Friday, September 30, 2011


A Rundown of the 13 Best Horror Movies I’ve Seen in the Past Year
[1 of 13]


SHIVERS
(October 1975)


“If this picture doesn’t make you scream and squirm, you’d better see a psychiatrist. Quick.”

That’s some of the most awesome copy ever heard in a trailer. And yes, indeed, it’s from the trailer for Shivers, David Cronenberg’s first feature film in the wake of his self-described “underground” work, Stereo and Crimes of the Future.
It’s been a long quest, this, getting to see Shivers, and finally finding this particular Grail (thanx so much to Jeb for that) was certainly a rewarding experience.
For Cronenbergians out there, all of the themes and preoccupations that would subsequently recur throughout most of his body of work, they’re here, in this disturbing tale of a sexual parasite and the spread of its contagion throughout an apartment complex. Quite tellingly, Shivers is also an unsettling, prescient take on the horror of AIDS.

In this day and age where even Steven Soderbergh is up for making a movie like Contagion, it’s also worthwhile to take a look at a very early example of the form; Cronenberg would, of course, journey through similar narrative terrain with Rabid.
And, all those zombie movies that are all over the place these days? They may find their roots in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, but the influence of Cronenberg’s Shivers and Rabid are also undeniable.
Thirty-six years after it was made (filmed in just over two weeks on a very limited budget), Shivers still has a potent and disquieting impact.
I mean, how can it not? Copy that awesome can’t be wrong…

(Shivers UK quad courtesy of wrongsideoftheart.com.)

¡QUÉ HORROR! 2011
The Preliminaries

Here we are. October again, and time for this year’s final list of the 13 best horror films I’ve seen in the past year.
As you may have noted if you’re a regular visitor to the Iguana, I’ve been keeping an online track of the candidates for this year’s list: 44 in all. As I’ve done in the past, I’ve tried my best to spread the ¡Qué Horror! love around, so this year, I’m instituting a list of runners-up, wherever applicable.
As always, you can break down the horror scene into the current sub-genre trends; these days, you’ll find zombies, vampires, found footage, faux docs, home invasion, just to name some.
To avoid instances where, say, zombies threaten to overrun the list, I’m giving each sub-genre a single slot, but in cases where the decision was difficult, or there were just several noteworthy titles, there will be a runner-up. Just think of it as a bonus, other films that are worthy of your time and some ¡Qué Horror! love.

As always, cut-off viewing date was September 30, and the list is comprised of the 13 best horror movies I saw for the first time within the window of October 1, 2010 and September 30, 2011, regardless of initial public screening date.

For the past years’ ¡Qué Horror! rundowns, please scour the Archive.
Beyond that, there’s not much else to say but, Happy Halloween! Hope you enjoy this year’s baker’s dozen plus…

Thursday, September 22, 2011


¡QUÉ HORROR! 2011
Candidate # 44

OUTCAST
(March 2010)


Directed by Colm McCarthy, from a script co-written by McCarthy with Tom K. McCarthy (apparently no relation), Outcast is a truly excellent dark urban fantasy that transposes ancient myth and folklore onto a modern setting.
What makes Outcast an even more impressive achievement is the fact that it’s McCarthy’s feature film debut, a very confident piece that’s got some notable performances in it, from Niall Bruton’s first feature role as “Fergal,” to those delivered by one of the resident cuckoos on Game of Thrones, Kate Dickie, and Rents’ Da from Trainspotting, James Cosmo.

(Outcast UK quad courtesy of impawards.com.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


¡QUÉ HORROR! 2011
Candidate # 43

INSIDIOUS
(September 2010)


When director James Wan and writer/actor Leigh Whannell made their feature length debut, they brought the world Saw, kickstarting what is now, to date, the most successful franchise in horror film history, for which it was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records as the Most Successful Horror Movie Series.
They followed Saw with Dead Silence (with a then-relatively-unknown-in-the-US Ryan Kwanten), a film they felt was compromised by the studio system, so they agreed that if they were to collaborate for a third time, it would have to be on a film where they would have creative freedom.
Enter Paranormal Activity, which made a squillion dollars on a practically non-existent budget. Paranormal Activity’s producers turned right around and, under the Haunted Movies banner, threw all that money back into funding five micro-budgeted horror features. Apparently, Wan and Whannell were the first creative team they approached, and thus, we have Insidious, the pair’s take on the haunted house sub-genre.
Thus, we’ve got familiar conventions here: the strange domestic goings-on; the family under siege; the paranormal investigators; the psychic; but Wan and Whannell throw in some interesting spanners into the works that make Insidious both a very excellent example of the haunted house form, and a title that strives vigorously to be something more.
Whannell (as in Saw) appears onscreen, as “Specs,” one of the paranormal investigators, acting alongside Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, who bring an earnest and genuine believability to the married couple at the centre of the film’s supernatural maelstrom. Wan, meanwhile, brings in his great design sensibilities, giving Insidious another edge up.
Whether or not a third act narrative turn works for you, Insidious is still an effectively creepy little number that doesn’t play it safe within a tried and tested sub-genre template, and that’s something to be commended.

Parting shot: As of April 2011, Insidious was the most profitable film of the year; at the time of this posting, the film’s worldwide box office receipts ring up to a total of just over $92 million, on a $1.5 million budget.

(Insidious OS courtesy of shocktillyoudrop.com.)

Friday, September 16, 2011


¡QUÉ HORROR! 2011
Candidate # 42

LOS OJOS DE JULIA
(JULIA’S EYES)
(September 2010)


Like past ¡Qué Horror! title, El Orfanato, Guillem Morales’ Los Ojos de Julia is produced by Guillermo del Toro, and, as if she hadn’t already had enough anguish on El Orfanato, Belén Rueda signs up for some more here.1
In a scenario that certainly has standard Hollywood thriller in its celluloid DNA, Rueda plays a woman with a degenerative disease that is gradually taking her sight away, who is convinced that her similarly afflicted twin sister’s apparent suicide was the result of foul play.
Los Ojos de Julia though, is certainly better than your standard Hollywood thriller, and is the sort of movie I wouldn’t be at all surprised will get the English-language remake thing done to it.

1 And while Rueda suffers here, El Orfanato co-star Fernando Cayo has a supreme b!tch of a time in fellow ¡Qué Horror! 2011 candidate [#37], Miguel Ángel Vivas’ Secuestrados.

(Los Ojos de Julia OS courtesy of impawards.com.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011


¡QUÉ HORROR! 2011
Candidate # 41

THE CLINIC
(November 2009)


There are some horror films that you simply don’t show expectant mothers, films like Fruit Chan’s Dumplings or Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s À l'intérieur or Paul Solet’s Grace. Based on the one sheet above, I think it’s clear that James Rabbitts’ The Clinic is another of those films.
If you can get past the unsettling aspects of the material, The Clinic is an absorbing and interesting look at maternal instincts, at just how far a mother is willing to go to protect her child. It also cleverly plays with genre expectations, giving the audience a cinematic experience that may have familiar elements, but nonetheless feels like something we’ve not quite seen before.
For Gabriel or Spartacus fans out there, this one’s also got the late Andy Whitfield in it.

(The Clinic OS courtesy of wrongsideoftheart.com.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


¡QUÉ HORROR! 2011
Candidate # 40

THE REEF
(May 2010)


Another of those films that broke the mold? Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.
So, yes, Andrew Traucki’s The Reef isn’t Jaws. But it is nonetheless an intense bit of man-eating shark cinema, one of those “Based on True Events” films, like Open Water before it. (For the record, I prefer The Reef over Open Water.)
This one also sports one of those awesome actor names in Damian Walshe-Howling (who plays Luke); I haven’t heard that great an actor’s name since 28 Weeks Later gave the world the double whammy of Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton.

(The Reef OS courtesy of impawards.com.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


¡QUÉ HORROR! 2011
Candidate # 39

LA POSESIÓN DE EMMA EVANS
(EXORCISMUS: THE POSSESSION OF EMMA EVANS)
(October 2010)


There are just certain films that seem to break the mold, that are so well-made that, when they make their impact on movie history, can never really be equaled, much less topped, by those that attempt to follow in their celluloid footsteps.
One such film is William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. There’ve been many a possession/exorcism movie since then, and some have even been noteworthy, but none have come close to what Friedkin and company achieved on The Exorcist.
Given that reality though, Manuel Carballo’s La Posesión de Emma Evans (like The Last Exorcism before it) is still worth a look. Written by David Muñoz (co-writer of Guillermo del Toro’s El Espinazo del Diablo), this one takes a close look at how the possession of one member of a family impacts upon everyone else.
The possession itself is (again, like The Last Exorcist) very low key in its visual presentation; no 360 degree rotating heads, no pea soup projectile vomiting, not even the recently fashionable creepy Cirque du Soleil contortions.1 As I’ve mentioned, the film’s more concerned with examining the impact the diabolical goings-on have on the family in question.
It should also be noted that Doug Bradley is in this, in a small role as Father Ennis.


1 Which, let’s face it, have probably been inspired by the “Spider walk” sequence from The Exorcist, excised from the original theatrical version, but reinstated in the Director’s Cut.

(La Posesión de Emma Evans & Exorcismus OS’ courtesy of impawards.com.)

¡QUÉ HORROR! 2011
Candidate # 38

LITTLE DEATHS
(February 2011)


Multi-contributor anthologies are always a tricky proposition.
Given that there are X number of stories by X number of contributors, there’ll always be a variance in the quality of the collected tales.
There’s also the distinct possibility that, for whatever reason, some stories may work for some of the audience, while others may not, and that’s perhaps more to do with the subjectivity of art than the actual pieces themselves.

The horror anthology Little Deaths is a rarity in that all three stories are excellent, without a real weak link in the lot.
Still, as much as Sean Hogan’s “House and Home” (which kicks off the anthology) is a well-made little bit of sex and grue, it’s still overshadowed by the truly mondo bizarro “Mutant Tool” by Andrew Parkinson, and Simon Rumley’s “Bitch,” where the power and dominance games played in a very atypical sexual relationship reaches a dangerous tipping point.

As made readily apparent by its title (which it shares with an anthology edited by Ellen Datlow), Little Deaths is a showcase for erotic horror, and what’s on display in the contributions of Parkinson and Rumley is rather disturbing and unsettling and not for the squeamish nor prudish.
You’ve been suitably warned…

(Little Deaths OS courtesy of shocktillyoudrop.com.)

Monday, September 12, 2011


¡QUÉ HORROR! 2011
Candidate # 37

SECUESTRADOS
(KIDNAPPED)
(September 2010)


Intense, grim, and merciless, Miguel Ángel Vivas’ Secuestrados is home invasion, as told in a series of protracted scenes; about a dozen, I think. I tried to keep track, but, well… things get wild and hairy in this one, so my count may have gotten muddled at a certain point…
Like Rodrigo Cortés’ Buried, this one’s an audacious bit of cinema that both impresses in the clearly high ambition of its storytelling, and disturbs with its uncompromising darkness.


(Secuestrados & Kidnapped OS’ courtesy of impawards.com.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011


¡QUÉ HORROR! 2011
Candidate # 36

THE TUNNEL
(May 2011)


Amongst the bunch of Aussie horror films I’ve seen in the past 12 months, we find Carlo Ledesma’s The Tunnel, and what makes this one stand out is the manner in which it was produced (crowd funded, each frame meant to be paid for by the movie’s backers through the 135K Project) and in which it was distributed (free, online).
Though the film itself isn’t anything particularly new, it is, hands down, the best- and most professional-looking crowd-funded production I’ve seen to date.
If you’re interested, check the film out yourself at thetunnelmovie.net.

(The Tunnel OS courtesy of twitchfilm.net.)

Saturday, September 10, 2011


¡QUÉ HORROR! 2011
Candidate # 35

RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE
(August 2010)


This one’s for everyone out there who either loves everything about Christmas and doesn’t really care (or is ignorant) about its pagan origins, or everyone who just loathes the “Coca Cola Santa” and the rabid, desperate commercialism that now cloaks all things “Christmas,” regardless of where the holiday springs from.
Come to think of it, Rare Exports may be for everyone else in-between too. Written and directed by Jalmari Helander (based on an original idea by the Helander brothers), Rare Exports finds some of its roots in those ‘80’s Amblin pictures where the only person who seems to know exactly what’s going on is a kid (here, played by Onni Tommila), who has to get everyone else to believe him: that Santa Claus is real, and he’s not at all the fat, jolly fellow everyone’s come to think he is…

Parting shot: An AJ Annila is given some thanks in the film’s end titles crawl; I’m assuming this is Antti-Jussi Annila, director of past ¡Qué Horror! title, Sauna.

(Rare Exports OS courtesy of impawards.com.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011


¡QUÉ HORROR! 2011
Candidate # 34

SHIVERS
(October 1975)


“If this picture doesn’t make you scream and squirm, you’d better see a psychiatrist. Quick.”

That’s some of the most awesome copy ever heard in a trailer. And yes, indeed, it’s from the trailer for Shivers, David Cronenberg’s first feature film in the wake of his self-described “underground” work, Stereo and Crimes of the Future.
It’s been a long quest, this, getting to see Shivers, and finally finding this particular Grail (thanx so much to Jeb for that) was certainly a rewarding experience.
For Cronenbergians out there, all of the themes and preoccupations that would subsequently recur throughout most of his body of work, they’re here, in this disturbing tale of a sexual parasite and the spread of its contagion throughout an apartment complex. Quite tellingly, Shivers is also an unsettling, prescient take on the horror of AIDS.

In this day and age where even Steven Soderbergh is up for making a movie like Contagion, it’s also worthwhile to take a look at a very early example of the form; Cronenberg would, of course, journey through similar narrative terrain with Rabid.
And, all those zombie movies that are all over the place these days? They may find their roots in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, but the influence of Cronenberg’s Shivers and Rabid are also undeniable.
Thirty-six years after it was made (filmed in just over two weeks on a very limited budget), Shivers still has a potent and disquieting impact.
I mean, how can it not? Copy that awesome can’t be wrong…

(Shivers UK quad courtesy of wrongsideoftheart.com.)

¡QUÉ HORROR! 2011
Candidate # 33

YELLOWBRICKROAD
(January 2010)


One morning in 1940, the entire population of Friar, NH, walked north up an unmarked trail into the wilderness.
Some were later found frozen to death. Others were mysteriously slaughtered. Most, however, were never found.

This is the mystery that lies at the heart of Andy Mitton and Jesse Holland’s feature film debut, Yellowbrickroad, where a team led by Teddy Barnes (Michael Laurino) walks the very same trail in an attempt to uncover the truth beneath the legend.
It’s a truly excellent piece of distinct unease, of oblique and inexplicable horror, brought to us with the help of Smallville’s own Tess Mercer, Cassidy Freeman, who’s an executive producer on this, along with her rather appropriately named brother, Clark. (The Freeman siblings also appear as Erin and Daryl Luger.)
If you can enjoy your horror without the requisite zombies, vampires, masked slashers, or shambling monsters, then Yellowbrickroad is for you.

Parting shot: Smallville’s Chloe Sullivan, Allison Mack, is also afforded some thanks in the film’s end titles crawl.

(Yellowbrickroad quad courtesy of shocktillyoudrop.com.)