Last Updated on August 3, 2021
Okay, so STOKER isn’t technically a foreign film, but it is the English language film debut of splendid Korean filmmaker Chan-wook Park. That counts right! Seriously, I can’t exactly articulate why or what about this film struck such a resonant chord, I think it’s the surreal mood and perverted atmosphere of the whole damn thing. What I can tell you loud and clear however is much I absolutely loved Mia Wasikiwska’s performance in the film. I mean, here’s Alice in Wonderland straight beating off in the shower to morbid thoughts of homicide!! I’ve heard Mia say before that was the easiest decision to play such a role exactly because of such edginess, but I still say it was a major risk. Keep an eye on this Wasikowska gal, she’s one of the best young guns we have!
Sure its most notable stars are American, but when your director is from South Africa and decides to shoot his film entirely in Canada and Mexico, you’re not quite foreign, but you’re definitely international. And so for that, and its striking ambition and consistent entertainment value, we salute Neill Blomkamp’s ELYSIUM as one of the best of the year. I mean, is it DISTRICT 9? Not quite? Not quite as exciting, not quite as fresh, but certainly a cerebrally worthy piece of science fiction. Overly preachy, sure, but a damn fine popcorn flick with some real thought behind it.
After the slow-burning but blunt-ended KILL LIST, English filmmaker Ben Wheatley returned this year with the seemingly lighter road-romp SIGHTSEERS. That is, what starts off as a delightful romantic road movie soon turns into anything but. Pitch black humor punctuates a horrifying final 15 minutes or so, the overall experience sure to be one of the most outlandish you’ll have during any movie. Seriously, I loved the morbid sensibilities of this flick. Props to Alice Lowe and Steve Oram for giving such credible turns in an otherwise absurd scenario. Go see this movie!
Giallo fans rejoice! For those in love with the sleazy Italian subset of horror cinema, a great homage to such came out this year in UK flick BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO. English filmmaker Peter Strickland writes and directs this slow-burning but icily paid-off chiller, wisely casting the great Toby Jones in a crucial role. Also, another massive plus, I was somewhat reminded of De Palma’s BLOWOUT, what with the main character being a seedy horror film soundman. In that regard, there’s also shades of Hitchcock working in the seams as well, which I loved.
For as unwelcome as the found-footage genre has made itself over the past few years, I have to say, I enjoyed EUROPA REPORT quite a bit. Now, it might technically be an American production, but Ecuadorian director Sebastian Cordero helmed the flick populated with international players like Sharlto Copeley, Michael Nyqvist and Embeth Davidtz. And what I liked most about the film is how the terror of such a flick is actually subverted for wonder. In the end, a mystifying discovery of an otherworldly life-form on Jupiter plays like more of a triumph than a terror. A nice variation!
As you know, horror anthologies can be hit or miss. Fortunately, the collection of international filmmakers assembled for V/H/S/2 featured more hits than misses, at least in my opinion. In particular, “Safe Haven”, the dizzyingly gruesome 3rd entry from Indonesian filmmaker Timo Tjahjanto and Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans. Wow! Throw in entries from Cuban born Eduardo Sanchez and British filmmaker Simon Barrett (I think he’s British), and you easily have one of most globally flavored horror joints of the year.
Wow, little Bilbo went f*cking bonkers! Who knew Elijah had such a dark streak, the kind wonderfully captured by the Freudian-slasher redo of MANIAC. Now, I will be very clear, I absolutely hated the idea of remaking the 1980 Bill Lustig flick, mainly because of the irreplaceable performance of Joe Spinell. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by Franck Khalfoun’s execution of the material. The new MANIAC is brisk, brusque and motherf*cking bloody! Which I loved. Credit goes out to fellow Frenchmen Alexandre Aja and Greg Levasseur for penning the script.
Neil Jordan + Saoirse Ronan + Gemma Arterton? Shoot, I’d watch this trio have lunch together, never-mind making a surreal vampiric love-story like BYZANTIUM. Unfortunately, said flick only saw a limited release in the U.S. this past June, before ultimately being rushed out for bigger blockbuster fare. But trust, BYZANTIUM has a dreamlike fairytale quality, as Jordan can only do, but also has enough nastiness and carnage to satiate most horror heads. And goddamn it, I cannot beat the drum louder for this Saorise Ronan girl. She’s phenomenal!
Not to be confused with the silly looking DEVIL’S DUE out next month, the Tijuana-tinged horror flick HERE COMES THE DEVIL was a worthy US export this year, even if the delivery took forever. Written and directed by Spanish filmmaker Adrian Garcia Bogliano (COLD SWEAT, PENUMBRA), the flick is in the kids-disappear-and-return-not-as-themselves vein, but handles the premise in exemplary fashion. Tough completed in 2012, the film didn’t actually get a legit (albeit limited) release here in the states until about two weeks ago. If you like old-school 70s style horror, get down!
While some castigate the flick as a cheap CARRIE knock-off, I’m confident in arguing that DARK TOUCH is more compelling than the actual CARRIE remake that came out in October. With French, Swedish and Irish origins – DARK TOUCH was written and directed by Marina de Van, and features a strong cast of female characters. The location and setup sort of reminded me of BYZANTIUM, but in DARK TOUCH, it’s more about one girl’s horrifying powers coming to light, even as she deals with the gory death of her family a short time prior. Not a great movie, but definitely one of the better international joints to hit the scene this year!