A Rundown of the 13 (plus) Best Horror Movies I've Seen in the Past Year
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The Serial Killer Thriller Slot
I find it interesting that I saw a surfeit of exceptional serial killer features in this past year, just as Hannibal Lecter and his gruesomely fascinating brethren are about to descend on the small screen in a very big way.
On tap for this season’s freshman TV titles are: Bryan Fuller’s take on Hannibal, Carlton Cuse’s Psycho prequel, Bates Motel, and Kevin Williamson’s The Following, while Dexter is winding down, on its way towards its last two seasons.
There’s also Clarice, in development at Lifetime, about Clarice Starling, which will cover the period of time between the film adaptations of The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. I can only assume, if this show comes to fruition, that she’ll be running into other serial killers who she may or may not become bizarrely attracted to.
So, yeah, not since the serial killer-of-the-week heyday of shows like Millennium and Profiler have we had this much TV attention on the serial killer
So in that light, let’s take a look at the best of their big screen brothers.
And when I said “surfeit” above, I wasn’t kidding. This is the category that’s got four runners-up.
And the big kahunas tied for the top slot?
As a feature debut, Justin Kurzel’s Snowtown--which chronicles the crossing of the paths of “Australia’s worst serial killer,” John Justin Bunting, and young James Spyridon Vlassakis--is an astoundingly self-assured piece that is a particularly difficult cinematic experience to sit through.
And I mean that in the best possible way.
This one has a profound sense of disquiet and unease that permeates its nearly two-hour running time, with riveting central performances by Daniel Henshall as Bunting, and Lucas Pittaway as Jamie Vlassakis. The fact that this is Pittaway’s acting debut (he was spotted at a shopping center and asked to audition for the role) makes his on-screen achievement even more noteworthy.
Fair warning though, as I said earlier, this one’s tough to get through, but what Kurzel manages to capture here is a level of disturbing that many straight-forward horror films never even come close to.
Parting shot: Snowtown was known in its US release as The Snowtown Murders, actually the title of one of the books Snowtown’s script was inspired by.
Now, for those of you who frequent the Iguana, you might have noticed that I loves me my David Lynch.
“But what about his daughter, Jennifer Lynch?” you may well ask.
The Jennifer Lynch Scorecard:
I wasn’t overly fond of her feature debut, Boxing Helena, but I was blown away by her second feature, Surveillance, so much so that it ended up on the ¡Qué Horror! 2009 list.
While I appreciate her efforts on her Bollywood foray, Hisss, that turned out to be something of a mess. (I’m still waiting to get a shot at seeing the documentary of that film’s tumultuous production, Despite the Gods.)
And now, we come to Chained.
In the past year, where, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve seen quite a number of excellent serial killer thrillers, Chained stands out because while it does feature a serial killer (Vincent D’Onofrio, as if playing Carl Stargher in Tarsem’s The Cell simply just wasn’t enough creeptastic serial killer fun for one lifetime), it’s really about the bizarre and twisted relationship that develops between the killer and the nine-year-old boy who he takes into his “care” after slaughtering the child’s mother (played briefly by Lynch’s Surveillance star, Julia Ormond).
There’s a searing disquiet that runs through Chained’s 94-minute-running time that plays far more effectively than lesser productions’ oozing buckets of fake blood and gore.
As with Surveillance, Lynch takes a pre-existing script (this one written by Damian O’Donnell) and makes it her own, tapping into the sordid psyches of her characters, flaying them onscreen, so we’re witness to not just their heinous actions, but also, the tatters and shreds of their motivations.
This is a disturbingly bleak title (all the way up to the haunting end credits roll) that plays almost like a blazingly defiant “Up yours!” to the whole Hisss debacle.
Here’s hoping Lynch keeps on keepin’ on…
(Snowtown OS’ courtesy of impawards.com; Chained OS courtesy of bloody-disgusting.com.)