A tumultuous election season, a slew of holidays, a handful of new writing clients, and a shortage of chocolate-covered coffee beans — what can I say?
Sorry for abandoning you.
Even as life gets increasingly hectic, I’m going to try to make more time to post here.
My neglect of this blog has been especially egregious as 2016 was an incredible year for horror!
Just look at what last year brought us:
The Wailing, directed by Na Hong-Jin. My review here.
Under the Shadow, directed by Babak Anvari. This excellent Iranian supernatural horror is set in post-revolution 1980s Tehran. Alongside Train to Busan, it was major highlight of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. With its themes of haunting, psychological distress, strained familial relationships, resentment, and grief, it reminded me strongly of Jennifer Kent’s brilliant 2014 breakout film The Babadook, as well as evoking shades of The Wailing.
The Neon Demon, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. My review here.
Green Room, directed by Jeremy Saulnier. This is a tragic addition to the list – Anton Yelchin’s performance was absolutely incredible in this intense, squirm-out-of-your-seat, relentless thrill-ride. That his burgeoning talent was taken from this world through such a freak accident is heartbreaking. Green Room is probably the most intense film I watched this year. Saulnier’s direction is reminiscent of a punk album – sharp, stabbing, loud, fast, with short breaks of quiet in between. The tension-work is masterful, and the film still lingers in my mind months later. The acting by all cast members is fantastic. A must-see.
10 Cloverfield Lane, directed by Dan Trachtenberg. Full disclosure: I didn’t see the original Cloverfield movie. But honestly, that doesn’t matter, because this sequel doesn’t rely on the viewer having any knowledge of the events of the first film – it is completely effective Hitchcockian psychological suspense in its own right. The cast of three (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, and John Gallagher Jr.) turn in effective performances in this stark, post-apocalypse chamber horror.
Don’t Breathe, directed by Fede Alvarez. Another tense, horrific nail-biter of a film. Don’t Breathe is sort of a reverse home invasion horror, or home invasion with a twist – I don’t want to give too much away to those who still haven’t seen it, so I’ll say no more. Apart from one squicky scene in the basement that seemed over-the-top and out-of-place, I thought it was almost a perfect thriller – the cinematography is masterful and Fincheresque, the characters are decently developed, the pacing is brisk, and the plotting is engrossing. Woe to you if you missed out on seeing it in the theatre, but you should definitely check it out on DVD/Blu-ray or VOD.
Train to Busan, directed by Yeon Sang-ho. Do you remember what it was like when 28 Days Later came out and completely revitalized the zombie genre? Do you remember that excitement, that novelty, that delighted terror? I do. And I felt the same thing when I saw Train to Busan at this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Full of engaging and visually stunning set-pieces, a surprisingly potent emotional core, and great performances from all involved, Train to Busan is a zombie film for both zombie film lovers and zombie film skeptics.
Hush, directed by Mike Flanagan. My review here.
Lights Out, directed by David F. Sandberg. My review here.
The Void, directed by Jeremy Gillespie & Steven Kostanski. There was an undeniable buzz around this film as soon as it started to hit the festival circuit, and for good reason – it’s a well-crafted, terrifying, and utterly Lovecraftian hell-fest that sinks deeper into the nightmare with every act. Plus, it features Knives Chau!
Antibirth, directed by Danny Perez. This weird-as-hell, body horror fever dream was a labour of love (pun definitely intended) as director Perez was interested in subverting female archetypes and those surrounding motherhood in particular. He succeeded – female protagonist Lou (played by Natasha Lyonne) is irreverent, irresponsible, and strangely irresistible. The film isn’t for everyone – it can be vulgar, it’s full of drug use, and many will find the characters uniformly unlikeable. And that’s okay. Those who like it, will like it a lot.
Note: I have yet to see The Eyes of My Mother, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, and The Handmaiden, though I’m waiting for my pre-ordered Blu-ray of the latter.
What are your top picks for the year? What did I miss?