Monday, January 27, 2020

Best of the Year!

As is tradition, we celebrate the anniversary of this blog (ELEVEN YEARS DAMNIT!) by looking back at my favorite movies covered over the last year. 

Let the countdown begin!

9. Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things
Less a good movie and far more a weird one, SAMDDT (seriously, I can only write that title out so many times) is a bizarre crime story of sorts that has more on its mind than its cheap execution allows it to really explore. It's an odd film to end up on any "best" list, but I found it just so darn odd that I feel the need to do everything I can to get more eyes on it. Certainly a weak recommend, but when you'll understand when you finally experience the weirdness that is (deep breath) Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things.

8. Invaders From Mars

While not quite on par with some of the '50s more lasting science fiction like Them! or Invasion of the Body Snatchers, William Cameron Menzies' alien thriller does manage to create some uniquely artistic visuals. There's plenty of gee whiz! action, adults not believing children, secret government action, and of course, quickly costumed Martians in body suits and face paint. When you think you've seen it all before (you have before and after, in many ways), just look behind the actors to the glorious art deco set design. It's something. 

I've never been coy about my deep, deep love of extreme Lifetime thrillers. While Scorned wasn't made for that network, it was clearly inspired by the type of Angry Woman thrillers Lifetime has long wrought. The brave, goes to eleven AnnaLynne McCord plays this genre's most dangerous type of villain: a mentally ill woman off her meds and on a rampage to take vengeance on her cheating boyfriend (PLAYED BY BILLY ZANE NO LESS) and disloyal best friend. It doesn't exactly rewrite women's rights, but McCord's commitment is a thing of true beauty.

Always my favorite of the Pretty Little Liars, Ashley Benson proves that, despite what countless found footage horror films would like you to believe, it is indeed possible to create an incredibly likable, relatable protagonist. In Ratter, Benson plays a pleasant young grad student who for reasons we never know, has attracted the intense fixation of an unseen obsessive hacker who's tapped into all of her devices to watch her every move. What writer/director Branden Kramer understands so well is just how cruel and invasive stalking is. We see the the light in Benson's eyes dim as she slowly comes to the realization that her life is no longer hers. I don't have any real desire to ever rewatch Ratter, but it'd be a crime not to recommend it. 

When you've spent a good chunk of your 37 years on this planet consuming horror films, it's always an exciting day when you discover there are still over-the-top '80s slashers you haven't seen. Blood Rage is gleeful in its gory Thanksgiving bloodfest, with a prime dose of blousy alcoholics, irresponsible babysitting, and severed body parts that just don't stop moving. What's not to love? 

If you're going to make a rape revenge flick, you darn well better make Coralie Fargeat's Revenge. A simple, oft-told tale told the right way, Revenge is a gorgeously shot hunt that follows a resourceful wronged woman as she takes down the men who abused her. With a horrifically sun-scorched desert setting, Fargeat's unrelenting thriller does what it needs to do with the right blend of brutality and empowerment. 

I've spoken to many other film fans who found Radio Silence's Ready or Not a bit too cruel, which I can fully understand and respect. That aside, Samara Weaving is a genuine treasure, and watching her face off against old money armed mostly with antiquated weapons and her extreme pluck is a delight. The glorious Nicky Guadagni adds an iconic touch as the wonderfully bitter Aunt Helene. The fact that a movie this fresh made it to theaters (and made enough money for it to be considered a small success) in itself is something worth celebrating. 

I maintain my complicated love for the flawed but incredibly unsettling YellowBrickRoad, so I was eager to see one half of that film's directing team's other work. Written and directed by Andy Mitton, The Witch In the Window is an incredibly unsettling haunted house flick that does so much right in just 77 minutes. An absentee dad (YBR's wonderful Alex Draper) takes his son (a fine Charlie Tacker) on a flip job in rural Vermont only to encounter the titular ghost. Bad things happen, and while there is little you haven't quite seen before, Mitton builds tension so carefully that you'll still find your heart in your throat. The performances and smart writing make the characters people you genuinely care about, making The Witch In the Window all the more effective. 

How did this little low budget Australian post-apocalyptic thriller become one of my all-time favorite sports film? Written and directed by David Webb Peoples, The Blood of Heroes follows a scrappy team of "juggers" as they travel the wasteland in search of the big game (in this case, a variation of rugby with a dog skull and more violence). Rutger Hauer is the aging captain and retired pro, a man who's seen so much that he lost one eye doing it, while Joan Chen plays the promising rookie intent on making it big. The quick, lean storytelling is all that's needed, but Peoples weaves in some subtly modern touches of gender equality, sexual freedom, and best of all, true sportsmanship. 


  1. Happy Anniversary!
    I've only seen a couple off this list so I better get busy. For sure I need to watch The Witch In The Window since I have similar feelings as yours toward YellowBrickRoad.