A filmmaking couple travels with a colleague to the titular island to investigate and document the local history. Soon after their arrival, things start going sideways. Based on true events that happened on Beaver Island, MI, the film written by Fabricio Cerioni and Darrin James with the latter directing it, it tells the events in flashbacks and through the lead characters’ research. Not being familiar with the event that inspired the filmmakers, it is hard to tell if they are well-portrayed, loosely-inspired, or just barely connected as many “based on true events” films are. Nonetheless, the story follows the usual tropes of filmmakers investigating negative events for which they have little to no information.
A young mother who gave up her daughter up during a troubled period is trying to reconnect with her years later. As they try to repair their estranged and strained relationship, they become plagued by the legendary Baba Yaga witch. Written by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler and directed by Caradog W. James, the film takes a folk tale that originated in Old Russia and brings it to the UK and modernizes it. Together they create a horror film that will scare the uninitiated but may not do much for hardcore horror fans. There are a few well directed and developed scares that should work for all however. These happen in an environment built around the strained, but attempting to be rekindled, mother-daughter relationship.
After the murder of his father and his becoming deaf following a blow to the head, Asher trains himself and prepares for the day he will be able to avenge his brother from that man. When the man is released from jail early, he goes on the path of revenge. Written and directed by Sean Brosnan, this first feature film takes a story of revenge and twists it by keeping it all in the family. The film takes the usual revenge due to a family member’s death and mixes it up with the murderer also being family (not a spoiler, it is part of the official synopsis). The way he builds the story is quite straight forward and his characters are all heavily flawed but somewhat attaching in the case of his lead, Asher, and his friend Nana. All the characters have rough lives in a very poor deep south, but some have goals and are trying to make a better life for themselves, making them more interesting than the others.
Two pothead slackers running their own “investigative journalism” agency team up with a journalist to take down a prominent political figure and all hell breaks loose. Written by Clif Lord and Tommay Sowards and directed by Lord, the film jumps into the two leads’ investigations without much explanation and just goes for it with the two of them filming everything they do for “behind the scenes” with both of their point of views going back and forth. The way this is written into the story works and so does most of the story, it’s just not all that interesting.
Two teenagers involved in ghost hunting plan to go to the Villisca house where, in 1912, a family was murdered by an axe wielding maniac. When a charming female outcast joins them, the three of them decide to go into the house after hours and do their own tour and investigation where they discover something worse than the usual for this kind of house. Written and directed by Tony E. Valenzuela based on a story by Kevin Abrams and Owens Egerton. The story is based on a true case from 1912 which is still unsolved. To bring it to modern day settings, they use the story as a starting point for teenage ghost hunters to go investigate.
A potentially apocalyptic even wiped out all adults from the country, leaving kids to take care of younger kids. In this situation, some became leaders, some teachers, while others thrived in chaos. As things are looking bleaker and bleaker, Josh decides to do something and heads North with a friend. Soon, some of those in charge go after them. Through this, all will discover more about the world and themselves. Directed by Matt Ogens who co-wrote with Kyle Lierman, the film takes the post-apocalyptic approach that is being seen more and more again and removes all adults from the picture, leaving it to a Lord of the Flies situation with kids being left to their own devices and some knowing better how to keep going while others look for escape.
This year brought a lot of film festival coverage opportunities for me which means I was able to attend and/or cover twelve film festivals/events. That being said, these paired with a ton of good independent titles meant I had very little time for wider theater releases. This not mean the latter were not good, it only means that I saw a grand total of three major releases (Deadpool, Rogue One, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) on the big screen.
First, here are my special mentions: L’Elan, Deadpool, Saving Mr. Wu, The Laundryman, Realive, Bed of the Dead, Let Her Out, Alena, Corp Etranger (Foreign Body), They Call Me Jeeg Robot, Karate Kill, The Eyes of My Mother, Rogue One, The Witch, Southbound, Antibirth, The Love Witch.
With no further ado, here is my top ten favorite movies from 2016:
So many, many short films are made each year, yet a lot of film fans overlook them, thus making themselves a disservice. 2016 saw a fantastically good crop of shorts from a variety of countries, showcasing the talents of filmmakers worth watching. In 2016, I saw over 175 short films through film festivals, Vimeo, YouTube, etc. Choosing a top 10 was tough this year and kept changing from day to day. Out of those ever changing titles, here are the 10 Best short films, or my 10 favorites at the moment, and a bunch more worth checking out.
Special mentions (aka I wish it were a top 25): Innsmouth, Postpartum, Stained, Injustice for All, Japanese Legends: Slit, Watchbear, The Puppet Man, Kaddish!, Little Boy Blue, Deathly, Overtime, Hoshino, The Tunnel, Bionic Girl, and Disco Inferno.
On to the Top 10…