GORE IN THE STORE
FRIGHTFEST GORE IN THE STORE TOP 10 FILMS OF 2021 - PART TWO
In the second part of our look back at 2021, regular Gore in the Store contributor Iain MacLeod, picks his favourite 10 films of the year and adds a few honourable mentions for good measure.
After a winter of being locked down we finally found ourselves able to get back out to the cinema again, enjoying a steady backlog of delayed films from 2020. Some were worth the wait, a couple of which are included here, while some not so much. Like last year though there was a very interesting mix of genre films; some taking big risks that paid off very interestingly and others that stuck to the tried and tested ways. Horror seems to thrive in times of turmoil and this year was no exception, seeping through to the mainstream in many ways, whether it was the astonishing success of the Battle Royale inspired Korean Netflix smash Squid Game or the gothic ghost story inflections that ran through of all things the Princess Diana biopic Spencer. Even superhero cinema was affected with James Gunn’s gloriously gory spin on The Suicide Squad which had touches of Stuart Gordon style splatter and a giant rampaging kaiju. Thinning it all down to ten films was a difficult, but fun, task showing that the genre is still thriving, showing no signs of going anywhere for a while yet. Again, it looks like the upcoming year has many promising genre prospects in store for us. In the meantime, let us take a look back at the last twelve months, beginning with…
5 - LAMB
Easily the best Icelandic folk horror/domestic drama of recent times. In a strong year for debut features Valdimar Jóhannsson’s LAMB stood out for a number of reasons. Whether it’s the unique premise of the child/lamb lovingly raised by farmers Maria and Ingvar, the doom-laden atmosphere emanating from the stunningly photographed landscape, the quiet affecting performances or the unnerving cuteness of Ada the hybrid at the heart of all of this, there is an abundance of otherworldliness and grief that lingers long in the memory after a single viewing. All of which leads onto a memorably haunting climax. One of the smartest cinematic fairy tale updates for the 21st century.
(In cinemas now and available on MUBI February 25th)
4 - WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED: A HISTORY OF FOLK HORROR
Keir-La Janisse’s massive three and a quarter hour documentary is an encyclopaedic exploration of the sub-genre that has gone through a renaissance in both film and literature in recent years. Combining talking head interviews, a mammoth archive selection of clips and Guy Maddin’s haunting animation exploring the roots and influences of this evergreen subject. With its sizable roster of experts and filmmakers it is a real treasure trove of films both classic and obscure that will be expanding many a watchlist of anyone who views this, one of the most essential film documentaries in many a year.
(Available on Shudder January 2022)
3 - DUNE
Frank Herbert’s classic novel arrives on screen once more after David Lynch’s flawed 1984 adaptation and several aborted attempts and a year’s delay due to COVID. Denis Villeneuve confidently adapts the first half of the first novel, neatly setting up the complex word building and politics at play centred around young Paul Atreides as he unwittingly begins his journey to becoming a galactic messiah. In an age of corporate mandated and near identical blockbusters, DUNE felt unique with its fantastical, tactile and expertly realised universe. Big budget filmmaking at its best with every aspect presented beautifully it feels like a genuine accomplishment adapting a property that has been difficult to bring faithfully to the big and small screen. Part Two can’t get here fast enough, if only to see how Villeneuve is going to bring the wilder and stranger aspects, such as The Guild Navigators, to the screen.
(In cinemas now and available to rent online)
2 - CENSOR
The good old hysterical days of the Video Nasty are expertly evoked in Prano Bailey-Bond’s phantasmagorical exploration of a film censor’s issues with horror cinema and her own state of mind. With a daily workload detailing which eye gouging’s, eviscerations and various other naughty bits should be removed for the safety of the British public, Enid is severely disturbed after viewing Don’t Go in The Church, a gory low budget nasty that may have links to her own troubled past. Bond captures the rain smoked age of Thatcher and Whitehouse driven hysteria perfectly with drab smoke-stained offices filled with cynical workers whiling away the day with low budget shockers while the news blares away in the background detailing the real-life horrors that seemed so prevalent at the time. The realism is nicely countered with a stylish blurring between the films own reality and the films within it leading onto a perfectly executed blackly comic and dark conclusion.
(Available on DVD/Blu-ray and on Arrow Video Channel)
1 - TITANE
What better way to celebrate the end of the year than with some divisive, extreme art house horror from France? Eyebrow raising from the beginning with an auto-show display of provocative dancing that leads onto something entirely unexpected. What that something else is leads onto a study of two characters coming together in even more unexpected ways. What is truly surprising about Julia Ducornau’s second film is the emotional and tender heart beating away under the surreal body horror and savage violence that masks it. TITANE is the film that took the biggest swings this year and hit them out of the park every time. With the risks it takes, TITANE looks and feels utterly unique, burning its way through your eyeballs into your brain and somehow ends up being as touching as it is challenging. A true one off, at least until we see what Ducornau unleashes on her audience next.
(In cinemas from 31sy December 2021)
A QUIET PLACE PART 2 - For its opening flashback sequence alone, proving John Krasinski’s debut was no fluke.
FREAKY – Freaky Friday the 13th. Vince Vaughn gets his comic groove back in this sharp, high concept gender flipped ode to slasher cinema.
THE BETA TEST - Jim Cummings pulls triple duty as co-writer, co-director and delivers a perfectly judged near manic performance in this often-bloody satire of a Hollywood agent struggling to cope with a post Me Too society and a case of blackmail.
MALIGNANT, one of the best comedies of the year, whether this was intentional or not is anyone’s guess.
THE SUICIDE SQUAD, the best and bloodiest comic book movie since DREDD
Part one of Iain MacLeod's delve into his favourite films of the year can be read HERE.