If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
This year marks the second I’ve taken to posting a top ten,
and while for the most part, the ranking is fairly arbitrary (there are only
one or two films on this list I really hold above the others), lists such as
these are useful in that it’s often surprising and invigorating to dig through
the past twelve months and realize just how many films I was excited, moved and
“Challenged” or “challenging” seem to be my key word(s) this
year, as some of the bangers below really put their audience to the test;
engaging, shocking, provoking and really pushing you to reflect just how you
feel about the goings on. What also has my proverbial fist in the air about this
past year is the spectrum covered, both in the variety of films and the span of
I’m happy to believe it was a good year. It was difficult to
get this list down and even in its trimming, Magnolia Pictures still wound up
distributing four of the titles, so good on them for continuing to bring great
international and independent genre titles stateside.
Here it is (the * indicates that the film is currently on Netflix Instant):
10. HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (Dir. Jason Eisener)*
HOBO is such a perfect combination of insanity, savagery,
wonderful filmmaking and pure love, it’s dizzying. There’s an aesthetic and
tone that’s easily compared, and to which the homage is easily discovered, but
the film still feels wholly born of its director, Jason Eisener. It’s simply the
best to be spawned from GRINDHOUSE, and that’s mainly because it goes harder
than any of the others, is crafted better than the others and is so clearly a
batshit vision of its captain and his crew, and the stunningly dedicated
performance of Rutger Hauer. To put it a bit more clearly, here’s the last
paragraph of my theatrical review:
It sounds odd to throw the word “sweet” into the mix, but
there’s no doubt HOBO ends excitedly, more amped-up than downtrodden and, as
aforementioned, pulls together nicely with the inclusion of “Run With Us.” The
song not only speaks to the general tone of everything that has come before it,
but its relative obscurity speaks to Eisener’s specific, fully realized vision.
It’s a touch that only could’ve come from a director, or writer, who was dying
to see it used, and adds a personal flourish that, among many others in the
film, raises HOBO above just an amalgamation of influences into a wild and
9. DREAM HOME (Dir. Ho-Cheung Pang)*
While slashers offer good, old fashioned fun, it’s always been
a bit disconcerting that the villain became our audience surrogate, egging on
ridiculous and elaborate deaths of our peers. And truth be told, no, DREAM
HOME, Hong Kong’s foray into slasherdom doesn’t subvert that, but it is sort of
brilliant in that instead of just enjoying our pro/antagonist’s spree for
carnage-sake, it gives us a reason to care why she’s doing it. And it works! An
honest-to-god emotional connection is forged even as Chang-Lei Sheung (Josie Ho) gets down
to some truly repulsive business (many of the kills are of over-the-top, but
one will likely leave a bad taste). Add to that the fact that this whole affair
is quite timely (the lengths we all must go to, to live our lives in a
downtrodden economy), and you get a slick tale well told, or a truly bloody,
smart, blackly funny film completely worthy of your attention and time.
8. THE SKIN I LIVE IN (Dir. Pedro Almodovar)
Bringing his stunning, vibrant visual style to some
seriously dark places, Pedro Almodovar crafted an impeccable, elegant film
around a weird, seedy mad scientist tale; one that should be experienced with
only a crumb of knowledge. Like other films on this list, and thanks to the
great work by Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya, THE SKIN I LIVE IN does an
incredible job manipulating your empathy. Sometimes, the most frustrating and
admirable thing about a horror film is its way to tap into your own understanding
of some heinous acts and in Almodovar’s latest, every side has a story.
7. MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (Dir. Sean Durkin) / WE NEED TO
TAK ABOUT KEVIN (Dir. Lynne Ramsay)
Deservedly winning art house acclaim and Oscar talk, both
MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN are quiet, understated
and show stopping and devastating all at once, with each film presenting exceptional
takes on separate subgenres.
MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, as you may well know, is the tale
of the titular young lady (Elizabeth Olsen) and the aftermath of her time in a
cult. Durkin’s first feature is stunningly assured, from composition to his
dream-like editing in which Martha’s realities bleed together seamlessly, like
a magic trick you want to watch over and over. It’s all terrifying and tense,
and ultimately (and probably most horrifying) believable.
Also dealing in aftermath, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
follows Tilda Swinton as she attempts to live her life in the wake of her son’s
school shooting. Interspersed are segments of her life with Kevin and the motherly
love she never exactly felt, and the games he played from the start. A serious
air of dread hangs over KEVIN as if it’s an evil kid film that doesn’t climax
when the child is eight years old. Instead, he continues growing, learning and
harvesting more apathy and murderous contempt towards his family and those
around him. Swinton is expectedly excellent, as is the impossibly model-esque
Ezra Miller as Kevin (who actually played Robert in the similarly unsettling
AFTERSCHOOL, produced by MARTHA director Sean Durkin).
MARTHA is still in select theaters, while KEVIN receives a
bigger limited release than its Oscar qualifying run on January 13.
6. THE INNKEEPERS (Dir. Ti West)
Ti West is killing it. He made Satanism work in HOUSE OF THE
DEVIL and this year, has written and directed one of the best horror/comedies in
a very long time. THE INNKEEPERS is heartbreakingly funny, a term appropriate
when you see just how sheerly enjoyable its lead characters and their
misadventures (a direct result of Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) are for most of
its running time, right up until things get deadly serious. And when they do,
it’s a truly creepy affair. It’s delightful, old-fashioned and what’s best, a real
THE INNKEEPERS is on VOD December 30, get ordering. My
5. INSIDIOUS (Dir. James Wan)*
If INSIDIOUS had contained just the scare in which a
lingering ghost paces outside Rose Byrne’s window only to suddenly be inside,
it would be on this list. Instead, it continued to be a barrage of similar
moments in which for the first time in a long while, I was legitimately scared.
Like THE INNKEEPERS, it’s old fashioned, pure fun with moments that will garner
plenty of replay value in the coming years, and practically ensures there will
be no tiptoe-ing through any tulips, anytime soon.
4. THE LAST CIRCUS (dir. Alex de la Iglesia)* / I SAW THE
DEVIL (Dir. Kim Ji-woon)*
It may be cheating to throw in another tie, but both THE
LAST CIRCUS and I SAW THE DEVIL were such striking does of grand, operatic
horror cinema, it’d be criminal for me to leave either off.
THE LAST CIRCUS truly blew my mind. Deeply political and
filled to the brim with the melodramatic heights of Universal Monster Movies, I’m
calling back to what I previously wrote about it in my review:
THE LAST CIRCUS is, on its own an engrossing horror story,
but its true triumph is working through the very real angst and concern within
the horror. It feels like a film that genre was created for. In a stunning,
fantastical, over-the-top exploration of extreme frustration in political
unrest, Iglesia has created something intelligent, wholly captivating, bizarre
and frightening. It's one of the best films you'll see this year.
Meanwhile, I SAW THE DEVIL is the definition of challenging.
At an epic length, the film repeatedly kicks you in the gut, and forces you to
confront the justifiable evils of revenge, just how justifiable they are and how
long they can continue to be. Its thematic concerns are only amplified by the
virtuoso work on display from Woon. Easily his masterpiece, the film’s set pieces
and tangents are terrific bursts of ultra violence that really must be seen.
3. ATTACK THE BLOCK (Dir. Joe Cornish)
I love this film to no end.
Like HOBO and INSIDIOUS, you can surely see its influences,
but Cornish’s own heart, intent and overwhelming talent eclipses such small
concerns and serve to make a film that is through-and-through 100% great. In my
review, I called it a revelation, and it is nothing less than so. The danger is
real, the aliens are ferocious and most importantly, Moses and co. are amazing,
well-rounded characters to root for. If you haven’t seen ATTACK THE BLOCK yet,
2. BLACK DEATH (Dir. Chris Smith)*
Chris Smith has one of the most impressive trajectories of
any working genre filmmaker. His films have consistently improved until this
year, with BLACK DEATH, he presented his first really great work. A gruff tale
about the shittiness of religion, blind faith and the hatred it spurns, BLACK
DEATH is a horrific tragedy that only gets better/hits harder with each
1. KILL LIST (Dir. Ben Wheatley)
While all films on this list have been released in the U.S.,
KILL LIST hasn’t just yet. However, its VOD date is only a week away (on
January 4) and truthfully, nothing affected me quite like it this year. Ben
Wheatley’s second film, and first venture into horror, is a true hellish
journey that encompasses the harsh realities of life (tension of the current
financial climate, a taut marriage), black comedy and its ultimate endgame,
which won’t be spoiled here, but truly feels evil. Every component of KILL LIST
is on fire, and ever since SXSW this past March, I can’t wait for it to reach a
larger U.S. audience.
I beg of you to see KILL LIST. For many, that means VOD, but
that’s a-ok. It will shake you, nevertheless. My Review
Jorge Michel Grau’s WE ARE WHAT WE ARE was a wonderful, and
yes, challenging look at a poverty-stricken family of cannibals in Mexico. It’s
really well-crafted, and quite underrated. (My review)
I was also genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed both
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 and FINAL DESTINATION 5. Both played their formulas to a
T, and both added fun tweaks and ultra-memorable moments.
As far as non-horror goes, I found DRIVE, MELANCHOLIA, HANNA
and TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY all astounding.
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment