GORE IN THE STORE
FRIGHTFEST GORE IN THE STORE TOP 10 FILMS OF 2020 - PART ONE
In the first of a two-part look back at 2020, regular Gore in the Store contributor Iain MacLeod, picks his favourite 10 films of the year.
12 months ago trailers started appearing for the likes of CANDYMAN, SPIRAL: FROM THE BOOK OF SAW, THE GREEN KNIGHT, ANTLERS, A QUIET PLACE PART II and the promise of the latest chapter in THE CONJURING franchise, HALLOWEEN KILLS and Edgar Wright’s LAST NIGHT IN SOHO signalled a good year ahead for horror fans. The opportunity to experience them was taken away by the world-changing coronavirus pandemic and the understandable need to move and delay release dates.
However, as bad a year it was for all cinema fans, it proved to be a powerful one for horror fans. Thanks to streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, we were treated to such gems as THE PLATFORM, NOCTURNE, #ALIVE and TIME TO HUNT. Meanwhile, shudder subscribers were treated to a strong roster of new films, including the indigenous zombie tale BLOOD QUANTUM, Joe Bego’s BLISS, the cosmic horror of THE BEACH HOUSE while ANYTHING FOR JACKSON provided a neat reverse spin on the tried and tested exorcism story.
Before lockdown commenced cinema audiences were treated to Richard Stanley sneaking out both a satisfying comeback and HP Lovecraft adaptation with COLOR OUT OF SPACE whilst several debut directors made very favourable first impressions, some included here.
The films included here were released to the public in the UK this year. I have decided to hold back on the films that made a strong impression at both digital FrightFests held this year and are still awaiting release. Chances are a number of them will make an appearance on the list next year due to the high standards they set. However, I am making one exception, call me a cheat if you like, due to the experience of the screening itself which took place at Glasgow FrightFest way back at the beginning of March. Think of it as a sneak preview for the greatness that surely awaits us all in 2021 once we are all allowed back outside and, fingers crossed, start filling up cinema seats again.
10 - A GHOST WAITS
The world premiere of Adam Stovall’s low budget, black and white film about the tender, burgeoning romance between a ghost and the house cleaner she haunts was a screening unlike any other the Glasgow FrightFest audience was used to. That this charming, romantic film brought the audience, many of whom were in tears, to a rousing wave of applause was testament enough to the film’s success but the heartfelt, emotional Q&A that followed with director Adam Stovall was one of the most emotional interactions between director and audience that has taken place in that cinema. Remember this was in Glasgow; we rarely put our hearts on our sleeves so openly up here, especially with romantic, monochrome ghost stories. That such a film ignited such a communal response is all the evidence that the cinema experience is much missed and essential for all film audiences and filmmakers.
(To be released by Arrow in 2021)
9 - THE INVISIBLE MAN
My own biggest misfortune in a cinema this year took place whilst watching Leigh Whannels’ smart update of H.G. Wells perennial menace. A bathroom break was needed and I decided to go when Elisabeth Moss’s victimised sat down in a restaurant with her sister thinking nothing interesting could possibly happen. Well, if you saw it you know that I missed out on the possibly the best staged shock sequence of the year. Thankfully a recent rewatch confirmed what I had only heard about through seemingly everyone else who watched this slick, hi-tech horror that was ideally suited to the Me-Too age. Whannel made great use of the wide letterbox frame, keeping the audience on their toes and scanning every inch of it for movement that could alert them to the insidious villain’s presence whilst Moss’s sympathetic heroine had the audience completely onside right up to the hard edged, morally challenged ending.
(Available on DVD & Blu-ray)
8 - THE VAST OF NIGHT
Using the framework of a Twilight Zone/Outer Limits style show this period science-fiction film relied less on special effects and more on telling its story through smart characterisation and an atmosphere that perfectly captured a small Texan town at the height of the Cold War where something may be hovering above in the skies. Perfectly capturing that eras paranoia with its evocative period styling and its riffs on UFO mythology, Andrew Patterson’s debut was a throwback to 1950’s sci-fi whilst remaining totally original. Full of atmosphere, fast paced dialogue and stylish direction (the low angled Steadicam shot that glides across the entire town is a thing of graceful beauty) The Vast of Night was the perfect antidote to overblown science-fiction cinema that is nowhere near as smart as this proves itself to be.
(Available on Amazon Prime)
7 - WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE?
Meeting your significant others parents for the first time can be an intimidating experience at the best of times but it is taken to a whole other blood-soaked level with Kiril Sokolov’s pulverising debut. A sitting room is transformed into an arena of death when young Matvey is tasked by his girlfriend to dispatch her detective father with a hammer. The reason why is soon revealed, leading into a twisty narrative accompanied by a visual style and astonishing violence that reaches cartoonish, hysterical levels. Just as surprising is the underlying criticism of its countries political system proving that this is so much more than just an excuse to revel in wince, inducing gore and mayhem. Not that there’s anything wrong with gore or mayhem.
(Available on DVD/Blu-ray and on Arrow Video Channel)
6 - HIS HOUSE
Remi Weekes full length debut examined the helpless plight of a Sudanese couple and the uncaring system that places them in a run-down house on a run-down estate. The ghosts of their past seem to have moved in with them also in this expert blend of social issue and haunted house story. Weekes handling of an uncaring, hostile asylum system slots naturally along the more otherworldly elements giving us a horror film that infuriates on a political level and scares on a more individual one. The sympathetic performances of Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku make for two of the most interesting protagonists in a horror film this year, whilst Matt Smith as their jaded case worker comes across as far more than a villainous bureaucrat. A superior example of using an unfamiliar, to western audiences, folklore to push the genre in an interesting and fresh way.
(Available on Netflix)
Part two of Iain MacLeod's delve into his favourite films of the year can be read HERE.