Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2012
As the year winds down, one thing has become abundantly obvious: Horror on television is thriving now more than ever in the past. It's great to see shows push the boundaries of what's been allowed on TV previously and bring horrific stories right into our living rooms.
I have two honorable mentions for this year, the first being one of those brilliant television projects I mentioned above. "American Horror Story: Asylum" is beautiful insanity. There is so much going on in this show that to try to describe it makes you sound mental…"Well, there are aliens and Nazis and this guy Bloodyface and an evil Santa Claus, and oh yeah, Anne Frank showed up on a couple episodes…" Crazy. But somehow it all works. And "American Horror Story" pulls no punches. It's brutal storytelling, and it's a blast!
My second honorable mention is actually the film I enjoyed the most in 2012. The Loved Ones was absolute maniacal perfection, but technically just the US DVD was released this year, and the film is actually a couple of years old. However, that being said, I'll forever hold a place in my heart for the Queen of the Dance, Lola Stone. The Loved Ones is devilishly brutal, and Robin McLeavy plays one of the greatest psychos we've seen in years. A true horror gem!
Helmed by [REC] and [REC2] co-director Jaume Balagueró, Sleep Tight is a trip away from the extreme gore and violence of [REC] into a story of unsettling, realistic violation. The film is completely driven by the skin-crawlingly creepy performance of Luis Tosar as Cesar, an apartment building concierge who uses his knowledge of the tenants to interfere with their lives. His lack of self-esteem and the feeling that he has nothing to live for, and therefore nothing to lose, makes Cesar a very frightening and dangerous character. His obsession over one particular tenant and the lengths he goes to invade her privacy are downright disturbing. The idea of this film is a great change of pace for the horror genre, and the execution by Balagueró and his cast and crew is first rate. A great film!
Sushi Girl is a tasty blend of horror and thriller with perhaps the best ensemble cast of the year. The story revolves around a diamond heist that went awry six years previously and the fallout that comes to pass when the man who held the lost diamond bag is released from prison. Tony Todd heads up the cast as Duke, the leader of the gang and the organizer of the heist, and host of the dinner meeting which becomes the backdrop for the film. Todd is as good as he's ever been, and he's supported by Mark Hamill, who brings a manic performance that fans of his work as The Joker will certainly appreciate. Andy Mackenzie and Noah Hathaway also shine. Sushi Girl ends with a twist that even the most attentive movie-goer won't see coming. A bloody thrilling adventure that draws the audience in and brings viewers on a violent excursion not soon to be forgotten.
The Cabin in the Woods
Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard got together and wrote a film that became one of the most unique and poignant in the horror genre this year. The Cabin in the Woods is a success on so many levels. It's got legitimate frights, legitimate laughs and a message to the horror genre that it's time to stop regurgitating the same story, same setting, same basic movie over and over again and extend itself to develop creative and original new stories. The re-watchability of The Cabin in the Woods is off the charts, Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford are absolutely hilarious (not to mention a laugh-out-loud performance from Fran Kranz) and there is plenty of gore to go around. The message from Whedon and Goddard is top-notch, and the film is stellar.
Adam Green has established himself as one of the most dynamic directors in horror. With films as diverse as Hatchet and Frozen, Green has shown he can hit audiences from several different angles. However, his FEARnet project, "Holliston," may be his most brilliant work yet. For a fan of horror, "Holliston" is magnificent. A sitcom full of cameos from huge horror stars, tons of F/X and a member of GWAR living in the closet, "Holliston" is absolutely unique and brilliant. The cast of Green along with Joe Lynch, Corri English and Laura Ortiz with Dee Snider and Oderus Urungus are absolutely perfect together. There is a true comedic dynamic that flow through this group, making "Holliston" a magnetic television show that is made by horror fans for horror fans.
"The Walking Dead"
For years I've felt that "The Sopranos" was the best dramatic television series I'd ever seen. That was until Season 3 of "The Walking Dead" launched. "The Walking Dead" has become the face of horror for mainstream viewing audiences. No longer is the genre represented by Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers… when you say horror, the layman viewer thinks zombies and "The Walking Dead," and with good right. The show is absolutely phenomenal. It's so good that it has a legion of horror fans watching what is basically a soap opera populated by a zombie plague. The cast is incredible, the F/X are consistently better than any you'll see anywhere and the story simply continues to get more and more intriguing. "The Walking Dead" is currently as good as it gets.
My main beat here at Dread Central is the indies, and that's what I mostly watch during the year. And yes, many of them have their warts, but they are all somebody's baby and I can appreciate the love and dedication that goes into each and every one of them. And it's for that reason that I couldn't possibly take five of them and slap 'em onto a bottom of the barrel list. In lieu of my bottom five, I will simply leave this message for my beloved indie filmmakers: Continue to be creative, continue to push the barriers of what we've seen before and challenge the audience. Look at the list above and see what makes each project great and learn from them. Find the magic in those works and let them help you put that same magic into yours. Every year we see great indie films released, but for every one that shines, there are scores that fail. Don't fail. Be creative. Be original. Be great. I look forward to seeing what you crazy indie bastards have in store for us in 2013. Your hard work and dedication are an inspiration.