My resolution for the upcoming year is to update my blog regularly. You're never gonna see long, rambling essays from me -- I don't write enough anyway, so time spent throwing word-count into a blog is better spent working on new stories and novels for you guys to read -- but I do need to update more often.
So what I'm gonna start doing are (very) brief reviews for stuff I've recently watched/read/listened to/etc. I'm gonna call 'em "150 Words About...", as each mini-review will clock in at exactly 150 words. Short n' sweet and sorta stream-of-consciousness.
To kick this off, I give you my Five Favorite Horror Films of 2013 list (unfortunately, I couldn't come up with a Top TEN list for the record, as I didn't see ten films this year that impressed me enough to call 'em favorites). Commentary on each entry abides by the "150 words" rule.
Please drop me a line or leave a Comment below telling me about your own picks. I would love to hear about your favorites of 2013!
#5: YOU’RE NEXT I ignored the hype for the longest time, assuming You’re Next was just another “home-invasion-by-people-in-spooky-masks” movie (and I’m so done with those). But after reading a number of extremely positive reviews from folks whose opinions I trust, I had to see it. While the film does fit into that home-invasion-etc. subgenre, director Adam Wingard and company were able to make it all feel original. One thing that really surprised me about You’re Next was the humor -- I never expected it to be so funny! It’s not a horror-comedy by any means, but a genuinely suspenseful film that finds its humor in the interactions between its characters and their snappy dialogue when things get tense. I dug the twists, too. You’re Next wasn’t perfect. Few films are. It was, however, a very pleasant surprise, and deserves a spot on my Favorites of 2013 list. I can admit I was wrong.
#4: BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO Filmed in 2012 but not widely available until 2013, Berberian Sound Studio is a film that I can’t recommend to everyone. Why? Well, it’s not really a horror film. But it is about giallo films. Toby Jones (The Mist) plays a sound designer who has been hired to fly to Italy to work on a movie called The Equestrian Vortex. While we never see said project ourselves (at least, no more than a few frames?), we hear it. And the things we hear make it very clear that our hero is working on what might be the most terrifying film ever made. So begins a downward spiral into insanity. Berberian Sound Studio is for those who are looking for something different. If nothing else, I guarantee you’ve never seen – or heard – anything like it. Oh, yeah . . . and I really wanna see The Equestrian Vortex, the nonexistent film-within-a-film.
#3: EVIL DEAD They said it couldn’t be done. I was skeptical too. But they pulled it off! Some fans complained about the lack of humor – that’s what I loved about it. Others claimed there was too much gore – that’s what I loved about it. A lot of folks lamented the absence of Ash – that’s what I really loved about it! Evil Dead 2013 did something different, while respecting its source material. I admit I do see more of its flaws every time I watch it, and I’ll probably never again love it as much as I did that first time in the theater – I saw it with my oldest friends in the world, and how we cackled at that last-second cameo! –but I still found it to be one of the better remakes of the last decade. I also found it . . . dare I say . . . friggin’ scary.
#2: MANIAC I was one of the few who didn’t scoff when I heard Alexandra Aja (Haute Tension, Piranha 3D) was producing a remake of William Lustig’s sleaze-classic Maniac. I enjoyed the original, but was never a huge fan. 2013’s update proved to be one hell of a gruesome yet oddly beautiful film. I knew lead Elijah Wood could be scary (his performance in Sin City is nightmare fuel, despite the fact that he never stopped smiling through the whole thing), but in this one he’s sympathetic too (sure, his character scalps women, but with mommy issues like this, it would have been a miracle for this dude to turn out any other way!). The first-person-POV was a unique, unsettling touch that puts the viewer in the killer’s mind/body without ever feeling “gimmicky”, and the soundtrack was one of the most haunting I’ve heard in years. Buy the Bluray, then the soundtrack.
#1: WE ARE WHAT WE ARE Jim Mickle’s (Mulberry Street, Stakeland) remake of the Spanish film Somos Lo Que Hay not only earns the top spot on my Favorites of 2013 list, it might just be my favorite American horror film since 2007’s The Mist. This one’s as much Southern Gothic as it is horror; it’s gory when it needs to be, but not to the degree you'd expect for a film about a family of cannibals (think Frailty in tone, more than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). A somber mood is established from the first frame, thanks to a never-ending rain that almost becomes a character in itself. Featuring another sublime performance from Michael Parks (From Dusk Till Dawn, Red State) as a medical examiner haunted by the disappearance of his daughter, We Are What We Are has me more excited than ever for Mickle’s next film, an adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s Cold In July.
BONUS: One that nearly made the list . . . watch for it in 2014:
OMNIVOROS This Spanish film reminded me of a story by one of my favorite writers, Graham Masterton’s “The Secret Shih Tan”. A food critic investigates “clandestine restaurants”, where rich patrons dine on exotic dishes not found on the menu at McDonald’s. But when his search for the ultimate taboo leads to a group of people who feast on human flesh, he’s forced to reconsider how far he’ll go to further his career. For a film about cannibalism, I admired how Omnivoros avoided the obvious trappings, i.e., splashing blood n’ guts around. While there are gory moments -- one involving boiling water and a straight-razor made me cringe, something that rarely happens to this jaded old horror nerd -- the story is structured like a mystery, so when the sick stuff happens it’s even more shocking. If you’re cool with subtitles, check it out (sometimes you have to warn people about that).