Saturday, 26 December 2015

Top Ten Films of 2015

Once again it's that time of year when I (and everyone else who runs one of these review sites) pick my favourite new movies of the last twelve months. 2015 was one of the best years in living memory for great films, and it actually ended up being very difficult to pick just ten, never mind put them in any kind of rank order. This is the fourth year running that House of Mortal Cinema has done this, and I remain, as always, delighted and not a little surprised that I've managed to keep the site going. The rules are the same as ever, namely that this is an entirely personal list, so feel free to agree wholeheartedly or disagree as vehemently as is safe for you and those around you. Films under consideration had to be shown in the UK for the first time during the year, either at the cinema, on disc, or at a festival. I was lucky enough to attend Glasgow Frightfest, London Frightfest and Abertoir this year and it was wonderful to be so spoilt for choice. Please also bear in mind that despite attending three film festivals and reviewing over 100 DVDs and Blu-rays there are some films I didn't get to see this year (eg BONE TOMAHAWK) so if you feel there are any glaring omissions they're unlikely to be deliberate. Probably. 

One item that seems to be extremely popular every year is my list of what I thought were the worst films, so before we get to the good stuff, let's take a look at some examples of films I never, ever want to have to watch again:

The Five Worst Films of 2015

Saying this kind of film is awful sometimes feels a bit like berating the child with the lowest IQ in the class. But then I remember that these things are shot on budgets of less than £10 000 with the intention of a quick sale through Tesco’s to unsuspecting customers who need to be warned that this sort of shot-on-camcorder rubbish isn’t worth ten pence never mind ten pounds. Winner of my shortest review ever, and one that was extremely popular, so hopefully a few managed to dodge this particular shit bullet. Supremely terrible non-film-making at its most cynical and, well, crap.

Only just higher on the JLP crapometer was this load of cheapjack manipulative slurry that would have been by the numbers if any of the film-makers could actually count. Cynical and exploitative in all the wrong ways, GIRLHOUSE felt as if it had been put together by people who wanted to do a nudie horror version of Big Brother, only with no nudity and no horror.

3 The Treatment

This Belgian version of Mo Hayder’s novel was filled with dismal settings, maladjusted characters, and a plot that involved a rather unpleasantly unfair depiction of mental illness. All filmed in grey. Didn't like it at the start. Hated it by the end.  

2 The Asylum

Marcus Nispel, he of the FRIDAY THE 13TH and CONAN remakes gave us this, a film so terrible it had to undergo three titles changes before it could get a DVD release. Aka BACKMASK and EXETER this was a remarkably professionally made pile of utter shit, the combined elements of which were so awful the entire endeavour actually ended up being really very funny.

1 Hellions

Not funny at all was PONTYPOOL director Bruce McDonald’s return to Frightfest with this, a film that promised so much and ended with me wanting to punch everyone associated with it. You get Worst Film, Mr McDonald because you are not a cheapjack Tesco’s entrepreneur, nor are you someone who has no understanding of how to put together a proper film. You can do much, much better than this, but if you’re not careful you’re going to end up as next year’s Brad Anderson. And no-one wants that.

Right, now I have all of that off my chest, it’s time to move onto the (much) better stuff. Okay! Time to take a deep breath and count down my top ten of 2015:

A delightful horror comedy in which Ryan Reynolds (no, honestly, come back) goes insane, kills Gemma Arterton and keeps her head in his fridge. Soon she’s talking to him, as are his pet dog and cat. The broad swings from glossy humour to splattery horror are so broad you need to love both to love this. I do and I did.

9 Spring

The spirit of 1970s Jess Franco Euro Horror at its best lives again in this, a love story with touches of science, legend and plenty of horror, with some gorgeous Italian locations. Languid and deliciously strange this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but personally I think horror cinema would be better off if we had a few more films like this.

8 Frankenstein

Everyone seemed to be doing their own version of Mary Shelley’s book this year. This is the one to watch, because this is the one that will have you in floods while at the same time you marvel at just how cleverly Bernard CANDYMAN Rose has updated the story to modern-day Los Angeles. Featuring a remarkable lead performance by Xavier Samuel as the monster and a fine turn by Tony Todd as the blind man, it turns out 2015 wasn’t the year to give up on new adaptations of this old classic after all.

7 It Follows

I know, I know. This one has made so many best of year lists and I’ve only got it at number seven? Don’t get me wrong - I thought David Robert Mitchell’s debut film was very good. It just didn’t terrify, or move, or entertain me, as much as the films I’ve placed higher than it. 

6 The Witch

Not getting a UK release until 11th March next year, this seventeenth century New England horror stars Ralph Ineson (Finchy from THE OFFICE) in a claustrophobic, grim and unrelenting tale of an isolated family torn apart as much by their own religious beliefs as anything that may or may not be lurking in the cold damp woods. It’s a film that can be read on many levels, all of them pretty devastating, and all of them with the message that no matter how bad a situation might seem, having religion can make it ten times worse. Great acting (especially from the kids), at times this was a bit like Ken Loach makes THE CRUCIBLE but don't let that put you off - even Dennis Wheatley fans might get a grim and grisly kick out of this one. For aspect ratio geeks (and I'm one) it's interestingly been shot in 1.66:1, which you don't see much of nowadays.

Missing last year’s Top Ten because its cinema release was the day after I posted the list, 2015 saw the Blu-ray and DVD release of one of the funniest horror comedies in years. A bit like THE YOUNG ONES but with vampires, this New Zealand picture from some of the team behind FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS was funny, gory and utterly charming. And I still think the Unholy Masquerade is a tribute to the works of R Chetwynd-Hayes.

4 They Look Like People

A slow burner of a picture in which the world is being replaced by monsters, or is it all just in the lead character's head? Keeps you guessing up to the final sequence, which turned out to be properly terrifying, edge of the seat stuff that had me reduced to jelly. 

3 There Are Monsters

There were no doubts in this one. Proof that not all shaky-cam found footage movies out this year were worthless, this gave us a world where people are gradually being replaced by monsters that ‘eat you from the inside out’. Excellent use of the found footage technique provided some almost unbearably suspenseful scenes in a movie that scared me so much it’s been ten months since I saw it and the memory of it still gives me the shivers.

2 The Invitation

More almost unbearable suspense, this time at an LA dinner party where the guests get locked in and subjected to some very disturbing cult stuff indeed. I won’t say any more because that would spoil it. But not as much as their party gets spoiled, oh goodness me no. 

1 Summer Camp

When I went through the list of my favourite films this year, there was only one that I wanted to see again right this minute, possibly several times. Premiering at London Frightfest and yet another awaiting a distribution deal, this was [REC] producer Alberto Marini’s directorial debut. Four American counsellors come to look after children at a Spanish summer camp not knowing that a rage-inducing plague is about to break out. A deceptive beginning makes you even less prepared for what is to come. By halfway through this I was on the edge of my seat, which is where I stayed to the end. I did not attend another screening this year where there was so much enthusiastic cheering and raucous applause throughout, and I want to see it again right now. 

So there we are. Like I said, there were so many great films to choose from and I actually feel guilty that excellent movies like WHIPLASH, TALES OF HALLOWEEN, THESE FINAL HOURS,  DUKE OF BURGUNDY, NINA FOREVER, DEADMAN INFERNO (a Japanese Yakuza vs Zombies pic and bloody excellent), TURBO KID, WYRMWOOD, DEATHGASM, and WHITE GOD just didn’t make it in, but they’re all definitely worth catching up with. 

As always I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to visit the site and read what I’ve written here. I’d be lying if I said keeping this going was anything other than huge amounts of fun, and the vast amount of really good movies out there more than makes up for the few duds that slip in under the radar. It’s also been a fantastic year for meeting people at festivals who have been kind enough to say nice things about the site. Thank you everyone. Take care, keep being nice to each other, & I’ll see you (and probably around 400 more films) in 2016. 


  1. I read this mostly to know which films will reduce me to quivering jelly, a state I really try to avoid, but the descriptions are fascinating to read and entertaining in themselves. I would like to see What We Do in the Shadows, though. Thank you so much. (Helen Martin)

  2. reminded me - another horror called Exeter made the same year, with one of the same actresses.