Monday, January 28, 2019

Best of the Year: YEAR 10

Another year has passed here at the Doll's House, and tradition dictates that I spend it celebrating my favorite films covered here over the last round of the Acatemy Awards wall calendar.

What, you don't know about the best wall calendar to ever be bestowed amongst lowly human kind? You're welcome for making your world better...purrrfect, even.

Anyway, here it is:

onfused for a good movie, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a blast of ‘80s cheese, served up via bear traps and a leather jumpsuit by none other than a perfectly permed Linda Blair. Yes, it’s problematic, and yes, it doesn’t always make sense, but when you’ve got as stylish, sassy Blair shooting a crossbow at rapist bullies, what more do you really want?

At 36, I’m someone who falls just between the cracks of millennial and Generation X (which makes me what I like to call a Generation MilleXial). As a result, it’s a weird, weird experience to recognize the tics of a generation that is absolutely not mine. Bad Match plays like a more accomplished Lifetime original in its storyline (boy meets girl on hookup app, girl becomes obsessed with boy, boy’s life goes haywire, violence ensues) but feels so specific to the younger generation that I found it weirdly fascinating. It helps that lead actress Lili Simmons (also great in Bone Tomahawk and The Purge TV series) gives a genuinely interesting performance as a young woman who might not quite be what she appears to our (anti-) protagonist. Bad Match is hardly a new classic, but it’s a quick, focused little thriller that does its job well.

Mark Duplass returns to bring his uncomfortable energy to a new victim but this time, he’s found a far more interesting match. As a documentary filmmaker named Sara, real-life independent filmmaker Desiree Akhavan makes for a fascinating friend/foe to our complicated serial killer. Creep 2 unfortunately botches its ending, but for the first 78 minutes, it’s a quietly chilling ride well worth your time. 

Imagine George Romero’s The Crazies with even more crazy, and you come fairly close to David E. Durston’s gonzo gore-fest. When a gang of satan-worshipping hippies brings their LSD-infused violence upon a small town, a local boy decides to wreak his vengeance by poisoning their meat pies with rabies. Things go about as well as you’d expect, complete with an angry jazz score and ridiculously clean beheadings. A fun time for all!

There are few things greater than whatever the hell is living on Linda Blair’s head in this made-for-TV (BY WES CRAVEN) chiller. As a plucky farm girl whose happy existence is being destroyed by her mysterious cousin, Blair is almost as lovable as her gigantic curls. The movie is far from good or scary, but it’s so loaded with Blair (and for some added fun, Days of Our Lives’ MacDonald Carey and a baby Fran Drescher) that it sure is entertaining. 

On a personal note, this summer was not easy. Some family health issues hit hard and in a terrifying way, far scarier than anything in the movies on this list…especially the low budget, CGI-fueled The Sand. But you know what? When life is hard and the temperature high, sometimes the goofy horror fan in me wants nothing more ambitious than a gore-filled under-80 minute horror flick about, you got it, killer sand. The Sand is fast and dumb, and it gave me pure giddy enjoyment when I needed it most. I can’t imagine it made many—or any—best-of lists, but this movie was everything I wanted with the added bonus of, you know, killer sand. 

I didn’t expect much from a rather randomly timed sequel to 2008’s The Strangers, particularly since I was underwhelmed by director Johannes Robert’ 47 Meters Down. What a pleasant surprise it was to have Prey At Night bring such pronounced style to its rather simple home (or in this case, trailer park) invasion. There’s some efficient storytelling in laying out our protagonists’ family woes, but the movie wastes no time in sending in our memorable trio of masked sadists. Smart production design and photography goes a long way in imprinting the film with its own unique cinematic language. 

liked Proxy so much that within two weeks of seeing it, I rewatched it to talk more about it on my podcast. Director Zack Parker had wowed me a few years earlier with Scalene, and Proxy shares a similar DNA mixed with ambiguous morality. To say almost anything about the plot is a spoiler, so take that as your marching orders to head to Hulu and give it a watch. It won’t make you feel great about the world, but it will feel like a worthy challenge.

You know zombies have reached new levels of acceptance when Glen Close shows up. Adapting his own (very good) novel, screenwriter Mike Carey and director Colm McCarthy’s The Girl With All the Gifts brings a fresh take on the fairly tired genre with a new mythology and more importantly, a whole lot of heart. As the titular character, Sennia Nanua gives an incredibly charming performance that pulls you deep into a story you’ve seen told time and time again. With actors like Close and Gemma Arterton Pertwee rounding the cast, TGWAtG was certainly on a higher playing field than your typical straight-to-streaming undead flick, but the entire film rises with its parts to be smart, scary, and oddly moving. 

Rape revenge is so much more satisfying when served by a shape-shifting robot. Steel and Lace is a gloriously bonkers tale of vengeance dished by a sexy blond can shred, decapitate, and shoot lasers at those who wronged her creator’s departed sister. Director Ernest Farino is my new hero, and Amazon Prime, my new eden.

Fueled by Kickstarter, Viet Ngyuyen’s Crush the Skull is the perfect example of how heart and enthusiasm can more than compensate for a lack of funds. This horror comedy treads no new ground, but its game (and refreshingly diverse) cast demonstrates such smart and unique comic timing that you won’t even care that you’ve seen the story told dozens of times with more blood and budget. Yes, it gets bonus points for hitting many of my personal sweet spots (kind protagonists, a Step Up 2 reference) but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that this is indeed something special. 

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