You know the drill. A couple of days ago I hit you with Chapter One of this unranked list of my favorite films from 2013. Now I’m back with Chapter Two. Whether or not this will serve as the conclusion to my list remains to be seen. I keep remembering titles I saw earlier in the year that demand inclusion, so we’ll see how it goes. Either way, here are some more movies from 2013 that you should put in your eyeballs. If you missed Chapter One of this list, you can reference it, here.
Artsplotation Films had a hell of a year, as far as I’m concerned. They gave us the gnarly Wither, the equally gnarly Hidden in the Woods and of course, the cerebral Toad Road. I hadn’t really heard word one about this film, until review copies started going out. After that, almost everyone I know that had received one was shitting their pants over it. I had always planned to watch it, but after that kind of reaction from so many different people that I trust, I had to get on it as soon as possible. I’m kind of a media format snob these days, so if something is released only to DVD, it’s a little harder to get me to watch it. Nevertheless, I dug it out of the home video graveyard that has become the corner of my living room, and sat down expecting to be wowed. Even with that expectation, which nine times out of ten will cause nothing but disappointment, I was blown away. I had a sneaking suspicion while watching the movie, that the drugs that they consumed on-screen were actually being consumed by the actors, and a quick breeze through the behind-the-scenes footage, as well as the commentary confirmed my suspicions. These people ate a bunch of acid, shrooms and other stuff, and went into the woods and the caves and filmed this creepy, drug-fueled film chasing a local urban legend, and the end result was fantastic. I can’t recommend high enough, seeking Toad Road out for yourself.
I enjoy William Lustig’s 1980 “slasher” Maniac for what it is. I don’t, however, consider it to be cinematic excellence, the way that most hipsters do. I had less of an emotional reaction when it was announced that not only was the film being remade, but Elijah Wood would be starring as the psycho killer, played by Joe Spinell in the original. One thing you’d know about Elijah, if you’d stop making silly Hobbit jokes for a second, is that he’s every bit as much of a genre fan as you and I. Possibly more so. Knowing that, I had nothing but confidence that this one would turn out to be something special, and it did. Directed by Frank Kalfoun and penned for the screen by Alxandre Aja, this remake managed to visit familiar territory, but also carve out its own niche as well. The film was presented in a Point-Of-View style, which has been useless in the past, but worked well towards the overall creepiness of the story, this time around. Wood was also fantastic as the killer, and the soundtrack is mind-blowing. If you skipped this one, due to some preconceived notions about remakes, you’ve done yourself a great disservice.
What, you thought because I chose Insidious: Chapter 2 as the superior film, that I wouldn’t include this creepy little ditty as one of the year’s highlights? I thought all year long, that James Wan’s The Conjuring would be THE film that would cause me to shit my pants in the theater that year. And while I was wrong, it’s still an extremely solid and creepy film. I just didn’t find it to be as scary as everyone had claimed. And I’m not one of these people that pretends not to be scared by movies that people claim had that type of impact on them. If you’ll read my reviews of Insidious 1 and 2, you’ll find that I admit that kind of thing quite freely. I just felt a little let down by the scare-factor of this one. Having said that, I can see how this could the the stuff of nightmares for some people out there, and it is an expertly crafted haunted house film, so it finds its way onto my list as well.
The Lords Of Salem
Another divisive film finds its way onto my list. There is a section of the horror community, that has dedicated so much of its time to tearing “popular” films and filmmakers down, that they think there was a shocking lack of solid genre fare this year. In reality, they just had their heads up their asses, and didn’t notice that we were bombarded with quality films almost all year long. Rob Zombie is one of the biggest names in this auto-hate list, that even his undeniably good films, such as The Devil’s Rejects garner so much public hate that you’d actually think the majority of people disliked them, and not just a big-ass-mouthed minority, which is the reality of the situation. The Lords Of Salem was divisive even among fans of zombie, because it wasn’t just another retread. Zombie opted to do something different this time, since he’s been saddled with studio films for a long-ass time. And what he chose to do was pay homage to some extremely talented, if not obscured-to-mainstream-eyes filmmakers such as Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch and even Stanley Kubrick, in telling a story not through the rules of the standard narrative, such as long and annoying scenes of exposition, but through striking visuals, and minimal dialog. For me, and for many others, it worked, and worked well. If it didn’t work for you, legitimately, then I’m sorry about your luck.
Welcome To The Punch
When I got the press release for the Blu-ray release of Welcome to the Punch, the only thing I knew about it was that it appeared to be some kind of action film, and that it starred James McAvoy and Mark Strong, both of which I am a fan. It took me by surprise, being that it was a quiet release from a smaller distribution label, that it turned out to be one of the best, most exciting action movies of the year. McAvoy is great, as always, but Mark Strong turns in a noteworthy performance as the “bad guy”, in this almost Sci-Fi, action epic. Welcome To The Punch is a nonstop hail of gunfire, that makes use of some familiar characteristics that made the films of John Woo, as well as the Matrix, as enjoyable as they were. Such as massive amounts of environmental damage and constant shrapnel flying in every direction. If you’re like me, and every now and then you just crave hyper gunfights, then you may want to give Welcome to the Punch a chance.
Lots of filmmakers claim to have made a love letter to the eighties horror that a lot of us grew up on, but so very few of them actually deliver on said promise. Bad Milo does not fit into that category. This is one of the best throwbacks to the little rubber monster movies of the eighties that I’ve ever seen. And, with a premise so absurd, it was shocking to me that it turned out to be such a quality flick. There are moments of honest-to-Jeebus emotion in this little movie about a demon that lives up inside of Ken Marino’s ass. If you read the description, and decided to pass because of the absurdity, perhaps go back and give it a try. I bet you’ll enjoy it, at least for the creature effects, if nothing else.
No One Lives
When I first saw the trailer for No One Lives at a screening of The Lords Of Salem that I had driven four hours to see, I immediately dismissed it. The first thing I saw, and the only thing that mattered to me was the WWE Films logo. I didn’t hate WWE’s previous attempt at horror, but I had just recently watched several direct-to-dvd sequels to some of their movies that were already terrible, such as The Marine 3. So, at that point, I had absolutely no interest. Once I learned a little bit about it though, like that it was directed by Ryûhei Kitamura, of The Midnight Meat Train and Versus fame, I started to become more and more interested. The kills and the gore were fantastic, and it’s unique spin on the slasher film made it even more enjoyable.
At the time that I saw it, I claimed that You’re Next was probably the best theatrically released horror film I had seen all year. Honestly, I think Insidious: Chapter 2 might have edged it out by a narrow margin, but that doesn’t mean that this wasn’t a titan of a flick. There was such a long wait for this film, which made it doubly hard to execute my policy of remaining as ignorant as possible about a film before I see it. I was familiar with, and a fan of the director, Adam Wingard’s previous film, and the trailer looked solid, once it finally made an appearance, and so I was sold. I did not, however, get exactly what I thought I would get from watching the trailer, which shouldn’t be shocking at this point in time, considering filmmakers are even filming additional footage now to advertise their movies, footage that doesn’t even make an appearance in the final product. Luckily, though, it was a positive surprise when You’re Next turned out to be more of a self-aware, sharp-witted, somewhat satirical movie, rather than a straightforward home invasion film. And that soundtrack? Yeah.
100 Bloody Acres
100 Bloody Acres was another film that came out of left field. There was pretty much no marketing, which is understandable for such a quiet release of a film like this, but you’d think they’d have more of a social media presence, considering that is this film’s audience. What I knew, was that it was an Aussie horror flick, of which I am a fan, and starred both Damon Herriman and Angus Sampson, so it was good enough for me. This one isn’t going to be for everyone, because it takes a while to get going, and people for some reason feel like slow-burning movies have to have this monumental pant-shitting finale, and 100 Bloody Acres is not that. What it is, though, is more than competently made and performed, quirky, and just entertaining. There isn’t a ton of bloodshed, but what does happen works really well. I can almost guarantee that a lot of you reading this right now have either skipped, or missed this film all together, so seek it out, and have a good time.
Curse of Chucky
This one is listworthy, because by the rules of movie making, it should have been unwatchable. A straight-to-video franchise sequel, many years after the last series entry? Recipe for disaster, that is. Instead of being unwatchable, Curse of Chucky turned out to be one of, if not THE best sequel in the entire series, What had become parody, was now scary again, perhaps even more so than it ever was. The one gripe is the few quick scenes of CGI Chucky, instead of it being 100 percent puppet work. It really is a small gripe, though, and it will only ruin the enjoyment of the film for those that had already decided to hate it, anyway. A followup has already been announced, so we can only hope that they will continue in this trend, and give us an even better sequel next time.
I had hoped t0 finish the year off with this one, but I’m going to have to do at least one more. I’ll probably get a list from some of the other guys, of their favorite Blu-Ray releases of the year, and put that out there, with links and such. Overall it was an exceptional year in the world of genre film. Now, let’s try to survive the January shit-dump, and hope for a great 2014 as well.