Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2012
Sinister- Sinister is absolutely my pick for the scariest flick I've seen in 2012; a clever new spin on many modern horror tropes, it also manages to leave you in an emotionally pummeled heap by the film's unflinching finale. My proverbial hat is off to co-writer/director Scott Derrickson and co-writer Robert C. Cargill for creating an unflinching and haunting exploration of urban mythos and one man's desperate need for validation that puts everyone and everything he loves in jeopardy along the way.
There are very few horror movies that hit theaters in 2012 that I'd use the words "disturbing" and "visceral" for, but Sinister seriously delivered the goods and then some for me. It's an incredible experience to see a thoughtful, character-driven but still downright terrifying genre film that manages to celebrate many of our beloved modern horror conventions, all while still making them feel new and unexpected to boot. I'd absolutely be game to follow Mr. Boogie on more terrifying adventures in the future.
Killer Joe- Sleazy, twisted cinematic perfection, Killer Joe is undeniably one of the more unforgettable movies of the year. Another gritty masterpiece from William Friedkin, who once again effectively crawls under the audience's skin just mere seconds into the flick with a rather awkward "hairy moment" (those of you who have seen Killer Joe know EXACTLY what I'm talking about), and he never once lets up on until the film's insanely bizarre conclusion.
It also doesn't hurt that Friedkin has one of the best all-around cinematic ensembles of 2012 in Killer Joe bringing acclaimed playwright Tracy Letts' challenging material to life; anchored by Matthew McConaughey (who is having a stellar 2012), this Southern-fried tale of deceit, murder and twisted love also features a raw and blistering performance by the always awesome Gina Gershon and is a hell of an introduction for newcomer Juno Temple.
For those of you who missed it earlier this year, Killer Joe arrived on DVD and Blu-Ray on December 21st, which makes for a perfect opportunity to catch up on the 'feel-so-bad-you-feel-good' flick of the year. You'll also never look at fried chicken the same way again.
ParaNorman- Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big kid at heart so I was thrilled that in 2012 we were treated to THREE different horror-centric animated feature films. And while Frankenweenie may be (on a technical and storytelling level) the "best" of the this year's animated offerings, ParaNorman still remains my favorite of the trio and one of my overall favorite genre films of the year as well.
Every single miniscule detail - from the stunning design work of Laika to the color palette, the music and the voice performances - in ParaNorman leaves me with a big, goofy grin upon each viewing. There's so much heart and passion behind the flick (kudos to directing duo Chris Butler and Sam Fell), ParaNorman is easily one of the most rewatchable genre flicks of this year, if only to pick up on all the little horror homages you may have missed the first time around.
The Cabin in the Woods- There really isn't much left to be said that you probably haven't already heard before about Drew Goddard's transcendent The Cabin in the Woods (and chances are it's a film that will be showing up on a lot of other DC staffers' lists, too) so I won't even try and throw a bunch of fancy words around here. You get it… we love this movie, and if you haven't seen it yet, the less you know about it going in, the better.
But all the hype is real- The Cabin in the Woods is by far one of the greatest genre-bending movies of this or any year, and for any of you out there who missed out on seeing the flick on the big screen, you can go ahead and blame yourselves for all the remakes and PG-13 horror flicks we've been inundated with throughout the rest of the year and for what I'm sure will be years to come.
The Grey/The Raid: Redemption- This is the spot I generally use for my more fringy flicks- ones that aren't necessarily horror but somehow touch upon familiar genre tropes. This year was tough because many of my favorites fell into this fringe category; I couldn't pick just one so I went with two…The Grey and The Raid: Redemption.
Both movies thrilled me for very different reasons but ultimately for the same reasons; each director used their respective limited budgets to their advantage and proved that you don't need to rely on huge set pieces or grandiose visual effects to create engaging and enthralling storytelling.
In The Grey Liam Neeson delivers another career-defining performance (if only those hoity-toity awards people could remember movies released more than a month ago), and one of my favorite modern directors, Joe Carnahan (shut up, I love The A-Team flick and Smokin' Aces so whatever!), demonstrates that he can masterfully tackle action and emotion with an even hand. The plane crash remains one of the most startling sequences on the big screen this year, and there's just no denying the sheer awesomeness that is The Grey's final moments of Neeson staring down a bloodthirsty wolf.
And in terms of The Raid: Redemption, there's just not another action movie of this year that could match the frenetic energy and inventiveness that writer/director Gareth Evans crafted in his Indonesian action masterpiece. Everything about The Raid worked for me: the cinematography, the insane fight choreography, a breakout performance by Iko Uwais and Evans' ability to sustain a feeling of overwhelming suspense from start to finish- a new standard has been set for modern action with The Raid: Redemption, and I'm absolutely in line for anything from Evans in the future.
Honorable Mentions: Excision, Seven Psychopaths, Chronicle, [REC] 3: Genesis, The Aggression Scale, Some Guy Who Kills People, Dredd 3D, Looper, Citadel
Men in Black 3- Yeah, I know it's not pure horror, but I covered it earlier this year so there was no doubt in my mind that Men in Black 3 was going to make my "Worst of" list regardless of whether or not it's horror (it's sci-fi and we do some sci-fi, so there!).
But not even the return of Will Smith to the big screen after a four-year breather or Josh Brolin doing an absolute killer impression of resident stick in the mud Tommy Lee Jones could save this soulless sequel. It was bland, ugly and frankly a total letdown from what could have been a silly summer popcorn flick- plus we also got jipped on a brand new song from Mr. "Big Willie Style" himself, which is an immediate penalty for me.
Hopefully Men in Black 3 has officially ended this silly franchise (The original? Still great fun!), and at this point the only sequel I want to see from Smith is a follow-up to ID4 (yes, I'm serious).
ATM- Not that I was exactly expecting a movie about three people locked inside an ATM vestibule to be a cinematic tour de force or anything, but holy hell! This movie is just ridiculously dumb on every single level- the plot, the characters, the reveal, the logic… I could go on for another ten pages about just how this might be the stupidest horror movie of the year, but I think you get it.
What I REALLY wish was that this had been a movie about a killer ATM (a la Maximum Overdrive) than about a killer stalking a group of idiots at an ATM. That’s a movie that would have actually made far more sense than this turd of a movie did.
Paranormal Activity 4- Paranormal Activity 3 was amongst my favorite flicks of 2011 so even I'm a bit surprised to be putting PA4 on this year's worst list… but it deserves it. As a franchise fan, this sequel was insulting- no questions were answered, most of the gags were recycled from the other films and so much of the flick's logic makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
It's also the first Paranormal flick that didn't even get one single scare out of me- just a bummer all around. Here's hoping they turn it around on the fifth one and finally put all the puzzle pieces in place for fans once and for all.
Playback- You are probably asking yourself right now, "Wait, what was Playback again?" My response to that? EXACTLY.
Starring Christian Slater (remember when he had a promising career?), Playback is supposed to be a supernatural horror movie but actually never takes the time to make up its mind about what kind of movie it wants to be so what we get is a director who just shoves in EVERY SINGLE MODERN HORROR TROPE imaginable into its 98-minute running time and voila! The results are a big heaping pile of crap that I still can't believe got financed. Plus we also get treated to scenes of Slater masturbating to videos of high school girls, which frankly is an entirely new level of sleazy, even for me.
Greystone Park- This movie is so coma-inducing, I've fallen asleep twice trying to write about how awful it is. Oliver Stone's kid wrote, directed and stars in this inane found footage movie that is almost as dumb as ATM; it's nothing but a bunch of forced jump scares that never go anywhere and proves that not everyone who can "pick up a camera and make a movie" should. Guess filmmaking skips a generation, eh?
Dishonorable Mentions- Prometheus, The Tall Man, The Fields, Werewolf: A Beast Among Us