~~~~Sorry this is a day late, been fighting pneumonia all week and needed a day to do nothing but sleep. Let the countdown continue!!!~~~~

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!


Why is ANNABELLE 2: CREATION? Because it did the impossible and actually made a bad franchise watchable. Sure there are still a lot of jump scares and piano bangs as it is a requirement for all BlumHouse films seem to be required to have, but at least director David F. Sandberg knows how to give these scares some substance. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!


Directed by David F. Sandberg
Written by Gary Dauberman
Starring Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson, Miranda Otto, Anthony LaPaglia, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Grace Fulton, Samara Lee, Philippa Coulthard, Joseph Bishara, Kerry O’Malley, Brian Howe, Adam Bartley, Lotta Losten, Brad Greenquist, Tayler Buck, Mark Bramhall, Lou Lou Safran
Find out more about this film here, @AnnabelleMovie, and on Facebook here

Color me surprised that I actually liked ANNABELLE: CREATION quite a bit. Every time I think I’ve had my fill of James Wan’s universe of hauntings, demonic possessions, and things that go bump in the night, another film is released from Blumhouse that actually proves that, next to the Marvel Cinematic Universe) it’s probably one of the tightest and most entertaining connected set of films you’re bound to see in theaters in recent years.

ANNABELLE: CREATION focuses on the makers of the evil doll that starred in ANNABELLE and THE CONJURING were the doll what first shown. Samuel and Esther Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto) who suffer a horrible loss when their bright and shining daughter Bee (Samara Lee) dies suddenly. After a lengthy period of grief and recluse, the couple believe that it is time to have the pitter patter of little feet in the home again so they open up their doors to a group of orphans lead by the compassionate Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman). Among the six orphans who arrive at the home are Linda (OUIJA: THE ORIGIN OF EVIL’s Lulu Wilson) and Janice (Talitha Bateman), two best friends who vow to be adopted together. One night, Janice is compelled to go into a room Mr, Mullins has deemed off limits and finds a creepy looking doll locked inside a closet wall papered with bible pages. Janice has no idea of the evil she has unleashed once the doll is free and all souls are on the table to be taken, consumed, and destroyed.

What I feel ANNABELLE: CREATION does well is actually put weight to the scares that have become a trademark to Blumhouse. In typical Blumhouse films, there’s about a scare every five minutes, be they hollow cat-jumping-through-a window scares or real ones, punctuated by a sound burst that causes more of a fight-or-flight response than any kind of weighty scare that actually affects the viewer. So by the end of it, you’re kind of exhausted from jumping and laughing over and over again. ANNABELLE: CREATION doesn’t really do that. This film really does a great job of allowing us the space to get to know these characters, sympathize with them, and then when they are put into peril, the peril is real rather than a simple burst of sound for no reason. With this film, this feels like a maturity to the CONJURING Universe, as there are long moments here that allow the film to breath and settle before the scary starts. I was impressed by the patience of LIGHT’S OUT director David F. Sandberg who really does a fantastic job of showing the scene, allowing the characters to be filled out, and really let the audience get comfy before things go creepy.

This makes the scares all the more potent. By focusing on telling a story and not making teenie-boppers jump and giggle every few seconds, the film pays off after a rather scare free first half hour-forty-five minutes. Sandberg sets up quite a few scenes that pay off big time later on as this house has all kinds of secret closets, dark corners, twisted dollmaking workshops, and a dingy sheds containing a terrifying scarecrow. Because Sandberg introduces these creepy elements in the first half of the film, the scares really hit home in the latter half of the movie when we revisit the creepy dark places after the evil is unleashed.

ANNABELLE: CREATION is a fun film with solid character work from LaPaglia and Otto and some strong performances from its two younger stars (Wilson and Bateman). The film knows how to introduce creepy elements and give them a payoff later. It also manages to nestle in quite nicely into the universe first seen in THE CONJURING and then expanded upon in the less-than thrilling ANNABELLE, all the while managing to connect rather seamlessly with THE CONJURING 2 its upcoming spinoff THE NUN in a surprising and entertaining fashion. There’s even a post-credit sequence confirming that THE NUN is the next offering in this universe. I don’t know what Wan is working towards with all of this. Maybe after AQUAMAN, he’ll return to make his CONJURING style AVENGERS film mixing all of these movies together. There even seems to be some kind of INSIDIOUS tie-ins in ANNABELLE: CREATION as the demon looks an awful lot like the red-faced monster that haunted the nightmares in INSIDIOUS. Whatever Wan has planned with this series, ANNABELLE: CREATION is a surprisingly high-quality, compelling, and potent popcorn scare flick. We don’t get enough of those these days, so when it happens we should celebrate it.

Worth noting: HEIDI!

Filmed on a fraction of the budget of ANNABELLE 2, HEIDI is a found footage flick about a cursed doll. But while the film is very low fi and the acting isn’t the best, it does make for some famtastically suspenseful scenes and one creepy ass ending. You can find it here on Amazon here!

Available on DVD and On Demand from MVD Visual & Wild Eye Releasing!

HEIDI (2014)

Directed by Daniel Ray
Written by Daniel Ray
Starring Samuel Brian, Joei Fulco, Joey Bell, Eva Falana, Elizabeth Callahan, Michael Monteiro
Find out more about this film @heidithedoll, and on Facebook here

While there is a DIY sense to HEIDI, I found myself getting more and more involved in the story and the strong handling of the scarier scenes as the film went on. This found footager suffers from a lot of the setbacks that make folks hate the genre, but this is one creepy doll film that will creep up on you. Let’s apply my found footage questionnaire to HEIDI.

What’s it about?
A couple of amateur filmmakers who find potential in a new movie in everything they experience are asked to check in on an old lady’s bird while she is out of town. While snooping around her attic, the kids find a room full of antiques and a creepy doll named Heidi. But once found, Heidi begins showing up around every corner and strange accidents seem to occur on a trail that leads directly back to the kids who found her.

Are the actors successfully acting like they aren’t acting?
For the most part, the acting is just ok. Due to a lack of scripting, the characters simply alternate between “What the fuck?” and “What the hell?” throughout the film as weird shit happens, but they do act like normal people and don’t really seem like they are reading from a script. This just means that, as in real life, the unscripted dialog is pretty repetitive and boring.

Does is seem like this footage was actually found and not untouched by additional production (which means there is no omniscient editor making multiple edits or an invisible orchestra providing music)?
There’s no music added in for extra effect that I noticed, but there are edits between different cameras and different formats. While this fills out the story and offers up a few different perspectives to the film, it makes no sense that someone would thread these scenes together. Had the filmmakers simple stuck to one camera, it would have made it more believable that this is footage found.

Is there a valid reason the camera isn’t dropped and they just get the hell out of there?
Yeah, I guess. It is established that the kid simply films everything. That doesn’t really make up for the fact that when he hears someone screaming, he first picks up his camera before running to the other room or to the door to catch footage essential to moving the plot along. The whole, “Kids these days tape everything.” rule is applied here.

Is the lead in too long and the payoff too short?
This is where HEIDI separates itself from a lot of its brethren in the found footage style as the intensity definitely escalates as the movie goes on. Pretty much immediately we are introduced to Heidi and we feel the after-effects of that meeting throughout the entire film. So this isn’t one of those “walking through the woods” films. Stuff actually happens and as the tension escalates, I found myself along for the ride.

Is there an up-nose BLAIR WITCH confessional or a REC-drag away from the camera?
Nope, and it’s a better movie without those clichés.

Does anything actually happen? Does the film add anything to the subgenre and is this one worth watching?
Yes and yes. I was impressed with how much HEIDI does with so little. A simple quick shot of the doll looking around a corner makes for one of the most terrifying little sequences I’ve seen in an evil doll movie. And while the acting is a bit stiff at times and they don’t seem to know what to say other than swear, the way this film doles out horrific information along with the subtle way they make an inanimate object something to fear by the end is admirable. HEIDI is not the best found footage film, but I was impressed with how they effectively made the suspense rise exponentially by the end. You have to sit with it for a bit in order to get caught up in the story, but I found myself pleasantly surprised that I did.


#26 – XX
#23 – Morgan Spurlock’s RATS
#22 – SPLIT

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

Happy Halloween!

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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