Don Coscarelli lives! He doesn’t get to direct films as often as he should (which is an utter shame, this man gave us PHANTASM and BUBBA HO-TEP for god sake!), but as always the wait is absolutely worth it. JOHN DIES AT THE END is a wild trip that hops as many dimensions as it does genres, and it is fucking weird in the best way possible. It’s a cult classic in the making, begging to be discovered and embraced by all.
Jonathan Levine’s hormonal slasher has had an incredibly rough journey getting into cinemas since being filmed 7 years ago, but all good things are worth holding out for, and ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE is one such gem. I love films set around that tortuous age of high school, with angst & hormones raging, and applying that to a moody horror with old school aesthetics is seldom seen. The grainy cinematography and vintage soundtrack help evoke a very classy and stylish atmosphere, elevating it way past modern slasher fare.
Society would have you believe the days of video stores are ancient history, but thanks to REWIND THIS!, we know that just isn’t so. REWIND THIS! is a documented ode to that little magnetic tape that changed the world & entered our hearts forever. Film fan or not, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who can’t relate or recall memories of taking a trip to the video store. It was liberating. It was tradition. It was fun. Tangibility is becoming a thing of the past more & more as physical media is taking a turn towards the digitally streaming. New formats and high definition gimmickry be damned, REWIND THIS! reminds us that VHS will always be victorious.
(An excerpt from my review, read the full thing here!)
MANBORG is the quintessential pizza party film. A junk food tribute to midnight cinema that begs to be watched while under the influence of caffeine amongst your best buds. Based on it’s merits & ingenuity alone, it’s singly one of the most entertaining films’ I’ve seen this year. Make it a double feature with ROBOCOP, CYBORG, ELIMINATORS, or any other macho machine classic you can get your hands on, and prepare for “awwww yeahhh” & “it’s not about the killing, it’s about family” to become a regular staple in your vernacular. MANBORG is a retro-rager that should be seen and celebrated by all.
(An excerpt from my review, read the full thing here!)
Hype is a motherfucker, but only if you let it be. Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s YOU’RE NEXT premiered at TIFF to overwhelming praise from festivalgoers, leaving us ready to sell our firstborns in exchange for a glimpse. I managed to stick it out until it’s nationwide release, and plopping down my $7.00 never felt more rewarding. It’s biggest success is flipping the harrowing tropes of a home invasion thriller on its head, and filling it with well rounded, truly likable characters that you actually root for. Not to mention it is completely fucking hilarious; the improvisational banter between cinema siblings Joe Swanberg and AJ Bowen is just perfect, and as the chaos ramps up, turns into one of its highlights. I found myself learning a lesson as I exited the theater, still high off seeing the very thing that what felt like had been seen by everyone except for me; go into each and every film fresh, and eliminate all preconceived notions. I didn’t need to buy into others thoughts, I could tell YOU’RE NEXT was great all on my own.
And the award for sexiest film of the year goes to! I’m kicking myself for not seeing this film sooner and singing its praises all year long. It’s no secret that the fatigue of vampires has reached critical levels in cinema and pop culture. The once feared creatures of the night are now tween idols, leaving us retreating to the golden years of horror cinema to remind us that it wasn’t always this way. Xan Cassavetes took a more direct approach; taking vamps back to their sexual deviant, bloodsucking ways. I’m convinced KISS OF THE DAMNED was made in the early ‘70s, and is just now being unearthed 33 years later. It’s devastatingly gorgeous, stylish, and seriously one of the sexiest films I have ever seen. It’s a stunning debut, and left me begging to the heavens for future cinema to be cut from this cloth.
I firmly believe James Wan has made a horror classic with THE CONJURING. This is a deathly scary film, containing scenes of in-your-face terror and some left purely to your imagination, which are believe it or not even more terrifying. For a studio horror film, this is as good as it gets. Wan has honed his craft as a master of horror, and created something that will be looked back on with extreme fondness.
3 – LORDS OF SALEM
I cannot think of a more critically maligned film than LORDS OF SALEM this year. Rob Zombie made a film with a satanic record, hordes of witches, masturbating priests, and Satan, and everyone hated it. At this point it feels like the rocker-turned-filmmaker is damned if does, damned if he doesn’t, but luckily there are more than a few of us to appreciate his bold step outside of trailer trashdom. LOS is a modern midnight movie in the vein of grand guignol fever dreams that graced screens in the swinging seventies. Hopefully Zombie realizes this level of perverseness and beauty is a breath of fresh air, and sees it as a reinvention instead of early retirement.
Let’s be honest, no one wanted this film. Lustig’s MANIAC is a time capsule of grime and sleaze in a bygone era of New York City, with a career defining performance from the late Joe Spinell. There was no way that could be topped, and fans expectations weren’t exactly eased when Elijah Wood was announced as the titular maniac. We, myself included, couldn’t have been more wrong. Khalfoun and Aja’s MANIAC is just as every bit nasty as the original, and then some. From the pulsing synth soundtrack (for my money, the best of the year), to the unique POV camerawork that gets you a front row seat to KNB’s gnarly effects wizardy, MANIAC stands as the best surprise of the year.
Park Chan-wook’s American debut was nothing short of stellar; a supremely stylish throwback to Hitchcock thrillers with loads of creepy eroticism and lush visuals. I full on love this film, and its inherent impact is still felt on repeat viewings. In a year filled with some of the best horror movies I’ve ever seen, it’s amazing that a low key, psychological thriller takes the cake as my absolute favorite. The power of cinema!
THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH
INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2