M.L. Miller aka the @$$hole formerly known as Ambush Bug here! I posted my very first horror reviews on October 1, 2010 and have been posting every Friday ever since on AICN until just recently. I’ve uprooted the show and taken it to my own site just in time for this year’s Best of the Best in Horror Countdown. It’s going to be running all through October, counting down to the best horror film of the year. Some of these films can be found in theaters, but others have unfortunately only seen the light of day on Video On Demand or simply go straight to DVD, BluRay, or digital download. I’ve tried to indicate in the reviews where you can check these films out.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked through my reviews over the last year since October 1st, 2016 and worked and reworked the list until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth nothing or missed being on the list by a little bit for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
#30 PLANK FACE #30
Why is PLANK FACE #30? This movie is an arduous tale of survival that pulls no punches. It’s not mainstream horror and done on a pretty low budget, but what it does do is mesmerize and plop you right into a nightmare that takes the lead character to the edge of sanity and you with it. Some are going to balk at the horrors in this film, but like many wilderness survival films, it charts a journey into man’s most primal fears and leaves the lead character (along with the viewer) forever changed. You can find it here on Amazon here!
Available on DVD/BluRay from Bandit Motion Pictures!
PLANK FACE (2016)
Directed by Scott Schirmer
Written by Scott Schirmer, Brian Williams
Starring Nathan Barrett, Susan M. Martin, Brigid Macaulay, Alyss Winkler, Jason Hignite, Ellie Church, Dave Parker, Brian Papandrea, Lexi Thompson, Evan Lahee, Caleb Giles
Find out more about this film here, @plankfacemovie, and on Facebook here
PLANK FACE is a descent into madness and beyond set in a forested landscape. It’s a simple tale, but one that will definitely leave a deep, gushing wound in those brave enough to take this trip into the abyss, leaving all humanity behind.
Max (Nathan Barrett) and his girlfriend Stacey (Ellie Church) take a hiking trip into the forested area of Indiana. When another hiker ends up crashing their camp and raping Stacey, Max flips out and murders him. But just when the couple think their horror is over, Max is knocked unconscious and wakes up deep in the woods and bound to the floor by a family of feral people. With the patriarch of the family dying, Granny (Susan M. Martin) and her two daughters—the Bride (Brigid Macaulay) and the masked Bunny Girl (Alyss Winkler), look to make Max into the new head of the family whether he likes it or not. With a tree bark mask glued to his face and stripped of all humanity, the film maps Max’s horrific descent into the role of Plank Face.
What impressed me the most is how filmmaker Scott Schirmer and his co-writer Brian Williams simply tell a tale using character and environment rather than flash and flair. This is a story set in the middle of the forest with very little dialog about a man stripped of all humanity. It reminded me of a caveman film like QUEST FOR FIRE where no English is spoken, yet a strong story is told. This clan of feral people communicate in broken English and made up works not unlike Nell in the Jodie Foster film (yet scores less annoying). The film highlights the inhumanity of these people first, but as it goes on, it shows how this family lives and works together as a unit. Whether Max decides to function within this unit is where the fun is. Will he accept their ways or will his will be too strong for them? And once he does accept, is there anything that can bring him back from the bestial abyss? These are fascinating questions answered in PLANK FACE.
This isn’t a film for the squeamish. There is blood and gore galore. There are scenes of violence and rape. There are brave performances by the entire cast in the nude, not in a sexual manner (well, sometimes), but often simply because they are not bound by the same conventions of civilization. This is a man vs. nature/man vs. himself style film that goes to dark places most films are afraid to venture to these days.
The closest thing I can compare this film to are the introspective man/nature films of the late seventies/early eighties like DELIVERANCE, PAPILLON, and MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, where a man is forced to shed everything he has learned as a human in order to survive. This is an uncomfortable, grueling, tale that’ll be hard to swallow by some, but it definitely resonates as a powerful horror film that is a true test to endure. If you’re brave, give PLANK FACE a try. It’s a mesmerizing display of primal terror.
‘Plank Face’ Trailer A from Bandit Motion Pictures on Vimeo.
Worth noting: IDYLL aka KILLBILLIES!
Less of a ground-breaking film and more about a film that oozes unique atmosphere and does your typical slasher in the woods film extremely well is IDYLL aka KILLBILLIES depending on what area of the world you live in. This film takes the fairy tale setting of the Slovenian countryside and turns it into the stuff of nightmare. Sure it’s basically a bunch of hillbillies hunting models, but the setting and pace of this film are excellent, making every step of the way, a path leading straight to terror. You can find it on Amazon here!
Available from Artsploitation Films!
KILLBILLIES (aka IDILA aka IDYLL, 2015)
Directed by Tomaz Gorkic
Written by Tomaz Gorkic
Starring Nina Ivanisin, Lotos Sparovec, Nika Rozman, Sebastian Cavazza, Jurij Drevensek, Manca Ogorevc, Damjana Cerne, Matic Bobnar, Damir Leventic, Ajda Smrekar, Liza Marija Grasic, Kaja Janjic, Klemen Nadler, Polona Torkar, Luka Zivec, Nada Bozic, Kristof Modic, Jana Nucic, Tomaz Pangersic
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
IDYLL aka IDILA aka KILLBILLIES is the first horror movie produced and filmed in Slovenia and after viewing this one, I hope it’s not the last!
A pair of models, their manager, and a photographer go out to the countryside for a photo shoot and run afoul of a group of hillbilly cannibals who want to fondle, assault, and kill them for their blood which is distilled into a liquor called Idyll which has become highly popular in local pubs and clubs.
While the premise is quite simple and pretty much the premise of every TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and WRONG TURN movies; a bunch of people go out to the forest and run into hillbillies, IDILA follows the formula with a lot of style and class. Soaking in the Slovenian landscape makes the film immediately different than the usual backcountry environment one usually sees this type of film in. The amazing mountains and hills in the background, coupled with the ruins found overgrown with the fauna makes for a juxtaposition of the dangerous and the beautiful. In the same way, there is the same juxtaposition between the gorgeous Nina Ivanisin (who is a dead ringer for THE WOMAN’s and Nika Rozman and the deformed hill folk played by Lotos Sparovec and Jurij Drevensek (who wear makeup that looks so real, I’d swear they were actually deformed people). The performances by all are as fantastic as the scenery around them.
What separates this film from many of its ilk is that not only does this look different, but filmmaker Tomaz Gorkic has a firm grasp on how to milk a scene to its full capacity for tension. Partially due to the fine acting involved, this is a suspense filled film. But this is also due to the handling of pulse-pounding quiet moments as the models attempt to escape the monstrous madmen’s lair. This is one film that will make you occupy the edge of your seat for much of the film.
Some fantastic effects also make IDILA shine brightly. Again, it’s hard to tell if the actors are wearing makeup or not, but once the blood is shed, these moments feel chillingly real due to the complexity and subtlety of the gore shown. This is one good looking, harrowingly effective, sublimely acted, and gruelingly bloody film. IDILA or IDYLL or KILLBILLIES, whatever it is called, is one international film that shouldn’t be missed as it shows once again that some of the best in horror happens outside of the American borders.
THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…
#31 – THE DEMOLISHER
#30 – PLANK FACE
Best of lists from previous years;
2015-16 #1 – THE VVITCH
2014-15 #1 – THE CANAL
2013-14 #1 – PROXY
2012-13 #1 – MANIAC
2012 #1 – THE WOMAN
2011 #1 – THE LAST CIRCUS
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
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I saw Idila and it kicked my ass! Being from Croatia, which is a state nearest to Slovenia, I know many people there who loved the movie! The Croatian horror scene is also very small but there are couple of moview that are real little gems.
Totally agree. IDYLL was awesome. Really cool to see horror films being represented in new countries.
Every year at this time I wish again that Netflix would take a small portion of the money they budget for their own horrible productions (Love, etc) and add your full list to their library. Netflix needs more Plank Face, not Iron Fist.
Very true. Though all of these picks are available in some form; either from the film’s website, iTunes, Amazon, or places like Netflix or Shudder. Hope you can find a way to see all of these picks!
I’m not gonna lie – when the exodus and subsequent shutdown of AICN began, my immediate concern was this here countdown list. Since you started it in 2011, it has been a tradition of mine to get up to speed with the year in horror, picking the movies that appeal to me most & that I can find (which thanks to streaming services is getting less difficult each year). So it was with great relief that I found your blog and saw your announcement. My Halloween prep month has been saved, I salute you for that!
Hope there are some “mood pieces” forthcoming as well, ghost stories and dark fairytales… personally I tend to gravitate to those more than the hard gore and psychological terror (although I always find plenty to like in your lists, so just keep them coming!)
Thanks for following me over here. I’m going to try to get a variety of stuff going on here and another special countdown that’ll run through November as well. So more reasons to check out the site and share!
As for the rest of the countdown, I think you’re going to be surprised by the variety of films this year.
Long time reader of your reviews. Been reading your weekly reviews for AICN for a long time and it’s how I’ve discovered some of my favorite flicks. Do you plan on continuing your weekly column on this site or elsewhere? I need my weekly dosage! I make sure to watch most of your suggestions.
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I plan on posting new reviews throughout the week instead of just on Fridays, so please keep checking in for new reviews throughout the week. Thanks for following me over here! I hope to make the trip is worth it!
Dude. Awesome. Thanks for the response.