If you where Bruno Ganz character, the angel Damiel, in Wim Wenders magnificent The Wings of Desire you’d be able to hear me thinking “I’m not going to write a best of the year list, I’m Not going to write a best the year of list, I AM NOT GOING TO WRITE A BEST OF THE YEAR LIST…”
No, I’m NOT going to write a best of the year list, but instead I will give you these 205 lines about 38 films…
…and so begineth the rant…
The good stuff starts with Rob Zombie shoving things back into Zombieville with his story of a former junkie/radio DJ with a past that linked her to the Salem witch trials. Personally I don’t care much for his Halloween instalments, as I think of Zombie as much more original than a franchise-wrangler. Just listen to his music, weird, psychotronic, kickassy and perhaps most of all a fantastic mix of horror homage and geekery. Hence my soft spot for his original work more than the pack-em-wrack-em foolery. THE LORDS OF SALEM is everything that is Rob Zombie! A fine piece of possession and witchcraft mash-up with an over the top finale just like Zombie’s music. Kicks ass and delivers.
Adam Rehmeier once told me that he’d never finish the trilogy that The Bunny Game starts off with. He said that he’d never tell the story of what happened to “Bunny” after Jonas drives off with her in that white van at the end of that harrowing movie… although he did tell the tale of Jonas and how he – at least as I interpret it – tries to redeem himself of the wrongs that took place between The Bunny Game and the opening second chance birthing metaphor at the start of JONAS. Perhaps not as graphically tormenting as The Bunny Game, although never the less JONAS is haunting, suggestive, imaginative and captivating. I’m fascinated by Rehmeier’s techniques as he constantly turns out through provoking, engaging and stunning movies by his minimalistic method of improvised storytelling!
Comedy and the end of mankind never really blend well, but Edgar Wright gave it his best shot with THE WORLDS END, about five mates getting back together again after twenty years to go on a - almost like an inverted coming of age flick and despite being fun and Edgar Wright-Simon Peggy in all the right places it failed for me as unlike all their earlier characters as Gary King is just a twat without any redeeming qualities, uncomfortably too much like way to many 40 something’s that I know. Loved the cast, loved the story, loved the wild twists bug couldn’t give a toss about Gary King. Someone who did get it right was Even Goldberg and Seth Rogan who with their THIS IS THE END just managed to get the right blend of Rogan, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Johan Hill being the characters you’d think them to be, and Emma Watson in a great part! Death, destruction and dope with plenty of funny gags about us all being fucked!
End of the world, or start of a new era, which ever it may be, Lloyd Kaufman nailed another hilarious gem filled with farts, body fluids and nudity laden splatter slapstick with his THE RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH Vol 1. delivering just about everything you could expect from a Troma movie and the always-present car explosion. It also mimicked the original Carrie in one of the greatest cliff-hangers in ages, let’s just hope that part two hits as soon as possible.
Intermission time, and here’s some popcorn flicks that got the job done: AFTERSHOCK was a great way to watch people die horrible deaths and perhaps a showcase of Eli Roth being a better actor than director (although I still haven’t seen The Green Inferno, and I do kinda like Hostel II). You’re Next was fun, fast, furious but predictable, although did deliver some really great mainstream horror moments. The winner of best mainstream horror this year was undoubtedly James Wan’s THE CONJURING. Perfect piece of fluff that taunted the audience with the “will he or won’t he jump scare us" approach that he used throughout the flick. And who can resist a movie with Lili Taylor! THE PURGE may not have been a horror flick, but it definitely came out of nowhere with it’s interesting premise and some tense moments.
And the masked killer theme kept on with, YOU’RE NEXT! enjoyed some good reviews and started being hailed as the best flick of the year… well it sure was intense and it packs a punch, but not the best film of the year, although it is one of my faves and good enough to be one of the films to make it onto this best of the year review. Giallo was represented by Federico Zampaglione’s polished TULPA, which was everything that Giallo used to be! Fede Alvarez did what he could with EVIL DEAD and managed to update the deadite universe decently, and despite me being ready to leave when Mia came back to life, he managed to pull me back in and nail me to my seat with those last ten minutes of concentrated intensity! It would have been great with a new Evil Dead flick if not for the fact that the thunder was stolen right under them by a little flick called WITHER! A Swedish horror flick inspired by Evil Dead and totally impressed the boots off me! These guys are the ones to keep track of in the years to come!
Back to our ranting, and Xan Cassavetes THE KISS OF THE DAMNED! How the heck can’t one fall head over heels in love with a movie that feels like Jean Rollin as told by American Independent filmmaking? Or remember the first time you played Castle Wolfenstein and the first player shooter interface blew your mind! Well, mix that with mutant Nazi monsters, a Russian documentary team and Victor Frankenstein and you get Richard Raaphorst long awaited FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY, which would perhaps have done better without the found footage waste of time approach, but get’s in there and delivers more or less everything that I’ve been dreaming of since that initial Worst Case Scenario trailer hit a few years back!
It’s not all make believe, some of it is for real, documentaries that stuck with me this year are THE AMERICAN SCREAM which told the tale of three amateur home haunts. Each Halloween they open their back yards for visitors to roam the spooktacular home haunts they have built there. A nice story, great characters, but not quite as cool as MONSTERS WANTED which totally grabbed me with the story of Rich and Janel as they shared their dream of creating a whopper of a haunt all financed out of their own pocket… the big difference between the two documentaries with their similar premises was that Rich and Janel’s story totally engaged in a much more deeper way that The American Scream and it really showed just how deep into personal hell they where ready to go to achieve their dream. Great stuff!
Closing in to the best shit of the year, let’s ventilate some thoughts on some of the stuff that got hyped, but was lacking… WORLD WAR Z what a fucking sleeper, James Bond meets McGyver with zombies… the less we talk about it the better for all of us, I might give it a second shot when the sequel hits… talking of sequels… I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2… oh my. More like I shit on your genre too! And whilst we are shitting on genre… TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D… the only movie I turned off this year, and nobody even broke the door!
The definition of feminist horror is sloppily put as “Female victim killing off all her antagonists”, although Karen Lam’s EVANGELINE works by that formula, it was first when she told me “I didn’t want her to be screaming or moaning sexually when he raped her. All that has to come from him, the antagonist!” that I actually got what Lam’s take on feminist horror was. Lam’s flick grows on me for each time I think of it, and still stands out amongst the “rape-revenge flicks” and feminist approach. Revenge and feminist film was also served up in Marina de Van’s utmost intriguing DARK TOUCH, which took “the psychic kid” to levels up and beyond Carrie. Dark, very dark, almost shot completely in the dark and extremely suggestive, but beautiful, creepy and powerful stuff.
After being the wunderkind of Mexican cheap trash for the last few years, Adrián Garciá Bogliano ended this year on a high of hype from most major genre press… although as often is the case with hype, the words of Flavour Flav and Chuck D ring through the air… “Don’t Believe the Hype!” HERE COMES THE DEVIL is a neat and groovy little drama using horror elements and a decent core story about a family whose two children become possessed by evil forces, but it’s nothing like the movies that made him a highlighted “guy to keep track of” to start with. This movie is a victim of great marketing and a topfuckingnotch trailer, but it will undoubtedly scare anyone off backtracking his catalogue back to the early gems. I get the feeling that this is all that he could cope with after being part of The ABC’s Of Death, perhaps compromising his style and tone, and hence an easy cop out. But never mind the bollocks, it’s a cool movie, tarnished by the simple fact that it’s nowhere near his earlier flicks! Technically last year, but no film put a bigger smile on my face than the meta backstage dabbling, off-screen dweller, BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO and the fantastic Tobey Jones, as it dabbled behind the scenes of Italian genre film in pulling familiar referents out of the bag like there was no tomorrow! Not to mention all the great old films it made me go back and re-watch. PACIFIC RIM, I loved it, Del Toro is the man, and if nothing else, it could be a little teaser of what Legendary Studios will do with Godzilla, about to stomp all over screens in a few months.
Grab your asbestos gloves, because things are getting hot now as we move into the final flicks, and the ones that shaped the cinematic year of 2013!
Ok, let’s go off topic for a short Spring Break, spring break, spriiiiinnnggg breeeaaaakkk… Harmony Korine’s SPRINGBREAKERS, fucking brilliant. Weird, suggestive, non-linear shit, just like being drunk, a complete antithesis of the slurred mess that was THE BLING RING... and talking about being drunk, Ben Wheatley safely hung onto his spot as one of the most fascinating directors to come out of the UK with the dreamy arty farty, black and white nightmarish field trip A FIELD IN ENGLAND. Death metal, dopey mushrooms and a smashing cast! The splatter and gore division knocked one out of the park with STALLED, a fantastic take on the old – locked in a tight space whist zombies shuffle around outside – premise… and comedy… and stupendous gore… and toilets.
Andrey Iskanov’s TOCHKA! Yes, this may be somewhat controversial as Iskanov’s latest piece of madness (designated to be part of Profane Exhibit) still isn’t released, but I was lucky enough to see Andrey’s long version, all 26 minutes of it, and it was a mind blower, a heart breaker, and a fucking nightmare of deep dark horror. I’ve also seen other parts of this anthology flick, but none stand up to Tochka. Just like the yet to be released short I AM MONSTER, a delightful play on genre and gender served up in a morgue by Shanon Lark and Lori Bowen. I enjoyed AMERICAN MARY, and it got the job done, but I wanted more! Invaders from Mars where featured in both V/H/S 2 (which should have stayed S-V/H/S) with its “better than the original” wrap around story, and DARK SKIES, which surprised me with it’s great less is more and greys approach.
Comedy and horror, tricky business, but Don Coscarelli has always managed to balance them well in his dark stories, and JOHN DIES AT THE END is no exception. Fun, fast and definitely an unexpected delight of 2013 – and I managed to revisit it twice and it was just as good, if not better, the second time around.
Oliver Beguin’s stunning approach to what is the most misused and predictive sub niche of all time, Vampires and lost love, manages to bring the horror of loosing oneself, love and identity, and finding it all over again… and avenging wrongs into one hot hammering mix. CHIMÈRES is a stunning movie, meditative, passionate and addictive. If Vampire stories are all about love, well then this one is all about what you will do for love, and the love in CHIMÈRES takes them pretty far into dark areas. Featuring Catriona MacColl holds a small part, there’s a cameo by Ruggero Deodato and packed with David Scherer's magnificent special effects, CHIMÈRES brings back the originality to the vampire flick which that tired old genre has s been lacking for ages!
Israeli duo Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales follow up the smashing debut flick Rabies with a second piece of genre fare. BIG BAD WOLVES captivates its audience from the first moment and after grabbing it’s audience in a hard empathetic grip thanks to anti-hero Miki [Lior Ashkenazi], it quickly becomes a riveting piece of suspense that will buzz you just like when you lick batteries!
The original was a great study of a family falling apart as the family patriarch suddenly was taken from them filled with dark humor and catholic guilt. The religious guilt is still present in the American remake sets the story in a small tiny rural setting. Mom dies, dad get’s depressed, the change of responsibility within the family over who has to prepare the human sacrifice ahead of their flesh-eating ritual shatters the family and positions the children against their patriarchal father. Jim Mickle’s WE ARE WHAT WE ARE is a fantastic piece of American Gothic! Guilt, Judgment and some fucking amazing cinematography make this one a no brainer for best film of the year lists. (And the great Eric Stanze shot second unit on this gorgeous movie, making it worth the watch just for that!)
The slow rot of a melancholic young woman… Canadian Éric Falardeau delivered THE most powerful “knock you down and don’t fucking get up again” movie of the year – the philosophical, existentialistic horror movie THANATOMORPHOSE The emancipation of a young woman through her own death… re-defining her self as a woman, freeing her self from the objectification and positioning that she has in all her relationships. It is dark and disturbing, but wonderfully poetic and meditative film that almost chokes its audience before violently letting go in the most cathartic finale this year. I’ve been back to this film three times since first watching it early 2013, and each time it get’s deep in my head as the poetic necrophilic romance that lead actress Kayden Rose and director Éric Falardeau create in this cult masterpiece, the best movie of 2013. (Oh and it also has special effects by the majestic David Scherer!)
Because it would kill me to write ten lines about five flicks right…. Now back to regular programing.