Hell-o all, and Season's Mistreatings. It's Doomsday's Eve everybody! As I was huddled round the ol Festivus Pole today, waiting eagerly for the opportunity to air grievances (and oh are there many), and for the poles to shift and Nibiru to smack straight into the earth (if only), my phone rang and it was Gorehound Mike. He wanted me to work up a last minute list of my top horror/dark films of 2012.
Now honestly, I was not completely overwhelmed with the output of 2012 in the way of our beloved genres. It just seemed like more of the same, for the most part, as every other year. Sequels, remakes. In fact, at first I pulled a complete blank as to what I'd even seen this year. I felt it was that bad. But slowly it came back to me.
There were indeed a couple of interesting flicks this year. Seven, that I thought rose to the top. Sad I couldn't even muster ten. Most movies suck and that's just how it is, a sad fact indeed.
Now, please keep in mind, this has been a quite hectic year for me, and i was not able to catch everything. In fact, I know there were some really decent flicks I just never got around to seeing, but sure as hell plan to when the next opportunity arises. so feel free to take this list with a grain of salt.
So enough bitching, let's get to what's good. Here they are, from 7 to 1, my personal top 7 horror/dark films from 2012.
Film: The Dark Knight Rises
Director: Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan brings us his third and final installment in his Batman Trilogy. A bit long and wordy, it's actually a pretty neat film, and a decent closer to the series. I'm not overly a superhero film or comics film fan necessarily. Quite honestly I tend to loathe the genre. But Nolan's films portray a darker and grittier world than the previous Batman efforts, blending the dark psychoses of both good and bad characters, the lines of many of which are never that clearly drawn. My only issue really is that Nolan seems to have taken the more magical elements out of the series and made it all so very earthbound. I always though Ra's al Ghoul was a preternaturally powerful wizard of some kind, but in Nolan's vision of the universe he's some kind of political freedom fighter or something. I was a little lost. That said, this film achieves a particular pinnacle of bleak terror towards the end of the film, and Bain was definitely interesting, being the brooding, brilliant, addicted, confused, lovelorn brute he was.
Film: The Innnkeepers
Director: Ti West
The Innkeepers is another crrepy, heavily 80's inspired film by Ti West. While nowhere near as slam-bang in it's intensity as West's previous House Of The Devil, but is still a fairly entertaining addition to his resume. An odd tale of ghosts and madness, there were enough twists and turns to help rise above a lot of the other crap-ass haunting and ghost movies currently flooding the market. Nothing spectacular, there's not a whole lot to say about it other than if you enjoy Ti West's work, check it out. There was much worse out this year.
Director: Pete Travis
This film was far more entertaining than I intially anticipated. I've been a huge Judge Dredd fan since my early teens, and this film essentially delivered everything that the 90's Stallone effort did not. Dredd is a take no shit sonofabitch, played to perfection by Karl Urban. There were some things I would have liked to see the film tackle from the comics but didn't, such as some of the more supernatural elements, Judge Death, etc. That said it was still an entertaining, faithful ride. And the 3D was phenomenal, easily the best I've seen. They worked it brilliantly into one of the subplots of the film, about the street drug Slo-Mo. A fine effort, and yes I know it's a superhero/comics film, but this is one of the rare few comics of that genre I really dig. So fuck off.
Film: The Tall Man
Director: Pascal Laugier
This is one of the few films I looked forward to seeing all year. Pascal Laugier previously directed on of my favorite films, the much maligned and misunderstood Martyrs, perhaps one of the grimmest, most violent films ever made. With The Tall Man, he uses a slightly different approach, foresaking a lot (though not all) of the physical violence aspect he's known for, to go more with twisty, intriguing head games, both for his characters and the viewer. Now, I was diheartened to see Jennifer Biel was in it, one of the many current reigning plastic and orange-skinned non-actresses mucking up film screens for what seems like more years than necessary. I find her repellant actually, and hesitated watching this film over it. However, I eventually caved, and was so glad I did. She actually plays far against type, and how this film ends is both gutwrenching yet wholly satisfying to the plot. Laugier's psychological shenanigans are just as potent as the visually repugnant dog-and-pony-show for which he's known. I can't wait to see what he comes up with in the future, and just how it will be delivered.
Film: Cabin In The Woods
Director: Drew Goddard
There's not much that can be said about this film that already hasn't. And for those who haven't seen it I can't really say much (for fear of ruining it). Co-written by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon (of whom I've never been a big fan), this was a real treat, especially for the true horror fan. A kind of play on and manipulation of classic archetypes in horror cinema, the films turns any concepts you've previously had of the genre, all the tropes with which you've been so battered into familiarity with, and turns them upside down, then does it again, and again, resulting in one of coolest monster mash-up finales to ever grace the silver screen.
Director: David Cronenberg
Cronenberg's return to the genre was well worth the wait. Classic Cronenberg in so many ways, socio-politically timely, sexually abberant, and rife with bizarre, consumed, obsessed and narcissisticly damaged characters, this is a grim tale for the modern times. Most of the film takes place in the back of lead Robert Pattison's limo, as he slowly self-destructs both his fortune and himself amidst the turmoil of violent economically charged riots on his way to get . . . a haircut. A fascinating study of both the overprivileged and the socially damaged (love the idea of rats being used as currency), this movie twists into the psyche of someone who really has no reason left to care. At points it reminded me of Crash in a way, seeming to perhaps take place in the same sort of universal lock as that film, at the same point in time even. This film leaves no hope, no room for a future of any kind, for anyone involved. Chilling, realistic stuff indeed. Cronenberg is one of the few "classic" directors left who can still deliver the goods, unlike Romero, Argento, Hooper, and most of the rest from that crew who long ago peaked and continue to try and make embarrasing replications of their past efforts. Kudos, Mr. Cronenberg, keep up the good work.
Director: Ridley Scott
Ridley Scott's long awaited Prometheus may not have been the film many were hoping for, but it was a visually fascinating, intellectually stimulating, epic slab of sci-fi/horror that never fails to deliver. The plot was a bit muddy, there were some things that happened that outright made no sense, and most of the characters were standard versions of a rehash of the characters from the original Alien. That said, the film plays into the concept well, if not completely faithfully, and leaves enough room for the viewer to both draw their own conclusions and try to figure out Scott's puzzle. He has stated that many of these questions will be answered in the proposed sequel to Prometheus, which I am looking forward to. I felt the films highpoint was the android David, played with a stunning clarity and unique series of quirks by Michael Fassbender. He is much different than the other androids in the series, and being the first run fully functional A.I. model, he maintains this odd sense of childlike wonder throughout the film. If you haven't seen it, you must, though keep an open mind while you do. This is not light sci-fi fare, this is a deep thought, think about the concepts for days afterward film. I was impressed, and really enjoyed this entry into the Alien saga. Fuck the naysayers. Can't wait to see where the sequel takes us.
Film: The Grey
Director: Joe Carnahan
My number one pick for 2012 is The Grey with Liam Neeson. This film blew me away, one of the most powerful, gut-punching films I've seen in years. I loved everything about it. Is it a standard horror film, in the typical genre sense of the word? Certainly not, but therein lies the beauty. This film is horrifying, everything about it. It tackles issues of loss, grief, identity, isolation (in every sense of the word), personalities, survival through all things, and the strength of will. What these characters deal with, internally and externally, is absolutely brutal. The scenery is stunning, achieving the feeling of true claustrophobia in wide open spaces. A few people have bitched about this fine piece of cinema, claiming it makes wolves look bad and that their behaviors are not wolf behaviors. Not in the standard sense, no, but do your research. Their behaviors completely fall into the category of yes, this is rare, but possible. Also, the airplane crash early on is almost shocking, and does not instill any further faith in me about those flying death machines. Though I did enjoy the severe turbulance last time I was on one, but that's neither here nor there. I digress. On every level this film got to me. Hell, I even think it's Oscar worthy, that ultimate travesty of Hollywood asskiss. So, no, let me backpedal that, this film is better than an Oscar. Please do yourself the favor of checking out the Grey, for something a bit deep and a bit different. Oh, and people bitched heartily about the ending as well, but I also thought that brilliant. To show what was implied would have thoroughly cheapened the affair, and I liked the openness of said ending. However, make sure you watch the short scene after the credits to make a further judgement.
That's it. Hope everyone has a safe Helliday, and let's hope that 2013 brings us some better entries in the horror genre. I already know I'm looking forward to The Lords Of Salem, oh so much. But, we shall see. As long as we don't all go up in a ball of endtimes flame come the morrow.
---- Vincent Daemon's short fiction has appeared in over 24 publications, and he just put his first short story collection, Bury Me In A Nameless Grave: A Collection Of 11, together to get published. He is also editor of the annual Grave Demand magazine, as well as a freelance editor for hire in his down time. He can be found on facebook, and at his blog The Writings Of A Depraved Mind http://vincentdaemon.blogspot.com/?zx=c2884c7b8567b656 , and contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org ----