Eric Walkuski’s Top 10 Horror/Thrillers of 2014!

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

As I noted in my Top 10 Holy Shit Horror Moments list, 2014 was a superb year for the horror and thriller genres, on both the independent and studio sides. Of course there were plenty of stinkers (again, from both sides), but let’s not allow that fact of life from stopping our celebration of a very impressive output of thrills and chills. It wasn’t easy narrowing down my Top 10 favorites; truth be told, I was considering making it a Top 15 list, but decided in the end that I’d stick to the traditional format.

Of course, it’s worth remembering that this isn’t a definitive “best of” list; it’s just one goof’s opinion.

1 – Snowpiercer

This film has it all: Suspense, action, humor, satire, drama, great acting, great directing, great set design, great cinematography, etc., etc. It stimulated every single part of my brain while tugging at my emotions like an insistent child; it didn’t allow my attention to wander for a single moment. Watching the remnants of the human race tear itself apart has rarely been so harrowing and, conversely, vividly exciting. Bong Joon-ho, having already proven how excellent he is at instilling intense human emotion into high-concept genre material with THE HOST, has been kind enough to gift us with his masterpiece at the young age of 45. In my mind, SNOWPIERCER is already a sci-fi classic, and Bong is the most interesting filmmaker emerging in the genre.

2 – Gone Girl

Don’t think a movie such as GONE GIRL deserves to be on a Top 10 list like this? Maybe you haven’t seen it yet (or need to see it again?), because it’s as gleefully twisted, deranged and unpredictable as any straight-up horror film released this year. What sets it apart from the average thriller are things like budget and prestige: it’s based on a hugely successful novel and has a talented team of A-listers behind it. But don’t be fooled by the gloss: within it beats the dark, cynical heart of a clever psychopath just waiting to pounce on you.

3 – The Babadook

Jennifer Kent, with one film, announces herself as a mercilessly crafty orchestrator of spine-chilling terror and eerie atmosphere. Impressive, especially considering THE BABADOOK is as much a familial drama as it is a shit-your-pants horror funhouse. That’s the beauty of this film; it wrings our emotions as we watch the heartbreaking deterioration of a mother-son bond while simultaneously frightening us with the prospect of seeing an unmentionable monster lurking in the shadows. When we finally realize just what The Babadook is all about, it’s equally chilling and tragic.

And you can’t talk about THE BABADOOK without mentioning the performance of Essie Davis as a mother at the end of her rope. She won’t get an Oscar nomination of course, which is complete bullshit, but here’s hoping this film propels her into the ranks of cinema’s most highly-regarded actresses. She deserves it.

4 – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The PLANET OF THE APES movies have always been clever enough to be about more than the spectacle. (Well, maybe not including Tim Burton’s woeful remake.) As we’re dealing with the end of humanity and the rise of a new, flawed species, the APES films tackle the big issues: humanity, war, survival, honor, prejudice. Matt Reeves’ DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, easily the best of the franchise since Charlton Heston screamed at the Statue of Liberty, ably provokes thought about all these things while also firing on all action cylinders effortlessly. It’s also the very rare blockbuster that ends on an ambiguous note.

It wouldn’t work as well as it does without the extraordinary efforts of Andy Serkis and WETA, who combine to bring conflicted protagonist Caesar to life. Not only a great visual effect, but a truly great character.

5 – Honeymoon

This movie really threw me for a loop. I don’t know what I was expecting, but director Leigh Janiak completely wowed me with this steadily-paced, unnerving drama; it made me feel thoroughly wrung out after it was over. HONEYMOON invites us to voyeuristically watch as a sweet, happy couple (Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, both superb) are insidiously torn apart by unexplainable outside forces. It turns out to be both an engaging and off-putting experience; rarely are “cabin in the woods” movies so filled with a genuine feeling of helpless isolation and dread.

6 – Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead

Many of the more effective horror films this year held a grim or solemn demeanor; apocalyptic scenarios and wrenching character dramas ruled the day. Not so with Tommy Wirkola’s DEAD SNOW 2, a hilarious, energetic blast which never ceases to amaze, appall or both at the same time. No one was as surprised by its success as I was; I thought the first DEAD SNOW was watchable but unexceptional, while Wirkola’s Hollywood effort, HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS, mostly left me cold. DEAD SNOW 2 – with its exploding babies, romantic necrophilia and endless supply of ripped-out intestines – is the unlikely feel-good movie of the year; I don’t think a moment went by when I wasn’t smiling from ear to ear. Bring on DEAD SNOW 3; I’d love to see how Wirkola could possibly top this madness.

7 – The Guest

One of the most flat-out entertaining movies of 2014. Adam Wingard’s THE GUEST is a cooly efficient thriller, as suavely badass as its main character, David (Dan Stevens), a soldier whose attempt at making life better for the family of a former comrade is waylaid by his own simmering insanity. What really makes THE GUEST so fun to watch is that the movie itself reflects David’s personality. When he’s in charge, it hums along steadily and confidently, icy in its determination. When the cracks begin to appear in David’s veneer, however, the movie’s tone shifts as well; it gets meaner and weirder until it arrives at an exciting, somewhat bonkers climax. Oh what fun!

8 – Blue Ruin

BLUE RUIN is a most honest revenge thriller, one that doesn’t come with bombastic heroics or a black-and-white moral code. Its protagonist (an excellent Macon Blair) is a lost, pitiful soul; the villains are rather average folks who seem just as wounded as he does. Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier expertly brings the viewer to the edge of his seat not with over-the-top “hell yeah!” movie violence but with intelligent writing and economical filmmaking. Every piece of dialogue counts and every shot tells you something; this is a filmmaker who knows exactly how to craft a scene using every resource available to him.

9 – A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A slow, black & white Iranian arthouse vampire film with minimal dialogue, zero exposition and almost no sex or violence. Not necessarily the most exciting prospect, but Ana Lily Amirpour’s A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is an entrancing piece of cinema, gorgeously photographed and almost sensually mysterious (not unlike the enigmatic vampire at the center of the tale). It’s a good companion piece to Jim Jarmusch’s ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE; they both show us being a vampire can be a fairly ho-hum existence, not to mention a very lonely one.

10 – The Town that Dreaded Sundown

No wonder THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN didn’t get a wide theatrical release (or any theatrical release, for that matter): It’s just too damn weird. Many of the elements are familiar: mysterious killer terrorizes town while an enterprising young woman sets about solving the mystery, but director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and his unique, abstract vision substantially elevate the material into something far more surreal than anticipated. The film’s scenes of violence pull no punches, but elsewhere it’s morbidly funny, cleverly self-aware and, sometimes, unexpectedly sweet. It’s one of the few Jason Blum-produced efforts this year that actually deserved a much wider audience; hopefully as the years go on, it’ll reach the audience it couldn’t the first time around.


This is just a slapped-together list of the flicks that didn’t quite make the cut. I really, really liked every movie on here, and in a lesser year (like last year, for example), most of them would absolutely be Top Ten-worthy. Alas, 2014 was simply overflowing in genre riches. Titles are in alphabetical order:

ABCs of Death 2, Afflicted, Banshee Chapter, Cheap Thrills, Coherence, Cold in July, Edge of Tomorrow, A Field in England, Grand Piano, The Houses October Built, Housebound, Nurse, Oculus, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Raid 2, The Rover, Starry Eyes, Under the Skin, Witching and Bitching (pictured above).

Tags: Hollywood

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