(Posted: 30 December 2015)

This has been a decent year for movies. Maybe not as great as 2014 (or at least the list wasn't as easy to make). But we have tried our hardest to get a great list of 30 titles together once again. We know that "Mad Max: Fury Road" was immensely popular and that anyone saying something bad about it is wrong, but hopefully we will not receive death threats for not including it in our list. The same thing goes for that merchandise machine that is "Star Wars" (seriously.. oranges?). But you never expected us to pick those movies anyway, did you?

Away it goes! 2015. Half a decade is gone. And these movies were our 30 favorites of 2015:


Director: Fabrice Du Welz

This was a conflicting choice for this list because there seems to be as many flaws as there are success with "Alléluia". The flaws come through in the writing as character motivations are questionable and there doesn’t seem to be anything driving the story forward as it moves from chapter to chapter. Perhaps intentionally on the part of Fabrice Du Welz as the movie is based on the real-life crimes of the Lonely Hearts Killers. With that being said, "Alléluia" is an intense movie as it portrays a seemingly well-adjusted woman having a complete psychotic breakdown from the idea of being in love and holds no remorse in killing those who threaten what she holds dear. The violence, brutality, lust, and insanity are depicted in such a manner that it’s impossible to look away and equally impossible to forget. Even with its flaws, the visual presence of the movie with the unrestrained, and brave, performance by Lola Dueñas makes "Alléluia" a noteworthy title.


Director: Jay Burleson

Because of the overabundance of found-footage movies and mockumentaries, many audience members are quick to dismiss the style/format and rightfully so. However, "The Nobodies" is a movie that shows how good the style can be when in the hands of someone capable utilizing the style to its full potential. The juxtaposing of a movie within movie along with documentary footage, "The Nobodies" creates something that looks and feels real — particularly the inserts from the ultra-bizarre "Pumpkin" (the movie within the movie). The characters come across as genuine and with the subtle touches on concepts such as creativity and depression adds to the authenticity of the movie.


Director: Hooroo Jackson

The directorial debut of Hooroo Jackson has already brought him much acclaim for its uniqueness and due to many finding his film to be comparable to someone like Terry Gilliam. Not a comparison that’s far off base as "Aimy in a Cage" has an imaginative style but with dark overtones as a young woman is being forced to conform to societal standards by her family. The visuals and overall style of "Aimy in a Cage" is almost fairytale like but the movie draws a lot of inspiration from real world issues in how the characters interact and how they’re eventually betrayed by their own ideals. The movie never becomes too heavy-handed and maintains a consistent level of entertainment through it’s bizarre and other worldly presentation.


Director: Jason Lei Howden

Gory/splatter horror-comedies have been lacking for years, so when "Deathgasm" comes along and delivers something even remotely close to the Peter Jackson and Stuart Gordon movies we all love, you bet your ass we enjoy it! "Deathgasm" is a movie that doesn't try to be anything else than a fun, stupid and gory horror-comedy with a metal soundtrack. It's the gory black metal brother of "Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny". The biggest issue with horror-comedies is that they are usually not funny, but luckily this one is.


Director: Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz

I see two different "Goodnight Mommy" camps. There are those that hate the movie because they found it predictable, and then there are those that understand that a certain aspect of the movie was intentionally predictable. In fact, I'd argue that the thing that many hate that they saw coming, was something that the filmmakers gave away and only made more obvious at the end in case you hadn't followed. No, "Goodnight Mommy" is not just about that one thing and I'd be willing to say that the movie isn't even spoiled if someone tells you about it. What the movie actually is, is a disturbing view at changing perspectives. It's not a completely original experience, but this rage-inducing thriller knows what it is doing. When the trailer campaign for the movie started and hyperbole was thrown around, I was prepared to hate it, but I can't deny that "Goodnight Mommy" is a solid and effective thriller with more than one thing going for it.


Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

"Dogtooth" made a splash a few years ago, was nominated for an Oscar, and more importantly was featured on our "Best of 2010" list. I decided to skip his next feature, "Alps", but I am glad that I watched this year's "The Lobster". This absurdist comedy/drama about a hotel where singles go to either find someone to spend their life with, or turn into an animal, is not just unrelatable weirdness. It's actually a very sweet and funny movie. The laughs come from its odd nature, but the heart and soul is in the relationships of the characters. Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz both do two of their most interesting roles to date, but let's also not forget some of the smaller roles that are filled by talent such as the hilarious Ashley Jensen and a perfectly appropriate John C. Reilly. "The Lobster" has a bigger shot at being revisited than "Dogtooth", because despite having dark, weird comedy and a lot to think about, it is very accessible and entertaining.


Director: John MacLean

It’s easy to write-off "Slow West" as it appears to be nothing more than a western-vehicle for a Michael Fassbender performance. In actuality, it is one of the more unique westerns to come out in recent memory where subtly is key to the film’s separation and elevation amongst its peers. While the film seems like standard fare with it being about a young man going on a journey to find and save his one true love. The movie instead has a somewhat surreal-like quality to it as a young Scotsman is thrust into the strange world that is the American wild west. While the film’s visual style and atmosphere makes the movie fantastical at times — which includes some surprisingly dark comedic beats — the story serves as a reminder of how cruel the west could be and that happy endings rarely come true with the Peckinpah-ian buildup and climax. 


Director: Merlin Dervisevic

On the surface, "Cruel & Unusual" seems rather simple in nature. In some regards, it is, but the movie overall is far from simple as it features a high concept with a heavy focus on the story and characters. There is a lot of tension and suspense in the movie as Edgar tries to unravel the mystery behind his incarceration in this institution that makes him relive the death of his wife over and over again. And while that concept is enough to keep you invested, the movie delves deep into its continuously evolving story and brings out a lot of humanity and emotion in the story. The very idea of one being forced to examine their own life from an outsider perspective has some rather heartbreaking and tragic results. However, "Cruel & Unusual" is far from depressing (not entirely anyway) as the movie offers a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.


Director: Tetsuya Nakashima

Tetsuya Nakashima's "Confessions" was far from pleasant experience, but "The World of Kanako" is even worse. This movie is just pure evil. If you want to watch a movie where everyone is pushed through hell, then this is that movie. But Tetsuya Nakashima has developed a movie where this works. Behind all of the dark content is a story of a father who is desperate to find his daughter. The father is willing to do anything to find her, but don't let it come as a surprise to you when you find out that his daughter is not a good person either. It's challenging, punishing and incredibly intriguing. And that's not all: it's beautifully shot and has plenty of stylistic blood spewing. You know that you don't want to miss "The World of Kanako".


Director: Brent Hodge & Derik Murray

Chris Farley was one of the rare greats of comedy, and he left a hole that has yet to be filled even though it seems like a few actors have tried (stop it, Kevin James!). When he was at the top of his career, he delivered hilarious sketches on "Saturday Night Live" and soon after starred in movies like "Tommy Boy" and "Black Sheep". This new documentary shows us exactly where Chris Farley came from and how someone so peculiar could reach to the top. My only issue with the documentary is that it seems to be entirely about the rise of Farley, and at times almost ignoring his fall. I understand wanting to make a tribute, but with such a tragic end it doesn't seem fair that some parts were skimmed through. And why was there no mention of the amazing "Almost Heroes"!? Still, this is a great documentary about a greater comedian. Yes, there were some tears. Not many, but some!


Director: SABU

To call this an "aesthetically pleasing drama about a zombie maid" would probably not do it justice, but it is not far from the truth. The movie plays like if a euro-horror director made a pinku body horror drama. Does that make sense? There are several zombie drama movies, but "Miss Zombie" is one of the most original and saddest of the bunch. It's a slow movie that spends a lot of its runtime trying to convince you to feel sympathy for a zombie (and we're talking a rather braindead zombie, not some smart human-like zombie) and somehow it does it perfectly. Unfortunately the movie seems to be quite overlooked.


Director: Marcus Koch

While the first installment in the "American Guinea Pig" series delivered the blood drenched movie that viewers wanted. Whereas "Bloodshock" found another way to assault the sense of the viewer and demonstrate the possibilities of the series. Marcus Koch returned to the director’s chair with "Bloodshock" and created a movie that focuses less on gore and more on an all encompassing experimental feature. While some of the content isn’t as graphic as it’s predecessor (although there’s still quite a bit to be had), the movie challenges the audience by other means, such as an intense sound design and repetitive visual structure. "Bloodshock" almost comes across as a psychological test in seeing just how far it can push a viewer. The movie isn’t without substance though as there’s hope to be found in the connection between two characters who are stuck in an endless existence of cruelty and pain.  


Director: Vince D'Amato

The second installment in the Brivido Giallo trilogy does what other titles in the incredibly niche arena of experimental-giallo films fail to do, which is to create a mystery within the imagery. Through a story about a couple who isolate themselves from the outside world in their tiny apartment, a new world filled with lust and madness is created. The experimental style in which the film was shot and edited makes "Glass" feel organic and lets the non-linear format come off as being more natural. It brings out the concept of delusions and paranoia and in-turn brings the viewer in as you try to decipher the imagery and understand what actually transpired within this glass prison. 


Director: Trevor Juras

While the offbeat and quirky comedic beginning of "The Interior" might throw a viewer off, the movie does an amazing job subverting your expectations as it goes from slacker-comedy to existential horror. The film is interesting in that it makes no attempt to fool the viewer as to what’s actually happening (i.e. no plot twist) yet, much like the main character, you lose all sense of reality. You may think you know the truth and what’s really out in the woods, but the movie manages to make you doubt everything. "The Interior" accomplishes this while being a completely stripped down (to the bare minimum) movie in terms of characters, location, and story. The movie applies thick layers of tension brought on by paranoia, and even though it takes place out in the wilderness, it manages to create a claustrophobic atmosphere. As a minimalist piece, "The Interior" really knows how to draw in a viewer.


Director: Eddie Mullins

This pre-apocalyptic tale of slackers taking up refuge in homes, while the owners are away, under the guise of preparing for the inevitable end of the world is surprisingly entertaining with its unusual approach. The plot, while simple and straightforward, is rather bare but the movie is carried largely by its charming cast of ne’er-do-wells who seem like the type you’d never want to associate with. Yet you’re seemingly engrossed by their odd self-appointed journey as they plunder and poach their way through upper class homes. Again, which is due to the outstanding performances by the cast, but there’s a quite a bit of heart and honesty in the movie that’s seamlessly mixed with quirky bits of comedy and anarchy.


Director: S. Craig Zahler

"Bone Tomahawk" is about Kurt Russell, and his glorious mustache, fighting cannibals in the wild west. That’s reason enough for the movie to be on anyone’s BOTY list. To delve further though, "Bone Tomahawk" could have easily been nothing more than cheap ’n trashy exploitation schlock as S. Craig Zahler melded westerns with cannibal films. Instead the two styles compliment each other: the gritty western element delivers well rounded and interesting characters that you become invested in, while the cannibal element creates an impactful visceral climax that’s surprisingly brutal. 


Director: Jon Watts

"Cop Car" has gained attention for its premise, but more importantly it delivers its premise exactly the way we wanted it to. The movie is about two little kids stealing the car of a corrupt cop, and an '80s styled road trip thriller ensues. The movie is as fun as it is thrilling. It's a movie that could've been a children's movie, but Jon Watts never lets that happen. Instead we're watching "The Hitcher" with kids and a cop! Flawed in certain places, but that doesn't stop "Cop Car" from being one suspenseful ride. And it has Kevin Bacon!


Director: Bobcat Goldthwait

It’s hard to recall the last time a movie or a documentary that took such a sharp, drastic turn as "Call Me Lucky". Bobcat Goldthwait’s film looks to explore the life of Barry Crimmins — an admired and beloved comedian by many entertainers but perhaps less known by the general public. In the beginning, "Call Me Lucky" plays out like any other documentary about an entertainer/comedian with famous (-esque) folks exchanging anecdotes. While you’re watching it, you can tell that there’s something different about Barry Crimmins. Something below the witty surface. "Call My Lucky" focuses on what’s below that surface and soon the movie begins to explore an ugly, terrifying side of humanity and about how one comedian put himself right in the middle of it. You may not have heard of Barry Crimmins before this, but you’ll respect him once you understand the scaring journey he went on as he goes back to where it all started for him.


Director: Larry Kent

If religion disturbs you (as it should), then a movie like "She Who Must Burn" will anger you. Any movie that is fueled by religious nutjobs doing what too many religious nutjobs do will hit certain chords with me, and "She Who Must Burn" succeeds with exactly that. Fanatic evangelists attack people at a planned parenthood clinic, and continues to assault them when the clinic is eventually shut down. Stereotypical religious nutjobs aside, "She Who Must Burn" is everything that it should be to unnerve and anger you to the limit. It's rare that movies make you genuinely nervous, but this is one of those movies.


Director: Victor Zarcoff

Like we said in the review, "Slumlord" is like a mix of "Sleep Tight" and "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer", and that alone should sell you on it. The movie jumps between the psychological, stalker horror of "Sleep Tight", to the realistic violent horror of "Henry". But what really pushes it into a disturbing movie is that most of the time it is a relationship drama of a struggling couple. There just happens to be a creepy fucking landlord stalking them as well. If home invasion/voyeur horror freaks you out then this is gonna be the scariest movie you see this year.


Director: Ben Blaine & Chris Blaine

For some reason there have been a couple of movies about dead girlfriends coming back to life as of late. Two that come to mind are "Life After Beth" and "Burying the Ex", but neither of these manage to do what "Nina Forever" does. This is a romantic movie where you actually care what's happening to everyone involved: the boyfriend, his new girlfriend and his dead ex-girlfriend. Yes, we actually even feel for poor, dead Nina in this case. "Nina Forever" is not really a horror movie, but rather a romance/drama/comedy, but there's quite a lot of blood involved. There's a lack of originality in the idea of a returning dead girlfriend, but "Nina Forever" keeps it as fresh as it possible can.


Director: Leigh Janiak

The general consensus about "Honeymoon" seems to be that while it is a good movie, it's nothing that hasn't been seen before. And of course, some typical horror movie ignorance is to be expected. Despite these things, "Honeymoon" is one of the movies that stood out to me this year. This movie keeps you hooked and guessing throughout, and it evolves from psychological into something Cronenberg-esque. Mystery horror movies done on a smaller budget can deliver some of the most intense content, and movies like "Honeymoon", "Resolution" and last year's "Coherence" are the proof. This movie disturbed me more than most movies this year.


Director: Jorge Torres-Torres

There’s a very interesting movement going on in the world of micro-budget independent films where there is a distinct lack of separation between reality and fiction. While there are cinematic horror sequences within "Shadow Zombie" what the movie excels at is keeping the viewer from knowing where the line is that separates Kim Filth from the character Shadow Zombie — if there is even a line at all. It’s almost impossible not to become invested in the movie as it explores this individual while simultaneously examining the emotional and mental state of an isolated existence of an outcast.


Director: Roy Andersson

The final entry in Roy Andersson's trilogy about life (and death) continues with his unique theatrical, one-camera setup, with surrealistic pitch-black (but equally ridiculous and sketch-like) comedy and does it nearly as well as in "Songs from the Second Floor". When a comedy starts with three short segments where three random people die or are dying, you know you're in for a kick of realism as much as a laugh in the face of death. While I never managed to get into "You, the Living", there is no doubt that this trilogy should be watched by anyone with an arthouse interest. Far from my favorite Swedish director, but Roy Andersson has managed to create a true art piece in three parts. Don't miss out on his finale!


Director: David Zellner

"Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter" has had me intrigued since I first heard about the plot. It's about a Japanese woman who believes that the case of money hidden in the Coen Brothers' movie "Fargo" is real. So she decides to travel to the snowy Minnesota to dig it up. That's not the only interesting part: as crazy as this might sound, the movie is actually based on a real person. In the end, this is a great and unique drama that adds Japanese culture to its Americana atmosphere. It's slow and it might not be the happiest of stories, but there is something unique about "Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter" that warms my heart.


Directors: Kei Morikawa

One of the big surprises of the year is this low-budgeted farce-like comedy about what is going on in the makeup room of a porn set. Kei Morikawa's experience with the porn industry makes it easy for the script to deliver joke after joke that highlights the problems that can occur. This is a very sweet and innocent comedy despite being based on pornography, and that's exactly what I needed in a time when every comedy tries to out-gross each other or just simply try to be vulgar for the sake of it. "Makeup Room" could have became a snoozefest with its static camera shots and one location, but everything that could have gone wrong went exactly right and the movie is fantastic.


Director: Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

The filmmaking duo Benson & Moorhead proved themselves with "Resolution", so there was little doubt that "Spring" would fail. Truth is though, "Spring" is one of the best movies of the year and they have became our most beloved director duo in modern horror after just two movies. "Spring" offers the whole package: mystery, drama, comedy, sci-fi, horror and... oh yeah, it is also the most romantic movie of the year. "Spring" is proof that you can mix genres how much you want to, as long as you know what the fuck you are doing. If you like slimey things such as hugs, kisses and tentacles, then "Spring" is the movie for you.


Director: Ted Geoghegan

Both of us at Film Bizarro are big fans of supernatural horror movies even though it is one of the worst subgenres. The last 15 years have been particularly awful. However, Ted Geoghegan and his team created a movie that uses elements from classic ghost movies with modern touches the resulted in an outstanding supernatural film. "We Are Still Here" finds horror in the silence and stillness of an isolated house in the dead of winter and uses that to build the atmosphere that’s unrelentingly creepy. The movie knows how to draw out the tension in order to give the viewer the same feeling you get when your alone in an unsettling environment — you know, the kind of situation that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. While there’s a solid story with likable and relatable characters — not to mention, memorable ghost designs — it’s the traditional methods used to create the feelings of tension, horror, and dread that makes "We Are Still Here" such a phenomenal viewing experience.


Director: Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi

What’s this — a good vampire movie? I never thought I’d see the day! Kidding! Just kidding…kinda. This superb New Zealand mock-documentary is amazingly entertaining to watch because it has respect and affection for the vampire horror movie. The comedy comes from finding something real in the kind of characters you can only find in vampire movies, rather than simply mocking the idea. And with its eclectic collection of characters that come from different periods in time and film, "What We Do in the Shadows" is able to create so much humor from a deceivingly simple idea. Even if you’re not a horror fan, there’s still laughs and entertainment to be had by anyone viewing the movie and that’s what makes "What We Do in the Shadows" one of the year's best.

We have reached our destination. The only spot that people really care about... right!? You should care about all of these 30 wonderful movies, but here comes our absolute favorite of the year!


Director: Shinya Tsukamoto

We've discussed what movie deserved the #1 spot on the list a lot, but it always came down to the new war movie by Shinya Tsukamoto. This was hard for us to accept for one reason, and one reason only: Tsukamoto's last movie made our #1 spot in our Best of 2012 list. Yes, Shinya Tsukamoto is among our favorite filmmakers of all time, but that doesn't mean all of his movies are amazing. That said, his two last movies have been amazing, so "Fires on the Plain" gets the spot it rightfully deserves over here at Film Bizarro. "Fires on the Plain" is Tsukamoto's retelling of the book that spawned a movie back in 1959. What we get in this version that the 1959 doesn't have, is Tsukamoto's raw power and visceral imagery. This is a complete assault, despite the movie mostly being about a lost soldier wandering the jungle. Hopefully it will get a release in the new year!

A couple of movies that didn't make it, but that deserve a mention or two:
Nachthelle, Backcountry, When Animals Dream, The Hallow, The Final Girls, and People, Places, Things.



Director: Usama Alshaibi
Usama Alshaibi's new short is a blend of experimental and biographical filmmaking. Two things that Usama has quite a bit of experience with, and you can tell from the execution of this short. It's very much based on Usama's own past, yet someone with complete opposite backgrounds can find things to relate to with this one. If you have seen his other work, then you know if you want to watch this one or not!

Director: Don Hertzfeldt
Leave it to Don Hertzfeldt to find a way to once again tell an emotionally poignant story with crude drawings. Even with the broad science-fiction element, "World of Tomorrow" has a hard hitting concept about the vain pursuit of immortality and what matters most to an individual once they are faced with the truth that death is inescapable. "World of Tomorrow" marks Don Hertzfeldt’s first foray into digital animation and doesn’t skip a beat as it features his signature abstract imagery and his oddly relatable squiggly stick figure characters.


(Click image for larger)

The collage style has been a relatively popular design layout with this resurgence in poster artwork. Somehow though, many get it wrong by cluttering up the overall image or there being no sense of flow. The original poster design for "Bone Tomahawk" gets everything right — because of visual hierarchy there’s an actual flow that guides your eyes. Not only that, but as your eyes are guided through the imagery, you get a sense of what the story is and the importance of the characters. The choice in colors and willingness to embrace whitespace also helps in making this a standout poster for this year.

RINKO KIKUCHI ("Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter")

Rinko Kikuchi has been in a lot of movies in the past, but in "Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter" she really stands out as something wonderful. In a movie that's about trying to find your goal in a foreign land, as impossible as it might be, Rinko makes this movie a joy. She's innocently funny, charmingly naive, and an overall great force pushing this movie to becoming as great as it is.


When you watch a horror/thriller and you're not even sure if the man behind the antagonist is an actor or just crazy for real, that's when you know you have a great actor. We don't know enough about Neville Archambaul, but his portrayal of Gerald in "Slumlord" is downright terrifying. While a lot of actors were good this year, we quickly decided Neville Archambault was the true winner for his role.


BRIC TV's webseries "The Show About the Show" is possibly this year's most hidden diamond. This show (currently only 3 episodes in) by filmmaker Caveh Zahedi is meta in all the right ways. It's equal amounts documentary about filmmaking as it is an engaging drama. As it stands right now, the newest episode has about 2,300 views on Youtube, but it deserves at least ten times that. If you have an interest in what goes on behind the creation of film or television, this is one of the most exciting things this year. The show is about making this show, and that's why this deserves the "Best Initiative" this year. The idea is stupid in many ways, but it is pulled off to perfection!



We know that people will be quick to tell us that Arrow’s "Hellraiser" boxset was the best release this year, but the problem with that is they included "Hellraiser 3" in the set — a movie so terrible that it makes it impossible to consider that boxset the best release this year. No, instead we’re going to go with Arrow’s release of "Society". A movie that’s existed in a limbo state in the digital era to where you could only find bootlegs or awful out-of-print transfers. Thanks to Arrow, we now have a beautiful high-def transfer of Brian Yuzna’s disgustingly hilarious debut in a deservingly fantastic box set that’s loaded with extras.

Honorable mention:
Cult Epics - Angst


SOMNIO - A conceptually strong, minimalist social science-fiction movie featuring Christopher Soren Kelly.

GREEN ROOM - After what Jeremy Saulnier showed what he was capable of with “Blue Ruin” it’ll be interesting to see what he does with a movie about a punk band trapped in a venue by violence.

COSMOS - You know that you need to watch whatever Andrzej Żuławski will bring you.

HALIBUT POINT - This was one of our most anticipated last year too, and the statement stands: "Ron DeCaro makes another feature, so we are obviously excited!". This year we are slightly closer to see it at least!

YOGA HOSERS - Like last year: "Tusk" was fucked up, so we want to see what the next movie in line will deliver.


We hope that you don't have a busy 2016, so that you can catch up on whatever movies from our list that you didn't get to watch. Hopefully there will be a diamond or two!

Goodbye 2015!


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