Before I get to the first half of my top 10 list, I’m gonna rant for just a sec. It’s a rant you’ve heard from me before, but I’m gonna bang this drum as long as my banger still works. Whenever I tell someone that I write about horror movies, they often say, “They just don’t make any good horror movies any more.” When someone says that, I ask them how many independent horror movies they’ve seen lately. Nine times out of ten, their response is “Huh?” There’s the problem right there.
One criticism I know I’m gonna hear about my top 10 is “But Nathan, I’ve only seen two or three of these.” That’s because only two of my top 10 got a major theatrical release. If you’re relying on your local multiplex for good horror, you’re shortchanging yourself folks. I implore you, look deeper. The good stuff isn’t coming out of Hollywood. If you really want to see the best of what the genre currently has to offer, you’re gonna have to dig. Not far, mind you. Of the 8 indie flicks on my top 10, 7 are available at Redbox, on VOD, from Amazon, or are a simple google search away. I’ve seen way too many top 10 lists this year that include mediocre major studio fare just because they only take big releases into account. For the sake of the genre and for the sake of your entertainment, SUPPORT INDEPENDENT HORROR!
Look, I'm really not trying to sound like a film snob here, I just want more people to get a chance to see these kick ass movies. Ok, now that I’m done proselytizing, lets get on with the countdown…
10. Nazis at the Center of the Earth
I’ve spoken before about my love of The Asylum, the preeminent purveyors of mockbusters and SyFy channel guilty pleasures, but they outdid themselves here. This gem is, in my opinion, the best movie ever to come out of The Asylum’s hallowed halls. It has everything. There’s gore, Nazi flying saucers, human experiments, gratuitous nudity, gunplay, lost worlds, and a perfectly played Dr. Mengele. Yes, it has the over the top insanity that they are known for, but it’s got a darker, grittier, and nastier undercurrent than their usual output. It makes for a potent b-movie cocktail. The essence of this flick can actually be distilled into one scene. Yes, this is a spoiler, but it’s the kind of spoiler that will only make you want to see it more. Trust me. There is a scene where Jake Busey performs a forced abortion on his own baby momma, then throws the stem cells into a machine that immediately gives birth to Robo-Hitler! If you can read a sentence like that and not immediately add this to your necessary viewing list, there’s something horribly wrong with you. I saw a lot of movies this year that may have been technically better, but I honestly can’t say that I had more fun watching any movie this year than I did with this one.
9. TIE: The Revenant and A Little Bit Zombie
Yeah, I know, a tie is technically cheating. It’s my countdown and I’ll cheat if I want to. In a year that provided us with a whole lot of godawful horror comedies, there was a pair of zomedies that got it right. They both featured excellent comedic timing, good acting, crisp dialog, and quotable one-liners. So many horror comedies are purely splatstick or “dumb comedy.” While there is definitely a place for both of those styles, and both of these films embrace those elements, thankfully they also have brains…and not just the ones being devoured. Both flicks also feature relatable, well-rounded characters. The Revenant, in particular, had sequences that left me thinking “that’s EXACTLY what me and my friends would do in that situation." I think I need new friends. Anyway, I laughed hysterically at both of these, and I’m picky as hell about my comedy. It’s the perfect ZomCom double feature.
Take a bunch of tried and true horror tropes, throw in a couple of original ideas and interesting visual flares, and you’ve got the makings of a nice little creepfest. I just saw this one last night, and it was a great way to close out my viewing year. Yes, it’s painfully obvious where it’s going, but getting there is an entertaining ride. There is some excellent spooky imagery. Ethan Hawke does a good job in the lead. There is even come awesome comic relief embedded in the dialog. The “bedroom argument” scene had me rolling. Plus, Mr. Boogie is just plain cool looking. I’ve seen this film compared to Insidious in some reviews, but Sinister is the superior of the two in every way. What really cemented this flick’s place on the list however, is that – I can’t believe I’m gonna admit this – this was the only movie I saw in a theater this year that actually got me with a jump scare. In fact, it got me twice. One of them I even saw coming a mile away and it still worked. Well played gentlemen, well played.
7. Cell Count
Body horror came back in a big way this year, with Cell Count being one of the films leading the charge. We can all relate to the fear of our own bodies turning against us and the unease of not really understanding what our doctor is doing to us. Cell Count plays on these very real fears with a clinical ferocity. This kind of claustrophobic ensemble piece requires good performances all around to work, and this cast definitely comes through. I’m a sucker for mad scientists, and Dr. Victor Brandt is the best one since Dr. Heiter. Director Todd E Freeman mainly sticks with practical effects, and when he does, they’re imaginative and messy. By never revealing too much at one time, the film creates some real tension while still providing sick jollies for the gorehounds, which is a balance many can’t manage. This refreshingly “old school” combination of the prison/isolation and disease/infection subgenres really gets under your skin.
6. The Collective Volume 4
Some of the best, most innovative filmmaking going on today can be found in short films. Unfortunately, they’re criminally underseen because, outside of festivals, they don’t really have a showcase. JABB Pictures is changing that with their Collective series. The Concept: ten filmmakers each make a ten-minute film based around a central theme. It’s basically an indie horror sampler platter. JABB released volumes 3-5 of the series this year; and Volume 4, with each film tackling a different emotion, proved to be the epitome of what the series is all about. From the gritty, nihilistic realism of Luke 1:71 to the gross out excesses of Epidemic to the faux grindhouse madness of Bloody Hooker Bang Bang: A Love Story, this one truly has something to scratch everyone’s particular macabre itch. The Collective series gets my vote as the best horror value for your buck on the indie market right now, and Volume 4 is the best of the bunch…so far.
- Nazis at the Center of the Earth, A Little Bit Zombie, and The Revenant are all available on Netflix or on DVD/Blu Ray.
- Cell Count is available on itunes, Amazon instant, VUDU, Playstation Network, XBox Live, and just about every other VOD service you can think of.
- All 5 Volumes of The Collective are available at http://www.jabbpictures.com. They're just 10 bucks each, or get all 5 (that's over 8 hours) for $40.
- Sinister, well, you shouldn't have a hard time finding that one.
See, your old pal SOC made it easy on 'ya.