But before I get to the list (if you haven't spared yourself my dithering and scrolled down already), let me just say that, though I didn't get to spend as much time working with this blog as I would have liked, this does not signal the decline of the Horror Dose empire! One of my new year's resolutions for 2013 is to amp up the action here at Horror Dose. I'm a busy guy, but that's no excuse for skimping on the blog (I, too, loath seeing all the "Review forthcoming"s). So, instead of overloading myself with trying to watch and blog about movie after movie, I'll go for quality over quantity. This year I plan to stick with watching and properly reviewing and engaging in conversation about recent releases. Sure, undoubtedly, I'll watch all kinds of films from all kinds of countries and decades; but as far as this blog is concerned, I'll focus more energy and attention on the latest releases.
Now--for real this time--I present to you my top picks from 2012.
The Top 10The Road is a little piece of horror fare from the Philippines that I took a chance on while surfing through the Netflix Instant catalog. (Come to think of it, this list is comprised of DVDs, BluRay, and Netflix Instant, so I suppose the title "Top 10 DVD Releases" is a bit of a misnomer.) This one barely made the list, competing fiercely with Absentia, The Pack, and Excision. But despite the overly convoluted weaving of storyline that bloats the film's plot, it has enough of the subtle thrills I enjoy to push it into my 2012 picks.
Even though I was extremely confused for most of the movie--(admittedly a self-induced confusion: I had thought it was another installment of the Phantasm franchise)--I found yet another enjoyable offering from Pascal Laugier, notorious mastermind behind the 2009 French film Martyrs. This one is a psychological-mystery-thriller more than a straight horror movie, but the tension is often thick due to some skillful composition and audio engineering, and it boasts not one, not two, but three distinct plot twists that keep the film engaging from start to finish.
Ah, my good friend Ti West. The guy who gave me The House of the Devil, which I picked as #1 for the 2010 Top 10 Releases. When I heard he was at work on The Innkeepers, I could barely focus on anything else. And though I tried not to expect another House, I couldn't help but expect too much. Yes, I admit, the first watch was a let-down. But I watched the bonus features, including the film with commentary from Ti West and the two main characters; and in the end, I walked away with a strong appreciation for the work West is doing. I think he will continue to be an inspiration for aspiring filmmakers, and I continue to hold onto hope for the next feature-length release (yes, I am aware of and have watched the short piece of West's featured in V/H/S/).
I did not expect to like this movie, but surprise-surprise it was highly enjoyable--as twisted as that sounds for a movie of this ilk. I've heard it likened to Bereavement, and I think that's a pretty good comparison. But despite having seen and enjoyed Stevan Mena's piece, I found Chained to be equally deserving of viewership, not a cheap knockoff or plot retread. Some may deride it as highly implausible--but, hey, so are over half the movies in this genre we all love so much! In the end, Chained has a lot of heart behind it--the same passion for horror films I found while watching Deadgirl.
I just mentioned Deadgirl at the end of my blurb for the preceding pick, and the memories of Deadgirl abounded while watching The Woman, based on a novel by Jack Ketchum (if you're familiar with his books Offspring and Off Season, you'll find this to be, I think, the prequel). The Woman is a perfect balance of black comedy and vicious tension-building. While not my usual cup of tea, I enjoyed The Woman enough for it to make the top of the bottom 10.
It's a rare thing for me to pick an American remake of a movie I thoroughly enjoyed (La Casa Muda) for my top 10 list, but this was a strong film with a strong lead. Despite the film losing steam toward the end, and finally going to pieces with a desperate attempt to provide a twist, the first two thirds and the acting of Elizabeth Olsen must be seen by everyone--horror fan or not. The tension of the first 30 minutes is some of the best I've ever seen from an American horror film.
Usually, I loath watching movies for the first time with other people around. Especially with horror movies, I like to watch alone in silence to amplify the intended effect. But I took a chance with this highly-anticipated Cuban zombie-comedy, and watched it for the first time with a group of horror-loving friends. To my surprise, Juan was not only a hilarious social commentary of Cuban life, but also a film that screams to be watched with a crowd.
Aside from Skew, this is the only movie I reviewed that rewarded me some communication from the director. Unlike Skew, however, I loved Some Guy (that sentence sounds weird without seeing the punctuation!). The black humor here is dead on, and who cares about any of the other aspects of the film. If you like horror movies and you like to laugh, you can't go wrong with this one.
When I watched this I thought to myself, this will undoubtedly be #1 on my top 10 list. But, of course, that was before I saw what is actually my #1. In truth, my #2 and my #1 this year are neck-and-neck, but whenever I think about the two movies, I tend to favor the winner. Be that as it may, Cabin is the ultimate horror-movie lover's dream of a film. Parodic, comedic, packed with references and allusions, and with a delightful, skillfully unfolding backstory. The only people I've talked to who didn't like it, I no longer consider true fans of the genre (or possibly movies in general).
Alas! The #1 pick of 2012 goes to Lovely Molly. Edouardo Sanchez (best known for The Blair Witch Project) nails it with this one. A lot of people I've talked to think I'm crazy for giving this one a place so high on the list--let along the #1 spot--but I can't help it. Molly won me over from start to finish. It has everything I love in horror movies: solid acting (especially from first-timer Gretchen Lodge), subtlety, and taut pacing. It's currently available on Netflix Instant, and I urge any self-respecting horror-movie lover to watch it immediately.
*Obviously, this list doesn't include all the releases of 2012. If anything is missing that you feel should be brought to my attention, please leave a comment!