Has it already been a year since I last did this?! Wow, 2012 is just about behind us and our beloved genre has seen some interesting offerings this year. I honestly had a really tough time coming up with 10 great horror selections, but then again, there are still a handful of titles I missed out on. For example, I hear great things about THE LOVED ONES, but have yet to see it. I’m fairly positive I’ll love [REC] 3 once I get to it, and THE COLLECTION also seems like my kind of bat-shit lunacy. Also on my wish list is the anthology pic V/H/S. And while I really, really wanted to pick the MANIAC remake (which would’ve been my number one) and the Soska Sister’s AMERICAN MARY, neither of those saw an official release in 2012. (They’re both coming in 2013 for sure.) Unlike previous years, I really wanted to keep it to stuff that came out here (in the US) this year and that is accessible to you guys. So without further ado, here we go. Here are my TOP HORROR PICKS for 2012!
Here’s one that slipped through the cracks for me initially. Judging from the cover artwork to the DVD/Blu-Ray and a brief scan of the description on the back, I was ready to file this in the “yet another torture porn HOSTEL knock-off I don’t need to see” category. But then my buddy Neil had recommended it to me and upon further inspection I realized it was directed by Jennifer Lynch (David Lynch’s daughter) who at the very least is always doing interesting work and it starred Vincent D’Onofrio who has been doing a hell of a lot of genre stuff lately. Much to my surprise, it was actually really good. D’Onofrio plays Bob, an odd ball cab driver who kidnaps a boy and his mother in the opening of the film. He’s a serial killer and has been doing this sort of thing for years and years, but didn’t anticipate picking up a little boy on his most recent hunt. And so he chains him up in his secluded house and forces him to help with his dastardly evil deeds. While this still might accurately be in the “torture porn” sub-genre, I found it very similar to Stevan Mena’s BEREAVEMENT, one of my picks from last year. Also, D’Onofrio gives a great performance in this making it worthy of a look. The ending left me mixed, as I’m sure it will for a lot of you too. It could’ve easily ended 5-10 minutes earlier and been satisfactory, but there’s one extra epilogue to close out the story. Check this one out.
8 – THE HOLE
Finally! Joe Dante’s latest feature THE HOLE got a DVD release in America earlier this year, even though it was released (and intended to be shown) in 3D. (No, 3D Blu-Ray release here?!) This isn’t traditional “horror” per se, so you hardcore purists might want to pass on this, but if you’re a fan of Dante’s work like GREMLINS or movies like THE GOONIES or THE MONSTER SQUAD, this is kind of in that vein. A pair of brothers move into a new house and along with their (hot) neighbor discover a mysterious locked & padded hole in the basement. Soon they discover that the bottomless pit is actually a gateway for their fears to enter into the real world. It’s fun stuff and when you watch it, you can see just about every shot is framed for a 3D presentation, so it’s a shame it didn’t get an appropriate release here in that format. All 3 kids are good, although the lead older brother is a very bizarre & curious choice to front the movie. It’s also fun to get an appearance from Dante regular Bruce Dern here. As of this post, it’s available on Netflix Instant for those with an account!
7 – BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW
I’m skeptical in referring to this as a “horror” movie. It definitely has horror elements in it. And it most certainly has what can only be categorized as a “slasher” sequence for the last 10-15 minutes, but otherwise, the crazy visuals and sci-fi vibe to the whole thing I think will be appealing to genre fans looking for something totally different from the norm. And because of how radical it is, this most certainly is not going to be for every one. I however enjoyed this visual feast for the eyes that were reminiscent of Kubrick, Cronenberg and David Lynch. It’s like filmmaker Panos Cosmatos was making a film in the 70’s that was set in the 80’s and made from the perspective of what people in the 70’s thought the 80’s might look like. Check out the trailer below. If it intrigues you, then give it a shot.
6 – DETENTION
Holy bat-shit crazy! Words can do no justice to what this movie will do to your mind and senses. And the trailer doesn’t do it justice either, so go in and watch this one blindly. It is so all over the place and overloaded with fast paced imagery and non-stop movie & pop culture references that it’s almost impossible to keep up! But if you’re with it and can get through the first 5 minutes knowing that that’s what the entire movie will be like, then you’re in for a wild ride that includes an amalgamation of every single teen movie you’ve grown up on (with John Hughes aesthetics), a “slasher” killer on the loose named Cinderhella from the movie franchise within the movie called Cinderhella and oh… a little bit of time travel thrown in for good measure. Another alternate title for this should be A.D.D.: THE MOVIE. I’ve only seen it once and I’m still trying to process it all, but I can’t wait to see it again. And hell, I am NOT a Dane Cook fan, and yet I found him tolerable and even (dare I say it?) funny in this? So for that, kudos Joseph Kahn.
5 – BEDEVILLED
Man oh man. I’ve been watching a hell of a lot of Korean cinema this last year, and despite hearing about this film for a while, nothing could prepare me for what it actually was. Do you like revenge movies? This could very well be one of the most brutal and harsh of the bunch. So if you can stomach the horrible things that poor Bok-Nam has to endue for an hour plus, then you’re going to see some hardcore vengeance unleashed upon a lot of deserving people. After some troubles back at work in Seoul, Hae-won decides to escape the city life and take a break to the little island she grew up on with her childhood friend Bok-Nam. But all is not well for Bok-Nam and her little daughter as they suffer non-stop abuse (mental and physical) at the hands of her husband’s family. That’s about as much as you should know going in. Go into this knowing as little as possible and just let it unfold. You’ll probably think for the first hour that it’s a depressing drama, but rest assured, some blood will get spilled in large quantities for the latter half and your jaw will drop at the sight of it. Check out the trailer below, and if you’ve got Netflix Instant, act now! It’s currently streaming on there.
4 – THE INNKEEPERS
I actually caught filmmaker Ti West’s latest flick THE INNKEEPERS at a special advance screening back in late 2011, but fair is fair. I saved it as one of my picks for this year since 2012 is when it was released. And ya know what? As much as I love THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, I think I may love THE INNKEEPERS just as much, if not a little bit more. Over the course of 5 films, West has established a very distinct style and tone for his pictures, and I feel like what he accomplished stylistically in DEVIL has been practically perfected here for INNKEEPERS. And it’s got a lot of humor! It’s the last few days of business for the Yankee Pedlar Inn and the two clerks Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are determined to prove the place is in fact haunted. Bonus points for actress Kelly McGillis in a supporting role as a psychic named Leanne Rease-Jones (she also appeared in another Glass Eye Pix flick last year STAKE LAND) and then there’s that beautiful, beautiful score by Jeff Grace. Love this one.
3 – SINISTER
Holy crap! Tell me that first teaser trailer (embedded below) didn’t totally catch you off guard when you first saw it? I know for me it most definitely did. And in fact, there was a bit in there that made me jump! A trailer made me jump! Please for the love of Crom let the movie be half as engaging as that trailer and I’ll be satisfied. And thankfully, the movie is! Ethan Hawke plays true crime writer Ellison Oswalt who moves his entire family into a house where a horrible multiple murder (of a whole family) occurred years prior, unbeknownst to his wife & kids. He finds a box of old 8mm film reels and upon viewing them sees first hand the horrific crimes unfold. The more he digs, the more he sees the demon Bagul, the consumer of children’s souls. This is one you just have to see for yourself. The design for Bagul is awesome, the 8mm segments of the film are terrifying and will stick with you long after the credits role, and how ’bout that amazing score by Christopher Young? It was so different from anything Young has done previously that I had to do a double take when I saw his name in the credits. It’s also nice to see Hawke in a genre film finally! Rumor has it he’s always wanted to do when since working on EXPLORERS with Joe Dante because he’s a huge fan of THE HOWLING. Kudos to writer/director Scott Derrickson for knocking this one out of the park.
2 – EXCISION
As soon as I saw the first trailer for this, I knew it would probably end up being one of my favorites this year. You had me at the usage of the Nine Inch Nails song! But then, you throw in an amazing group of actors (all cast against type) like Traci Lords as the mom, John Waters as the priest, Ray Wise as the school principal, Malcolm McDowell as the math teacher, not to mention lead actress AnnaLynne McCord delivering my favorite performance of the year, bar none and you’ve got an impressive debut reminiscent of Lucky McKee’s MAY. This is a really great and often hilarious look at modern teenage life where no matter what age you are, it taps into that part of your upbringing that you remember being “a living hell”. Pauline just wants to grow up to become a surgeon. She also wants to lose her virginity. But her little sister is dying and her mom won’t get off her back and she’s got an STD from the one time her father saved her life doing CPR. In other words, she’s got problems. And while the tone of the movie is for the most part comical lunacy, it’s the final moments of the film that literally hit like a sucker punch. Writer/director Richard Bates Jr? Ya got me. With this as your debut, I’ll see anything you make from here on out.
1. CABIN IN THE WOODS
Is CABIN IN THE WOODS the best freakin’ horror movie ever? No. Of the year? Hmmm… best? OK. Is it by far the most entertaining horror movie of the year? Hellz yes! And that’s why it’s my number one. I understand why certain genre fans don’t like this. And that’s because for a lot of them it wasn’t a traditional “cabin in the woods” horror movie. But hang tight. Ya got the EVIL DEAD remake coming next year which seems to satisfy that craving. Nope, this is a horror film made by the hugest horror fans in the world that know all the rules you’re supposed to follow and put us in the shoes of the filmmakers constantly trying to appease the gods (being us, the audience). People may argue this is more comedy than horror movie, but ya know what – when you’ve got pretty much every freakin’ monster imaginable making an appearance for the third act, it’s a damn horror movie. The less you know, the better. Hence why I’ve skipped including the trailer for this one. But if you’re ready to let go and just have a good time, CABIN IN THE WOODS delivers. And more importantly, is thoroughly rewarding on repeat viewings, especially that basement scene. ‘Nuff said.
Over all, I really liked this Irish horror film from writer/director Ciaran Foy based on a real life experience he had with a young gang. The reason it didn’t make my top 10 is because of the radically different tone of the second half as opposed to the first. The first half plays like a psychological horror film ala JACOB’S LADDER with our lead character Tommy suffering from extreme paranoia after a brutal attack on his pregnant wife. I enjoyed playing with the idea of “is this in his head?” But then the tone shifts at the half way point and becomes somewhat supernatural. And I’m still not sure I fully understand the “rules” of the second half of the movie. Overall, I liked it, but it’s not perfect.
This is kind of a no-brainer, especially if you know my history with the PSYCHO franchise. (I wrote & directed the documentary THE PSYCHO LEGACY fyi) But you’ve got a movie about the making of PSYCHO with Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as Alma and you automatically get a notable mention on my year end list. While not perfect, nor 100 percent factually accurate, I still found HITCHCOCK to be a thoroughly entertaining look at the relationship between Hitchcock and his loving partner & collaborator Alma Reville. This is also probably the best ensemble cast of the year with Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, James D’arcy as Anthony Perkins (the one character who’s portrayal I was disappointed with and whom I thought was represented in poor taste in the final film) and Michael Wincott as Ed Gein in a series of segments that show the killer interacting with Hitchcock in his mind. PSYCHO itself is almost the “McGuffin” of HITCHCOCK but it’s still fun to see interest again in what I consider one of the top 5 horror movies of all time.
THE AMERICAN SCREAM
I love documentaries, especially when they follow creative folks like the ones showcased in THE AMERICAN SCREAM, but filmmaker Michael Stephenson (of TROLL 2 fame) really made a heart-warming and wonderful follow-up to his impressive debut doc BEST WORST MOVIE. If you want to get an inside look at a select group of families that work hard to create their annual Halloween haunted houses and mazes, you’ll be captivated by this flick. So much fun. And also currently streaming on Netflix Instant.
Last but not least, for sheer entertainment value, I had an absolute blast watching PIRANHA 3DD. The difference between this one and the first is that unlike Alexandre Aja (the director of the first), John Gulager (the director of this one) actually has a sense of humor, and he let it run rampant with this over-the-top sequel. I seriously laughed out loud a dozen times, especially when Katrina Bowden comes walking into the hospital covered in blood and says “Josh cut off his penis because something came out of my vagina!” Comedy gold! Plus, Christopher Lloyd, the Gary Busey & Clu Gulager scene, Ving “Bring me my legs” Rhames. The first one may have a smokin’ hot Elisabeth Shue and an awesome massacre scene in the third act, but the 2nd movie is thoroughly entertaining from start to finish.
And there ya have it, peeps! Be sure to check out SMITH’S TOP PICKS of 2012. And be on the look out for our MOST ANTICIPATED OF 2013 article coming within the next day or two. Want to catch up on our picks of previous years? Check out the links below!