I can’t believe 2012 is almost over. Partly because the year flew by, but mostly because not many films that came out truly left an impression. As horror fans, I think we’re in the same sort of position we were in at the tail-end of all the torture crap; we need a new movement. A new direction. A new something. Anything. We’ve gone through a few trends in the past few years (found footage, ghosts, and vampires to name a few), but nobody is doing anything interesting with them at the moment.
The reason I’m doing all this complaining as a preface for my Best Of list is because this is the first year since I’ve been writing for the site that I haven’t been able to come up with a Top Ten. Either I pulled a Rip Van Winkle and slept through the year or 2012 was a huge bummer. Below are my five favorite horror films of the year, along with a really fun honorable mention that just barely didn’t make it onto the list.
5. ParaNorman (August 17; Focus Features)
LAIKA’s work on ParaNorman is possibly the best stop-motion to date and shows a huge improvement in terms of fluidity and design over Coraline. The story isn’t revolutionary and there’s a lull or two in there, but it’s a fun – and very charming – family horror film with some really great jokes and nods.
4. Father’s Day (January 18; Troma)
Father’s Day delivers on everything that has defined Troma as a studio for the past 40 years: depravity, sex, violence, and blood. The Astron-6 collective pulls off the insanity of an eye-patched, maple syrup farmer chasing after a genital-eating killer named The Fuchman spectacularly, resulting in a film that would have been right at home on 80’s late night television – the commercial interruptions and faux advertisements are a wonderful touch. There are a lot of other things to appreciate about Father’s Day, like the stop-motion creatures and completely bonkers third act, but the balance struck between the dark violence and humor is the most impressive.
3. Lovely Molly (May 18; Image Entertainment)
Besides for the creepy setting of an old farm that looks both lived in and appropriately run down, Lodge’s great performance, and an atmosphere of dread that is sustained for its runtime, Lovely Molly’s biggest asset is that it presents a compelling argument for both sides of the “Is it real or all in her head?” question. For almost the entire film, Sanchez and co-writer Jamie Nash smartly fuel the fire with abandonment issues, drug addiction, the questionable nature of males in Molly’s life, and the house’s sordid past – a bunch of realistic reasons that would lead someone to become unhinged. By the end, the film veers off towards one viewpoint more than the other, but the finale is ambiguous enough to let viewers draw their own conclusion.
2. The Cabin in the Woods (April 13; Lionsgate)
The Cabin in the Woods is fun and has some strange, unpredictable moments, but it’s more clever than flat-out brilliant. Goddard and Whedon really complement each other and make the material approachable and enjoyable for those lacking extensive genre knowledge, a feat considering all the nods it contains – especially to one of the greatest authors of all time. The protagonists aren’t interesting ninety percent of the time and left me waiting for Jenkins and Whitford to continue their shtick, but it’s great to see a team willing to go that far out on a limb, be that weird, and succeed more often than not over the span of one narrative.
1. John Dies at the End (December 27; Magnet Releasing)
Delightfully weird is the best way to describe Don Coscarelli’s first film in almost ten years. John Dies at the End bravely sets its tone during the opening scene and doesn’t let up until the credits roll; it’s 100% committed to spinning a yarn about two guys high on a drug that lets them see monsters, travel to alternate dimensions, and have telephone conversions through a hot dog. Coscarelli handles the material’s humor and gonzo set pieces like the pro that he is and, with the exception of some wonky CG in the third act, it’s the only film this year that kept me completely immersed and entertained for its entirety and has a high rewatchability factor.
Honorable Mention: Grabbers (TBD; IFC Films)
Grabbers is basically Tremors set in a small Irish seaside village, but with more drunk people. If you have fond memories of graboids and wouldn’t mind a few extra laughs, then the tentacled grabbers should tickle your fancy.