Monday, January 6, 2014

2013 Wrap Up: Year End Awards And 20 More Great Films From Last Year

2013 was a damn good year for horror, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.  Sure there as some real crap out in theaters, but this was probably the best year for major theatrical release horror we’ve had since I started the blog.  Of course, the indie scene gave us more than enough killer flicks to make 2013 a cause to celebrate.   I think it's only fair to recognize a few of those that brought me so much enjoyment.  Now, on to the first annual Son of Celluloid Year End Awards.

Best Non-Horror Flick – The World’s End 
The end of the Cornetto Trilogy has taken on horror and action, so they decided to go out on a sci-fi note  The flick definitely delivered the laughs albeit in a more mature way than Shaun or Fuzz.  This one hit a little close to home, but it was a blast.  The World’s End is everything you hoped it would be.
Runner Up: The Wolf Of Wall Street


Best Actor – Mike Nall as Charles Lake in I Am No One 
Director Jason Hoover tells me that Mike isn’t an actor by trade.  "He's just a dude that was willing to go to the edge with me.”  This character immersion technique worked like a charm though, ‘cause he’s genuinely scary.  He’s perfected that chilling “is he really calm or is he just coiled to strike?” delivery.  The finale of I Am No One is the best single scene from any indie flick this year.
Runners up: Lance Henriksen (It’s In The Blood), Sean Pertwee (The Seasoning House)

Best Actress – Rosie Day as Angel in The Seasoning House 
At only 19, Rosie shows the acting chops of a seasoned professional. See what I did there? Anyway, she burst onto the horror scene this year with an incredible pantomime performance as a deaf/mute girl forced to work in a sex-slave whorehouse.  She might just have the most expressive eyes I’ve ever seen.  Rosie has everything it takes to be a horror star.
Runners Up: Katherine Isabelle (American Mary), Ambyr Childers (We Are What We Are)

Hottest Actress – Hannah Hughes (V/H/S/2
 A pale, gothy redhead with sexy lips, pretty eyes, a nice rack, and a dirty mouth?  Yeah, that’s my type.  She’s totally worth dealing with those homicidal ghosts following her around.
Runners Up : Miriam Giovanelli in Dracula 3D, Jennifer Tilly (Curse of Chucky)

 Best Monster Design – Frankenstein’s Army 
Whether or not you dug this flick (and I can’t see how you couldn’t), you can’t deny that those mechanical zombie bastards are some cool ass monsters.  Finally someone found a way to incorporate steampunk into horror and it not suck.
Runners Up: Beatress (American Mary), Bad Milo (Bad Milo) 

Funniest Scene – “Put ‘em on the glass” – The Battery 
Poor Mickey is trapped in the car during a zombie attack, but as the busty zombie presses against the window, he can’t help but do what comes natural.  
Runner Up: “Wire catches arrow” (You’re Next) 

Best Quote – “I want you to f**k me on this bed next to your dead mother.” –  Wendy Glenn in You’re Next 
Kinky.  I like it.  
 Runner Up: “Can I stab her anywhere?” – Sasha Gray in Would You Rather

Best Kiss – Kiss of the Damned 
As a child of the MTV era, I believe that this has to be a category in any movie awards.  Anyway, I seem to be the only person who was highly disappointed with this flick, but there were a couple of cool shots and a kiss through the space of a chain locked door was my favorite.
Runner Up: “Wait ‘til Dad finds out” – We Are What We Are, Various girl on gorl makeouts – Embrace of the Vampire 

Best Sex Scene – Here Comes The Devil 
Felix lets his fingers do the walking as he and Sol breathily discuss their early sexual experiences in the car.  I ain’t gonna lie, that scene is hot as hell.
Runner Up: Emasculating a douchebag (Alyce)

Best Nude Scene – Riki Lindhome in Hell Baby 
There was some great onscreen nudity this year that went for the sexy, but my favorite scene went for the laughs.  Riki stands there naked for a good 3 minutes chit chatting and making her brother in law very uncomfortable in a hilarious scene.  I’d commend her for having the balls to do it, but, well…
Runners Up: Hannah Hughes (V/H/S/2), Asia Argento (Dracula 3D), Strip Club Scene in Cool As Hell
Best Performance By A Madagascar Hissing Cockroach – All Hallow’s Eve
 You should know that when a clown hands you flowers, there’s gonna be a surprise inside.  In this case, it was one of these little guys.  It’s always nice to see maddies in a flick.  Hopefully some of my babies will make it to the silver screen.
Runner Up: Dracula 3D

Best DVD/Blu-ray release – The Vincent Price Collection (Shout Factory) 
It’s nice to have the master’s work in hi-def, but the real selling point here is the extras.  Vintage intros and interviews team up with copious commentaries to make this the definitive versions of six Price classics.
Runner Up: Crystal Lake Memories (1428 Films)

Potential Icon Award – Art the Clown (All Hallow’s Eve) 
Coulrophobia is common, so this creepy clown could absolutely bring nightmares to the masses.  Whether it's more anthologies or a feature, he needs to come back.  I can see him on tshirts and being cosplayed (I hate that word) at horror cons.
Runner Up – Bad Milo (Bad Milo), Animal Mask Killers (You’re Next)

Best Soundtrack – Cool As Hell 
I think it’s safe to say that a James Balsamo movie is going to win in this category every year he makes one.  The theme song by the almighty Bloodsucking Zombies From Outer Space would clinch the win by itself, but the movie also features tunes by The Other, Nightmare Sonata, Order of the Fly, and Calabrese to name just a few.  The man has great taste in music.
Runners Up: Lords Of Salem, The Battery

And the big one, the most important award of the year…

Best Kill/Death Scene – Chainsaw Facef**k – Evil Dead 
If that isn’t already a Cannibal Corpse song title, they need to get right on that.  Evil Dead was a divisive movie among horror fans.  In fact, it seemed to split them right down the middle, just like a chainsaw would a deadite’s head.  The glorious splatterfest had a bevy of great kills, but this long, loving bisection (complete with a nod to Ash and a roaring fire in the background) got the theater cheering and applauding more than any other at the screening I went to.  Rarely have I seen my favorite power tool put to such good, and messy, use.  The saw is family. 
Runners Up: Knife through the cheek – The Seasoning House, Herschel’s Last Grin – The Walking Dead, Eyeball and Genital Mutilation – Play Me, Face Off – Maniac, Family Dinner – We Are What We Are, Nut Cracker – I Spit On Your Grave 2 

Ok, one more thing before we lay 2013 to rest.  Recently I read a couple of reviewers (the kind that get off on ripping stuff to shreds) say that they had a hard time even finding 10 good horror flicks from the last year to make a “best of” list.  I‘m calling bullshit.  On facebook I said that I could easily name 20 flicks I would recommend.  Well, I’ve decided that I can go one better.  You’ve already read my top 10 (HERE and HERE if you’ve been slacking), so here’s a list of 20 on top of that.  That’s 30 flicks from 2013 that I wholeheartedly recommend.  Take that you “I hate everything” jackasses.  Here we go… 

Frankenstein’s Army – A found footage WWII flick?  Yep, and it’s fun as hell.  The last half is like running through a haunted attraction. 

Evil Dead – Put your remake hate away for a minute and just enjoy the gory fun.  Blood, blood, and more blood! 

Lords of Salem – Rob Zombie’s hallucinatory nightmare divided viewers, but if you just give in and go for the ride, I think you’ll dig it.  It even gets better with repeated viewings. 

I Am No One – If you mixed the mechanics of Man Bites Dog with the atmosphere of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, the result would be I Am No One. 

Hidden in the Woods – Sleazy exploitation fun from Chile.  Blood, boobs, cannibalism, drugs, and chainsaws. 

Curse of Chucky – I know it’s heresy, but this just might be my favorite non-comedy Chucky flick.  Why this one didn’t hit theaters is beyond me. 

American Mary -  The Soska Sisters come out swinging with their sophomore effort.  It’s visually stunning and features a great performance from Katherine Isabelle.  

100 Bloody Acres – Keeping Australia on the genre film map with a great horror comedy. 

Gut – Killer indie flick with a great creep factor.  A man is getting snuff films in the mail… and starts recognizing the victims. 

Sightseers – Well written and well acted pitch black comedy from England.  When she agreed to go on a holiday with him, she didn’t know he was a killer. 

Contracted – A sexual encounter at a party leaves a young woman with a bizarre disease.  Nasty infection horror.  Good stuff… just ignore the last two minutes. 

Alyce – What would you do if your victim turned out to not be dead after all?  A nice descent into madness.  Most of my horror chick friends really dug this one. 

You’re Next – A lot of people touted the suspense.  Personally, I think it was one of the best comedies of the year. 

Dead Woman’s Hollow – Atmospheric backwoods/small town horror with some great performances and a killer finale. 

Cool As Hell – The prolific James Balsamo brings his usual gory, irreverent, cameo packed madness to this horror comedy.  Troma-esque in a good way.

The Collective Vol. 6 – Another great collection of themed shorts from Jabb Pictures featuring a short version of “I Am No One” and Brian Williams’ fantastic ‘Play Me.”  What scares the people who scare us? 

Stoker – Creepy thriller from the director who brought you Oldboy and Thirst.  Need I say more? 

Grabbers – Giant octopus monsters are attacking an Irish island and the only way to survive is to get wasted.  Hilarity ensues. 

Hell Baby - Comedy from the minds behind Reno 911 about the birth of the Antichrist.  Way better than it had any right to be. 

No One Lives – Refreshingly old school.  Dumb dialogue, but very little shaky cam, plenty of blood, a couple of nice twists, some creative violence, and even a little gratuitous nudity.

See?  A whole bunch of goodness for you to check out.  Now, on to 2014...

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Best Horror Flicks Of 2013 Part 2: The Top 5

STOP!  If you missed the first half of the countdown, go check it out HERE.

Before we get to the list, I have to address one thing.  My favorite movie I saw this year is not on this list.  I went back and forth over whether or not to include it, but in the end I decided that it wouldn’t really be fair.  In other words, everything is true. God’s an astronaut, Oz is over the rainbow, and Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut is far and away the best horror flick of 2013.  Russell Cherrington did a beautiful job taking the available materials and crafting something that is familiar to fans but offers an entirely new cinematic experience.  You can read MY REVIEW for more details.  I believe that once Scream Factory releases the restored version later this year, Nightbreed will no longer be considered just a cult classic, but one of the most visionary and epic horror films ever made.  The problem is, while it can be argued that it is a different movie, it is not a completely new movie and I felt that giving it the top spot wouldn’t be fair to the new horror of 2013.  Now that we’ve got that out of the way, on with the countdown…

5 – We Are What We Are

All of our families have quirks.  Secrets and traditions that would seem bizarre and even insane to the outside world, but seem normal to us because it’s all we’ve ever known.  Possibly the deepest seeded of these are based in faith. There are few more profound formative experiences than when someone who has been raised in a strict religious household discovers a schism between what they believe and what they’ve been told to believe.  This is the internal struggle at the heart of this tale of a mountain cannibal family, and man is it powerful.  Amid the slow build tension and well-timed moments of brutal bloodletting is a fascinating familial character study.  As well paced as the flick is, it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without the superb acting.  Bill Sage is effective as the domineering yet sincere father and Julia Gardner does well as the younger sister, but the real stunner is Ambyr Childers (who kinda reminds me of a young Patricia Arquette) as Rose.  Her performance as a girl trapped between family loyalty and a desire to be “normal” and find her own identity is perfectly layered and incredibly real.  This is smart, atmospheric, thought provoking horror that will stick with you.

4 – Would You Rather

An eccentric millionaire invites a bunch of broke hard luck cases to play a high stakes, sadistic game of “would you rather” for a chance at a new lease on life.  It’s a simple premise for a simple movie that’s simply awesome.  Most of the proceedings take place in a single room, giving it the feeling of a Grand Guignol theatre piece with the ensemble cast led by the legendary Jeffrey Combs.  I’ll watch him in anything, and he was particularly good here.  Some reviewers took the “pain game” motif and Combs’ occasional moralizing as an excuse to compare this to Saw (which it has no real similarity to) and trot out that tired, meaningless phrase “torture porn.”  If you are one of these reviewers, please find some other form of entertainment to write about because your understanding of horror is woefully lacking.  There is a streak of black humor running through this that keeps things fairly light outside of the most grisly moments.  Half of the fun comes from choosing which character you would be in the game.  Are you the “good guy who sacrifices himself” or the “better you than me” guy?  Maybe you’re the “I’m gonna enjoy this” greedy bitch.  Whether you read this one as an indictment of how easily people are bought in today’s culture (the “game” is a very small step from something one might see on reality TV) or just some sick kicks with one of horror’s most beloved actors, Would You Rather definitely deserves a lot more praise than it got.

3 – Antiviral

With his first feature, Brandon Cronenberg made the kind of flick that I wish his father still did.  Antiviral is a potent mix of bleak as hell body horror, sci-fi, and social commentary.  Anyone who says that they are completely comfortable with doctors and medical procedures is lying to you, and Cronenberg wields this universal fear with surgical precision.  Visually, the film is set in a clinical nightmare, all white tile and red smears.  It’s a perfect backdrop for our protagonist, played brilliantly by Caleb Landry Jones (in what, if there is any justice in the film industry, will be a star making role), sell injections, shoot up the diseases of the stars, and puke a little blood in.  The story may have a languid pace and occasionally lose focus, but the world that Cronenberg has constructed is fascinating enough to keep the viewer riveted.  It feels vaguely futuristic with its bizarre machinery, yet chillingly familiar in a “I can absolutely see society’s celebrity worship going this direction, and soon” way.  Brandon shows a lot of style, some great ideas, and a deft hand behind the camera.  Antiviral has me looking forward to what he has in store for us.

2 – Found

Throughout December I agonized over my top 10 list as I always do.  Finally, I had it all figured out.  Then I saw Found at the last minute and had to completely rearrange everything.  This coming of age tale of a bullied, horror obsessed kid and his serial killer brother absolutely blew my mind.  The last time I saw a movie successfully put this kind of raw emotion on screen was Aronofsky’s The Wrestler.  The last time I saw it achieved in a horror movie was, um… probably never.  Don’t let all of this talk about the emotionally affecting story give you the wrong idea though.  There’s hardcore depraved violence too.  It’s like coupling chocolate and cayenne to make both flavors more intense through the contrast and interplay.  One moment you’re feeling the pain of a kid losing a friend and the next someone is eating an eyeball.  What enables Found to get under your skin so easily is just how well drawn the characters are.  No one is a cliché and everyone is a shade of gray.  From the killer animated credits sequence to the final shot of the film (which is probably my favorite single horror moment of the year), Found has that perfect mixture of heart, guts, and balls that only the best horror cinema achieves.  After making the festival rounds throughout 2013, I sincerely hope that the flick gets a proper release because EVERYONE needs to see this one.

1 – The Seasoning House

When is an exploitation flick not just an exploitation flick?  When it’s a true work of art, that’s when.  The Seasoning House takes the old rape-revenge tropes, puts a twist on them, and tells the story so engagingly that it doesn’t feel sleazy and you don’t even miss the sleaze.  Angel, a young deaf/mute girl, is orphaned, taken captive, and sold to a slave brothel by the military somewhere in the Balkans.  Due to a birthmark (and the pimp’s affinity for her), she is spared “bed duty” and given the job of keeping the stock made up and doped up.  When she befriends a new arrival only to see her murdered by the very soldiers that took her, revenge and survival become violent necessities. 

The way the camera work and set design play off of each other is outstanding.  The cinematography takes a grungy whorehouse and turns it into hell on earth.  Long tracking shots, often from Angel’s vantage point, make the halls seem like endless corridors of torturous hopelessness.  Similarly, the way the crawlspaces and heating ducts she inhabits are shot make them seem like a vast, subterranean world.  The violence is brutal.  The rape scenes are ugly and impactful.  When it’s time to spill some blood, the gore effects look great.  The script is tight, clever, logical, and well paced.  With its relentlessly grim atmosphere and gut-wrenching plunge into the darkness of humanity, the temptation to go over the top had to have been great.  Luckily, just the right amount of restraint is used.  For example, when a little girl has to contend with a group of professional soldiers it could easily have devolved into “hardcore Home Alone” territory.  It is written intelligently enough, however, that the action is believable. 

The other thing that really makes this flick is the extraordinary acting.  Our pair of villains is top notch.  If you’re a genre cinema fan, or a cinema fan in general, I don’t need to sing Sean Pertwee’s praises to you.  Kevin Howarth, who plays the brooding scumbag that runs the house, shows a true understanding of acting with an eye towards the bigger picture.  The scenes he shared with Pertwee could have easily devolved into the two actors trying to “out evil” each other.  We’ve seen it a million times.  Howarth knows when to cower a little though, making “big bad” that much more menacing.  It’s akin to a great pro wrestler knowing when to get his licks in but knowing when to take a beating and let the other guy shine for the sake of the story.  The real breakout star is Rosie Day.  I had never seen her before (she’s mainly been on British TV), but she put in the best performance by any actress in a genre flick this year.  Her ability to combine the broken resignation of someone forced to do horrible things to survive with the innocence and sweetness of a child is heartbreaking.  It’s even more impressive considering she doesn’t say a word the entire time.  Portraying a complex character through pantomime is quite a feat, and she nails it.

All in all, this flick is a grimy, nasty, and exhilarating ride to hell and back.  Aside from the unnecessary use of new-school camera tricks during a chase scene, it’s damn near flawless.  First time director and long time makeup effects bad ass Paul Hyett has crafted a visceral masterpiece that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go until it decides that it’s done with you.  The Seasoning House carries my highest possible recommendation. 

We Are What We Are, Would You Rather, and Antiviral are available wherever DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

Found is available HERE, but quantities are limited, so hurry the hell up.
The Seasoning House is available from your friendly neighborhood online retailer.
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