In an age of listicles, creating best of/worst of lists seems like, at best, a harmless but empty gesture and, at worst, an exercise in futility. Yet, there is something about a year-end’s list that seems necessary. We want to honor those that have kept the spirit of genre cinema alive and what better way than to come together and gush about the movies we loved. Rather than inundate you with too many lists, this year we decided to do it a little different. Polling our staff, we have averaged our favorite movies and came up with this collaborative list. So without further ado, here are Diabolique Magazine’s Top 10 Films of 2015:
1. It Follows
Repeat after me: It Follows is not a rip-off. While the term ‘rip-off’ is a cheaply deployed form of criticism when leveled against just about any film, it especially smacks of short-sightedness when thrown at writer-director David Robert Mitchell’s bold, vibrant, and deeply unnerving follow-up (pun intended) to his 2010 debut, The Myth of the American Sleepover. A poignant meditation on trauma’s lingering effects on the brain and its complex relationship to human intimacy, It Follows doesn’t make waste of a second of its running time in establishing what will likely come to be known as one of the great mythologies of 21st century Horror. That it cribs from several all-time great genre filmmakers’ signature touches as a means to its end undermines neither the focus and intent with which it does so, nor the singular sensibility of its author. Bolstered by a haunting and crunchy nouveau-synth score by one brilliant up-and-coming composer, Disasterpeace (who also scored Fez, of the best indie video games of recent years), the film is proof positive not only of Mitchell’s formidable technical and aesthetic prowess, but also that Horror can offer important insights on the teenage without relying on slasher conventions.
– Max Weinstein
2. What We Do In The Shadows
2015 was a particularly good year for Horror-Comedy. Horror-comedy is a sub-genre that has had a rocky history; from some of the best releases to some of the most dreadful, its proven to be a difficult genre to navigate through because each of its polar opposite emotions. I have always thought the best horror comedies were typically those that were more in debt to the horror elements than the comedic, films like Dead Alive and Return of the Living Dead. Yet, What We Do in the Shadows is nearly these films’ antithesis, so much so that it is a film that is hardly even classifiable as horror. Beyond being aptly written and directed by Jemaine Clement (The Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi (Boy), What We Do in the Shadows proves itself to be a worthy contender through lovingly harping on the myriad of representations of the cinematic vampire. So while neither New Zealand-born writer-directors are looking to scare you, here, they sure as hell know their subject matter in an intimate way. At a brisk 86 minutes, the film is over before you know it and will have you quickly desiring a rewatch. Of all the films I watched this year, What We Do in the Shadows had me laughing the hardest…and sometimes we need to laugh.
– Joe Yanick, Managing Editor
3. Ex Machina
Ex Machina is a slick sci-fi debut for writer/director Alex Garland. It tells the story of programmer Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) who is chosen to administer a Turing test to an android named Ava (Alicia Vikander). While this set up retreads now-familiar territory, strong performances on behalf of Gleeson, Vikander, and Oscar Isaac—who plays Ava’s creator—result in an unexpected and memorable film. Ex Machina’s tense atmosphere, coupled with a moody soundtrack and minimalist aesthetic, mark it as one of the most refined sci-fi films of recent years, and one of our favorites of 2015.
– Jake Whritner, Web Editor
4. Goodnight Mommy
A master class in the art of misdirection from debut writer-directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, Goodnight Mommy is a hypnotic, deeply chilling psychological horror film from Austria. In this twistedly dark little fairy tale about twin brothers having suspicions about their mother, who arrives back home from a surgery in bandages with a cold and austere demeanor, one’s allegiances keep changing throughout. Of both arthouse and extreme-horror sensibilities, the film daringly explores the unconditional love and ugliness between mothers and children, as well as the difficulties of coping with trauma and loss, and refuses to compromise any of its violent blows. Goodnight Mommy roars with dread at a quiet, languid hum and it’s even beautifully composed in the ugliest of images. It might just crawl under your skin and stay there.
5. Crimson Peak
While no means an original story (wealthy person married for his/her money and then offed — or the murder is at least heartily attempted), Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak is a sumptuous journey into this tried-and-true plot. However well-worn this story is, it’s never been done de Toro-style, and that’s what makes it special. Notable predecessors include a whole range of Hammer Horror’s Gothic horror-romances, along with the Roger Corman/AIP/Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe films, which should be well known to readers of this magazine. The main house was built explicitly for the film — and the production design and costuming is sensuous, colorful, and downright delicious. While the first quarter of the film is relegated to the standard Hollywood period romance for the most part, things take a decidedly darker turn into Gothic, grim Guillermo land, and the result is magical. You’ve never seen Jessica Chastain more malicious. It’s her as a villain that makes the human monster she plays nuanced, enraged, and pitiful — all at once. And of course, Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska are both on point. Highly recommended.
– Michele Galgana, Contributing Writer
– Cody Noble, Contributing Writer
7. Mad Max
Breathtakingly bleak and grim yet anarchic, visceral, strange, eye-popping, and exhilarating, here’s a dystopian action-western that isn’t based on another YA novel and it’s a knockout. A revamped, amped-up-for-2015 reboot of the 1979 ozploitation original that completely stands on its own, Mad Max: Fury Road returns to the desert with a vengeance and breathes vitality into the franchise and the way we look at action-genre filmmaking. It’s been almost thirty years since Aussie director George Miller last helmed a Mad Max movie, but he hasn’t given in to full CGI when practical effects and stunt work will always feel more exciting and dangerous. As the new Max Rockatansky, Tom Hardy is always a formidable presence, but this is arguably Charlize Theron’s movie as Furiosa, a true badass who has gone rogue and has no problem defending herself, despite a mechanical arm. Blending the psychedelic, heavy-metal and steampunk sensibilities with the dusty and action-packed, Mad Max: Fury Road is like a bonkers, operatic rush delivered by a madman. In other words, it’s one of the year’s best.
– Jeremy Kibler, Assistant Web Editor
8. The Editor
Astron 6’s The Editor made its mark this year when it made it to Blu-ray following worldwide acclaim from festival audiences; providing an unforgettable tribute to the lurid world of seventies Italian giallo with a side splitting comedy edge. The film mixes the best (and worst) bits of the genre, delivering them in a wonderfully spiced pastiche of all things seventies Eurocult. There is an emphasis on spoof — especially in the over the top performances, the deliberately bad dubbing, and gratuitous gore and nudity — but this all works for the greater good. With a strong cast; including Astron’s own Matthew Kennedy and Adam Brookes, joined by Paz La Huerta, Laurence R Harvey, Tristan Risk, and cult icon Udo Kier, the performances work to create a gloriously camp montage of debauched characters, while amping up the celebratory atmosphere tenfold. Grandiose, lurid, obscenely camp, surreal at times, and totally over-the-top, The Editor is a film that really packs a punch, and again proves that Astron-6 understand their fan base and know how to deliver.
– Kat Ellinger, Contributing Writer
9. Bone Tomahawk
“Brutal” is a word that gets tossed around a lot in the genre, signifying that specific kind of horror supposedly tailored for the most hardcore of fans. Only the “cool kids” can handle this kind of stuff, it implies. These films aren’t your run of the mill, post-Oscar season dump of low-grade, profitable slashers catering to the lowest common denominator. Supposedly. Then again, if you want to pump up some lagging ticket sales, just use it as a blurb in the new marketing campaign. “The most brutal movie ever made.” “Brutal and relentless.” “Nonstop brutality.” Etc. etc. It’s become an all-but-worthless descriptor.
10. We Are Still Here
Sometimes it’s the small things in a film that end up setting it apart from the rest of the pack and that is the case for We Are Still Here, from director Ted Geoghegan. While the tale is not a new one, it is presented in such a fashion that everything old seems new again and that is in no small part due to the exceptional performances turned in by Barbara Crampton and Monte Markham. Geohegan manages to paint a canvas of dread and despair and then highlights it with a powerful story and just the right amount of fantastically gruesome FX work to make this one a must see pick for the year.
– David Dreher, News Editor and Contributing Writer
Honorable Mentions: Deathgasm, The Voices, The Gift, The Tribe, The Assassination, The Final Girls, The Queen of Earth, Krampus