I'm certain you've read my annual Top 10 list on Downright Creepy; however, I find that I must ssupplement it with additional information not allowed within that format. Mainly, I feel the need to explain why a list of ten movies on a horror website has only two horror movies on it. It's quite simple really. 2014 was a terrible year for horror!
If you look at the major studio releases for the year, not that I'm recommending you do, you'll find justification for my declaration. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, The Quiet Ones, Oculus, Annabelle and Dracula Untold all failed to thrill me. I was surprised that I enjoyed Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and Dracula Untold as much as I did, but that's hardly strong enough criteria for a Top 10 movie. The only studio movie I enjoyed enough to include was Godzilla and, to be honest, I may still have been on a high from meeting the cast and director at Comic-Con last year.
|Yep, The Babadook is scary!|
Independent horror fared better and was the source for my favorite horror movie of the year, The Babadook. I watched more movies at home this year than in theaters. However, none of them, including Odd Thomas, Patrick: Evil Awakens, The Sacrament, The Guest, Tusk, Horns, Mercy, VHS: Viral and Late Phases are Top 10 material. (About The Babadook, though… fantastic! Horror rises from a very real, very personal family situation, which made the scares very real and very personal, as well. Terrific performances contribute to another favorite movie from Australia, following The Loved Ones, from 2009.)
I should also note that while they were on my list to watch, I never got around to seeing The Town That Dreaded Sundown, [REC] Apocalypse, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, Stage Fright, Only Lovers Left Alive, Devil's Due, As Above So Below, Deliver Us from Evil, Starry Eyes, Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead, Exists, Willow Creek and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. It's conceivable that one or two of those could have made the Top 10, and I'll certainly alert you if they do.
|This is how you'll feel if you don't watch The Signal.|
That leaves only one Oscar-bait movie on the list, Birdman at number ten. It doesn't really fit into the horror-thriller-science fiction genres; however, it counts because the character Michael Keaton plays was made famous by portraying a Batman-like superhero character in a series of blockbuster movies. Also, Birdman contains one scene of sci-fi brilliance as the character that haunts him comes to life in an epic battle on the streets of New York. Since the movie is largely about what happen inside Keaton's head and his fantasies merging with reality, I'll maintain the argument that it belongs on the list.
If I didn't get to see as many genre movies as I wanted to this year, I barely scratched the surface of seeing any "regular" movies. The one drama that made my list (because it's also a thriller) was Nightcrawler. Nothing else I saw would replace any of the genre movies on my list. But neither have I been particularly motivated to see many of the non-genre movies that were released in 2014. The only one that's even on my radar as a must-see before the end of the year is Boyhood. It may be safe to say that 2014 was not only terrible for horror, but also for movies in general, at least in terms of what I wanted to see.
|Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer.|
|Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler.|
As far as directing, the technical talent demonstrated by making an entire movie seem as though it was filmed in one shot makes me respect and admire the work Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu did for Birdman. However, the pure energy and enthusiasm James Gunn infused into Guardians of the Galaxy make his resulting movie a more entertaining success. When I first heard about the production of Guardians of the Galaxy, I was skeptical. But it must have been Gunn's vision that turned an unknown comic from the dark corners of the Marvel universe into the year's most rollicking adventure. It's what movie making at its best can be all about.
My new year's resolution for 2015 is to be more positive. I don't want to focus on the bad side of everything; plenty of other people do that. As part of this initiative, I want to be more conscientious about recognizing the best parts of the entertainment I experience. There's something good about everyone and everything. Pointing out the bad is easy. It's lazy. Finding the good is more challenging. Sometimes, it's more creative. As a transition to this new me, I'm going to present, not the "worst" movies of the year, but the ones "I enjoyed the least." This implies I enjoyed, at least a little, every movie I saw. That isn't necessarily true, but it's… nicer.
Really, there were only two movies "I enjoyed the least." The first was Transcendence. You can read all my negative thoughts about this one on Downright Creepy; however, the positive thing I will say is… nothing. Because, if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. The best thing I can say about Tammy is that it had a great trailer. Not since Norbit (2007) has the trailer for a movie been so funny that I wanted to see the full-length movie. Then very early in its running time, I realized I had been duped, not in an innocent "oh, well, you win some, you lose some" way, but in an angry "I've been effin' cheated" way.
If the horror genre is struggling on the big screen, it's thriving on the small screen. I could almost make a Top 10 list of only the horror-fantasy-science fiction shows I regularly watch. At the top is American Horror Story. Admittedly, it's flawed; however, it never fails to entertain and I never know what to expect when I watch it. Hannibal is probably a better show, but I forgot to put it on my list, probably because it's not currently airing; out of sight, out of mind. I ranked Bates Motel second, but that's not because it's a great show. It's just that I enjoy watching it and writing about it. It's the knowledge of what I think is to come that drives my interest.
|Twisty the Clown from American Horror Story: Freak Show.|
What, no Walking Dead?!? I watch it, I like it. However, more times than not, it infuriates me. I'm thrilled that it's finding such success, but in my humble opinion, it's vastly overrated. There, I said it. Similarly, I find the continuing success of Under the Dome a complete puzzler. It has become one of the most ridiculous shows of any genre on TV. The only thing I can imagine is that the person in charge of summer programming at CBS isn't in the most stable mental state. How else can you explain the news that there will be a second season of Extant, the Halle Berry miniseries that blasted off to nowhere… fast.
I liked The Strain… at first. But as the season wore on, it became too similar to The Walking Dead. Really, why does the way you kill the vampires have to be the exact same way you kill the zombies? The most promising limited run show was Penny Dreadful on Showtime. When it was good, it was sublime. However, it was way too unsteady on its feet. I love the concept of mixing horrific literary characters into an ongoing continuity, but the focus shifted wildly among episodes. I'd have been happy with a series revolving entirely around Dorian Gray (the stunningly beautiful Reeve Carney).
|Reeve Carney in Penny Dreadful.|
If none of these "enjoyable" shows are the "best", then what is? Rarely has the answer to a question been so simple: The Good Wife. The normal trajectory of a show is for it to start waning in the fifth and sixth seasons, but this one bucks the trend and has never been better. Nearly the same thing can be said for Web Therapy, currently running on Showtime. It's in its fourth season and has never been funnier. In fact, this is a fantastic time to be a Lisa Kudrow fan. After almost ten years, The Comeback returned for a second season. I don't remember much about the first season, but this one is at least as good, if not better.
With the exception of The Good Wife, it's pay cable that continues to offer the highest quality programming. Homeland reinvented itself, to a certain extent, and had an outstanding season. The Newsroom ended its run with six terrific episodes, although for some reason I can't understand, seemed to be loathed by most critics. The Affair, Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex all started out strong, but I began to lose interest as their seasons advanced. In particular, The Affair was infuriating to me. During its last couple of episodes, I came just short of shouting at my TV screen.
|Jonny Lee Miller in Elementary.|
Comics, Magazines & Books
In 2014, I continued to decrease purchasing print comics in favor of their digital versions. This sometimes means waiting a month or two for their price to come down, but it has made a significant impact on my budget (not to mention the cost of supplies for bagging and boarding). Further, I limited the number of digital comics I bought. I lost interest in most of DC Comics' New 52 superheroes and regularly read only Batman, Earth 2, Flash, Justice League and Superman, and I read those mostly because of their authors. I'll read almost anything Scott Snyder (Batman) and Geoff Johns (Justice League, Superman) write.
Where I got burned was starting out with a couple of weekly series. I should have known this from the past, but it's hard to sustain a single story every week for an entire year. The quality is inconsistent and the purpose becomes cloudy. Halfway through its run, Futures End is boring and confusing to me. Batman Eternal has been a little more solid, but even with it, I can't remember what the overarching plot is. A glutton for punishment, I've read the first two issues of Earth 2: World's End. My problem is that once I start reading one of these weekly series, it's hard for me to stop, even if I'm not entirely enjoying them.
|Outcast is like "What ever happened to The Exorcist?!?"|
I added quite a few back issues to my monster magazine collection this year, although higher-priced issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland continue to elude me. On a regular basis, the only magazine I'll buy no matter what is Horror Hound. If a magazine can represent a person's interests and taste perfectly, Horror Hound is the one that does it for me. I still subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, but rarely flip through the physical issue that arrives torn and tattered in the mailbox. I keep it handy only until I read the digital version on my iPad that comes free with the subscription.
|I saw Stephen King and got an autographed copy of Revival!|
I'm embarrassed to say I read only a couple of books this year, and most of them were written by Stephen King. I read Mr. Mercedes in one day on a train trip to Chicago. It's definitely Stephen King-lite, but it was a page turner. I just finished Revival last week. It started out slowly, but about halfway through, I couldn't put it down. Overall, I think his writing has become more succinct. His books are certainly shorter than they used to be. I enjoy reading, but time is always an issue. I think in 2015 I need to make time for reading. I'd likely be better off doing it at the expense of some of the television I force myself to watch.
I'm so out of touch with music these days, I couldn't tell you who's who or what's what. But I started something new this year, listening to music as I fall asleep at night. There are three soundtracks that are perfect for it: The Tree of Life and Hannibal, volumes one and two. I've recently begun listening to the soundtracks from Bates Motel and Stonehearst Asylum, as well. Michael says they are too "scary," but I'm usually sawing logs a few minutes into them.
|Perfect bedtime music.|
This month I've been working on my holiday music collection in iTunes… listening to compilations to rate the songs, creating sub-genres to better group them, etc. I made two additions: Idina Menzel and Pentatonix. I was disappointed in Idina Menzel. My favorite song is technically not even a Christmas song, "When You Wish Upon a Star." And I don't know what marketing scheme I blindly followed, but I didn't like Pentatonix at all.
Well, that's my year in entertainment. It wasn't the best… it wasn't the worst. Any year can be better than the last, but for some reason, perhaps my pop culture instinct finely tuned in my 51st year, I think it's going to be easier than usual for 2015.