Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2012
All said, 2012 wasn’t a completely terrible year for horror flicks. It wasn’t great, mind, but it certainly wasn’t terrible. It opened strong with one of my favorite films of the year (in any genre), and then gifted us with the occasional gem amidst the expected dreck from both the big studios and the indies.
Ohh, but there were some terrible movies, too. Movies that shame their cast, their makers, and the very genre they’ve chosen to degrade. Every year has its handful of stinkers, to be sure, but a few of this year’s worst were downright heinous.
Oddly, the recurring trend this year didn’t seem to be an issue of good/bad or great/terrible. Rather, this year seemed to give us a handful of films (in various genres) that had great potential, and every needed resource, but squandered it all with dodgy scripts full of easily fixed mistakes. One of these even managed to make it onto my Honorable Mentions list, through no fault of its weak writing. But, as this isn’t a “Best/Worst/Mehst” list, I’ll belabor this point no further.
One last note: Some of the films on the following list aren’t technically “2012” films. Some may have been produced years ago, and some may have been released in a limited capacity at the end of last year. My list takes into account those movies which were made widely available to viewers within this past year. Hope this doesn’t unsettle any of you.
5. The Innkeepers - One of the year’s biggest surprises for this reviewer. While I enjoyed director Ti West’s previous film The House of the Devil, I found his slow-burn approach to be mostly annoying with his earlier efforts (Trigger Man and The Roost). Fortunately, The Innkeepers continues West’s upward streak with this fun, frightening, and well-acted take on traditional spookfests. While the deliberate pacing in its first half may be off-putting to some, I found the characters endearing enough to carry the film without benefit of any supernatural shenanigans. Of course, once the ghosts do make an appearance, the movie becomes a genuine hair-raiser, barreling along toward a surprisingly downbeat (and perhaps somewhat misjudged?) finale.
4. The Loved Ones - Originally lensed in 2009, only to get a half-hearted release in the States this year, The Loved Ones manages to live up to its long-festering hype, giving us a grueling, haunting, and oddly romantic little flick that plays out like the bastard child of Tobe Hooper and John Hughes. The performances, the photography, and the music are all wonderful, but it’s the film’s darkly comic/horrific tone and lead actress Robin McLeavy’s truly unhinged villainess that left their bloody mark on this viewer. Now, Paramount, where the hell is the Blu-ray?!
3. Kill List - Director Ben Wheatley’s moody chiller almost defies categorization, as it seems to shift genres with each of its act breaks. Initially a mumble-corish domestic drama, then a buddy crime flick, Kill List ultimately switches its gears over to our favorite genre by its final thirty minutes, when the story’s mostly heretofore unseen threat finally reveals itself. Kill List is not for every viewer, but this writer found it to be one of the most engrossing and truly scary films that the year had to offer.
2. Take Shelter - While Shea Whigham and 2012’s breakout star Jessica Chastain put in predictably great performances, it’s star Michael Shannon’s intense turn as a possibly prophetic, possibly schizophrenic blue-collar family man that anchors this moody, icily horrifying film. While it’s a stretch to call this character study a full-on horror film, horror fans should appreciate its relentlessly unnerving tone and some of the most jolting sequences I’ve seen all year.
1. The Grey - Intermittently gorgeous and terrifying, Joe Carnahan’s survival tale may have been sold as a Liam Neeson action flick, but is more a stirring meditation on life, death, and faith. Every aspect of this film is superb from its fantastic acting to the beautifully gritty photography to the film’s haunting tone and its harrowing climax, which somehow manages to be as downbeat as it is hopeful. Nearly a year after having first seen this, I still claim it as my single favorite film of 2012.
Honorable Mentions: Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, The Cabin in the Woods, Prometheus, ParaNorman, Lovely Molly, Chronicle
5. Silent Hill: Revelation - An exhausting experience, this movie nearly put this reviewer right to sleep in the theatre. A follow-up to the damn good 2006 Christophe Gans original, Revelation forgoes any narrative logic in favor of hurling setpiece after setpiece at the audience but fails to ever be exciting or enthralling. Or even remotely interesting. While some of the creatures are cool, and the sets at times capture the gorgeous grime from the previous film, this film ultimately fails with its lamebrained script and hilariously awful acting. A franchise killer if I ever saw one.
4. Airborne - Dull, dull, oh so dull. Though the movie itself is well-lensed, and Mark Hamill’s brief appearance is quite decent, Airborne is ultimately a snoozefest, saddled with wooden actors and a story that never takes flight.
3. The Collapsed - Easily the worst of this year’s post-apocalyptic thrillers (and yikes, is that saying something), The Collapsed features a nifty last act twist that sets up what could be a potentially interesting sequel. Pity the preceding eighty minutes are poorly acted (mostly) and boring as hell.
2. Piranha 3DD - An aimless, entirely joyless trip into exploitative tedium, full of crassly unfunny “humor” and slumming actors who know better. While I dig grindhousey movies as much as the next guy, boobs and blood only do not a good movie make. A terrible film.
1. Area 407 - Ugh. A case study in what not to do with the found footage conceit, Area 407 squanders its cool (and mostly hidden) central idea by straining the audience’s patience with its repetitive structure, bad dialogue, and a seemingly unending laundry list of POV no-no’s. A life-draining, mind-numbing, soul-crushing watch. This movie hates you.
Dishonorable Mentions: Silent House, Paranormal Activity 4, The Wicker Tree, The Tall Man, The Apparition
Yet To See: Antiviral, Berberian Sound Studio, Hitchcock, Bait 3D, American Mary