The Phantom of the Ville’s TOP TEN HORROR FILMS of 2015

Louisville Halloween’s Senior Editor, The Phantom of the Ville, counts down his favorite ten horror film experiences of 2015 and wraps up another year of ghoulish fun in the River City.

Happy New Year, my friends and fiends, I’m grinning through my rotting teeth as we put another year six feet under and welcome 2016 as my fifth official year as Senior Editor here in the Louisville Halloween crypt. It has been, admittedly, a turbulent year of highs and lows behind the scenes in the local horror business. As with each successive year, we’ve again doubled our readership with peaks beyond our wildest dreams during the months of September and October.

This was our first year as the primary sponsor of the Louisville Halloween Parade in the Highlands, an honor we assumed after a long and legendary run by Caufield’s Novelty. There were birthing pains and issues we hope to address next season, but we were very proud to be chosen to keep the tradition alive.

It was a very healthy year for horror at the box-office, on DVD & Blu-ray and On Demand. “Jurassic World” is a lock to become the second highest grossing movie of the year, “Krampus” was a huge box-office holiday hit even in a crowded field of blockbusters and there were a number of independent break out hits from all across the world, not to mention the most talked about return of a horror legend to a cable television series in “Ash VS Evil Dead.”

When choosing my TOP TEN HORROR FILMS of 2015, I must first admit that there are several high profile films that I have yet to see and thus can’t include them for consideration on those grounds. These include “Tales of Halloween,” Eli Roth’sThe Green Inferno,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” “The Final Girls” and “We are Still Here.” There are also a few titles that have yet to receive mainstream domestic releases that I have a feeling might have ended up on my list if I had gotten the opportunity to catch them at their film festival premieres, like “The Witch” and “Howl.”

As it is, here are my favorite horrific experiences in the dark in 2015.

10)Jurassic World”: Colin Trevorrow’s blockbuster reboot of the “Jurassic Park” franchise really isn’t a particularly good movie, but like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” it hits all the right nostalgia buttons while delivering a fun enough thrill ride that make it easy to overlook the cookie cutter characters and T-rex foot sized plot holes. If it weren’t for Chris Pratt’s roguish charm as the world’s only raptor handler, I might have been rooting for the Indominus Rex to eat the entire human cast, but in the last fifteen minutes, this movie crashes the gates of mediocrity and wins my “monster bash” loving heart when an old friend from the original film returns to do battle with the latest lab created terror.

9)Creep”: As much as I would love to dismiss and ignore the whole sub-genre of “found footage” thrillers that have taken over the indie horror business like termites since the mad success of “The Blair Witch Project,” filmmakers like Patrick Brice continue to find ways to exploit the device of these no-budget, shaky-cam copies in unexpected and sometimes shocking ways. Not one, but two found footage movies managed to creep their way onto my Top Ten list this year, and this one I can’t quite get out of my head. If you haven’t seen it, the less you know the better, but for me it comes down to the amazing performance of actor Mark Duplass who will keep you guessing right up to the final frame as to whether he’s just a lonely guy with an annoying personality or the insidious creep of the film’s title.

8)In the Dark”: Ex-Louisvillian David Buchert and his Nashville filmmaking partner, Chris St. Croix’s new horror anthology has been in the works for several years, but finally saw its digital and streaming-on-demand release this Halloween, and it’s a polished, old school horror bloodbath worth checking out. My favorite segment is Buchert’s slasher film homage, “Dummy,” which features one of the creepiest masked stalkers in recent memory and a twisted mystery that begs the question of the homicidal killer’s identity. St. Croix’s “The Keeper,” about a sin eating demon from Hell chewing his way through a seedy crew of ne’er-do-wells is also a winner.

7)The Gift”: Actor/director Joel Edgerton’s psychological thriller might seem like a throwback to “Fatal Attraction” and the Hollywood fascination with psycho-sexual film noir of the late 80’s and early 90’s, but there’s something much deeper and maybe even darker going on here that the film’s trailers fail to reveal. The cast (that also includes Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) serve as a perfect psychological ménage à trois that subverts the standard genre expectations until you’re not quite sure who is the victim and who is the real monster. The climax might disappoint those expecting the conflict to result in ax, knives and/or chainsaw fights, instead of the more subtle and insidious ending that Edgerton delivers, but the impact is just as powerful.

6)Crimson Peak”: Guillermo del Toro’s sweeping, Gothic haunted house drama tanked at the box-office, but will likely be discovered by a legion of fans when it finally hits Blu-ray and On Demand. Perhaps more Emily Bronte than Edgar Allan Poe, del Toro’s lush period tale is less of a ghost story than a story with ghosts in it and it’s likely that very reason that it failed to connect with the theatrical audience. It just isn’t forcefully scary. Instead, it’s colorful and rich with atmosphere and dread. Tom Hiddleston plays Thomas Sharpe, the very model of character that would have been portrayed by Vincent Price in a Roger Corman film in the 1960’s. There’s much dark wonder to wallow in within del Torro’s crumbling mansion that demands repeated views in a more intimate setting.

5)The Visit”: I’ll be honest, after “The Happening,” “The Last Airbender” and “After Earth,” I didn’t think I would ever enjoy another M. Night Shyamalan film, let alone a “found footage” Shyamalan film. So it’s a minor miracle that a film with his name above the title has cracked my Top Ten list this year, but Shyamalan has earned his spot with a film so twisted that I twice had to look away from the screen to maintain my composure during the bugnuts last twenty minutes. Shyamalan’s exploration on fear of the elderly pushes its PG-13 rating to the limit and delivers a twist ending that actually shocks.

4)Ex Machina”: Some may say I’m cheating by including this science fiction drama in a Top Ten Horror list, but those who have seen the film and felt the psychological and physically gruesome endgame it brings, will know why I’ve placed it so highly on this list. It’s simply one of the best films of 2015. Period. The idea of artificial intelligence and what it could eventually mean to the fate of humanity is terrifying, and this film doesn’t shy away from asking the darker and more disturbing questions. You can also witness a fantastic performance from Oscar Isaac, ace Rebel pilot Poe Dameron in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” in a completely different kind of role as the ego-charged, eccentric billionaire owner of the tech company in the film, which explores both physical and emotional isolation.

3)Bone Tomahawk”: From the isolationist science fiction of “Ex Machina” to the open country Western of “Bone Tomahawk,” the horror genre paints on all canvases, and here it fuses the grit of the violent Western with the graphic horror of the cannibal sub-genre to create something new. Neophyte director, S. Craig Zahler, somehow scored an A list cast led by Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox to drive this slow burn update of “The Searchers” towards a climax that more resembles “Cannibal Holocaust.” A clan of so-called Troglodytes, who remain off screen and unseen for the majority of the film’s running time, kidnap Wilson’s frontier wife and Russell’s sheriff must recruit a posse to travel across the badlands to their remote territory to rescue her. Zahler’s inexperience behind the camera occasionally makes for lazy editing and exposition, and the pace begins to drag around the halfway point, but when Russell’s ragtag band finally reaches the savage’s rocky caves, all Hell breaks loose resulting in brutal violence and one shocking scene of extremely graphic ritualistic slaughter that just might be the year’s most shocking on screen death.

2)Krampus”: I didn’t have more fun in any movie screening I attended in 2015 than I did watching Michael Dougherty’sKrampus,” which finally brings the ancient legend of Saint Nicholas’ devilish partner to the big screen and, almost certainly, into popular American culture. Dougherty does for Christmas movies what he previously did for Halloween cinema with “Trick ‘r Treat” (2007), quickly becoming the Master of Holiday Horror. “Krampus” begins in the chaos of Black Friday shopping and settles into the dysfunctional family parody world of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” before ultimately unleashing a darker and more twisted Christmas horror version of “Gremlins.” Wonderfully produced and expertly designed, I marveled at the mostly practical special effects and monsters, especially the design of the dreaded anti-Claus himself, whose appearance is held off until the last act of the film, but doesn’t disappoint. A new holiday classic is born!

1)It Follows”: My clear favorite horror film of 2015 seems to also be one of the most divisive among horror fans, causing “It Follows” to fall into the camp of love-it-or-hate-it cinema. Visually and musically, this little injection of nightmare fuel recalls the horror films of the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, specifically the suburban dread of John Carpenter’sHalloween.” Director David Robert Mitchell, with only one previous feature film under his belt, could be someone worth following himself as a potential new voice in the horror genre. Although some fans were frustrated with the film’s not completely defined nightmare logic, “It Follows” undeniably delivers a fresh new “monster” and mythology unlike anything else currently out there. Highly recommended!


Poltergeist” (2015): A completely unnecessary remake that utterly fails to justify its existence to the point of even forgetting to actually include the dark entity that was the major source of danger in the original.

The Phantom of The Ville

Write a Review


Comments are closed.