For Christmas the family and I watched Gremlins (1984) a classic romp of Christmas disaster. The film sits in the eighties in its approach to the world but is timeless in its setting of small town America. This film is so much fun and really a dark little treat for the holiday season.
Train to Busan (2016) is an exceptional film. Set in an epidemic of zombie like behavior, the fast kind, it is really the story of a little girl wanting the attention of her Father. Mixed into the high speed train ride where passengers are struggling to survive is some nifty social commentary on work and its effects on society. Wonderfully executed with characters to cheer for, heroes and cowards it is a survival story built on people. Excellent action and thrills and the dread of being infected make this an great watch. Director Sang-ho Yeon really bring a tight and self written script to life in possible the best horror film I saw this year. The Eyes of My Mother (2016) is a terrifying exploration of how untreated trauma can grow into a sick obsession and a whole lot of crazy. Spanning years in the life of Francisca a girl traumatized but the murder of her Mother and the subsequent strange behavior by her father in the matter. She is spirals out of control and her need for someone anyone to have an emotional connection to has lasting consequences to those unfortunate few to cross paths with her. As a first film for by Nicolas Pesce is a driven mood peace with style and raw character driven edge.The lead Kika Magalhaes is great at capturing the insanity of the character.
The Wailing (2016) - The comedic beginning of this film certainly makes it a strange gem of a film. For 40 minutes I was thinking this was a light comedy of errors with quite a bit of gore. Then there was a shift to a strange and scary ghost / demon story that was gruesome and compelling and the film gets deadly serious. Running more than two and a half hours it will challenge those with short attention spans but from where I sit it is worth the effort. The last forty minutes are great and knowing who is good and bad gets blurred all the way to the end of the film. Director Hong-jin Na did another great film Chaser (2008) which also delivered in suspense. I will continue to watch to see what he has coming out.
31 (2016) I question why I watch Rob Zombie movies, I really don't connect with them at all. Again I gave it a go with yet another mean spirited piece of sleaze. This film is again is the basic Zombie theme, that there are wolves and there are sheep in the world and the sheep are there for slaughtering. I suppose the attempted twist should be given a bit of credit. Renown for mean unlikable characters he starts with introducing us to them, a group of lowlife carnies. Then in a twist they are not the lowlife murderers, instead they are the victims. There is also some statement in there about the wealthy using the poor for entertainment but that is lost in the survival game the poor carnies are put through. It's called 31 and they just have to survive 31 hours to win the game all the while being hunted by psychos with better weapons. You can guess how it goes, and know in the end that same mean spirited brain that thought up the plot thought up the ending.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) This was a wonderfully surprising film that goes from small town procedural to bat shit crazy horror in a mere hour and a half. Excellent acting by Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox as a father / son coroner team attempting to find out the cause of death for Jane Doe (Olwen Catherine Kelly), a body found at a mass murder that did not fit with the deaths in that incident. As this autopsy starts to be interrupted by unexplained seeming supernatural events the two find themselves facing more serious threats as they attempt to find Jane Doe's secret.
They're Watching (2016) Possibly the strangest film I watched in that tonally it was not really consistent. A story of a television show crew "International Home Hunters" that is doing a follow up segment in Moldova at the home of potter who bought a house there on an earlier episode of the show. It seems it is going to be about ugly American and their real disrespect for foreign cultures, sticking their cameras where they don't belong and getting a local mad at them. Somewhere though it shifts from the menacing locals to a real life witch wanting her story of death and destruction told. The insane final sequence is both weirdly entertaining and comically out of character with the rest of the film. Maybe if the crew was more likable this would be more recommended but the cliche loud disrespectful American is just so used up at this point. Depth in those characters instead would have made this better.
Demon (2016) - Wow what a sad film. Piotr (Itay Tiran) is a groom coming to Poland to marry the girl he fell in love with in London. While working alone on her ancestral home he accidentally uncovers an unmarked grave. Later on a rainy night he falls into the grave, its the eve of his wedding and so most of the film is about a Polish Wedding. Lots of drinking and dancing and singing. As the wedding night goes on something is not right with and slowly it is revealed Piotr is possessed by the spirit of the woman in the grave. Mixed in is lost of commentary on Polish defeatism and burying the past for the sake of the present. Ending in the saddest possible way this film pulls the heart strings and leaves the watcher in silence.
I feel like I have made a good effort to catch up on what I missed sure there are some others out there but really this is just finally having some viewing time. To me it seems like a pretty good year particularly for small independent horror films. So many people out there have lists this time of year ranking the films so I will avoid that here. Happy New Year to all my readers. Leave comment if you wish they are always welcome. --Eddie