If you hate zombie movies, and think there’s nothing left in the sub-genre, you’ll be surprised with Yeon Sang-ho’s “Train to Busan” and what it does with big budget zombie movies. Director Yeon Sang-ho practices the tradition of George Romero’s horror movies with thick social commentary, while also tapping in to the blockbuster crowds and proves you can have one without losing the value of the other. “Train to Busan” came completely out of left field for me back in 2016, and was not only the best horror movie of the summer, but one of the best movies of the year, easily. Yeon Sang-ho explores how a massive society is destroyed by flesh eating, rabid zombies, all of whom are relentless and charge rapid fire at their victims from around corners.
Most horror fans agree by now that most creative minds have pretty much tapped the zombie well dry, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of filmmakers still trying to reinvent the wheel. “Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies” does not re-invent the wheel and probably won’t change anyone’s mind on zombie movies, but for devotees of the sub-genre, there’s a lot of fun to be had. There’s some good music, a brisk pace, and a different setting beyond the typical country farm house or city back drop. Two snowboarders head out to the Swiss Alps with their manager Branka to film a publicity video for their corporate sponsor. When snowboarder and slacker Steve botch’s the filming altogether, the trio are left on the mountain, stranded.
I can’t help but appreciate the inherent ambition behind the production of “Pitchfork.” Director and Writer Glenn Douglas Packard delivers a slasher film that offers the classic tropes, while also feeling like something completely different. He also manages to concoct a premise that’s actually original and doesn’t feature the same old idiot teenagers looking to party who get stranded or whatnot. He actually sets out to deliver a unique premise, and gives our characters their own motivations. It’s also not often we get slasher movies with final boys, but “Pitchfork” creates one who is not only genuinely heroic, and selfless, but facing his own dilemma when we meet him.
After the slow burn of his indie thriller “Absentia,” director Mike Flanagan delights again with “Hush.” One of the many films in the grand tradition of “Wait Until Dark,” director Flanagan teams a disabled heroine against a merciless predator who not only wants to murder, but also delights in making her final moments as painful as possible. With a limited setting and cast, director Mike Flanagan is able to take what could have been a tired rehash of tropes and clichés, and transforms it in to a devastating and intense game of cat and mouse. Maddie is a woman who was left deaf and mute after a viral infection. Seeking to finish her new novel, she ventures out in to a condo in the woods as a means of getting away from a turbulent relationship and figuring out how to finish her new manuscript. One night, Maddie doesn’t notice the wolf standing at her door who quickly realizes her inability to detect him.
Every month we discuss some of the best and worst cult films ever made, from the hits, classics, underground, grind house, and utterly obscure, from Full Moon, and Empire, to Cannon and American International, it’s all here, minus the popcorn, and car fumes.
The Plot is Afoot! It’s Hell Night, the night before classes officially start, and Marti and her friends have been challenged by Alpha Sigma Rho to stay overnight at the dreaded Garth Mansion. The Mansion has a long history involving a deformed family, murder, and suicide, and the classmates are intent on making their night terrifying. Taking the challenge, soon they begin to realize they’re being terrorized by the deformed owner of the manor, and are unknowingly locked in the mansion thanks to the steel gates. Now they have to escape and make their way back to town, or fight for survival and hope for a rescue.
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:
Gregg Bishop adapts for the big screen one of arguably best segments from the “V/H/S” horror anthology entitled “Amateur Night.” The original segment was the most memorable of the bunch and was filled with tension, disturbing gore, and a very memorable final scene. Thankfully, “Siren” grabs on to most of the original short film’s aesthetic, including a lot of call backs to the original segment. Wisely, the director and studio re-cast Hannah Fierman who has a haunting beauty that most viewers really will have a hard time forgetting any time soon. What made “Amateur Night” so haunting was that Fierman could be oddly beautiful and shockingly horrifying at the drop of a dime. Here she invokes the same qualities, playing arguably the same character.
Director Fede Alvarez’s thriller is a pitch black take on “Wait Until Dark” with a hint of “People Under the Stairs” taking a blind man who turns the tables on perpetrators. This time around though, the blind victim is a very prepared war veteran who skulks around like a predator even in his own home. When he begins challenging the thieves that infiltrate his oddly armed home filled with various pitfalls, he stalks them with confidence, even without eye sight. Stephen Lang’s Blind Man is an oddly horrific and intimidating new horror character who works on his own moral code. Whether or not he’s a villain may depend on the interpretation by the audience, and what they consider pure evil or just pure justification. Fede Alvarez teams two groups of victims against one another in a world that’s taken away all of their futures and ideas of hope.