Last Year in Fear: Our Top Picks for Horror Media in 2015

Even without the stellar horror releases that littered the media landscape, 2015 was a pretty terrifying year in of itself. France suffered the Paris Attacks; the US was subject to nearly 300 mass shootings; and large parts of England appear to currently be underwater. The outlook for the planet isn’t great and, since North Korea apparently decided to ring in the New Year by setting off a nuclear bomb, the fate of the world is hanging by an ever thinner thread. So why, in light of all these real dangers, should you be excited about media that was designed to scare us? Because it gives us an outlet, a way to release all of that pent up fear in one hour-long frenzy of pillow-hugging, squealing, and violent popcorn throwing. So, as 2016 gets underway, take the time to indulge in a few of last year’s horror titles and feel the terror slip away. Let’s just call it Shock Therapy.

Film

Although a lot of critics would disagree with me, I personally thought that 2015 was a strong year for horror in film. On the one hand, you had the numerous tacky sequels, reboots, and remakes like Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (yes, I really hate Paranormal Activity, thanks for noticing), Poltergeist, and Sinister 2. But, on the other hand, we were treated to some top quality horror titles reminiscent of 2014’s The Babadook and Oculus. Without further ado, here are my top film picks for 2015:

  1. It’s Behind You – It Follows

8385_poster_iphoneIt Follows was one of the most intelligent and impressive horror films that I’ve seen in decades. It combined an original story-line with a winning cast, stunning cinematography, and a soundtrack so provocative that I still get shivers down my spine when I listen to it. That being said, it tends to be one of those films that divides opinion. Some people, myself included, were willing to accept the film’s slow-pace and ambiguous ending because the journey was ultimately more important than the destination, while others were disappointed at the lack of closure and what they perceived as lazy “filler” scenes. For that reason alone, it’s definitely worth watching since, whether you like it or not, it’s sure to create a debate. For a broad perspective (and some spoilers!), we recommend reading Slash Film’s review, which you can find here, and Variety’s review, which you can find here. Alternatively you can read our review (with no spoilers) here.

  1. Who Needs the Summer of Love – Spring

9af64d532c3cdfe6304e627e2d210dfeSpring is a romantic sci-fi horror which, if anything, makes it reasonably unique in the horror community. Like It Follows, Spring tackles an unusual story-line and its success in doing so, or lack thereof, has similarly divided public opinion. The score is beautifully simplistic, the cinematography is undeniably opulent and visually nourishing, the acting is superb, but the strangeness of the story and the use of that age-old, hackneyed “scientific” explanation has disappointed many viewers. As such, it makes for another fantastic watch since it’s sure to stimulate your brain cells and leave you wanting more. We recommend reading The Missing Reel’s review here, or alternatively check out our review here.

  1. You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry – Krampus

krampus-2015-horror-movie-posterKrampus is one of those films that puts a smile on my face every time I think of it. And that’s a relative miracle, considering I despise comedy horrors. My major bone of contention with this subgenre is that they’re often just comedies. If you can just bung a few scary moments or horror tropes into an otherwise non-scary film and call it a “comedy horror” or a “fantasy horror” or (dare I say it) a “Disney horror”, then Scary Movie, A Nightmare Before Christmas, and Pan’s Labyrinth would all be considered horror movies. Where Krampus ultimately succeeds as an actual comedy horror is that the horror and comedy elements are perfectly balanced. The film is funny and scary in equal measure, leading to several moments where my brain became desperately confused as to whether I should laugh or cry (or wet my pants). Like Gremlins and Poltergeist, it’s the perfect gateway horror film for the younger generation and one that people of all ages are sure to enjoy. We recommend watching Red Letter Media’s video review here, or you can check out our written review here.

Honourable Mentions – Goodnight Mommy and Bone Tomahawk, both of which I have yet to watch but have been phenomenally well-reviewed.

Television

Unlike the horror film scene, which has gone from strength to strength, it seems that horror television has really let the side down. There were very few fresh or new series’, leaving us only with stale continuations of franchises that are doomed to (hopefully) burn out in the near future. Don’t get me wrong, I love American Horror Story and The Walking Dead as much as the next person, but sometimes it really does feel like they’re flogging an undead horse. I’ve caught myself yawning my way through whole episodes or, in one instance, falling asleep in an almost upright position. At this stage, if I fall and crack my head open while watching, I’m going to consider suing these guys for “risk of criminal boredom”.

  1. Let’s Get Groovy – Ash vs Evil Dead: Season 1

ash-vs-evil-dead-posterIn amongst horror television behemoths like TWD and AHS, Ash vs Evil Dead stood its ground as one of the most anticipated horror series to grace our television screens. The show sees the return of notorious horror hero Ash, played by the ever enigmatic Bruce Campbell, as he forgoes a much deserved retirement and returns to his one true passion: fighting off evil Deadites. As a comedy horror, the show mixes fun and fear in equal measure, with enough hilariously over-the-top gore to give any of the Evil Dead films a run for their money. What started off as an unexpectedly popular and incredibly low budget festival film has spawned into one of horror’s greatest legacies; and this latest edition proves to be one of the best yet. We strongly recommend you read The Missing Reel’s reviews, as they’ve been following the series episode by episode. You can find their summary review here.

  1. You Can Count on the Countess – American Horror Story: Hotel

8d2a54303c3a74432a9b91af4b1b142fAfter the crushing disappointment of Freak Show and the looming threat of Wes Bentley’s soul-suckingly dull return, my hopes for Hotel and for American Horror Story in general were all but dashed. In many ways, my misgivings were well-founded. Wes Bentley did in fact prove to be one of the worst leading men that the series has ever championed and, like Freak Show, it seemed that the season would largely depend on a sequence of unconnected, exploitative scenes that were designed to shock rather than create a coherent and interesting story-line. That being said, thanks to the superlative acting of Denis O’Hare, Evan Peters, and Kathy Bates, coupled with the intriguing character of the Countess (Lady Gaga) and the eventual development of a solid and stimulating storyline, the season seems to have turned its luck around. It’s certainly not one of their best, but it’s probably not their worst. Probably. We recommend you read Nouse’s episode by episode reviews here, but be forewarned that they are full of spoilers.

  1. A Netflix Unoriginal – Scream: Season 1

tumblr_ngjisf4r8v1u4whbwo1_500Let me be candid here, just because Scream has made it onto my top 3 list does by no means indicate that the series is good or that I liked it. It was simply the lesser of several evils. Scream is one of my all-time favourite movie franchises, and the thought of watching an abortive televised attempt to bleed it dry troubled me deeply. Particularly since beloved horror director Wes Craven tragically died last year, leaving behind an illustrious legacy that could be deeply marred by such an unnecessary reboot. Yet marred it was not. To me, this Netflix original series (which was actually and unsurprisingly produced by MTV) was kind of like a well-choreographed train wreck; it was awful, but I somehow felt compelled to keep watching. In fact, I watched the entire first season in less than two days. It essentially copies several major story elements from the original films, but the key to its success is that it never takes itself too seriously. It makes no claim to be as good as its predecessors; it’s just grade-A TV schlock for teenagers. And, as such, it’s ultimately entertaining, so long as you take it with a pinch of salt. We recommend you read Bloody Disgusting’s incredibly well-balanced episode reviews here, which are chock full of delicious spoilers.

Honourable Mentions – The Walking Dead: Season 6 and Penny Dreadful: Season 2

Video Gaming

2015 may not have been the most prolific year for horror gaming, but lack of quantity was definitely made up for by superb quality. Although the Top 3 games I’ve chosen for 2015 may have been some of the only ones to come out, they certainly made an impression on me and are worthy of any top list, regardless of their release dates.

  1. The Butterfly Effect – Until Dawn

ce3aa35b3dac605f3b543700356c89f8Although it only represented about 8 hours of solid gameplay, Until Dawn was one of the best horror games I’ve ever played. Within the first few weeks of owning it, I had already played it through three times, which goes to show just how little I value my free time. The key to the game’s brilliance is in its Butterfly Effect dynamic. The choices you make in-game will drastically affect the outcome of the story, so much so that certain characters will either live or die. What I loved about Until Dawn was that it inverts your expectations, toying with the behaviours that you will have learnt from other games. When a character dies, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve “failed”; just because the game is telling you to do something, doesn’t mean you should automatically do it; and sometimes exploring the whole area for clues and opening that cellar door simply because “it’s there” isn’t always a good idea. For an ultimately negative but still well-rounded view, we recommend reading Polygon’s review here. If you want something a little more positive, check out our review here.

  1. Let’s Get Digital – Soma

150922094246490097From the makers of the outstanding horror titles Penumbra and Amnesia comes Soma, a sci-fi survival horror about the ramifications of developing AI (Artificial Intelligence). It’s been far too long since we’ve seen a good sci-fi horror game and, in 2015, it seems horror fans were in for a real treat. And what a treat Soma was. As character Stephen Garrett, you find yourself trapped in a submerged research station known as PATHOS-II. The game’s underwater vibe is reminiscent of Bioshock, a game that didn’t exploit its horrific elements nearly as much as it could have done, and its futuristic facility setting evokes scenes from Dead Space. However, like the Amnesia series, the point of Soma is not to fight, but to hide. What follows is a subtle yet disturbing exploration into humanity, providing deep and probing layers of fear that go far beyond what you experience at face-value. We recommend you read Game Rant’s review here.

  1. It’s Like I Have ESPN or Something – The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

eathan-carterFor all of you citizens of the PC master race, I realise that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter technically came out in 2014, but for console plebs like myself it wasn’t playable until 2015. The game follows paranormal investigator Paul Prospero, who receives a worrisome fan-letter from 12-year-old Ethan Carter and is prompted to visit Ethan’s home in Red Creek Valley. The game’s graphics are stunning and the world that surrounds you evokes imagery of the New England countryside, making you feel as though you’ve just been dropped into a Stephen King novel. And the similarities to King’s work don’t end there. Like the fictional town of Derry, Red Creek Valley is a beautiful place with a dark secret. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter might not be the scariest horror game in the canon, but the intrigue it produces in the player is undeniable. As you become more wrapped up in the fate of Ethan, you feel yourself slowly disappearing down a rabbit-hole that may have no end. Playstation Lifestyle’s review, which you can find here, describes these elements in far more detail.

 

Last Year in Fear: Our Top Picks for Horror Media in 2015

It Doesn’t Think, It Doesn’t Feel, It Doesn’t Give Up: A Review of It Follows (2015)

it-follows-35781Release Date: March 13th 2015

Director: David Robert Mitchell

Country of Origin: United States

Language: English

Runtime: 1 hour 40 minutes

You’re probably all wondering why it’s taken me so long to write a review of It Follows, particularly since the film has been out for over nine months and I’ve been raving about it for nearly as long. The real reason is that I’m incredibly lazy and have a terrible work ethic, but the reason I’ll give you is that it was my favourite horror film of the year. I felt that, with 2015 finally coming to a close, it seemed somehow poetic to leave it to the last minute; one last happy memory of a year so riddled with natural disasters that it pretty much confirmed we are probably all going to perish as a direct result of pollution and global warming. Ah, what a cheerful thought. So snuggle down in your doomsday bunkers and read about why I thought It Follows was the greatest horror film of 2015.

This rather unconventional “creature feature” (for lack of a better subgenre) follows a young girl named Jay (Maika Monroe), who has just begun dating a ruggedly handsome guy named Hugh (Jake Weary). The couple appear to be hitting it off and, in spite of his occasionally suspicious behaviour, Hugh seems to be solid boyfriend material. That is, until they finally have sex. Unlike most scumbags, who just drop you an impromptu phone call when they discover they may have given you the clap, Hugh takes the whole ordeal a step further by strapping Jay to a wheelchair and informing her that he’s passed on a ghastly plague; a sort of supernatural STI that will follow her around and try to kill her. It takes the form of a human being (technically any human being it wants) and is invisible to everyone but her. The upside is it can only walk, so hop on a Segway for the rest of your life and you’ll be fine. Jay must find another unsuspecting victim to sleep with before she too falls victim to this sexy curse.

1401x788-cannesitfollows
Perhaps not the best way to deliver bad news

What immediately attracted me to this film was its unusual premise. While most creature features entail a flurry of violence and tease out the monster’s eventual reveal, It Follows is punctuated by just a few moments of graphic violence and is instead more of slow-burner. The emphasis is taken off of the “creature” and is placed on the protagonist, focusing on Jay’s attempts to escape this entity with the limited means at her disposal. In this way the film feels far more real, since she reacts in much the same way as you imagine that you would. In real life, there are no occult specialists or voodoo princesses knocking around in every high school library or on every street corner. When faced with a supernatural entity that is almost beyond our comprehension, chances are most of us would choose to just run. After all, how are we supposed to fight something that we know virtually nothing about?

As a slow-burner, this film depends almost entirely on the realistic performances of its actors and they certainly deliver believability in spades. The interaction between the characters felt eerily real, as if I was re-watching conversations from my awkward teenage years. There was no Hollywood sparkle, no witty one-liners, and no painfully cheesy dialogue. There was simply the heartfelt and confused rhetoric of a bunch of goofy kids desperately trying to figure out what’s going on and how to stop it. I bought into the dynamic of Jay’s friendship group immediately, and this was what hooked me into the storyline from the beginning.

it-follows-4

On a far more technical note, the cinematography and score of the film are fantastic. Some of the shots are not only breath-taking; they also serve to capture the essence of the film. When Jay leans out of the car after having sex with Hugh and the camera pans over her hand gently caressing a flower, we instantly understand what is being said without the need for dialogue. In many ways, this is a film about growing up and the innocence that is lost in the process. The film’s soundtrack, which was masterminded by US composer Disasterpeace, is a wonderful blend of jarring synth and eerily soothing tunes that are deeply reminiscent of classic 80s horror flicks like Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween. The violence may not be there on screen, but it exists in the music and atmosphere that David Robert Mitchell has masterfully created.

In terms of the horror elements, it is not the most immediately terrifying film, but it certainly sits with you. One could almost say, it follows you (oh yes, I went there). While I only felt a few twinges of fear whilst watching it, I found myself constantly checking behind me after I left the cinema, swivelling my head around like an owl on meth and wondering which of the many yawning cinema-goers could be “it”. I even gave my family dog a wide berth. Personally, what makes a successful horror movie for me is something that sticks with you long after you’ve watched it, gnawing at you and leaving you with thousands of delightful questions like: What exactly is “it”? What could “it” be a metaphor for? And how do I overcome the suffocating malaise of facing another year on this planet? For these reasons, It Follows holds a special place in my heart and is, without a doubt, my top horror movie of 2015.

If you want to know what other films I’ve loved this year, be sure to check out my reviews of Spring and Krampus.

it-follows

Acting: 9/10, all of the performances in the film are solid and the characters are easy to identify with, as they portray teenagers with startling believability.

Storyline: 9/10, the storyline is fresh and original without seeming absurd or unworkable.  

Fear Factor: 8/10, it may not get you while you’re watching it, but it’s sure to send a few shivers down your spine when you’re in the supermarket and you notice that creepy lady with the “come-hither-I-wish-to-murder-you” look.

Overall: 9/10, the performances, score, cinematography, and fascinating premise come together to make one of the finest horror films I’ve seen in decades.

 

It Doesn’t Think, It Doesn’t Feel, It Doesn’t Give Up: A Review of It Follows (2015)

Ghosts Are Real, This Much I Know: A Review of Crimson Peak (2015)

Release Date: October 16th 2015

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Country of Origin: United States

Language: English

Runtime: 1 hour 59 minutes

Crimson Peak was by far my most anticipated horror movie of 2015. As October 16th approached and my impatience reached fever pitch, I waited with baited breath, checking the cinema website every few days (hours…okay minutes) to see if I could finally book my ticket. And it wasn’t just because I wanted to see Tom Hiddleston’s bum. I have loved Del Toro’s work ever since, at the tender age of sixteen, I sat down to watch Pan’s Labyrinth and swiftly made the horrifying realisation that it was not a children’s film, as my mother had previously thought. The deliciously dark atmosphere, the mingling of the real and the fantastical, the strange and beautiful creatures that populate a world barely hidden behind the veil; these are the things I love about Del Toro. And the trailer for Crimson Peak, with its gothic opulence, colourfully twisted ghosts, and creepily sexual undertones, promised not to disappoint.

Yet, in many ways, disappoint it did. Perhaps my expectations were too high, perhaps the film had been marketed incorrectly, but it certainly wasn’t the film I had envisioned it to be and wasn’t really the one I wanted to see. With that aside, I’ll start with the plot and what I liked about it before I become too damning and potentially unlikeable (no one likes a critic, after all).

Crimson Peak follows the story of a hopeful writer named Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), who has just completed her first gothic horror novel. As a young girl, Edith is convinced that she was able to see ghosts and has since become fascinated by them. Meanwhile, a sexy young baronette named Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) has left his home in England and arrived in America to drum up funding for some fantastical steampunk-esque machine he’s been working on.

He’s come with his clearly evil sister, Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain), whose main function is to play the piano and give people that “bitch-I-will-cut-you” look every now and then. Unsurprisingly Edith and Thomas hit it off immediately, get married, and proceed to return to his creepy mansion in England, named Allerdale Hall. Edith shows absolutely no concern for the fact that the house clearly doesn’t have a roof and that there’s horrifying red clay seeping down the walls. Yet all is rather unsurprisingly not what it seems in Allerdale Hall, as Edith begins seeing ghosts once again and starts to piece together the horrible truth behind the Sharpe family name.

Evidently the costume designer for “Natural Born Killers” needed work

The cinematography throughout the film is absolutely stunning and many of the scenes are beautifully well-realised, with the costumes, backdrop, and choreography coming together to form some of the most stimulating and visually nourishing shots I’ve seen in a long time. The luxurious furnishings, plush dresses, crisp white snow, and deep red…well…everything combine perfectly to form a set that screams gothic literature.

The style employed in the first half is deeply reminiscent of 1930s horror films like Frankenstein (1931), where it looks as though the shots have been filmed in a theatre rather than on a typical film set. This gives the first half of the movie a suitably oppressive feel, while paying homage to the forefathers it is trying to imitate, but I found that it jarred aesthetically with the second half, which is filmed on the grandest Hollywood set money could buy. Allerdale Hall is full of character and, with its dilapidated walls, oozing floors, and creaking pipes, has a certain ruined beauty to it. Essentially, it’s the perfect set for a gothic horror film of this calibre.

That’s one sexy looking…house…

The unique and vibrant designs behind the ghosts are refreshing, as they’re not your usual “creepy child” or “eyeless woman” fare (I’m looking at you, Paranormal Activity). In spite of some dodgy CG, they are beautifully realised and insanely creepy, though some of their fear factor is lost by them getting a little too up close and personal with the camera. After all, less is more, and this is never truer than in horror flicks. The Del Toro influence is most obvious here, as several of the ghosts reminded me of their wispy counterparts in Mama and The Devil’s Backbone.

Jessica Chastain plays the role of the quietly malevolent Lady Lucille perfectly, striking that fine balance between being terrifying and still believable. Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Hunnam, who plays Edith’s childhood friend Dr. Alan McMichael, boast solid performances but it was Mia Wasikowska that proved to be the real surprise as she was actually rather good. I had incredibly low expectations for her and she shattered them with her on-point performance of the delicate yet feisty Edith Cushings. Another surprise delight was Jim Beaver, an actor that I’d never heard of, who plays father Carter Cushing and provides a much-needed slice of comic relief.

Where the film fell down for me personally was the storyline. It’s unfortunately hugely predictable and several of the ‘subtle’ hints towards the mystery behind the house were as obvious as a stab to the face (you’ll get it when you see it). Not only that, the plot itself is deplorably unoriginal and left me wondering whether I had missed something crucial. Surely all that build-up couldn’t have been for nothing? Well, in many ways it was, but the build-up was deeply enjoyable, so I can’t fault it too much. In short, it’s essentially like getting onto a rollercoaster and making the nerve-racking climb up, only to reach the top and find that you’ve accidentally entered “Mr. Froggy’s Mild Ride” and not “The Pants Soiler”.

Acting: 7.5/10, there wasn’t a single actor whose performance I could fault, although Jessica Chastain is the real powerhouse that drives the narrative forward

Storyline: 5/10, the storyline was deeply disappointing as it was predictable, unoriginal, the supernatural elements were largely inconsequential, and it spent far too much time building up to an unsatisfactory ending

Fear Factor: 7.5/10, its chock full of far more violence, tension, and scares than you’d expect for such a low-rated film

Overall: 7/10, perhaps my expectations were too high, but Crimson Peak barely came close to some of the stronger horror titles this year

Ghosts Are Real, This Much I Know: A Review of Crimson Peak (2015)

Float Like a Butterfly: A Review of Until Dawn

Release Date: August 25th 2015

Developer: Supermassive Games

Platform(s): PS4 exclusive

Playtime: Approximately 10 to 15 hours, but with great replay value

In the style of games like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls comes that slasher film you never wanted to be a part of (but secretly kind of did), Until Dawn. This interactive survival horror game follows eight hapless protagonists, who have made the trek to their friend’s mountain lodge for a weekend of sex, booze, and horrifying violence. The game utilises a Butterfly Effect dynamic, whereby all of the choices you make directly affect whether any given character lives or dies. These choices can be anything from slapping an angry wolf to backing a friend in an argument, so be wary. As the great, albeit completely fictional, Andrew Ryan of Bioshock once said: “We all make choices. But in the end, our choices make us”.

I have to say, I approached Until Dawn with not just a little trepidation. Although I absolutely loved Heavy Rain, it sometimes felt as though I was playing one long cut-scene rather than a fully formed video game. The experience was undoubtedly fulfilling, and the positive critical response the game garnered was well-deserved, but it inevitably felt like something was missing. I worried that Until Dawn would fall into the same trap, dooming the player to a series of QTEs (Quick Time Events) and a handful of choices that only marginally affected the outcome of the story. Having started my third playthrough of the game this week, I can happily say that I was horribly wrong.

In many ways, Until Dawn masterfully surpasses its predecessors. For one thing, the game involves you taking the helm far more often than you may like. It practically inundates you with choices, making it hard to tell which ones will affect the outcome and which ones won’t. What felt like major decisions in the game turned out to be inconsequential, while certain smaller choices led to pivotal events. Should I hide or should I run? What happens if I take that pair of scissors? Will anyone notice if I make out with this ice sculpture? In Until Dawn, the possibilities are as endless as they are endlessly horrifying.

Yet this alone isn’t enough to make the Butterfly Effect dynamic work. Sure it’s clever, and it made me think a lot about my actions, but I wouldn’t have cared quite so much about my choices if I’d been put in charge of, let’s say, the members of One Direction. While I’d happily watch Harry Styles be chased by a knife-wielding maniac, I came to care about several of the characters in Until Dawn that I was charged to protect. And this is where the game ultimately succeeds, not just as a survival horror game but as a video game in general. The eight main characters felt incredibly real and fleshed out, causing me to love some of them and abjectly hate others.

This meant that, regardless of how scary the game actually was, I felt terrified simply because I didn’t want my reckless decision-making to endanger the people I’d come to care about. It induced in me a sort of trembling paranoia that caused me to nearly snap my controller in half more than once. On top of this, the game is visually stunning and many of the scenes are incredibly well-realised, looking as though they’ve just been cropped from a big budget blockbuster. This, coupled with the effective use of music, combined to create an effectively oppressive atmosphere.

So, as with all survival horror video games, here’s the rub; is it scary? The game is like a bizarre amalgamation of every horror movie you’ve ever seen and ever horror game you’ve ever played. There’s a sprinkling of Saw, a dollop of Friday the 13th, some hints of Silent Hill, and a huge steaming helping of meta-commentary à la Scream. You’d think stuffing a game full of so many horror clichés would be a bad idea, but Until Dawn somehow manages to make it work.

My greatest criticism of The Evil Within, another survival horror game to have recently graced next-gen consoles, was that it relied far too heavily on clichés without having a substantial storyline to justify them. Until Dawn does just the opposite and uses these horror tropes to great effect while still maintaining a level of self-awareness. At certain points the game even directly confronts you, asking why you are doing this and what you think you might get out of it.

By making you complicit in the survival and/or death of the characters, it begs the question; why do we want to watch these people be terrorised? It is every horror movie you’ve ever seen, and in being so it forces you to ask yourself why you would ever watch a horror movie in the first place. What joy do we get out of a genre that necessitates and advocates the suffering of others? Well, that’s a debate for another day. But let’s just say the game is scary, in more ways than one.

Please don’t force me to make adult decisions. Please.

Gameplay: 8/10, for those of you who despise QTES, it may not be the one for you, but the game contains a lot more playable portions than its predecessors

Storyline: 9/10, the Butterfly Effect dynamic is mind-blowing, and becomes even more so on a second or third (or tenth) playthrough

Fear Factor: 8.5/10, the game uses just the right amount of gore, jump scares, and atmosphere to make it pretty damn scary, coupled with that most terrifying of things: a sense of responsibility

Overall: 8.5/10, in spite of having played “Alien: Isolation” and “The Evil Within”, this has to be my standout survival horror game of 2015

Float Like a Butterfly: A Review of Until Dawn

My Top 10 Most Anticipated Horror Films of 2015: Part II

In the interests of continuity, welcome to the second part of our top 10 upcoming horror movies, complete with stunning posters, gory details, tantalising trailers, and the odd awful joke (or two…or eight…it’s all just jokes…don’t judge me). In Part I we introduced you to sci-fi horror Infini, romcom horror (it’s totally a thing now) Nina Forever, psychological thriller Estranged, haunted house/farm film The Suffering, and creature-feature Dark was the Night. Part II promises even more obscure sub-genres, dark twists, big names, small names and, most importantly, new IPs. Because seriously, if they bring out another Paranormal Activity I’m going to eat my shoes. So I ask you, please support these new movies. Please don’t make me eat my shoes. I’m on a diet.

Note: As I haven’t seen any of these films yet, there are no spoilers here other than what I’ve gleaned from their respective trailers.

  1. Cub

What happens when Friday the 13th meets Lord of the Flies? It seems you get a visceral slasher resplendent with gore, terror, and kids in Boy Scout costumes. Wait a second, kids in Boy Scout costumes?! Yes, you heard me right. Deadly, deadly boy scouts. Cub is a Belgian film about a group of Cub Scouts who venture into the wilderness for their summer camp. Our main protagonist, a 12-year-old boy named Sam, is constantly at odds with his scout leader and appears to be almost completely ostracised by the group. So, when he begins seeing strange things in the woods and becomes convinced that something is stalking them, no one believes him.

Yet our cuddly cubs will soon discover that what Sam has seen is not only real; it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Something feral is lurking in these woods and no amount of badges will protect them from it (especially not that ridiculous Bug Catching Badge. Seriously, when will that ever come in handy? What are you gonna do, throw ants at the psycho-killer?). Films like Martyrs and The Orphanage have long since proven that our foreign cousins are not only capable of “doing” horror, but are often willing to push the boundaries of “acceptable” horror. In a trailer that actively refutes the trope “children in horror films are un-killable”, it seems our Belgian slasher may just be following in their footsteps. If you fancy scouting out Cub, watch the trailer here.

  1. The Nightmare

It’s rare that you hear the terms “horror” and “documentary” in the same sentence, unless we’re talking about Animal Planet’s visual abomination Monsters Inside Me. But this year, from the director of celebrated documentscary (it took me five minutes to think of that) Room 237, it seems we’ll be treated to The Nightmare; a film focused on the devastating psychological illness known as sleep paralysis. For all of those who don’t know, sleep paralysis is a condition where people find themselves paralysed on awakening or falling asleep. They are unable to move, speak, or react in any physical way but, more terrifying still, some sufferers report experiencing vivid hallucinations similar to nightmares.

The aim of The Nightmare is to present a sequence of interviews from victims along with visual representations of their experiences. From looming shadowy figures in room corners to feral creatures perched at the foot of the bed, we follow as the documentary takes us step-by-step through the horrific living nightmares these people endure on a regular basis. Though the film has been recently criticised for its lack of scientific information, the graphic recreations of this perturbing phenomenon sound promising and, though it may not be as informative as Room 237, it appears that director Rodney Ascher has amped up the fear factor. If you want to get trapped in The Nightmare, watch the trailer here.

  1. Backcountry

While many horror films these days are resplendent with ghosts, ghouls, zombies, and supernatural mischief makers of all kinds, it appears as though filmmakers may have lost sight of how terrifying real life can be, particularly when you’re being chased by a giant bear. Backcountry goes back to the roots of good ol’ natural horror, reminding us that we as human beings are weak, pathetic, squishy creatures compared to our wild counterparts. In an incredibly direct way, the arrogance of man is what inevitably leads urban couple Alex and Jenn down the thorny path of horror. The couple decide to take a camping trip in Provincial Park, trekking the secluded Blackfoot Trail that holds a special place in Alex’s childhood memory, and Alex, fancying himself as a seasoned outdoorsman, opts to forego the convention of reading maps.

It is his stubborn insistence that eventually, and rather predictably, ends with the couple getting hopelessly lost. The shot of the couple nervously peering out over the vast expanse of forest as the true ramifications of their mistake sets in still chills my bones. Yet being lost is the least of their worries, as it soon becomes apparent that the hapless duo has attracted more than just bad luck. Something is tailing them, and is about to show them just how formidable the natural world can be. Of all the trailers in this top 10, I have to say that this one filled me with the most intense fear. Unlike the supernatural based horrors, it felt like it could really happen to me, and did in fact happen to Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend; the couple upon which the film is based. If you’re ready to venture into the Backcountry, watch the trailer here.

  1. Spring

Spring seems like an oddly jovial title for a horror movie but trust me, with a trailer as deliciously dark as this, the film promises to be anything but. I immediately took to the film as it reminded me so much of Afflicted and, though I don’t condone plagiarism, when an idea is promising then I’m all for people adapting it to their own ends. The film is classed, rather bizarrely, as a romantic horror since it follows the love-story of an American man named Evan and an Italian woman named Louise. After his life takes an unfortunate turn, Evan makes the decision to leave the US and opts for the nearest flight outta Dodge, which just happens to be going to Italy.

There he meets the ethereally beautiful Louise, a withdrawn individual who appears to be harbouring a dark secret. As time goes on and their love affair deepens, Evan finds that, far from being simply a “crazy chick”, Louise is suffering from a debilitating illness that manifests itself in the most horrifying of ways. The stunning cinematography and elements of body-shock horror employed in the trailer had me utterly convinced and I simply can’t wait to partake in a little slice of romantic horror. If that doesn’t put a Spring in your step, watch the trailer here.

  1. Crimson Peak

Okay, so I know that Crimson Peak is hardly an indie horror movie but hear me out here; I really like Del Toro. Like, really. I would eat his shoes, happily. That being said, the aim of the Top 10 wasn’t necessarily to discuss indie horror films but simply to present you with a few new IPs. So here we are. Though I’m as yet unconvinced by leading lady Mia Wasikowska, whose unbearable blandness has been the downfall of many promising films, the deliciously dark duo of Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain promises to, at the very least, redeem Mia’s yawn-factor. The film sets out to be a Gothic romance come haunted house horror, with the Sharpe family mansion performing the role of the “why-the-hell-do-people-live-here?” house most effectively.

Aspiring author Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is taken in by mysterious stranger Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who whisks her away to his family’s creaky manor and introduces her to his rather antagonistic sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). However, it soon becomes apparent to Edith that the house is plagued by something otherworldly and, though she expresses no true fear of ghosts, the secrets that lie beneath the Sharpe family’s handsome exterior may prove too much for her fragile psyche. After all, this is a house that bleeds, breathes, and remembers. If all this has piqued your interest, watch the trailer for Crimson Peak here.

So what did you think of our Top 10? Are there any promising horror titles you feel we’ve missed? Please let us know in the comments.

Thanks go again to blogs Rhino’s Horror and Big Gay Horror Fan for introducing me to several of these fantastic trailers.

My Top 10 Most Anticipated Horror Films of 2015: Part II