Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2012
It was tough coming up with a "Best of" list this year considering the sparsity of films that were even in the running, but along with those that rose to the top, I do have a few honorable mentions that I must make note of, especially for those films that are on the fringy side of the genre - not quite horror but definitely deserving of the horror fans' attention: Chronicle, The Raid, and Killer Joe. All three are outstanding and well worth your time.
Two movies that just barely missed landing in the Top 5 are Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (screw the naysayers; I had an absolute blast with it) and Detention (you can read my review for all the reasons why I loved this flick), and on the family-friendly side of the fence is ParaNorman, which surpassed all my expectations.
Lastly among my honorable mentions is the horror/comedy/creature feature The Cabin in the Woods, which would have landed in the Top 5 if only it has been a little more horror and a little less comedy although I certainly can't complain about a lack of creatures. In that regard, it blew past the competition!
Now on with the rest…
The Bay - The one film I saw this year that grabbed my attention from the onset and wouldn't let go was the found-footage thriller The Bay. How the hell Barry Levinson managed to breathe fresh life into the stale found footage sub-genre is beyond me, but he did it in spades - with a great cast and an idea that, even weeks after watching the film, gave me the worst case of the heebie-jeebies I've had in years.
Maniac - I know… many of you haven't seen this yet and are highly skeptical of Elijah Wood's ability to convincingly carry off a role like this. But trust me - and one of our harshest critics, Pestilence, who called it "a masterpiece of technical wizardry and a deserving horror classic in its own right" - you won't see a more visceral, disturbing film than Maniac anytime soon.
The Aggression Scale - Home invasion is becoming almost as routine a plot device as found footage these days, and if you thought you'd seen it all, well, you ain't seen nothing yet if you haven't seen The Aggression Scale. It's a fresh, unexpected take on the horror/crime hybrid with lots to offer fans of both genres and ensures that Steven C. Miller is a director we'll be watching very closely in the years to come. (I also dug his Silent Night, although I still say he should have given Donal Logue more screen time.)
The Dead / Juan of the Dead - These two zombie films are both so damn good, it was impossible to choose between them. The Ford brothers battled incredible odds to complete The Dead, and every bit of their efforts shows up onscreen. It's bleak and beautiful and, as Uncle Creepy said in his review, "I cannot recall a zombie movie before that has featured this many members of the living dead." As for Juan, it's totally different in tone but just as effective. Coming from Cuba, it provides a perspective we don't see very often - and you just have to love how subversive and politically pointed it is.
"American Horror Story: Asylum" - The biggest surprise of the year for me was how drastically my opinion of "AHS: Asylum" changed over the course of this season. A few more episodes remain to be aired as I write this list so I can't be 100% sure things will end on a high note, but given how far we've come from Episode 1 to where we are today, I'm feeling confident enough to go ahead and say that hands down the scariest, most unnerving and unsettling thing I've seen all year is this series (or miniseries or whatever the hell they're calling it this week). Ryan Murphy is taking us on a harrowing journey that taps into our very real fear of being labeled insane and experiencing all the horrors that come with it. Jessica Lange is again absolutely killing it with her performance, but so is everyone else - Lily Rabe is burning up the screen; Zachary Quinto and Sarah Paulson share an amazing chemistry; James Cromwell is supremely slimy; and on and on. And it has introduced a whole new generation to The Singing Nun's "Dominque"! Talk about scarring someone for life!
In an effort to keep things short and sweet, I'll try not to harp too much on the Bottom 5 this go-round; best to just offer my advice and move on so as not to give them any more attention than they deserve. But first here are the numerous dishonorable mentions (man, this year really sucked!), any one of which could easily have wound up just a few paragraphs lower: ATM, Piranha 3DD, Playback, Greystone Park, Barricade, Paranormal Activity 4, I Am Zozo, and Hypothermia.
As for the worst of the worst…
The Tall Man - I'm not even sure this can - or should - be classified as a horror film, but because we covered it and I know a lot of people are interested in it because of its director, Pascal Laugier, I feel it's my duty to warn people away. Biehl is sort of okay, but it has a terrible script and an even worse "message." Avoid at all costs.
Hollow - I don't like to pick on the little guy too much in these types of lists, but Hollow is just… well… hollow and tedious. It has unlikable characters and is poorly paced and padded with a lot of nothing. Found footage done totally wrong.
Underworld: Awakening / Silent Hill: Revelation - The Curse of the Colon strikes again! Both of these franchises really hit the wall this year with abysmal offerings that did nothing to either advance their storylines or leave fans clamoring for more. Enough - put them (and us) out of their (and our) misery, please.
The Monitor (aka Babycall) - Another flick hardly anybody else saw, but again, I have to be that canary in the coal mine warning you to turn back before popping this one in your DVD player some cold, lonely night. It's total dullsville and no doubt something Noomi Rapace will be happy to leave off her quickly expanding resume.
Munger Road - Few films make me angry. No matter how bad it is, I'm usually able to just move on and forget about it. Not so Munger Road. In a year when not having an ending seemed to be "the" thing, it went above and beyond that and flat out insulted its audience. As McHargue said in his review, "It’s the laziest type of filmmaking around, and any enjoyment to be gained from watching Munger Road quickly vanishes in the final five minutes of the film." In other words…