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Horror fans know that Hollywood rarely gives the genre the kind of attention that more than $100 million calls for, so distribution companies end upcoming into things late in the game, and premieres aren’t always set far in advance of a film’s actual release date. This is why big studios like franchises that can hitch themselves to a certain time of year, leading to current franchises that are wholly inferior to those of the past. So let’s pretend those don’t exist for a while and talk about eight of the most promising horrors of 2014, many of which still don’t have release dates.

I embrace the fact that genre fans are completely outspoken, opinionated and as tasteless as they come, and I welcome and enjoy the input given in the comment section, especially for a story like this. The point is always to let those unaware know about the wealth of flicks waiting to be seen, and I only ask that every disagreement is followed by a film you guys are looking forward to that’s coming this year. And while we’re busy discussing things, blood blood blood blood blood.

These picks are in reverse alphabetical order except for the first entry, because goddammit, I would give up two circular spots on my forehead for Horns to finally come out.

horns
Horns
No jury needs to be gathered to prove that movies adapted from Stephen King’s works vary wildly in terms of quality. But audiences have never gotten to experience a film based on a novel by Joe Hill, King’s hugely talented son. Well, festival audiences did, and festival audiences raved about it for the most part. If only we had a way to read all their minds…

Horns stars Daniel Radcliffe as Ig Perrish, a privileged New Hampshire twentysomething who wakes up after one particularly drunken night to find his girlfriend brutally murdered. And though he is in fact innocent of said murder and is not convicted, he becomes a public scapegoat. He also finds a pair of horns growing out of his forehead that give him the ability to hear the thoughts of those around him, and he has quite a few more powers up his newly devilish sleeves. The story goes all over the place, making it stand out in a genre that focuses far more on scene set-ups than in plot and character.

To me, it seems like an adaptation that wouldn’t come easy, given the heretical scope of the story, and I don’t have all the faith in the world in director Alexandre Aja, known for High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes, but also Mirrors. But the film got verbal praise from Hill himself, and the novel is too horrifically wild and funny to be a terrible film no matter who makes it.

Release Date: ???
Willow Creek
Let’s take a step back from Willow Creek and consider some thing: I will watch any movie that Bobcat Goldthwait directs. From Shakes the Clown to God Bless America, Goldthwait has earned his outlier fanbase by telling darkly comedic (but still somewhat heartfelt) stories through biting satire and surreal situations. His films are unique and are not meant to be enjoyed by everyone. As such, it was a strange choice when the director announced he’d be directing a found footage horror which can be summed up as "Blair Witch with a Bigfoot creature."

But let’s not forget that The Blair Witch Project was a pretty frightening innovation when it came out, and Cabin in the Woods is evidence that clever people can make overused tropes feel fresh again. Willow Creek won over many critics for its festival run last year who praised the film’s lead actors and smart script, which tells the story of a Bigfoot hunter and his disbelieving girlfriend. So let’s try to forget the plethora of found-footage knock-offs that have come out over the years and put our faith in one of the most talented filmmakers making the fringe his own. Personally, I can’t wait for Goldthwait’s version of Argo.

Release Date: ???

tusk
Tusk
And we leave behind Goldthwait’s Bigfoot to move in with Kevin Smith’s walrus. Smith’s fans have been clamoring for the director to finally get to making the third entry in the Clerks series, but between assertions that he’s retiring after making "one more movie," Smith returned to his deep indie roots for the offbeat horror movie Tusk, inspired by an idea discussed during an episode of his long-running podcast. Oh, and he is finishing it just in time to get a premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Nothing about this movie makes a whole hell of a lot of sense, and that’s what makes it so intriguing.

Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense) plays a podcaster whose best friend and co-caster, played by Justin Long (For a Good Time, Call…), goes missing. His disappearance involves a presumed serial killer (Michael Parks) who forces his victims to wear a full-sized walrus costume. It also stars Genesis Rodriguez and an as-yet-unnamed surprise star as a detective investigating the case. It’s impossible not to be interested in this wackiness, and I can’t wait to see Smith non-religious take on the horror genre. Does anybody know if walruses are capable of giving the Stinkpalm?

Release Date: ???
town that dreaded sundown
The Town That Dreaded Sundown
I didn’t want to include any remakes on this list, largely because remakes aren’t very exciting. But with The Town That Dreaded Sundown, we have a team-up of indie franchise-maker Jason Blum and American Horror Story co-creator Ryan Murphy, and they’re putting a meta twist on remaking this lesser-known 1976 crime horror from Charles B. Pierce. It’s the feature debut for the interesting and gimmick-heavy AHS and Glee director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, and it’s got a solid cast including Gary Cole (Veep), Addison Timlin (Under the Dome), Denis O’Hare (Dallas Buyers Club), Edward Herrmann (The Lost Boys) and Veronica Cartwright (Alien). So if I have to sit through yet another horror remake this year, this is the one that I’m going into with full interest.

Based on a series of 1946 murders in the town of Texarkana, Arkansas, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a retelling of the original film, where the murders begin again in modern-day Texarkana, where a young girl will serve as the key to catching the killer. It isn’t clear whether they’ll use the narration-driven style of the first film, or if they’ll come at it from a procedural thriller angle, like David Fincher’s Zodiac. In any case, a keen visual style and an absence of jump-scares should make The Town That Dreaded Sundown one of the sleeper surprises of the year.

Release Date: ???

The Quiet Ones
Former horror powerhouse Hammer Films is rebranding itself as an atmospheric force to be reckoned with, following up 2012’s The Woman in Black with John Pogue’s paranormal thriller The Quiet Ones. A twist on poltergeist and possession films, the film follow’s Mad Men’s Jared Harris as an Oxford University professor who leads his students into an experiment that purposefully brings a spirit into the world to haunt a young woman (Olivia Cooke). Because it sounded like such a good idea on paper?

While the plot may only be a thinly veiled twist on an old premise, this movie gets an instant watch from me based on the production design alone. Pogue’s only other directorial effort was Quarantine 2: Terminal, and his last two feature scripts were for Ghost Ships and Rollerball, but this film looks much more distinctive than anything he’s worked with before. I always look for one ghostly movie to stand out from the rest, and there’s absolutely no way that’s going to be a part of the Paranormal Activity franchise. And if nothing else, Sam Claflin fans should be pleased.

Release Date: April 25, 2014
oculus
Oculus
With his first feature Absentia, director Mike Flanagan took to an underground tunnel to spin a creepy low-budget yarn about missing people. While not perfect, it spoke to what Flanagan could do with limited resources, and hopefully his next film Oculus reflects (mirrors!) his growing talent as a filmmaker.

The central story follows Kaylie (Karen Gillan) after she’s put into the care of her brother, newly released from a psychiatric hospital where he was placed following the death of their parents. They go back to their childhood home where they find an ancient and evil mirror – seriously – through which the narrative jumps back and forth between timelines. A slow burning thriller whose biggest ideas aren’t obvious until the end, Oculus got a lot of people talking following its premiere at last year’s TIFF. Indie horror that pays attention to the characters as much as its concept? Both my reflection and I are in.

Release Date: April 18

Grand Piano
With a plotline that could have seemingly come from half of a cocktail napkin, Eugenio Mira’s stylistic thriller Grand Piano faces all outsider claims of ludicrousness head on, sticking to its assassin’s guns with assuredness. Like a giallo version of a feature-length Twilight Zone episode, this film sidesteps branching plotlines with one hook and one way out.

Elijah Wood plays piano master Tom Selznick, whose comeback performance is interrupted by a psycho who threatens both his life and that of his wife’s. The catch: if he plays one wrong note, he and his wife will die. John Cusack plays the largely unseen villain, whose voice is heard through an earpiece Selznick wears. Not all thrillers need buckets of blood or the fate of the world in order to be successful, and Grand Piano is trading in broad terror for one as sharp as piano wire. Keep those fingers loose.

Release Date: March 7
Big Bad Wolves
It’s a shame that I’m not aware of more foreign horror films that have definitive 2014 U.S. release dates. But if anyone should feel regrets about anything, it’s Dror, the kidnapper/murderer in the darkly comedic Israeli thriller Big Bad Wolves, from directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado. Dror allegedly killed the daughter of Gidi (Tzahi Grad), a man who teams up with a moral-free cop (Lior Ashkenazi) in order to extract information and enact revenge upon the supposedly sadistic pervert.

While it may look like your average direct-to-video torture porn, Big Bad Wolves tells its story as if it were a fairy tale, but of original sort that Grimm didn’t want our children to know about. Every good fairy tale is rife with humor and misdirection, and that’s what audiences can expect from this one. While I don’t expect this to open up the floodgates when it comes to more West Asian black comedy horror, there’s a chance it’ll make a few up-and-coming U.S. filmmakers take notice on how to breathe new life into old premises.

Release Date: January 17

knights of Badassdom
The Rest
There are quite a few films that didn’t make the cut, and the year will still give us a few surprises that we aren’t even aware of yet. I’m highly interested in are Joe Lynch’s long-delayed Knights of Badassdom, which shifts from fantasy comedy into horror by the end of things. However, Lynch’s cut isn’t the one that’s hitting theaters, so I’m holding out for that one. There’s also the Poltergeist remake, but I’m seriously only interested in that because Sam Rockwell is starring in it, and he makes any film better.

A few more that should be interesting are Ju-on: The Grudge director Takashi Shimizu’s haunted airplane movie 7500, D.J. Caruso’s gravity-warped sci-fi flick Invertigo, Ti West’s polarizing cult drama The Sacrament, the woman fighting epic Raze, the ABCs of Death sequel and Brad Anderson’s Edgar Allen Poe adaptation Eliza Graves, which would have made the list had any footage been released. There’s also the American remake of the excellent Belgium mystery The Loft, but I guess it doesn’t really count as horror.

Now it’s time for you guys to let me know what I missed. What kind of scares are you looking forward to this year?

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