Eric Walkuski's Top 10 Genre Films of 2012
In many years prior to this one, I've struggled to come up with a list of five really notable genre flicks, let alone ten. Let's face it, no one wants to draft a Top Ten list where the bottom batch of entries consist of flicks you've given less than 7 out of 10. Thankfully, this year offered us a fantastic array of horror, sci-fi and fantasy films, so it's my pleasure to report that I had no problem forging a proper Top Ten Films of 2012. Getting the order right is another matter, of course, but the following should represent (more or less) my favorite genre films of the year, in ascending order.
Before seeing THE GREY, it was easy to think of the movie simply as "Liam Neeson vs. Wolves" and assume it wouldn't be much more than silly-fun escapist fare. But director Joe Carnahan upended those expectations with an earnest, intelligent approach to a familiar lost-in-the-wilderness concept. Neeson commands the screen as powerfully as ever, and he's surrounded by a supporting cast of similarly dynamic actors in this suspenseful and surprisingly moving story of survival.
Yes, in hindsight, PROMETHEUS has several character, logic and narrative issues. They're prominent when you watch it and even more so when you've left the theater and given it some thought. But the fact remains that Ridley Scott and screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof have molded an absorbing, beautiful-looking film that not only dares to be an enigmatic prequel to ALIEN, but a challenge to the very idea of humanity's origins. Haters gonna hate, I still had a blast watching it.
A movie that acts like an assault on the senses, US: DOR is a startlingly vicious experience, where a man's struggle to discover the truth about his family's murder turns into an almost literal descent into hell. John Hyams has shockingly turned this once goofy franchise into something harrowing and surreal, with ridiculous kung-fu replaced by harsh explosions of violence.
Guaranteed to keep nerves on edge and pulses pounding, Gareth Evans' THE RAID: REDEMPTION is a beautiful ballet of destruction; an action film so full of adrenaline that the dozens of beatings and bone-snappings are damn near palpable. Though it's not his first effort, Evans has announced himself as the most exciting new director on the scene, and of all the impressive filmmakers on this list, it's Evans' next film I'm most pumped for. (That bruising three-man fight in the finale is perhaps the year's most giddily awesome sequence and on its own makes THE RAID worth the price of admission.)
William Friedkin, at the age of 77, is showing everyone how an old pro does new tricks in KILLER JOE, a thoroughly twisted, grotesque and nastily amusing tale about a family of dumb rednecks who get what they deserve when they bring Texas' most debauched detective (Matthew McConaughey) into their squalid lives. Why no one in this cast is getting recognized during Award Season is a bloody mystery.
Christopher Nolan completes his dramatic Batman trilogy with an exciting, impressively mounted epic depicting the final battle for Gotham City's soul, with the Caped Crusader battered and near broken, mentally and physically squaring off against the physical embodiment of vengeful anarchy in Bane. If you like your summer blockbusters sober and lyrical, but also big and eye-popping in the tradition of the great popcorn movies, then THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is the epitome of what you seek.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is a sublime, crafty and fiendishly entertaining ode to horror films and the people who love them. Going meta on the genre while finding plenty of ways to tear characters apart and cut the audience up, the creative team of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard have delivered all the answers to horror movie questions, like Why the hell are they splitting up? And Why does there always have to be a stoner jackass in the group? (And if the merman revelation didn't fill you with delight, you have no soul.)
For whatever reason, documentaries are still thought of by many to be stuffy and unexciting; akin to something you'd be forced to sit through in school. But Bart Layton's utterly compelling THE IMPOSTER about a French youth who passes himself off as the missing child of a Midwestern American family packs so much suspense, drama and chills into 90 minutes that you can't help but wish most fictional narratives provided half as much entertainment.
Scott Derrickson has blown most popular horror films, and their villains, completely out of the water with this menacingly grim fable about a boogeyman who uses various horrific means to claim the souls of children and the lives of their families. Vividly creepy and featuring a knock-out lead performance by Ethan Hawke, the best horror movie of the year lives up to its title and then some.
Writer-director Rian Johnson creates a wholly unique take on the time-travel genre something one would think impossible at this stage of the game and within it crafts a clever, somber character study of one man divided in half by time. One of the best science-fiction movies of our time - and simply a great movie.