I’ve seen a LOT of movies this past year, between what I watch for review and what I watched for my own enjoyment I’ve seen more films than I can keep track of. And out of that I’ve tried to pick the best, and worst genre films that were released last year and found their way in front of my eyes.
THE TOP 10
I almost passed on this one as it’s based on the first of a series of YA novels and director Billy O’Brien had followed up his brilliant debut film ISOLATION with a pair of awful films. Thankfully I didn’t because this is a brilliant, unpredictable mix of horror, drama, and coming of age film with great performances from Max Record and Christopher Lloyd.
2) Kill Command
A B movie that does what a B movie should, it mixes bits and pieces of Aliens, Terminator, Dog Soldiers and Predator into a tight, fast moving film. An elite special ops squad is dropped on an island full of robots for a training mission. All to late they find out they’re not the ones being trained.
An incredible film from Korea about an outbreak of fast moving zombies on a bullet train. Fast moving with plenty of blood and some incredible action scenes it’s a mix of modern horror and old school disaster films.
A post apocalyptic indie from the UK about members of a tribe being taken into the forest to determine the next leader. A stranger shows up with a box containing a secret other strangers are willing to kill all of them for. A mix of action and ideas that leaves you with a lot to think about.
An anthology film that links the stories of travelers on a stretch of desert highway. Twisted, bloody and creepy with some great creature effects as well as practical gore. Out of the multitude of anthology films that have come out lately, this is one of the few that really stand out.
Another anthology film, this one links several of director Torin Langen’s shorts with a grim wraparound segment. The thing that sets this one apart is that while it’s not a silent movie there is no dialogue, everything is presented visually.
A mix of serial killer horror, Southern Gothic family secrets and pitch black comedy telling the story of a caterer who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Twist follows twisted twist as the body count rises and everything spins further out of control.
The latest film from SOV pioneer Todd Sheets is a gorefest done right. Mixing drugs, satanists, gangsters and demons in a secret chamber under a dentist’s office into an isnaely gruesome stew. This low budget/high talent film should be an example to the current crop of DIY film makers.
9) A Dark Song
A brooding story about two people performing a year long ritual that requires them to remain in the house for the duration. Part drama, part horror with a much more realistic approach to the occult than film usually shows, it’s a masterful slow burn until the climax when it all breaks loose.
Larry Kent’s grim and brutal look at home grown religious fanaticism as a female doctor and those around her are targeted for torture and murder by a sect of Christian fundamentalists. Chilling and all to believable, especially in Trump’s America.
And a few that didn’t quite make the list but deserve mention. In no particular order, The Mind’s Eye, Shin Godzilla, Instruments of Evil, The Sublet, Trash Fire, The Master Cleanse, Parasites, Phantasm: Ravager, Francesca, The Evil Gene, Decay, The Corpse of Anna Fritz and The Unseen.
Now, for the other side of the coin. To make this list these films had to go past simply run of the mill boring, they had to waste talent, good ideas or literally offer no good points at all.
THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL
1) The Shelter
The directorial debut of writer/actor John Fallon should have been a kickass haunted house film with a solid performance by Micheal Pare, and good cinematography and score. Given Fallon’s previous credits including DEADEN and DEATHSHADOWS it’s an unpleasant surprise this is a deadly dull and preachy religious tract trying to pass itself off as a horror film.
2) Beta Test
Bad writing, worse action scenes and a plot that seriously posits one man going on a shooting spree as a threat to the 2nd Amendment. A bad mix of political conspiracy, (including a false flag school shooting), cyberpunk and THE GAMER.
3) Killjoy’s Psycho Circus
It’s time for Full Moon to really consider packing it in. The most recent entry in its killer clown franchise actually manages to work in commercial breaks for a real adult website. Yes a feature film with commercials. It is however lacking a coherent plot, effects, or, despite the ads and a cast full of actresses known for showing it off, any nudity.
4) Zombie Fight Club
Shot in 2014 but not making it’s way to North America till this year. What could have been a fun martial arts horror romp manages to waste two good ideas. Starting off as THE RAID with zombies only to be ruined by horrible CGI and worse plot threads before finally getting to the promised gladiatorial battles between humans and zombies. And it derails that with absurd subplots too.
Not that I really had much hope, but I’d heard so much hype about how insane and brutal this one was and how Rob Zombie was going to prove he could deliver the goods with this one. Instead it was a warmed over mix of cliches with an ending lifted from one of his earlier films.