10 Great Films You May Have Missed In 2015
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2015 will no doubt always be remembered as the year that broke the banks, but there were plenty of smaller releases that are just as worthy of your time.
Whilst secret agents, dinosaurs and superheroes seemed to make the biggest impact on the cinema-going public, and Star Wars continues to tear up box-office records left right and centre, let’s take a moment to instead appreciate some of the more forgotten gems of the past year.
They may not quite have managed the budget for a huge scale release or a nationwide ad campaign, but these films still deserve a shout-out, even if it just means you end up catching them on Netflix now the New Year has rolled around.
You might not have noticed yet, but Corin Hardy, the future director of the soon-to-be official remake of classic gothic action flick The Crow, finally released his debut in 2015 and it was arguably one of the best horror films of the year.
The Hallow centred around a young family who move out to the Irish woodlands to care for the dying tree population, only to find their efforts thwarted by an ancient race of creatures who lurk in the shadows. It was an old-school creature feature, made complete with plenty of badass weaponry (flaming scythe anyone?) and a huge amount of practical effects (hurray for the return of rubber suits!) that really set it aside from the other Halloween releases.
For horror fans, Hardy’s first is an absolute must - this guy is going places.
Bar Mean Girls and maybe Easy A, there haven’t been an awful lot of great teen movies in recent years; but then along came Ari Sandel’s The DUFF - a breezy, hilarious and beautifully self-aware comedy that more than deserves a place alongside the likes of the aforementioned teen royalty.
After finding herself cast aside as the ‘Designated Ugly Fat Friend’ (or DUFF) of her far more popular besties, Bianca (the great Mae Whitman - yes, “her?”) sets her sights on a high-school revolution. True, it’s nothing exceptionally new, but where The DUFF really takes off is in both the quality of its writing and its overall humour, which is largely down to Whitman and her incredible timing.
It might not quite reach the quotable heights of Mean Girls, but this one is definitely a brilliant punt in the right direction.
Speaking of teen films, a great companion piece to Sandel’s The DUFF would be former blogger Charlie Lyne’s crowd-funded documentary Beyond Clueless.
Narrated by The Craft’s Fairuza Balk and scored exclusively by indie rockers Summer Camp, Lyne’s film is a beautifully edited mash-up of everything the coming-of-age genre has to offer, from the dark depths of Larry Clark’s Kids to the pulpy delights of Eurotrip and beyond.
For teen movie fans this is a glorious way to spend 90-minutes of your time, even if it ends up being just for the soundtrack alone.
Swiftly side-stepping back into horror, Mark Duplass and Patrick Brices' bare-bones stalker thriller was another welcome surprise that didn’t quite seem to get as much attention as it deserved.
Charting the trials of a filmmaker hired by a terminally ill man to film his last days, Creep took the found-footage genre (quit your groaning) into gloriously dark new territory, and all for pretty much no money at all.
Shot, written and starring both of the aforementioned talent, this one ended up firing straight onto Netflix but is well worth a watch if you fancy a sleepless night or two.
Remaining on the horror train for a little bit longer, Alistair Legrand’s debut haunted-house drama didn’t seem to go down too well with critics when it was reduced to a simple home entertainment release, which is a shame considering how much promise it shows.
Ali Larter’s single mother finds her house plagued by a supposed poltergeist which begins to tear her family apart; that is until she begins investigating the matter and finds a whole other meaning behind the mysterious noises and apparitions showing up all over the place.
Legrand blends classic horror with hard-sci-fi fantastically here, delivering a tremendous twist part way through which really shakes things up brilliantly. Fans of Insidious and the like, take note, this isn’t just another straight-to-DVD clone, The Diabolical actually shows great ingenuity.
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It’s entirely possible that this Italian drama never made it to UK cinemas at all, but it’s well worth hunting down, even just for its bizarre visual style and incredible central performances.
A young married couple - Alba Rohrwacher and Adam Driver (that’s Kylo Ren to all you Star Wars fans out there) - find their relationship put under immense strain when they take drastically different approaches to raising their young son. In truth, it’s a little more dark and peculiar than that, but I won’t spoil the surprise.
Hungry Hearts trounced the Venice Film Festival back in 2014, grabbing almost every award going for its two leads, which stands fully deserved: not everything works here but when it does, Saverio Costanzo’s film is a sight to behold. It even boasts arguably one of the best opening of the year too.
I know, I know, but hear me out. John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein’s big-budget reboot of the Chevy Chase classic was fully expected to be a total disconnected mess from start to finish. And because of that, a lot of people switched off and ignored it, which is a mighty shame because surprise surprise, it’s actually pretty damn funny.
The standard road trip-gone-wrong formula may not exactly reek of originality, but the jokes Daley and Goldstein fire off at an almost unparalleled rate mostly all hit home wonderfully and the new look Griswold clan work tremendously well together.
Throw in plenty of on-point cameos from the likes of Charlie Day, Chris Hemsworth and Norman Reedus and you actually have yourself a terrific little gross-out comedy. It’s just a shame it ended up buried so quickly. It might not be the cleverest comedy of the year, but it’s consistently funny enough to earn 90 minutes of your time.
Australian actor Joel Edgerton - known for his turns in Warrior, Exodus and most recently Black Mass - made the leap to the director’s chair this year with the phenomenally twisted little thriller The Gift.
Starring Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as a shaky young couple who find themselves stalked by a former schoolfriend, The Gift packs plenty of hideously dark surprises and keeps them all tucked firmly to its chest until the last possible moment. And the results are incredible.
It’s all about the reveals and there’s certainly plenty of them here: The Gift is a gloriously structured guessing game that’ll certainly kick off plenty of conversations after those final credits roll. The marketing was sadly a little iffy, but give this a watch knowing as little as possible and you might well be in for a treat.
Be warned, this is another one that seemed to divide the few audience members that saw it, but in this writer’s opinion, Nima Nourizadeh’s cartoonishly silly American Ultra was worth a whole lot more praise than it got.
Jesse Eisenberg plays stoner Mike, a government sleeper agent who finds himself launched into a gun-toting battle for survival alongside girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) after being marked for extermination by the same agency that created him.
It’s your standard action farce, complete with plenty of overly stylised fight sequences and explosions teeing off left right and centre, but what American Ultra does so well is that it keeps its intentions manageable. It’s a small film, set in a small town over one night and Nourizadeh never oversteps himself.
Partner this with a winning classical structure courtesy of Chronicle screenwriter Max Landis and a Topher Grace performance that could actually be comfortably described as “pretty great” and we’re surprisingly enough onto a winner here. Just, make sure to stay away from Landis’s Twitter profile if you ever intend on watching this one; not only is it rife with spoilers, but it makes the man himself out to seem like a total asshat too.
Last and definitely not least of all is a truly demented little gem courtesy of Iranian director Marjane Satrapi, which casts Ryan Reynolds as a schizophrenic factory worker, who accidentally finds himself stumbling into the set-up of a slasher movie: except he’s the one holding the knife.
Satrapi’s talent for viciously dark humour shines here more than ever as she really begins to test the limits of comedy altogether. Reynolds too brings his A game as the truly troubled young Jerry, lost in a world of his own fantasies filled with talking animals and smiling severed heads.
The Voices is one of the most unique and bizarre releases of any year, let alone just 2015, and demands the attention of anyone willing to stretch their mind that little bit further.