Generally speaking, all movies are by essence genre movies as they will inadvertently belong to a type of movie with its own type of rules, which of course makes the genre what it is. A romantic comedy is by right a genre movie as more often than not it has similarities with other movies of its genre when it comes to narrative elements. In short, it follows a formula, that’s what genre is.
But the dawning of the age of the fanboy means that nowadays we mostly associate the term ‘genre movies’ with fanboy genres like horror, sci-fi, thriller, action, exploitation and fight flicks. There are even festivals (like Fantastic Fest, Fantasia, Toronto’s Midnight Madness, the UK’s Frightfest and so many more), magazines (like Rue Morgue and Fangoria) and websites (like Twitch, Bloody Disgusting and Dread Central) that cater exclusively to genre films, usually concentrating on films that are off the mainstream radar or production line.
So for the purpose of this list, ‘genre films’ will mean films of that variety, even if the usually weak field of mainstream horror have served up surprisingly strong entries like Insidious: Chapter 3 (in my humble opinion the most fully realized chapter in the trilogy) and the very efficient Unfriended.
Do also take into account that we haven’t managed to see films slated for release later on in the year like Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno, Oculus auteur Mike Flanagan’s Before I Wake, Trick ‘r Treat director Michael Dougherty’s Krampus and a great many of the genre films that have only played festivals so far like the Astron-6 gang’s The Editor and lots more. With that in mind, here are the 20 best genre films of 2015 so far.
20. Creep (Patrick Brice, USA)
Proving that there’s still life yet in the found footage genre, debut director Patrick Brice has fashioned a deliberately small movie that feels absolutely right for what it attempts to do. There are only 2 people in it – Mark Duplass and Brice himself.
It’s located mostly in a remote mountain cabin and its surrounding woods, and yet it has everything you’d want in an unnerving horror flick as Brice cleverly constructed a story around its gambit of having a normal amateur videographer (played by Brice) answering an ad on Craigslist that will pay him $1,000 for a day’s work to videotape a day in the life of a guy called Josef (Duplass), who claims to want to have the video made for his yet to be born son as he is suffering from some sort of terminal illness.
Duplass truly excels here, giving Josef a whole range of creepiness and weirdness that doesn’t for one second feel like a one-note performance, resulting in an unpredictability that’s truly unsettling, which is probably the best word to describe the film. It’s a very human horror film, grounded in reality and the frailty of the human psyche, which is a very real kind of scary. You’ll laugh, you’ll jump, but most importantly, you’ll be creeped out.
19. Time Lapse (Bradley King, USA)
What would you do if you come across a huge and strange machine that seems to take Polaroids 24 hours into the future, with said huge camera pointed straight at your living room from your opposite neighbor’s window? And what if you’re a painter stuck with creative block for quite some time already, and you can now see what you’ve painted in 24 hours’ time? That is the deliciously simple yet morally very tricky premise of this surprisingly strong example of lo-fi sci-fi flick from Bradley King.
Clever enough to impress anyone who’s watching, especially when the practicalities and consequences of trying to live up to the future Polaroids start to rear their ugly heads, Time Lapse is admittedly nowhere near the same level of conceptual ingenuity exhibited by Shane Carruth in both Primer and Upstream Color.
In fact it’s not even on the same level as Coherence, which is another standout lo-fi sci-fi flick from 2015, but it more than earns its place on this list with its sweet balance of tried and true genre thrills and ambitious high concept that belie its budgetary limitations.
18. Wolfcop (Lowell Dean, Canada)
A shamelessly dumb and rip roaring tribute to 80s werewolf flicks, the title Wolfcop should already serve as advance warning to the kind of delights (or lameness, depending on who’s doing the evaluating) that awaits its lucky viewers. For genre fanboys and devotees of midnight movies, however, this is quite simply a hoot from start to finish, an exuberantly made piece of genre fun that’s best looked at and enjoyed as a party movie.
Centering on alcoholic cop Lou who’s prone to blackouts and waking up in strange places, things take a turn for the worse for him when one day he wakes up to discover that he’s a werewolf, or in his case, a wolf cop. There are just so many hilariously ‘wrong’ things in the movie, like a softcore sex scene set to the song “Moonlight Desires” and especially Lou’s first ever wolf transformation scene, which occurs in the toilet where the first thing that we see transform is his penis.
And wrapping it all up is a deliciously ridiculous conspiracy that involves occult rituals and certain people in positions of power in their laughably small town. A bit low rent, that’s for sure, but it’s also really tough to deny its precious value as high entertainment.
17. Dude Bro Party Massacre III (Tomm Jacobsen, Michael Rousselet, Jon Salmon, USA)
From the sick minds of the guys behind online sensations 5 Seconds Films comes one of the most polarizing films of the year, Dude Bro Party Massacre III.
Presented as the only surviving copy (a VHS taped from a late night TV broadcast, complete with snippets of advertisements and tracking issues) of the third film (banned by Ronald Reagan himself) in a non-existing trilogy of horror films from the 1980s, Dude Bro Party Massacre III is a strictly love it or hate it affair as people who can handle its sense of humor will howl with laughter and people who can’t (and are just expecting another slasher movie) will just scratch their heads, not getting what the whole point is.
With a villain called Motherface (come on, how can anyone be serious with a name like that?) and a pack of frat boys, each and every one cast to reflect a certain stereotype, as the main characters, not to mention an absolute wealth of bizarre minor characters and scenarios, the level of detail involved here will reward multiple viewing as the jokes fly in really fast and hard and you are bound to miss a whole lot of them the first time around.
16. Cop Car (Jon Watt, USA)
Released in early August 2015, this is the most recent entry on this list, a film I saw just as I’m compiling and writing this list, and which is good enough to straight away muscle in and push out other contenders like Hyena and In Order Of Disappearance.
Genre fans would have probably heard of director Jon Watt before for his film Clown, which began as a fake trailer that cheekily (and falsely) put in Eli Roth’s name as its producer but then actually did manage to make that happen when Roth got wind of the trailer.
Clown itself is a contender for this list, but that all changed the minute I saw Watt’s new film Cop Car, as it marks the arrival of a confident and technically proficient genre director with not only a bold concept (i.e. two 10 year old runaway kids run into an abandoned cop car, and decided to take it for a joy ride) but also some seriously bold execution.
The 2 kids talk and behave like most curious and naughty 10 year olds would, and Watts’ marriage of their blissful innocence with the very real dangers of what seems to be a murdering dirty cop (Kevin Bacon again doing great work) and a surviving victim of that cop who’s hell bent on revenge has resulted in a beautifully tragic film that never forgets to keep its sense of humor intact. It’s admittedly all very slight, but that doesn’t prevent it from being absolutely unforgettable.
15. Everly (Joe Lynch, USA)
Genre fans have been alerted to the talents of director Joe Lynch even as early as his straight to video sequel, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End. But it’s with his previous film Knights Of Badassdom and his involvement with Adam Green and the TV series Holliston that his name has truly become one to look out for amongst the genre and midnight movie crowd.
There are some pretty scathing reviews out there for his latest film Everly, most of them totally missing the point that Everly is a throwback shoot-‘em-up action flick with nothing else on its mind than to provide the sight of a scantily clad Salma Hayek disposing off countless bad guys (and scantily clad bad girls) using any means necessary, but preferably using guns and a hail of bullets.
In short, this is the kind of slick neo-grindhouse flick that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez wanted to make during their 90s heyday, and that a great many pretenders tried to make as well. The difference with this one and all those pretenders is that Everly quite simply kicks major ass.
With films of this kind, the real pleasure comes from enjoying the many colorful characters and many creative ways that the film devises to kill them, all of which Everly possesses in abundance, making it a truly enjoyable, albeit brainless, ride.