Indisputable: Best Horror Movies of the 2010’s

A couple years ago I did a 30 horror movies for 30 days of October in celebration of my favourite “holiday” – Can you guess it? – Of course it’s Halloween. Part of being an individual with eclectic tastes involves constantly changing your mind, so in lieu of making an entirely revised “top-10”, “top-30”, “top-whateverthefuck”, I’ve decided to instead try and narrow down my list. I’m also attempting to celebrate the plethora of new voices and visions emerging in this dynamic genre while not feeling bad for excluding my favourites and classics.

Note: This list came at no easy lengths, as I watch the purposefully bad, downright terrible and truly disgusting. As any great horror fan knows, a true gem is a rare find indeed, the right combination of scares, tropes, music and atmosphere – among other criteria. For every one of these films there are at least 5 crap-tacular films which isn’t to discredit those that were so very close, the ones that could have been but just failed to ultimately deliver the goods.

In no definitive order, here follows the (indisputable) best horror films the last 5 years has to offer:

Evil Dead (2013) – Fede Alvarez


Evil-Dead
A great tip of the hat to the original



My expectations were as high as any other die-hard Evil Dead fan. In fact, when this was announced I almost decided to boycott the film entirely. After all, why try and improve upon perfection? But this film really surprised me – It had great scares, great over-the-top gore, and just enough homage to the original that it was a delight for any fan of the original. This film managed to straddle the line between delightful pastiche to the original, while keeping it fresh and unique unto itself. It also managed to expand upon the Evil Dead Necronomicon mythology without stepping on too many shoes.

The Sacrament (2013) – Ti West

The-Sacrament-2

Most film buffs have giant boners for Ti West and I’ve never ever been one of them. I hated House of the Devil and despised The Innkeepers possibly even more. Now that being said, this film is characteristically Ti West. I guess the format of his films finally seemed to fit for me in this project, rather than in the pseudo-throwback used previously. This often just came off gimmicky and cheap to me. West’s characteristic slow-buildup worked perfectly in this film, which follows a film-crew as they enter an unnamed country attempting to research an elusive cult. It’s also quite masterful in the telling how such little outside influence managed to destroy the foundations of the entire congregation. The slow buildup of course, implodes into an exciting and violent buildup – I say this was West’s best work to date, taking his “signatures” and signing a work that is original instead of his usual throw-back to a decade of film long ceased.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – Drew Goddard

citw

Possibly the most paused scene in the film

This movie speaks for itself. Joss Whedon broke everyone’s brain when this was released and horror-nuts rejoiced. Actually, even non-horror fans rejoiced. This movie is just great. It subverts a genre while simultaneously embracing and celebrating everything and anything horror. Just the right mix of horror-comedy without being campy or bridging on lame, this movie had it all : hot babes, stoner comedy, zombies, the unicorn, secret societies, gore, violence and the end of the world (?). This tops almost everyone’s list of Top horror films of the 2010’s let alone top horror of the last decade, and some even arguing top horror EVER. There are tons of pages out there dedicated to spotting the tiniest of nerdy detail from the mise-en-scene, and as such this film instantly garnered a massive cult following.

V/H/S 2 (2013) – Assorted

VHS2-Short-Safe-Haven-Still

Just…watch it.

While there was the first V/H/S and the newer V/H/S: Viral which both have some notable submissions, V/H/S 2 really throws it out of the park. Following the faux-snuff anthology format from the first film this one went into hyperdrive. It’s like the first one going down the highway 200KM/ph and nailing a sudden turn in the road – while viral stopped short, for example. Of course the entire thing came to a jaw-dropping climax during Gareth Evan’s “Safe Haven” – which perhaps is my one complaint during the entire thing, because they should have ended with this beaut. I feel sorry for the poor bastard that came after because I barely remember it. I doubt it was a weak spot or anything, it’s just… how can you compare to the balls-to-the-wall ridiculousness that just went down? The best anthology film of the early decade, but not the biggest, 2012 had The ABCs of Death which had some great contributions but as a whole failed to deliver.

Sinister (2012) – Scott Derrickson

18957b38e0731e1c6eaf895d352e3a06547

The opening sequence.

While not terribly original necessarily, a very admirable and well done additional to any ghost/demon themed horror movie. It’s got all the usual tropes – a mystery to solve, faux-leads, twist ending, jump scares, etc. – but nails them all perfectly. My favourite of all these was the jump-scares which definitely had me tensing pretty hard, and even had my boyfriend asking me to walk him down the hall to the bathroom afterwards. A nerd’s note: the sound design was also very interesting in this film, as displayed most strongly when Ethan Hawke’s character is watching the old tapes but also in that freaky scene where the children’s ghosts are running around silently in the dark, bounding in and out of shadows. The sound design in itself was responsible for some of those jump scares I mentioned earlier, while simultaneously it was the lack of sound in some of the murders which made them all the more disturbing to watch. Apparently there is a sequel coming out soon, but I doubt it could be as good, as it has minimal involvement with the original crew, which is never a good sign. I’ll still watch it though.

You’re Next (2011) – Adam Wingard

youre-next-review-2

Same-same… or is it?

Any favourite horror movie of mine will either nail a genre right on the head, or else subvert it – playing off your expectations, literally using your expectations to gain a certain explorative power over you as a viewer. This film is the latter. It uses your expectations for a typical “home-invasion” type horror thriller to pull off it’s twists. While I normally derive this genre of horror film, such as, infamously, The Strangers (2008), this film excelled by subverting viewer expectations, taking a new, powerful approach to the genre altogether. I would consider that a success.

The Conjuring (2013) – James Wan

423765

A movie so good it sparked it’s own – albeit crappy – spinoff, Annabelle (2014). I chose this one versus Insidious (2010) and the sequel because, although James Wan really kills it in both (literally and figuratively, natch), The Conjuring managed to take everything that makes James Wan an excellent horror director and roll with it even harder and without remorse. My favourite thing about Wan as a director would have to be his use of pace – there’s no slowing down in this film, no unnecessary leads, and no time wasted at all. There’s a problem – okay let’s deal with it – instead of going through the typical motions of denial and doubt. Wan also manages to artfully employ just the right amount of comedic relief at just the right time, almost exclusively to keep you from having a heart-attack from the tension. His biggest success is my favorite in the jump-scares though, as the most frightening moments happen when you most expect it but almost always from a direction you are least suspecting it – think it’s coming from in front of you? It’s above you. Behind? Below. Beside? Infront. This never fails to give me a huge jump. Can’t wait for the sequel of this bad-boy to come out either.

Kill List (2011) – Ben Wheatley

killlist21

No surprises here: I wrote a post a few years back about this being one of the best horror movies of 2011, it still is and clearly extends to the 2010’s.  I’m not sure what’s left to be said about this movie that is at times relentlessly violent, disturbing and at times even humorous. A new take on an old classic: cults, this film will leave you deeply troubled as the ending comes to a cataclysmic, disturbing conclusion. Although somewhat depressing, there are many small details that are worth entailing a second viewing, and memorable moments seared into your mind whether you want them to or not. Powerful visuals and strong story telling come together to make this an exceptional horror film.

The Skin I Live In (2011) – Pedro Almodovar

download

A ceaseless, unrelenting, non-stop thrill ride that somehow ends on a more disturbing note than it began. This is a film you cannot look away from – the storytelling is masterfully woven together in a non-linear fashion and Banderas plays a perfect psychopath, who is twisted, cruel and at times even sympathetic. This was the Antichrist (2009) of 2011, in that everyone had something to say about it. Mixed with artful cinematography and a touch of science fiction, this is a truly unique film – something that has never come before, and I would employ anyone to try and come afterwards.

The Babadook (2014) – Jennifer Kent 

the-babadook-is-real-and-you-can-t-get-rid-of-him-89bb0a4a-ac2b-4415-b5db-d90b843b0af0

Quite arguably the most talked about horror movie of the year, The Babadook came out with a big splash. Things seemed to have quieted around the film recently, but if you’ve seen the film, the shadows surely haven’t. This film is deeply psychological and extremely sympathetic – a great testament to loss, grief and melancholy as a mother and her son try and cope in the wake of a terrible catastrophe. The main protagonist comes in my favourite form of power – the acousmatic: that which we never truly see the figure, we are only given hints to it’s appearance, and can hear only through what can be described as a disturbing guttural groan. As far as I know, it’s never been done before but I have a feeling children’s storybooks may become a new trope in horror.

Oculus (2013) – Mike Flanagan

????????????

One of my personal favourites, Oculus is a wonderful mix of surreal, absurdity and hallucinogenic realism that you never truly know what is happening to our protagonists until the very end. The film literally keeps you on your toes, and starts to make you feel very near well mad by the end. I’ve never seen a horror movie with such a great pace, diving into the action only to give you some backstory interspersed throughout the action, all climaxing simultaneously. This movie was a wonderful combination of all that I love in a horror movie: mystery, a bit of blood, jump scares, and madness.

What do you think? Did I miss anything? Disagree?

Listmania: 10 Epic Death Scenes

Who doesn’t love a really good death scene? I tried to pick here less of the mindless gore that I’m accustomed to, but scenes which had a lasting impression because they were so shocking. I call them epic because they surprised us in some way, we honestly did NOT see that coming, and maybe uttered a “DAMN” when it happened.

Definitely contains spoilers.

Okay let’s begin! In no particular order:

1) Billy, The Departed

Image

Things never go quite right for poor Billy do they? Just when it seems like things are finally wrapped up and going his way an unfortunate elevator ride has to happen…

2) Marvin, Pulp Fiction

Image

Did anyone see this coming? No way! Due to the nonlinear nature of the film, any hints were hidden, the fact that Marvin survived the first massacre seemed a miracle, and then this.

3) Oscar, Enter the Void

Image

Unless you read the synopsis before watching the film, this is a pretty unexpected death. I mean, killing off the main character 30 minutes in who we’ve essentially had first person POV privileges with? Not your most conventional approach.

4) Anonymous, Cube 

Image

The movie opens, a man moves through a creepy cube hesitantly, what is he so afraid of? We soon find out.

5)Russell Franklin, Deep Blue Sea

Image

After an inspiring speech, it’s Samuel L. to save the day! Or not.

6) Palmer, The Thing

Image

What is the Thing? A horrible alien monster from outer-space that grotesquely mutates its victims. How do you find out who is infected by the thing? The Infamous blood-testing scene – made me jump the first time I saw it!

7) Bill Murray, Zombieland

Image

Both hilarious and tragic. Who really thought that he’d get shot in the film after a heroic cameo? I mean it’s Bill Fucking Murray after all!

8) Blanche, Drive

Image

There’s a lot of love, and a lot of hate for this film. But what’s never disputed is how unexpected this death is. Christina Hendricks getting her face blown off in slow motion, yeah! I had a “BUH” moment. It’s this death, amongst many, that really straps you in and sets the tone for the rest of the film.

9) Julian, Children of Men

Image

Just when they’re getting their lives back together, an unexpected attack on the car which then turns into a thrilling and one of the most brilliantly filmed tracking shots I’ve ever seen.

10) Glen, A Nightmare on Elm Street

Image

One of my personal favorite deaths in a film ever, Glen has waltzed through the film without any trouble from Freddy, but I guess no one is safe. Blood Smoothie anyone?

2013 Horror Movies: To Watch List

I was going to write a review of the newest installment in the Texas Chainsaw Franchise, this time in 3D Yeegads! But it was so terrible I don’t think even I can review it. Plus I was pretty drunk so I don’t remember any of the details anyways. Probably a good thing.

Instead, I’d like to list the horror movies I’m really looking forward to! The first and second are the only ones I’m really likely to see in theaters, the others are just a general mumble of interesting titles both possibly good and probably terrible.

Image

1) Mama – I have high hopes for this one and hopefully it delivers. I’ve generally enjoyed most of the horrors Guillermo Del Toro produces, so at the very least I’m expecting to be thoroughly creeped out.

2) John Dies at the End – This looks seriously awesome. I think it will be a lot of fun. Drugs, traveling through space and time, non-humans…directed by the guy who did Bubba Ho-Tep what more do you need people!?

3) Carrie – I actually think this will be an awesome remake. I really like Chloe Moretz, and Julianne Moore is always good, I can see them making a really twisted mother-daughter team. At the very least it will hopefully be better than that sequel they made in the 90’s, I was only 10 when that shit came out and I still knew it was garbage.

4) The Call – Looks like more of a thriller than anything else, but still creepy and disturbing. Plus I’m a total sucker for some Halle Berry in a horror movie.

5) Dark Skies – Looks like the usual  Insidious-esque plot line. Formulaic but bound to have some creepy moments and maybe a few “eeeeks!”

6) The Last Exorcism Part II – I really thought I’d hate the first film when I originally went to see it, but you know what? I didn’t. I didn’t mind it, and I liked the “twist” ending which left me feeling seriously gross. Part II looks ridiculous and at the very least probably has some great jumpy moments.

7) The Green Inferno – Not even finished yet, but an Eli Roth film about travelers in Peru with Cannibals. Can’t wait! Seems like this is his kick these days, Aftershock is also coming out soon, but for some reason it failed to really grab my interest.

Listmania: Top 10 Drug Scenes in Film

Drugs scenes can be very interesting in films. Sometimes they are moralizing and judgmental. Other times we laugh at the hilarious hijinks. Either way they are very often well made and contain moments which linger long in our memories. Here are my top 10 drug scenes in films, some obvious but perhaps there are a few ones you haven’t seen before:

10) Almost Famous – 2000 – Cameron Crowe

I am a golden god!

This scene triumphs in its random spontaneity as well as following with a group chorus of Tiny Dancers.

9) Big Lebowski – 1998 – Joel & Ethan Coen

After he is drugged on his search for Bunny, The Dude enters this dreamy bowling-themed fantasy world.

8) Requiem for a Dream – 2000 – Darren Aronofsky

This film shows the ups and mainly downs of a group of New-Yorkers. And while it’s an extremely depressing, and often disturbing film, it’s visually stunning.

7) Easy Rider -1969 – Denis Hopper

It would be hard to make a list about drug scenes without the king of drug scenes. A crazy hippy fulled acid trip through the heartland of America. Like On the Road… but with more drugs.

6) A Scanner Darkly – 2006 – Richard Linklater

Your sins will be read to you ceaselessly, in shifts, throughout eternity. The list will never end

My favorite scene in both the book and the film, an inter-dimensional alien comes to read Freck all his sins when he mistakenly takes psychedelics instead of sleeping pills when trying to commit suicide. The poor boy can’t even get suicide right.

5) Pulp Fiction – 1994 – Quinten Tarintino

I couldn’t choose between the two scenes because I love them both so much. Vincent makes heroin looks pretty damn tasty in the picture above, while Mia accidentally overdosing shows the rather shady side to it. And it’s a pretty epic moment, of course.

4) Trainspotting – 1996 – Danny Boyle

How to choose in this film. The drugs never really look good and yet they keep doing them, and often we keep laughing. There’s the overdosing, the dead baby crawling on the ceiling, but the crawling into the toilet of ultimate scum that is gag-worthy every time.

3) Enter the Void – 2009 – Gaspar Noe

While slow moving, and this film definitely did not need to be 3 hours long, the scene in the beginning where our main character smokes DMT is undoubtedly the closest anyone will ever come to showing the effects on screen visually. The rest of the film, in which the main character floats as a soul above Tokyo contains memories of the neon-lit city scape which are pretty psychedelic  in themselves.

2) Altered States – 1980 – Ken Russell

I literally cannot pick one scene from this movie. It is seriously tripped out. But what would you expect from a film that is about a scientist experimenting with hardcore ayahuasca and other psychedelics  while going into a sensory deprivation chamber?

1) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – 1998 – Terry Gilliam

Probably the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they think of “drug-movie” and with good cause. The film is a hallucinatory adventure in which dinosaurs roam and your friend tries to kill you with a giant knife. And everything in between. But of course, it’s Hunter S. Thompson. No one can beat that. Set against the backdrop of Las Vegas, this film makes you feel as if you’ve taken a little bit from their drug suitcase yourself.

Bonus: Drugstore Cowboy, Knocked Up, Natural Born Killers, Black Swan

31 Days of Horror, 31 Horror Movies.

In lieu of my favorite month, October, my top 31 horror movies. Some obvious, some classic, but I hope there’s something in here you haven’t seen before and love! To all my creepy, disturbing, funny, grotesque and spooky movies out there, I salute you! (I have a feeling I’ve left out a few things worth mentioning, but alas, another list for another day)

Top 31 Horror Movies:

31)      The Ring – 2002 – Gore Verbinski  – Okay so not the best movie, but when I was 12 and saw this in theatres in scared the hell out of me!

30)      Gothika – 2003 – Mathieu Kassovitz – Again, not the best, but I great mix of ghost, mystery and disturbing.

29)      Absentia – 2011 – Mike Flanagan – A very well done horror film, I wrote a review about it which you can check out, but it’s so far up on the list because it’s not very jump-out-of-your-seat “spooky”

28)      Carrie – 1976 – Brian De Palma – One of those essentials, I mean how many horror movies have been made about the revenge of the high school student who was bullied since?

27)      The Stepford Wives  – 1975 – Bryan Forbes – A feminist classic, although the pace may destroy our modern audiences with ADD, this movie was very disturbing to me as a child.

26)      Drag me to Hell – 2009 – Sam Raimi – Not the only movie by Raimi on this list, this film was panned by some critics who couldn’t see the humor behind it. A fun, disgusting, creepy film.

25)      The Fourth Kind – 2009 – Olatunde Osunsanmi – This movie was very creepy to me. I don’t so much care about the whole “based on true events” thing, besides the fact it is still really jumpy!

24)      In the Mouth of Madness – 1994 – John Carpenter – Certainly not the only film by the master Carpenter, this film has everything: psychological horror, blood, guts, twisted human creatures, and so on!

23)      Videodrome – 1983 – David Cronenberg – Never one to be afraid of being disturbing, Cronenberg weaves a terrible tale that will leave you feeling dirty yourself.

22)   Saw Franchise – 2004 to 2011 – Various directors – Of course the first is the best, but that can be said of almost every horror franchise. I know many will disagree, but I’ve always loved these movies, and making fun of the gaping plot holes is always entertaining.

21)   Cabin Fever – 2002 – Eli Roth – I also enjoyed the sequel, but Eli Roth deserves a shout out. This is one of those gag-inducing, bodily fluids filled gore fests that will make you squirm!

20)   Halloween – 1978 – John Carpenter – Carpenter is a master in his own right. This film is so creepy! Most of the remakes are just terrible, however.

19)   Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 1974 – Tobe Hooper – A classic, leatherface has inspired many other people… to wear other people’s faces. I won’t lie, I also enjoyed the gory remakes.

18)   Friday the 13th – 1980 – Sean S. Cunningham – A wonderful film, and arguably one of the best introductions to the character of Jason, or any supernatural murderer ever. Also the 2009 remake is pure stoner genius as well.

17)   Nightmare on Elm Street – 1984 – Wes Craven – My favorite Craven film and the best in the franchise by a long shot. Johnny Depp smoothie anyone?

16)   I Saw the Devil – 2010 – Jee-woon Kim – A great horror movie, thriller combo, which blurs the lines of evil and makes you question your own morals.

15)   The Shining – 1980 – Stanley Kubrick – Such a classic, and of course extremely well made. What makes this movie so creepy is the fact that is seems so plausible. What if your Dad went crazy from isolation (and ghosts) and tried to murder you? *shudder*

14)   Rec and Rec 2 – 2007 and 2009 – Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza – these films are really some of the best that POV camera movies have to offer. Especially the second one which gets really creative about how they continue the genre (and kill people)

13)   The Mist – 2007 – Frank Darabont – the classic, community grouped together for survival story but with a great and tragic twist.

12)   Suspiria – 1977 – Dario Argento – It’s hard to narrow down at least one Dario film to use, but this one is a classic. Watch all of his works if you’re into classic horror though!

11)   Cube – 1997 – Vincenzo Natali – Woo Canadians! This is a creepy but smart horror film which follows the anguish of the prisoners. What is not explained remains the creepiest aspect of the film.

10)   The Thing – 1982 – John Carpenter – My favorite film by Carpenter. The isolation, what the alien does to your body, not knowing who the alien is? All come together for a terrifying and disgusting combination.

9)   Kill List – 2011 – Ben Wheatley – There is something about this film which really struck me – I wrote and entire review about it before – the gruesomeness, the disturbing-ness… none of these will disappoint you.

8)   Planet terror – 2007 – Robert Rodriguez – Just pure fun and madness. Typical gore and splatter-fest activities, I’ve always enjoyed a horror with a sense of humor.

7)   Sleepy Hollow – 1999 – Tim Burton – This is just head-chopping good fun. Creepy, twisted and a disturbing take on the light-hearted classic.

6)   Session 9 – 2001 – Brad Anderson – This is one of those serious horror films, with a great mystery and a great twist. Who doesn’t love abandoned mental hospitals?

5)   Tale of Two Sisters – 2003 – Jee-woon Kim – A beautiful,  disturbing, and tragic tale of a family gone wrong. The twists are wonderful and artfully revealed. A masterpiece!

4)   Return of the Living Dead – 1985 – Dan O’Bannon – Just far too much fun. Punks and zombies. A hilarious zombie film not a dull moment.

3)   28 Days Later – 2002 – Danny Boyle – A stunning work, the shots of an abandoned London are enough to place it here alone… That and the Zombies can run…fast!

2)   The Evil Dead – 1981 – Sam Raimi – My favorite cult horror movie, hands down, ever made. It’s just too much ridiculous fun. Is it serious? Is it a joke? Who knows, who cares!

1)   The Signal – 2007 – David Bruckner et al. – My personal favorite. This film blends humor and disturbing elements so well it leaves you laughing and gasping at the same time. In a way I didn’t even think possible! The best take on people-gone-crazy genre I’ve ever seen. A surprising little independent film.

5 Books That Should Never Be Made Into Films

Yesterday I was reading an interesting list on cinemablend about their five novels they thought should never be made into films. This was a very interesting concept to me, seeing as how one of my hobbies is comparing novels to their film interpretations. I ask, what do novels add to films? What subtleties do films miss from the novels? More often than not the novel is better than the film. But there are those rare circumstances when, in fact, the film is better than the novel.

So without further adieu, my 5 novels that should never be made into films:

1) Nightwood – Djuna Barnes

Image

Nightwood is a twisted and torrid account of a love affair, and one of the first novels to explicitly detail homosexuality. The novel, however, is at times incomprehensible. A beautiful novel which recounts the effect the character Robin has on the other players. Robin is in a perpetual motion moving away from that which makes her unhappy without any real notion of what actually makes her happy. To really outline how difficult this novel is to read at times, T.S. Eliot proclaimed that “only sensibilities trained on poetry can wholly appreciate it.” The novel is essentially poetry written in novel form, any attempt to make this novel into a film would destroy the absolute poetry one encounters while reading it. In fact this is a novel more about the poetry than it is about the plot or narration.

2) Island – Aldous Huxley

Image

Aldous Huxley’s final work Island and the sister to his influential novel Brave New World. The Island for Huxley represents his ideal Utopia. It chronicles many of his ideals for society, culture and economy. In fact many of the favorable conditions he outlines in Island are in direct opposition to those in Brave New World (Wiki does an excellent job showing the opposition). The novel also uses magical mushrooms as a spiritual guide. All of these elements would come off as trivial, and I doubt the screenwriter would keep all the lengthy conversations that exist throughout the novel, nor would they be able to capture the spiritual nature of the psychedelic experience.

3) Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

Image

Salinger’s most famous novel, Catcher in the Rye follows teen antihero Holden Caulfield. The ultimate novel to deal with complex teenager issues of identity, sexuality, and belonging. If this novel was made into a film I highly doubt that one could capture the complexity of this character without Holden coming off as a, well, whiney teenager. The good news is that Salinger was absolutely against a filmic conversion of his novel and this  is being upheld posthumously.

4) Nadja – Andre Breton

Image

A non-linear tale of a 10 day torrid love affair with the inexplicable Nadja. A semi-autobiographical novel, like Nightwood, the novel is written in prose form and is at times incomprehensible. The beauty of the novel is in the language, and again any “action” in the novel seems secondary to the very words which make them up. The visual imagery is arguably more beautiful than any photographic imagery a person could conjure up.

5) Labyrinths – Jorge Luis Borges

Image

This collection of highly imaginative stories are entirely dependent on the reader’s imagination to come alive. I took a class once in which we attempted to draw what we thought the Library from the Library of Babel would look like and everyone had a different interpretation  Making any of these stories into a film would be excellent creative fuel but would destroy the individual experience which makes the stories so unique.