This has not been a great year for mainstream horror; last year we had The Conjuring, Insidious: Chapter 2 and You’re Next as mainstream releases. All three of which are great, two coming close to the best horror of this decade but this year has been marred with a wash of tedious films.
Indie fare has been much more fun, but still is not hitting the heights of last year with The Battery, Stoker and V/H/S/2 – which saw Gareth Evans team up with Timo Tjahjanto for one of the best horror shorts of all time. Last year also had the surprisingly fantastic remake Maniac, all done from the perspective of Elijah Wood’s eponymous character. There were even more surprises with Dark Skies, the first V/H/S getting released in January (in the UK) and the film that was titled a failure before its release, World War Z, which was a great tense PG-13 horror blockbuster, unashamed of its infidelity to the book. It was a good year for horror and the genre needed it.
It’s time to focus on this year. The following films are not five star classics, but they are underappreciated horrors of the year that deserve recognition. After the disappointment of Hammer Horror’s The Quiet Ones, The Conjuring’s prequel Annabelle and Scott Derrickson’s noir-horror-thriller Deliver Us From Evil (a decent enough film, but disappointing after Sinister), we relied on the festival circuit to surprise us.
Nothing much was found even there, with a disappointing FrightFest that contained entries like Julia, Dead Within and White Settlers. Not bad films – apart from the last on that list – but not particularly special or even good; some were not even memorable. There is still hope. The rest of the year still sees What We Do in the Shadows, Faults, Tusk (maybe), The Canal and Takeshi Miike’s Over Your Dead Body, meaning there is plenty to feast on in the near future.
Alas, focusing on the negatives is never a good thing. Let’s celebrate the films that didn’t make it to the festival circuit, or didn’t receive the box office reception they deserved, or maybe even slipped entirely under the radar.
These are the underrated horror films of 2014 that really are worth checking out. Warning: if you have a predisposition to found-footage, you may not enjoy the list. This year has seen clever, innovative use of the found-footage or mockumentary subgenre, and there’s more below…
The Taking of Deborah Logan
In this day and age of constant information, it’s rare to find a film on Netflix that you have never heard of. With only the Netflix synopsis to go on, or less if you can, this is a creepy found-footage horror film that manages to cohesively mix two fears – one frighteningly possible – into a spine-chilling horror film that is worthy of turning on the lights.
The mockumentary approach, at first, is a bit bizarre, as it breaks away for animated information as a regular TV documentary would. That is commitment to the style by director Adam Robitel that is worth noting, yet it manages to feel out of place and ruins the atmosphere created.
The rest dispels into a creepy narrative with a heavy atmosphere and genuine scares. Co-writer Gavin Heffernan helped define characters, not avoiding personalities, and invigorating some clichés (or tropes, depending on your definition) that usually mar the genre. Worth a watch.