We polled our writing staff as well as some local horror-inclined film lovers to answer some questions about their perspectives of the genre. Our first question:
“What is your favorite horror film from the past five years?”
My favorite horror film of the past maybe 10 years is The Last Exorcism. I have no idea what horror fans think of the movie or if it’s remembered at all (that recent sequel seemed to disappear from theaters pretty quick). I really dislike the “found footage” format, such a lazy and overused approach towards filmmaking, yet I find the The Last Exorcism to be quite affecting despite its inclusion of some of my least favorite tropes of the genre (incidental characters who say things like “Are you making a movie?”, unnecessary “behind the scenes” exposition). For those who aren’t aware of the film, it plays out like a supernatural Marjoe: a likable, family-oriented exorcist who doesn’t believe in his work allows a camera crew to follow him as he heals those who are plagued by the Devil. The filmmakers play it smart by keeping things ambiguous and grounding everything in reality, at least to a point, I remember a lot of people complaining about the ending, which I think is a lot of fun. Great cast, setting, and scares; I re-watched this just the other night with my girlfriend, it gave her nightmares.
Jill Malcolm, Cinedelphia Contributing Editor
So…I don’t watch horror movies. But I have been catching up on Doctor Who, so I’m going to cheat and say the best “horror film” I’ve seen in the last five years is Doctor Who Series 3, Episode 10 titled “Blink.” Carey Mulligan stars in the episode that incorporates haunted house elements, mysterious video messages, and of course the Weeping Angels. It also manages to execute the “jump-scare” in a manner that is not hokey, but truly terrifying. Thankfully the Doctor comes to the rescue, providing a satisfying resolution to the titular conflict of the episode, which was lacking a wee bit in Cabin in the Woods, a great film, but for other reasons entirely. “Blink” is one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who, and one I will be revisiting every Halloween season.
Ryan Silberstein, Contributing Editor
While I have a deep affection for Cabin in the Woods, I have to say the film that has unnerved me the most in the last five years was Ben Wheatley’s Kill List. I love movies about hit men, and I was not expecting this film to freak me out as muh as it did. While it starts similar to many other films in the genre, it continues to take disturbing twists and turns I never saw coming. Moreover, there are a lot of complex and interesting themes laced throughout the film, making it ripe for revisiting and mentally tearing it apart.
J.T. Alvarez, Cinedelphia contributor
It’s hard to choose my one favorite horror film of the past five years. Lots of the horror films that have come out recently have had stuff about them that I really liked, even though they ultimately have too many problems for me to say that they’re good movies. Overall, I’d say the best horror movie of the past five years has been The Conjuring. Excellent writing and a great cast make that movie believable and the use of practical effects make the scares stand apart from a lot of the new school effect heavy movies. Man, that scene in the end, when Lily Taylor is sitting in the chair with the sheet over her head…sweet baby Jesus, that image still haunts me.
Lucas Magnum, Cinedelphia contributor and author
Of the last five years, I’d have to say my favorite horror film was The Cabin in the Woods. While there have been other gems, and part of me hates to spotlight something that was so self-aware, I can’t say that in the last five years I’ve had as much fun at the movies as I did with Whedon and Godard’s film.
Kyle Harter, Cinedelphia contributor and filmmaker
That would be none other than Drag Me To Hell. Downright intense and chilling.
Aaron Mannino, Cinedelphia contributor
I Am A Ghost by H.P. Mendoza. It is also one of the best films I’ve seen in the past five years period. An inversion of several genre tropes, Mendoza employs a curious sense of patience. He stretches time effectively though the film is a modest runtime, while merging psychological and spectral horror. The Orphanage was also a solid picture. Somber emotion. However, it is just outside the cusp of 5 years. I haven’t made the effort for horror historically. I’m digging deep for this one.
Madeline Meyer, Cinedelphia contributor
My favorite horror film of the past five years would have to be Cabin in the Woods. As someone who’s a big fan of horror, Cabin in the Woods functions much like Scream, in that the best viewing experience is from a horror buff who is aware of all the tropes. And yet, even an understanding of the way horror movies play out cannot prepare you for the twist. My sister once described it as when you’re watching Star Wars and you enter into the Mos Eisley Cantina. You see all these crazy looking aliens and you think, “what does that one do?” “what is his weird thing?” In Cabin in the Woods, you think you’re dealing with one of those aliens and the next thing you know, you’re dealing with all of them.
Cabin in the Woods is definitely my favorite horror film of the past five years. The Joss Whedon aesthetic and story structure was very reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was funny and scary.
Robert Skvarla, Cinedelphia contributor
I’m going to have to cheat on this and list the most recent horror film I enjoyed, because for the life of me I can’t remember anything except what I’ve seen within the last five weeks let alone the past five years. So, I’m going to have to rep Bad Milo. It’s the most disgusting, outlandish, insane, and surprisingly tender film I’ve seen in a long time. Don’t worry, that last part isn’t a slight on it. It has a heart (a bloody one, at that) in the fine tradition of all good creature features, from the aching romance of The Bride of Frankenstein to the humanism at the heart of The Fly. Long story short, it’s about a guy who has a demon living in his intestines. Between violent murders and liberal use of scatological humor, the film touches on a number of issues all relating back to the concept of personal responsibility. But really, I think I love it so much because it’s the deformed, bastard offspring of ET and Basket Case.
Rob Dimension, filmmaker, actor, and podcast host
Most recently, I really enjoyed The Conjuring. It had an old school ghost story feel to it. It reminded me of the film, The Changeling with George C Scott; which I feel is still effective today. I enjoy the slow burn storytelling style, the way the story shifted from the Warrens, to the family with the issue, back to the Warrens.
Andrew Repasky McElhinney, filmmaker, host of Andrew’s Video Vault (ARMcinema25.com)
The best horror movie I’ve seen in the last five years is co-directors Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath’s skillful and terrifying movie Entrance. The 83 minute movie has an incredibly slow boil that builds the tension expertly. Voyeuristic and socially provocative, for much of the first hour there is no clear menace, just the lurking terror and banality of everyday existence—in this case a lonely twenty-something female barista and her pet dog in LA. Then, Entrance‘s final sequence happens, and it’s nearly unbearably made even more dreadful by the audience slowly realizing that there is no way out for the characters. Fabulously terrifying. A movie that works as a character study as well as a grand guignol.
Liam O’Donnell, Philly native and Cinapse contributor
There has not been THAT many horror films I have loved in the last five years, with a few shining exceptions. Most of those exceptions I like for the ways they surprise me or do something unexpected. My favorite of the last five years, House of the Devil, is one of the few I love simply because it delivers exactly what I wanted from it. Not that there aren’t some surprises, but it does not bend or stretch the genre. It is what it is, and I LOVED what it was. I saw it in 2010 when I was starting to feel discouraged about new horror films, and it really gave me a renewed interest that has paid off since.
Chuck Francisco, Horror Host at the Colonial Theatre
It’s got to be Cabin in the Woods. Far from frightening, it serves more to deconstruct long standing horror tropes, demanding that hardcore horror fans allow their cherished genre to climb out of its grave and shamble on to greener pastures. It didn’t work of course, and normal film goers who were expecting a standard slash and scare were disappointed too (Tucker and Dale vs Evil is aces as well).
For me it would be a tie between the Neo-Giallo Amer and the Chinese Slasher Dream Home. Both of those films I have a tendency to unabashedly force on folks whenever I get the chance. I am a huge fan of Italian horror films and Amer is the closest thing we have gotten to a true to form Giallo in a very long time. Amer takes all the things we loved about the old Giallo films, the cinematography, the eroticism, the music, and the brutality, combines them and updates the genre in a way that seems very organic as if the genre had evolved over the years.
Dream Home is a strange little slasher film that started its life out as a really weird vanity project. The star/producer of the film is the daughter of an eccentric billionaire in China and of all things to be her first starring vehicle; she chose a slasher film and cast herself as the killer. The film is the story of a woman who is trying to buy her dream apartment and when she fails, she decides to kill everyone in the building rendering it as cursed. The really strange part about the film is its actually really good and the somewhat sympathetic female protagonist reinvented one of the most tired sub-genres in horror in my opinion.