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!
#10 SAVAGELAND #10
Why is SAVAGELAND #10? I don’t know if filmmakers Phil Guidry, Simon, Herbert, and David Whelan are psychics or prophets or what, but they tapped into some timely horror with this shockumentary that was made in 2013, but not released until this year. The film depicts a massacre in a US town bordering Mexico. What begins as a murder procedural quickly turns into something much more insidious. This is one effective film that will leave you gabbing about the border debate along with the many shocks and surprises the film offers during its runtime. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available On Demand and on iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play/YouTube, Vudu, Xbox Live, Sony PlayStation, Vimeo on Demand, I Bleed Indie and 3 Roku channels from Terror Films!
Directed by Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert, David Whelan
Written by Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert, David Whelan
Starring Noe Montes, George Savage, Len Wein, J.C. Carlos, Lawrence Ross, Jason Stewart, Ed L.Green, Cathy Aron, Dan Trabulus
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
While I covered SAVAGELAND as an advance review a few years ago, it is just getting released now and the film, though it was terrifying then, is much more relevant now than ever with the Mexican border dispute going on at the moment. Filmmakers Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert, & David Whelan seemed to be ahead of there time in this modern horror film utilizing all forms of media to tell an intricate and fascinating tale of terror. It really is a fantastic little shockumentary and I highly recommend it. Here’s a clip from this compelling and horrifying film.
My favorite relative of the found footage film is the mockumentary. Films like LAKE MUNGO (reviewed here), TROLLHUNTER (reviewed here), and HAROLD’S GONE STIFF (reviewed here) are a few of the more successful ones and the list just got larger by one with SAVAGELAND, a new film from writers/directors Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert, and David Whelan which does everything it can to make everything going on in this film feel as real as possible and by doing so, making it scary as all get out.
I don’t know why, but when presented in this type of 60 MINUTES style format, these films end up being all the more effective. Interspersed with interviews, reenactments, animated maps, “actual footage” from the court room and from the police videos, and from evidence compiled, SAVAGELAND recreates what looks to be the mass murder of an entire town by one single man. At least, that’s what the cops and politicians are trying to convince us of. But this mock-doc expands the canvas a bit more to interview those who have their doubts that a mild mannered illegal immigrant from Mexico would be capable of wiping out and entire town. Evidence uncovered late in the game tells a different story as photos the accused took at the night of the killings show that something “not human” was actually unleashed upon the town.
SAVAGELAND unfolds patiently and frighteningly, revealing dark truths about the society that habituates around the borders of America and the prejudices and hardships that are ever present. As much as this is a horror film, it’s also a social commentary about the US/Mexican border debate, showing both sides of the coin, but mainly showing the bigoted attitudes that seem to be percolating in these south eastern US towns. With the accused being an illegal Mexican immigrant as well, the rushed assumption that he is guilty is also put into question. At the same time, those speaking out about the mistreatment of immigrants (illegal or otherwise) seem to be blinded by their beliefs as well here as while they are pointing the fingers at the white man, the real horror seems to be something not of this world.
SAVAGELAND is as much a social commentary as it is a horror film. With the discovery of the 33 blurry and hurried pictures documenting what went on the night the town was murdered, all fingers seem to point to a supernatural cause, but it feels like none of the sides involved here want to consider or take them into account since it seems to contradict their own pre-formed opinions. Thus is the case with politics and I think this film details that with a shrewd, accurate, and intelligent eye.
Aside from all of the politics, SAVAGELAND is a harrowing film as we walk through the role of photographs one by one, describing the terrifying night in detail, how fast it occurred, and how gruesome it really was. The information is doled out patiently and with a conservative hand, building the suspense up as we go through each horrific photo. While the images are blurred, there is still a suggestion of absolute horror and it makes you fill the gaps in with things scarier than any film could play out conventionally.
By the end of the film, it feels like the filmmakers have told such a broad and intricate story all at once that it almost feels completely real, though it does teeter a bit off the rails towards the end when camera footage shows up. While the ending serves its purpose in cementing that the threat seen in the photos is very real, it is a shift in tone and format and doesn’t work with the rest of the film. Still, SAVAGELAND works on many, many levels, convincing the audience that what you are seeing is real and delving into a complex subject in a metaphorical and intelligent way. This one comes highly recommended for those who like a little political debate along with their horrors.
Worth noting: THE DARK BELOW!
THE DARK BELOW just missed this countdown, so I wanted to mention this exercise in silent terror here. Filmed with only one line of dialog, the movie relies on sights, sounds, and evil actions of one man attempting to dispose of a body in a frozen river that isn’t quite dead yet. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Find out where to find this film on its website here!
THE DARK BELOW (2015)
Directed by Douglas Schulze
Written by Douglas Schulze, Jonathan D’Ambrosio
Starring Lauren Mae Shafer, David G.B. Brown, Veronica Cartwright, Zachary Levine,
Seraphina Anne Zorn, Tiffany Burns
Find out more about this film @darkbelowmovie on Facebook here
“Love is cold.” are the only three words uttered in THE DARK BELOW and while occasionally, the pacing is a bit slow, the film itself isn’t hurt by the lack of dialog. Shot in stylistic slo mo’s and moody music, this thriller is definitely on the experimental side, but it is also a successful white-knuckle, nail-biter of a flick.
THE DARK BELOW opens with a violent struggle between a man (David G.B. Brown) and a woman (Lauren Mae Shafer). After knocking her unconscious, the man takes the woman to the middle of a frozen lake, gives her a thermal swim suit and tosses her into a hole in the ice just as she regains consciousness. Trapped under the ice, the woman struggles to survive as the man toys with her above, knocking her back in every time she surfaces. Through flashbacks we learn these two are married and that it appears the man is a serial killer who drowns his victims. The film is the woman’s arduous struggle to get out of her icy grave and get away from the killer above.
THE DARK BELOW boils down its story to its simplest form, leaving it a tightly knit and powerfully potent little bit of cinema. Without dialog, the film relies heavily on the imagery filmmaker Douglas Schulze plays out on the screen and these images are absolutely horrific as the woman struggles time and again to survive in the frozen water. While the action does get a little repetitive and the excessive amount of slo mo ends up dragging the pace a bit, the danger of this film is highlighted amazingly through Shafer’s gutsy performance and never give up attitude. It’s horrifying to see her struggle as the icy waters begin freezing her exposed face and fingers. This film exemplifies frostbite like I’ve never seen before and will definitely make you grimace a time are two as her fingers and face begins to turn purple and black.
While the lack of frozen breath is noticeable, it’s a minor complaint about an amazing and simple film. A bigger complaint would be the motivation of the killer and while it suggests that the killer gets off on toying with the woman, it isn’t made clear why he gives her a chance to live with a wetsuit and oxygen supply. But again, this doesn’t deter from the movie that much as it takes you right along with this unlucky woman’s horrifying struggle leaving one with feelings of claustrophobia and dread the whole way through. Though there is no dialog, this story doesn’t really need it. THE DARK BELOW is a truly unique film worth diving into. Just make sure you watch it wrapped in a blanket because it’s going to chill you to the bone.
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
#10 – SAVAGELAND
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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