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!
#12 IT COMES AT NIGHT #12
Why is IT COMES AT NIGHT #12? While the ambiguity of what “IT” was most likely killed this film to mass audiences, especially after a misleading ad campaign, this plague horror film succeeds in evoking pure dread and utter paranoia. Top tier acting from a top tier cast helps. This is a compelling horror effort that might be a bit frustrating at its obteuseness, but still manages to succeed in scares and frights. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available from A4 Films!
IT COMES AT NIGHT (2017)
Directed by Trey Edward Shults
Written by Trey Edward Shults
Starring Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Griffin Robert Faulkner, David Pendleton, Chase Joliet, Mick O’Rourke, Mikey as Stanley the Dog!
Find out more about this film here, @ItComesAtNight, and on Facebook here
One of the most effective trailers of recent memory (see below) delivers on nerve-shredding tension and suspense as well as some of the best acting you’re going to find in a horror film, yet will most likely infuriate the more literal-minded folks that take a chance on this film. If you’re looking for a monster movie—a hulking, threatening, terrifying IT promised in the title and hinted at in the trailer for IT COMES AT NIGHT, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you’re more literate than literal, you’re going to be impressed at the restraint director/writer Trey Edward Shults exudes in the bulk of this movie. I fall somewhere in the middle and will explain below.
We are not made privy as to what ended the world, just that society has collapsed and a small family comprised of patriarch Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), their son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), and his dog Stanley (Mikey) live in a secluded area in the woods in a boarded up house with only one single door (painted red) blocking themselves from whatever threats there are outside. Apparently, some kind of virus is airborne, requiring anyone stepping outside to wear gas masks. The rest of the house is sealed and Paul has a particular set of guidelines, processes, and rules he follows in order to ensure the safety of his family. When a man named Will (Christopher Abbott) breaks into the house, Paul defends his home, knocks him unconscious, and ties him to a tree outside. But after a while, Paul softens to Will and eventually invites Will and his family to live with his family. The more people, the more defense they have against whatever the treats are outside. After a series of events, the seal is breached and it is possible that someone got infected, causing a breakdown in Paul’s structure and impending doom for all of them.
This film hinges on what filmmaker Trey Edwards Shults does not tell you. How did the virus start? Is society destroyed or has the damage been fixed? How did Paul and his family come together? Is Travis, a young black man, actually the son of Paul (a white man) or is this a hodge-podge family whittled together after the apocalypse? Is Will trustworthy? Most of these questions are left unanswered resulting in a highly compact and no frills storytelling experience that I appreciated. It’s interesting to see practically all of the fat trimmed from this movie bone and have it simply tell a story of palpable paranoia and undeniable tension. It is about the family, the house, and the threat outside. The story never leaves the family, the house, and the surrounding woods. And because the film has such a talented cast, this gives everyone a shot at flexing their acting muscles to their capacity to carry the entire movie and the cast does so amazingly. Edgerton plays the morose and cautious yet strong willed head of the family. Travis is the outlying factor with all of the random challenges that come with being a youth testing the waters on how far he can stray from this family and its rules before they break in a way all teens do. Abbot is both sympathetic and suspicious at times, and even in the end, you don’t know what exactly is truthful or not about the stories he tells Paul. Through these interactions comes the tension and with an unknown and invisible threat outside, without these strong performances, this film would fall completely apart.
That said, I’ve seen some reviewers go out of their way to defend IT COMES AT NIGHT and I don’t feel as a reviewer I have to do that. A movie should stand on its own and the “those who don’t get it are just dummies” attitude just doesn’t fly with me. The IT in IT COMES AT NIGHT is not a monster as the trailer and title indicates. IT is the darkness, the fears, the unhampered imagination that looks into the dark and sees all kinds of creatures and evils. IT is the nightmares we have and the fears that keep us from trusting people. Shults is clear with this in the film, though the trailers suggest otherwise. Sure, this is the marketing department’s fault and not particularly the filmmaker’s, but if you’re going into this film hoping to see monsters, zombies, or infectoids running or schlumping after screaming survivors, you’ll be disappointed once the lights go up. But the marketing department can only have so much of the blame as some might think that the intended obtuseness of IT COMES AT NIGHT with all of its unanswered questions and intentionally vague title is simply trying to be the smart film in the room, batting down those who want more details as being ignorant. While I was satisfied with the story that was presented, I’m saying there is an audience, and sadly, that is the audience who will be going out to theaters to see this one, who are going to be pissed at it. Plain and simple, those who like things explained. Those who like a comedic jump scare to release the build-up of tension. Those who want a monster to blame for the evils that happen in this film. All of them are going to feel gypped by IT COMES AT NIGHT.
Still, if you thirst for an entire hour twenty of film with tension ratcheted up to a painful level, unbelievably dark shadows that threaten despair, destruction, and absolute terror, top tier acting from a cast to die for, and dialog/story with teeth that shred into humanity’s most common weaknesses then IT COMES AT NIGHT will fill your cup and then some. The mood of this film is as heavy as it comes. There are some gruesome effects scenes of those infected that will get under your skin and the nightmare imagery definitely hit the target. Just don’t come looking for answers. Come looking for a barebones tale of the ultimate in paranoia and your takeaway will be plentiful.
Worth noting: IT LIVES IN THE ATTIC!
I am always a fan of what low budget filmmakers Steve Hudgins and his filmmaking partner P.J. Woodside have to offer from their Big Biting Pig Productions. They are masters of delivering solid stories within low budgets. Those looking for big budget production might not like it, but once a chance is taken with these low budget filmmakers films, you’ll be a fan too. IT LIVES IN THE ATTIC is a fun anthology taking place in the same house of horrors as we move from room to room. It’s a concept well-plummed, but done effectively. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available on DVD at Big Biting Pig Productions!
IT LIVES IN THE ATTIC (2016)
Directed by Steve Hudgins
Written by Steve Hudgins
Starring Steve Hudgins, Michael Coon, Jessica Leonard, Felicia Stewart, Jonathan Humphrey, Rob Miles, P.J. Woodside, James Gibbs, Andrew McGregor, April LaRae, Sean Leonard, Emily Beeny, Megan Jones, Alyssa Reisinger, Lucy Turner, Marty D. Cook, Kenneth R. Root, Jordan Livingston Powell, Brittney Meredith-Miller, Lissa Graham-Schneider, Debbie Gibbs
Find out more about this film here
Since AICN HORROR began back in 2010, I feel I’ve been reviewing Big Biting Pig Productions film. The company, run by producers P.J. Woodside and Steve Hudgins, specializes in low budget do-it-yourself horror. They don’t do monster movies that much. But instead keep the concepts small, focusing on telling a compelling story with interesting characters going through personal horrors, rather than aspiring to mountain high concepts and out of reach plots. Big Biting Pig knows their limitations in monetary backing and star power, but makes up for it where it counts in the script, story, and plot. All of which can be realized with great success with very little money spent. I love Big Biting Pig’s movies because they are often challenging and delving into new terrors rather than revisiting old ones for the umpteenth time. I recommend you check out BBP’s library of films if you’re an indie film fan. I guarantee you’ll be impressed.
Woodside and Hudgins seem to alternate between films as to who gets to direct and write, Last time it was Woodside’s FRANCIS STEIN, a clever twist on the Mary Shelley classic. Now we have IT LIVES IN THE ATTIC, by Hudgins, and once again a Big Biting Pig film blew me away.
The story is told from three perspectives; a couple named Andy & Ellie (Michael Coon and Jessica Leonard) and a lonely man named Barney (played by Hudgins himself. The film tells the story of these three people as their worst fears and basest sins are thrown into their faces. Andy is a man filled with frustration, just wanting to be left alone for some peace and quiet. Ellie wants to feel loved and needed. As does Barney, who is as alone as Ellie, yet unmarried. The narrative jumps back and forth and back again ROSHOMON style telling these three tales sometimes out of order, sometimes backtracking to replay scenes, but from different perspectives. This leads to a bloody trip to the woods, an underground sex club, and a house of horrors.
There’s a sophistication to the storytelling in IT LIVES IN THE ATTIC that is unlike most you’re going to see. Comparable to PULP FICTION in the way it circles around and around these three characters, this film is definitely well thought out and executed in a way that would give most writers headaches. Still, the logic of the film holds firm, and by the last reel, it all makes sense why these three people are being lead down a dark tunnel to their fates. This is a dark film that doesn’t really offer any type of happy ending for anyone, but still manages to leave you with a feeling of dread, sadness, and horror.
With very little effects used, local talent that actually do a great job in front of the lens, and a rollercoaster of a story, IT LIVES IN THE ATTIC is one of the best indie horror films you’re going to see this year. Reminiscent of another experimental narrative by Hudgins HELL IS FULL where you follow the story of a zombie infection from one person to another backwards until we find out where the initial outbreak came from, IT LIVES IN THE ATTIC juggles expectations as to what a story is supposed to look like and therefore makes it all the more special. I highly recommend those who want to see chances taken with story to check out this film. Try not to down-snout it due to its low budget and you’re going to be surprised how good it turned out to be.
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
#19 – THE GREASY STRANGLER
#18 – IT STAINS THE SANDS RED
#17 –SEOUL STATION
#16 – 47 METERS DOWN
#15 – THE TRANSFIGURATION
#14 – THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER
#13 – THE SIMILARS
#12 – IT COMES AT NIGHT
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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