I was planning to do a Top 5 Horror Films of 2015, but it appears that most of the movies on my list were released prior to 2015. So excellent ones like Starry Eyes, Spring, Clown, Babadook, Digging Up the Marrow, Willow Creek, and all the other great to mediocre horror movies I saw this year that I thought were shiny and new were from last year.
And when I look at what was praised from this year—very little, so far—I wonder if maybe 2015 was a step back from the banner year for horror that was 2014. What did we get? A whole lot of warmed-over sequels, like Insidious 3, Paranormal Activity 8 or whatever number they're at now, Human Centipede 3, and a sequel to I Spit On Your Grave (why?), a handful of anthologies (Tales of Halloween was riddled with horror movie cliches, and I couldn’t get through the first ten minutes of A Christmas Horror Story), the moody yet hugely underwhelming It Follows, and Cooties which, while fun, just wasn’t up to par with the best horror-comedies like Shaun of the Dead, Tremors, Arachnophobia, etc. etc. I have yet to see Crimson Peak, Krampus, The Boy and Goodnight Mommy, movies that have received high praise elsewhere. Hopefully they’ll make a posthumous 2015 list once this year is dead and buried.
So, instead, I will countdown my Favorite Horror (Period) of 2015, including books, television, and movies. And here they are, in no particular order:
Maggie: This is a downer movie, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. It shows off Arnie's acting range, which I was previously impressed with in Total Recall (tell me that fear didn't look real in the scene where he's captured and told he "blabbed about Mars") and the Stallone vehicle, Escape Plan. Yes, it's a zombie movie, but it's more of a family drama than a straight-ahead horror: a tense and intense look at grief, illness, and letting go of loved ones. I reviewed it back in July, and I stick by my opinion.
Ash vs Evil Dead: This show is such a wild ride, it's impossible not to be pulled along in the wake of Ash Williams's mobile home on the back of his '73 Olds. Filled with acerbic wit, great fight scenes, badass Deadites, blood, blood and more blood, Ash is everything you'd expect of it and more. Bruce Campbell embodies the character so thoroughly it's impossible to see anyone else in the role. The jokes about his missing hand and his incessant need to try to engage every female character in sexual intercourse never grow tired, and better yet, we're introduced to new demons from the Necronomicon with actual names, something we'd never seen in the movies.
Hannibal's Final Season: This season ramps up the ethereal, dreamlike scenes of the first two seasons, so much that it's difficult to tell what's real at certain points. The latter half of the season follows serial killer The Tooth Fairy as much as damaged FBI profiler Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter himself, and builds on the tragic love triangle between Reba McClane, the troubled Francis Dolarhyde, and the creature inside him: The Great Red Dragon. NBC cancelled the show to the disappointment of many fans, but the series finale was very satisfying on an emotional, character and story level. Not just one of the best shows of the year, I've placed it on my list as one of my favorite shows of all time.
The Leftovers' "International Assassin" episode: Damon Lindelof's little seen but critically praised series based on the book by Thomas Perrotta (Election, Little Children) took a huge leap from the source material in Season 2 not just by moving the Garvey family to a town in rural Texas, a place nicknamed "Miracle," but by introducing a whole new family and various supernatural elements that go way beyond the "departure" concept of Season 1. "International Assassin" begins just moments after the main character's death, where he awakens naked in a tub filled with water, and it gets progressively stranger and far more dangerous from there. It’s a Purgatory as wild as any drug trip--a nightmare journey to the Ninth Circle of Hell replete with its very own versions of Virgil and Charon. Where any tension Wayward Pines rightly should have built collapsed within the first ten minutes of the series by constantly cutting away from the main character to others outside of town, The Leftovers Season 2 episode 8 sticks with Garvey the whole time, so the viewer is just as confused, frustrated and terrified as he is. It's an incredible emotional journey, well-deserving of its WGA Awards nomination.
Full-disclosure: I haven’t read a ton of books from this year. Peter Straub’s Koko took up a lot of my time, along with some great indie books from previous years. Aside from a handful of new short stories and novellas, I’ve read mostly betas from 2015. So here were my favorites of those...
Hunting Witches by Jeffery X Martin: This was a beta read—the book should be out early in the new year. The story of the Pendletons and their new house in Elders Keep (the missing apostrophe is intentional) starts out mundanely enough—although if you've read any of X's previous collections, you'll know Elders Keep is anything but ordinary. Once you're nice and comfortable, Witches ratchets up the tension with religious crazies and a sheriff whose dark secret just may be the key to saving his town.
GodBomb! by Kit Power (The Sinister Horror Company): Kit's debut novel is a masterclass in economy of words, character, and gripping storytelling. A kid on the edge enters a church looking for answers… with a bomb strapped to his chest, he demands God speak to him, or everyone dies. The story couldn’t be more timely, which makes it all the more terrifying.
Joe Coffin Season 2 by Ken Preston: Mob enforcer Joe Coffin is back and madder than ever, killing vampires left and right. Joe Coffin Season One was one of my favorites from my previous year’s reading, and I don't think I have to mention these vampires don't sparkle. They screw, kill, and give Coffin and reporter Emma Wylde the fight of their lives. This is not a TV series (yet), but it's definitely binge-worthy!
Also of note was a novella by Paul M. Feeney called The Last Bus (Crowded Quarantine). It’s an excellent debut, a sort of throwback to the ‘70s/’80s sci-fi horror flicks I remember fondly from childhood (Body Snatchers, The Thing, etc) that clips along at a brisk pace, and the dread is palpable throughout. Too often stories like these can be read by xenophobes as treatises for their preconceptions, but Bus wisely annihilates that trap very early on. Well worth the read.
Something is Lurking Under the Lake…
When Owen Saddler's little sister mysteriously drowns, Owen is determined to uncover the circumstances by following in her footsteps, even if it means diving into the murky—some would say haunted—waters of Chapel Lake.
Thirty years earlier, the town of Peace Falls had been flooded to build a hydroelectric dam, and its ruins remain below the surface of Chapel Lake. The strange disappearance of the town Pastor, along with many of the parishioners, still haunts the citizens of Chapel Lake. But does the church haunt the lake itself? Is Owen really seeing ghosts… or has he descended into the depths of madness?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Duncan Ralston was born in Toronto, and spent his teens in a small town. As a "grown-up," Duncan lives with his girlfriend and their dog in Toronto, where he writes about the things that frighten and disturb him. In addition to his twisted short stories found in GRISTLE & BONE, THE ANIMAL, and the charity anthology THE BLACK ROOM MANUSCRIPTS, his debut novel SALVAGE is available now.
"Mr. Ralston writes horror fiction that is unflinching and pulls no punches." - Kit Power (author of GodBomb!), THE GINGER NUTS OF HORROR