The Best of 2014

by cohost Mike

March 23, 2015


As I write this it is 20 minutes after midnight on New Year’s Day, and about 19 hours from recording the first Dark Discussion episode of 2015. I hope to start this year off better than last, when the Flu From Hell pretty much wiped out the month of January, and made a mess of my end of year list. So with that in mind, let me do what I was unable to do last year, and address my 2014 movie lists and some general thoughts about what passed.

The episode we will shortly be recording will be our year in review show, and with 2015 beginning our DDP’s fifth calendar year, I guess it is safe to call this a tradition. I won’t spoil the final list here, but I can share with you my own.

Once again we have split the lists into “horror” and “everything else”, with some judgment calls on horror/thrillers like Gone Girl (ruled “not horror”) and Cheap Thrills (ruled “horror”). If the arbitrary division of titles doesn’t quite suit your fancy, well, you’ll get over it.

Too much of my year was lost to the massive time-suck that is Skyrim, to the point where I have to concede as much as I enjoy the series, I probably should never play it again. I have enough OCD that it really devoured my free time and killed my sleep schedule for months. That’s… not good. Thankfully I was able to catch up on a lot of the films I missed over Christmas weekend, devouring about 15 films in 4 days. By the end, I’ve seen some 60 horror titles in 2014, and about 25-30 in other genres.

All in all I thought this was a pretty good year when it came to theatrical releases. The big entertainment films like Mockingjay part 1, X-Men: Days of Future’s Past and the Lego Movie provided good times in theaters, and they didn’t even land on my top ten list. I know there are a lot of concerns about the box office returns, but for my (many) dollars, I had a blast this year.

As long as it wasn’t a horror film.

As much as I enjoyed the rest of what Hollywood dished out, the horror offerings were pretty weak, particularly in theaters. Oculus was probably the strongest horror film to get a wide theatrical release, and little of what remained proved memorable. Sure I can pick a scene from Anabelle or Deliver Us From Evil, but even the better films felt like reheated leftovers. Found footage, ghosts, possessions, all attempts to replicate Paranormal Activity and The Conjuring, and doing it as cheap as possible.

No surprise then to see that the DDP’s aggregate Top Ten horror list and my own Top 20 feature just one film from the theaters. The rest is all independent, VOD fare, and as has been the case in recent years, this is where you get the filmmakers willing to color outside the lines and take risks. Sadly only one film, The Babadook, has (so far) broken through to wider audiences, but I have hope that others will find their audience in the coming months.

As for my list, let me say that this was the order I came up with while having dinner a few nights ago. I probably don’t agree with it anymore, and will take bigger issue with it as time progresses. This is a snapshot based on how I felt then, and I was likely influenced a great deal by how recently I’d seen some films (Come Back to Me) or how good my viewing experience was (Tusk). Still I feel fairly confident in saying these ten films were my ten favorite of the year. However, unlike past years there was no single horror film that really stood out to be “the best”- this was a year with a lot of singles and doubles, but I don’t think any home runs.

#10 – Wolf Creek 2 - A long awaited sequel, discussed at length in episode 146. It’s almost-episodic format and wicked sense of humor stood out for me.

#9 – Stage Fright - Indy horror-musical starring Meat Loaf. A fun, Easter egg filled tribute to the slasher genre. But it is a musical – be warned.

#8 – Starry Eyes  A classic cautionary tale of vanity, ego and the price of celebrity. Solid performances and direction carry you through until the bodies drop in the last 20 minutes. We hope to cover it in an upcoming episode.

#7 – Babadook - Like this film more the more I think about it. Would have liked it to be scarier, but maybe I’m underrating because of the hype. Covered in episode #163.

#6 – Tusk  One of the most divisive films of the year. As you may have heard in episode 156, it is unlikely any of my co-host will put this on their lists (though Eric already has the Blu-Ray). I get the criticisms of Johnny Depp’s character, but I don’t care. Weird, creepy and funny, one of the best experiences I had in theaters this year.

#5 – Exists - Eduardo Sanchez needs to get more recognition. With this and Lovely Molly (episode 82) he has made two of the best horror films of the past 5 years. Its so sad that Willow Creek has gotten so much attention for shamelessly aping The Blair Witch Project, while Sanchez has moved on and uped the ante. Check out the fawning in episode 162.

#4 – Come Back To Me - One of my last viewings of the year, this had perhaps the ballsiest ending of 2015.

#3 – Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead - An instant horror-comedy classic. Episode recorded, to be released soon.

#2 – Big Bad Wolves - From the directors of Rabies/Kalavet(episode 116), they clearly have my number. Not quite as subversive as their last film, and with a much lower body count, but carried by solid performances and a black sense of humor. We have in depth discussions on the use of ring tones in episode 132.

#1 – Cheap Thrills - This is a film that really stuck with me throughout the year, which has elevated it somewhat since we covered it in episode 135. While the similarly plotted 13 Sins also makes my top 20, it’s focus on a conspiracy plot didn’t resonate nearly as much as the more pedestrian motivations of Cheap Thrill’s characters.

The Next Ten, In Alphabetical Particular Order:

13 Sins
ABCs of Death 2
The Den
Only Lovers Left Alive
The Taking of Deborah Logan
The Town that Dreaded Sundown
V/H/S Viral

Top Ten Non-Horror Films

#1.Nightcrawler Best film of the year for me, and it isn’t particularly close. Episode 161.

#2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Because it’s me. And it’s Apes. And it rocks. Episode 148.

#3.Snowpiercer  Definitely more hat than shoe.

#4. Gone Girl Immaculately made, but didn’t stick with me, and not likely to be something I revisit often. Still Fincher is one of the best in the business.

#5. Edge of Tomorrow  They seem to be trying to sneaked in a title change to Live. Die. Repeat. Who suggested that? This guy, in episode 143.

#6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier I cannot believe that they made a $170m film featuring Batroc the Leaper. One of Marvel’s best.

##7. The Raid 2: Berendal Not as good as the first because it wasn’t as grounded, but the fight scenes were still phenomenal. Episode 136.

#8. Journey to the West Just a fun time. From the director of Shao-Lin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle.

#9. Godzilla Yes, it has script issues, and they have plagued my thoughts more than they deserve. Still, it all pays off for me in the final 30 minutes.

#10. Guardians of the Galaxy Some of the best character work this year, which saves it from a very muddled, and by now familiar, plot. The Awesome Mix also helps immeasurably.