Like my worst-of list, my best-of compilation was really easy to put together. There was quite a bit I liked this year and, unfortunately, six of the films below haven’t been released stateside yet – The Divide and Kill List are around the corner, though. Every year, I toy with the idea of not including unreleased films because it leaves little room for discussion once it’s posted, but in the end, I just wouldn’t be happy with the list- for purely selfish reasons, it’s a little easier to do it like this since I wouldn’t have to hold off on (and possibly forget to use since I saw it so long ago) films like The Loved Ones, which I used last year.
Out of the thirteen films on this list (including three honorable mentions), more than half are foreign, six are performed in a foreign language (seven if you count hood slang), one received a perfect score from me, and zero are remakes, sequels, reboots, or prequels.
It does everything Scream 4 does, but better and with a time-traveling bear.
Atmospherically shot by frequent collaborator Pablo Rosso, Sleep Tight shows a lot of growth for Balaguero, who up until now had a terrible track record for solo efforts. Marini’s script might be built upon a simple, familiar premise but the characterization is excellent, giving Tosar the ammunition needed to create one hell of a creepy villain.
Sean Durkin’s Polanski-ish tale of reintegration, family and paranoia is an intelligent slow-burn with a great vague ending. Elizabeth Olsen is fantastic as the confused and mentally-unbalanced Martha, whose reality bounces back and forth from the disturbing memories she has of living in a commune, and being under the care and supervision of her older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson). The way the film functions, leaping from dreams and memories to “reality” is well done, and the relationships Martha has with her Lucy – who functions as her sister and mother – and Patrick (John Hawkes), a smooth talking cult leader who brainwashed her with a false sense of security and belonging, are intense and give way to some memorable intimate moments.
I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am for The Wicker Tree next year, but Kill List definitely left my folksy, religious horror appetite satisfied in the meantime. Ben Wheatley’s follow-up to Down Terrace boasts incredibly intense performances by stars Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley, and features a doozy of an ending that will unhinge even the most hardened of genre fans.
The Divide is a terrifying and bleak vision of the future whose performances and images will stick with you for days after you watch it. Xavier Gens’ direction and Laurent Barès cinematography create a moody, claustrophobic atmosphere that never feels stale despite its closed-quarters setting. The tone is vile and the characters devolve into sickening states of being (Ventimiglia and Eklund are really fantastic at being gross cavemen), but the reality-based approach to Gens’ end of days is enough to make it the best apocalyptic tale this year.
Home invasion films traditionally don’t leave you feeling good after the credits start rolling, even if there’s some sort of resolution. We like to think we’re safe in our homes, so the scenario is bleak, frightening, and kind of joyless, but You’re Next takes that expectancy and throws it out the window. Writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard managed to make a bunch of guys laying siege to a house feel fresh, all thanks to some great humor and wit.
Livid is a haunted house movie about a bunch of kids that try to rob the wrong woman and it functions in that sense; it’s just that everything else has a very lucid quality to it. Rooms appear and disappear out of thin air, ghosts show up in one scene and never make their presence known again, and things that have no business being in the same movie are thrown together, but the concoction of del Toro, William Castle, Hammer, and European splatter rationale is surprisingly solid.
Pedro Almodovar skillfully throws in everything and the kitchen sink in his perverse take on Georges Franju’s controversial Eyes Without A Face without it self-combusting. Intelligent and provocative, The Skin I Live In is a beautiful, funny, weird, and shocking experiment done right.
The transition of Attack The Block‘s anti-heroes into traditional heroes is well done, the humor is spot on, and the creature design is creative and nifty. Joe Cornish’s script does a great job at reinvigorating the “kids fuck stuff up” genre, but it also gives a dose of heavy – and interesting – commentary when Moses thinks out loud about the government corruption; it’s hard out there and nobody’s making it easier. That’s one introspective kid.
Kim Jee-Woon is one of the best directors of the last decade, creating noteworthy films like A Tale Of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life and The Good, The Bad, The Weird, so it should come as no surprise that I Saw The Devil is an incredible serial killer opus that is without a single boring moment. Lee Byung-hun and Choi Min-sik give compelling performances as two men consumed with revenge anger and the story is as thrilling as they come, but if there’s one thing that stuck out to me, it’s the mind-blowing (and sure to be iconic) in-car fight sequence.
If you ever wondered what the really bizarre Japanese cousin of Fargo was like, Cold Fish is for you.
TrollHunter‘s tone isn’t quite straight-faced and isn’t super silly, striking a balance between the faux-realism set up by the cinema verite style and rules, and the low-budget CGI and parody of bureaucracy – a topic not explored this well since Brazil. Adding that extra layer of playfulness with the Jurassic Park references is only the icing on the cake.
Melancholia isn’t quite the rush that Anti-Christ was (there’s no “Chaos Reigns” equivalent to be found), but it is a great companion piece, continuing von Trier’s exploration of depression. Some people found Melancholia to be uplifting and a beacon of hope, but Kirsten Dunst sells her chronic condition so well that I fell into this daze afterwards. It’s a powerful performance, and easily her best since Virgin Suicides.