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!
#11 SWEET SWEET LONELY GIRL #11
Why is SWEET SWEET LONELY GIRL #11? Because this film feels like a genuine lost film from the late 70’s-early 80’s and it delivers in both mood and scares. I was impressed with both the authenticity and the handling of character relationships in this film that feels like it would be a fantastic triple feature with Ty West’s HOUSE OF THE DEVIL and Oz Perkins’ I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE (another film that showed up this year on the countdown). You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available on Shudder!
SWEET SWEET LONELY GIRL (2016)
Directed by A.D. Calvo
Written by A.D. Calvo
Starring Quinn Shephard, Susan Kellermann, Erin Wilhelmi, Hada Vanessa, Frances Eve, Mike S. Ryan, Rob Tunstall, Lainie Ventura, Kristin Johansen, A.J. Helm, Jonathan Holtzman, Matt Goyette, David Pirrie, Adam Schartoff
Find out more about this film here, @sweetsweetlonelygirl, and on Facebook here
Reminiscent in tone of Ty West’s HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, DON’T LOOK NOW, and ALICE SWEET ALICE, and in subject matter of THE MOTH DIARIES, A.D. Calvo’s haunting coming of age horror story SWEET, SWEET LONELY GIRL is a ghost story you’ll not soon forget.
Erin Wilhelmi stars as Adele, a shy young girl who is told to help out her reclusive Aunt Dora by her mother in hopes that they receive her inheritance when she passes. Unlike her gold-digging and pregnant mother, Adele actually have fond memories of spending the summer with her Aunt and gladly accepts the job to get some freedom from her oppressive mother. Once in Aunt Dora’s decadent Victorian home, Adele finds herself more lonely than ever as her Aunt never leaves her room and only communicates with Adele through notes passed under the door. While shopping for Aunt Dora’s eclectic menu at the local supermarket, Adele encounters Beth (Quinn Shephard) an outgoing gal who notices the shy girl staring at her. Seeing her again in a bar, Beth confronts Adele and the two soon spark up a deep friendship that turns into a romance. But while Adele’s love runs deep, she is too naïve to see that Beth is just having a good time. Meanwhile, things back at Aunt Dora’s are getting dire and the loneliness that runs thick through the dark house is creeping ever slowly into Adele’s soul.
SWEET, SWEET LONELY GIRL is a film made painstakingly as if it were crafted in the seventies. From the styles of clothing to the music to the overall cinematography, the film feels as if it were more of a long lost discovery of a film rather than something fresh and new. Yet that is exactly why this film feels so fresh and new. While many films of this sort ape the seventies gritty and grindhousey style in order to wink at the viewer and make obnoxious jabs at the fads of this era, SWEET, SWEET LONELY GIRL simply exists in this era and feels authentic and real. Because there is no self consciousness to speak of in this film, the danger of both putting oneself out there with the risk of being hurt as well as the supernatural danger that is creeping up on Adele in the periphery struck me deeply. I was surprised how into the relationship I was taken between these two young girls. And yet it is all because of how genuine everything felt—from the introduction of Adele, soulfully listening to her walkman and walking through a fall afternoon to the developing relationship between Adele and Beth that feels authentic although much of it feels like schoolgirl fantasy if you describe it.
Erin Wilhelmi is a true find as Adele. She has a soulful feel about her coupled with a real sense of mystery behind her sad eyes. Quinn Shephard is the opposite—full of life and vigor with a knowing look of worldly experience behind her eyes. Seeing these two girls meet and develop a relationship makes you root for them to survive. This being a horror movie, you know something dire is going to happen, but nevertheless, filmmaker A.D. Calvo sets the stage so well that I found myself wishing this film would change genres to avoid the inevitable tragedy that looms over this film like an executioner’s blade.
Once the axe drops, the terror is thick and potent. Calvo spends most of the movie setting up a terrifying scenario around Adele with her too starry eyed to see it, so it is way too late once she notices. Some well placed beats of terror really do even out this film. Still, most of the horror doesn’t happen until the last fifteen minutes. By that time, I was so wrapped up in rooting for Adele that it was painful to see when the climax finally rears its head. SWEET, SWEET LONELY GIRL is for appreciators of slow burn horror. It’s retro-vibe is going to be appealing, but this film is much more powerful than nostalgia. It succeeds in telling a sophisticated tale of an unconventional relationship (for the time, that is) and then placing that relationship in real danger. The final moments had me curling my toes in terror. Calvo succeeds in creating a retro-gothic horror tale that is unforgettably authentic in its tone and bone-chillingly terrifying in its resolution. Highly recommended.
Worth noting: JACK GOES HOME!
Some impressive work from Rory Culkin and a pretty solid mystery/ghost story makes JACK GOES HOME one of this year’s standouts. Add a strong and restrained performance from Lun Shaye and some nice twists and turns and you have another psychological chiller worth noting. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available from Momentum Pictures!
JACK GOES HOME (2016)
Directed by Thomas Dekker
Written by Thomas Dekker
Starring Rory Culkin, Lin Shaye, Daveigh Chase, Britt Robertson, Louis Hunter, Natasha Lyonne, Nikki Reed
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Actor Thomas Dekker (best known for playing John Connor in the TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES) directs this excellent character study of a peculiar boy going through a difficult time. Starring Rory Culkin, who is racking up some great horror cred with this film and INTRUDERS (which was released earlier this year and reviewed here), this film is a fantastic dissection of an odd character and while it doesn’t completely hold up until the very end, there is a whole lot to like and be chilled by in JACK GOES HOME.
In the opening moments, we hear a monologue by Jack (Culkin), talking to the viewer in a monotone tone and waxing philosophical-like about life, death, and if it all matters. We then cut to Jack at work, who receives a call that his parents have been in an accident. Unfazed, Jack tells his pregnant girlfriend Cleo (played by the bubbly Britt Robertson) over skype about the accident where his father was beheaded and his mother survived with nary an emotion to his voice, which concerns his fiancée. Jack’s childhood friend Chanda (Daveigh Chase who played Donnie Darko’s little sister in that movie and is now grown up to be quite the stunner) is equally concerned and follows him to his home town to help him through the adjustment and take care of his mother (Lin Shaye). But there are dark secrets to he discovered in Jack’s childhood home and the more he uncovers, the darker this story becomes.
I’m going to come right out and say, this film is going to frustrate the hell out of a lot of viewers. The way this film wraps up leaves all sorts of plot-knots for the viewer to untangle themselves. I don’t want to reveal what these knots are, but things are left in such an ambiguous manner that you don’t know how to categorize this and if there is anything that makes people tear their hair out, it’s having an ending that is so vague as to make the viewer wonder if there is something supernatural going on or if it’s all in the character’s head. None of this is answered and if you’re the type of person that is going to be pissed off at this kind of non-resolution, give this movie a pass.
That said, I kind of love this film for its ambiguity. There are some genuinely terrifying moments here. There are some genuinely effective scenes of fantastic writing here. There is some gut-wrenchingly uncomfortable subject matter at play here. This time in which Jack returns home to rediscover his roots and try to make sense of his life was utterly fascinating to me; partly because Culkin does such a fantastic job of fleshing out the character as someone so distant from his feelings, but still attempting to come to terms with such a huge loss in his life, but also partly because there are some absolutely amazing scenes of tension and terror that occur as Jack uncovers his dark past. While the film doesn’t wrap things up very well, the road to the end is a tensoin-filled emotional nightmare.
So while this may seem like a mixed review, I am just trying to recommend it to the right people. Those who prefer to engulf themselves in fascinating characters have amazingly written ones in Culkin, Shaye, and Chase to do so. But those concrete thinkers out there (and you know who you are), are going to find this descent into madness and back again to be a little too obtuse by the time the credits roll. Personally, I loved this film and recommend this to people who enjoy the dark ride it takes you on rather than the end product.
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
#11 – SWEET SWEET LONELY GIRL
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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