I’ve started and stopped, deleted, began from scratch, it must be a year end list. I let these things stress me out far more than I should. I have a real problem with ranking films. I feel as, every film I watch, even some bad ones, are enjoyed at different levels, for different reasons. It seems wrong to me to slap an arbitrary number next to it. How do I rank my enjoyment? Especially if it’s due to different factors? Well, the answer is, I don’t. I’m going to list for you, 10 films of 2011 that I feel should be seen. Please don’t take it as an extensive list, as there are still FAR too many flicks that were released at some capacity during the year that I gotten around to yet. Keep in mind that that there is no ranking involved. Movies are listed as they come to me, and will not be numbered. Feedback is always welcome. Feel free to critique my list, or my person in the comment section below. Share with us your list for the year if you would like. Hit us up on facebook or twitter, or if you have any suggestions or questions, shoot us an email at Contact@liberaldead.com.
Director Stevan Mena’s “Malevolence” was a divisional film. Some people loved it, some thought it borrowed far too heavily from slashers past. Personally, I was able to really enjoy it, while also being aware of its shortcomings. Many years later, the planned prequel has finally been unleashed, and the results are rather surprising. If I were to rank the films in this list, Bereavement would easily be number one. The performances, script, effects, the atmosphere, the score, hell, even the cinematography are pitch perfect. Mena has, in my opinion, has crafted what could easily be considered the absolute best horror film of the year. A grueling slow burn, followed by a brutally shocking final act, Bereavement delivers on all fronts. I’ll be waiting with baited breath for the third film in the trilogy.
I must admit, prior to a couple of months ago, I had never even heard of Some Guy Who Kills People. I was turned on to it by a friend, after voicing my love of the other horror/comedy on this list, Tucker and Dale VS. Evil. Written by Ryan Levin, directed by Jack Perez(Wild Things 2, Mega Shark VS. Giant Octopus), with executive producer John Landis, and an amazing cast of talent such as Kevin Corrigan, Barry Bostwick, and Karen Black, ‘Some Guy’ is possibly one of the most surprising films of the year for me. I expected a run of the mill horror/comedy, but was instead given a heartwarming, masterfully acted ensemble film, mixing elements of horror, drama, and comedy. Though the acting is phenomenal across the board, Kevin Corrigan turns in a particularly impressive performance as Ken Boyd. I’ve always been a fan of Corrigan, ever since seeing him on the short lived TV series, Grounded For Life, but I had no clue he was such a fine actor. I will watch anything he’s in, moving forward.
I’m sure this is going to appear on many people’s lists this year. I know of at least a couple TLD writers that have included it in theirs. Hobo With A Shotgun is not a horror film really, but it fits in with the genre well enough to be part of my list. In fact, I may end up listing a couple of films that aren’t horror at all. Since the cult success of Tarantino/Rodriguez’s Grindhouse, films made to resemble 70s exploitation have been all the rage. Sadly, most of them are absent any form of enjoyment. While I enjoyed Rodriguez’s “Machete” it’s more of a parody than an homage, much like his “Grindhouse” entry, Planet Terror. The main thing Hobo has that similar films lack, is that it feels genuine. It doesn’t feel like an over-the-top cash-in on a newly rebooted genre, it feels like a genuine homage to the era of film. From the look and feel, to the amazing soundtrack, Hobo succeeds where many others have failed. It’s gritty, yet fun, and it has enough gore to score a spot on my year end list.
Another one that will probably appear on most people’s list is Attack The Block, the fun loving, yet profane, and often times violent urban Sci-Fi romp through the London Ghettos. Sharing producers, and other various members of the crew behind Shaun of the Dead, Attack The Block had a following before it was even available to view. I’m also aware that even on this site, we have a review of the film from last year, but that was a festival viewing, and it wasn’t available to the masses until the middle of 2011. This was certainly one of my favorites of the year. It’s also one of the best adventure/sci-fi flicks to be released for a good long while. Despite its R rating, it has the heart you can compare to something of the likes of The Goonies, Ghostbusters, Flight of the Navigator, all of the great adventure movies a child of the eighties grew up on. The pacing is brilliant, its a nonstop thrill ride that only lingers long enough for the viewer to catch their breath, then it’s back on the coaster for the finale. I strongly recommend picking this up on Blu Ray, and perhaps even watching it with the whole family.
I didn’t know much about Tucker and Dale beyond what information I gathered from the poster. I assumed it was going to be an oldschool slasher homage, and little more. It could be great, or it could fall flat, like so many do. Boy, was I wrong? I mean, okay, it does pay homage to almost every facet of the slasher sub-genre, but in reality, it’s a beast of its own making. Instead of borrowing elements of films in the past, it takes the entire concept and flips it on its head. What if the psychopathic killers in the woods, slowly offing people one by one, were just having a really bad day? What if, in fact, they weren’t killers at all? Tucker and Dale is a far more clever film than I ever imagined it would be. It’s smart, funny, gory, and probably one of the best comedic horror films ever made.
Super is most definitely not a horror film. It’s also nothing like you would think, judging by the trailer. Written off early off by some as an indie Kick-Ass rip-off, Super is a more realistic(by comparison) depiction of what it would be like if an average citizen, decided to become a superhero. The extreme violence is not the only thing in this one that surprised me. I had no clue that this would turn out to be so heavy on drama. Rainn Wilson’s character, Frak D’Arbo is in emotional turmoil, and the pain he’s feeling is very aptly relayed to the viewer, due to both Wilson’s performance, and the writing of James Gunn. Kevin Bacon plays the sleazebag role so well that it’s almost fascinating. It definitely elevates the film to a higher level of enjoyment. Ellen Page also does a fantastic job at playing what, on the surface, appears to be every fanboy’s wet dream. This might not be enjoyed by everyone. If you’re looking for something lighthearted, this will definitely not fulfill that wish. As far as I’m concerned, though, it stands among the very best of the year.
Rich Wilson of TLD had this film on his list last year. That’s fine with me, as he was able to catch it at a festival viewing. The rest of us had to wait until IFC finally rolled it out to VOD, so it finds its self on MY list for 2011. This is quite possibly one of the only films I’ve ever given a perfect score to. This is one of the best vampire movies released in decades. I know you’ll say “Let the Right One In”, and yes, that was a fantastic movie. But, I don’t think the two can really be compared. Jim Mickle’s(Mullberry St.) apocalyptic vision of the mythical creature is just the kick in the ass that the genre needed. No sparkling vampires, no underlying sexuality, just pure chaos and brutality. The performances are strong, and the special effects are extremely convincing. It’s a vampire movie, it’s a road movie, it’s a post-apocalyptic coming of age tale. This may be a little heavy for those that enjoy the fluffier vampire lore, but for any horror fan, this is the real deal.
I know it’s not horror, or even loosely related, but I couldn’t make a best of the year list and not include Drive. Almost completely unfamiliar with Ryan Gosling’s line of work(Beyond The Notebook) I wasn’t sure what to expect from him. He won me over in a big way, and I hope he continues to pick challenging roles in the future. The soundtrack is just as much a star as Gosling is. So much synth, so little time. No soundtrack has honored the sounds of the 80s quite like Drive has. Witnessing the extreme violence to the tune of this dark 80s pop is quite possibly what makes it the amazing experience that it is. As I said, it’s definitely not a horror film, but it’s violent enough to appeal to fans of the genre. This isn’t Fast and Furious, so if you’re looking for a popcorn car flick similar in nature, look elsewhere. One of the absolute best non-horror flicks of the year, and highly recommended.
This was probably my most anticipated film of the year. This is also why I was afraid it would turn out to be garbage. I’m sure there are some out there that would disagree with me, some that write for this site even, but I thought Kevin Smith’s first trip down the darker side of filmmaking delivered on all fronts. Fred Phelps, and his family of hate mongers known as the Westboro Baptist Church, are as deserving of satire as any group on the planet. Smith does a great job at making sure everyone know that they were the basis for the concept, yet steers clear of directly mirroring them for his film. Launching vicious socio-political attacks against the church would have been the easiest route for Smith to take, yet instead, he goes out of his way to make sure none of the characters are depicted as “righteous”. It has a little bit of the dick and fart joke comedic elements that we’re used to from Kevin Smith, but this is a new breed of beast from the man behind Clerks and Mallrats. Smith caused controversy in the way that he chose to release the film, launching it through his SModcast network, but if it works out the way he described it, it will be a super positive thing for independent filmmakers.
I saved this one for last, because I know that a lot of you are going to disagree with me. If I’m going to piss you off with my list, I may as well leave a lasting impression, no? I was a fan of the first Human Centipede, but one of the main reasons I liked it, is because of the bait and switch. What promised to SURELY be the most disgusting movie of all time, left most of the nasty bits to our own perverted imagination. Some fans were not quite as amused with this fact as I was. So, in retaliation, director Tom Six set out to show these sick fucks the movie that they were begging him for all along. The funny thing is, now that he’s giving them a taste of what they were asking for, it’s suddenly “too much”. This is the most disgusting film released this year, by any account. If you thought the concept of someone being force fed feces from the anus their face was sewn to was disgusting, wait till you see it in all its gory detail. The fact that Six chose to film the sequel completely in black and white turned some fans off as well. For me, it worked, and worked well. It feels much more artful than the last entry into the series, and less like a cool concept hidden within a slasher rip-off.
There have been films released this year, that I greatly enjoyed, but just didn’t make the cut. I could very easily make a top 25 of the year, but I will not. Instead, I will share with you a few more films from 2011, that I feel were enjoyable enough to warrant a recommendation. Thanks for reading, and thanks for making this a wonderful year at The Liberal Dead. Here’s hoping next year is equally as awesome.
Up until very soon before the release of Scream 4, I didn’t care about its existence. I wasn’t the hugest fan of the first Scream film, let alone the sequels that follow. I’ve since revisited them on Blu Ray, and have a new found respect for Scream 2, at least(3 is still terrible), but this wasn’t until I was able to see Wes Craven’s latest entry into the series. I didn’t expect this to turn out to be as good as it was, and I suspect most people feel like that. It had a less than stellar run at the box office, flopping initially in its opening weekend, it went on to make its money back though, and a little bit of profit. Despite the negativity from the usual suspects surrounding the film, it was ultimately successful, and I think it’s safe to say we’ll see a future sequel/prequel/remake of some sort.
The Final Destination series is a not-so guilty pleasure for me. Even part 3, as terrible as it was, was entertaining. Then we get to Final Destination 4, or “THE” Final Destination, much to the dismay of physical media collectors spanning the globe. The Final Destination came in early on in this new obsession with 3D. After the shit-fest that that turned out to be, I didn’t have much hope for a fifth sequel. Little did I know that, not only would it be a good sequel, but possibly one of the best. At the very least, it was equally as good as Final Destination 2, which some people hold in higher regards than the first film in the franchise. I felt that they actually utilized the 3D gimmick properly this time around, and took the sequel in a clever direction that most people weren’t expecting. Overall, a solid genre franchise entry.
It seems that, other than the one idiot that was removed from the theater in a video that became very viral, more people seem to love The Woman than not. I had mixed feelings my first go through. I felt as though there was something that happened before we joined this characters, something detrimental to the plot, that we as an audience were not shown. I thought at first that it was because I hadn’t sat all the way through the awful “Offspring”, but something still wasn’t clear for me after revisiting that. It took a couple of repeat viewings, and a discussion on the podcast for me to realize that I was a huge fan of this movie, even if I still feel the same nagging confusion that I did before I came to this realization. It’s grueling, as can be expected from movies based on Jack Ketchum’s work, but it’s well worth the abuse you take as an audience. I’ve heard it has a pretty kick-ass soundtrack as well. Lucky McKee did a fantastic job with this movie, and my hope is that the two will team up again soon to bring us Off Season.
Now we’re getting into muddy territory. A lot of people have spewed forth copious amounts of vitriol in regards to this rehashing. Hell, I think I even gave it a fairly poor review score when I wrote up my initial review. I’ve since grown to love this little remake, and feel it was one of the funner wide releases of the year. Colin Farrell surprised me more than anything else. I always thought he was miscast, but he not only proved me wrong, he well exceeded everyone’s expectations of him with his performance of Jerry the vampire. I didn’t see this one in 3D, but to be honest, there really wasn’t a reason to. Aside from a couple of out of place “money shots” there was seemingly no reason for the 3D aspect of the film, other than an attempt to pad the box office stats. Which, as most of you are aware, was not a successful venture. Be that as it may, it’s a fun film that you should check for yourself.
Phase 7 was, as far as I’m concerned, the best of the Bloody Disgusting Selects series. Beyond “The Woman” of course, but that hadn’t even been picked up by the label at the time. Phase 7 is a quirky apocalyptic comedy from Argentina, that has one hell of a synthetic Carpenter’esque score. It’s not a zombie film, nor is it a film about surviving in a post apocalyptic wasteland. It’s a piece of film that studies characters, as they cope with the fact that the world around them is quickly coming to an end. It’s also extremely claustrophobic, due to the fact that it all takes place in one apartment building, save for the opening grocery store scene, which I find particularly brilliant. If you missed this when it ran in AMC theaters, it’s well worth the price of the DVD to check it out. Unfortunately, it’s not available on Blu Ray, as is true with most films from the BD selects series.
Here is where most of the hate is going to come from. I’ve lost “friends” because of this movie. People that truly couldn’t handle the fact that I disagreed with their bandwagon jumping. Yes, I am aware that it is possible for people to truly hate this film all on their own, but I can tell the difference between those people, and the people that just want to be ‘cool” just by the words they write. That being said, I enjoyed the hell out of this film, and felt it was crafted as the perfect companion piece for the original. In fact, I watched the original when I came home from the theater and it felt almost seamless, the transition. A lot of people have genuine disdain for the fact that they used any CG effects at all, but I felt they did a good job at blending CG with practical effects. This was solidified by the behind the scenes featurette I watched just recently, showing the monster creation of the film. It’s a great little movie, in my opinion, and gets far more hate from its detractors than it deserves.
This is my personal favorite “found footage” film of the year, though admittedly I skipped out on most of them due to a lack of interest. This film was released at a time where the political atmosphere of our country, particularly in regards to immigration was extremely hostile. Legislation, basically legalizing racial profiling was seriously on the table as a counter-measure to illegal immigration. Though Undocumented isn’t exactly a film about that concept, and more a horror movie based around that fear, it certainly made a political statement. If you like found footage movies, this would be one to seek out. It’s not obnoxious with gimmicks like most filims that fit inside of this genre, it uses the concept to it’s fullest potential. I’m actually fairly surprised that this didn’t go theatrical, because I feel that it would have appealed to a much wider audience than it gained during its VOD run.
Other worthy mentions include:
Insidious, A Horrible Way To Die, F, YellowBrickRoad, We Are What We Are.