Here it is, my final best-of list for the decade. The top ten for the year, and eight excellent runners-up.
10. The Golden Glove
9. Lords of Chaos
8. Doctor Sleep
7. Ad Astra
6. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
4. The Lighthouse
3. Color out of Space
2. In Fabric
1. The Nightingale
Come to Daddy
Terminator: Dark Fate
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
MOST HIGHLY ANTICIPATED FOR 2020:
Monday, 30 December 2019
Saturday, 21 December 2019
Wednesday, 18 December 2019
This four decades late sequel to one of the most iconic and beloved horror films of all time had no right to be as good as it turned out. I loved it.
It is to Kubrick's THE SHINING what PROMETHEUS was to ALIEN. Both films are followups to revered classics whose enduring power lies in their mystery, and the questions they left deliberately unanswered. Both films attempt to build upon the mythology of their respective originals by answering those questions explicitly, thereby stripping away much of the mystery.
It's a very risky thing to attempt, but the trick is in the writing. Where Scott and Co. failed (because PROMETHEUS' story is so trite and its characters so poorly conceived), King and Flanagan have triumphed, with an expanded mythology that adds depth and meaning to its source material, with strong characters (both old and new), real emotional beats and absolutely stunning visuals.
Perhaps the film works so well because its strongest moments aren't actually the money shots at the Overlook, but the two hours of story leading up to them. Oddly enough, DOCTOR SLEEP worked best for me as a tale of all out psychic warfare between rival factions, in the same vein as SCANNERS and THE FURY. And yes, as everyone has said, Rebecca Ferguson was on fire for every second of her screentime.
Mike Flanagan made so many bold decisions here that really pay off. The decision to recast, instead of digitally resurrecting Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duval and the rest, was an inspired one. No uncanny valley awkwardness here. STARRY EYES' Alexandra Essoe in particular just kills it as Wendy Torrence. Flanagan and cinematographer Michael Fimognari also very wisely went for a visual style that recalls Kubrick's, without aping it. It works.
After OCULUS, GERALD'S GAME and THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, Mike Flanagan has most assuredly secured a place for himself among the contemporary horror filmmakers to watch. I'm excited to see where he goes next.
Sunday, 15 December 2019
After much hand-wringing, here's my top 20 horror films of the decade, followed by a further 10 runners up. In my opinion, the last ten years have been the most creative and vital for the genre since the '80s!
First, a quick comment on the state of the genre. Beyond pure entertainment value, one of horror's functions is to provide a relief valve for society, a way for people to let off steam. Whether explicitly or through allegory, the genre allows people to view the most pressing issues of a given era through a fresh lens. It's a cultural coping mechanism, a way for people to come to grips with the harsh realities of the world, and to sometimes even laugh at them.
With that in mind it's not surprising that contemporary horror has a lot on its mind. Some of the concerns addressed by this past decade's films were: environmental destruction; racism; misogyny; familial disintegration; sexually transmitted disease; cults; religious trauma; the economic divide; pandemic; authoritarianism; genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Holy motherfucking apocalypse!
Finally, a personal observation. My tastes have changed: there isn't a single zombie movie on this list. However, including the runners up, there are ten(!) films about the occult and/or cults!
Anyway, without further ado, here's my picks (please feel free to chime in with any disagreements or egregious omissions!)
A Serbian Film
Color Out of Space
I Saw the Devil
Friday, 13 December 2019
Another year, another TERMINATOR sequel. Wait, what? This one's actually kind of good!?
It ain't perfect, but there's a lot to like about DARK FATE. Sure, it relies a bit too heavily on nostalgia and hitting those familiar beats, but it does so in a satisfying way, and with plenty of blood and thunder. Showstopping set pieces, moments of genuine emotion, an ass-kicking female ensemble, and a timely commentary on the current sociopolitical climate in the US (and here, and everywhere).
Arnie's performance is great: tough, funny and melancholic. His acting chops have definitely improved with age. After BLADE RUNNER 2049, BLACK MIRROR and this, Mackenzie Davis has kind of fallen into the role of 21st Century cyberpunk icon. She's rad.
Sunday, 1 December 2019
Well, a year's flown by with no posts. I considered letting the EYE die, but my circumstances have changed, and I've found myself in a position where next year I'll have more time for this kind of thing. So why not resurrect the old corpse?
I'll kick things off with a few capsules of recent films. First, MIDSOMMAR.
Ari Aster certainly seems to be the real deal, but is he an auteur in the making, or just a very talented one trick pony? I say that because this film is so thematically similar to HEREDITARY. So far Aster’s main interest seems to be familial trauma/grief, and he has an obsession with depicting - in procedural detail - arcane ceremonies and rituals. I absolutely loved both films, so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt, but it’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with next.
I rewatched the theatrical cut last night on blu-ray (I'll give the director's cut a shot on my eventual third viewing), and I definitely enjoyed it more the second time around. It's so visually rich, so packed with the details of life in the commune (and little easter eggs like that foreboding bear painting in the beginning), that it begs for repeat viewings, just to pick through the sumptuous production and costume design. And I love the queasy hallucinogenic VFX, sometimes subtle, other times vividly recreating a psychedelic peak, which in the situation depicted here is a terrifying prospect.
Aster is skilled at sustaining a sense of mounting dread that lingers in the back of your mind, becoming gradually more overt and threatening as the story progresses. He also utilises shock and gore to great effect, less is more, and when it hits, it hits hard. As with his previous shocker, one thing that really made an impression on me is his perverse use of corpses. Dismembered and defiled corpses are central to the ceremonies that close both films, creating imagery that's truly gruesome and haunting.
So, what's left to say? Florence Pugh (who made a big splash in LADY MACBETH) gives it her all in winning performance; faces are destroyed beyond recognition; and Ari Aster makes peace with the painful breakup that was the catalyst for his screenplay. Just stay away from drinks with pubes and period blood in them, or you'll get burned!
Tuesday, 8 January 2019
Having patiently awaited the arrival of this film for years, Luca's SUSPIRIA did not disappoint.
Fiercely, unapologetically artsy and experimental, Guadagnino's redux is every bit as stylised and unique as Dario Argento's original. However, beyond their shared premise and characters, the two films really couldn't be more different. As the Italian director of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME has remarked himself, aesthetically and thematically SUSPIRIA '18 is far more indebted to the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder than it is to Argento's body of work.
And what a thematically rich film it is! Dave Kajganich's screenplay is a tale of radical social upheaval and power struggle, and the terrible damage that societal change can inflict on the lives of those who are caught up in it. Mirroring the revolutionary atmosphere of its Berlin '77 backdrop (a city reeling at the chaos wrought by the Baader-Meinhof R.A.F.), Guadagnino's coven of witches is a far cry from the unified sisterhood of Argento's film. Rather, this is a secret society that is teetering on the brink of a major power shift, as its members throw their support behind one of two "mothers", Tilda Swinton's Madame Blanc and the ancient Helena Markos (also played by Swinton, under a mountain of prosthetics).
There are deeper strands at play in all this - the overshadowing horror of the Third Reich; Womankind's war against the Patriarchy. This new SUSPIRIA leaves you with a lot to chew on. It's a bold film, actually more of a total reimagining than a remake, so it's hardly surprising that its reception from fans and newcomers alike has been nothing short of completely polarised.
Is it a new Euro-horror masterpiece, or an overly-long pretentious mess? I certainly know which camp I fall into, but in spite of my love for it, I feel like this isn't a movie that I could ever really "recommend" to a friend. Luca Guadagnino's SUSPIRIA is a challenging work of art that people should come to on their own terms, hopefully leaving their preconceptions about its source material, and what a horror movie "should" be, at the door.