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Five of 2015’s Best Horror Movie Performances

Now that Halloween has passed and the calendar has switched over to November, it’s getting to be that time where we reflect on the year’s horror offerings. I suppose I’m jumping the gun a bit here, as there are two months of 2015 still left, but with nearly all the major horror releases already, well, released, it seems appropriate that we begin both looking back to the recent past and ahead to the near future.

We will be doing just that in the weeks and months to come here on Halloween Love, particularly shining the spotlight on the very best aspects of the horror genre’s past year. Like our very own version of the Academy Awards, we’ll be selecting nominees (so to speak) based on categories like Best Performances and Best Kill Scenes, and we hope you’ll add to the individual lists and pick your own favorites.

To get things started, we look back on five of 2015’s best horror movie performances!

In no particular order…

The Final Girls Taissa Farmiga


When it comes time to write up my year-end ‘best of’ list, I can almost guarantee that Todd Strauss-Schulson’s meta horror masterpiece The Final Girls will take the top spot. Like Scream, Behind the Mask and The Cabin in the Woods before it, the film lovingly and brilliantly deconstructs the horror genre, though it’s armed with something absent in each of those films: a seriously affecting emotional core.

Taissa Farmiga plays Max, a young woman who reunites with her deceased mother (a fantastic Malin Akerman) inside of the ’80s horror film she once starred in, and it’s largely thanks to the young actress’ performance that the film resonates. Often without saying a word, Farmiga pulls every emotion out of the clever material, playing the heartbroken character in such a way that she’s liable to break yours.

Kevin Durand


One of this year’s most pleasant surprises was Jack Heller’s Dark Was the Night, a creature feature that smartly puts much of the focus on the human protagonist, rather than the monstrous antagonist. The film centers on Sheriff Paul Shields, a man whose own troubles have to be put on the back-burner when a mysterious creature invades his small town, forcing him to step up and protect his fellow citizens.

The material is admittedly generic in many ways, but it’s Kevin Durand’s performance as Paul Shields that elevates it to something more. Known to horror fans for his role as Vasiliy Fet on The Strain, Durand proves with Dark Was the Night that he can be the star of the show, and he brings a whole lot of heart and pathos to the proceedings. If you dig Durand’s work on The Strain, be sure to check this one out.

Richard Jenkins Bone Tomahawk


Debut efforts don’t get much more impressive than S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk, a horror-western that boasts one of the most impressive ensemble casts of the year. Kurt Russell, Matthew Fox, and Patrick Wilson are among the stars in this one, and the story tells of four men who travel deep into the bloody heart of a cannibal cave in an effort to rescue two of their townspeople from vicious Troglodytes.

The film gets shockingly brutal in the latter portions, but it’s the slow-paced, character-driven nature of Bone Tomahawk that makes it a real treat. Performances are stellar across the board, with Richard Jenkins arguably stealing the show as middle-aged deputy Chicory. Barely recognizable, Jenkins brings welcome levels of humanity to the role, turning a comic relief character into something so much more.

Arnold Maggie


A handful of zombie films have been released this year, most recently over the top horror-comedies Cooties and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, but it’s Henry Hobson’s Maggie that is unquestionably the year’s undead highlight. Wonderfully restrained, the movie is light on the zombie action but heavy on the heart, telling a very human story in the midst of a post-apocalyptic pandemic.

The most notable thing about Maggie is that it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the father of a young girl (Abigail Breslin) infected with the zombie-like virus, and the Austrian icon’s acting is quite possibly the best in his career. Rather than relying on one-liners and badass action, Arnold flexes his acting muscles in the film, and his subdued performance shows that he can do more than play a lifeless action hero.

Creep Netflix


Like every year in the recent past, there was no shortage of found footage films in 2015, including movies like The Gallows and Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. But it’s Patrick Brice’s Creep that stands tall as this year’s most effective use of the filmmaking style, the low-budget affair centering on a man (Patrick Brice) who agrees to film a mysterious stranger (Mark Duplass) for an entire day.

Though Creep features two characters, it’s for the most part a one-man show, almost entirely reliant on the strength of Duplass’ performance. And as titular creep Josef, Duplass is absolutely riveting, showing a different side of himself and delivering one of the most genuinely unsettling performances of the year. It’s because Duplass is so good that Creep ensures you’re glued to the screen the whole way through.

Honorable mentions include Lin Shaye in Insidious 3, Maika Monroe in It Follows, Pollyanna McIntosh in Tales of Halloween, Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker in Spring, Joel Edgerton in The Gift, and Ed Oxenbould in The Visit. Are there any others you’d add to the list? Comment below and let us know!

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If you don't get enough of me here on Halloween Love, you can also find me on Dread Central, iHorror and Shock Till You Drop. Contact me via JohnSquires@HalloweenLove.com
  • Kirby4Ever

    I was about to comment that Lin Shaye should definitely be added to the list until I saw she at least got an honorable mention! I haven’t seen all of the top 5 performers’ films yet, but when I personally look back on the best genre performances of the year thus far, Shaye is the first that comes to mind. I was so unprepared for a PG-13, paranormal horror movie, with teenagers as the usual target audience, to be so emotional, driven home by Lin Shaye. I have to admit… she made me cry! I really hope she gets more lead roles like that in the future! Nice to see the hilarious kid from The Visit get a nod in there as well! I’d argue that the entire cast of that movie deserves recognition! I’ll definitely have to check out the rest of the performances/films on the list I haven’t seen yet to see how they stack up to my current picks!

  • The Chickapedia

    Maggie was unexpectedly amazing. I watched it with my dad and I think it hit us both really close to home. We’re very close, so I could feel what she was feeling…

    And LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE The Final Girls.

  • John Squires

    Yea I wasn’t a big fan of Insidious 3 but Shaye was great in it. So cool to see an entire horror franchise pretty much built around her. Well deserved!

  • Kirby4Ever

    Yes, I read your review for Insidious: Chapter 3 and was surprised you didn’t enjoy it more, if anything because I’ve noticed you tend to have similar tastes and opinions to me when it comes to movies. Either way, I guess the fact that you didn’t like Chapter 3 as much but Lin Shaye still got a mention on your list is an even bigger testament to her acting abilities!