It’s a fairly generic sentiment to opine over what happened throughout these past 12 months. Certainly, every site and magazine on the planet will be doing the exact same thing. But, I’ll be honest: It’s a lot of fun to do this sort of thing.
I used the same criteria as I did last year. It’s official IMDB page may not say 2011, but if it’s blu-ray/DVD release was 2011 stateside, then it qualifies. Also, I don’t exactly live in the mecca of entertainment, so I gotta try a little harder to get my hands on certain things. This year’s searching was well worth it.
2011 produced a lot of great things from the genre. As usual, the theatrical releases were momentary and forgettable. I’ll be the first guy to admit that not only do I not go see 90% of the genre films released in theatre, I also don’t give a shit about that 90%. They just don’t interest me. 8 million other sites are gonna have their heads up the asses of those movies, so I’d just as soon seek out the films I want to see and that system has yet to let me down. So, without further adieu, I present my list of 2011’s best (and then some)…
1.Valhalla Rising-A lot of stuff came out after this one that I loved, but nothing quite surpassed it for me. Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s hallucinatory, mystical mindfuck summons the demons of Jodorowsky and Lynch while still packing it’s own distinct punch. Refn made an impression on me with his film Bronson and Drive caught the world’s attention (as well it should have!), but for the purposes of The Blood Sprayer’s world, I can tell you that after watching Valhalla Rising I never recovered. This one stayed with me all year long and will long after this year.
2.Black Death-So what if he plays the same character from the same era in every film? Sean Bean is a real dick kicker!! The medieval battle for good and evil, the plague, and all kinds of badassery runs rampant. Who doesn’t like evil?! Black Death is dark and full of the faith testing concepts that usually end up in films like this, but this movie is made for horror fans. From the first frame all the way to the end, I found myself grinning. The combination of horror and The Black Plague seems so obvious now.
3.Stake Land-If Twilight has taught us anything, it’s that vampires are fucking lame. We don’t fear Dracula any longer, and rightfully so. Awful haircut, terrible accent, cape…what a douche. In the modern era, they just can’t hold weight for horror fans. The concept has been reduced to romance and soap opera antics. Then, Stake Land came out…
Jim Mickle whipped up a no-bullshit vampire movie that turns them into the bloodsucking monsters they are. Stake Land’s characters win your heart immediately. You ache for them. As the world is collapsing around them, they’re left with no choice but to fight. It’s heartbreaking and full of action. This one will follow you home. (Sidenote: If Hollywood needs any more reason to give Danielle Harris and Nick Damici some worthy roles, they just need to see this.)
4.Super-James Gunn is one of our guys. He’s never lost touch with his geeky roots. In fact, I would go as far as to say they’re his driving force. So, it should have come as no surprise to horror fans that Super was as gory and messed up as it was. Rainn Wilson? Ellen Page? Kevin Bacon? Michael Rooker?! Liv Tyler?! Hell yes!!! Mr. Wilson’s performance ranked as one of the best I encountered all year. He didn’t have super powers. Hell, he didn’t even have a good costume. But, his sociopathic code of ethics was enough to make his rampage the fun blast that it was. The writers of the show Dexter really could learn a thing or two from James Gunn about writing a moral lunatic. Expect this to be on cult film lists for years to come.
5.Attack The Block-This was more than a movie in our home. It was an event. Everything about ATB is likable, from it’s anti-hero lead characters, right down to it’s stylized badass cinematography. With as many times as my son has watched this one since its release, I got a feeling this is going to be one of his generations’ favorites. The monsters are jazz-cool and the movie moves at a damn fine clip. All the popular kids are hip to ATB. Sometimes, the cool kids are right.
6.Witch’s Brew-Chris LaMartina did his city and filmography proud this year. Witch’s Brew is everything good and hopeful about indie horror. It has likable characters played by actors who handled the script with a great deal of precision. The effects are entertaining, set pieces are realistic (for a witch movie) and overall Witch’s Brew outdid all of it’s contemporaries by being better at combining blood and brains accurately. I’m chomping at the bit, eagerly awaiting Chris LaMartina’s next flick. If you haven’t seen any of his work, then you’re not living life to the fullest. This was more than my favorite indie film I saw this year, it was one of my favorites period. My crush on LaMartina rages on…
7. TrollHunter-I struggled with whether or not I could include this in as a true horror flick, but after much deliberation I couldn’t keep it off this list. This was another major event in the Allen household this year. Can anyone honestly say they didn’t love this movie? It’s a trunk full of fun! There’s great moments of that Blair Witch-esque suspense while dialogue is being dispersed, but when the trolls show up? Well, then we get into some Jurassic Park territory. TrollHunter is one of the best monster movies I’ve seen in about 10 years. Multiple views are well deserved. I’ve got that hunch that this too, ends up as one of the flicks my son’s generation reveres as a classic.
8. Hobo With A Shotgun-If there was one single film that ruled the school amongst genre fans in 2011, it was Hobo With A Shotgun. Discussions begun in 2010 as the first rumblings of this began to surface. When all was said and done, the final product lived up to it’s hype with room to spare. The colors are bold, the performances are waaaaaay off the charts crazy, and the cinematography is flawless (as if I’d expected any different from the mighty Karim Hussain?). I’m certain you’re already familiar with it and have probably seen it, but if you haven’t YET seen this movie…well, what the hell are you waiting for?!!
9. I Saw The Devil-While the Asian horror craze has quieted down considerably, this year we got some some pretty nice surprises. This Korean revenge flick is mind-blowing. The story is relentless in its pursuit to teach the antagonist his lesson. The film’s anti-hero lead is a skilled son of a bitch in the ways of human suffering…and suffer does the wicked. I sat up straight with my eyes wide open through every second of this movie, and when the credits rolled, it took every ounce of my being to not leap out of my chair and scream. Mostly because I was home alone and that is a level of lonely I’m not ready to accept. ISTD successfully casts you and reels you back in so many time, your head will be spinning. This is quintessential revenge cinema executed with a level of perfection we’ve come expect from those crazy Korean bastards.
10. Red State-Kevin Smith is a public figure who (at times) is on the verge of having his persona overshadow his body of work. I’m not nearly as harsh a critic of Kevin Smith’s work as a lot of folks are. His films are associated with some very personal moments in my life and on more than one occasion, I’ve found myself tearing up while watching one of them. You may hate his world view, but it’s a view all his own that is both gross-out funny and deeply intimate. With all of that in mind, I was still quite worried about Red State. Sure, Mr. Smith can make me laugh but can he scare me? Answer: Fuck yes.
This film came with a lot of attention attached to in the form of both subject matter and how it came to be. Fortunately, it killed! Kevin Smith made a relevant, current, and (most importantly) scary film. The last time a character really truly scared me in the way Michael Park’s did was Javier Bardem’s performance in No Country For Old Men. Park’s performance of a Fred Phelps-like doomsday preacher is one that could bring about the apocalypse. Red State’s tension is built upon every line he delivers. I have no idea what Kevin Smith has in store next, but Red State is as potent as they come. My faith in him remains in tact.
11.Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil-Comedic timing is a crucial part of horror film acting. Thankfully, when the the cats making TADVE decided to begin their search for cast members, they made all the right decisions. Another movie that came with a lot of attention, TADVE would fall into the splatstick sub-genre quite nicely. It’s got a million laughs that always come with some outrageous gore attached to them. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine make a marvelous comedy team (also, Labine’s abilities are PROPERLY put to use here. Seems a rarity.) who would do Sam Raimi quite proud. Shaun of The Dead was the last big horror comedy to capture horror fans’ hearts so strongly, but TADVE can officially be placed right along side that now.
12. 13 Assassins-Does it really need explaining? I mean, c’mon. Takashi Miike returns to his balls-out ways with a martial arts film that beats the holy hell out of some the turd burgers Jet Li unleashed on America over the past 10 years. As expected from my beloved Miike, this film is overflowing with insanity and violence-the way it SHOULD be! It could very easily win over the heart of non-horror/genre lovers by appealing to the everyday sensibilities of film fans. You know someone who digs on big budget action flicks? Throw in 13 Assassins and watch them shit diamonds when the action kicks in. This movie reaches new heights of insanity that horror fans (as well as Miike fans in general) will be instantly attracted to. I know I was. I’m not asking you to view this as a horror flick, I’m asking you to view it as a fan of kick ass, crazy, violent movie that will captivate you. Miike = Master.
13. Hatchet II-Adam Green is now a pretty steady presence in horror cinema. He’s carved a niche into modern day fans’ minds by crossbreeding nostalgia and current trends successfully. With Hatchet II, He furthered the legacy of his Victor Crowley slasher by revisting the swamp with new ideas in mind. The kills are as whacked out as the previous film and Danielle Harris nails another solid performance in II. Seriously, she keeps getting better and better over time. With the knowledge of a third film headed our way in 2012, it’s good to know that the newly-minted Hatchet franchise (going on a third film qualifies as a franchise, right?) is not becoming hokey (yet) and keeps Adam Green at the forefront of our mind. Horror for the horror lover, indeed.
14.Chillerama-Adam Green again? Yep. But this time he brought his buddies: Tim Sullivan, Joe Lynch, and Adam Rifkin all tackle a different segment for a anthology of perversion. This one is filled with all kinds of disgusting ideas fresh off the ol’ sleaze film block. If you don’t laugh at Were-Bears, Godzilla-sized sperm, Hitler parodies, or horny zombies then I just don’t have much time for you…seriously. None whatsoever. I laughed through this whole damn thing and have watched 3 times since. Sometimes horror/exploitation films need to just own up, and this one does. It reaches all new levels of absurdity that one would expect from the perverts involved. Well done, gentleman.
15.The Last Circus-If ever there was a time to TRULY fear clowns, it would be after viewing The Last Circus. Director Alex De La Iglesia weaves a sordid tale of violence, love, and misery. When telling a buddy about this one who’d asked me what I’d thought of it, I could only think of words to accurately depict my feelings: Fucking chaos. Quite frankly, this movie (which is beautifully shot) is as disturbing as anything I’ve seen lately. All of the characters are dysfunctional at best, and when shit goes down it’s not that hard to believe it is. Iglesia has a very warped mind that he’s sharing with the film community. Make sure to thank the guy for doing so.
-Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2
-Embodiment of Evil
-A Horrible Way To Die
-Machete Maidens Unleashed!
Best Non-Horror Films of 2011:
1. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows Pt. 2: It was a fitting finish to a legendary fantasy franchise. Harry showed the heart of a lion while Voldemort fought a valiant fight in the name of evil. Because everyone and their brother had already read the books, we knew the outcome. But to see it play out on the big screen was years in the waiting. Well. Worth. The. Wait.
2. Super 8: For the E.T. generation, this film was a nostalgia trip but for a new generation this was the greatest alien encounter movie they’d seen. Seeing this film at the drive-in with my son a movie memory I won’t soon forget. J.J. Abrams gets monsters.
3.Thor: I’m like everyone else-I’m eagerly awaiting The Avengers movie. Thor was one of the pieces of the puzzle that had me nervous. After seeing it though, I wanted to go right back in that theatre and watch it again. Comic book movies are pretty much expected nowadays. The problem with that? Some of them are shit (Green Lantern, Green Hornet…anything with Green in the title.). Thor was everything I wanted and more. A family outing left us all smiling.
5.Lemmy: It couldn’t have come to anyone’s surprise that one of rock and roll’s living legends had a documentary made about him. He’s fuckin’ Lemmy, for pete’s sake! This documentary captures the reality of who Lemmy is. I think a lot of us view him as larger-than-life. This documentary brings a human side to the music god. Don’t let me fool you: If I saw him face to face, I’d probably unravel but this doc definitely lets us into the life of one of the kings. He’s a damn juggernaut who doesn’t seem to be slowing anytime soon. You’ll be touched by some of the stories of generosity told by several of his music peers, as well as amazed by his ability to keep going as hard as ever. Every story is true, every myth is real-Lemmy is God.
Best Indie Film/Filmmaker/Writer/Director/Everything:
I know I’m coming off sort of stalkerish, but between Witch’s Brew and President’s Day, Chris LaMartina more than won me over. I have watched his films several times at this point, and from I’m sitting its seems like a good idea for someone to give him a lot of money. A lot of money and leave him to his devices. At the exact moment I was feeling a little bored with what was coming across my desk this year, I received a package from him. That package (which included the aforementioned films, as well as some others.) was my rejuvination. He is worthy of all of your attention. Get his films NOW!
2012 is right around the corner. Thankfully, there’s much to be hopeful for. We know that the Soska Sisters have wrapped shooting on American Mary. Not just amongst the people at The Blood Sprayer, but amongst horror fans in general, there’s much to be excited about for this. At Toronto After Dark in October, the world got a glimpse at The Theatre Bizarre. The Theatre Bizarre (hitting theatres January 27th) is a fucked up anthology film being brought to you by some of the genre’s most brilliant and transgressive minds (Richard Stanley, Douglas Buck, Buddy Giovinazzo, David Gregory, Karim Hussain, and Jeremy Kasten respectively). This will most certainly be a flick the horror world will be drooling over. Hope still remains, good is still to come and we’re going to be there right alongside you guys.
Things will be relatively quiet here at The Blood Sprayer until after the holidays, but fear not: We’ll be coming back REALLY strong in January! See y’all then!
(A little follow-up to this: I covered only films because covering music and books would’ve been disgustingly long. And let’s be honest: You barely care about my opinion now, so why give you a reason to care even less?)
Tags: Adam Green, Black Death, Blood, Buddy Giovinazzo, cult, Danielle HArris, Douglas Buck, ellen page, exploitation, genre, gory, hatchet II, Hobo With a Shotgun, Horror, james gunn, JJ Abrams, jodorowsky, Karim Hussain, Kevin Smith, Lynch, nicolas winding refn, rainn wilson, red state 13 assassins, Richard Stanley, sean bean, slasher, super, Super 8, Takashi Miike, The Blood Sprayer, The Last Circus, Valhalla Rising, Victor Crowley