December 30, 2014

The Best Movies of 2014

It's not easy putting together any sort of Top 10 or "Best of" list, especially when it comes to movies. I'm not really sure that most "Best of ____" lists are really comprised of the best movies, rather they end up being more of a "Movies we liked the best this year" type of thing, or at best, a mixture of both.

The best movies of any year will be expertly crafted, and they’ll entertain us. They’ll scare us, or they’ll make us laugh. Maybe they'll disgust us. Maybe they'll make us think. Maybe they'll even make us feel something.

Once in a while, if we’re really lucky, they’ll do all of those things and more.

2014 may not have been the best year for Horror & Genre movies, but when the good ones did come along, they ended up being really special. Below are the ones that were the most special to us; some were truly the year's best, while I suppose others were just the ones we enjoyed the most. Either way, they're all great flicks that deserve the love. 

*Be sure to click the pics to read our full reviews of each movie, for a more in-depth look into our choices.

As much as Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett's You're Next! underwhelmed us to death, we found their latest effort, The Guest, to be the rare movie that barely misses a beat from start to finish. It's clever, moody, dark, violent, boasts one hell of a soundtrack, and most of all, it's a hell of a lot of fun. Everything about this movie just clicked for us.

If we had to pick one movie in 2014 that was both "The Best" and our favorite at the same time, it would have to be The Guest.

Read our review of The Guest HERE.

We usually don't include movies that haven't received some sort of proper release in the U.S. on our Year End lists, but seeing that Killers is finally being released here in January (after already playing in many other parts of the world) we made an exception. We really don't want to wait another year to be able to praise this movie, because it's just too damn good not to talk about right now.

To put it simply, Killers is a harsh, nasty little look at the nature of people, and what drives them to kill. It's as psychologically terrifying as it is viscerally disturbing, and if you're a fan of violent Thrillers like I Saw the Devil, then this movie should suit you perfectly. When it finally hits VOD on January 23rd here in the U.S., seek it out immediately, and bask in its creepy, nasty glory.

Read our review of Killers HERE.

Starry Eyes is a slow-burn of a movie that builds its main character's desire for stardom into an explosive and shocking finale that still has us reeling. Alex Essoe was great as the girl with starry eyes, and much like the movie itself, she went to some pretty dark and horrific places with her performance.

This is one very sublime, classy, and shocking movie.

Read our review of Starry Eyes HERE.

Cold in July is probably the one movie in our Top 10 that strays the farthest from the "Horror" descriptor, and it probably would have been better suited to our Genre Movies List, but being that it's one of the 10 best movies that we've seen in 2014, we felt that it belonged here. *If Blue Ruin can be talked about in Horror circles, then so can Cold in July!

Anchored by a trio of excellent performances from Sam Shepard, Don Johnston, and Michael C. Hall, and steeped in some pretty disturbing subject matter, Cold in July kicked our asses in the best of ways, like few other movies in 2014 have. The excellent writing/directing team of Jim Mickle and Nick Damici have given us one of the best Revenge Thrillers that we've seen in ages with this one, and we can't recommend it highly enough.

Read our review of Cold in July HERE.

Incredibly gory, blatantly ridiculous, and wholly inappropriate, Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead is a barrel full of crazy, zombie fun. Most Horror movies that go the over-the-top route tend to suck, mainly because they spend so much of their time and energy just trying to be crazy, that everything else about them suffers. This sequel, however -which is, by the way, bigger and ballsier than its predecessor- is one demented, shameless exercise in fun that gets it right in just about every way.

Along with The Raid 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy, Red Snow 2 is one of the most purely enjoyable movies that we've seen this year.

Read our review of Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead HERE.

Big Bad Wolves is a slick, expertly-crafted movie, that is as darkly humorous as it is profoundly disturbing. We love how revenge drives the "good guys" in this movie to become monsters on par with the sexual predators that they hunt, even though their cause is "just." And the final shot in the movie is just haunting...

Big Bad Wolves may not be a perfect film, but it certainly isn't far from it.

Read our review of Big Bad Wolves HERE.

On our first watch, The Town That Dreaded Sundown felt like an exercise in style over substance, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but we usually tend to stand on the side of substance. Having seen it twice more since then, its Fincher-esque style thrilled and captivated us even more than it did the first time, and this time it felt much more like an exercise in both style and substance, on an equal level.

It also boasts some gory kills, and an crazy cool killer, so really, it's got everything we need in a slasher flick. Addison Timlin naked would have been nice though... but we digress.

Read our review of The Town That Dreaded Sundown HERE.

For us, The Babadook was a trying watch, but at the same, it was also a clever, fresh, and ultimately satisfying one as well. The themes that it explored are fairly deep and complex, and once the third reel kicked in, the way that the film handled them was truly horrific.

The Babadook seems to be the critical darling of the Horror world in 2014, and while it's not our favorite Horror flick of the year (there are certainly movies in the Honorable Mention section below that we enjoyed far more), we can certainly understand why it has resonated so well with so many people, and we can't ignore just how great this film is.

Read our review of The Babadook HERE.

Despite leaving us with a few unanswered questions, and offering up an underwhelming ending that made us say "that's it?," At the Devil's Door is one hell of a spooky little Haunted House flick. With The Pact, and now this one, Nicholas McCarthy has quickly become one of our favorite writer/director's in the Genre.

We're probably going to take some crap for including this movie on a "Best of" list, but the fact is that this is a twisty, gorgeous, and eerie movie that delivered effective Horror better than did most others of its kind this year.

Read our review of At the Devil's Door HERE.

As shitty as The Purge was, we're grateful that so many people ended up going to see it last summer, because it enabled them to make this excellent sequel. The Purge: Anarchy is superior to the the first movie in every way; it's lean, mean, has a great story that makes sense, has some characters that are actually likable, and it's filled with so much tension, that we basically had no fingernails left after watching it.

If we're being honest, it's most likely Frank Grillo that made The Purge: Anarchy work so well (because the guy is a natural born movie anti-hero), but it also stands on its own as one kick-ass movie that we already want a follow-up to.

Read our review of The Purge: Anarchy HERE.

The movies in this Honorable Mention section are among the best that we saw in 2014, and many of them could have easily been in any Top 10 list, including ours. In fact, some of them were originally in our Top 10 list, but ended up here for one reason or another.

The point is that lists are not definitive, and just because something doesn’t finish Top 10, doesn’t mean that it didn’t deserve to. Placement can be subjective, and does not necessarily speak to overall quality. As long as they're good, who really cares where a movie lands in the rankings, you know?

*Be sure to click the pics to read our full reviews of each movie, for a more in-depth look into our choices.


A few quick notes:
  • As Above, So Below is far better than a lot of critics gave it credit for.
  • Blue Ruin and Cold in July would make for an excellent double feature.
  • The Canal was creepy, detractors be damned!
  • Cheap Thrills had a top-notch cast, and was fun from start to finish. 
  • Honeymoon was eerie as hell, and Rose Leslie is a star.
  • As imperfect as Horns may be, it's still a great movie. Having read the book beforehand, we probably had a better appreciation of what was going on with the story, so its imperfections didn't irk us like they seemed to do with others. 
  • The Houses October Built has its issues, but it's stuck with us ever since we saw it. Creepy stuff.
  • Late Phases was a great werewolf movie. Nick Damici really can do no wrong.
  • For being a bigger studio movie, Oculus delivered the goods exceptionally well.
  • Proxy was a wild, twisty ride that still makes us shiver when we think about it.
  • The Sacrament and Willow Creek are both great examples of how to do Found Footage the right way. 
  • The Taking of Deborah Logan was one hell of an effort, and one that took us completely by surprise.
  • Tusk was stupid by design, and yet somehow Michael Parks' performance elevated it to a legitimately enjoyable level.
  • Finally, Wolf Creek 2 was a great sequel, and we're not sure how it didn't end up in our Top 10. The world is an imperfect place?

Blu-ray & DVD: The Digital Dread Report for December 30th

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There aren't very many titles of note hitting store shelves this week, which is alright with us, because we're still tapped out from Christmas.

The few releases that we are getting, however, are at least solid ones.

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Tusk (our review HERE) is a goofy, ridiculous movie that was born of a joke, and yet somehow became an actual film. This movie is good for two things: a dark, extremely tongue-in-cheek laugh; and Michael Parks' intense performance, the latter being the best part of the movie without question. At the very least, Tusk is something completely different that manages to entertain, despite itself.

The Equalizer is a fun action flick. It doesn't get much better than Denzel Washington killing absolutely everybody in the 'effing room in the name of revenge (ala Man on Fire), and director Antoine Fuqua does brooding machismo better than most (King Arthur, Tears of the Sun, etc...) This one is definitely worthy or a rental or purchase.

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A shameless cacophony of sex & violence, Banshee is one of our favorite shows on TV. If you've never seen this highly-enjoyable Cinemax Original, then get a hold of Season 1 (either on Blu-ray, or via Cable On-Demand), and give it a spin. We promise you'll be entertained... if you like shameless, exploitational fun, that is.

Not much to report on the DVD front this week, although App was a pretty decent German Thriller.

Don't worry, we're sure that things will get better in 2015...

December 29, 2014

The Worst Movies of 2014

Let's face it, 2014 was a lackluster year for movies. For every good one that we got, there was an equally bad one right behind it, and many of the year's "average" films shamelessly blurred the line between passable and unacceptable. We enjoy ripping apart the shitty movies that we are forced to endure about as much as we like watching them; which is to say not very much, but it's something that we have to do, on both counts.

The following movies are the ones that irked us the most in 2014; some because they underwhelmed, others because they were just unequivocally horrible. No matter the reason, they were painful to endure, and we're here to share that pain with you... hopefully so that you can avoid experiencing it for yourselves. We're humanitarians, you see.

*Be sure to read our reviews of each movie (when available), as they provide more in-depth reasoning as to why these movies were so painful to watch.

"From here on out, people begin to die at the hands of some off-camera monster or something, and by the time the end of the movie rolls around, you realize that the whole thing has been some sort of allegory about being at peace with how shitty of a person you are before you die. Yeah."
Originally scheduled to be released in August of 2012, 7500 was such a mess that it got pushed back to April of 2013... and then to October of 2013... and then it finally saw a VOD release in October of 2014. Now, sometimes good movies get pushed back for various reasons (Trick 'r Treat, Cabin in the Woods), but for the most part when a movie is delayed, it's because it sucks. That is absolutely the case here.

7500 was a cringe-worthy effort, playing like a super serious version Snakes on a Plane, only with off-camera ghosts and an evil Japanese Shinigami Doll providing the menace. Also, no Sam Jackson. 7500 is more amusing than it is scary, as most of the film's creepy/bloody moment happens off screen; they obviously made some heavy cuts to get the movie a more "audience friendly" PG-13 rating, which is VERY obvious to see in the way that the whole thing was edited. Even if they had they left the actual Horror bits in there though, this one still would have sucked. It all just devolved into a cheesy melodrama that made us wonder how it all went so wrong.

The good news is that at least now Ryan Kwanten can claim that he's starred in something that sucked even worse than True Blood, because he's probably at least a little bit proud of True Blood.

Read our review of 7500 HERE.

As creepy as the film version of the Annabelle doll looks, how could an entire movie centered around her (it?) be so lifeless and not scary at all? A sewing machine turns on by itself! Close-up on a doll's face!  Doll staring, menacingly! A crayon rolling into a hallway! Menacing staring intensifies! Loud, jarring noise! Annabelle falling on the floor and peeping under a door! Come on!

This movie is packed to the damned gills with tropey gags that are meant to scare us, and yet very few of them work at all. The problem with most "Haunted House" movies like this is that many of their scary moments seem to exist only for the sake of scaring the audience, and make little sense otherwise: why do scary ghosts always need to walk briskly across a hallway, somewhere in the background? Why do they feel the need to make chairs rock, only to stop when someone comes to investigate? And why exactly would an evil spirit slowly close a door after someone leaves a room? Why would it even waste the energy? Why did we waste the energy watching this movie? 

As violently murderous as the spirit that possessed the Annabelle doll was, it sure seemed interested in little else than doing harmless things just for the sake of scaring people. Sure, it "needed a soul" and everything, but instead of just claiming one and being done with it, it wasted most of its time and energy being scary. Why? Why are evil spirits always so ineffective at doing anything value-added in these movies?

Annabelle was actually a well-crafted movie in general, but as a Horror movie, it was bland, dull, boring (yes, I just basically said the same thing three times, but it's well-warranted), barely scary at all, and at times, even silly. If you're going to make a Haunted House flick, feel free to use all the familiar tropes you want to, just please MAKE IT SCARY.

As much as we enjoyed The Conjuring, this prequel was a huge letdown.

"Since there are basically no hot chicks in The Dead 2, let us instead reflect on the many scenes of speedy driving and escape found throughout this one... Honestly, there were so many scenes of high-speed fleeing in this movie, that we wondered if it was a test reel for Fast & Furious: Indian Drift."

We include The Dead 2 on our list not because it was a "shitty" movie, not completely, but because it was a shitty sequel to what we thought was a really good movie. As great as The Dead (2010) was, this follow-up felt to us like it was nothing more than a less-effective remake of the first movie. We say this because The Dead 2 basically takes the story from the first movie, adds a different setting (and marginally different characters), and executes it in just about the same way. It felt like a lazy, half-assed effort to us. The Dead 2 is definitely more disappointing than it is bad, which makes it bad in its own special way.

In addition to it feeling like a carbon copy of the first one, this tepid sequel's most egregious offense is that it squandered its unique setting. Being set in India, this movie could have been a Zombie Apocalypse epic; the idea of 1 Billion+ zombies running around a country half the size of the U.S. is a terrifying one, and we're sad that we never got to see that concept come to fruition like it could have.

The Dead 2 should have improved upon everything that the first movie so effectively established, but instead it just felt like an exercise in copy-paste, which was really disappointing. This movie's reach far exceeded its grasp.

Read our review of The Dead 2: India HERE.

"The Devil Baby promotion that the filmmakers did for the film was vastly more entertaining than the actual film itself, and we would have much preferred to watch 90-minutes of that hilarious awesomeness."

How many shitty Found Footage movies do we need to have forced on us before we revolt, and force the "filmmakers" who lean on such cheap and easy conceits, to actually put some effort into the stories that they try to sell us?

The more Found Footage flicks that we see, it's getting harder and harder to buy into the conceit that for some reason, the people in these movies are compelled to film everything going on around them, even to their detriment. Directors Radio Silence can say that Devil's Due isn't a Found Footage flick all they want to, but that's really just a cheap way to make a Found Footage flick while not having to adhere to that sub-genre's particular set of rules

Call it Found Footage/First Person/POV or whatever you want, but The Devil's Due is basically a Cinema verite' attempt to tell a modern version of Rosemary's Baby, that gets very little right.

Read our review of The Devil's Due HERE.

"I have to imagine that the only reason this movie exists is that the WWE Studios "brain trust" were sitting around one day, trying to figure out what kind of new, cheesy B-movie they could make a buck with, when somebody said 'Hey, we've got a midget on the payroll, let's remake Leprechaun!' "

The Leprechaun movies have always been B-grade schlock, but at least they were funny in a self-aware kind of way. There's really no way that you can make a serious Horror movie about a Leprechaun, especially when those films have sub-titles like "In Space," "In the Hood," and "Back 2 Tha Hood,"  right? Movies like that are made to be goofy fun, and nothing more. Right.

Well, some clueless asshole thought that making a serious entry into this iconic (and more importantly, comedic) series was a good idea, and The WWE need must have needed something for poor little Hornswoggle to do, and so Leprechaun: Origins was born.

This movie would have at least been somewhat enjoyable had WWE Films decided to let Hornswoggle run around and cut wise while he killed people in all sorts of bloody ways, but no, the Leprechaun we got in this prequel was a rubber-suited monster that looked like an angry raisin, and inspired the fear in us that a 6-month-old baby would.

This is one of the most pointless, pathetic, and poorly executed movies that we've seen in quite some time, and one that handily shits all over Warwick Davis' Leprechaun legacy, if such a thing even exists.

Read our review of Leprechaun: Origins HERE.

"The character's frustrating inability to do anything remotely intelligent to change their situations is one thing, but are you telling me that none of their neighbors can hear screams, yelling, glass breaking, or the fucking loudspeaker that's playing creepy, repetitive messages from outside in the middle of the yard?"

The biggest problem with Mockingbird was that it asked us to accept such incredibly impossible premise and set-up, that it felt like it was fucking with us. I honestly don't know how anyone read this script and didn't say "Listen, this shit just doesn't make any sort of sense. Were you high when you wrote this?"

Mockingbird started off in promising fashion, but as it wore on, it devolved into such an illogical mess that we had to rewind and watch through certain parts again to make sure that we saw things right the first time. Unfortunately, we did.

This is honestly the most frustrating and baffling Horror flick that we experienced in 2014.

Read our review of Mockingbird HERE.

"Hiding from someone in a creepy basement where occult rituals have been performed? Record that too, and mind that you keep the camera light on too, because the person who is potentially going to kill you can't see that light in a pitch black basement, and especially not through the thin sheet of clear plastic that you're hiding behind."

How many of these movies are they going to make? Lionsgate handily drove the Saw franchise into the ground by milking it to death with multiple sub-par sequels, and now Blumhouse is dong the same with the PA series. The joke's over guys, we've heard the punchline, and every time you retell it, it gets less and less funny.

It's hard to blame Blumhouse for continuing to make these movies (The Marked Ones has made nearly $100 million worldwide on a $5 million budget), but at the same time it's hard for us to understand how the PA movies went from being genuinely scary to being almost parodies of themselves.

Are they really so out of ideas for this franchise that someone actual thought that using a Simon game as an Ouija Board was a good idea? Just look at that picture above and try to imagine that it's a serious scene in a supposedly scary movie. Don't laugh, because it is.

Read our review of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones HERE.

Michael King
"From here on out we get Michael King acting all creepy on camera, arguing with himself in front of cameras, laughing maniacally into cameras, trying to finger his sister on camera, and nearly killing his kid on camera... because Demons really like to film themselves doing Demon things"

We're not really sure what the filmmakers were going for with this movie, but if it was "Let's make a movie about a sassy Demon who possesses a guy, and then films itself doing everything, because Demon life is like one big Selfie!" then they succeeded wildly.

Honestly, most of this movie plays like a one-man stage play, with an increasingly possessed Michael King taking a series of video selfies in which he smirks, smiles, talks to himself, smirks some more, and then sticks a pin in his finger. Maybe he was possessed by a Demon who was once an angsty teenage YouTube star?

This movie could have been a creepy one, but it was just too silly and frustrating to ever allow us to feel afraid.

Read our review of The Possession of Michael King HERE.

As "not good" as Uwe Boll's Seed (2007) was, there are not enough words in any language to properly articulate just how horrible this piece of shit sequel is. Most of the time when people say "That was the worst movie ever!" they're over-exaggerating, and probably have no idea what truly horrible movies are. That being said, allow me to say this:

Seed 2 is one of the worst movies that has been committed to film in the past 10, maybe even 20 years.

The film looks lo-fi and terrible; the editing it horrendous, to the point of confusion; and the "acting" on display in this one is just abysmal. Most of the people in this movie have no business acting, and whoever this Z-grade actress Manoush is, she needs to stop.

IMDB has the budget for this retarded fuck-hole of a movie listed at $1.2 million, which is obviously a mistake. $1200, I could believe, but what in the absolute hell could they have possibly spent $1.2 million on? I could make a movie on my Galaxy Note that looks better than this one, and I have no filmmaking talent whatsoever... nor do I have 1.2 million dollars.

Seed 2 makes Uwe Boll, and his far superior Seed movie, look brilliant by comparison.

As bad as most of the Wrong Turn sequels have been, they've at least always managed to be fun in an exploitative way, by offering up all kinds of gratuitous nudity and plenty of excessively bloody (and even clever) kill scenes. This latest (and hopefully last) sequel in the series though, is absolutely no fun at all. It's full of bad actors delivering horrible lines in boring, tedious scenes, and worst of all, it looks really cheap. I mean, the mongoloid killers (who have been the mainstays in most of the Wrong Turn movies) look like they're wearing cheap rubber masks... shitty, cheap, rubber masks.

I know that most movies with Part 6 in their titles aren't very good, but at least some of them aren't as atrociously bad as Wrong Turn 6 is.

2014 gave us plenty of other bad movies of varying degrees, and here are some of the ones that struck the worst kind of chord with us. Feel free to click through to the reviews if you'd like to know why.

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A few quick notes:
  • As for the movies that we didn't review: The Captive had its good points, but man was it ever a sloppy, silly effort that felt like it was parked squarely up its own ass; Life After Beth wasn't very fun or funny, which sucks for a movie that's supposed to be both; I, Frankenstein felt like a shitty, un-funny version of Van Helsing, and that's saying something; whoever came up with the idea for Jinn should never be allowed to come up with anything else, ever again; and The Pyramid... how did such a generic shit-pile ever get a December theatrical release?
  • We didn't totally hate Ouija or The Devil's Hand like most people seemed to, but they just weren't very good at all. 
  • Conversely, lots of people thought that The Den was great, but it drove us nuts.
  • Maybe we missed the point of Nurse 3-D, but watching Paz de ja Huerta "act" makes us cringe, so we don't care. 
  • And finally, here's to hoping that 2015 will be a better year for movies, Horror or otherwise.