If you missed the first part of this countdown, you can check it out HERE.
5. Cabin In The Woods
I’ll admit that I was kinda apprehensive going into this flick. I’m not much of a Joss Whedon fan, and the way the press were falling all over themselves to verbally blow the guy made me nervous. Luckily, this was the best thing to hit theaters this year. It was meta without being condescending. It was a flick by horror geeks for horror geeks. Whether I was playing “spot the reference,” laughing at the knowing parade of clichés, or applauding when those clichés were turned on their heads, Cabin In The Woods made me glad to be a horror fan. The fun factor even overcame the abominable CGI. I have a feeling that the orgy of gore (goregy?) featuring every horror monster you can think of will be the most freeze famed and slow motioned scene in any horror flick for years to come. With the homage’s coming so fast that repeated viewings are almost required, it’s like a cinematic equivalent of that “photo hunt” game we all get sucked into during slow nights at the bar. Not scary in the least, but it’s the most enjoyable self-referential horror send up since Behind the Mask.
By design, post-Romero zombie horror is horror of the masses. It’s fear on a pandemic scale. Abed does something I’ve never seen from a zombie flick; it takes the scope of the undead backdrop and scales it down to make something truly intimate and disturbing. Based on a story by Elizabeth Massie, this movie left the audience dumbfounded and maybe a little sickened at the Buried Alive film Festival, where it won Best Feature. I went into this one having never read the story, and I wasn’t prepared for where this was going. It’s pretty damn hardcore, but it’s done with a gravitas that makes it as mentally and emotionally extreme as it is visually and thematically. It’s a very personal terror, and director Ryan Leiske does a great job of making us share the protagonist’s torment. The zombie makeup looks fantastic. 50 Minutes is the perfect length for the story, but unfortunately it’s gonna make the flick a little hard to market. Therefore it might be a little tough to track down, but trust me, you owe it to yourself to see this one. Need more convincing? It’s got zombie sex. Yeah, I knew that would get you.
3. The Loved Ones
It feels like I waited to see this one forever. It’s been appearing on top 10 lists for a couple of years now, but it finally got a DVD release in America this year, and it was well worth the wait. This twisted flick is anchored by an amazing performance by Robin McLeavy as Lola. If I were doing acting awards this year, she would have Best Actress in the bag. There are so many elements that make this movie great in addition to my favorite villainess of the year, maybe even the decade. We see a lot of Mother/Son psychotic pairs, but here we have a Father/Daughter duo that’s a nice change of pace. The well played incestuous sexual tension between the two ratchets up the cringe factor. The violence is brutal and unflinching, the cinematography and art design are top notch, and the story offers up a couple of wicked twists. I have also rarely seen a film choose a song more aptly to weave into the narrative. It’s a nauseatingly cheesy tune, but it fits Lola perfectly and, in context, actually becomes pretty chilling. This Aussie flick is intense, darkly funny, and absolutely engrossing.
Excision is a coming of age film gone horribly wrong. Actually, it’s more like David Lynch and David Cronenberg taking turns brutally raping the memory of John Hughes while Alejandro Jodorowsky suggests positions. Like The Loved Ones, the flick features a tour de force performance from its female lead, AnnaLynne McCord. Hers is a complex character that will ring true for anyone who’s ever been the “weird kid” of their school. Surrounding her is one of those “Holy shit, who ISN’T in this flick” supporting casts full of genre vets. Veering back and forth between mundane suburbia and Pauline’s blood soaked masturbatory fantasies, this is body horror combined with a riveting character study, with both aspects laid bare and presented at their most raw. Alternately touching and disturbing, this movie succeeds on every conceivable visual, narrative, and performance level. It might not even be horror in the strictest sense, but this is genre filmmaking for people who don’t mind thinking. If Richard Bates Jr. can pull this off in his maiden voyage in the director’s chair, I can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us.
1. Where The Dead Go To Die
You don’t watch Where The Dead Go To Die. You experience it. I can honestly say that it’s like nothing else I’ve ever seen. It boggles my nearly unbogglable (yes, that is a word…now) mind every time I watch it. It’s what extreme cinema is all about. Some of the things that take place in this flick make Serbian Film seem like a Lifetime movie. Visually, it has some of the most bizarre imagery I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something. The animation is, at times, crude and glitchy, but that only adds to the off kilter mind f**k that this flick is. To some it may seem like shock value for shock value’s sake, but if you pay attention, there’s a lot of substance tucked between the brutality and perversion. Writer/director/damn-near-everything-else Jimmy ScreamerClauz managed to take the extreme subject matter and hallucinogenic visuals and weave them around an emotional core that will simultaneously tug at your heart strings and try it’s best to make you get reacquainted with whatever you last ate. The fact that a lot of the story deals with children takes the flick to some rather uncomfortable places. If you’re a sick freak like me though, there are some demented laughs to be had.
At times this film struck me as a combination of Heavy Metal, Cannibal Holocaust, The Girl Next Door, Holy Mountain, Peanuts, Gozu, and a 90’s Tool video. The word “nightmarish” is thrown around a lot in the horror world, but this might be the best cinematic representation of nightmare logic ever captured. You’re trapped in an otherworldly place where anything can happen at any time and you have no control at all. You don’t even know what rules apply. Everything seems not quite real, but real enough to hurt if the trip decides to turn bad.
This is definitely not a film I would recommend to everyone. Those whose tastes lie firmly in the mainstream and those with even slightly delicate sensibilities need not apply. If you’re into subversive art, unique “video fringe” oddities, and effectively realized films that will actually challenge you as a viewer, this one is for you. It manages to be mind blowing, gut wrenching, heart breaking, and soul shredding at the same time. You may love it, or you may hate it, but if you just sit back and let the flick work its depraved magic on your brain, I guarantee you that it’s impossible not to be affected by it. In other words, Where The Dead Go To Die punched me in places I didn’t think I had any more, and I love it when a film can touch me that way.
Cabin in the Woods, The Loved Ones, and Excision should all be available wherever you get your DVDs and Blu-rays. Keep an eye on the festival circuit for Abed and check out the film’s facebook page HERE. You can get Where The Dead Go To Die HERE or on Amazon.
Well, there ‘ya go Cellmates, my picks for the best that the horror movie scene had to offer in 2012. Do I have great taste? Would I not know good horror if it buried a machete in my face? Tell me what you think. Now, let’s see what kind of shocking places horror takes us in 2013.