Lisa’s Picks For The Twelve Best Horror Films of The Past Six Years


It’s October, which means that it’s horror month here at the Shattered Lens!  Can you believe that we’ve been doing this for six years?  I figured what better way to celebrate the start of October than by listing my picks for the ten best horror and supernatural-themed films to have been released since the founding of Through the Shattered Lens!

(Whoops!  Derrick Ferguson of the Ferguson Theater just reminded me that House of the Devil came out in 2009.  Though I haven’t reviewed House of the Devil on this site — though I did take time to praise this dance scene — it is a film that definitely belongs on this list.  So, I’m adding it and another film as well.  So now, we have a list of the 12 best horror films of the past six years!)

Check them out below!

  1. The Cabin In The Woods (2012)
  2. Warm Bodies (2013)
  3. The Conjuring (2013)
  4. A Field in England (2014)
  5. Take Shelter (2011)
  6. Sinister (2012)
  7. The House of the Devil (2009)
  8. The Babadook (2014)
  9. Devil’s Due  (2014)
  10. Insidious (2011)
  11. Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)
  12. You’re Next (2013)

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

Warm Bodies


2014 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 26 Favorite Films of 2014

Well, here we are!  This is my favorite part of the TSL’s look back at the previous year!  Below, you’ll find my picks for the 26 best films of 2014!

(Why 26?  Because Lisa doesn’t do odd numbers.)


Before looking at the list, there are two things that I would ask you to keep in mind.  First off, these are my picks and my picks alone.  There are 12 writers here at the TSL and we are all very opinionated individuals.  Needless to say, we don’t always agree.  Just because I love a film doesn’t mean that Arleigh, Leonard, Ryan, or anybody else here agree or disagrees.  (Even my own sister occasionally disagrees with me…)  When the other writers get around to posting their picks, I imagine that some of the films below will appear on those lists. And some of them most definitely will not.  Vive la difference!

Also, it should be understood that, unlike some film critics, I only list movies that I’ve actually seen.  Unfortunately, since I live in the middle of the country, that means that there are a few 2014 films that have yet to be released in my part of the world.  Over the upcoming two weeks, I plan to see Inherent Vice, Selma, American Sniper, A Most Violent Year, and The Imitation Game.  Any one of these films could potentially end up in my top 26, in which case I will update this post to reflect that.

(1/10/15 Update — I have updated the list to include Inherent Vice.  And, since I don’t do odd numbers, I also added Blue Ruin so that the list is currently an even 28 films.)

Under the Skin

As for my list, as I look over it, I have to admit that I’m a little bit surprised by some of the films that made the biggest impression on me this year.  Whereas in previous years, my favorite films were far outside of the mainstream, my favorite film of 2014 was the epitome of blockbuster entertainment.  The list is an interesting combination of spectacle and existential dread, featuring everything from the latest entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a few neglected masterpieces of ennui.

(If you’d like to see my picks for 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, click on the links!)


And without further ado, here’s the list!

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy
  2. Wild
  3. Boyhood
  4. Under the Skin
  5. The LEGO Movie
  6. Nightcrawler
  7. The Fault In Our Stars
  8. Foxcatcher
  9. Palo Alto
  10. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  11. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  12. Joe
  13. Birdman
  14. Venus in Fur
  15. A Field in England
  16. California Scheming
  17. Gone Girl
  18. Chef
  19. Snowpiercer
  20. Cold In July
  21. Jodorowsky’s Dune
  22. Whiplash
  23. Inherent Vice
  24. Begin Again
  25. The Purge: Anarchy
  26. Devil’s Due
  27. Only Lovers Left Alive
  28. Blue Ruin

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments below!


Previous Entries In TSL’s Look Back At 2014

  1. 2014 In Review: Things Dork Geekus Dug In 2014 Off The Top Of His Head
  2. 2014 In Review: The Best Of Lifetime and SyFy
  3. 2014 In Review: Lisa’s Picks For The 16 Worst Films Of 2014
  4. 2014 In Review: 14 Of Lisa’s Favorite Songs Of 2014
  5. 2014 In Review: Necromoonyeti’s Top 10 Metal Albums of 2014
  6. 2014 In Review: 20 Good Things Lisa Saw On TV In 2014
  7. 2014 In Review: Pantsukudasai56’s Pick For The Best Anime of 2014
  8. 2014 in Reivew: Lisa’s 20 Favorite Novels of 2014
  9. 2014 In Review: Lisa’s Top 10 Non-Fiction Books of 2014

“Devil’s Due” — (Hopefully) What Not To Expect When You’re Expecting


So, it’s January, and you know what that means — “found footage” horror is back.

Seriously, just when you think this cinematic trend has breathed its last gasp, it’s back —  usually during the post-holiday period, when studios are eager to dump off material that they think is going to play to a limited (at best) audience. And then something funny happens — one of these “hand-held horrors, ”  sometimes even a pretty lousy one at that, ends up ruling the roost at the box office for a week or two (The Devil Inside, anyone?), easily recouping its meager production costs, and the Hollywood suits decide to green-light a few more similar productions figuring that, hey, there’s life in this old horse yet.

And so there seems to be. But you do have to wonder — again! — if this persistent sub-genre has finally run its course, now that we’ve had found-footage zombie flicks, found-footage monster flicks, found-footage exorcism flicks, found-footage ghost flicks, and, in the case of the movie we’re here to discuss today, Devil’s Due, found footage Antichrist flicks.

Arriving as this movie did hot on the heels of Paranormal Activity : The Marked Ones, my initial thought was that this co-directed effort from Matt Betinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (who also collaborated on a less-than-stellar segment in the less-than-stellar horror anthology V/H/S) looked like another spin-off from the PA franchise, by way of Polanski’s classic Rosemary’s Baby, and while that’s generally not too far off the mark, it also doesn’t mean this isn’t actually a pretty good film. In point of fact, it is — even if it doesn’t sound like it could, or perhaps even should, be.

Lisa Marie’s nice little write-up on these digital “pages” a week or so back got me sufficiently intrigued to go out and see this thing, and I have to say I’m glad that I did, for while its premise — not to mention its stylistic trappings — are miles away from being original, it was at the very least a deftly-handled, well-constructed, reasonably-well-acted affair that, while utterly predictable, still offered enough of a unique take on its subject matter to seem modestly refreshing and “new.”

Even though it’s not. But hey, cinema relies on at least temporary suspension of disbelief, right?

The set-up is as basic as they come (and as you’d probably expect) : mysterious orphan girl Samantha (Allison Miller) grows up and marries semi-annoying yuppie scumbag Zach (Zach Gilford), they honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, a night of debauchery and excess in a mysterious underground club ends with, we find out later, her getting pregnant, and said pregnancy is beset by weird health complications, mysterious super-powers being bestowed upon the expectant mother, strangers watching their house (one of whom bears an uncanny resemblance to the cab driver who escorted them to their night-to-remember-that-they-don’t-remember in the DR), and whaddya know? A few dead deer feasts, mysterious home invasions, and psychic attacks on priests later, Samantha’s all set to give birth to Satan’s own flesh n’ blood.

On a purely personal level,  I have to confess that Antichrist stories usually fall pretty flat with me since one usually needs to believe in Christ first in order to believe in his evil counterpart —   since I don’t, then,  I’m kind of hobbled when it comes to buying into the whole central premise here, but what the heck? Devil’s Due is paced so as not to give even viewers like myself too much time to dwell on the details, and hey, at least their “let’s record every moment of our lives for posterity” is a better pretext for all the “home movie” footage we’re getting here than some of the limp set-ups we’ve been served by other entries in this admittedly over-crowded field.

In the “minus” column, our intrepid young (I’m assuming, at any rate) directors do come a bit too close to over-playing their hand at the end — they needn’t go nearly as OTT in the effects department as they do in order to drive home their climax — but on the whole, and against all odds, their finished product by and large actually works. And on a cold January afternoon, that’s enough for me.

Devil’s Due may not be a new horror classic by any stretch of the imagination, but it does go some way towards showing that a  “hand-held horror” movie can still be effective — provided, of course, that it’s in the right hands.

Film Review: Devil’s Due (dir by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet)


Devil’s Due is a lot better than you may think.

Yes, it’s tempting to judge Devil’s Due without giving it fair a chance.  January is traditionally the time of year when the studios dump all of their most hopeless films into theaters, hoping to make a quick buck while more discriminating audiences are distracted by the Oscar nominees.  Found footage horror movies usually suck.  The commercials make Devil’s Due look like little more than just the latest film to rip-off Paranormal Activity and The Last Exorcism.  On top of all that, Devil’s Due wasn’t screened for critics and we know that’s usually a bad sign.

So yes, there’s a lot of reasons to be skeptical about Devil’s Due but I’m here to tell you to put your skeptism aside.  Devil’s Due is a surpisingly intelligent horror film, one that totally defied my expectations.

If you’ve seen any of the commercials then you already know the basic plot.  Zach (Zach Gilford) and Sam (Allison Miller) are newlyweds.  While on their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, they have both a frightening encounter with a fortune teller (who repeatedly tells Sam that “They’ve been waiting for you,”) and a seemingly more pleasant encounter with a friendly taxi driver who takes them to an underground nightclub.  Though Sam and Zach wake up the next morning with no memory of when they left the club, we know (via Zach’s still-running camera) that a ritual was performed while Sam was passed out drunk.

Returning home to New Orleans, Sam is shocked to discover that, despite being on the pill, she is now pregnant.  Zach and his family are so excited about the idea of Zach becoming a father that nobody seems to notice that Sam is far less enthusiastic.  Not only does this mean that she might have to put her education and career on hold, but she also soon starts waking up with bruises on her stomach and having nosebleeds.  She flies into unexplained rages, at one point smashing the windows of a van that pulled out in front of her.  Despite being a vegetarian, Sam starts to crave raw meat.  While everyone else just assumes that she’s having a difficult pregnancy, Sam becomes convinced that something is wrong with the baby.

Meanwhile, Zach grows increasingly paranoid about the strange men who always seem to be following Sam and him around.  When he spots the cab driver sitting in church, watching as Zach’s neice takes communion for the first time, Zach realizes what the rest of us already know.

Devil’s Due won’t necessarily win any points for originality but it’s still an effectively creepy and genuinely frightening horror film.  By letting us know, early on, that Sam is carrying the antichrist, the filmmakers are allowed to spend their time developing atmosphere and character (as opposed to building up to a twist that the audience would have seen coming from a mile away).  Zach Gilford and Allison Miller are both very likable and have a lot of chemistry and, as a result, you care about their characters and you continue to hope for the best even when it becomes obvious that they’re destined to experience the worst.

(One need only look at the bland and forgettable lead characters in January’s other found footage film — Paranormal Activty: The Marked Ones — to understand just how important Gilford and Miller are to making Devil’s Due into an effective and memorable film.)

My most common complaint about found footage horror films is that they require you to believe that someone would actually continue to artfully film everything around him even while literally running for his life.  Director Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet manage to avoid that problem by using a variety of different methods to create the illusion of “found footage.”  While a good deal of the film is presented as having been filmed by Zach, the directors also make good use of store security footage (one of the film’s best scenes features Sam eating raw meat in a supermarket while a small child looks on in shock and the store’s employees fail to notice) and several stationary cameras that, about halfway through the film, are secretly installed in Zach and Sam’s house.  The use of different cameras not only keeps the film from getting monotonous but it also helps the film to avoid the nausea-inducing shaky cam effect that almost made it impossible for me to watch The Marked Ones.

Finally, Devil’s Due works because it manages to get at the root of a very real and primal fear.  Though it’s not something that we’re encouraged to admit, just the very idea of pregnancy is a very scary thing for a lot of women (this reviewer included).  Beyond the physical changes, there’s the knowledge that, once you’ve given birth, nothing will ever be the same.  There’s a great moment in Devil’s Due in which Sam and Zach argue about whether or not Sam should continue to pursue her career while she’s pregnant.  This is followed, a bit later, by a scene where it’s casually mentioned that Sam’s office has now been transformed into a nursery.  These are very human moments and ones that are full of very real emotions that any woman will be able to relate to.  It’s moments like these that elevante Devil’s Due and make it into a surprisingly effective and intelligent horror film.

Give Devil’s Due a chance.