It’s that time of year again, the time when all us Horror Geeks make up our best and worst lists of the previous year’s films. So when I started to think back on what I watched this past year, there weren’t very many mainstream Horror films that came to mind. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of good films to add to my list. I am realizing more and more that Indie films are always the best that the Horror genre has to offer these days. The biggest problem with Indie films though is that they sometimes take a long time to be distributed, that is if they even get a distribution deal at all (Poughkeepsie Tapes has still not been released on DVD). Sometimes it takes years to be able to see them for various reasons. That’s why I go out of my way to attend film festivals every year. So, yes I am including some older films in this list because for whatever reason, I wasn’t able to see them until this past year.
Another year has come and gone and what do I have to show for it? A lot actually! This past year I decided to challenge myself and watch a Horror Movie a day. I know that sounds crazy, but actually I usually watch Horror and Sci-Fi exclusively anyways so I really didn’t find it too much of a challenge believe it or not. I saw a lot of rare or obscure films that I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I also made it to a few film festivals this year including Toronto International Film Festival and After Dark Film Festival. I saw some fantastic films this year and some truly ridiculously awful ones. The common thread running through my favourites this year is that most of them are thrillers. They are mostly what I would call slow-burn movies. There are a few comedies mixed in as well. So here are my favourite movies I saw this year in no particular order…
The Lords of Salem (2012)
Rob Zombie made something really special with his latest film. It is an occult Movie loosely based on the Salem Witch Trials. The film focuses on a local DJ that is followed and then attacked by a coven of witches from the 17th century. I know a lot of you Rob Zombie fans are eagerly awaiting this film. And I am curious to see what the reviews will be like because I think this film will divide Horror fans right down the middle. Much like Cabin in the Woods, I think fans are either going to really hate this one or really love it. I fall into the latter group. I thought it was RZ’s best film to date with interesting cinematography and Sherri Moon Zombie did her finest acting yet as the lead. That being said, it was completely different from any of Rob Zombie’s previous films. It was a little slower and felt like a throwback to the psychedelic satanic Horror Movies from the 70s.
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Sinister was the film that surprised me the most this year. I was expecting the typical big budget Horror Film…Big name actors and a high budget but usually a dull and disappointing storyline. There were actually a few scary moments in Sinister and I was drawn into the storyline as well. Yes, it was still a little predictable at times but the characters were good and the story draws you in. It also introduces a very scary new Villain… Mr. Boogie. Although it is not what I would consider gory by any means, it does have a decent payoff at the end.
Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Cabin in the Woods was by far my favourite comedy this year. It started out like a typical slasher and then became something completely different all together. There were tons of references to older Horror Films throughout which made it just fun to watch. Opinions on Cabin in the Woods were really varied with fans. Some fans really loved it and others really hated it and said that Joss Whedon was poking fun at Horror fans instead of the Genre itself. I didn’t see that at all, in fact I think Whedon and Goddard are really big fans of the genre and wanted to give us something a little different. I think most fans were disappointed because it was advertised as a straight slasher when actually it was a comedy.
The Pact (2012)
The Pact is about a girl who goes back to her home town to care of her Mother’s funeral arrangements after her Sister mysteriously disappears. She stays in her Mother’s house while waiting for the Funeral. Strange things start to happen in the creepy house and she wonders if the house is haunted. The Pact is full of suspense and then ends with a really good twist ending that I was not expecting at all.
Pauline is a teenage girl who is not very attractive, has no friends, and has very bizarre sexual fantasies. She goes out of her way to annoy her parents, peers, and teachers by saying and doing things that are repulsive. It is hard to believe the actress that plays Pauline, AnnaLynne McCord, is actually very pretty in real life. The makeup artists did a good job of erasing any sign of her true self, instead giving her bad skin, greasy hair, and a slouchy posture. The only person that Pauline is nice to, is her terminally ill sister. Pauline wants to become a surgeon so she can help her little sister live longer. Excision has some really bizarre imagery in the dream sequences and the ending was pretty shocking.
Like most Anthologies, VHS had some segments that were better than others. The segments that stood out the best for me were Amateur Night, Second Honeymoon, and The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger. VHS was shot primarily in the found-footage style and was definitely one the better movies this year from that sub-genre. I have never been a big fan of the found-footage style of movie. They usually don’t have a good storyline, dialogue seems to be ad-libbed, and the acting is sub par most of the time, but I did enjoy VHS.
John Dies at the End (2012)
John Dies at the End is certainly a strange movie. It starts out with a giant Monster made of cold cuts and meat and goes from there. The story follows David and John as they fight various evil Monsters from a different dimension. I hadn’t read the book before I watched the movie, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I have read it since seeing the movie because I enjoyed the film so much. The book was a popular web series by David Wong before it became a novel and now it has a second book called This Book Is Full of Spiders. I was lucky enough to see John Dies at the End at TIFF with a Q&A by Don Coscarelli after the screening. Coscarelli said that he tried to follow the book as closely as he could but some changes were necessary due to a smaller budget. He also mentioned that he was offered a much larger budget if he was willing to make John Dies at the End with a PG 13 rating. He refused the larger offer in order to make the film the way he wanted to make it. The only part of the film that looked low budget to me was the animated battle scene, but it was kinda cool that way too.
The Woman in Black (2012)
Hammer Films returned to classic Gothic Horror with a ghostly tale of revenge and regret. The film is based on a book by Susan Hill written in 1983 about a ghost that only appears just before a child will die. The movie is really creepy with lots of jump scares. The audience was screaming like crazy throughout. If you can get past seeing Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, there is a lot to enjoy about The Woman in Black. The most common complaint I heard about the film is that it doesn’t do the book justice. But honestly how many films actually live up to their books? I would also recommend checking out the 80s version of Woman in Black as well.
Claire and Luke work at The Yankee Pedlar Inn for the summer, the hotel is believed by many in the area to be one of the most haunted hotels in all of New England. It is the last weekend the Inn will be open for business, so Claire and Luke are the only two employees left to take care of the guests. They are convinced the Inn is haunted by Madeline O’Malley, a bride that hung herself in the hotel after her groom abandoned her, and are determined to get some sort of proof of the ghost on audio or video tape before the Inn closes it’s doors for good. The main thing I loved about the Innkeepers was the dialogue between the two lead actors Sara Paxton and Pat Heely. I know most fans were disappointed in the ending, but I wasn’t. Not every Horror film has to be filled with blood and guts, sometimes being restrained is more unsettling. ‘
The Awakening (2011)
The Awakening is an old-fashioned Ghost story much like The Others, The Orphanage, and The Changeling. There were lots of suspense filled moments but it still had a good shocker of an ending. It did have its flaws though, the ending doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and seems to come from left field and there were some major plot holes. But it still was one of my favourites this year because I love a good Ghost Story with a twist ending.
Lovely Molly (2011)
Lovely Molly was a strange Movie to follow. Was it a Movie about a girl slowly going insane or was it a movie about a girl being possessed by a Demon in her house? It never really fully explains what is going on. But that didn’t really matter that much to me because I was drawn into the character of Molly. Gretchen Lodge is very convincing in her role and you start to really feel bad for her. I wanted to scream at her to get out of the house! Lovely Molly has no real jump scares, but instead is more creepy than terrifying.
The Loved Ones (2009)
The Loved Ones is a strange mix between an 80s Romantic Teen Comedy and a Torture Porn movie. This unusual combination makes for an extremely unique and different kind of Horror Movie. It was quite beautiful to look at with pink dresses, glitter, and a disco ball during the Dance scene. But don’t be fooled into thinking The Loved Ones is all pretty girl stuff though, there are some real cringe worthy horrific moments to be had as well. The pretty prom scene is in very sharp contrast to the brutal torture that Brent has to endure from Lola.
Theatre Bizarre (2011)
Theatre Bizarre is the second Anthology on my list, this one delivers more bang for your buck than VHS did. But strangely hardly anyone is talking about this one. Again some segments were better than others. The best segment for me was the one starring legendary Scream Queen Debbie Rochon and Tom Savini. The whole Movie was over the top in storyline and gory as all get out. Savini was at his gruesome best with the special FX.
Some Guy Who Kills People (2011)
Some guy is killing off all the people who bullied Ken when he was younger. Ken is a mild-mannered Ice Cream Guy that just returned home from a long stay in a mental hospital. His long-lost daughter shows up and he tries to get to know her while all these killings are going on. Some Guy Who Kills People is not a typical slasher. Even though there are plenty of blood and guts in it, the Movie plays more like a black comedy than a Slasher.
Midnight Son (2011)
Jacob works as night security at the local hospital. He has a rare skin condition that prevents him from going out in the sun because he has an allergic reaction to it. He starts to crave fresh blood from the butcher until he discovers that Human blood satisfies his cravings much more effectively. When his girlfriend gets a nosebleed, he is unable to maintain his composure and seeks more Human blood. Midnight Son is a romance, but a modern one. There are no sparkly Vampires or Vampires in satin lined capes to be found here.
Snowtown Murders (2011)
Snowtown Murders tells the tale of Australia’s most notorious Serial Killer, John Bunting. Bunting moves in with a single mother and her three sons. He is charismatic and persuades a group of people to kill those who finds distasteful, like accused Pedophiles or Homosexuals. Most of the people who were killed and tortured knew Bunting before he turned on them. What makes this movie special is that it doesn’t get bogged down in the details of the crimes or gloss over the violence like most true-crime movies. Instead it is more of a character study with intense performances by the actors.
Those are my favourite Movies for 2012. There are some movies I just didn’t get a chance to see yet but I am looking forward to in the next year. Films like American Mary, The Bay, The Possession, and The Tall Man.