End of year list of the best films of 2013
It’s that time of year again, where everyone draws up their best of lists, It’s been an interesting year overall, with certainly the festival circuit giving people a chance to catch some superb pieces of cinema, and I’ve managed to whittle my list down to 8 of the best along with some honourable mentions and also the worst film of the year. Here goes…….
MANIAC (Dir- Franck Khalfoun, USA 2012)
Going back to one of the earliest releases of the year and a film I originally saw at Frightfest 2012, this superb and fantastic remake of William Lustig’s 1980 sleazy horror classic, was brilliant in both technical department and in doing what remake’s should do most, in paying homage to the original all the while adding new depth and story to its own updated vision. Using the technique of filming from first person, the film update’s its story of a psycho stalking women and scalping them to present day Los Angeles. Elijah Wood (though not as good as Joe Spinell which would be difficult to top his performance anyway) is superb as Frank the mannequin store owner who develops a relationship with artist/photographer Anna (Nora Arnezeder), though his sanity and deep rooted desire to kill comes to the surface and the women are not safe when Frank is around. Surprisingly more violent and brutal than the original, the technique of seeing the murders from Frank’s viewpoint adds an uncomfortable voyeuristic edge to the film, and it works well and adds to the overall intensity of what is a brilliant remake.
YOU’RE NEXT (Dir- Adam Wingard, USA 2011)
Adam Wingard’s latest film, has been waiting for a release ever since it was picked up by Lionsgate after its premiere at Toronto’s International Film Festival in 2011, and it’s been a long wait. Rest assured the wait is worth it as this is a brilliant, darkly comic and brutal home invasion horror. The Davison family are gathering for the parent’s anniversary in their suitable large home, located in the country. It’s not long though until some uninvited guests draped in black boiler suits and sporting animal masks invade and start attacking and killing of family members and friends, though they haven’t counted on one of the guests having the ability to fight back, and be just as brutal as the attackers. This film has a superb high level of energy, dark comedy, brutal violence and intensity to warrant it as being a stand out and enjoyable fun thrill ride. Wingard, whose previous film A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE (2010) shows again why he is being touted as a genre talent to watch.
V/H/S 2 (Various directors, USA 2013)
Wingard pops up again in this sequel to the superb original which was only released back in 2012, and this time round this follow up goes full throttle, and is an even better, faster paced, shorter and superb. Wingard’s segment is enjoyable, though special mention should go to Eduardo Sanchez’s and Gregg Hale’s story which is a zombie invasion from the viewpoint of a recently turned victims helmet cam, also Jason Eisener’s fun Slumber Part Alien Abduction is a great segment, but its Gareth Huw Evans and Timo Tjahjanto’s A Safe Haven, that steals the show, where a documentary film crew profiling the leader of a doomsday cult, arrive at the wrong time, when the cult are about to carry out their final mass suicide and then all hell breaks loose, literally. A brilliantly bonkers, intense and entertaining entry into an otherwise excellent sequel.
THE ABC’S OF DEATH (Various directors, USA 2012)
Take 26 horror genre directors from around the world, give them a letter from the alphabet, and 5 minutes to create a short film revolving around the theme of death based around that letter given to them, and you get this mad, varying, and often superb collection of short films designed to both shock, disturb, and illuminate. The film overall works, in that I felt many people picked up on the varying degrees in quality of the short films, and how some where better than others, yet I feel that this is where the films strong point lies, in that you might get one part that seems slightly standard or not that interesting yet given another part that dazzles or excels in it’s bizarre and often twisted quality. It’s like a varying selection of the best and not so best combined, allowing you to see some genuine quality shorts. A great collection of short films.
ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Dir- Nicolas Winding Refn, DENMARK , THAILAND 2013)
Okay not really horror but Refn’s follow up to DRIVE, divided many critics into two camps of those who hated it and those who loved it. I loved it; though found it a confusing disturbing almost psychedelic journey into a neon lit criminal underworld. I think many people were expecting Drive part two, especially with Refn’s actor of choice from DRIVE, Ryan Gosling, in the lead role as a brother forced into a revenge plan by his mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), after his older brother is murdered partly at the hands of a Thai police detective Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), yet it’s deliberate incoherent and at times slow pace, combined with scenes of brutal and often shocking violence, that left many confused as to what they’ve seen. But this incoherent narrative added to the films neon drenched view of underworld hell and redemption, comprehended by some superb performances from Gosling, who plays an often at times weak younger sibling undermined by his bitchy cold hearted mother (a superb Thomas), and their eventual collision with the detective, Chang (again a superb performance from Pansringarm), who acts almost like a non-human force of vengeance, an angel of death almost, delving out justice to those who have done wrong. A confusing but visually superb film, that stays with you after you’ve seen it, it’s also a nice gesture from Refn to dedicate the film to the king of cult obscure flicks Alejandro Jodorowsky.
GRAVITY (Dir- Alfonso Cuaron, USA 2013)
Much has been made of Cuaron’s space set thriller, and one of the points made, is where should you see this and how, 2D or 3D? Normal 3D screen or IMAX 3D? I chose with IMAX and while I do still have doubts over 3D, and was hesitant at first at seeing this film in 3D, I was told by various friends that this was the way to see it. And yes it is. GRAVITY is designed for the IMAX format, and it works really well using the tale of astronauts stranded in space after a disaster leads to their space station headquarters being destroyed, to stunning and intense effect. Immersing you in the plight of Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), the 3D visuals work to the formats advantage and rather than being a distraction they become part of the story, creating some stunning scenes and adding to the overall intense impact of every oncoming collision and desperate moment of isolation and helplessness. A truly stunning and visually brilliant film, a lot of critics have been highlighting Bullock’s performance, and how it will put her in line for an Oscar next year, and while it’s a superbly acted role, I feel that the visuals and effects in the film are the star and it’s these category’s that If GRAVITY does not win in next year’s award ceremony would be a greater and far more deeper loss.
WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (Dir- Jim Mickle, USA 2013)
Viewed at Frightfest on August bank holiday weekend, Mickle’s latest is yet another remake that has made my best of list, as he takes the basic story of the original 2010 Mexican film and transposes it to rural small town America. It follows the same story template as the original, about a family who carry out a sinister and dark tradition that has been passed down through the ages, though changes various parts of the original to beneficial effect. Particularly with the mother character losing her life in the first part of the film, allowing the male patriarch to assume the leader role and the co-ordinator of the ritual and his two daughters to become the mothering element of the film, and to slowly realise the drastic and disturbing effect of the ritual they take part in. It also expands on the history of the family, something not done in the original, and usually I wouldn’t really like this added extra element, yet feel that this adds more depth and character to what is both a brilliant slice of American gothic horror and a superb remake, which I’m safe to say surpasses the original, and shows Mickle, who after the excellent MULBERRY STREET and STAKE LAND is fast becoming a superb director in the genre.
THE ACT OF KILLING (Dir- Joshua Oppenheimer, NORWAY, DENMARK, UK 2012)
Again another entry on my list which is non-horror and also non-fiction, yet being one of the most disturbing, surreal, insightful, yet uncomfortable documentary’s I’ve seen recently. Oppenheimer’s film follows a group of men, former gangsters, who were promoted to death squad leaders following a failed military coup in 1965, and the period proceeding that and the following year, took part in purging the country of communists, and tortured and killed in excess of 500,000 people. We follow in particular Anwar Congo, who has boasted that he killed 1,000 people alone. He and his friends boast of their actions, and rather than giving them on screen talking head interviews Oppenheimer, gives them the opportunity to re-create the interrogation and torture scenes through the visual use and look of various Hollywood genres, that Congo and his friends are fans of, such as musicals, westerns and gangster films. It’s this recreation through the act of staged artifice, and the realisation that what these guys are recreating, actually happened, that lends the film its uncomfortable and surreal edge. It’s only Congo, who starts to realise the pain he put his victims through and finds it uncomfortable, yet as Oppenheimer points out he was only acting and his victims would have suffered worse, leading the viewer to see the differences between reality and fiction which have allowed the former executioners to distance themselves from what they have committed. A truly remarkable and frankly disturbing documentary, this unnerved me a lot more than most horror films have recently, and it’s surreal often visually beautiful scenes, only adds to the uncomfortable edge of this film. An essential documentary and one I highly recommend.
BIG BAD WOLVES (Dirs- Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado, ISRAEL 2013)
A superb pitch black comic revenge thriller, already acclaimed by Tarantino as his best film of 2013.
STOKER (Dir- Chan Wook Park, USA 2013)
Park’s American debut, boasted the directors unique visual style, interwoven in this excellent tale of a very dysfunctional family.
ELYSIUM (Dir- Neil Blomkamp, USA 2013)
Okay not as good as Blomkamp’s DISTRICT NINE, this still boasted a fantastic visually designed exciting futuristic action sci-fi, which contained a decent dystopian socially aware story.
THE LORDS OF SALEM (Dir- Rob Zombie, USA 2012)
Rob Zombie’s latest, while featuring some scenes that bordered on the unintentionally camp/laughable, was still a well made and nicely paced demonic horror, with overtones of Polanski’s THE TENANT and ROSEMARY’S BABY combined, with a superb soundtrack, and it was much better than the god awful HALLOWEEN TWO remake he did from a few years ago.
DARK TOURIST (Dir- Suri Krihsnamma, USA 2012)
Viewed at Frightfest 2013, this dark and disturbing film follows a man who likes to go on holiday and visit the haunts and crime scenes of serial killers. Michael Cudlitz gives a superb central performance in a brilliant and haunting character study of one man’s disturbed mind cracking while on his equally disturbing vacation.
WORST FILM OF THE YEAR
TEXASCHAIN SAW MASSACRE 3D (Dir- John Luessenhop, USA 2013)
I did see this in 2D, so might lose brownie points on not experiencing it in 3D, but then even in 2D this film was an utter stinker and again another, un-deserved nail in the franchise. Please Hollywood, stop making this nonsense, if anything I will give the distributors credit as they knew that they had a stinker, and released this in the opening weekend of the year, without press screenings, allowing clueless cinema goers, to partake in the rip off 3D charge for the film, and allowing the distributors to pocket a $22 million opening weekend, from a $10 million budget film, until that is word of mouth and critical reviews spread out and people realise its rubbish, and then it dropped out of the charts, fast! Please take the cash and leave this franchise alone and as an example of the stupidity of this film check out this gaff from IMDB.COM……
“The film takes place in 2012. At the beginning of the film, Heather Miller is shown to have been a baby in 1973. This would make Heather at least 39 years old. However her character is obviously much younger than that (her actress Alexandra Daddario was only 26 years old at the time of filming).”