Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A Look at My 2013 in Film



A Look at My 2013 in Film

Warning: this will be a personal blog post so expect a lot of Is, mes and whatnot.

Now, I'm not one to get overly sentimental or soppy - especially in a public space - but I feel that I have to acknowledge some of the moments from the past year. Tomorrow will be another day and not much will change but it is the end of a year which is cause enough to look over it, see the positives, the negatives and even work out goals or targets for the next year. Not New Year resolutions which are cheap and cheerful gimmicks that aren't followed through with, like going to the gym more, quitting smoking or starting volunteering. Those typical things are usually never reached but I have film related goals that I'd like to achieve because I feel this was my biggest year for writing so far.
That's mainly thanks to Howard Gorman of Cinema Chords and Comedy Chords. He and I worked incredibly hard together this year but him definitely more so than me. The man was a machine, arranging interviews, screenings and DVDs so that we had content for the site which he often didn't take - even people he would have loved to have interviewed. Howard is probably the main reason that my writing has grown so much this year and the reason that I got to do a lot of my personal highlights of the year. He's also the reason that I've moved a lot more into the horror genre because he's quite frankly seen them all. Pointing towards some incredible indie stuff that most people have never heard of that is fantastic to watch. Regardless, I owe him a lot and forever will because he has helped make this year incredibly special and productive. I would have otherwise wasted it on nothing.  

There's of course thanks to Christopher Misch from Next Projection who has done amazing stuff with the site and I'm happy to be involved with them, especially the talent that they have on board. Thanks to him I've seen many films that I would not have seen or even heard of especially Spring in a Small Town which was the most surprising of all the ones shown. I even got to write about home invasions and have received many films that are still in desperate need of review - a January target to complete!

Another thank you to Jon and Dave of HeyUGuys fame for allowing me to put my work on their outlet which gives me much needed exposure. Here's to hoping I continually add in 2014 and the site grows even more than it already has. 

My year in numbers
Let's get down to the numbers, the statistics of my year which have been greater than any previous year thanks to my productivity and focus.

In terms of writing, this year I wrote 111 published articles (112 if you include this one) which is incredible! That's 9.416 (reoccurring 6) articles per month and that's with a few unpublished saved in drafts, a few interviews I have yet to transcribe (which is my fault) and a massive foot off the pedal which happened to me since getting back to university. That is something that I am disappointed in but I made myself more social at the expense of my bank. I'm hoping to learn to balance it more in the coming year. If we assume the average article is 1000 words (reviews were usually 600-1000 and interviews varied from 2000 to 8000) then that's 112,000 words written simply outside of university. It's quite possible that it's upwards of 150,000 because the average is probably higher than 1000.

Personal Highlights
There are many highlights to take from this year. The majority of articles I've written I've gotten a great response, much more so than usual and my Twitter following has grown so that my work now gets much more exposure. I've branched out into Yahoo! Movies too but I will hopefully be looking for more publications soon - especially in print as that's somewhere I'm lacking. Below though are some highlights of the year and my favourite articles of the year.

My 2013 Oscar Prediction and The Nozzers - 17/21 correct, all the big four correct
Paul Hyett Interview - Part 1 and Part 2 - Important to me as we've remained friends
Nicolas Winding Refn Interview - although it may not be the conversation I hoped for, it was still a chance to speak to a director I admire and the director of my second favourite film of all time.
James Wan: A Retrospective - a piece that allowed me to look at all the work of a promising director who is becoming one of my favourites.
Aaron Guzikowski Interview - which ended up being my favourite film of the year.
Gareth Evans Interview - one of my favourite films of 2012 and an inspiration as he's Welsh and from around where I lived yet still made it.
 
Films watched: 321 (will be 323 or 324 as I'm off to the cinema after posting this)
2013 films: 91 (will be 93/94)
Films seen in the cinema: 52 (54) - I saw Die Hard, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

If we take the average as 2 hours in length that's 641 hours of films this year. 182 of which was in the cinema without trailers, adverts and Kevin Bacon. That's right, I've seen the Kevin Bacon advert 50 times this year (I know this because once it didn't show on one of my matinee days and I was overjoyed). That's 2 and half minutes 50 times that I won't ever get back, 125 minutes! 2 hours of the same advert. Ouch! There's say 10 minutes of trailers in those films so that's 500 minutes of trailers in the cinema alone, that is 8.3 hours. I don't want to calculate the adverts outside of that or it will make me very, very upset.

TV series watched:
CSI                                                         9 seasons
The Office                                           7 seasons (x5) = 35 seasons
                                                                season 8 and 9 = 37 seasons
Breaking Bad                                     2 seasons
Parks and Recreation                     5 seasons
Futurama                                            3 seasons
Family Guy                                         3 seasons
It's Always Sunny...                        3 seasons
House of Cards                                 1 season
The Big Bang Theory                      2 seasons
Friends                                                 10 seasons
Orange is the New Black              1 season
The Walking Dead                          1 season
Louie                                                     1 season
Hannibal                                             1 season
Arrested Development                  4 seasons
American Dad!                                                 4 seasons
How I Met Your Mother                8 seasons
Freaks and Geeks                            1 season
Peep Show                                          2 seasons
The IT Crowd                                      3 seasons
Phoenix Nights                                 2 seasons (x4) = 8 seasons
Top Gear                                             1 season

Overall:                                                110 seasons

If we average it to 14 episodes (since they range from 26 episode series to 6 episode ones) then that's 1540 episodes of television watched this year. If we average them to 30 minute episodes - since they vary from 20 to 60 - then that's 46,200 minutes which is 770 hours. That's pretty impressive... or excessive. Regardless, it's great to put on to watch all the way through as it's something you can leave, there's less dedication than to a film. Also I work around it if I'm rewatching something.

I also made 7 short films, two of which I wrote and I wrote an extra short I wanted to film in my spare time and shall be doing in the January period as I have no exams. I started on a few features, written an entire outline of a story  that could either be a screenplay or a novel (but I won't be doing that for a while, not until I've travelled enough) and wanted to attend several film festivals that finances stopped me from doing so.


2014 Targets

  • To write a full length screenplay - at least one.
  • To film a few short films.
  • Learn how to edit properly, not shabbily. 
  • Write consistently the same amount - if not more.
  • Watch even more films.
  • Work my way through the IMDb 250 and Empire 500. 
  • Attend a film festival. 
  • Save up money for after university. 
  • Try to get more paid work. 
  • Read a lot more than I have. 
I'm sure I'll add to these but that's all I have for now as I have to leave for the year. That joke will never get old! I just wanted to make a post thanking everyone, summing up my year and maybe make it a bit interesting to the few that will read it. I hope that it's an interesting read and you feel incredibly sorry for me for the amount of times I've seen Kevin Bacon plug EE.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Porco Rosso Review




My Porco Rosso review which was originally for Next Projection.

Studio Ghibli is renowned for its crazy yet captivating stories that spin everything on its head, creating entire playful, intricate universes for each of their stories, only linked by their visual style and thematic attachment to innocence. Porco Rosso is much the same in the canon but where the others promote strong female characters that aren't traditional, this is lead by a anthropomorphic pig pilot who fights air pirates that threaten the sea and air, and is sometimes a bit uncomfortable to the women of the story. Many moments revolve around Fio's "bum" which is "bigger-than-it-looks", feeling uncomfortably sexualised, as Porco says that them alone on an island isn't safe because he's a man which hints towards rape and also by her being ashamed of her gender and youth. Whether it's all purposeful because of its 1930 period setting is another thing but it may be ignorance or just downright offensive, causing the audience to waver; it's uncomfortable, unexpected. 

Usually the Disney dubs of Studio Ghibli's work are excellent and provided by an array of great actors but unfortunately Porco Rosso isn't one of them. Michael Keaton steps into the shoes of Porco but sounds monotonous and bored for the entirety of the script, reading the dialogue lethargically. Susan Egan is great as usual but it seems like she's the only one trying in the dubbed but the subtitled version is definitely more recommended here. There also seems to be messing with dialogue which changes characters' intentions and their back stories which is unusual for dubbing, it makes the film come across much worse so definitely check out the subtitled version instead. 

Porco is a bounty hunter pilot who is trying to make a living alone to keep himself in the air as much as possible. He's also a cursed man who's doomed to look like a pig but a lot of the time refuses to ever sink to his animal's looks. Around the Adriatic sea, he defends ships from pirates while earning himself a fee - sometimes keeping a bit too much of what he recovers. There are many beautiful moments in it, it oddly plays out much more lucidly than some of Miyazaki's other work - even though it's about a pig-man. Thematically it seems a bit more bare than Miyazaki's other work, perhaps because its narrative is more of a concrete construction; there are moments of thematic beauty that come from questions of death alongside the typical innocence of children but it feels fewer than his other work. 

Beyond Ghibli's impressive catalogue of work, this falls more into the average side of their output because of its odd disapproval of women in it. Intentional or not, it feels more uncomfortable, rarely proving that is an actual statement on views on women rather than their views on women. It seems to think it makes it acceptable for the comments to be made by making the woman not that bad at engineering actually, impressing the misogynistic pirates with her engineering work. The other female character, Gina, is as well passed off as a woman who could have any man and thus requires one, whether it Curtiss or Porco. Fio is rarely a woman of herself either by admitting that her gender is a problem, especially for her career aspirations, being proposed to straight away by Curtiss like some sort of arrangement. Miyazaki can make any visual beautiful, creating depths in the air and the sea, providing some detailed, beautiful visuals alongside a bizarrely entertaining yet more blunt narrative. Its potential sexism and views on women - good intentions or not - sours the entire experience of a film stunningly drawn and with some interesting takes on religion, life, death and innocence. 

★★

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Almost the End of the Year

Hello there, I realise that I'm apologising for the lack of posts for the third time but currently I've been doing essays and getting merry most nights rather than doing writing. It's quite nice not to have to do some writing for a while but that'll be back soon when I write a Porco Russo review for Next Projection and plenty of end of the year features to be done too! I'll be trying to round out my top 10 for the year as well as posting my year in numbers which will be oddly fun and interesting... for me. Then I'll be on the awards season hype as will everyone else and trying to break my record of 17 of 21 Oscar predictions and maybe even putting money on it. I may recommend you do the same but I'll probably be sued if I suggested such a thing! Especially with such a competitive year.

I got my first essay mark back for classical Hollywood cinema in which I only got a 68 (a 2:1), it's painfully close to a first! It's also annoying because I can see the errors in it now, I can see the problems and the reason I didn't get a first. Had I ditched a paragraph I feel it would've shot up to a 74 but that's all my fault. Regardless, 68 isn't too bad, I will do better for the two 3000 word essays due early January by ferociously reading everything in the university library. Maybe I'll get my first. Probably not but there you go.

Regardless, I just wanted to post a tiny update before I post some more. Adios.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Don Jon Review



Joseph Gordon-Levitt has long been moving into writing and directing when he launched his site and production company hitRECord. It’s been growing and Joseph Gordon-Levitt has stayed heavily involved with it branching out into the world of TV with its own programme and with Don Jon, which he has used to launch into filmmaking. He’s unstoppable at the moment, popping up in plenty of huge films, linked to almost every big casting call and now moving into writing and directing his own features. He’s the man to beat but when an actor turns to writing and directing, it isn’t always worthwhile, it can be quite a disappointment but is Don Jon a success? In short, yes, especially for a debut.

Jon, or the Don as he’s known to his friends for his nightclub streak, is addicted to porn because it’s the only way he can lose himself, he prefers it to the real deal as he says. He goes out pulling on a seemingly nightly basis, then heading to church to confess and off to the gym to say his prayers to repent. Although he claims to love his life it’s mainly about his porn since it’s the only way he can lose himself in anything. That’s until a “dime” shows up in Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson, who he is willing to give up his addiction and change his life pretty drastically because she’s seen one too many romcoms. Constantly pleased by the movie star giving up everything in their life that they love for their partner, as a selfless act which ultimately promotes the selfishness of the other half. True love they call it in these films she watches.

Ultimately its message is clear for both genders because each gender romances to different but ultimately destructive forms of media. Men constantly fantasise about these unrealistic women who are insatiable when it comes to what Don Jon loves. Women idolise romances in which sacrifices are made by only one party, claiming that it’s “only one thing” when in reality those one things add up to completely change who they’re with. That moment is best represented in a single scene at a store which shows how irrational Barbara is being. It may not be a subtle message but sometimes points need hammering, it still feels like the audience walk out and shrug it off. Probably because it’s mainly a comedy.

Stylistically there are some great touches for a new director who may not be making an authorial stamp but using the style to portray its character. Early on, the camerawork is methodical, the editing quick, it’s clean and constant. Later on, it starts to exchange some of the steady shots earlier for some handheld shot and reverse shots which may be intentional or financial. Whether or not it’s intentional to slow it all down for the character may be purposeful but it feels like it interrupts the flow of the film so far. On the comedy side of it, it maintains its laughs throughout without feeling cheap, unearned or bottom of the barrel, continually being fresh.

The characters shouldn’t be likeable but they’re saved by their performances, especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt who adds likeability to what would be a charisma vacuum in other hands. Cleverly he’s kept his performance the right side of arrogant and proud to the point of it being more comedic rather than disgusting, witty not repulsive. Scarlett Johansson achieves the same thing as her airhead princess Barbara Sugarman who is suffering from delusion of grandeur, feeling like royalty with an accent that turns your stomach it’s so strong. Gordon-Levitt may have written these characters more as caricatures but they’re not exactly non-existent in a world filled with Jersey Shore; no matter how much we fail to believe it, there are people like it. When Julianne Moore shows up it’s an enjoyable character that may have one of the most surprising introductions.

Don Jon is definitely a success in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s career, safely segueing himself into the world of filmmaking and as a writer-director to watch. He has plenty of flair, a lot of creativity, messages and the power of friendship to bring in great actors to inhabit his roles. Its message is one that’s important; though it has an 18 rating (R-rated) it should be shown to a younger audience so they may take away the message and save themselves a life of loneliness and disappointment. It’s emotionally successful if a little clunky at its finale, it constantly preaches about something interesting like porn, romcoms, the media and religion – playing on Jon’s heavy involvement with Catholicism. Don Jon is one of the more comedic films of the year with a message that trumps the emptiness of the rest of the year. A blackly comic drama that is itself a romcom but with a much needed rejuvenation. A – umm, cough – pleasure.

★★★★

Friday, 15 November 2013

Gravity Review

It’s always great when technology has to catch up with human creativity then it’s great when it actually does, allowing truly creative people to make something visually fantastic. Much like Kubrick did back in 1968 with 2001: A Space Odyssey showing what weightlessness and zero gravity can be like. Now it’s gone a step further by having a dynamic camera swing around space while Sandra Bullock is in angular momentum (thanks Neil deGrasse Tyson for that) which sees the director, cinematographer and visual effects supervisor work together on every tiny detail.

Story wise you probably know it by now because it’s quite a basic story explained almost entirely from the trailer. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are on a spacewalk when the Russians accidentally fire a missile into one of their own satellites, causing the debris to orbit at ferocious velocity around Earth. From there on it’s better to know as little as what happens because it’s indeed one of the most thrilling films of the year. It is physically exhausting. There are a few moments of relief, of rest, allowing you to catch your breath before the Cuaróns (Alfonso writer-director and his writer son Jonás) decide it’s enough and dragging you into another tense scene that will stop you breathing.

Emmanuel Lubezki has achieved something masterful this time around. Introducing us to this world is a 17-minute sequence complete without a single cut that sees the camera and George Clooney’s Kowalsky float effortlessly. Lubezki’s work in The Tree of Life was beautiful as can be imagined when working with Terence Malick but he’s shown a versatility by going from film with Malick to digital with Alfonso Cuarón which has required them to recreate space in great detail. Not only have they had to create beautiful, believable visual effects but they’d had to do so while in constant motion, aligning light perfectly and doing frame by frame details to make sure it all fits. Attention to detail is always rewarding for the viewer, never mind the beam of pride the cast and crew will feel when they see it all come together.

What the Cuaróns have created is one of the most thrilling action blockbusters ever created because it is completely and utterly relentless. It’s been said often before about how a lot of films are relentless but that’s usually through shaky cam and exhaustive frenetic editing. Gravity is a completely different beast, it’s not a beast at all. Everything is cleanly crafted with a care that separates itself from beasts, from humans, from even being organic; it feels like a sentient, ethereal creation. Frame by frame the crew have gone through designing every single movement to make it seem like the characters are in zero-gravity, there’s been an enormous amount of effort to make it seem effortless. It really does work.

When presenting space, there will always be a theme of religion, gods, God, life, death and Gravity is no different. Cords tied to stomachs constantly represent the umbilical cord and the possible link to the creator in space, Bullock even embraces a foetal position in what seems like a technoutero as if being reborn in space, in technology, where the original creator created. There’s a lot to be read into when looked from that angle as well. Something about being presented with infinity makes artists – and probably real astronauts – question the nature of existence, its vastness, emptiness, chance creation, implausibility. Hell, it’s happening now too.

We’re reminded that life in a vacuum is completely impossible when the film starts and that no sound can travel in a vacuum to explain its absence to the audience. When watching it in IMAX, the ambient, bassy score resonates through every seat in the house. The attention to detail is masterful as we feel the reverberations from any technological equipments like Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone. What is left out in sound mixing and sound design is filled in with an impressive score by Steven Price that makes everything pulsate but will never refrain from subtlety when it is best suited. Sandra Bullock also puts in the performance of her career by dedicating herself fully to the role, completely transforming into the doctor with a fear of death yet an unworldly need to embrace it. The only concern to be had about Gravity is that it is completely cinematic and will lose some of its power outside of a cinema screen. It actually uses 3D well while being a rare combination of relentlessly thrilling, jaw-droppingly beautiful and interestingly existential. See it in 3D. Better yet see it in IMAX 3D. Gravity will shake you. Gravity will tire you out. Gravity will control you.

★★★★½


GRAVITY2

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Lack of Writing

Apologies to the very few that do read what I have to say but lately university is being hectic as stated before. Currently I'm doing an essay on Casablanca and how it conforms to the classical Hollywood style or at least arguing its case anyway. After that I have another essay about a horror film which I've yet to decide on and how that conforms to the norms of the genre. Currently trying to decide between Insidious, The Conjuring, Sinister and The House of the Devil. There are many more I'd love to write about too like Inside but there's another essay where they might apply but same could be said for these. I've always been indecisive. Apparently a rambler too. This post is more apologising for the lack of content that will happen because of these essays, a short I'm trying to film and a screenplay that I'd like to attempt to write in time for the BlueCat screenplay competition - fat chance with completing it but as it's NaNoWriMo too then why the hell not?

Regardless I'd just like to post to keep Blogger happy lest they complain about inactivity. There may be a few reviews soon just for the hell of it on here because the dates have passed to publish them elsewhere like my thoughts on Prisoners (spoiler: my favourite film of the year so far) and a few others of 2013 that I've missed out on but want to catch up and push my opinion on. There may also be a few features that I want to get my head around so stay with the week or two of low activity because then it may go chaotic again.

Thanks for letting me procrastinate.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Netflix Hallowe'en Horror Suggestions


My Netflix Hallowe'en Horror Suggestions was for Cinema Chords. Check out all of the horror content on there including a lot more features based around Hallowe'en viewing. 

It’s Hallowe’en once again and everyone starts to knock through horrors to get them in the frightened spirit. Netflix‘s member base is growing and growing and as the member base expands, so does the list of titles. It can be difficult to decide on what to finally watch, before you know it, that three hour slot you booked for a film has now evaporated into a 35 minute window in which to try and cram an episode of something in as you kick yourself for not deciding sooner. Worry not, here at Cinema Chords we have tried to narrow the list down so the decision should only take an hour, or maybe two, at best. We’ve set aside the endless cheap imitations and countless awful sequels such as Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver (yes, that’s on the US Netflix) and Surf Nazis Must Die as well as all the exploitive horror filled with nudity like Girls Gone Dead, Strippers vs Werewolves and 1313: Cougar Cult (yes, again, these films exist and most are on US Netflix if you feel like punishing yourself). Regardless, below are the recommendations split into two categories, the first which is “Highly Recommended” which should be read as “If You Haven’t Seen it Then Correct That Now”.

Highly Recommended


The Awakening (US)
Yeah, this British horror is unfortunately only on the US Netflix but is definitely something that’s worth a watch. It seems quite typical period horror where a paranormal debunker goes into a haunted orphanage to disprove the existence of a boy with a twisted face. It is atmospheric, having the colouring reflect the gothic nature with darkness and candlelight for the majority of the sequences at night. It’s well crafted by the director, the performance from Rebecca Hall is genuine and of course it’s scary.

Carrie (US/UK)
The remake is out soon in the UK and already is in America so why not familiarise yourself with Brian De Palma’s adaptation? Sissy Spacek plays the shy, suppressed girl who snaps after having her idyllic moment ruined by bullies. This film still is a classic horror because you care about Carrie, you feel for her and it’s horrible to see it all go wrong.

The Evil Dead (US)
Sam Raimi’s low-budget indie classic is available if you feel like catching up with the world of stop-motion gore and the Necronomicon’s ritualistic horror that birthed the cult favourite Bruce Campbell.

Evil Dead 2 (US)
This is, pretty much, a remake of The Evil Dead but still starring Bruce Campbell as Ash. It’s a reboot with more money but it has 2 in the title so it’s technically a sequel but it ignores what happens in the first really. Regardless, this is funny, gory fun that will tickle you then scare you.

The House of the Devil (US)
One of the best indie horrors to come out in recent years. This is Ti West’s best film so far in his career. It is an homage to all of the B-movies of yesteryears while feeling modern, rejuvenating and not at all stagnant. Never does it feel like a cheap rip off but a film of its own that tips its hats to the genre. Jocelin Donahue’s performance as the housesitter is greatly unnerving and it’s a true slow-burner in horror, using sound and silence to get that chill up your spine that will stay with you for weeks after the credits roll. Lights will remain on when walking around your house.

Identity (UK)
This is different to normal horrors and to normal paranoid thrillers that play on one person in a group in an isolated location being a murderer. James Mangold has created a horror film with an ending that many will roll their eyes at when in fact it’s a brilliant one. It stars John Cusack, Ray Liotta, John C. McGinley, John Hawkes, Amanda Peet and Clea DuVall who all don’t do it for the wage nor believe the film is beneath them, there’s an admiration for the work and it is achieved.

Let the Right One In (US)
Remade with Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee in 2010, this original one is a much more intimate take on it, not adding the police investigator that seems to be a standardised addition to the story. Tomas Alfredson focuses on the touching relationship between neighbours Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson), creating a haunting experience that is tragically beautiful and sometimes horrifying. It should be watched for the cinematography alone by Hoyte Van Hoytema – Christopher Nolan’s new DP for his next film Interstellar.

Maniac (US)
Released in the UK in January uncut (surprisingly), Franck Khalfoun’s remake surpasses the original because it makes Frank’s (Elijah Wood) character completely sympathetic. Instead of the usual distant monster that terrifies because of its inhumanity, this one is harrowing because of its humanity. His constant struggle with his life and himself leads to one the year’s scariest and goriest.

The Mist (UK)
Frank Darabont’s classic horror here focuses more on the horror of humanity than the horror of what’s outside. This film destroys souls. Created with a cynical view from the mind of Stephen King then adapted for the screen with an even more depressing view of life by Frank Darabont. Prepare to have a heavy heart, a heavy chest and a heavy hatred of humanity for a while after. This film causes side effects.

Pulse (Kairo) (US)
This Japanese horror is one of the more muted experiences that shows a slow inevitability and a supernatural epidemic that’s impossible to stop. Fear is achieved by having everything slow, inescapable, because curiosity really can kill. Kiyoshi Kurosawa has created something so atmospheric that even a walk is terrifying.

Scream Quadrilogy (US/First available in the UK too)
Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s postmodern deconstruction of the horror genre is an obvious classic and the sequels aren’t bad either though many would disagree. The first is obviously the best and managed to be funny, witty, tell us the rules outright then completely subvert them. Scream 2 has one of the most tense films ever and adds to it with the rules of sequels and so on for the other two. You cannot go wrong with any of them, including the underrated fourth which is the weakest but still worth a watch.

Sinister (UK)
Putting in a performance that cements the authenticity of the piece, Ethan Hawke manages to terrify us by playing a character that we like getting involved with. Not only that but it’s a character that reacts genuinely to the horror going on around him, reluctantly looking around an empty house at night and playing his fear with a credibility that makes everything more horrifying.

The Snowtown Murders (US)
Want to watch one of the most disturbing films ever? Go to this. The less you know about it the better.

The Strangers (UK)
A great home invasion horror that manages to get a real performance out of Liv Tyler – that should not go unnoticed. The cinematography is beautiful, the masks petrifying, the tension tangible. With the final shot of the film ruining a lot of its hard work, The Strangers is a work of creepy brilliance that plays with the couple as much as it does with the audience.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (US/UK)
Another good deconstruction horror, this focuses more on the comedy side of things rather than the horror. Tucker and Dale are mistaken as monsters who are about to go on a slashing spree on the teenagers who are staying up in the woods. They think – because of their horror knowledge – that if they get them first then there’s nothing to worry about it. What ensues is brilliant comedy which is directed really well by Eli Craig but the film’s funniest moments comes from the duo of Alan Tudyuk and Tyler Labine that really make this a necessary watch.

V/H/S (US/UK)
Found footage  anthology directed by a lot of upcoming filmmakers of horror makes this a bit muddled because of its anthology nature but really is a scary piece of cinema too. The shorts are well-constructed and are all vastly different meaning you’ll have several different nightmares that night. It can, for some, start off weak but the two final segments are especially effective.

V/H/S/2 (US)
They heard the criticisms of the first and completely understood by making this a sequel that builds up on the strengths of the predecessor. The Safe Haven segment directed by Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto is the best in it and stretches out to roughly 30 minutes but it’s an insane 30 minutes of everything going everywhere for the most chaotic and scary minutes of your life.

 

Recommended


The Bay (US/UK)
Barry Levin. Yes, Barry Levin. Yes, the guy that did Rain Man. Barry Levin was in charge of this found-footage and environmental horror that tells the story of a town which undergoes a huge problem. Told in a reconstruction of all of the footage that could be found from various different outlets – news crew, biological researchers, police car, CCTV – to create a scarily realistic problem but not one that’s necessarily scary-scary like others on this list.

The Cabin in the Woods (US/UK)
It’s not that huge of a subversion, it’s not really that gigantic of a game-changer, it’s not really anything that great but it’s worth a watch. Many disagree and it is adored so the addition comes more from its status rather than anything else.

Devil (US)
This horror film written by M. Night Shyamalan and Brian Nelson is underrated in all honesty. Pitting people against other in a lift is a pretty great idea and director John Erick Dowdle has fun playing around with the audience. When it goes black, there’s such dread of what will happen next. Tightly paced terror in a compact space and the characters are still interesting, creating full arcs in a few feet.

Drag Me to Hell (UK)
Throwback horror at its finest with a lot of people dismissing it for the most ludicrous of reasons. People who believe that plausibility in horror should only stretch too far have a hard time dealing with a single moment near the end of the film that lasts maybe 15 seconds but don’t let that detract you. There’s a great performance by Alison Lohman and, of course, plenty of horror to stop you from sleeping or trusting any old woman you see walking down the street.

The Faculty (US/UK)
Good fun with a sharp script, it channels and pays homage to plenty of great sci-fi beforehand – especially Invasion of the Body Snatchers which is spoken about here many times. There’s a great cast of famous people before they’re famous that makes this a good nostalgic film as well as thrilling one.

Grave Encounters (US)
Get past the first 20-30 minutes of annoying mockumentary presentation and you’ll find yourself involved in one of the more terrifying ideas of recent years by the Vicious Brothers. It’s a shame that the performances sully moments of a great idea that would improve to one of the best horror films of the past decade had it been performed well. Otherwise a great horror film.

Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer (US)
It’s based around the real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas and Michael Rooker puts in an unsettling yet thoughtful performance that can lead to tender moments before they’re ruined by his bloodlust.

A Horrible Way to Die (US/UK)
Not exactly the all out horror film that will terrify but more one that will instantly dampen your mood and prove how horrifying addiction is.

The Host (US)
A Korean film about a monster that appears from the river one day that makes a lot of comments on political, societal and environmental problems but it’s confused atmosphere ruins a lot of its hardwork. It loses a lot of it through poor music choices, a running time that’s too lengthy and a lack of suspense in a lot of the scenes that loses the audience.

The Innkeepers (US)
Empty hotel with a past of hauntings and two characters that have a great repertoire make this good fun but scary when it wants to be too. When it is empty around the frame, enveloped in darkness or lack of characters, there’s true terror looming over it but when it goes for it, it goes too far. Otherwise a fantastic film.

The Pact (US)
Our lead suffers from the problem of trying to be a strong female character when really that makes her insufferable to be around. There’s one fantastically tense scene but its status in the horror community was one that was hard to ignore.

Resident Evil (US)
Paul W.S. Anderson started strong and that is in no way a sarcastic statement about the man. This series started well but it fell apart in different ways in different films. Definitely worth a visit, it pays a few good enough tributes to the games while remaining an entertaining film.

Resident Evil: Extinction (UK)
The only worthwhile sequel in the tired franchise that shouldn’t have been, this actually makes the social and political commentary that games made for the first time in the franchise… and the last. Not only that, it’s scary again, creating something that isn’t awful but instead entertaining thankfully.

Stake Land (US)
Vampires are worn out if they’re not sparkling or sexualised but in this they’ve returned to them being carnivorous bastards that will destroy you. Jim Mickle pays more attention to the characters within the story but never fails to land the horror beats he aims for either. Thoughtful, clever work rather than an all out attack to the senses.