As we move into the second month of 2012, and the release schedule begins to gain momentum again, I thought I'd take a look at some of the flicks that are at the top of my "most anticipated" pile for the coming year. These are by no means the only films I'm looking forward to, but having given this some thought (and a fair bit of research), it's safe to say this represents the cream of the crop for me.
There's a few titles here that are listed on IMDb as being released in 2011, but I doubt they've been seen by many outside of festival screenings.
I'd like to acknowledge the tireless work of Garth Franklin at Dark Horizons whose "Notable Films of 2012" feature made my research for this a lot easier. He puts a huge amount of effort into compiling these exhaustive lists at the beginning of each year, and I'm glad he does because they're an invaluable resource.
So, in no particular order, here's 20 movies to get excited for over the coming months:
JOHN DIES AT THE END
Dir: Don Coscarelli
The return of Coscarelli! Based on a cult novel by David Wong, this promises to be a psychedelic, multidimensional mindfuck of a movie - druggy, tripped-out and featuring a slew of practical monster and gore FX. After the hugely enjoyable Bubba Ho-Tep, Coscarelli seems to be in his creative prime at the moment, and arguably far more relevant now than many of his contemporaries such as Carpenter and Romero. It's getting good reviews out of Sundance, and I can't wait to see this. So much so that I ordered the novel yesterday. And Paul Giamatti is in it!
Dir: David Cronenberg
Hey Cronenberg fans, are you feeling spoilt? You should be, because we're getting not one, but two movies from the master this year (I finally saw A Dangerous Method earlier tonight!). This is another book adaptation (this time from a novel by Don Delillo), starring Robert "sparkly" Pattinson, and I'm actually intrigued to see what sort of performance Cronenberg pulls out of him. Cosmopolis' simple synopsis of "a multimillionaire on a 24-hour odyssey across Manhattan", coupled with reports that much of the action takes place within a single car, makes it sound like a very minimal affair. However, with an estimated budget of 20 million, who knows? I could be completely wrong here, but I'm wondering if this is going to be in a similar vein to Martin Scorsese's wonderful After Hours. More Giamatti here too!
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
Dir: Drew Goddard
I've never really been into Joss Whedon, but he is an undeniably talented genre writer, and this long-shelved horror (SF?) movie has got me psyched. I know very little about this, and will keep steering clear of all reviews and trailers to stay as ignorant as possible. I'm hoping for something different and surprising here.
Dir: Ridley Scott
What can I say about this? I'm one of those people who believe without reservation that Scott is responsible for the two greatest SF movies ever made, so his return to the genre is very welcome indeed (he also recently secured the rights to my most beloved SF novel, Joe Haldeman's The Forever War). Any doubts I had about this were immediately dispelled by the incredible first trailer, which teases an epic, beautiful, hard SF film. The cast is fantastic, the design & FX look spectacular, and I for one am glad that we probably won't be seeing the now quite redundant xenomorph. This looks like science fiction on a truly grand scale, the likes of which we don't often see anymore in this age of green screen sound stages*, overused CGI and recycled ideas. It could also be a huge disaster of self indulgent wankery. Either way, this is my most anticipated film of the year.
*Much of the film was shot on location in Iceland, the Scottish Highlands, the Jordanian desert and on enormous sets constructed at Pinewood Studios in England.
Dir: Joe Carnahan
Carnahan is a director that I haven't taken much notice of until now (Narc was watchable, but The A-Team can just go fuck themselves), however The Grey looks to be the kind of grim, realistic, man-against-nature survival thriller that really gets my blood pumping. See also Frozen and The Reef. I also really dig Liam Neeson. And wolves. This opens here in a couple of weeks, and I plan on being there opening day.
JUAN OF THE DEAD (Juan de los Muertos)
Dir: Alejandro Brugués
Cuba's first zombie flick is the sophomore effort for director Alejandro Brugués, and if the word coming out of various festivals is to be trusted, it may just be the best zombie film we've seen in a while. As with most great living dead films, the zombies here apparently take a back seat to an endearing and interesting cast of living characters. I've heard that it features some pretty tasty gore too. Brugués has stated that Juan was not intended as a satire of life in Havana under Castro... and I'll reserve judgement on that until I see it.
Dir: Quentin Tarantino
Really interested to see how Quentin follows up his masterpiece (and career highpoint) Inglourious Basterds. I personally think the man was born to make westerns, so my expectations are set very high for this. As usual he's hand picked an amazing cast, and I'm looking forward to seeing DiCaprio's Calvin Candie, but the big reason to get excited about Django is the casting of KURT MOTHERFUCKING RUSSELL.
THE RAID (Serbuan Maut)
Dir: Gareth Evans
Is The Raid the Assault On Precinct 13 of martial arts movies? This Indonesian/American co-production promises to be a wall-to-wall barrage of mayhem, ultra violence and hyper cool... all smashing into your cerebral cortex via the Indonesian martial art of silat. Apparently the hand-to-hand combat and firefights in The Raid are some of the wildest and most impressively choreographed in the history of the genre. Everything about this movie just screams badass. Really looking forward to this one.
Dir: Alfonso Cuarón
With Children Of Men, Cuarón gave us a modern science fiction masterpiece. A film as remarkable for its astounding technical and artistic achievements, as for its seemingly prescient vision of the most terrifying future dystopia since Blade Runner. As with Ridley Scott, Cuarón is a perfectionist, obsessed with detail, and therefore perfectly suited to creating supremely convincing SF worlds. I'm very excited to see what these talents and sensibilities bring to the space genre. So much so that I'll tolerate an entire movie of nothing but Sandra Bullock.
THE ABCS OF DEATH
The horror anthology is back in vogue in a big way, but I doubt we've ever seen anything like this. Angela Bettis, Bruno Forzani, Hélène Cattet, Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, Jason Eisener, Adrián García Bogliano, Xavier Gens, Noboru Iguchi, Jorge Michel Grau, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Simon Rumley, Marcel Sarmiento, Srdjan Spasojevic, Timo Tjahjanto, Andrew Traucki, Nacho Vigalondo, Jake West, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, Adam Wingard... and that's just the directors that I like! There's six more - 26 horror auteurs in all. This will be insane.
ONLY GOD FORGIVES
Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn
I love Refn. I can barely fault him for a single frame of his work, but his arthouse crime films - Pusher I-III, Bronson, Drive - are cinematic perfection and pure celluloid dynamite. Only God Forgives sees Refn reuniting with Ryan Gosling, but this time the beauty and carnage (and beautiful carnage) will explode not in the city of angels, but on the sweaty streets of the Bangkok underworld. Bring it on.
Dir: Paco Plaza
Director Paco Plaza returns for the third entry in this unstoppable Spanish zombie series. Having been thoroughly creeped out by the first two movies, I'm definitely up for another serving. Believe me, I'm suffering from zombie-fatigue as much as you are, I'm fucking sick of the genre right now, but these films have cleverly skewed the old tropes in surprising and demonic directions. This time around we're getting a prequel, and I think I read somewhere that they've dropped the found footage gimmick in favour of traditional cinematography. The thing that will make or break this movie: they need to keep playing it dead straight. No winking at the camera, no satire. Just pure horror.
THE SQUAD (El Páramo)
Dir: Jaime Osorio Marquez
I don't know much about this Colombian horror film from first time director Jaime Osorio Marquez, but I'm champing at the bit to check it out. I don't think I've ever seen a horror film from Colombia (unless you count Cannibal Holocaust which was shot in the Colombian Amazon), and I wonder if this is maybe the country's first? The Squad is a military horror flick, an odd little sub-genre that I've always felt is ripe with possibility, yet rarely yields good results. According to reviews the film features loads of beautiful, misty, jungle atmosphere, also utilising a slowly mounting sense of dread and paranoia to good effect (think The Thing). I love atmospheric horror with an emphasis on chills over action, so I'm already there.
Dir: Raffaele Picchio
Who said Italian horror is dead? A couple of years ago I really enjoyed Federico Zampaglione's Shadow, and now I'm dying to be assaulted and traumatised by Raffaele Picchio's debut feature - Morituris. The plot of this little shocker seems to involve Roman gladiators coming back from the dead to rape, torture, mutilate and murder a group of unfortunate amateur actors. I truly hope that's all it is, because it sounds perfect. Morituris piqued my interest last year when I read that it pissed off some horror fans at a festival screening, because it took the whole rape/torture thing too far. Bloody Disgusting gave this movie "negative 100 million out of 5 Skulls". All milquetoasts apparently. Grue courtesy of Sergio Stivaletti.
Dir: Timo Vuorensola
It would seem that the world got really tired of waiting for Richard Raaphorst to get his shit together and make Worst Case Scenario and Army Of Frankenstein, so now we have this movie from Finland instead. I'm a real sucker for this kind of gonzo Nazi weirdness, and I really want this to be good, but... let's just say this could go either way. An over abundance of CG in the trailers is a bit of a worry. But regardless of the quality of the FX, this movie will sink or float on the standard of the writing and comedy. I think the choice of Laibach to score the film was a good one, I'd never heard them before, but the music works perfectly over the trailer. Sort of Wagnerian symphonic industrial or something. According to IMDb, Timo, Iron Sky's director, is in a Finnish black metal industrial noise band called Älymystö. Anyway, Udo Kier is in this, so even if it's terrible I'll probably still watch it.
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW
Dir: Panos Cosmatos
This Canadian SF film (another directorial debut) is actually two years old, and is finally getting a DVD release from Magnet this year. Comparisons to Tarkovsky and Kubrick have me excited, as do reports that the film is visually stunning - described as a psychedelic experience - with a powerful, immersive sound design. The plot revolves around a captive girl being used as a test subject for a series of nightmarish drug experiments in a secret research facility. Beyond that the story and characters are supposed to be quite ambiguous, with a minimum of explanation for why this is all happening. I love genre movies that are almost more of a sensory experience than a narrative, and I'm anticipating that this will be along those lines. Beyond The Black Rainbow has cult science fiction movie written all over it.
Dir: Shinya Tsukamoto
After the disappointment of Tetsuo III, I'm looking forward to a return to form for Tsukamoto. The word is that this is a hallucinatory psychological horror film dealing with post-partum depression, and featuring an impressive performance from Japanese singer Cocco. I'm thinking that this film will deliver jarring contrasts of beauty and brutality.
Dir: Adam Wingard
This film has been getting raves out of festivals for months now, and it looks like Adam Wingard is on the rise as horror's next big thing. You're Next is reportedly a home invasion thriller that twists genre conventions in unexpected ways, serving it up with a healthy dose of very black humour. This is another movie that I've avoided trailers for, because I want to be surprised. And hey, Barbara Crampton is in this!
Dir: Quentin Dupieux
The followup to the dadaist horror insanity of Rubber! I'm really fascinated to see where Dupieux goes after that trip. Rubber was a love it or loath it affair, and I definitely fall into the former camp, so I'm salivating for this. This tale of a man searching for his lost dog looks to be another surrealist film that will continue to subvert the cinematic rulebook in weird and wonderful ways. Even the poster reminds me of a Magritte painting.
Dir: David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Ti West, Adam Wingard
Another horror anthology, this time breathing new life into the tired found footage genre, and it's getting killer reviews out of Sundance right now. Some really interesting directors here. David Bruckner was one of the fellows behind the underrated The Signal, Glenn McQuaid directed the enjoyable Burke & Hare comedy I Sell The Dead, and Ti West and Adam Wingard should require no further introduction. I've read that this actually has some genuinely frightening moments. We'll see about that!
What movies are you guys looking forward to this year?