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!
#20 I AM THE PRETTY THING IN THE HOUSE #20
Why is I AM THE PRETTY THING IN THE HOUSE #20? Oz Perkins has crafted a often beautiful, often horrific little ghost story. Atmospheric and intense beyond belief, this film had me shuddering in the fial moments not knowing what was going to come next or slink around this haunted house’s dark corners. Some may be annoyed by the pacing, but I loved the overall mood of this one. You can find it here on Netflix!
I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE (2016)
Directed by Oz Perkins
Written by Oz Perkins
Starring Ruth Wilson, Paula Prentiss, Lucy Boynton, Bob Balaban, Brad Milne, Erin Boyes
I had a chance to check out the Netflix Original Film I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE and felt that the film was powerful enough for me to mention it here. Those with a short attention span who like jump scares every other minute might want to give this a pass, but this slow burner rises to a sizzle if you make it to the end.
A wide eyed hospice worker named Lily (Ruth Wilson) moves in to the house of an elderly woman named Iris (Paula Prentiss) once known for writing gothic horror novels. As her early narration indicates, Lily lasts only about a year at the home and the movie tells the story of what occurs to Lily while in this strange and haunted house.
Moving at a listless and dreamlike pace, I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE is going to be an exercise in patience for many modern horror moviegoers. Narrated slowly and particularly by Wilson, the film moves at its own pace, not really paying attention to the modern template of how a horror movie should look and feel. It’s because of that patience that this film is one of the better ghost stories you’re going to find this year. The film almost sleepwalks through the house, not really paying attention to the pace not only within the narrative (as many months are skipped to in order to tell the tale of one year in an hour and a half), but also within what one would expect. Much time is spent of Lily reading passages from Iris’ books as well as her speaking from some kind of dark place she ends up. Because Lily tells us early that she dies by the end of the film, there is an air of anticipation not for her to die, but for the house to make its move and where Lily ends up by the end of the film. Because so much is spoken about in past tense, there is an overwhelming sense of dread that permeates every frame of this one as we know it won’t end well and just are waiting for the axe to drop.
Son of Anthony Perkins, Oz Perkins does a fantastic job of making this film look and feel absolutely unique. We walk through this story as if it were whispering in our ear (and if you listen to Netflix on headphones it’ll make for a terrifying experience) and the haunting, double exposed images move in slow motion during the narration bits. These portions of the story where ghostly forms move across the screen, smearing specific features and making the normal look and feel surreal by slowing down the movements and washing out the colors. On top of that, the house itself that Lily finds herself in has all sorts of odd corridors and shadowy entranceways. While sometimes nothing at all comes out of the dark spaces, because the camera captures a dark void behind the character, there still is a buildup as we wait for something horrible to emerge from it. The furniture in the house is both elegant and surreal as well with chairs hanging upside down and antiquity all around lit dramatically. This is another decision to make the normal look abnormal and throws ones perceptions off despite the banality of what it happening in the scene. Once the ghost is revealed, she is normal, yet as the poster indicates, her head and body are on backwards—once again it’s the normal slightly skewed and twisted that makes this film burrow so deep in the viewers skin.
I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE is a film one needs to let envelop them in order to enjoy it. Step into the shoes of Lily, who is a wide-eyed bird hopping unknowingly past a ready-to-strike cobra. Perkins focuses on every slow step Lily takes in this descent into the darkness with a steady and confident hand. Much like slow burn classics like THE INNOCENTS and REPULSION, and more modern slow sizzlers like LAKE MUNGO, I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE is a horror not easy to forget. Having watched it a week ago, I still am thinking about how effective this waking nightmare of a ghost story was and if it has that effect on me, it’s got to be doing something right.
Worth noting: ANOTHER EVIL!
Another unconventional ghost story released this year was ANOTHER EVIL. Full of quirk and eccentricity, this film gets serious then weird then sentimental then kooky and then downright deranged. It’s a film that’s mood flows with the breeze, but that doesn’t mean it’s without it’s effectively cool and creepy moments. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available on BluRay and on digital download from Dark Sky Films
ANOTHER EVIL (2016)
Directed by Carson D. Mell
Written by Carson D. Mell
Starring Mark Proksch, Steve Zissis, Jennifer Irwin, Dax Flame, Dan Bakkedahl, Steve Little, Beck DeRobertis, Mariko Munro
An off kilter tone and a truly fantastic cast enables this odd little ghost film to stand up tall and proud.
ANOTHER EVIL focuses on Dan (Steve Zissis from HBO’s TOGETHERNESS), the patriarch of a family of three who slowly realizes after a series of curious events that his summer cabin is haunted. After consulting with a co-worker (EAST BOUND & DOWN’s Steve Little) and being unfazed by a psychic (Dan Bakkedahl) who attests that he is lucky to have ghosts in his house, he is directed to a professional badass ghost hunter Os (Mark Proksch recently seen on BETTER CALL SAUL as the baseball card collector turned amateur drug dealer). Sending his wife and kid away for a few days, Dan meets Os ad is immediately impressed with Os’ gung ho talks about ghost hunting and his knowledge of the paranormal. Os says it will take a few days to perform an exorcism on the house, which Dan agrees to, but since hauntings usually occur only at night, Dan and Os have the day to simply hang out and bond. But as the days go on, Dan begins to realize that Os is simply an awkward man looking for a friend and becomes uncomfortable having him basically living in his house with him.
ANOTHER EVIL plays as a thematic brother of CREEP (starring Zissis’ co-star in TOGETHERNESS Mark Duplass) which also focuses on a man too naïve that he is letting a true weirdo into his life and becoming regretful of doing so a little too late in the game. Because there is a paranormal aspect to this film, there is enough of a distinction between this and CREEP, but as the movie went on and Os begins to form an unnatural bond with Dan and Dan becomes more and more uneased by this bond, the tone is surprisingly similar. Both Zissis and CREEP’s Patrick Brice do such a great job of conceptualizing the uncomfortable feeling of slowly realizing the truth of the situation that I think this film will definitely cause the same kind of unease as CREEP did in folks and made it such a divisive film for viewers. Like Zissis’ Dan, I felt a true sense of sympathy towards Proksch’s Os as he confides in Dan about his recent failed marriage and life troubles. We ride on Dan’s heavily burdened shoulders through this entire film and to Zissis’ credit, he handles the weight masterfully. This film illustrates how easily one can be taken advantage of and despite the spookiness of the ghosts lingering about, that is the true horror at play in ANOTHER EVIL.
That doesn’t mean that this film doesn’t have its fair share of scares. I was taken aback by the effectiveness of the scares that occur in the film. The ghosts don’t appear often, but when they do, they are presented in a tense and terrifying manner that definitely jars you our of the quirky comedy mode this film snuggles you into. The designs of the ghost themselves are unique in a simplistic way I haven’t seen before, which adds to the effectiveness of the whole thing. And when this film shifts into darkness overdrive culminating in a confrontation between Dan and the obsessed Os, it does so again in a bleak manner that is surprisingly effective, again given the comedic tone that went on for most of the rest of the film.
Think CABLE GUY, but on a much lower extreme, and you get the plot of this one. That film dealt with obsession pretty well despite the karaoke scene and whatnot. ANOTHER EVIL is a fantastic showcase on two actors highlighting their spectacular talents in ways that their previous work hasn’t been able to do. Zissis and Proksch are mesmerizing together as they build a friendship that both end up regretting. The ghosts in this film are truly terrifying and the banter between the two characters will cause as much chuckles as the ghosts do chills. ANOTHER EVIL is not a broad blockbuster comedy. It is a film that will hopefully find an audience as it masterfully deals with terror on a much smaller scope. These terrors of emotional discomfort are one we feel every day and this film exemplifies them in convincing and effective ways. Filled with moments that will make you laugh, scream, and wince in discomfort, ANOTHER EVIL is brilliantly unusual little horror comedy that will leave you squirming in your seat.
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 aka THE RESIDENT
#24 – PATCHWORK
#23 – Morgan Spurlock’s RATS
#22 – SPLIT
#21 – ANNABELLE 2: CREATION
#20– I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE
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.
I’ve also set up a Patreon Page to help keep this website rolling. It’s going to be crucial in these early stages that we get some kind of funding to keep the lights on, so if you have extra dough, please support me! Also, if there are any people in need of advertising on MLMILLERWRITES, feel free to contact me here and we can talk turkey!