Whether you’ve got a taste for demons, cannibals, deranged killers, cults or even man-eating children, the 2014 horror slate has something for you. Between the studio-produced upcoming releases and the crop of independent contenders vying for film festival gold – distribution – this looks to be a year with a strong blend of promising reboots, franchise expansions and innovative new concepts. There are high hopes for a steady stream of quality horror throughout the year, but here are 10 films in particular that you definitely won’t want to miss.
Check out our 20 Most Anticipated Horror Movies of 2014.
Release Date: January 3, 2014
Cast: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Gabrielle Walsh, Renee Victor
Clearly Paranormal Activity had the momentum and appeal to spawn a series, but Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones showed us whether or not the concept can sustain an on-screen universe. Even though The Marked Ones is technically the fifth Paranormal Activity film, it isn’t Paranormal Activity 5; it’s a spin-off. There are loads of horror franchises out there enjoying linear expansions, but should this lateral attempt hit it big, it could spawn a horror empire.
Watch the trailer for Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.
Release Date: June 6, 2014
Cast: Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, AJ Bowen, Kate Lyn Sheil, Gene Jones, Kentucker Audley
The Sacrament is told from the shaky cam perspective and focuses on a photographer who’s invited to visit his sister in a mysterious sober-living community in an unidentified foreign country and brings along his colleagues to document the trip. Early reviews out of Venice, Toronto and Fantastic Fest peg this as another slow burn, but if Ti West earns and rewards your patience, as he does with House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, we could have another highly satisfying and unique watch on the way.
Release Date: June 20, 2014
Cast: Zach Gilford, Michael K. Williams, Frank Grillo, Kiele Sanchez, Carmen Ejogo
The Purge wowed audiences and scored nearly $90 million worldwide courtesy of that inventive and intriguing high concept, but considering it only earned a 38% on the Tomatometer and just 37% on the Rotten Tomato audience scale, director James DeMonaco is going to need to surround that core idea with higher quality content. The 12-hour law-free period still has cinematic appeal, but the story and the characters will need just as much ingenuity in round two if Blumhouse expects the sequel to maintain a fan base and spark a trilogy.
Release Date: July 2, 2014
Cast: Olivia Munn, Eric Bana, Joel McHale, Edgar Ramirez, Sean Harris
Deliver Us From Evil could be this year’s The Conjuring – or at least that seems to be what Screen Gems is going for with Scott Derrickson’s Sinister follow-up. Even though the summer season isn’t considered primetime for the horror genre, after The Conjuring rocked the box office in mid-July 2013, there’s no reason to think Deliver Us From Evil can’t achieve the same assuming the full feature is just as disturbing and memorable.
Release Date: September 5, 2014
Cast: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Daryl Sabara, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Sky Ferreira, Magda Apanowicz, Aaron Burns, Ignacia Allamand, Magdalena Apanowicz
Hopefully you’ve got a taste for cannibals because as one of few man-eating movies in recent years, The Green Inferno could kick off a subgenre craze. This one hones in on a group of college radicals determined to end illegal clear-cutting in a Peruvian jungle. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as karma in the Amazon because when their plane crashes in the jungle, rather than celebrate the Ivy Leaguers looking to save the day, the natives prefer to eat them.
Release Date: October 24, 2014
Even though the goal was likely to deliver a new Paranormal Activity installment each year, clearly that didn’t pan out for Paranormal Activity 5. It was locked for a Halloween 2013 release immediately after the debut of PA 4, but then it was uprooted and plopped back down in 2014, inciting loads of confusion regarding whether The Marked Ones was in fact a spin-off or Paranormal Activity 5. It’s since been proven that PA 5 is still its own thing, but between the drawn-out buildup and the fact that the Marked Ones narrative must have an effect on film five’s content, Gregory Plotkin has some sky-high expectations to meet.
Release Date: TBD
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris, Jane Adams, Nicholas Braun, Saxon Sharbino
Another year, another horror classic remake. Kimberly Peirce’s take on Brian De Palma’s Carrie didn’t live up to the hype, but with Monster House director Gil Kenan behind the lens and Sam Raimi producing, the remake of Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist does have a chance, especially with top-notch talent like Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt and Jared Harris on the roster. Even though the original will always have a nostalgic appeal, there’s also no denying that the creep factor of the scenario could get a major boost from more advanced digital and practical effects.
Release Date: TBD
Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, Lance Reddick
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett enjoyed a very busy 2013 with You’re Next and VHS 2, and they’re already circling back for more. Their latest feature, The Guest, puts the focus on the Peterson family. After the loss of their oldest son in the war in Afghanistan, his recently discharged comrade swings by, turns on the charm and is welcomed into their home with open arms. But eventually his façade begins to fade, giving one of the younger sibling’s cause to doubt their guest’s story. The Guest is due for a Sundance 2014 debut and if its festival run pans out much like the rest of the duo’s catalog, it’ll be acquired and released soon enough.
Release Date: TBD
Cast: Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer, Leigh Whannell, Nasim Pedrad
Cooties is a horror comedy that was co-penned by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious) and stars Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer and Nasim Pedrad. Still not sold? It’s a film about an elementary school virus that turns the kids into feral cannibalistic mutants out to gobble up the surviving teachers. This should be outrageous gory, comedy gold and we’ll find out if first-time directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion made good on all of that potential when Cooties premieres in the Midnight program at Sundance on January 18th.
Release Date: TBD
Cast: Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Martin Starr, Ørjan Gamst, Ingrid Haas, Jocelyn DeBoer
Sure, it’s been nearly four years since Dead Snow had a very limited domestic theatrical release, but if you’re not foaming at the mouth for the sequel, Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead, it’s probably because you haven’t seen the movie’s brilliant Sundance trailer. The combination of film one throwbacks and the reveal of an incredibly smart and well-timed new twist rocks the power to get longtime fans pumped for more and also entice newcomers to catch the original in preparation for round two.
Watch the trailer for Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead.
Release Date: January 17, 2014
Cast: Lior Ashkenazi, Rotem Keinan, Tzahi Grad, Dov Glickman, Menashe Noy, Dvir Bebedek
The Big Bad Wolves opening title sequence is enough to label the full feature a must-see all on its own, but the rest of the piece still boasts a unique combination of sheer terror and humor, further proving that Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado are standout horror filmmakers on the rise. The duo first established themselves as ones to watch when their first feature, Rabies, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011 and now Big Bad Wolves further proves their films have a fresh style and flare worth experiencing.
Watch the trailer for Big Bad Wolves.
Release Date: March 7, 2014
Cast: Elijah Wood, John Cusack
As someone with zero appreciation for live orchestra performances, Eugenio Mira’s Grand Piano could be a groundbreaking experience. The film features Elijah Wood as Tom Selznick, a famous pianist who refuses to play in public after a devastating bout of stage fright. Years later, it finally comes time for him to hit the keys in front of a crowd again and if the pressure of his past isn’t enough, Tom also must play to please an anonymous sniper that threatens, “Play one wrong note and you die.” Again, as someone who isn’t roused by such performances, the challenge of delivering a film that turns a classical piano concert into a riveting, life or death scenario is especially intriguing.
Watch the trailer for Grand Piano.
Release Date: March 21, 2014
Cast: Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton, David Koechner
Had this film followed up its festival run with a 2013 theatrical release, it undoubtedly would have made my top ten movies of the year list, but instead we’ll be singing its praises in 2014 because E.L. Katz’s directorial debut is a monumental success with layered characters and a well-timed build wrapped up in a disturbingly engaging scenario. What would you do if you were desperately trying to support your family, just lost your job and then were offered the chance to complete quick dares for cash? If you want to gauge how far you’d go, start by assessing what your pinky finger’s worth.
Watch the trailer for Cheap Thrills.
Release Date: TBD
Cast: Derek Lee, Clif Prowse
Think you’ve had enough found footage horror films? Just wait until you get to experience Lee and Prowse’s feature directorial debut, Afflicted. Lee and Prowse also star in the film as two best friends. When Lee’s character is diagnosed with something called arteriovenous malformation, he’s compelled to seize the time he has left and recruits Prowse’s character to document his trip around the world. Even though the initial concern is that Lee’s AVM will flare up during his travels, it’s actually a mysterious affliction he contracts along the way that threatens to consume his body.
Read our early review of Afflicted.
Release Date: TBD
Cast: Manuela Velasco, Paco Manzanedo, Héctor Colomé, Ismael Fritschi
[REC] 3: Genesis was a major disappointment and tonal anomaly, but considering [REC] and [REC] 2 hold up so well, there’s still hope the new installment will allow the franchise to return to form. Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza co-directed the first two films and clearly Plaza fell short helming the third film alone, but now it’s Balagueró’s turn to give solo directing a go and with Manuela Velasco back in the game and a narrative that’s more directly connected to the original storyline, he could have a better shot at winding up with a stronger end result.
Release Date: Fall 2014
Cast: Justin Long, Michael Parks, Genesis Rodriguez, Haley Joel Osment
Thanks to certain notorious antics, every Kevin Smith project comes with a degree of curiosity and his latest, Tusk, is no different, especially after Smith failed to complete it in time to screen at Sundance. Regardless, the film still secured distribution, so in the third quarter of the year, we’ll get to see what happens when Long’s character meets up with Parks’ for an interview about his global adventures only to find out that he’s really a deranged, walrus-obsessed killer.
Release Date: April 11, 2014
Cast: Karen Gillan, Katee Sackhoff, Brenton Thwaites, James Lafferty, Rory Cochrane
When you’ve got a poster that looks like this, you’ll undoubtedly turn some heads. Oculus focuses on two siblings, one of which is convicted of murdering their parents. Years later, Kaylie (Gillan) is still convinced Tim (Thwaites) didn’t do it and is out to prove it was actually the supernatural force in the mirror known as the Lasser Glass that was responsible for the crime. This one came out of the Toronto International Film Festival with strong reviews and now the film’s trailer further suggests that it’ll pack the power to keep you up at night with a number of unforgettably eerie visuals.
Watch the trailer for Oculus.
Release Date: TBD
Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, Ben Winspear
Having kept an eye on The Babadook since the film’s impressive Kickstarter campaign back in the 2012, it’s fitting that Jennifer Kent’s feature directorial debut would eventually go on to lock in distribution at Sundance. The narrative has roots in the curious mythology of the Babadook, the tangible manifestation of the unacceptable elements of someone’s personality. In the final feature, the mysterious appearance of a book called Mister Babadook leads Amelia (Davis) to believe that her young son’s tantrums might actually be caused by a bogeyman haunting their home at night, a creature with an exceptionally disconcerting presence in the film’s trailer alone.
Watch the trailer for The Babadook.
Release Date: TBD
Cast: Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Joe Anderson, Kelli Garner, Max Minghella, James Remar
After earning a spot on this list last year, the fact that Horns never made due on the planned 2013 release makes you wonder what happened, increasing anticipation tenfold. Horns premiered to mixed reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival, but still locked US distribution through one of the most lucrative deals at the event, but, oddly enough, RADiUS-TWC still hasn’t given the film a US release date. Allegedly a 2014 debut is the goal and that better happen because there’s just so long we can expect to take the images of Radcliffe donning his horns seriously without context.
Release Date: TBD
Cast: Kazuki Kitamura, Oka Antara, Rin Takanashi, Luna Maya, Ray Sahetapy
If you’ve seen the “Safe Haven” segment of VHS 2, you know Timo Tjahjanto is one to watch and, sure enough, based on the reviews coming out of Sundance, his latest film as part of The Mo Brothers (along with Kimo Stamboel) is being dubbed an especially horrific experience. It hones in on a serial killer who targets the women of Tokyo and a journalist who indulges in vigilantism. Both post videos of their murders online and when the serial killer comes across the journalist’s work, he decides to encourage him to seize his potential.
Even though this list rocks Nazi zombies, camera shy paranormal entities, everyday citizens with a thrust to kill and loads more, it only represents a fraction of the shocking, bloody and nightmarish scenarios coming our way. Did your most anticipated horror movie of 2014 make the cut? Tell us what you’ve got your eye on below.
And if you haven’t checked it out already, take a look at our “20 Most Anticipated Movies of 2014,” which features the must-see movies of the New Year throughout all genres.
Follow Perri at @PNemiroff.