Friday, April 13, 2012
MY TOP 5 South By Southwest Film Festival Horror Films of 2012!
I love horror movies and I saw a LOT of them at SXSW this year.
That's why I decided to split my Top 5 into two separate lists.
That and it's Friday the 13th.
Can't have one of those without some horror flicks.
So, here are the five best horror films that I saw at SXSW this year.
CABIN IN THE WOODS
I love horror films, so I always make it a point to see as many as I can at every festival I go to.
Cabin In The Woods, though, I got to see at an earlier screening, so it's been a few months since I've seen it.
Still it was one of the best films of SXSW 2012. I can't say too much about it without giving away too much of the story.
I will say this much, though: The story of five friends going to the titular cabin only sets the stage. You really only think you know what's going to happen from there on…but you do know what's going to happen. It will surprise the hell out of you, but you'll get exactly what you expect. It's hilarious and gory. As much as I like Scream, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard do what Wes Craven really wanted to do. They tear the horror genre a new one while making us willing participants in the story.
From the opening scenes in an office building you'll be thrown off the trail. Then you'll get back on the trail only to be hurled off again. The movie was filmed over two years ago (before Chris Hemsworth became a Norse superhero), but it hasn't lost any of its edge while it's sat on the shelf.
There have been a few trailers for this movie, but I suggest that you don't watch them. They give FAR too much away.
The whole found footage thing has run its course, say some.
If you believe that, though, you obviously haven't been paying attention. With a new Paranormal Activity movie being released seemingly every three months, I think it's alive and well. This anthology film of indie filmmakers' short films (all shot through the eyes of a diegetic camera) was one of the more fun experiences that I had at the festival this year.
The framing story is of a bunch of punks who get the idea to steal a VHS tape from a mysterious house that ends up having an old man's corpse in it. They each watch one of the hundreds of videos that the guy had laying around and they each disappear after watching it. The list of writer/directors is formidable: Ti West (who is, luckily, in House Of The Devil mode here instead of Roost mode), Joe Swanberg (who, as far as I know, has never been near a horror film before apart from starring in A Horrible Way To Die), David Bruckner (The Signal), Glenn McQuaid (I Sell The Dead), Adam Wingard (the aforementioned A Horrible Way To Die) and the collective known as Radio Silence (nothing else yet, but I'm intrigued). Each of their shorts builds the suspense and then makes us squirm as the inevitable happens right before our eyes.
I don't use this phrase often, but it truly is a roller-coaster ride of a movie.
This film was written by a true horror fan, C Robert Cargill, who was fed up with the way horror was going. He wanted something serious and creepy. A haunted house story with teeth. And that's exactly what he gave us with Sinister.
Ethan Hawke plays a true crime writer who moves his family (unbeknownst to them) into a house where an entire family was brutally murdered. The youngest daughter disappeared, never to be seen again. What he finds in the house shakes him to his very soul. It's a box full of super 8 films of that and four other murders from around the country. All of them seem to have no real connection except that they showed an entire family being killed by an off-screen assailant.
With equal parts The Shining and a good version of 8mm (remember that one?), this is one of the creepiest movies that I've seen in a long time. It does everything that Insidious wanted to do…except it does it well.
Director Scott Derrickson hasn't done anything else of note (unless you really liked the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still or The Exorcism Of Emily Rose…yeah, didn't think so), but we can always hope that this is a new direction for him and that he'll learn from it for his next films.
I'll keep an eye on him and Cargill. (Easier done with Cargill since I see him on a semi-regular basis around Austin.)
Eduardo Sanchez is back to do something a bit more interesting with the style that he brought back from the dead in 1998 with The Blair Witch Project. While this isn't a found footage film per se, it has a few elements of that style.
Molly (the amazing newcomer Gretchen Lodge) is a newlywed moving back into her childhood home against the advice of…well, just about everyone. Soon enough, the secrets of her family start to get the better of her. Or could her dead father really be haunting her? Most of the film is told with traditional filmmaking, but Sanchez sometimes shows us security videos and Molly carries around a video camera that helps her see her visions more clearly.
It's truly a creepy film from beginning almost to end. The last shot is a bit on the silly side (is that Wile E Coyote?), but that doesn't distract from the sense of dread that pervades the first 99% of the film.
The true revelation, though, is the film's star. This is a brave and crazy performance. Starting as a typical small town girl that you can't help but like hanging out with to a crazed woman whose backstory is very slowly revealed to us through (SHOCK!) acting and storytelling instead of pure exposition, Lodge is an actress that we can't, and shouldn't, take our eyes off of.
Heroin is a big problem in Irish housing projects.
It always has been and, unfortunately, probably always will be. Ciaran Foy has made this epidemic the central theme of his tense little thriller about an agoraphobic young father who has to get his baby daughter back from the feral children who killed his wife right in front of him.
It's gritty, filled with dread and has an amazing central performance from Aneurin Barnard (who was also in Hunky Dory at the festival). A father's fear can sometimes be overdone, especially when added to an overwhelming fear of something else outside of that relationship. Aneurin never goes over the top and is absolutely believable from the time the camera opens on him. The super-creepy setting of the abandoned tenement also helps make this movie worth a look.
I gave Citadel 3 1/2 stars on my own site and may have been a bit unfair because it really is an excellent film.
I mainly had a problem with the opening scene which, of course, sets up the entire plot. He and his pregnant wife are moving out of the tenement. He leaves her in the hallway to take the last of the bags downstairs to the cab. Why did he leave her?
There's really no reason. She's just standing there with no other bags when he gets back on the elevator that doesn't open. This is where he sees her get put into a coma. If he had not made her stand there, awkwardly and for no reason, she would have lived.
This and the rather dubious politics of the film ("Kill the kids! Don't help them! They're beyond help!") keep this from being a perfect film, but it works very well as a horror film and it's expertly made to creep you the hell out.