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!
#7 CAPTURE KILL RELEASE #7
Why is CAPTURE KILL RELEASE #7? It is single handedly the best found footage film you’re going to see. Every step of the way is meant to either engage you with this couple or push you away, making this film feel like a tug of war for the senses. Two rock solid performances. Amazing story. Perfect authenticity. I loved every second of this harrowing little film. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available On Demand and digital download from Midnight Releasing!
CAPTURE KILL RELEASE (2016)
Directed by Nick McAnulty, Brian Allan Stewart
Written by Nick McAnulty
Starring Jennifer Fraser, Farhang Ghajar, Jon Gates, Rich Piatkowski, Christina Schimmel
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Some of the best horror films are much more than just horror films and CAPTURE KILL RELEASE definitely falls into that category. This is a film that is not only chilling and gory, but it is also a wonderful look at a dysfunctional relationship between two extremely flawed characters. Being a found footage film, CAPTURE KILL RELEASE is going to be a film many scoff at given the inundation of films made in this format we’ve seen recently, but recently I’ve come to accept found footage not as a fad, but a legitimate subgenre of horror, mainly because, at least for me, this sort of film can still grab me and great films such as this one can still be made—making the subgenre feel fresh as it was when BLAIR WITCH PROJECT first came out.
I have a certain criteria for found footage films that take the form of the below questionnaire that I will apply to CAPTURE KILL RELEASE, but this is a film, I believe fans of the subgenre and those who aren’t will both want to seek out.
What’s the premise?
A married couple, Jen and Farhang (Jennifer Fraser & Farhang Ghajar) have decided to plan a murder. The film goes through their process from planning stages, to prep work, to the stalking, to the actual execution. But as they get closer and closer to making the actual kill, one of them becomes reluctant to do it.
Are the actors believably acting like they aren’t acting?
The acting in this film is it’s strongest asset, besides the unpredictability of the story. Jennifer Fraser plays Jen as a deeply unhinged person who has attached herself to a pushover in Farhang (Farhang Ghajar). While the words coming from her mouth are utterly bone-chilling, she is utterly seducing and manipulative in the way she leads Farhang around in order to appease a bloodlust inside of her. Jenn is downright giddy in some scenes preparing for this kill and her charisma is intoxicating. One understands why someone like Farhang might fall for her and do whatever she wants to make her happy. On the other side of the spectrum is Farhang, who is equally strong and believable here. The fact that these two actors are able to be so comfortable with one another and as well as have such distinct personalities is what makes this film all the more convincing and engrossing. Without these two particular actors, I don’t think they would have been able to pull off this movie at all.
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)?
Yes, nothing in this film seems to be added. No music. No major edits other than turning on and off the camera. This is a film that tries to make it as believable as possible that this might be a film stumbled upon with the only things happening in the footage occurring within the universe of the story, making it all the more believable.
Is there a valid reason the camera isn’t dropped and they just get the hell out of there?
Most definitely. Jenn is addicted to making this footage to rewatch it later. She is obviously a very sick person and she wants to map out every single detail in front of the camera from a playful gathering of tools at home depot to stalking their intended victim and leading him into their home. Later, the main conflict between Jenn and Fahhang is the fact that Jenn must keep the camera rolling at all times and seems to love this recording more than the relationship itself.
Is the lead in too long and the payoff too short?
Quite the opposite. We hit the ground running with this film and actually have to catch up with Jenn’s manic excitement in plotting and planning this kill. This reason why this film is so good is because it keeps things interesting from beginning to end. A lot of that has to do with the amazing performances by Jenn and Farhang, but they are doing a lot of stuff to fill that time as well. I was entranced with this film from beginning to end wondering how far down the abyss it would go.
Is there an up-nose BLAIR WITCH confessional or a REC-drag away from the camera?
Nope, and I love this film for not succumbing to these tired clichés which need to be retired in the found footage subgenre.
Does anything actually happen?
A whole hell of a lot happens. While many found footagers seem to end abruptly with no real feeling of resolution, CAPTURE KILL RELEASE tells a complete story about a flawed relationship.
Does the film add anything to the subgenre and is this one worth watching?
CAPTURE KILL RELEASE is one of the best found footage films you’re going to find. It embraces the found footage blueprint, but never lets it hinder the story. The film uses the format in new and exciting ways by telling an intimate story of flawed romance, twisted morals, and the horror of love. One warning though; cat lovers might want to take a break at about the halfway point in this film as one kitty meets an untimely end. While I hate animal cruelty and usually don’t want to see it in my movies, this scene does serve a purpose and is the first indication that there are going to be problems with Jenn and Farhang’s plans. Playing out like a found footage version of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (with the way the killers plot their murders and the rules they live by) with less tongue and cheekiness of MAN BITES DOG and BEHIND THE MASK, CAPTURE KILL RELEASE is one film you don’t want to miss. Fans of found footage are going to love this, as will those who don’t like the format, as it has engaging characters you can’t help but like, despite their obvious flaws.
Worth noting: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO SNUFF!
While CAPTURE KILL RELEASE might take the material of making a film out of a murder deathly serious, A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO SNUFF walks through the same territory with a little lighter gait. This is one fun little murder caper bungled all the way by Joey Kern and Like Edwards that manages to highlight the immense talent in Bree Williamson as their not so hapless “victim.” Check out this underseen gem. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available from Indican Pictures!
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO SNUFF (2016)
Directed by Mitchell Altieri
Written by Cory Knauf, Adam Weis, Mitchell Altieri
Starring Joey Kern, Luke Edwards, Bree Williamson, Brad Greenquist, Perry Laylon Ojeda, Carter MacIntyre, Caroline Adnams, Kimberley Crossman, Tasmin Einhorn, Alfonso Faustino, Sara Fletcher, Tao Jensen, Ana Lorenzana, Kara Luiz, Alexa Niemi, Candace Pittman, Keith Roenke, Milynn Sarley, Chelle Sherrill, Vera Teixeira, Katie Wilbert, Jadine Wong
Find out more about this film here
A pitch black comedic tone and some fine performances by the three leads makes A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO SNUFF the last call on torture porn…and I mean that in a good way!
Struggling to get noticed and famous in Hollywood, brothers Dresden (Joey Kern) and Anthony (Luke Edwards) are just about the give up the ghost and move back home to their parents’ basement and give in that the good life just isn’t in their future. But when they find out about a horror film contest with a large paycheck, they come up with a plan to make as close to an honest to gosh snuff film as possible by actually kidnapping a young actress and take her to edge of death so they can get the best and most realistic performance out of her. After a hilarious round of auditions where Dresden belittles pretty much every actress who comes in, both are blown away by a young beauty named Jennifer (Bree Williamson). But after kidnapping her and threatening her a bit in a secluded warehouse, the tides are turned and the predators become the prey as Jennifer turns out to be much more than the brothers bargained for.
While the Butcher Brothers have made a name for themselves for intense horrors like THE HAMILTONS, THE VIOLENT KIND, and HOLY GHOST PEOPLE (all excellent horror films in their own right), they do a fantastic job of lightening the tone for comedy, but keeping that dark taste for blood still on the menu. What works are the comedic beats in this film as it is much more of a comedy with horror elements than an out and out horror comedy. In many ways, the film feels like a Cohen Brothers film where the perfect crime is plotted, but the execution goes horribly, horribly wrong. And it’s all because of the bonehead moves of the two bungling brothers played by Kern and Edwards. Appearing shirtless for the first third of the movie, the two actors remind me of performances in another Joey Kern film, THE SASQUATCH GANG (reviewed here), as Kern sort of reprises his role as the shirtless loser who lives with a family who never wears shirts as well. Seeing these two lovable losers try their damnedest to take on this formidable foe in Williamson is tightly choreographed and absolutely fun comedy of errors.
Kern is fantastic as the more twisted and misguided of the two brothers. He’s more starved for fame and, as we find out later, he has a history of being a little unhinged. Seeing Edwards, the nicer and more innocent of the two brothers, try to reel Kern in is what causes the most laughs. While Edwards plays the straight man, he gets to shine every now and then as he begins to get into making this film as well. The scene where Edwards reacts to the Obama mask Kern buys him for a disguise is one of the most priceless moments of the whole movie. And while the antics of the two brothers are great, Bree Williamson really does steal the show. She has charisma for days and while she is drop dead gorgeous, it’s her “no fucks given” attitude that really makes her star shine. She is definitely a talent to watch.
While I have grown rather sick of torture porn, this film kind of uses all of the tropes and turns them on their ass, making it all feel fun and fresh. There is very little gore, though there is a pretty gnarly scene where Dresden waterboards Jennifer with dog’s blood that pushes the boundaries of what I can put up with. But for the most part, the gore is done at a comedic level. Each time the film begins to get too serious, one of the three main characters says or does something so over the top that it redeems itself. So even if torture porn is something you’re completely over with, this film accomplishes the impossible and made the tired subgenre of horror almost interesting again. If I never see a “strapped to a chair and tortured” film again, I’ll be happy as A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO SNUFF points out how ridiculous it all is and manages to tell a pretty capable morality tale and a rock solid comedy at the same time.
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
#9 – GET OUT
#8 – THE VOID
#7 – CAPTURE KILL RELEASE
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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