There were a number of happy surprises for the Cap'n at Nevermore this year, but I'm giving the top spot to Absentia from writer / director Mike Flanagan. Why? Because had I not given this film a chance because of the horror film festival last weekend, I wouldn't have ever considered watching Absentia.
One of the pleasant surprises of watching Absentia was not knowing where things were headed. I had a good idea that it had everything to do with the tunnel, and was silently making "Death Tunnel: The Tunnel That Eats" jokes while the plot slowly unfolded. Fortunately, there's more to it than just that - the plot drifts away from strictly a horror film and heads in a "fairy tale" direction midway through. It has a kicker of a final shot, very good performances, and some great atmosphere for a low budget film. And I probably never would have given it a shot.
Why? The poster / cover / artwork does Absentia NO favors at all. I see a lot of artwork for horror movies I've never heard of before, and the one above really turned me off. For starters, it really does make the film look like ghosts dragging someone (I guess that could be Callie, but honestly I wouldn't have guessed that without putting photos Katie Parker side by side with the poster) into the Death Tunnel. It's the kind of poster that sells a different kind of movie than the one I saw, and it frankly didn't make me want to watch Absentia.