As we all prepare to bring in the New Year and obsessively focus on our resolutions for a solid week before carelessly abandoning them in lieu of our hedonistic and gluttonous lifestyles, we fondly look back on the past year with less than fond memories. Thankfully, however, our beloved genre has provided us with several glorious reasons to celebrate. I discussed a few of my 2016 Horror Favorites earlier this week, but there’s so much more to shine a spotlight on.
HEADS UP: There is nothing explicitly SPOILERY in the following post, but if you want to avoid any and every detail of any film/show mentioned below, I would recommend skipping that section. Come back to it once you’ve caught up!
10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Cloverfield Lane is a fantastic thriller with a hokey ending that doesn’t quite do justice to the masterclass of tension that came before. It’s still a fun ride all the way through, however. The three leads of Cloverfield Lane are all outstanding with Mary Elizabeth Winstead once again proving she is a gift from the genre gods and would certainly be befitting of the title “Scream Queen” if such a title were still considered befitting of a talented genre actress…”Genre Queen”?
John Gallagher Jr. who played an evil, menacing, lunatic in Mike Flannagan’s Hush showed off his range in 2016 by delivering an instantly endearing performance here as a well-meaning goofball under the spell of Howard, played by John Goodman. As great as both Winstead and Gallagher were, Goodman slayed the house, er…bunker down. There has been mentions of his name, this film, and an Oscar all in this same sentence, and I couldn’t agree more with that collection of words.
Goodman’s character is an obvious menace from minute one, but on the strength of his performance you still continue to second guess his intentions. I don’t want to spoil much for those of you who’ve yet to check this film out, but the scene with Goodman and a barrel of acid is some nail shredding stuff. Kudos to everyone involved with this surprising addition to the “Cloverfield shared universe”. Here’s hoping the rumored third film, The God Particle keeps the quality up.
For a long time I have been a Rob Zombie apologist. I thought House of 1000 Corpses was a quasi-revelation at the time of its release. I was young but already in love with the hardcore horror of yore, and along comes Zombie with a twisted, Texas Chainsaw riff filtered through his psychedelic, music video, trash can lens. I loved it, and for the most part have found something to appreciate in all of his films since. Being someone who was NOT let down by Lords of Salem, I was a tad bummed to hear he was going back to the senseless killer well.
Nonetheless, I was excited to check 31 out. I bought my tickets to the one night only advanced screening and…set in silence along with a crowded audience of people who seemed to show no reaction or share any connection to disjointed madness flashing across the screen. The film felt like Zombie by numbers. Short story – I didn’t like it.
However, I thought there were two shining stars in this production: Richard Brake and E.G. Daily. A lot has been said about Brake as Doom Head. His opening monologue is chilling and opens the film with a sickly bang. Unfortunately, he then disappears until the final third, but when he’s on screen the movie comes to life. I might not be a fan of 31 overall, but I wouldn’t mind a follow up focusing more on Doom Head.
E.G. Daily has always been an actress who fascinates me. She always seems willing to “go there” no matter how small a role she might be stuck with. As the voice of Tommy Pickles and a mainstay in a lot of those 80’s teen films we all know and love, she is still a sexy woman and isn’t afraid to use that to deliver a completely bat-shit, hyper-sexual performance as non other than Sex Head.
FAVORITE OUTRAGEOUS MOMENTS
Ash vs Evil Dead
Season 2, Episode 2 -or- “Ash vs Colon Dead”. This was one of the most jaw-dropping, gag inducing moments I’ve seen in horror in a very long time, and the fact this was part of a thirty minute television show makes the moment seem all the more outrageous. In the scene, Ash has broken into a morgue in an attempt to find the Necronomicon that was unwisely hidden inside a corpse.
As intestines spring to life and Ash’s head is literally shoved up the body’s ass, I was screaming at my TV and in tears from laughing. It was pitch-perfect splatstick perfection. I haven’t reacted so viscerally since the first time I saw Fulci’s The Beyond as a friend and I sat in my room screaming our lungs out in disgust for the entirety of the film. This scene in Ash vs Evil Dead was so much fun that it took me back to being a kid discovering horror, and reminded me why I love the genre so much.
I won’t spoil anything here. I will say that I could not believe my eyes that what was transpiring on screen was in a wide release Hollywood production. The entire audience lost their shit, gagging, laughter, and shrieks galore filled the auditorium. While I enjoyed the film a lot and felt that it was a pretty intense ride, this moment will go down in history as one of the most outrageous bits in horror. It’s a shame this type of dangerous film-making isn’t more present in today’s cinema. This is what used to fill the screens back in the 80s, and hopefully, we’ll be seeing some more of it in the near future.
FAVORITE SCARY MOMENTS
The Conjuring 2
The Conjuring wasn’t that scary to me. I feel the need to revisit it as I seem to be the only person in the world who wasn’t blown away by the first outing of the Warrens. This follow up, in my opinion, delivered way more in the cold sweat, squirm inducing moments that I seek in a good fright flick. The ending was a bit of a letdown in its contrived convenience, but the moments that worked far outweighed the third act problems.
One such moment that had me flying out of my seat and tapping my feet in anxiety (something I tend to do when a film’s suspense is really working its magic on me), was a chilling moment of Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren and a creepy painting. The scene sent a legit chill up my spine and left me watching it unveil through squinted eyes. If you haven’t seen it, you’ll know it when you do. Director, James Wan has proven to be a master at setting up a scare, and out of all of his films this might be the most effective yet.
This film received a lot of negative feedback upon its release and completely tanked at the box office. Was this a revolutionary film like the original Blair Witch Project? No. It was a fun, if heavily flawed, continuation of the story that culminated in an extremely intense finale that left me uneasy and walking out of the theater on wobbly legs.
The particular moment that stood out to me as one of my favorite scares of 2016 was the initial reveal of “it”. Some say that “it” was the Blair Witch herself or simply Elly Kedward (yes, the filmmakers seem to consider the entities separate). Perhaps, what we see is actually from “up there”. Who knows, and considering we’ll probably never get a fourth Blair Witch film at this point, we can only speculate. What I know for sure is that when the camera panned over through sheets of heavy rain to spotlight a glimpse of the creature, I screamed and shrieked, “what the fuck was that?!” echoing the immortal words of Heather Donahue herself from the original film.
If you avoided Blair Witch due to all the negative press upon its release, I say give it a chance.
There you have it, a few more of a few of my favorite horror things! I’ll hopefully be doing one more of these posts, so let me know if there is anything in particular you would like me to cover such as “favorite soundtrack” or “favorite gore moment” (although that category would probably end up going to Ash vs Evil Dead as well). Until then, cheers!
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