Dusty’s Best of 2014

You’ve handled my worst, so you’re now getting my best.

Before I get to the list, here are some that just barely missed the cut (or maybe they didn’t, but I wanted to talk about them.)

Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer
Honestly, the only reason this one didn’t make the list is because I’m not sure if it qualifies as horror.  It has been a bit overhyped, and I don’t think it’s as good as all the breathless overanalyzing tends to make it sound.  But it’s a solid movie, and I had a lot of fun watching it.  The cast is terrific, the story – riddled with logistical holes as it is – is a lot of fun, and they do a great job with the video game type plot of moving car-to-car, finding a new obstacle in each one.  Try to ignore the hype and watch this for what it is: a fun and unique sci-fi movie.
My original review.

Godzilla

Godzilla
Pacific Rim has ruined me a little, because all I could think was, “Why not just build giant robots and punch Godzilla in the face with their rocket-propelled fists?”  But I got over that before I went into the movie.  I just wanted something fun.  Instead, all I got was a movie following the uncharismatic kid from Kick-Ass as he travels the world as the only bomb expert left, somehow staying in Godzilla’s direct path the whole time.  I also saw two great performers – Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen – get completely washed out of the movie (an early exit and relegated to crying duty, respectively).  There were some good scenes and the last half hour made me walk out excited, but it wasn’t nearly as good as I was hoping.
My original review.

Cheap Thrills

Cheap Thrills
The hype train was all geared up for this one.  I lowered my expectations before I went in.  I’m glad I did, because, even with those lowered expectations, I didn’t enjoy it that much.  Sky high expectations would have led to me hating it.  The cast is terrific (Ethan Embry, David Koechner, Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) and there were some good dark comedy moments, but the story was extremely predictable, made even worse by the feeling that they were trying to deliver a huge emotional gut punch at the end.  (I could see the end coming from a mile away.)  There were also a few scenes that really drove the drama forward by actions that made no sense (I realize it’s a weird statement to make about a movie like this, given all the out-of-character things that happened, but I stand by that statement and am more than happy to discuss it).  It wasn’t a bad movie.  I thought it was decent.  But the overhype really hurt it.  If you don’t expect anything mind-blowing, you should have a good time with this.

Life After Beth

Life After Beth
I didn’t expect much out of this.  Just a fun zombie movie with a good cast.  That’s exactly what I got.  It looked at the zombie genre from a slightly different angle, and I enjoyed it.
My original review.

I, Frankenstein

I, Frankenstein
I know, I know.  Keep in mind that I’m a fan of the Underworld series, the first 3 Resident Evil movies and the first 2 Mummy movies.  I’m a sucker for a fun action/horror movie is my point.  This movie is way more complicated than it has any reason to be, but it was a lot of fun to watch.

Enough of this nonsense.  To the top 10!

Under the Skin

10. Under the Skin
All I knew going into this movie was, “Scarlett Johansson artsy Species,” which is really just word soup.  But that’s pretty much what this was.  There’s not a lot of dialogue, and there’s a lot of Scarlett driving around Scotland in a white van, talking to strangers.  There’s seduction and nudity, but none of it is alluring.  This movie definitely isn’t for everyone, and it’s not for every mood, but I really liked this a lot.  It has a hypnotic quality to it.  Once it clicked for me, I was glued to the screen.
My original review.

Sacrament, The

9. The Sacrament
Those of you who know me know that I have never liked Ti West.  I’ve never liked a single movie of his.  In fact, my favorite Ti West moment is when he gets shot in the head with an arrow in You’re Next.  But this was something different.  The first 30 minutes were pretty slow, and I started to tune out a little.  I knew where the story was going, anyway: it’s basically a retelling of the events of Jonestown.  But then it started to pick up a bit.  Even though I knew where it was going, it was still able to draw me in.  The paranoia and insanity increased incrementally.  By the time it got to the Kool Aid (or, more accurately, Flavor Aid) scene, I was all-in.  There are some images in this film that I’ll never be able to get out of my brain.  There were some extremely chilling moments.  I didn’t love the whole thing, and I had some logistical issues like, “How did they get the footage off that specific camera?”, but that’s just being nit-picky.  I liked this a lot more than I thought I was going to.
My original review.

Sacrament

8. Sacrament
Not to be confused with the last movie.  This one was directed by Shawn Ewert, and it follows a group of friends as they take a trip to Texas and find themselves in a town surrounded by religious fanatics and the sweet, sweet smell of meat.  This could have easily turned into a predictable slasher, but the religious angle helped to add another layer to the film, as did the fact that these characters felt like actual people.  Ewert made me care about the characters and what happened to them.  There were a couple scenes I wasn’t crazy about, but, again, that’s just being nit-picky.
This is also notable for being one of the final performances of the great Marilyn Burns.  She doesn’t have a huge role, but she’s fantastic when she’s on the screen.

Tusk

7. Tusk
I just watched this last week.  I’m still trying to make up my mind on it, so it has a chance to climb up the ladder or fall down, depending on where I settle.  For now, #7 seems about right.  I thought I had a decent idea of what this movie would be: crazy old man turns mustachioed Justin Long into a walrus.  I figured it would be really gory.  Something like Human Centipede or Hostel or something.  But it really wasn’t.  They didn’t show much of the transformation at all.  That’s good, because just looking at the walrus suit was disturbing enough.  There were a number of scenes in here that made me laugh entirely too hard.  It was a really well done dark comedy/horror.  I loved it.  I could have done without Johnny Depp’s character, and the podcast segment at the end reminded me of how much I dislike Kevin Smith, but those are small complaints.  I thought I would hate this movie, and I was completely blown away by how much I loved it.

Oculus

6. Oculus
I kind of lumped this into “mirror horror” (which I believe only includes Mirrors and Mirrors 2), so I wasn’t expecting much.  I came away loving this movie.  There were some great performances here (Karen Gillan and Katee Sackhoff were the standouts, but everyone was terrific.  Even the children were great, and I’m normally not a big fan of child actors), the story was good, and there were some really creepy moments.  I love how the film played with the perception of reality.  This is a great movie to put on when you’re by yourself in a dark house.
My original review.

Canal

5. The Canal
A great, claustrophobic movie about a man who discovers his wife has been murdered.  The use of old murder footage was really creepy.  This combined elements of The Amityville Horror and Sinister, but still had its own style to it.  I knew next to nothing about this movie going in, and I think I was better off for it.  Just watch this movie.
My original review.

WolfCop

4. WolfCop
Some glorious maniac submitted a review for this, and I don’t know if I can describe it any better than he/she did.  Take Hobo With a Shotgun and, instead of the hobo (sorry Rutger Hauer) and throw an alcoholic werewolf cop into the mix.  Bam.  WolfCop.

Horns

3. Horns
I read the book and, while I liked it, I didn’t love it like I thought I would.  Still, I was very much looking forward to this movie.  After Daniel Radcliffe’s work on The Woman in Black, I was excited to see what he would do here.  He was fantastic, and the movie was dynamite.  They nailed the dark-comedy-turns-just-plain-dark mood of the book.  A number of moments had me laughing really hard.  Beyond the humor, the story was handled great.  I loved that, behind all the insanity, was a simple love story/murder mystery.  There were times I was so involved in the story that I almost forgot Ig had horns on his head.  The cast was great, and the story was handled wonderfully.  It was everything I hoped it would be.
My original review.

Dead Snow 2

2. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead
My love for the first Dead Snow is well-known, so it should come as no surprise that the sequel ranked so high on my list.  With the success of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Tommy Wirkola was given a lot more money to work with than he did with Dead Snow.  And he put that money to good use.  Everything was bigger.  More zombies.  More blood.  More intestines.  More insanity.  This movie is a ton of fun.
My original review.

Babadook

1. The Babadook
How could it be anything else in this spot?  It’s rare that a movie exceeds its considerable hype (for me, anyway), but this movie managed to do that.  The first 30 minutes or so were a bit dicey (screeching children have a way of doing that), but I totally understand why they had to do that.  Then it settled in, and I couldn’t look away.  I was completely drawn in by the story.  By the imagery.  By the relationship between mother and son.  By everything.  It’s a fantastically creepy movie.  Find a dark, quiet night, open a door you can see from your viewing area, and put this on.  Don’t look at your phone.  Don’t carry on long conversations.  Just sit down and drink this in.  You won’t be disappointed.
My original review.  (I may or may not talk about the Pinky & The Brain Christmas Special.)

31 Days of Horror Day 4: Horns

Horns - Poster

Short synopsis: Ig’s girlfriend Merrin is found murdered in the woods, and Ig is the prime suspect.  He awakens one morning to find that he has sprouted horns, which give him some highly persuasive powers.  He uses these powers to find out who killed Merrin.

Notable actors: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Heather Graham, David Morse, James Remar, Kathleen Quinlan

My thoughts:

I had been looking forward to this movie since I first saw it announced.  I already had plans to see it upon its release on Halloween.
Apparently I’m terrible at keeping up with horror news, because Horns hit VOD on October 3.  I grabbed it as soon as I got home from work and watched it.

Horns - Ig 1

Just like the book, it has a strange tone throughout.  It starts out darkly comedic, then slowly loses the comedy as it goes along.  After the comedy has been stripped away, you’re made fully aware of just how twisted the events of the movie really are.

Horns - Glenna

The comedy is terrific.  It’s odd to say that the guy with the horns works as the straight man, but that’s exactly what happens here.  Daniel Radcliffe’s horned Ig Perrish finds that everyone he comes in contact with feels compelled to tell him their darkest desires.
– A woman with a bratty child tells Ig that she wants to abandon her family and run away with her golf instructor.
– A bar owner says he wants to burn his bar down to collect the insurance money.
And so on.  Through it all, it’s the reactions of Ig that sell the comedy.  Radcliffe shows off a wide array of faces that feature a mixture of shock, disgust, curiosity, fear, exhaustion and amusement.  Ig navigates his way through his town with a set of horns, but it’s the rest of the inhabitants that show their monstrous side.  (Sorry.  I couldn’t resist.)

Horns - Ig & Merrin

At its heart, this is a love story.  The only times we see Ig and Merrin together are through flashbacks.  We hear a lot about her from others, and it’s clear that she was well-loved by everyone who knew her.  In a particularly beautiful and heartbreaking statement, Derrick Perrish (Ig’s father) proclaims, “She was my favorite thing about you,” to which Ig promptly agrees.  The hatred the people in his life have for him is directly proportional to the love they had for Merrin.

Horns - Merrin 1

It’s a great story, and it’s told really well.  It has great characters and a terrific cast.  It was also a faithful adaptation of the book.  While they changed some things, they were minor and didn’t hurt the overall feel or the story.
Let’s talk about the book for a few seconds.  I liked the book, but there were quite a few cheesy/cringe-worthy moments that found me rolling my eyes.  A lot of those moments were omitted here, which I appreciated.

I loved this movie, and I love it even more the more I think about it.  My expectations were sky-high, and this may have exceeded those expectations.  I will definitely be watching this again sooner rather than later.

Rating: 5/5

A few random thoughts:

There was some great music here.  The usage of David Bowie’s “Heroes” was absolutely perfect (not that there’s really a bad moment for that song, but still).

The movie looked great, and had some really amazing visual moments.

Horns - Ig 3

The actor who played young Eric Hannity (“Meatbag”) reminded me a little bit of Thurman Murman.

I absolutely loved this quote: “People say you have to do the right thing.  Sometimes there is no right thing.  Then, you just have to pick the sin you can live with.”

Horns - Ig 2