Thursday, January 2, 2014

Favorites and Not Favorites of 2013

Text © Richard Gary / IndieHorrorFilms, 2014
Images from the Internet                            

Truthfully, I think Best Of and Worst Of lists are full of shit. It is just so subjective that who cares who the particular gatekeeper is, using terms of absolute just seems too hyperbolic and un-General Semantic.

However, I am totally comfortable with the terms Favorites and Not Favorites, which is more acknowledging of what is actually being stated. Splitting hairs? Don’t care. Sometimes a Favorite can actually be a not great film, but incredibly enjoyable. Similarly, a Not Favorite can technically be well made, but either doesn’t touch me or seems to fail its purpose.

There will be no mainstream films listed here, as they get enough press (e.g., Evil Dead, World War Z). Truly indie, DIY cinema needs and deserves more attention, and that is the point of this blog, innit.

Also, I think when dealing with the indie film scene, it is important not to just get locked into year of release, because many were filmed over years due to budget constraints, are just getting distributed recently, or due to the lack of availability (or even knowledge they exist), they may not come across my vision in the year of release. Instead, my parameter is that these are the ones that are my “… That I’ve Seen This Year.”

With each film, I will link it to the review so you can find information on where to see the film, and their trailers. With one exception, this is in no particular order other than alphabetical. The most important thing to remember is that this is my opinion, not fact, so please, everyone, don’t take anything personally one way or the other.

2 Hours
Directed by Michael Ballif
The only short on the list, coming in at just under half an hour, 2 Hours focuses in on the main character, who has been bitten by a zombie and has that length of time to find a group that may have a cure before becoming a ghoul himself. Using first and third person cameras angles, inner deteriorating narrative, and some wicked SFX and gore, this is worth checking out, especially since you can find it for free on YouTube
[Reviewed HERE]

The Ballad of Skinless Pete
Directed (etc.) by Dustin Wayde Mills
The director of such enjoyable films (seriously) as Puppet Monster Massacre and Night of the Tentacles, Mills reaches a new level with this sorta-kinda retelling of The Fly. Dustin is dedicated to his craft, that is certain, and with an often recycled cast that has become comfortable with each other, such as his stalwart Brandon Salkil, he is comfortable making us at ease (in a good way) in ways the body functions. His female cast is usually realistic looking women who are not afraid to show it all, and of course there is always puppetry in some evil form or another. I always look forward to new releases by Mills.
[Reviewed HERE]

Directed by Richard Griffin
By far my favorite film of the year. Griffin, known for such stunning genre stretchers as The Disco Exorcist, has reached a career high (so far) with this one. Most of his films are comedies, but this one is solid black and white noir that is creepy from beginning to end. He also gets some stunning performances from his cast, including a wonderful dramatic turn by Debbie Rochon, usually known for horror sex comedies. The story of an isolated group in an urban setting as it spirals into implosion is claustrophobic and riveting. Woody Allen has repeatedly tried to switch from comedies to more serious faire, but hasn`t yet succeeded. Griffin, however, has with this one.
[Reviewed HERE]

House of Bad
Directed by Jim Towns
More of a crime / murder / slasher mystery than outright horror, this tale of a trio of sisters from the wrong side of the cabin who are holed up and on the lam never lets up. Their shady past invariably catches up to them as they disintegrate as a unit, until all hell breaks loose. The cast, consisting mostly of the three main characters, is edgy and unyielding, making this an intense feature that is worthy of the big screen. Their outdoorsy setting is just a cover for the concrete in the hearts of those involved. In short, it’s a blast.
[Reviewed HERE]

Directed by Neil Meschino
Honestly, this film is more fun that great, but it is a lot of fun. A gooey joy ride from beginning to end, it would actually make a fine joint feature with The Ballad of Skinless Pete and/or Street Trash (1987), though the tones are quite different. This is a goofy comedy with some over-the-top acting, a storyline that is somewhat implausible, and just chock full of great effects. It doesn’t get boring for a second, even if it’s for ridiculous reasons. A great party film.
[Reviewed HERE]

Murder University
Directed by Richard Griffin
This is the second feature on this list by this director. It is a slasher comedy, but it has some solid acting, good writing including some original and unexpected moments in the genre, and is sharp as a tack on production. The gore level balanced with the humor is at just the right amount and looks great, without beating you over the head with it (pun intended). The story is about a shy guy who ends up at a college where many, many, many mysterious murders occur. It is a fine mix of humor, smarts, and sharp objects.
[Reviewed HERE]

Directed by Usama Alshaibi
Artsy fartsy cinema is not something usually expected in indie horror, but this one has bite, in a BDSM mode. We follow a dominatrix of Islamist background through Chicago as she tortures clients, has conversations with taxi drivers in apparently neverending snow, and in a very subtle touch, is being haunted by a djinn. There is no blood or gore, but it is kind of uncomfortable watching real domination scenes with naked men being tortured for cash (that spiked heel in the scrotum, oy, just not my cuppa). But on the other hand, under Alshaibi’s helm, the visuals and spirituality that surround the story is simply beautiful. Again, this is not an outright The Haunting of [fill in the gap] mode, but it is much more understated and delicate, exactly opposite of the lifestyle shown which can overshadow it (i.e., what you’re like bound to remember more).
[Reviewed HERE]

Not Favorites

Bad Meat
Directed by Lulu Jamen
Sadly, this is an absolute mess. A project that was started and not completed was revived when some of the actors became known through their television series work, so they pieced it together into an incoherent mess. The story of camp counselors who become infected by some kind of sexual rabies through, well, bad meat looks like it could have been a very fun ride, from the footage that was shot, and that’s what makes this so pitiful. Nothing is explained, key complete sections are obviously missing, and fates of characters are left hanging in the wind as one minute they’re there and the next, what? I actually thought there was something wrong with my DVD and that it was skipping until I read other reviews (I almost never do this) to find that, yep, that’s the film. Really, really sad and pathetic.
[Reviewed HERE]

Fear the Forest
Directed (etc.) by Matthew Bora
There is definitely a fun level of this Bigfoot on the murderous prowl flick, but it is bogged down by some terrible writing, plot black holes, some mediocre acting, and a really bad costume. If this was a comedy, it would have worked better and be more…accommodating to the questions it raises, but as a serious horror film, it just does not reach its potential.
[Reviewed HERE]

Iron Doors
Directed by Stephen Manuel
There are a lot of festival awards that have been linked to this film, including best film, best actor, etc., but it left me totally cold. Yes, it’s shot well, and the acting is fine, but I felt no connection to either of its characters, there is no explanation for the events or why it is happening, and the questions it raises left me disinterested rather than curious. It has the same isolation vibe as most of 1997’s Cube, but without the gore, or story really. This is a perfect case of what I was talking about in the introduction regarding a film that is technically fine, but does not engage me.
[Reviewed HERE]

Sexsqatch: The Legend of Blood Stool Creek
Directed by Chris Seaver
This may sound like an oxymoron, but despite it being included here as not being a good film, it is still a fun one. The characters are moronic, the writing is WTF, and the dialog ranges from dodgy to hysterical. Actually, I think this one did reach its goal of trying to be a goofy mess, but where they fail is the lack of a real story, and the use of sex is more of a tease than actuality, as you never see any body parts (other than ample cleavage, and boob grabs). The sex appears only in talk (such as, and this is a paraphrase, “Oh, last night we really went at it”). Fun but unfocused and way too meandering for its own good, and despite it being in this column, this could be an indecent way to waste some time.
[Reviewed HERE]

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