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Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2012





Brad McHargue's Picks

One of the best things about spending two months attending genre film fests is the opportunity to see a number of incredible films that will, in the cutthroat world of film distribution, struggle to find an audience beyond a brief stint on VOD. As someone whose voice ostensibly reaches thousands of people, it’s an honor to be able to champion a number of incredible genre films that are consistently overshadowed by the shit like The Apparition, which somehow snaked its way into theaters only to be met with overwhelmingly negative reviews.

Here are my Top 5 and Bottom 5 horror films of 2012, comprised of theatrical, VOD, and festival screenings I have personally seen this year.

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2012

The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh (2012)The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh: Written and directed by Rue Morgue President Rodrigo Gudino, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh represents everything that’s right with a genre littered with low-budget dreck and so much found footage it will make you vomit. I first saw the film at the Telluride Horror Show and was absolutely blown away by its unconventional story and beautiful cinematography, featuring long, sweeping shots of an old house filled to the brim with religious iconography. As the titular character, Vanessa Redgrave’s haunting voiceover provides context for the arrival of her son, Leon (Aaron Poole), an antiques dealer who inherited her house after she committed suicide, having devoted much of her life to a cult that worships angels. Leon discovers that she may be reaching out from beyond the grave to send him a message of dire importance. It’s a film that typifies the “slow burn” genre, with Gudino’s brilliant direction and deeply personal dialogue helping to create an edge-of-your-seat thriller deserving of the utmost praise.

The Conspiracy: Aaron Poole is on a roll because he once again appears in a film that absolutely blew me away. Part faux-doc, part found footage, The Conspiracy follows two friends, Aaron and Jim, as they seek to document the rantings and ravings of a local conspiracy theorist named Terrance. After he abruptly disappears, Aaron takes it upon himself to continue his work, leading to a secret society that may or may not be responsible for Terrance’s disappearance. While some might be quick to dismiss it for being little more than yet another found footage film, The Conspiracy uses seemingly very real subject matter and fictionalizes it into a sinister story that will leave you breathless. It segues in a beautifully organic way from a faux-doc to a found footage film, eschewing shaky cam and loud noises in favor of slow realizations that maybe these two documentarians got more than they bargained for.

The Battery: Currently popping up at festivals and exclusive screenings around the country, The Battery, written and directed by Jeremy Gardner, is living proof you don’t need a big budget to craft compelling horror. Shot for a mere $6,000 and featuring Gardner and newcomer Adam Cronheim, this post-apocalyptic zombie survival film is less about the zombies than it is the struggle for survival between two incredibly different people. Long takes, some clocking in at 11 minutes, showcase the mental and physical turmoil the two former baseball players are subjected to as they make their way through the woods and back roads of New England, avoiding zombies and dealing with their differences. Humorous dialogue, great music, and stunning practical effects build to an exceedingly tense and dramatic climax that help make The Battery one of the best - and most ambitious - “zombie” movies in recent memory.

The American Scream: Michael Paul Stephenson has an uncanny ability to make the mundane interesting, seen in the intimate and emotional The American Scream. Unlike his first doc, Best Worst Movie, which saw Stephenson and fellow Troll 2 star George Hardy inject themselves into the narrative, his follow-up takes a different route, focusing on candid and intimate interviews with three “home haunters” and their families. It’s an emotional portrayal of obsession and family and truly one of the best documentaries I have ever seen.

The Cabin in the Woods: It’s difficult not to include this film on any "Best of..." list given that it was not only a perfect theatrical release to get people interested in horror movies again, but also a brilliant send-up of horror audiences in general. By wrapping an overplayed conceit in layers of subtext, well-written characters, and one of the best scenes of free-for-all violence in recent memory, Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon created an eminently re-watchable film that will no doubt wind up on a few “Best of the Decade” lists.

Honorable Mentions: Tin Can Man, Nightmare Factory, We Need to Talk About Kevin, REC3: Genesis

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2012

The Apparition: This film, written and directed by newcomer Todd Lincoln, sat in purgatory for over two years before being dumped into theaters by Warner Brothers. Featuring a contrived haunted house plot and a boring and often nonsensical script, this Ashley Greene vehicle belongs in a textbook on how not to make a horror film. Its brief 82-minute running time felt like two hours as Greene meanders her way through a house filled with ad hoc scares and some of the most nauseatingly bad acting you’ll see in a horror film this year. In my review I wrote “The Apparition is a vacant, insipid, soulless, pathetic excuse for a film that barely deserves evaluation,” and that was me holding back.

Piranha 3DD: I like Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunston, though I feel they’ve become pigeon-holed in a sub-genre that relies less on story than it does over-the-top violence and gore. It’s confusing, then, that blood and violent deaths were conspicuously lacking in the screenwriting duo’s follow-up to the gleefully gory and outrageous Piranha 3D. Directed by John Gulager, the movie was just a boring, pointless excuse to capitalize on a mildly witty yet lowbrow premise that eschews everything that made its predecessor entertaining. It’s ironic, really, considering the thing took place in a water park, which is just rife for hilarious and gruesome deaths. In the end, we’re given a short and very tame onslaught of piranha making their way into the water park. Not even David Hasselhoff can save this sinking ship, but did you really expect him to?

The Tortured: How this movie exists is beyond me. It’s devoid of anything resembling an original thought, and the scenes of torture are tame and contrived. That’s not what makes it bad, though. It’s bad because it’s trying so hard to be more than it really is, and it fails so miserably it’s laughable. Its basic plot is laughably insulting, and the “twist” at the end is such an obvious attempt at giving the movie a point that failed to be made clear through a script propelled by stilted dialogue and laughably bad acting.

Munger Road: This film is kind of anomaly, mainly because it looks good and features a supernatural element that could have been interesting. Two stories, one that follows a group of kids stranded on a desolate stretch of road and another that sees an aging police chief track down an escaped serial killer, slowly intertwine before you realize it was nothing more than a shitty plot device that culminates in the most infuriating, insulting, and presumptuous ending you will ever see in a horror film. At least The Devil Inside gave you something mildly entertaining before kicking you in the balls.

Entrance: A girl walking around town and occasionally hearing something for an hour and a half before injecting a half-baked horror element is not how you make a movie. This is the entirety of Entrance, a muddled attempt at a character study that spends 90% of its time following around a barista whose life apparently sucks. After her dog disappears, she decides it’s time to move on, prompting a going away party with her friends. It lacks all semblance of substance before devolving even further with a tacked on ending that does absolutely nothing to make the entire hour before it worth a damn. It’s just a hollow film.

Honorable Mentions: Grave Encounters 2, The Devil Inside, V/H/S, Greystone Park

[Andrew Kasch]

[Brad McHargue]

[Doctor Gash]

[The Foywonder]

[Gareth "Pestilence" Jones]

[Heather "The Horror Chick" Wixson]

[Jinx]

[MattFini]

[Uncle Creepy]

[The Woman in Black]


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"Sushi Girl ends with a twist that even the most attentive movie-goer won't see coming."

Holy SHIT you have to be kidding me. If there is a more obvious twist ending in a movie this year, I haven't seen it.


Submitted by G.D. on Thu, 12/27/2012 - 12:36am.

I am surprised that nobody put Lovely Molly on their Best list or even honorable mention. It was a favorite of mine this year and totally caught me off guard.


Submitted by Drew on Wed, 12/26/2012 - 1:35pm.
Jinx's picture

I actually had Lovely Molly in my Honorable Mentions. Really dug that film - super-creepy and very well acted. Glad to see you liked it, too.

http://www.dreadcentral.com/reviews/lovely-molly-blu-ray-dvd


Submitted by Jinx on Wed, 12/26/2012 - 3:34pm.
Fearless_Froude's picture

Really, you liked it? I hated the ending and that scene when she was naked and started hugging up on the wolf like character.


Submitted by Fearless_Froude on Thu, 12/27/2012 - 10:26pm.
Jinx's picture

Overall, I really dug the film. However, the third act ran off the rails a bit, with violence and overt strangeness that ran counter to the film's tone from its first two acts. Still, I really enjoyed the final moments and their implication.


Submitted by Jinx on Thu, 12/27/2012 - 10:54pm.
nazo's picture

My Best, complete with disclaimers.

5. The Revenant. It's kind of a mess, but mostly in a good way. It's a zombie movie, a buddy comedy, a war movie, an addiction movie, a crime movie, all at the same time, and it doesn't always work, but when it does it's both original and good.
4. ParaNorman. My favorite of the surprising amount of kiddie/animated horror movies this year. Like The Revenant, it's nowhere near perfection, but it looks great, and is a fun watch.
3. Juan of the Dead. This one really surprised me. It manages to be an unapologetic knock-off and completely fresh at the same time. Even in translation, it's one of the funniest movies I've seen this year, has good zombie scenes, and maintains an excellent pace throughout.
2. Cabin in the Woods. It doesn't "reinvent the genre" like many of its fans claimed, and I thought the horror elements of the movie were pretty weak (the half-assed Evil Dead ripoff could have been handled much better), but it worked so well as a comedy it's still one of the better movies of the year.
1. The Grey. Jinx perfectly described why this was so great. Easily the best horror movie to come out this year. Brutal and beautiful, I'm shocked it didn't end up on more "best of" lists.

And Worst, of the small percentage of bad horror that I actually watched
5. V/H/S. I'm not sure what was worse, the horribly cheap aesthetic, the long periods of time in which nothing happened, or the outright misogyny, notable even by the horror genre's already low standards.
4. Bait. I was expecting a fun, campy, sharks chomping people in ridiculous situations good time. What I got was eighty plus minutes devoted to the development of more characters than we saw in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, most of whom were completely uninteresting, with personalities ranging from "unlikable" to "I want to stick a Q-Tip all the way through my brain." Even the guy in a ridiculous metal cart suit couldn't save the movie for me. To everyone who recommended this piece of shit on DFF, I fuck you back.
3. Piranha 3DD. Might as well have had this song playing in the background the entire movie.
2. Wrong Turn 5. Mean-spirited, incompetent, irritating, boring, predictable..and that was just Doug Bradley's character! The kind of horror movies that give horror movies a bad name.
1. Excision. 2012 might have been the year of the overhyped "indie" horror movie. V/H/S, Kill List, The Innkeepers, and The Loved Ones all ranged from frustratingly mediocre to just bad, but the worst of the bunch was Excision. I am sick of one dimensional, cardboard characters. I am sick of indie soundtracks. I am sick of boring surrealism. I am sick of lazy, incoherent satire. Suburbia is the easiest target in the world. If you can't effectively satirize that, then you should not be writing for a living. And most of all, I am sick as hell of precocious teenagers, and I'm not going to take it anymore!

My Overall Top 10 for the year is (so far); 10. Safety Not Guaranteed 9. Bernie 8. Juan of the Dead 7. Cabin in the Woods 6. The Raid: Redemption 5. The Avengers 4. Seven Psychopaths 3. Headhunters 2. The Grey 1. Looper.


Submitted by nazo on Tue, 12/25/2012 - 8:13pm.
Fearless_Froude's picture

HOW THE HELL IS KILL LIST AND EXCISION on your worst list? when we had crap like The Devil Inside, The apparition and The Possession. like god damn


Submitted by Fearless_Froude on Wed, 12/26/2012 - 12:01am.
nazo's picture

Kill List wasn't one of the worst movies, just an example of a movie that was really overhyped. I thought it was mediocre. It had some really good moments and ideas, but the mystery didn't get interesting until at least half way through the movie, and I was never invested in any of the characters. I didn't see the Devil Inside or The Apparition for obvious reasons, and The Posession was mediocre, but had enough intentional hilarity that I couldn't get mad at it.

Everything about Excision rubbed me the wrong way, from the characters to the cutesy dialogue to the soundtrack to the attempts at surrealism. It was bullshit Sundance pandering at its worst.


Submitted by nazo on Wed, 12/26/2012 - 1:41am.
kiddcapone's picture

Best:
The Raid: Redemption
The Cabin in the Woods
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Sinister
Prometheus
The Woman in Black

Worst:
Chernobyl Diaries
The Devil Inside
Paranormal Activity 4
The Possession
Piranha 3DD
Dark Shadows


Submitted by kiddcapone on Tue, 12/25/2012 - 12:44pm.

Totally forgot about Woman in Black!


Submitted by will graham on Tue, 12/25/2012 - 7:51pm.
Fearless_Froude's picture

THE BAY is, i think the best horror film of the year. It came out of nowhere and it almost and i tread very carefully when saying this, ALMOST brought back the feel of how i felt seeing Paranormal Activity 1 for the first time. 2012 was a meh year for horror.


Submitted by Fearless_Froude on Mon, 12/24/2012 - 8:55pm.
MonsterMash's picture

Among the ones I enjoyed this year would be:
Ghost Rider 2
Wrath of the Titans was ok
Cabin was awesome
Piranha 3DD was nonsense fun
Prometheus I enjoyed
Dredd was fun
Sinister I really liked
Silent Hill 2 was enjoyable - who can say they didn't have fun with Cenobite Mortal Kombat?
The Collection was pretty good.
I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing Abe kill vampires.

As for straight to dvd-
Bait 3D was kind of fun- not enough shark carnage
I bought REC 3 but have not watched it yet.
The Inkeepers was pretty good as well.

Favorite movie moment of the year- The Expendables 2. I went to that with five friends and we all had a blast.
There are genreally some I don't enjoy but I try not to bring them back up.


Submitted by MonsterMash on Mon, 12/24/2012 - 3:13pm.
aliensharkboy's picture

Ummm... haven't thought of a best horror of the year list, but movies I enjoyed the most:
5: Paranorman
4: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
3: Super Shark
2: Prometheus
1: The Cabin in the Woods

Honorable mentions: Sand Sharks, Sinister, 2-headed Shark Attack, Cockneys VS Zombies, The Grey, Men in Black 3, Rec 3: Genesis... I could go on, I've loved so many films this year! And to add the few films that would be on my best of the year, but aren't as they weren't horror-ish: Skyfall, The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-man, Looper, The Dark Knight Rises... once again I could go on.

I've avoided the films people have said are bad, but among the bad ones I've seen: Bait 3D, Playback, Tape 407, The Possession(Haven't seen it... but I still hate it) and The Human Centipede 2. Outside the horror genre Taken 2 comes to mind... And in case you're wondering, Piranha 3DD is NOT on either lists, it's right in the middle.


Submitted by aliensharkboy on Mon, 12/24/2012 - 1:16pm.

Really? Cabin the Woods sucks shit. All it did was make fun of far better movies.


Submitted by streetloaf on Sun, 12/23/2012 - 9:59pm.
Foywonder's picture

This notion I've seen many people perpetuate that Cabin in the Woods is designed to be some sort of slap in the face of classic horror movies and a middle finger to the entire genre never fails to baffle me.


Submitted by Foywonder on Mon, 12/24/2012 - 7:22pm.
Agreed.
MonsterMash's picture

Agreed.


Submitted by MonsterMash on Mon, 12/24/2012 - 9:34pm.
moderator You mean sort of like Scream
Steve Barton's picture

You mean sort of like Scream did? lol


Submitted by Steve Barton on Mon, 12/24/2012 - 5:12pm.
Brad McHargue's picture

What a well-thought out argument. Thank you for sharing.


Submitted by Brad McHargue on Mon, 12/24/2012 - 10:18am.

My Best of the year:

1. The Walking Dead game: While the "choose your own adventure" element of the game was greatly exagerated, there's no doubt that this was the best genre game of the year. An excellent story featuring the two most moving moments in video game history (screw you ff7 fanboys!). Cannot recommend it enough!

2. Cabin in the woods: Only horror film that I really enjoyed this year, never boring, although Joss Whedon's spoof dialog of genre cliches is becoming... well cliched.

3.Walking Dead season 3: So much better than the last season, a nice mix of drama and action. The show still has problems though, I mean the producers of the show have issues with black males, and why are the 2 leading females thick as pigshit? I mean who the hell wears a thong during a zombie appocalypse? Wear confortable underwear lady!

4. Catherine game: Came out in europe this year, a puzzle game rather than a survival horror. The nightmare sections of the game funny enough remind me of a nightmare I once had. Great storytelling all round. People who want original games should check this out.

5. The Killing 3 (the danish original series): Still not a patch on the original story but better than the second. The Danish original still pisses over most American crime dramas. This time Sarah Lund has to track down an abducted girl from a rich family, her abductor wanting a suicide case reopend. I do have a complant with the show in that the poliitical story arc is too similar to the ones in the other stories. Apparently this was the last series but it does leave it open for a spin-off show/tv movie. Oh and will someone in hollywood please hire Sofie Grabol!

6. Lollipop Chainsaw game: Gameplay is only ok, but the humor, voice acting and soundtrack make up for it. buy it cheap!

7. The Secret of Crickley Hall series: After almost a decade of the BBC copying the style of American shows (badly) it's nice to see them do a show just like they used to but with better production values. Very dark and disturbing, (like many of James Herbert's work) surprised that the BBC dared showed it considering the subject matter and the trouble they're in (look up Jimmy Saville on wikipedia). Well acted and best viewed in parts, more like this please BBC and lay off the REALLY LOUD MUSIC please!

8. The Bridge series: A body is found on a bridge right on the border between Demark and Sweden and two dectives have to find out why it was put there. The show starts out brilliantly but falls apart the further it goes on, suffering from multiple storylines that lead nowhere and burrows some story elements from Se7en. What makes the show is the female dective who suffers from the autism known as Aspergers (had to look that up) and her friendship with her work partner. Shot and lit like an urban Micheal Mann film (check out the opening credits on youtube) it's worth a watch before the american remake comes out.

Honerable mentions:
Dredd: Not really horror and Robocop is still the best Judge Dredd film (just replace Robo With Dirty Harry and you'll have a typical Dredd story) this was never the less better than expected. If only people rented future cult titles instead of illegally downloading them, we might have got a sequel. Also the final slowmo effect was the most memorable scene of the year for me.

Joe Dante's The Hole: Since it's only just come out in the States, I get chance to include it again. :)

My Disapointments of the year:

Rec 3: Well acted and made but becomes yet another "omg killing zombies is so funny!!!!!" should have covered the girl in the appartment and how she came to be there instead.

Walking Dead second half of season 2: Just too slow, why isn't T-dog allowed to say much? Why are the 2 lead female characters by the stupidest
on tv? and only one unpredictable death. thank christ for series 3.

Prometheus: Visually the best film of the year, ruined by bad storytelling and bad dialog. Quite frankly Pandorum is better than this!

Piranha 3DD: When I first saw it I enjoyed it but that might have been because me and some of my bisexual girl-friends had a fair ammount to drink before we went to see it. Sober, it is bad. Btw is it just me or do Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan hate children?


Submitted by will graham on Sun, 12/23/2012 - 8:23pm.

I watched Cosmopolis for 10-15 minutes and I had to turn it off. The mind numbingly mundane conversations between the various characters bored the shit out of me. And I consider myself to be a big fan of Cronenberg.


Submitted by LSD Zombie on Sun, 12/23/2012 - 5:30pm.
Rob's picture

Great lists. My best list would be Cabin in the Woods, ParaNorman, Solomon Kane, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Didn't see any other horror films in theaters this year except Underworld: Awakening, which was decent but nothing great. I'll see Resident Evil 5 at some point. I would've seen Dredd if I wasn't so broke by the time it came out.

Also, I didn't mind Total Recall, I think because of the acting more than anything else. And I'm someone who isn't a big Kate Beckinsale fan at all and I loved her in that movie. I think if she does more genre flicks, she should stick to villain roles. She's fun to watch as a villain.

Oh, I also saw Prometheus, which I agree with Foy about. A well made and well acted film that amounts to nothing.


Submitted by Rob on Sun, 12/23/2012 - 4:22pm.
theGoldenSimatar's picture

Glad to see some people liked Prometheus.

Though I have to honestly wonder: am I the only person in the world that liked Piranha 3DD?


Submitted by theGoldenSimatar on Sun, 12/23/2012 - 2:24pm.
Brad McHargue's picture

Probably. It was just so...lazy. The big piranha attack scene was so weak compared to the fist flick, and as a whole it was just very boring. To each their own, though.


Submitted by Brad McHargue on Sun, 12/23/2012 - 4:33pm.

Surprised that Devil Inside didn't make more worst lists.

Strange year for me, my best list is pretty much full of video games and tv shows rather than movies, and my worst list is pretty much full of disapointments rather than films that were shite.

I'll post them later when I have time, I'm a slow writer (this took me 5 minutes to write) and still need to do christmas tidying up.


Submitted by will graham on Sun, 12/23/2012 - 7:23am.
Brad McHargue's picture

Ya know, THE DEVIL INSIDE was a really stupid movie, but I think if it had ended differently, it wouldn't be getting as bad a rap as it has been over the past year. Yes, it was yet another exorcism movie, but it had some suitably creepy scenes and, at least when compared to other theatrical fare this year, was mildly enjoyable.


Submitted by Brad McHargue on Sun, 12/23/2012 - 11:28am.
Terminal's picture

Nice to see The Cabin in the Woods get a lot of attention and Prometheus so little. I'm kind of noticing DC is growing less and less enthusiastic about year end top 10 and worst 10 lists every year, that kind of saddens me. There's less hard hitting and aims for the gut that there used to be. In either case, the movies I expected on the lists are there, so it's been an interesting year.


Submitted by Terminal on Sun, 12/23/2012 - 7:10am.
Debi Moore's picture

I don't really understand the "less enthusiastic" remark either. I was totally gung-ho about my favorites and getting my list done, but maybe my overall lack of enthusiasm for 2012 as a whole showed through? We did ask everyone to try to keep things to a manageable length for consistency's sake, but I don't feel anyone's list suffered as a result. Can you be a little more specific about why you feel that way?

And I just have to comment re Andrew's "most misunderstood" label for The Tall Man. I understood it all right... I just didn't like it very much. It was a close second to Munger Road as the year's most insulting flick.

**SPOILER ALERT**

Its "message" that these people have the right to decide kids are better off away from their natural parents (who are poor and, yes, may even be abusive at times) and placed with wealthy families instead is a bit too "1%-erish" and Republican for me, and I'm surprised Andrew would buy into that for even one second. Plus, aside from that, I found it to be a total bore as a "thriller." One of the biggest disappointments of the year for sure.


Submitted by Debi Moore on Sun, 12/23/2012 - 3:31pm.
Sirand's picture

I found nothing political about it. It's not a rich vs poor film. It's an interesting concept that plays with your allegiances in the same way Martyrs did... creating a sort of "social worker as the boogeyman" conceit. It's a genre version of Gone Baby Gone... And Biel, an actress I've never given a second thought about, is pretty terrific in the film.

People like to dump on it because it starts out as one genre and turns into another...but that's part of its appeal.


Submitted by Sirand on Sun, 12/23/2012 - 3:53pm.
moderator The class distinction seemed
Debi Moore's picture

The class distinction seemed pretty obvious to me... They weren't taking kids out of the suburbs and placing them with rural families, that's for sure! But at least we do agree this is one of Biehl's best performances so hopefully that trend will continue for her.


Submitted by Debi Moore on Sun, 12/23/2012 - 4:30pm.
Matt Serafini's picture

I don't know what you mean by us being "less enthusiastic" about these lists, Terminal?

Can't speak for my colleagues, but I had five pages in Word when I was done with my list. Could've gone on a bit longer, but I tried to limit my ranting as best I could.


Submitted by Matt Serafini on Sun, 12/23/2012 - 12:41pm.

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