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!
#25 THE SUBLET aka THE RESIDENT #25
Why is THE SUBLET aka THE RESIDENT #25? It’s a fantastic ROSEMARY’S BABY meets AMITYVILLE HORROR mashup with a fantastic performance by its star Tianna Nori (who also appeared in THE DEMOLISHER) and a truly haunting tone that continues throughout the entire film. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available On Demand and digital download!
Directed by John Ainslie
Written by John Ainslie, Alyson Richards
Starring Tianna Nori, Mark Matechuk, Krista Madison, Rachel Sellan, Porter Randell, James Murray, Mary-Elizabeth Willcott, Jeff Sinasac, Mark Ettlinger
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Thrilling and creepy, THE SUBLET has elements of other horror movies, but manages to still deliver the goods.
Joanna (Tianna Nori from THE DEMOLISHER – reviewed here) and her fiancée Geoff (Mark Matechuk) have moved into a sublet as Geoff takes a job as an actor on a TV show while Joanna stays home with their new baby Porter. Even as they enter the place for the first time, things are odd as no one is there to show them the place and a note explains that if they like what they see, they can stay. Just don’t go into the locked rooms. While Geoff is away though and Joanna is left home alone with the baby, weird things begin to happen. The locked door opens, the couch moves, and no matter how much Joanna tidies up the odd religious iconography, they seem to always return to their place. Not to mention the weird homeless woman outside staring at Joanna and the fact that Joanna’s family keep insisting that she is missing when they talk with Geoff. Things get weirder as a horrific history of the sublet is revealed through a journal Joanna finds.
Those who like all of their answers may want to take a pass with this little mind-fucker of a film, but anyone who enjoys a little ambiguity with their horror are going to want to seek this one out. It’s got elements of ROSEMARY’S BABY as it seems the world around Joanna is out to get her and the haunted history and bizarre photos around the sublet apartment gave me a vibe which reminded me of THE SHINING. Still there are no direct lifts from these iconic films and if you’re going to be reminded of a horror film, these two films are ones to go for.
Nori is amazing as Joanna and basically, this is a one woman show here. She sizzled with rage and sorrow in THE DEMOLISHER as the vigilante’s invalid wife and here she handles a range of complex emotions really well. In many ways this is a fantastic representation of post partum depression and the insecurities a woman feels after having a child, though things get supernatural and weird along the way. While Matechuk is great here as the aloof and distant husband, this is Nori’s show through and through. You believe her, no matter how crazy things get around her and that’s crucial in a film such as this when up and down are questionable.
Though there are some pretty gory scenes, the best parts of THE SUBLET are the surreal twists and nightmarish turns that occur throughout. This is one of those films that will burrow under your skin and won’t let you forget it. Filled with an overall sense of creep from minute one, the scares and shocks intensify to a nerve-shredding level by the end of THE SUBLET.
Worth noting: SHE WHO MUST BURN!
SHE WHO MUST BURN is a somber low budget horror film about cults, accusations, sacrifice, and warped religion. I left this film feeling haunted and I think if you ride it til the end, you will too. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available on DVD and On Demand from Midnight Releasing!
SHE WHO MUST BURN (2015)
Directed by Larry Kent
Written by Larry Kent & Shane Twerdun
Starring Sarah Smyth, Andrew Moxham, Andrew Dunbar, Jewel Staite, Missy Cross, Steve Bradley, Peri Creticos, Jim Francis, Bart Anderson, Nancy Sivak, Shane Twerdun, James Wilson
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
While this film is guilty of black and whiting the characters into basically two categories; those who follow religion who are sadistic zealots and those who work for planned parenthood and are angelic heroes, it still is a moving and gruelingly vicious little horror film tackling terrors outside our window rather than under our beds.
Angela (Sarah Smyth) works in a planned parenthood clinic in a small Midwestern town populated by a Christian group who strongly disagrees about the services she offers the community. While her husband (the local deputy) attempts to keep the protesters off their lawn (Angela’s practice is in her home – word to the wise, this is a bad idea), Angela does her best to persevere and continue to handle issues that some biblical types deem heretical. When the leader of the flock, Caleb (Andrew Dunbar) rapes and beats his wife Margaret (Jewel Staite), she goes to Angela to find help. Sending her away to a shelter, Caleb and his followers show up to Angela’s home demanding to know where she has sent his wife which escalates into a harrowing chase through the countryside as the word of God is warped due to personal demons.
Now, I’ve seen some evil religious people and some good ones. I’ve seen some well intentioned therapists and some people who shouldn’t be allowed to speak to another human being, much less give them advice. That’s what is great about the real world—it has all kinds of people in it. SHE WHO MUST BURN doesn’t necessarily reside in the real world. It is a film with a definite message; religion = bad, social work = good. And that’s fine and dandy, but it just a very simplistic way of telling a story. Personally, I wouldn’t mind to have been introduced to one of the religious flock who isn’t a total psychopath or even a therapist who isn’t deemed flawless. Grey area characters always make the thematic debate all the more interesting and I think if this film would have had a little grey in it, the whole thing would have been much more resonant.
That said, there is a whole lot to love about SHE WHO MUST BURN. While the main antagonist Caleb (Andrew Dunbar) is your typical religious psychopath/hypocrite who rapes his wife and still quotes from the bible, the horror he unleashes and controls at his whim is pretty harrowing. Much more terrifying is Rebecca, Caleb’s sister played by Missy Cross who speaks in tongues and carries a big hickory stick. The scene where she home births a baby and loses it is nightmarish and surprisingly authentic as this seems to be Rebecca’s breakin point in the film. But that’s just a testament to what this film does right, which is juggling multiple characters and giving them all purpose to the plot and how it proceeds. Rebecca is but one fascinating character in this film. The not so subtly named Angela (Sarah Smyth) is another compelling character as she must face Caleb and his flock alone and is pushed to the breaking point. Her ordeal at the hands of the religious folk is horrific and something that one will never forget. Other actors such as Steve Bradley who plays the cowardly Daryl and is given a lot of scenery to chew on here and SERENITY’s Jewel Staite who plays Caleb’s abused wife are given powerful characters to play that are intrinsic to the story.
While the story might over simplify things, I was definitely moved by it. The harrowing scenes that occur in pretty much through this entire narrative give us a glimpse of real life horror that is difficult to shake. Writer/director Larry Kent does a fantastic job of juggling various characters and given each of them a time to shine with terrifyingly memorable moments. You won’t soon forget SHE WHO MUST BURN after viewing it. It is a classic tale of good vs. evil. I just wish the argument could have been as fleshed out as the rest of the characters in this one.
THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…
#31 – THE DEMOLISHER
#30 – PLANK FACE
#29 – LAST GIRL STANDING
#28 – DEVIL IN THE DARK
#27 – HELL HOUSE LLC
#26 – XX
#25 – THE SUBLET
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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