2013. Let’s reminisce…
1. Babysitter Massacre (Alternative Cinema)-I’ve mulled it over in my head multiple times, but I’m very certain at this point. Babysitter Massacre was my favorite film of 2013. Henrique Couto’s slasher appears to be a love letter to the slasher subgenre…on the surface. Upon further inspection, you’ll find a horror film that displays its filmmakers’ ability to move alongside genre conventions while carving his own initials into its finish. Babysitter Massacre sparked something in me. The casting was stellar (Erin R. Ryan is flat out wonderful!), the movie looks & sounds great, and most importantly: It’s really fun. If ever there was a perfect introduction to a filmmaker’s ability, Babysitter Massacre is it. This one is all killer no filler , kiddos. Get on it!
2. WNUF Halloween Special (Midnight Crew Studios)-Chris LaMartina & Jimmy George will be household names very, very shortly. They’re making a significant amount of noise. WNUF helped to stir that pot. It’s going to be the movie that kids discover for years to come. They’re gonna tell their buddy that it’s real. And that is every reason in the world to have complete and total faith in these lovely gentlemen. If you haven’t seen this, if you haven’t heard of it, get out from under your rock and enhance your life.
3. Bad Milo (Magnet Releasing)-One part Basket Case, one part Albert Brooks film, Bad Milo warms your heart through your ass. Ken Marino should already be a leading man and this movie is validation of that opinion. Gillian Jacobs once again wins over the hearts of geeks worldwide with her performance, and Milo…Milo is adorable. This movie is sweet & disgusting all wrapped in one hilarious package. This is a horror comedy with broad appeal, but it’s embedded enough in the horror history lessons that you seasoned vets will nod in approval.
4. The Conjuring (New Line Cinema)-I’m buying what James Wan is selling. I’m drinking his Kool-Aid. Call me a sucker for Satan, but I’m plenty willing to admit that this movie lived up to EVERY expectation I had. The cast delivers all the bravado necessary to carry a film of this sort. The script allowed this to happen. I am always on the look out for films to watch with my son (a burgeoning horror fan) and The Conjuring has made the list. The hype was completely deserved. I am leery of a sequel, but because this one was so good, I will give it a try.
5. Jug Face (ModernCine’)-Sleeper hit has always seemed condescending to me, but I think it appropriately described this one. I followed the marketing process it went through but I wasn’t prepared (based on the trailer) to be so floored. This was the best assembled cast I saw this year, lead by Lauren Ashley Carter. Writer/director Chad Crawford Kinkle tells a mean ass story. Get used to that name. Chad Crawford Kinkle. This film is bitchin’, original and everything in between. Can’t say enough nice things about Jug Face. It’s a very unique American Gothic that I’ve been blathering about since I saw it.
6. Lords Of Salem (Anchor Bay Films)-Rob Zombie made a fun movie. Fuckin’ deal with it. Yeah, he cast his wife and all his other buddies. So do a lot of filmmakers…because they can. Rob flexed a bunch of different muscles this time out and it worked! Less prevalent is his forced dialogue and in its place are some understated performances that climax in the perfect way. It features some the best visuals he’s ever captured in its third act. Comparisons can be made to The Beyond/The Devils/Rosemary’s Baby in some ways. Now, don’t get all worked up. It’s not even close to those films. But it’s a nice homage to the look and feel those films conveyed. The guy hasn’t won over hearts in awhile (mine included), but Lords Of Salem turned a different page for him. This is the horror film he was always capable of, not the one that the studios wanted from him, but the one he always had in him. I’m glad to see it came to fruition.
7. Hidden In The Woods (Artsploitation Films)-Jesus Christ! This movie wins the Kitchen Sink Award! Drug lords, incest, rape, cannibalism, prostitution, utter fucking chaos…these are the ingredients that make up Patricio Valladares’ monster of a flick. The film runs at a relentless pace and doesn’t give a fuck if you want to see these things or not. It’s explosive nature leaves your head spinning and ends with a chest-caving thud that won’t make you feel good about life. I’m saying this in a complimentary manner. The Chileans are making some gonzo stuff and Artsploitation Films, with their keen eyes, spotted it and unleashed it onto the world. This film is getting a Westernized redux, but get your hands on this one. Artsploitation does some amazing stuff and Hidden In The Woods is a prime example of that.
8. Manborg (Astron-6)-I have yet to come across a project Astron-6 does that I dislike. Manborg is as cool as the internet says it is. It’s a smart, funny as hell way to pay tribute/reinvent a genre wheel. Nowadays, a movie rarely hits each of its marks. Because Manborg did that, it was able to endear itself to each facet of the geek culture. Genre fans and Reddit commenters alike proclaimed a healthy dose of love for this flick. Consider me among those numbers. I want these cats to keep it up. Manborg is the real thing. Astron-6 is the real thing. You want them to keep it up. Buy their stuff.
9. American Mary (XLRator Media)-How Jen & Sylvia Soska went from being beloved genre warriors to the target of elitist comment thread snobbery is beyond me. For every positive show of support, I saw scads of shit-slinging by many of our own horror community members. If it was a critique of their work, that’s fine. You’re entitled to your opinion. But it always seemed to be coupled with some personal attack as well. I chalk it up to jealousy. I also attribute a dose of it to sexism and misguided ethos. Punk rock is dead, kids. Let it go.
The reason for all the talk? The success of American Mary. It’s not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination. But it is a good film and one that takes a unique route to its conclusion at that. Body modification and underground “surgery” are sexy topics, but the Soskas are able to make them a nice character study about desperate people doing desperate things. There’s a healthy amount of overacting on the part of the cast, but considering the subject matter coupled with the the presentation of the story, it’s necessary/appropriate. Katharine Isabelle does a masterful job as Mary. She’s able to make the transition from desperate medical student to kingpin seamlessly. In short, American Mary is going to work as a spring board into some great places for the Soska Sisters and they’ve earned it. As my buddy BJ Colangelo has pointed out about them, the Soskas (in particular, their Twisted Twins Productions imprint) ability to self promote isn’t something to be fucked with. They’ve earned their place on the mountain and I look forward to seeing them continue the climb.
10. Easter Casket (Dustin Mills Productions)-Dustin Mills is one of the hardest working indie filmmakers I’ve ever encountered. His ideas are unique, he’s a self starter who isn’t going to wait for someone to hand him something, and the results of that work ethic are paying off. We’ve been privileged enough to get a front row seat to Dustin’s work as he’s a local filmmaker to The Blood Sprayer’s base of operations. Were he not, he’d still be getting the same amount of coverage because honestly, he’s a favorite among us.
That opinion didn’t falter a bit with the release of Easter Casket, his best release to date (though, I haven’t seen Skinless Pete). It’s a take on the Easter holiday and the practices involved all filtered through Mills unique perspective. Equal parts pagan folklore study and exploitative sacrilege, Easter Casket takes the idea of the Easter Bunny/Jesus/dogmatic practices of organized religion and it kicks the shit out of them. There’s plenty of poignant moments that make a nice companion to Mills’ smart-ass dialogue, but I still wouldn’t chalk this up to being a horror comedy. It has so much more to offer that I wouldn’t want to just label it in a simplistic manner. The bottom line: Easter Casket is a great movie. It’s smart. It’s well acted (Erin R. Ryan with another excellent performance!). The effects and puppetry are perfectly executed. The most important factor though? It stays with you. It has staying power. This is what makes Dustin one of the best indie filmmakers currently working. He makes genuinely entertaining movies without concerning himself with a status quo format. And you know what?! IT WORKS!!! People love what he’s doing and with good reason. Take note aspiring filmmakers; Dustin Mills has the capability of moving onto bigger things, and if Easter Casket is any indication, he most certainly will.
2013 Honorable Mentions:
-Only God Forgives (fuck you…I liked it.)
-The Last Will And Testament Of Rosalind Leigh
-A Band Called Death
Biggest Disappointment of 2013: V/H/S 2 (Magnet Releasing)-Barring one truly great segment (Safe Haven, which is easily the best segment of the 2 films), the follow-up sequel to last year’s wildly successful flick was a dud. Forgettable lackluster deliveries by filmmakers who are capable of much more. If they go with a third segment, I hope to god they get back to their balance from the first film.
Breakthrough Performer of 2013: Erin R. Ryan-Erin Ryan is in 2 of my favorite movies of the year. She’s also in 3 coming film that will undoubtedly be loved by the Blood Sprayer crew. She has exceeded all the scream queen bullshit that plagues female actors of the genre by performing in a grounded, approachable manner. As Angela in Babysitter Massacre, she’s hard to not fall in love with. She opts to be sincere and self-deprecating, giving Angela a lovable quality. That quality is all too rare in the current state of horror. As Aubrie in Easter Casket, you can see similarities to Molly Ringwald’s performance in Pretty in Pink as her loyalties/convictions are tested, but ultimately her heart wins out. While both of the aforementioned scripts are fucking stellar (and they ARE. Couto and Mills write marvelous dialogue), the performances Ryan puts forth take those movies to another level. She shines through the characters she takes on and as the audience, you feel like you know her. You’re rooting for her, you care about her…as generic as it sounds, she is the girl next door. The girl next door just happens to be a really, really good actor! I’m greatly anticipating Haunted House on Sorority Row, which I would be anticipating anyway considering it’s the next film from Henrique Couto. But knowing that Erin R. Ryan is in it makes that film all the more desirable. Here’s to a 2014 filled with her movies!!!
Biggest “What The Fuck?” of 2013: Hemlock Grove-Eli Roth’s awesomely bad Netflix werewolf something-or-other series is almost addictive. Almost. It sucks. A lot. But, I will tell you, I watched the whole thing and got a solid amount of laughs out of it. Was the show meant to garner laughs? Doubtful, but it gets them. From the silly effects to Famke Janssen’s asinine performance (seriously, what was she doing??), there is so much cacophonous shit happening, it would make Andy Milligan scratch his head. I’m excited for Roth’s next film, The Green Inferno, but I think I’m more excited for the prospect of another season of this shit show.
Coolest Unearthing of 2013: The Films of Fred J. Lincoln-One of the notorious baddies from Wes Craven’s Last House on The Left wasn’t just an actor. He was also an established adult filmmaker. In 2013, Impulse Pictures (which is an imprint of Synapse Films) released his long lost flicks Same Time Every Year, Oui Girls, and Serena: An Adult Fairytale. While he had a substantial career in porn as a director, these 3 films are from the golden age and they’re absolutely entertaining. Impulse handled them masterfully (as usual) and as a result exposed another generation of sleaze hounds to some forgotten gems from the golden age of adult cinema. Sadly, Lincoln passed away in January of this year, but his legacy continues on through works like these. RIP…
Greatest Return of 2013: Goblin-Many of you, including myself, were witness to the North American tour of Italian prog rock/horror soundtrack maestros Goblin. As part of their first ever tour of the U.S., Goblin gave us a highlight reel of their best known work complete with visual accompaniment. They were precise in each performance and the audiences ate them up. It was an honor to see them on stage.
Best Podcast of 2013: The Rialto Report-Ashley West’s podcast dedicated to the golden age of adult cinema (and a lost version of New York for that matter). Discovering this podcast was a revelation to me. Some of the most fascinating tales from porn’s heyday are revealed by those who were there to bear witness. The Rialto Report has gotten to be like drugs to me. It’s my new reference point to discover people I had not heard of or knew little about, as well as the home of storytelling from my favorites of the time (Seka, Richard Pacheco, Uschi Digard, etc.). West and his cohorts have an uncanny ability to gain the most intimate of details from the players of the time. Their stories range from heartbreaking to hilarious to the unbelievable but all the stories are told with passion and sometimes fondness. It reminds you that there was a time when people were free to make art without any level of irony. It HADN’T been done before, it WASN’T a rehash of something. It was new, it was crazy, and it was lawless. The consequences were dire, but the moment was lived in. The Rialto Report allows you to relive that moment. Whether or not you’re a fan adult film history, you can still hear some incredible stories on this podcast. Truly one of the best finds of the year. I can’t wait to see who the new year brings in the form of guests. Keep it up, guys!
Biggest Dickhead of 2013-The Internet: Be honest, Internet. You were kind of a dick. The AV Club comment threads? The attacking of things that haven’t even been made/released yet? You have the ability to help endorse independent artists…and you do. When you do it, you do it better than anybody. But a lot of the time, you just end up shitting the bed. Internet, I know what you’re capable of. Show some heart. Show a shred of humanity. Make cat memes, don’t debate over scripted reality shows. Be good to us and we’ll be good to you, Internet. Okay? Okay. So…we good?
There it is, kids. 2014 is a mere 13 or so hours away, but it’s nice to remember what did happen this year. The independent filmmaker truly did shine this year. I’m honored to know these folks. I want to personally raise a glass to Henrique Couto, Chris LaMartina, Chris Seaver, Dustin Mills, Drew Bolduc, Astron-6, The Studio On Mars, Mike Dobrzelecki, Mourningside Productions, and Joshua Hull for being fiercely original. You’re the spirit. You’re the soul. Keep changing the world.
To my fellow Blood Sprayers-I love you all. I’m glad to know you. I’ll see you at Wasteland!
To Orchid, Beastmilk, Kadavar, Noctum, Hidden Masters, Horisont, Blood Ceremony, Purson, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, Whores., Carousel, Sahg, Monster Magnet-thanks for the audio inspiration that guides me to my dark, weird places.
And to all of you…Have the happiest of New Years! Be safe, love one another, watch sleazy movies, drink alcohol, make love and as Brody Stevens would say, “Enjoy It”! We’ll see you next month with the premiere of our podcast, The Blood Sprayer Uncensored Sex Tape Director’s Cut Podcast. You’ve been warned…