real – story. It is always exciting to see horror challenge itself and create something that sneaks up on you and doesn’t let go. Both of these terrific films managed to do that in very different ways.

Independent cinema was the way to go this past year. There were a number of memorable films that didn’t get a release at a theatre near you. DEAD SNOW: RED VS. DEAD was an insanely fun flick with loads of gore and humor to spare. THE SACRAMENT continues to prove that Ti West is one of the most exceptional names in horror today. And I can’t say enough about the fantastic lead performance in the captivating STARRY EYES. Alexandra Essoe is perfection as a wannabe starlet who will stop at nothing to find fame and fortune in Hollywood. And it’s always great to see Noah Segan in almost anything. Finally, when A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, you know you are in for a real treat.

And while I’ve used some of the major releases as my personal whipping boy in this particular column, it wasn’t all bad. Both OCULUS and THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN found a home within Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions. Each one offered an impressively fresh take on the genre. Filmmaker Mike Flanagan managed to make a freaking mirror scary for goodness sake. Plus he had the smarts to cast the lovely Karen Gillian in one of the lead roles. And when it comes to reboots, the clever balancing act of being something of a remake and a sequel is a tricky one, yet SUNDOWN managed to pull it off rather nicely. It’s a shame that this fine feature didn’t get a major theatrical release because it was a damn good flick.

Maybe it’s the booze talking, but 2014 was a pretty good year for horror fans. I love that television continues to challenge major theatrical releases and win. I have so many TV shows that I need to binge watch, and most of them are in some way, shape, or form immersed in the world of horror. And when it comes to movies, I continue to be excited by the smaller releases that manage to get under your skin. What can we expect for 2015? More of the same when it comes to great genre possibly? Let’s see if Guillermo del Toro can delight us with some good old-fashioned Gothic fright with CRIMSON PEAK. And who knows, maybe one or two scary treats will be in-store when it comes to major releases.
Extra Tidbit: There is a ton of good stuff I missed... What are some of your favorite genre offerings from 2014?

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