I know. I know that it’s been a while since you’ve seen anything new here on HNN from your pal The Black Saint. I hear the cries from the huddled masses…”WHY HAVE YOU SO FORSAKEN US”? My loyal acolytes were left on a ship with no rudder for awhile and for that I must apologize. Apparently the tendons in my hands aren’t in as good a shape as they should be & I had to take some time off to allow them to rest a bit. This sort of thing happens when you’re as old as time immemorial y’know. This isn’t to say that I’m too old to continue to build my acolyte army and lay waste to the populace though (The Mayan apocalypse didn’t happen but this will…better come over to my side).
But I’m back and seeing that we’re near the end of 2012 I figured I might as well put together my annual “Best Of” list for those of you starving for my impeccably astute opinions on all things horror. But the sad truth is that I don’t think I’ve seen ten good horror films this year. Bad ones? Oh boy…I’d need about another year to put that together, there were plenty of bad ones I could write about. But I remembered that here at HNN we review all kinds of genre films and that makes my job a little easier since I’ve seen some other films that I enjoyed a great deal that weren’t horror films but still genre films. So what I’m gonna do is tell you what I thought were the best films of 2012 in no specific order. I will say what I thought the BEST film of the year was though. In addition, I’m gonna mention what I thought were the real turkeys I was forced to sit thru by my maliciously malevolent editor.
“Megan Is Missing“ Written/Directed by Michael Goi.
This is one of the most polarizing movies I’ve ever seen. Loved and reviled in equal amounts it’s just a really well done precautionary tale with an extremely dark vibe to it. The story of two young girls and the predator they befriend online it’s different in that it spends 2/3 of it’s running time allowing us to get to know the girls before they meet their untimely fate. This set “Megan Is Missing” apart from other similar films where the focus is more on the carnage and less on the characters. A really powerful film with excellent performances which I won’t soon forget.
“The Bay“ Directed by Barry Levinson. Written by Michael Wallach.
I was so surprised that this film didn’t get a wider release especially considering that Levinson is one of the bigger directors in Hollywood and his last film “Men In Black 3” was a big hit both critically & commercially last Summer. The best example of the “Found Footage” film genre yet, “The Bay” tells the story of a small town in Maryland (Chesapeake Bay) and the fate of it’s population once something infects the local water supply. Something that, once ingested, begins to eat it’s way out of it’s host! The script is well written & believably essayed by a cast of unknowns. Two things that really set it apart are the extremely realistic gore effects which are among the gooiest I’ve ever seen and the idea that everything that goes on here is frighteningly possible. Sadly it only got a very limited release before it vanished into the land of VOD but it is well worth a watch. I looked at my glass of water very carefully after I finished watching it…
“Sinister” Written by Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill. Directed by Scott Derrickson
The most aptly titled film of the year, “Sinister” is just that. A crime writer moves himself and his family into a house with a dark past. After he finds a cache of 8MM films with some horrid images of families being slaughtered in all sorts of ways he unknowingly invites a demon into his home. A demon with a hunger for children. This was the most downbeat horror film I’d seen in a long while. It’s wonderfully dark & dour. It has an air of menace running throughout it’s running time and I loved the fact that there is very little actual light in the movie. It’s nearly always dark and moody even when a light is turned on. Grim, forboding & relentless, “Sinister” is the rare Hollywood horror movie that isn’t trying to give the audience something to allay it’s fear at what’s going on in the movie. There is nothing happy in this movie and the sense of utter destruction just gets stronger & stronger as it hurtles towards it’s terrifically unexpected downbeat ending. Strong performances from Ethan Hawke & Clare Foley make the film more believable as well. The scariest movie I’ve seen this year by far.
“Nailbiter“ Written by Patrick Rea & Kendall Sinn. Directed by Patrick Rea.
I caught this at the NYC Horror Film Festival last October and was completely caught off guard by how thoroughly entertained I was while watching it. “Nailbiter” is about a mother and her three daughters who have to find shelter from an oncoming tornado while driving to the airport to pick up their father/husband. Of course the shelter they find is the worst possible place they could be and the rest of the film deals with their struggle to escape from creatures that want nothing more than to rip them to shreds! The beauty of the film is that very little is explained during it’s running time. We never really know for sure what the creatures are, where they came from or why everyone (Besides mom & the kids) seems to be one. It might sound silly to you but once you see the movie you’ll understand what I mean. The script is lean & taut with very little exposition to slow down the proceedings. Despite the fact that we don’t see much of them, the creatures are legitimately scary and in some scenes you can cut the tension with a knife! It’s a very rare thing for me to say “I want to see a sequel to this” but as soon as this film ended that’s all I could think of! “Nailbiter” kept me on the edge of my seat and I intend to let my nails grow nice & long so I’ll have something to chew on once it’s sequel gets made. Don’t miss this one acolytes!
“Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World” Written/Directed by Lorene Scafaria.
This one came and went with nary a ripple and although it’s not a horror film descriptively it does have something horrible going on as it’s central concept. I mean the end of the world is pretty friggin’ horrible isn’t it? And finding the one person who you know is the one you’ve been looking for just before said end of the world has to be pretty horrible too…doesn’t it? Well that’s what happens here and it’s not only terribly moving but it’s also very funny as well. Steve Carell is strikes just the right tone of comedy & tragedy and Keira Knightley plays her role with just the right amount of pathos. I couldn’t help but fall in love with this movie & admittedly it made me cry towards the end. And speaking of the end…this is one of the few times that I can say that a movie ended just the way it should’ve ended. It got lost in the Summer movie blitz but try to catch it on DVD or cable. It’s a seriously good movie.
“The Raid: Redemption“ Written & Directed by Gareth Evans.
No film this year packed more action & wince inducing violence than this one! A SWAT team is dispatched to a building which is run by a drug lord & his minions. He’s on the top floor and the SWAT team has to work it’s way through floor after floor of armed henchmen who are determined to keep them from reaching the top. The audience I saw this with was yelling and screaming at the screen throughout this one and while that might sound distracting, it’s the only reaction any audience could give for a movie like this one. “The Raid: Redemption” is a film that wants to beat it’s audience into blissful surrender and it does so with bone crunching precision. here are stunts performed here that I’ve never seen in a film…ever. And on a scale from 1-10 the violence rates a 12, no film I watched this year left me tingling with excitement afterwards save for this one. It’s the most kick ass movie I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen them all people. True story: My daughter went to see it a few weeks after I did & she left the theater with a bruise on her cheek! “The Raid: Redemption” literally smacked her around! No higher praise can be given…
“Excision” Written & Directed by Richard Bates Jr.
The story of an 18 yr. old girl named Pauline with some rather odd proclivities, “Excision” is the most disturbing film I saw this year (I mean that in a good way). Pauline has dreams of becoming a surgeon and is brilliant enough to do just that but she has some roadblocks she has to hurdle first. Her overbearing mother (Traci Lords! And she’s really good here too), her sister who suffers from cystic fibrosis and gets the lions share of the attention at home & her own damaged psyche which, in dream sequences seemingly inspired by Ken Russell, shows that Pauline is one f*cked up young lady. AnnaLynn McCord gives one of the best performances of the year as Pauline who, with her near neanderthal like presence, seems to warrant the audience feeling sorry for her yet is so annoying and gross it’s nigh impossible to be anything but disgusted by her in the end. While it’s not for everyone and will turn off a lot of people, “Excision” is a film that engaged me as it disgusted me at the same time. And I actually began to care for poor Pauline which only made the end that much more horrifying for me. Once seen it won’t be easily forgotten.
“ParaNorman“ Written by Chris Butler. Directed by Chris Butler & Sam Fell.
The best movie I saw this year! Norman has a gift that no one really understands, he can see and speak to dead people! And actually that comes in handy since he has no friends and his family, while loving, are also dismissive of his claims. He even speaks with his dead grandmother, who’s still in his living room, knitting and fulfilling her promise to “Always watch out” for Norman. But Norman is destined for greatness as he is the only person who can save his town from a centuries old curse that is about to come to fruition and destroy his town. Despite all of the action that this films brings with it (Zombies, Witches, Ghosts, Unruly Townsfolk) it’s really just a story about tolerance & learning not to judge someone at face value. And it’s a beautifully told story as well. Amazing stop motion animation (In 3D no less!), tons of references to classic horror films, a wonderfully involving storyline and some great vocal performances made “ParaNorman” the best film of the year for me by far.
“The Avengers“ Written & Directed by Joss Whedon.
Okay so it’s not a horror film! It’s still the best superhero movie ever made by leaps and bounds. Admit it, none of us thought this was gonna work out as well as it did. The perfect synergy created by all of the other Marvel films (And the little clues at the end of each of them) led to this…the one film that brought them all together. And it simply blew everyone away! Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, The Black Widow & The Incredible Hulk all in one film? And all getting a share of the spotlight? And all of it making sense (In a comic book kinda way of course)? IMPOSSIBLE! But Whedon & company did just that, make the ultimate superhero film. The one that all others will be judged by from here on. Despite it’s 2 1/2 hour running time “The Avengers” never bores, it never does anything less than entertain with perfect special effects, a great story & some really great acting from a group of actors who must have had the time of their lives playing dress up for a few months! Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is one of the screen’s greatest villains & his haughty attitude in the role is worthy of an Oscar nomination that I’m positive he won’t get but that’s another story. I can hardly wait for “Avengers 2” & the prospect of the Earth’s mightiest heroes squaring off against THANOS! Holy crap…that movie is gonna ROCK!!
“The Possession“ Written by Juliet Snowden & Stiles White. Directed by Ole Bernedal.
Although I was initially put off by the early posters heralding the arrival of this film (Too similar to “The Exorcist” for my taste) “The Possession” turned out to be a pretty good movie that while a bit familiar, was still effectively scary and suspenseful. A young girl buys what looks to be an old jewelry box at a garage sale but it’s actually a “Dibbuk Box” which is harboring a malicious spirit. Once the spirit enters the girl’s body it begins to act out in acts of sudden violence & supernatural occurrences which lead to her father reaching out to a Hasidic “Exorcist” to help drive the spirit from his daughter’s body. It does have some scenes that are seemingly lifted directly from “The Exorcist” but that doesn’t make it a bad film. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and the entire cast are what make this film work. They’re all emotionally invested in the script and it shows through their acting. I never felt like these were a bunch of actors working for a paycheck. I thought I was watching a documentary at some points in the film! That’s how good these actors are & the film is so much better for it. A very scary movie that I will add to my collection once it’s released to home video.
I would like to mention a few movies that I thought were good enough to warrant a watch but not as good as the ones I just mentioned. “Father’s Day”, “House At The End Of The Street”, “Cabin In The Woods”, “Silent Night”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, “Chronicle”, “Compliance” & “Men In Black 3“. All good films that for one reason or another didn’t do enough for me to add them to my list. But all of them good enough to watch at least once.
Now as for BAD movies…I could write a book. But let me start with a few that really irked me for various reasons. “Cowboys And Aliens” & “Prometheus” come to mind immediately. Why? Because both of them were mega budgeted films that promised the moon and the stars yet did nothing but bore me to tears. “Prometheus” was the best looking film of the year for sure but was it entertaining? Nope. I still believe that it was a script that had nothing to do with the “Alien” franchise at all but had some “Alien” DNA forced into it by a studio that was fearful that it was a bomb as originally written. Still…it looked really good. “Cowboys And Aliens” was just flat out dull. How could they mess this up? The director of “Iron Man 1 & 2”? Indiana Jones? James Bond? (Admittedly cool looking) Malicious aliens? Cowboys & Indians? All in the same film and it turns out to be a colossal bore? Something went seriously wrong here acolytes. Seriously, seriously wrong.
Nearly every damned “Found Footage” film released this year. There are just too many to mention here but it ought to be a criminal act for someone that has a halfway decent camera to attempt to make a horror film. Movies like “Area 51” & “Hombre Y Tierra” are some examples of film making at it’s absolute worse. “The Bay” got it right. “Paranormal Activity 4″ got it right (Just barely though). But there were literally dozens of “Found Footage” films made this year just because it’s easy to make them and a gullible public will rent anything nowadays. I should know, my editor is quite fond of making me watch them & listening to me complain about them afterwards.
“The Apparition“. I had a very pleasant interview with Todd Lincoln, the director of this film and afterwards I really thought I was going to watch something special but what was presented to me was the direct opposite of “Something Special”. What I got was an obviously cut to ribbons excuse for a film that had some semblance of a story but those fierce edits gutted whatever story existed and left a series of scenes that had no real connection to each other & no scares whatsoever. To make matters worse I couldn’t find a nearby theater to see it in, I had to drive 30 miles to find a theater brave enough to feature this kerfluffle of a movie. And there were only 3 people in the theater! I don’t blame Todd, there obviously was a movie here and someone, somewhere didn’t have enough faith in it to leave it as he had made it. Maybe a director’s cut on home video will clear up this mess but as it stands, “The Apparition” was one of the worst movies of the year.
I could go on (“John Carter“, “Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark“) but I don’t wanna revisit any of these bombs. They don’t deserve any more attention and they won’t get any from me. Suffice it to say that 2012 wasn’t the best year for horror films but hope springs eternal and 2013 is right around the corner. I already have screenings scheduled in January for “A Haunted House” & “Mama” so I have high hopes that the year will start out on the right foot.
And maybe, just maybe….my editor will assign me a couple of flicks that don’t suck too much? Please? Pretty please?