As you can imagine, I watch a lot of horror movies, and having to choose my favorite films of the year was a righteous challenge. It’s a rare occurrence to sit through a movie and feel completely fulfilled. But it’s the great films that make my job so worthwhile. Taking the time to reflect on my favorite films of 2012 allowed me to appreciate just how wonderful horror can be. It made me proud to be a part of this community.
My list is a true melting pot, gathering studio films and indie films alike in order to showcase that good horror comes in all shapes and sizes. In fact, my top film of the year is probably the one with the lowest budget.
I had a tough time ranking my top five picks; I switched the order countless times before I finally conceded. It came down to a simple question, “Which movie stuck in my mind throughout the year above all others?”
10. The Revenant (August 24; Lionsgate)
I saw The Revenant a few years back at a festival, and I waited years for its release. I loved it then, and I love it now. In a post Shaun of the Dead world, it’s become increasingly difficult to make an original zombie comedy that doesn’t feel trite. The Revenant is nothing if not unique, while still supplying the incessantly gory mayhem one would expect from a zombie comedy. Director and writer, D. Kerry Prior throws in some sly social commentary, the full extent of which are realized in the final few minutes of the film. With cunning dialogue and mildly offensive slapstick humor, The Revenant has cult hit written all over it.
9. Kill List (January 4; IFC Midnight)
One of my principle interests is Surrealist culture and the corresponding art movement. Unless you’re David Lynch, the ideals of surrealism are tough to incorporate into non-art-house cinema. EnterKill List, a slow burn that builds as dark crime thriller until it suddenly spins into horrifying, absurd story of mental breakdowns and cultist sacrifice. Some will fault the film for it’s non-sequitur nature, but taken as a dream-like, surreal experiment in horror, this is one of the most original viewing experiences of the year. Kill List is a serious British film that is best taken not too seriously.
8. Antiviral (TIFF 2012)
Despite his best efforts, Brandon Cronenberg will inevitably be compared to his father. With his feature debut, Brandon delivers a flick as compelling as any of his dear old dad’s early work. Body horror is making a comeback, and it’s films like this that display the potential of the subgenre in modern society. Antiviral focuses on the horror of our current pop-culture obsessed world with its striking imagery and a hyperbolized plot. The social commentary may be surface-level, but it is executed in a way that forces you to think about how terrifying celebrity culture can be. This is an incredible directorial debut, marking the age of a new Cronenberg.
7. Citadel (October 26; Cinedigm Entertainment Group)
A lot of storytellers swear by the words “write what you know,” and that’s exactly what Irish director Ciaran Foy does with Citadel. This is a deeply personal story about the constant nuisances and difficulties that arise from living with severe agoraphobia. Foy suffered from anxiety disorder in his past, and Citadel is a disturbing look into that time in his life. This is a profoundly emotional film that aims to scare without any fancy tricks, gimmicks, or crazy twists. With a pervasively eerie mood, Foy’s Citadel is a solid, straight-up horror flick.
6. American Mary (TBD, XLerator; Toronto After Dark)
The Soska Twins’ American Mary smashed festivals in the latter half of 2012. Seamlessly blending together elements of body horror, rape-revenge, and slasher flicks, American Mary exudes charm, whit, and passion. Jen and Sylvia Soska weave an intelligent twist on the final girl trope, creating a seductive monster of a heroine. These ladies know their horror and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
5. My Amityville Horror (Fantasia 2012)
I imagine the majority of BD readers have stumbled upon one of the countless Amityville films, most of which are trash. It’s another case of a fascinating real world event that has become the unfortunate subject of cheap entertainment. Eric Walter’s documentary My Amityville Horror takes a new spin on the infamous events of the “possessed” house through a series of interviews with Daniel Lutz, the eldest child of the Lutz family. This doc is not only exquisitely shot, but it delves into Lutz’ mind in an effort to uncover past ghosts. My Amityville Horror is a gripping, sometimes terrifying, journey into a deeply disturbed mind.
4. The Loved Ones (June 1; Paramount Pictures)
Torture porn has lost a lot of steam in recent years, really earning its reputation as a tawdry class of cinema. With The Loved Ones, director Sean Byrne uses the foundations torture porn as a tool to enhance an already solid story. Bryne even manages to throw in a quirky, unexpected twist in the third act that doesn’t feel contrived. Brutal, grotesque, but utterly brazen, The Loved Ones is the highest caliber of horror.
3. Prometheus (June 8; 20th Century Fox)
Whether you agree or disagree, I believe that this pseudo-Alien prequel will go down as a touchstone of sci-fi horror cinema (give it a decade or two). From the breathtaking otherworldly landscapes, to the calculated use of practical and special effects, Ridley Scott successfully builds upon one of the most respected franchises in film history. In an age where viewers seek innovation, Prometheus assumes ample risks to avoid echoing the original series. While it may not be the blockbuster you expected, it’s an incredible achievement, and it’s one hell of a good sci-fi movie.
2. The Cabin In The Woods (April 13; Lionsgate)
2012 was not a good year for wide-release horror, but somehow, out of the chaos came the absolute gem that is The Cabin in the Woods. Penned by fanboy favorite, Joss Whedon, Cabin took critics and audiences by storm with its charming tongue-in-cheek humor and larger-than-life ambition. This is a film that not only caters to longtime genre fans, but also, and perhaps more importantly, it appeals to a new audience, proving that horror is more than just cheap thrills. The Cabin in the Woods has all the ingredients of a great horror movie: laughs, scares, and a big old heart.
1. Resolution (January, Tribeca Film; Fantasia 2012)
When I saw this film at Fantasia Film Festival, I knew it would be a contender for my top film of the year. The director duo of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead take an ingenious idea and follow through with it – on a shoestring budget no less – to create a film that is as imaginative as it is haunting. Resolution is a brilliant atmospheric journey packed with plenty of creepiness. These are two guys who are not afraid to travel into uncharted territory. Resolution is the ideal indie horror movie.
V/H/S (October 5; Magnet)
Yes, I write for Bloody-Disgusting, but in all honesty, I love this movie. I have a strange fascination with handled cam movies, and unfortunately the subgenre is becoming burdened with uninspired filmmaking. V/H/S shows there is still life to be found in shaky cam films. While not all the segments were amazing, the concept was fiercely fun and I’m really looking forward to what the team can do with S-V/H/S.
The Hole (September 28; Bold Films)
Family horror is a lost genre, which is really sad because it’s films like Gremlins and shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark? that got me into horror when I was young. Joe Dante makes his much awaited return to the genre he helped pioneer with The Hole. From the pitch-perfect portrayal of brotherly love, to the horrors of suburban life, Joe Dante has the genre down pat. The Hole is the kind of film I would have begged my parents to rent every Friday at the video store.