Just in time for the Oscars, FGSG presents our two part awards season posts! We begin with the best 13 films we experienced in 2013. Usually we tackle this together, but life is really busy for JennyD right now, so this is mainly my list. I freely admit there were some great movies playing at festivals this year that I wasn’t able to see, so this list reflects all the films I was able to see during 2013. I probably missed a few excellent ones, but hey, what can I do? I won’t pretend money and time aren’t a factor, but I/we did the best we could to see as much as possible. So here they are, the top 13 of 2013:
1. American Mary – I wrote about American Mary earlier this year – http://finalgirlsupportgroup.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/9-more-days-til-halloween-presenting-american-mary/
2. The Bay – Found footage might seem like it’s on the way out, but clever movies like Chronicle and The Bay show us that there’s still life in it yet – and in the case of The Bay, that life is parasitic and gross. Directed by Barry Levinson (who created such classic as Rain Man, Good Morning Vietnam and Bugsy) originally wanted to create a documentary about the pollution invading the Chesapeake Bay but, in his own words, “nobody cares—people say, ‘It’s polluted, so what?’ I said no. But a few months later, I thought, ‘We’ve gathered all this research; why don’t we tweak it for a theatrical release? We can scare an audience with a story that is 80 to 85 percent science and facts.’” And it works – knowing this movie was based mainly on fact added to its intensity for me. Utilizing all different types of found footage such as cell phone cameras and security videos, the main source comes from a small time news broadcast whose anchor (Kether Donohue) is on the island to cover the town’s Fourth of July celebration. And that makes perfect sense because if there’s one thing I learned from the movies, it’s that when there’s danger happening close on some kind of holiday, you must never, NEVER close the beaches!
3. Berberian Sound Studio – A giallo that isn’t (sort of), BSS stars Tobey Jones as Gilderoy, a sound engineer who travels to Italy to work on what he thinks is a documentary about horses, but turns out to be something more sinister. Or is Gilderoy’s mind deteriorating and nothing is what it seems? That BSS gives no clear answers might be frustrating to some, but those who are willing to go with it will find themselves sucked into a strange, beautiful mind-whammy of a movie. And considering the title, do I even need to tell you that the sound is just divine?
4. The Conjuring – I don’t know if it was the best of the year, but it was definitely one of my favorites to watch this year. Wan knows how to create a roller coaster ride of a film without resorting to cheap stings and crappy CGI. It’s classic haunted house filmmaking at its most enjoyable. Sit back, leave your cynicism at the door, and enjoy the ride.
5. Europa Report
6. Evil Dead remake – JennyD and I covered the Evil Dead remake earlier in the year. http://finalgirlsupportgroup.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/8-more-days-til-halloween-presenting-evil-dead-2013/
7. Insidious Chapter 2 – While not as strong as the original Insidious, Chapter 2 still offers some great classic scares and excellent acting. Wan is on a roll.
8. The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh – I covered TLWaToRL during the Halloween season this year – check out my review – http://finalgirlsupportgroup.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/3-more-days-til-halloween-presenting-the-last-will-and-testament-of-rosalind-leigh/
9. Maniac remake – Choosing to remake a film like Maniac takes bravery – the original is famous not just for its immense amounts of disturbing gore and content, but also for the creepy/yucky yet somehow sympathetic presence of Joe Spinell in the main role. Any attempt to redo this film was going to be a tough sell to genre fans. Thankfully, director Frank Khalfoun found a whole new direction in which to take the story of Frank, a dangerously repressed man for whom violence is the norm. By choosing to shot the film entirely in first person POV, Khalfoun gives us no choice but to identify/empathize with Frank, something that many audience members found difficult to handle. I found it an extremely effective decision, and not the only good one this guy made. Elijah Wood (Frodo from Lord of the Rings) was cast as Frank, an extreme departure from Joe Spinell’s intimidating presence . Having a talented actor and horror fan in the first person perspective instead of just anyone creates a whole difference experience while watching the film. I was pleased the studio didn’t force Khalfoun to choose based on the rationale that since you won’t see the actor for most of the film, it won’t matter who you put in the shoes. The film is beautifully shot – the first person POV never feels like a gimmick and the slick neons on the rain make a beautiful backdrop for Frank’s brutal business. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely worth it for those who think they can handle it.
11. V/H/S 2
12. You’re Next – Sharni Vincent leads You’re Next as a new type of Final Girl – the one you don’t see coming. You’re Next boasts an excellent cast, including Vincent, Barbara Crampton and Ti West (among others), as a family (along with some significant others) meeting up in a remote house for an incredibly awkward gathering that turns deadly when strangers in animal masks target them all for death. Or is there more going on than meets the eye???? I don’t want to give anything away, but Sharni Vincent plays an excellent cross between Ripley and Sally Hardesty – she’s tough as nails but is still scared and damaged by the horrible experience she goes through. One of the better home invasion efforts in recent memory.
13. The World’s End – Hilarous! Of course, when you combine the skills of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, it’s pretty hard for a film to be bad. The last of the “Cornetto” trilogy (which also includes Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), The World’s End follows a group of school friends (led by Pegg and Frost) as they reunite in their hometown to finish the epic pub crawl they never completed in their youth. Unbeknownst to them, however, their town has changed a bit since they were younger, and they find themselves overrun by villainy as they try to both save the world and get a drunk as possible. Many laughs and even a few touching moments occur. It was tough to choose between this and This is the End, but the combo of Wright, Pegg and Frost is hard to beat.