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December 31, 2012

From Midnight, With Love's Top 11 Horror Films of 2012

We're going to 11 once again (I swear to God, that reference will NEVER GET OLD to me) here at FMWL, but it's worth noting that there's been a change in my philosophy as I reach the end of 2012.  In previous years (like 2010 or 2011), I've listed my 11 favorite genre films of that year.  But this year, I felt like changing things up - thus, we'll only primarily be talking about horror films from 2012 today.

There are two reasons for this change, one honest and one not-so-honest.  For starters, I just felt like 2012 has been overly focused on horror for me.  This may have been a record low year for me getting outside the genre (and also out to the cinema), and I just felt like I'd be better off sticking to horror on this list.  The second reason is that I simply didn't know how to deal with The Avengers. I mean, it's technically a genre film, but at the same time I'd feel terrible placing it against some of the smaller scale films on this list that I truly loved.  Whedon kind of broke the game this year, and I didn't feel like it would be fair to just write a list that says "Oh, all this stuff is good, but it's not The effing Avengers."  So, to avoid that, I'm sticking to horror.

Now that my neurotic explanation for my switcheroo is out of the way, let's get some honorable mentions out of the way.  Since I don't want to be a total excluder, I've even included a short list of my favorite non-horror films of 2012 - and, yes, The Avengers is on it.

(Disclaimer: The following honorable mention/runner-up lists are all in alphabetical order.)

(One more disclaimer: A movie is considered for the list if a) it was given a wide theatrical release in 2012, b) if it was not given a wide release and then was released on DVD/Blu-ray in 2012, or c) it was a screener sent to me in 2012 for review. I live in Iowa, so I may be a year behind some people on some of these movies.)
The Mike's Favorite Non-Horror Films of 2012
The Avengers (Directed by Joss Whedon); Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (Alex Stapleton); Extraterrestrial (Nacho Vigalando); Jack Reacher (Christopher McQuarrie); Looper (Rian Johnson), The Raid: Redemption (Gareth Evans); 21 Jump Street (Phil Lord & Chris Miller); Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh); Sound of My Voice (Zal Batmanglij); Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols).  

(P.S. - I have not seen Django Unchained yet. Yes, that is killing me. Assume it would have made this list until I tell you otherwise.)

The Mike's Favorite Horror Films of 2012 - Honorable Mention
  • Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (Timur Bekmambetov) - It's fun and it's slick and it's better than it should have been. (Full Review)
  • Excision (Richard Bates Jr.) - Might have the year's best performance. Annalynne McCord elevates the film above several flaws. (Full Review)
  • Father's Day (Astron-6) - The year's most inappropriately gross film.  It's Troma doing what they do as well as they can. 
  • The Hole (Joe Dante) -  Kiddie horror done well. I imagine this is what an Are You Afraid of the Dark? movie would have looked like.
  • Low (Ross Shepherd): Micro-Budget flick out of the UK that's still looking for release is a gripping morality tale with beautiful cinematography. (Full Review)
  • Pretty Dead (Benjamin Wilkins): Found Footage zombie horror that's surprisingly interesting and offers a new twist on infection-based horror. (Full Review)
  • Silent House (Chris Kentis & Laura Lau): Flawed to the core, but Elizabeth Olsen is worth seeing. (Full Review)
  • The Sleeper (Justin Russell): Slasher throwback works almost too well; falls into the same problems that plagued "classic" slasher films.  Still, a neat time capsule of a film.
The Mike's Favorite Horror Films of 2012 - First Runners Up
  • Beyond the Black Rainbow (Panos Cosmatos) - Looks great, sounds great, is mad/crazy/weird. Does it make sense? I don't know.
  • It's in the Blood (Scooter Downey) - Lance Henriksen leads the year's most ambitious indie horror. A psychological tale of family demons that should find an audience soon. (Full Review)
  • The Loved Ones (Sean Byrne) - Brutal Aussie horror has a nice mixture of torture and high school prom drama. Really.
  • Paranormal Activity 4 (Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman) - I'm still a sucker for this series. The cracks in the armor are starting to show, but the finale here is one of the best moments they've produced yet. (Full Review)
  • Sinister (Scott Derrickson) - I find myself debating whether I loved this movie or was disappointed by it. A lot. But some of the scares are really great. (Full Review)
  • V/H/S (a bunch of directors) - Anthology by horror whiz kids is a love it or hate it flick, but I had a ton of fun. A couple of dynamite segments lift the whole film. (Full Review)
Is that enough yet? Let's get to the actual list!
From Midnight, With Love's Top 11 Horror Films of 2012
Number 11 - Rabies
(Diected by Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado.)

Billed as "Israel's first slasher film", Rabies is less like Friday the 13th or The Burning than I expected it to be.  Instead, we get a random series of bizarre and violent events that arise from the human drama between a bizarre cast of characters.  A lot of good laughs are mixed in with the brutal plot, and the film had me glued to the screen looking for whatever bizarre twist would come next. The whole thing is played for dark comedy, but at the same time it's a tragedy that would make most dramatic filmmakers proud.

Number 10 - [REC] 3: Genesis
(Directed by Paco Plaza.)

A departure from the strict one-setting found footage nature of the first two films, which also makes the film a little less effective as a pure scare machine.  At the same time, [REC] 3 takes the series in an entertaining new direction and provides an Army of Darkness style approach to horror comedy that is more than welcome.  Shedding the handheld format also allows the cast to polish there work off a little more, which allows star Leticia Dolera to look good and kick infected butt in a wedding dress. The [REC] series is scheduled to get back to being more serious in the next installment, but I don't feel like this light-hearted chapter was a misstep for the filmmakers. 

Number 9 - Midnight Son
(Directed by Scott Leberecht.)

A romantic vampire drama for adults, Midnight Son is a fascinating approach to the time-tested vampire legend. It's a genuine and heartfelt character study with two fine performances from Zak Kilberg and Maya Parish leading the way, but it also manages to have some real tension while dealing with the characters' difficulties due to the vampire condition.  Fans of serious vamp tales like Near Dark or The Addiction should feel at home with this one.

Number 8 - Kill List
(Directed by Ben Wheatley.)

The final act of Kill List might just blow your mind. The film starts out as a drama about an abusive and unhinged professional killer, but it ends up in an entirely different place.  Neil Maskell probably gives the best male performance in a horror film this year as the brutal assassin who is the centerpiece of the film, and his journey from Point A to Point B is always fascinating.  I didn't find the twist to be as shocking as advertised, but there's no denying that Kill List is a perfectly constructed horror film.

Number 7 - I Am A Ghost
(Directed by H.P. Mendoza.)

A haunting unlike any you've ever seen is at the forefront of I Am A Ghost, a film that I'm expecting to turn a lot of heads in 2013.  Anna Ishida carries what is almost a one-person show, and the structure of director H.P. Mendoza's film moves from confusing to rewarding as more is revealed to the viewer.  I Am A Ghost also gets bonus points for sending shivers up my spine by telling a scary story that we just know is going to come into play later on - and then sending more chills up my spine when it reveals exactly what it warned us about. This is one to watch out for.

Number 6 - Exit Humanity
(Directed by John Geddes.)

An epic zombie film set against nineteenth century frontier and the lingering effects of the Civil War, John Geddes' Exit Humanity is the rare "gimmick" horror film that rises above the premise and becomes something worthy of praise.  Horror veterans like Bill Moseley, Dee Wallace and Stephen McHattie assist strong newcomer Mark Gibson and help the film feel legitimate, and the zombie side of the film features some dynamite practical effects. Most impessive is the film's narrative, anchored by narration from Brian Cox, which comes off as a grand tale worth telling.  The result is one of the most impressive zombie dramas in years.
(Full Review)

Number 5 - The Pact
(Directed by Nicholas McCarthy.)

Another horror film that works because it starts out as one thing and then surprises us by becoming something different. A modern haunting story with plenty of secrets to share with us, The Pact offers up a ton of tension and builds to a eye-popping final act that completely threw me for a loop.  In fact, it took me a second viewing before I was really able to wrap my head around what The Pact was implying - not because the film was confusing, simply because the film was so unique and new to me that I had to make sure what I saw was real.  This reminds me a lot of Ti West's The House of the Devil, and that's my favorite horror movie of the last decade - so that's a good thing.

Number 4 - The Aggression Scale
(Directed by Steven C. Miller.)

There's probably only one other film on this list - and it's coming up at number one - that has as much fun with brutal violence as The Aggression Scale does.  Comparisons to Home Alone (seriously!) are inevitable, but this wacky flick in which a mute psycho kid faces off with a team of criminals on a country estate is a lot more than a R-rated Tom & Jerry film.  Dana Ashbrook and Derek Mears lead the film as two of the baddies, and young Ryan Hartwig's turn as the aggressive teen would make Rambo jealous.  This is the guys' night horror film of the year.  Director Steven C. Miller followed this up with the recent remake Silent Night, cementing himself as a director to watch out for in the future.

Number 3 - Lovely Molly
(Directed by Eduardo Sanchez.)

The most haunting film of the year has to be Lovely Molly, in which newcomer Gretchen Lodge sets the screen on fire with a fantastic performance. (Side Note: There's no questioning the fact that 2012 was won, hands down, by women in horror films. Lodge, Annalynne McCord, Elizabeth Olsen, and Anna Ishida all gave performances that are among the best I've seen in modern horror.  Neil Maskell did too, but he's outnumbered by the ladies.)  Director Eduardo Sanchez, who helped create The Blair Witch Project, balances a lot of different elements and builds to a finale that shook me up and stuck with me for several nights after I saw the film. Play this one as a double feature with The Pact and try to sleep - I dare you.

Number 2 - Some Guy Who Kills People
(Directed by Jack Perez.)

Written by Ryan Levin, a veteran of TV's comedy/drama Scrubs, Some Guy Who Kills People feels to me like a slasher movie by way of Wes Anderson. I kind of want to hug this movie, because it manages to go all serial killery while still making me both laugh at and relate to the characters that I'm watching.  A marvelous cast - from star Kevin Corrigan to comic supports Barry Bostwick and Karen Black to child star Ariel Gade - does the script justice, and a late film twist establishes the film as a story with a worthwhile message. This might not be the "hardcore" horror film you'd expect from the title, but it's one of the most rewarding movies I've seen in a while.

Number 1 - The Cabin in the Woods
(Directed by Drew Goddard.)
I legitimately feel bad for the other films on this list. I really think most of them are great and I wished some of them could be number one - but that's just not an option this year. To me, The Cabin in the Woods is a truly one-of-a-kind addition to the horror genre; a film that actually supports everything horror fans love about the genre while shaking our expectations and pointing out all the flaws in the horror system. There's simply nothing I could say to convince myself that The Cabin in the Woods wasn't head and shoulders above everything else the horror genre had to offer this year, as great as much of it was.
(Full Review)
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I've had a few debates about whether or not 2012 was a banner year for horror as the year wound to a close, but now that I see this list...I'm a little stoked about the films of 2012 and what they offered horror fans.  There have been a lot of different horror movies for a lot of different crowds, and a lot of them offered new and entertaining stories to horror fans.

Agree with the list? Have favorites you wish were mentioned? There's a comment section below; you know what to do.

5 comments:

Planet of Terror said...

A most excellent list sir! We share many of the same picks. Great minds think alike :)

I really want to see Rabies. Is it available via VOD yet?

The Mike said...

Rabies has been out on DVD since Feb, so probably on VOD. I actually just watched it randomly on Friday and was surprised I loved it.

Emily said...

Of the films I've seen on your list, I'm in big agreement (YES Rabies, YES!). I just wish I could've enjoyed Exit Humanity. I appreciated its ambition, but I found it a big ol' snooze.

Russ said...

Nice to see Lovely Molly high up on the list. Watched it last week and really dug it.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Excellent list, made all the more beautiful by Cabin in the Woods sitting right at the top. =)