"You're Next" and 40 years of Horror


If You're Next was a world premiere at this year's Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, there was a very good reason why that fest's organizers decided to choose it as one of its selections, alongside Simon Pegg's The World's End (I'll get to that one later) and The Conjuring (read a few posts below). You're Next is the second horror movie to have gotten solid reviews this summer -after The Conjuring. That's two films, compared to other years where you would get none all year. You see, critics usually - coldy- receive films of the horror genre with not much excitement. I don't blame them. Horror has become somewhat of a joke in the last 20 years, retreading cliche after cliche and typically using the same structure to build up its narrative. A film like The Conjuring is not groundbreaking stuff but it smartly avoids the usual trappings of a horror movie by focusing more on the psychological aspect of its story. Psychological horror (cue masterful examples such as The Sixth Sense and The Others.)

You're Next on the other hand -slyly directed by indie director Adam Wingard- has no subtlety YET it works! Wingard's film works because unlike many horror films these days, there is a character -or two- that you genuinely care about. Erin is that character, played by kick-ass Aussie Sharni Vinson. Erin is the heroine of the story and an all out action hottie that comes out of nowhere to win our cold, disturbed hearts. To reveal the plot of You're Next would be unfair for those that haven't seen the trailer but suffice to say that this is a home invasion film that twists home invasion cliches upside down with enough gore and twists to keep you guessing. In fact I didn't see the last minute twist coming, neither will you. This is a film that is not perfect but entertains and gives horror buffs what they came to see. I've compiled a list of the best horror films I've seen in the last 15 years or so, some choices may surprise you while others are a must for any list of this kind. I've split it in

First Things First, the essentials no matter which decade;

Psycho (1960)
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
The Exorcist (1973)
Carrie (1976)
The Shining (1980)
The Fly (1986)
The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

1999-2012

The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
American Psycho (2000)
The Others (2001)
Joy Ride (2001)
Frailty (2002)
Cabin Fever (2003)
28 Days Later (2003)
Red Eye (2005)
The Devil's Rejects (2005)
The Descent (2006)
Paranormal Activity (2007)
The Mist (2007)
Bug (2007)
Funny Games (2008)
Drag Me To Hell (2009)
The Last House On The Left (2009)
Shutter Island (2010)
Antichrist (2010)
I Spit On Your Grave (2010)
Cabin In The Woods (2012)
The Woman In Black (2012)

American Independent cinema is alive and well


This summer has not been very kind when it comes to top notch Hollywood films. Is it ever? I guess once in a while you'll get the odd summer movie season that has Studio films aim for high art, I can think of 2001 (Artificial Intelligence, Moulin Rouge, Shrek, The Others) or 2002 (Minority Report, Road To Perdition, About A Boy, Insomnia, The Bourne Identity) but otherwise Independent cinema is the way to go if you truly want a rewarding experience at the movies in the summer.

This summer movie season brought us great stuff (Before Midnight, Frances Ha, The East, The Way Way Back, The Hunt, The To Do List, Mud) and it isn't over yet. There's officially still 3 weeks left until we kick off the fall movie season with The Toronto Film Festival (I'll be there!) and until the summer movie season ends. Don't count on any of the studio stuff to make much buzz but American independent cinema has always been there to get us through the tough times.

Case in point; James Ponsoldt's The Spectacular Now one hell of a coming of age love story with a remarkable performance from its two main leads. In fact Miles Teller and Shaileen Woodley both shared the acting prize earlier this year at Sundance. Boy, did they deserve it. Especially Woodley who at me at hello. This is one of the best female performances of the year. She plays Aimee, a shy "Nice girl" with not much boyfriend experience and he plays Sutter, a party boy that's just broken up with his grilfriend. They seem to not match at all, yet they do. Director Ponsoldt creates magic by literally showing us how two people can fall in love before our very eyes. His movie falters at the end when he derives from the relationship stuff between Sutter and Aimee into more family-based problems. No matter, The Spectacular Now is invigorating stuff, especially Woodley. I hope awards come to her.

"In A World..", ever heard those words in a trailer before? Actress turned director Lake Bell knows you have and has aptly named her directing debut In A World.. which takes place in the world of voice over narration for movie trailers. Original idea. Original execution. Who'd a thought that Bell, a beautiful 34 year old actress known for being in TV shows and movies would be such a talent to watch. It helps that she casts the always great Fred Melamed as her dad, a legend in the voice industry. Daddy finally decides to kick out Bell's Carol out of his house, she is a struggling voice artist that is still trying to find the "voice part" of a lifetime. She ends up crashing at her sister and her husband's apartment whom themselves are struggling in their relationship. This film very much reminded me of the originality of fellow female director Miranda July's Me, You And Everyone We Know. Just like that film, Bell creates an original world never depicted before in celluloid. That's a good thing. Bell is an original voice in indie cinema that is worth looking out for

Fruitvale Station comes off the heels of a triumphant batch of Awards at this year's Sundance Film Festival. There it won the top Dramatic feature prize and got praised for its relevance to the recent Trayvon Martin shooting. Director Ryan Coogler based his film on the true story of Oscar Grant, an African American handcuffed and killed by a police officer at an Oakland subway station. The film takes place on the last day of this man's life as he struggles to get his life back on track. Grant (indelibly played by Michael B. Jordan) has a 4 year old daughter with his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and has to cope with the fact that he just got fired from his job at a grocery store. Even worse, he hasn't told Sophina and resorts to dealing weed - which doesn't please her very much. The fatal shooting happens on New Year's eve and has an impact of shocking gravity, too bad Coogler has stuffed his film with melodrama that numbs some of the effects the film tries to go far. Coogler overreaches and over sentimentalizes some of his film with amateur-like effects that -for some reason- worked with other critics. Nevertheless, Fruitvale Station is a movie that matters because it has a message and relevance that invigorates its story despite its flaws.

Sundance's best movies since 1992-


(1) Memento (2001)
(2) Reservoir Dogs (1992)
(3) You Can Count On Me (2000)
(4) In The Bedroom (2001)
(5) The Squid And The Whale (2005)
(6) Winter's Bone (2010)
(7) Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
(8) Waking Life (2001)
(9) Welcome To The Dollhouse (1995)
(10) Capturing The Friedman's (2003)
(11) Clerks (1994)
(12) Hoop Dreams (1994)
(13) An Education (2009)
(14) The Blair Witch Project (1999)
(15) Citizen Ruth (1996)
(16) Hedwig And The Angry Inch (2001)
(17) Maria Full Of Grace (2005)
(18) Me You And Everyone We Know (2005)
(19) 500 Days Of Summer (2009)
(20) Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
(21) The Station Agent (2003)
(22) El Mariachi (1992)
(23) American Splendor (2003)
(24) The Kids Are All Right (2010)
(25) Buffalo '66 (1998)
(26) Moon (2009)
(27) The Sessions (2012)
(28) The Cove (2009)
(29) The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
(30) Hustle And Flow (2005)
(31) Super Size Me (2004)

List of the day; Best comedies of the last 15 years


I'm talking side splittingly hilarious stuff. Not great movies that happen to be comedies mixed with drama ala Sideways and High Fidelity. Those movies have more going on for them than just laughs. Compared to the films below that just want to make you piss your pants.

(1) Borat
(2) There's something about mary
(3) The 40 Year Old Virgin
(4) Superbad
(5) Little Miss Sunshine
(6) Meet The Parents
(7) Bridesmaids
(8) 21 Jump Street
(9) Bad Santa
(10) Old School
(11) This Is The End
(12) South Park: Bigger, Longer And Uncut
(13) The Spy Who Shagged Me
(14) Shanghai Noon
(15) Dodgeball
(16) School Of Rock
(17) Pineapple Express
(18) Ricky Bobby
(19) The Simpsons Movie
(20) Team America: World Police

Fantasia Film Festival 2013



The Conjuring 3/4

Opening the Fantasia fest this year was The Conjuring, a film that scared the bejesus out of critics and audiences this summer and became a sleeper hit. Did the film deserve all the buzz it got? You bet it did. Director James Wan, working with cinematographer John Leonetti, crafts a movie that leaves the gore out of the window in favor of psychological thrills. Wise decision. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson play real-life paranormal investigators that get entangled in a case that is more than meets the eye. The last third of the movie sets the stage for an exorcism unlike any you've seen before and director Wan works on the experience he built with past films (Insidious, Saw) to construct his most mature work to date. Job well done.

Magic, Magic 3/4

Director Sebastian Silva's Magic Magic has a fascinating topic to deal with. What if some people just get on your nerves so much that you end up having a complete mental breakdown out of it. That's what happens to Juno Temple's Alicia who must deal with her best friend's family in a country retreat off the coast of Spain. She's stuck, wants out but home is far away. Things get worse when Alicia's best friend has to go out of town for an abortion and leaves Juno alone with her neurotic Cousin Brink (a never better Michael Cera) and her boyfriend Agustin. What ensues is the mental breakdown of all epic mental breakdowns. A transformation that leaves the audience in a state of shock. All credit must go to Juno Temple in what is a remarkably emotional and fearless performance. Her Alicia ends up haunting your dreams.

The Last Tycoon 1/4

I went into The Last Tycoon with the hopes of encountering another great film starring Chow Yun Fat. Instead director Jing Wong's film deals with every known cliche in the gangster epic manual. In telling the story of a man's rise to gangsterdom, from teenage years all the way to a prominent role in the chinese mob 40 years later, Wong brings a confusing and disjointed narrative structure that never lifts off its promising premise. I never once believed a single thing that I was seeing and the love story that comes with the violence only makes the film more unwatchable. This was a rare miss at a fest that had an excellent selection this year.

Mistaken For Strangers 3/4

Here's a documentary that might seem out of place at a film fest that prides itself in gore and graphic violence. However, Tom Berninger's documentary about indie rock band The National's first big tour in Europe and the States has a feeling of uneasiness to it. Director Berninger -an avid horror movie fan- is brother to National lead singer Matt Berninger and a total fuckup. Matt decides to invite his brother to work backstage for what is a very important tour. Big mistake. Tom ends up filming most of the time, that is if he isn't already drunk or high off something. The tension keeps getting upped as the documentary moves along and Tom doesn't realize how irresponsible his behavior is. The footage Tom catches in the process ends up making a solid documentary about life on the road, dysfunctional families and friendship. As an extra plus we get great concert footage of a band that is up there with Arcade Fire in terms of Indie Rock greatness.

Across the River 1/4

Across The River would have made a great short movie. instead what we get is an average 2 hour film about ghostly presences in the woods and a man that is stuck with them. There isn't much to say about Lorenzo Bianchini's slight film, everyone tries their best to make a mediocre -almost dialogue-free- screenplay work but it just doesn't burst out of its promising seams. What we get is a movie with a killer setup and a disappointing execution. I couldn't wait for it to end. Better luck next time.

Complex 2.5/4

We all know director Hideo Nakata as the Japanese horror master that had two of his movies (The Ring and Dark Water) remade as Hollywood films. Don't bet on The Complex to be the third one. It is too original and mind bending for a studio to tackle and features a head scratching finale that will leave much to discuss about afterwards. The plot starts off in a very familiar way as Asaka - a young 18 year old girl- moves into an apartment with her parents and starts to notice strange occurrences happening with the next door neighbor. Just when you think this will be a run of the mill horror flick the neighbor is found dead within a few days and we start to have doubts about what is real in the Asaka's life and what is not. Asaka is a deeply disturbed girl that should not be trusted and who's life is in a state of breakdown. Nakata messes with your head until it is all just too much but there's some fun in trying to solve his mystery riddled tale. 

2013

★★★½


Inside Llewyn Davis
Her
Twelve Years A Slave
Upstream Color
American Hustle
The Hunt
Nebraska


★★★

Gravity
This Is The End
Trance
Ain't Them Bodies A Saint
Short Term 12
Lone Survivor
The Square
Blue Is The Warmest Color
In A World
Spring Breakers
Blue Jasmine
The Dark Knight Returns
The Wolf of Wall Street
The Butler
The East
Frances Ha
The Way Way Back
Drinking Buddies
Crystal Fairy And The Magical Cactus
The Call
Pacific Rim
Monsters University
Iron Man Three
The To Do List
All Is Lost
Don Jon
Catching Fire
Elysium
Captain Phillips
World War Z
Behind The Candelabra
The Spectacular Now
I Spit On Your Grave 2
Magic Magic
The Heat


★★½

Labor Day
Pain And Gain
Prisoners
Mud
You're Next
Black Fish
The Conjuring
Side Effects
The Attack
Rush
Mistaken For Strangers
Evil Dead
Dallas Buyer's Club
Escape Plan


★★

About Time
Bad Grandpa
The Last Stand
Warm Bodies
The Gatekeepers
Stoker
Starbuck
Room 237
42
To The Wonder
In The House
Star Trek: Into Darkness
Fast And The Furious 6
Now You See Me
Man Of Steel
The Bling Ring
Fruitvale Station
The Wolverine
Two Guns
We're The Millers
Enough Said
August:Osage County




The Gangster Squad
Broken City
A Good Day To Die Hard
Snitch
21 And Over
Oblivion
The Lords Of Salem
The Hangover Part 3
The Counselor
The Internship
The Great Gatsby
Only God Forgives

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