As the year comes to an end, the traditional top 10 lists start popping up and I am no different. With that, I am putting out there that I have NOT seen every movie that was released this year. Two movies I heard plenty of positive buzz about that I still haven’t seen, but plan on watching are “Boyhood” and “Interstellar.” I enjoy all genres, but my heart lies in horror which definitely explains the majority of my picks.

These movies are in no particular order, but I love them all despite some of them getting a scathing response upon release. To each their own, but each of these made me feel something whether it was laughter, being scared, or leaving me with a great dinner conversation.

Cheap Thrills

I bought the blu-ray for this before ever watching it and have no regrets. I must have watched it at least three times in the first two weeks of purchasing alone.

How far would you go to get that financial security for your family? “Cheap Thrills” asks our lead, played by Pat Healy, that question and will question you as a viewer if you’re willing to go that far. It sounds dark (and it is), but the movie is a riot and a great time as I found myself yelling at the TV and, at one point, I had to look away which did nothing due to some horrific sound effects. Highly recommend watching with a group.

Oculus

If you were a fan of Mike Flanagan’s previous supernatural thriller “Absentia,” then “Oculus” steps it up BIG time. Two siblings go back to their childhood home to confront their past and question whether the murders in their family was a result of mental illness or a malevolent presence that lives inside a mysterious mirror. I’ve seen this several times now and what amazes me each time is the acting. While there are scares throughout, the movie would completely fall apart if the acting wasn’t top notch (especially from the child actors who endure plenty of emotional and physical abuse). Another thing that I love so much about this movie is that there’s no cop out ending and we’re never given an explanation of the mirror’s evil past. We are simply given a history and that’s my favorite scene in the movie.

The Sacrament

As a fan of many independent horror films, I see AJ Bowen popping up here and there in some great ones (House of the Devil, A Horrible Way to Die), usually in supporting roles. In “The Sacrament,” AJ is given the lead role and he really carries the viewers as we discover a cult that appears to be a paradise, but is far from it. If you’re familiar with the Jonestown Massacre, then don’t ruin it for your friends who aren’t. It’s two different viewing experiences watching it with someone who knows versus someone who doesn’t. Not light hearted viewing, but deserves way more attention than it got.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I’m a huge fan of the “Planet of the Apes” franchise and was surprised to find myself loving “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” When this sequel was announced, I immediately had my doubts as I viewed it more as a cash in. After watching it, I learned not to judge a book by its cover. This time around, Caesar is our protagonist and we are drawn into the community of the apes who have evolved into highly intelligent creatures. If you are familiar with the original franchise, then you’ll find some nods to the other films that maybe some new fans won’t see. This film falls into that “left me in awe” category and is a master example of how special effects can be utilized to create a substantial story and not simply attract a target demographic.

The Lego Movie

I just watched this in the last couple weeks and LOVED it instantly. From the catching theme song to the excellent voice casting, “The Lego Movie” is a lot smarter than it looks. While creating a meta driven plot is nothing new, the experience given here really engages the viewer and requires multiple viewings in order to catch all the references and jokes. Obviously marketed  towards children, “The Lego Movie” proves that you can be intelligent AND funny.

Nurse 3D

This is the one I’m expecting to get a lot of bad rap on as I’ve read nothing but scathing reviews for this. What drew me in was the awesome poster of our sexy nurse riding a giant syringe. How could I deny myself of this movie with marketing like that? The beautiful Paz de la Huerta (who makes every line of dialogue sound like she just had an orgasm) plays a nurse who inflicts pain onto married men who step outside their marriage. What ensues is a “Single White Female” like story, but with a great sense of humor and bloody results. The movie is great trash and love how unapologetically gratuitous it is in every aspect. I’m excited to watch this movie with friends.

Housebound

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie so much! While the horror comedy is not a new genre, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie that was actually scary AND made me laugh in moments I least expected. A trouble young woman gets sentenced to house arrest and must deal with her eccentric mother (who is one of my favorite movie mothers ever). As her days go on, she begins to suspect that the house may be haunted and her mother might know more than she lets on. Our lead is completely rude and is definitely not someone one would want to encounter in real life, but we root for her throughout and what ensues is a fun, bloody mess.

The Babadook

There’s a lot of hype surrounding this movie and after watching it twice, I have to say it deserves it. The movie surrounds a widow who begins to suspect the monster from a children’s book might not just be the result of her son’s imagination. The chemistry between Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman as the mother and son is what carries this movie and their scenes together are remarkable. The movie is subtle and is more of a psychological experience. I recommend going into this movie without watching any trailers or knowing any more than what I’ve said already. I see this becoming a classic as the years go on.

Horns

After reading the Joe Hill novel, I questioned if this movie could even get made AND be anywhere close to decent. The plot is completely crazy and seems only comprehensible in the pages of a book. Alexandre Aja (who is one of my favorite directors) successfully translates the novel and manages to capture all the humor, heartbreak, and even the most gruesome moments of the story all on the screen. Daniel Radcliffe delivers a terrific performance as Ig, a potential killer who wakes up one morning with horns growing out of his head that carry the ability to bring out anyone’s truth whenever they come near. Unfortunately, the movie never got a theatrical wide release and was dumped onto VOD without any announcement or promotion. Hopefully it catches on with its upcoming blu-ray release.

Veronica Mars

I’m a huge fan of this TV show and I was one of the many (or few when you think about it) when the show was abruptly cancelled and we were left with a downer of a cliffhanger with season 3. As soon as the Kickstarter campaign was announced, I became a backer and wore my Veronica shirt at the opening weekend of this movie. The theater was sold out and filled with Veronica shirts and fans laughing at in jokes from the show. While it’s aimed towards the fans of the show, the movie manages to tell a story that both works on its own and creates a new interest on revisiting the original series. Veronica makes her way to her high school reunion and investigates the murder of a pop star where the main suspect is one her old beaus. Typical Mars investigation and all the chemistry that made the show so brilliant and loved shines on the big screen.

Other notable mentions include X-Men: Days of Future Past, Guardians of the Galaxy, Gone Girl, The Guest, and Godzilla

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