Well it’s that time of year again, end of year/best of list time! If you’ve been reading this site – or Blogomatic3000 – for a while now you’ll know my tastes are generally a little different from the more mainstream sites and so my Top 10′s are too! And whilst there have been plenty of “worthy” titles to get cinephiles excited, I’ve been finding a wealth of movie gold in the direct to DVD market (my cinematic home).
The usual disclaimers apply to this Top 10 – this is a list of my favourite films of the year, the films that got me excited and the ones that remained with me after the credits rolled…
1) Odd Thomas
Official Synopsis: In a California desert town, a short-order cook with clairvoyant abilities encounters a mysterious man with a link to dark, threatening forces.
I Said: Led by Anton Yelchin, whose barnstorming performance as Odd rivals his show-stopping titular role in Charlie Bartlett (Yelchin also provides the films very noir-ish narration, as he did in that film), the movie is very reminiscent of last years John Dies at the End in so much as it perfectly mixes action, quirky humour and the supernatural in a film that will not appeal to everyone yet undoubtedly please fans of offbeat horror flicks. Much like the aforementioned John Dies at the End, Odd Thomas looks set for a rocky road to finding its audience, especially given the films $35 million marketing budget has been the subject of legal wrangles. But hopefully, like all good films do, audiences will find what I know to be, without a doubt, one of the best films I’ve seen all year. Full Review
Official Synopsis: Mercy Callo is a U.S. Black Ops soldier who finds himself the only survivor of a botched prisoner extraction mission. Forced to fight his way out of a maximum-security Chechen prison, he must keep his target alive in order to save thousands of lives.
I Said: Featuring some of the best fight sequences ever in an American production, Extraction‘s action feels all too real – no doubt because the film features real stuntmen and real martial artists’ performances for once. There’s no CG-enhanced fights, no stunt doubles, just pure fighting skill and some stunning choreography which showcases the participants and their abilities not the skills of the editor! Dare I say it, but with Extraction Tony Giglio has made America’s answer to The Raid [and] proven he’s easily up there with the likes of Tony Scott, Andrew Davis and John McTiernan as one of America’ best action movie writer/directors and deserves to have more than just DTV fans know it. Full Review
3) Bounty Killer
Official Synopsis: It’s been 20 years since the corporations took over the world’s governments. Their thirst for power and profits led to the corporate wars, a fierce global battle that laid waste to society as we know it. Born from the ash, the Council of Nine rose as a new law and order for this dark age. To avenge the corporations’ reckless destruction, the Council issues death warrants for all white collar criminals. Their hunter’s – the BOUNTY KILLER.
I Said: I can’t praise Bounty Killer enough. It manages to create a cohesive universe, tell a great story, be a hell of a lot of fun and at the same time is a superb satiristic diatribe against corporate greed. It’s the kind of spaghetti-western meets post-apocalyptic, grindhouse-style flick that Quentin Tarantino wishes he could make. The type of film the Machete series should be, out Robert Rodriguez-ing even Robert Rodriguez! Honestly, there hasn’t been a B-movie exploitation flick that has captured my attention this much since From Dusk Till Dawn. Full Review
Official Synopsis: Thanatomorphose is an hellenic word meaning the visible signs of an organism’s decomposition caused by death. One day, a young and beautiful girl a wakes up and finds her flesh rotting.
I Said: [The film] clearly wears its influenced on its sleeve – it is a strange and claustrophobic tale of sexuality, horror and bodily fluids that recalls the best of David Cronenberg (Rabid, Shivers, The Fly) and Jorg Buttgereit (Nekromantik), with echoes of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion in the isolated madness of Falardeau’s protagonist, all the while harkening back to the sex and death body horror of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. This is not a film for everyone that’s for sure, but for those looking for something more intelligent, whilst at that same time a little more extreme, Thanatomorphose is hard to beat. Haunting, disturbing and stunning… Full Review
Official Synopsis: A group of elite soldiers sent to infiltrate and extract the lead science team from Pine Gap, Australia’s top secret underground military compound, after it comes under attack from unknown forces. The mission is compromised when they encounter a young woman with no memory of who she is or how she came to be there. As they try to escape, the group quickly discovers all is not as it seems and the facility has become a testing ground for something far more sinister
I Said: On first glance it looks like the film is a solid homage to the aforementioned Aliens, but come the films final thirty minutes you realise its something altogether different. In fact the film shares a lot in common with a whole heap of genre flicks including, surprisingly, Brian De Palma’s The Fury and David Cronenberg’s Scanners. But unlike many derivative genre flicks, which would typically be called out for being “rip-offs”, the commonalities and influences here only help to cement the idea that this film is the work true fan-turned-filmmaker than someone looking to make a quick buck. In lesser hands this “scientists run amok” tale could have been a complete mess but instead, not only is Crawlspace a great claustrophobic sci-fi horror, it also marks a return to form for Ozploitation cinema. Here’s hoping Dix sticks to directing more genre flicks in future… I know I’ll be watching. Full Review
6) El Gringo
Official Synopsis: A man crossing into Mexico with a satchel of $2,000,000, and a bloody past, finds himself under sudden attack in the sleepy town of El Fronteras.
I Said: I’ve not had as much fun watching a spaghetti western EVER and director Eduardo Rodriguez could really teach Tarantino a thing or two. OK, so Django Unchained may be a period piece and El Gringo is a neo-Western, but its clear from watching the film that Rodriguez knows what made the original Italian westerns so great and amps that up to eleven. With a frenetic pace and only a brief let up in action so Adkins can get his leg over – who wouldn’t want a chance to have sex with the gorgeous Anna, played in an incredibly sultry style by the gorgeous Yvette Yates (easily rivalling Salma Hayek for sheer sexiness)? – the film is the definition of balls-to-the-wall action and once again (like Undisputed 3, Ninja and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning) only serves to cement what I’ve said all along: Scott Adkins is one of the best action stars working today. Easily pissing over Mel Gibson’s recently, and similarly-themed, flick (which itself was known as Get the Gringo outside the UK) El Gringo is, in my opinion, an unmissable film for action movie fans and is without a doubt one of the best action movies I’ve seen this year. Full Review
Official Synopsis: A troubled Catholic priest, Father James, finds his faith crushed when a young girl he promises to protect commits suicide. Months after her death, he is forced to return to his old parish and to the scene of her suicide, a derelict mansion house. Trapped in the house overnight James becomes convinced that he is being haunted by the ghosts of the girl and her dead Stepfather, risen from the grave to seek a blood retribution for the awful tragedy that he allowed to take place.
I Said: I can’t say it enough, Heretic is really powerful film making and not just in terms of it’s genre content – that’s not to say the films horror trappings should be forgotten, Father Pallister is one hell of an angel of vengeance after all – it’s right up there with William Friedkin’s more famous Catholic horror. However come the conclusion I’m left wondering if Handford has an issue with organised religion as, when all’s said and done, the film is a damning indictment of the Catholic church and it’s trust wholly in god/sin-and-repent confessional “policy” – we no longer live in such a black and white society, shades of grey penetrate our lives on a daily basis, as the film clearly shows, and the church is increasingly out of step. That above all is the message I took from Heretic. Full Review
8) Kill ‘Em All
Official Synopsis: Captured international assassins are locked up inside a high-tech bunker known as the Killing Chamber. To break out of this concrete hell they must duel each other, fight deadly ninjas and battle against gangs of masked maniacs. And… if they survive this, they will have to confront Snakehead: the lethal, deranged top dog who will stop at nothing to kill ‘em all!
I Said: [The film] starts off as it means to go on, with plenty of arse-kicking action. Right from the get-go we see the assassins at work, taking care of the usual business (i.e. killing plenty of people) before being grabbed. From then on out the pace heightens and never lets up once. We’re privy to fight after fight after fight in the killing chamber as the villainous Snakehead forces his captives to go head to head against each other – and when his plan goes awry and the three surviving assassins escape there are shades of both Game of Death and The Raid about the film’s structure as the three surviving assassins proceed level to level, room to room taking on a cadre of ninjas (yes, ninjas), a huge army of masked thugs and a couple of Snakehead’s henchmen. Sans plot but with plenty of arse-kicking action to make up for it, Kill ‘Em All is a brilliant action flick that – if you’re a fan of the genre – should be front and centre on your must-see list. Full Review
Official Synopsis: Five university friends gather at a house party to ring in the New Year. Unbeknownst to them, an epidemic has erupted outside, causing outbreaks around the world.
I Said: Starting as it means to go on, with a dramatic webcam-captured murder, the film builds from what starts out as a typical “teens-in-peril” flick to a freakish body-horror – complete with trepanning and strange arterial growths that look like they could have stepped out of an 80s Cronenbergian horror. All of this is wrapped around a stunning performance from first-timer Michelle Mylett as Sam, whose path from timid teen to final girl is a joy to watch; and her final scenes – as she walks the streets, axe in hand, to take on the reanimated virus infected dead – just made me itch for a sequel. Bring on “Sam the Zombie Slayer” I say! I’ve said it before, and no doubt I’ll say it again but, even with the smallest of budgets, it seems Canada can produce great horror – no matter the subject – and this is yet another example of a Canadian horror that hits all the right notes. From the great cast, to the inspired techno score (from another first-timer, Steph Copeland), to some superb stylistic camera choices which seamlessly blends webcam footage, news reel and traditional filming techniques, I loved every minute of Antisocial. Full Review
Official Synopsis: The mid-70′s: a timid young New Yorker leads an uneventful life until he is fatefully exposed to the pulsating rhythms of a brand-new genre of music: disco. Unable to control his murderous impulses that stem from a traumatic childhood experience, Duane Lewis transforms into a dangerous serial killer exiled to Montreal.
I Said: The film itself is an homage to the slasher movies of the decade, complete with some utterly ridiculous and utterly beautiful gore. There are decapitations, death by 7″ record, stabbings and a fall from a building that results in what can only be described as a gooey mess – all created by FX man Remy Couture who you may remember was charged with, and later cleared of, violating Canadian obscenity laws back in 2012. But this is more than just a slasher movie, there are nods to films of the era (such as one of Gauthier’s favourite films Taxi Driver) and I also saw shades of the 70s European “schoolgirls in peril” genre that proliferated exploitation cinema in that era. Discopath is also a fun, if somewhat cheesy (can’t you say that about most 80s slasher movies) movie in its own right. Full Review
Honourable mentions: Death Race 3, Cannon Fodder, This is the End, The Bay, Dragon, Black Rock, Hammer of the Gods, Zombie Hunter. Plus: John Dies at the End, Citadel, The Seasoning House, Silent Night – four films which made their home entertainment debuts this year, but I saw them first in 2012.