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!
#28 DEVIL IN THE DARK #28
Why is DEVIL IN THE DARK #28? Because beside it’s meager budget it takes full advantage of its wilderness environment and invests us in a story between two brothers. Growing up with a brother of my own, this one resonated with me. Plus it has a pretty terrifying monster and a shocker of an ending. This was a surprising tale of horror and survival and worthy of this countdown. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available from Momentum Pictures!
DEVIL IN THE DARK (2017)
aka THE PLATEAU
Directed by Tim Brown
Written by Carey Dickson
Starring Dan Payne, Robin Dunne, Briana Buckmaster, Daniel Cudmore, Jett Klyne, Rebecca Reichert, Chris Ippolito, Peter Strand Rumpel, & Michael O’Brien as the Devil in the Dark!
Find out more about this film @ThePlateauMovie, and on Facebook here
I guess it’s the fact that I have a brother of my own and have both a deep respect and petrifying fear of the woods that makes DEVIL IN THE DARK a horror film that is right up my alley. The film combines a compelling tale of two very different brothers going out on a hunting trip together in a distinct and twisted forest, making for an amazing man vs. nature horror film.
Even as a kid, Adam (Robin Dunne) knew he didn’t have the same kind of kinship with his father that his brother Clint (Dan Payne) did. . Through flashbacks, we learn Adam was once lost in the woods and ran into some kind of horrifying creature, but Adam does not recall this, only Clint. Returning to his home town after moving to the city long ago, Adam seems to want to come to terms with the only family he has left and arrives for a hiking/hunting expedition with his brother. Adam is definitely not the outdoorsy type, but something is compelling him to return to the woods his father and brother used to hunt, so the two brothers head out into the wilderness to do a little deer hunting, but instead they find themselves stalked by the same creature that seems to have some kind of connection with Adam.
While the film is going to leave a lot of folks with more questions than answers, the ambiguity surrounding the monster, what it is, and why it wants Adam is what makes this film so much fun. Not all horror has to have answers spelled out to you by the end. This movie leaves it up to you to fill in these blanks and that mystery is what makes the movie feel all the more dangerous. The creature looks like a Rake, with its pale skin, claws, and talons, but is never identified as one, but it definitely looks like the same thing that was captured in the famous trail cam footage. Adding to the mystery of the film is the almost fairy tale like forest in which the brothers enter. With its twisted branches and rocky cliffs, this is truly a case of the environment being its own character in the film. And it’s a fascinating character at that as it provides all kind of challenges for our brothers.
Dunne and Payne are fantastic and engaging in DEVIL IN THE DARK. Their conflict is well fleshed out as well as their love for one another. There is more than sibling rivalry going on here. It’s about how families are made up of different people forced to live together and while some families get along despite differences, others don’t even try to understand them. There is an awful lot of emotional baggage between Adam and Clint and Dunne and Payne communicate it skillfully. The interplay between the two characters is the heart of the movie and as their situation grows more dire, it is satisfying to see these two brothers bonding and understanding each other in ways they never had before.
DEVIL IN THE DARK is high on atmosphere and dire mood. The lair of the monster is wonderful in its simplicity as it is simply a cave lined with deer horns, but with some moody lighting and forced camera angles, it makes for a claustrophobic nightmare realm. This one also has a powerful little ending that I didn’t see coming. All in all, DEVIL IN THE DARK surprised and thrilled me all the way through with its unique monster, strong acting, and fantastic British Colombia setting. Highly recommended for those who like their horror outdoorsy, ambiguous, and brotherly.
Worth noting: BLOOD BROTHERS!
Another twisted story of the bonds of brotherhood; this one with the stunning Barbara Crampton, and a truly wacky detective. This off kilter little gem shouldn’t be missed by those who love a little weird with their horror. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available from Uncork’d Entertainment!
BLOOD BROTHERS (2014)
aka THE DIVINE TRAGEDIES
Directed by Jose Prendes
Written by Jose Prendes
Starring Graham Denman, Jon Kondelik, Hannah Levien, Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree, Bailey Ryan, Sean Whalen, Shawn C. Phillips
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
BLOOD BROTHERS is a confident little bastard of a film, trusting that the characters and the story is going to be compelling enough for you to stick around long enough to figure out the ups and downs of the weird little universe the film lives in. And it turns out, the film delivers on that confident beginning and never really lets up until the ultra-powerful final beats.
Taking a page or two from NATURAL BORN KILLERS and maybe some nuances from a David Lynch film, BLOOD BROTHERS is still one of the most original and entertaining films I’ve seen in ages. The opening scene focuses on two brothers Charles (Graham Denman) and Thomas (Jon Kondelik), two evil bastards who are playing a game with a crackhead they used to go to school with as kids. As the scene progresses, the conversation bips and bops, riffs and raps a lot like a Tarantino joint. There are sidebars and diatribes, discourses and distracting conversations before the actual violence they’ve been talking about occurs. The way it plays out, surely we won’t be following around these two devious sons of bitches for the whole movie. Surely, these two guys are the ones who get wiped out in the first scene in order to establish the real heroes. That’s what writer/director Jose Prendes seems to want us to think. But turns out we have it all wrong and this is a film about these two evil fucks. Beginning in such an off kilter manner gives us a hint that all bets are off and by following these two nicely dressed monsters, we’re headed into dangerous territory.
But while Thomas and Charles talk a big game, they seem to have a softer side. They take care of their ailing and bed-ridden mother (Barbara Crampton) and are obviously living a very privileged life. All of this makes their plans to murder someone for the first time all the more shocking and deliciously evil. As it walks through the two brothers’ first kill, BLOOD BROTHERS turns out to be an unpredictable little number, never really going the expected route and proving to be full of surprises all the way until the end.
A lot of the power of this film comes from the bizarre portrayal of Thomas and Charles by Denman and Kondelik. Kondelik seems to be the eviler of the two, more verbal and confident, definitely the bully of the two. But it’s the Crispin Glover-esque performance by Graham Denman that really stands out here. Denman goes through such a transformation in this film. Both brothers do, really. And to see these two brothers metamorphose after blood is spilled is brilliant to see from these two up and coming actors.
DAWN OF THE DEAD’s Ken Foree appears as a cop with psychic powers and with Crampton, really adds some solid acting foundation for these two newcomer actors to play off of. But it is the performances by Denman and Kondelik and the words and twists from writer/director Jose Prendes that make this film one to remember. Though there is copious amounts of blood and violence, the real horror comes from how fucked up these two brothers really are and how it plays out with everyone unlucky enough to cross their path. The heavy reliance on dialog is definitely going to make or break this film depending on whether you like Tarantino-ian wordplay or Mamet-esque bullet-speak. But for my tastes, BLOOD BROTHERS is a dangerous and perfect little nightmare that needs to be seen.
THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…
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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