I’m old and have two young daughters. Before kids, I used to go to the movies at least two times a week. Now, I almost never head out to the theater to catch a first-run movie. I do, however, get to attend a couple of film festivals each year.
As a result, I get to see a lot of movies that many of you won’t see for a long time. Just think of these reviews as a primer for shit you should most definitely check out whenever you can.
Some of these films have since had theatrical runs; a few with limited runs, and some are available on DVD or Netflix. Most of these though have not seen the darkness of a theater outside of their film festival runs.
Do yourself a favor and track them down. You’ll be glad you did.
15. The Tall Man (Minds Eye Entertainment, March 12)
Jessica Biel, a ghostly dark figure that kidnaps children, and an elaborate conspiracy. What’s not to love about Pascual Laugier’s (Martyrs) latest creepfest? Nice twist ending, though it was somewhat predictable.
14. Excision (BXR Productions, January 21)
Definitely the most off-kilter mind trip of the bunch. AnnaLynne McCord does a first-rate acting job as a delusional surgeon-in-training. Lots of cool cameos as well from the likes of Traci Lords and John Waters.
13. The ABCs of Death (Drafthouse Films, September 22)
Twenty-six young horror directors were given $5000 and a letter in the alphabet and told to make a movie about death. I kept a running tally during the film — I liked 18 segments, was neutral on four, and disliked four of them. That’s an amazingly positive average for an anthology film. It’s raunchy, gory, and absurd. If you don’t like one segment, hang tight. Something new awaits and there is plenty here to like.
12. Antiviral (Rhombus Media, May 19)
Brandon Cronenberg takes up his father, director David Cronenberg’s early oeuvre of the “body horror” conceit, sterilizes it and, simultaneously, humanizes it to make it palatable for a 21st century audience. Though Antiviral moves at a snail’s pace, it is never boring. Instead, the laconic nature of the unfolding story is a doorway for the viewer to empathize with the lead character, despite all of the wrong-headed decisions he makes. When you can feel for a cynical, lying, disease thief you know the filmmaker has hit all the right marks.
11. My Amityville Horror (Lost Witness Pictures, July 22)
Most of My Amityville Horror is simply interviews with Danny Lutz, the stepson of “Amityville Horror” denizens George and Kathy Lutz. Danny was 10 years old when his family moved into the allegedly haunted house. These interviews are fascinating as they show a man who is very obviously tormented by something in his past and has never been able to let go of that pain and confusion. Whether that torment is a direct result of events that occurred more than 30 years ago in the infamous home or whether it comes from abuse, both mental and physical, from his stepfather, remains to be seen.
10. V/H/S (Magnet Releasing, January 22)
Yeah, this is a Bloody Disgusting product, but it was damn entertaining. A fresh face is surgically attached to a stale gimmick (“found footage”), with the best highlights coming from directors David Bruckner, mumblecore king Joe Swanberg, and the collective known as Radio Silence. A fun and frightening romp.
9. American Mary (Twisted Twins Productions, August 27)
Screenwriters, directors, and actors Jen and Sylvia Soska, the Twisted Twins, pull off a potent feminine perspective without the political overtones usually associated with that phrase. And they do it while wrapped in latex, blood, and black lace. American Mary is extremely sexy, yet equally repellant in its gore factor.
8. Saturday Morning Massacre (Arts and Labor Productions and Glasshouse Productions, June 16)
Scooby Doo done right. SMM takes the viewer on a truly funny and scary trip into a haunted mansion, only to end up somewhere much more visceral, lethal, and frightening. It culls from and pays respect to some of the best horror films of the past 40 years including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (and even TCM II), The Hills Have Eyes, Night Of The Demons, The Blair Witch Project, and Halloween. One hell of a horror film.
7. Here Comes The Devil (MPI Media Group, September 11)
Is it a story of demonic possession, child abuse, or is something even more sinister afoot? Director Adrián García Bogliano keeps you guessing throughout, even when you think you know where he’s going next. Throw in some nods to Lucio Fulci, Tex Watson, child endangerment not seen since the ’70s, finger banging cave analogies worthy of a Hitchcock flick, and a grindcore closing credits song that makes this an instant candidate for my Housecore Horror Film Festival in 2013.
6. The Pact (Preferred Content, January 20)
Easily, one of the biggest surprises of 2012. I had heard lots of mixed reviews of this one at Sundance, but those people are crazy. This is a simple tale, populated with realistic characters that make decisions real people would make. Subsequently, the scares here are earned and, man, are they creepy! Turn out the lights, crank up the volume, and be prepared for a sleepless night.
5. The Cabin In The Woods (Lionsgate, March 9)
What a shame this excellent film sat on the shelves for so long. Yes, it is a parody of horror films, but it is in and of itself, a legitimate horror film. It’s funny, gory, and works on a multitude of levels, some of them literal. Of course, I expect nothing less from the mind of the creator of “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER,” one of the smartest and funniest shows ever in the history of television.
4. Crave (Iron Helmet, September 22)
Utterly brilliant. Co-written by and starring Josh Lawton, this has everything I enjoy in a thriller: strong acting, dark humor, non-oppressive noir, gritty cinematography, and a great script. Lawton reminds me of an even more disheveled Matthew Perry crossed with Aaron Eckhardt. Think of an imperfect Dexter meets Walter Mitty and you start to get a sense of what his character is all about. He’s a bit of a wimpy guy who’s fed up and believes vigilantism may be the way to go. Only, he’s not very good at it…at first.
3. Sinister (Alliance Films, March 11)
Sinister is one of the best American horror films to be released in a number of years. Seriously, go see Sinister. And see it with as little information as possible. You will dig it. Just ignore the last 15 seconds…
2. The Conspiracy (Resolute Films and Entertainment, September 20)
For the first 55 minutes, this well-crafted conspiracy theory (natch!) film reels you into a web of potential intrigue and mystery. The final 30 minutes, however, turn into an outright horror film that will truly stress you out. This is an intelligent horror film that brings to mind the ending of Kill List, an overblown Alex Jones black helicopter doc minus the hokum, and a front row seat at a private fundraiser for Mitt Romney.
1. Room 237 (IFC Films, January 23)
Room 237 insanely dissects Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror masterpiece (or disaster, depending on whom you are speaking with), The Shining, as a parable of isolation, alcohol, and abuse but on at least nine different levels. Several people provide their own unique and sometimes silly interpretations of what they think was really going on inside The Overlook Hotel. These theories range from the annihilation of the American Indian to Kubrick’s fake shoot of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It’s a fun movie. It’s also whacked-out of its mind, brilliant, thought provoking, and not scary in the least.
Corey Mitchell is a best-selling author of several true crime books and is currently helping Philip H. Anselmo write his autobiography, MOUTH FOR WAR (Simon & Schuster, 2014).