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!
#6 THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE #6
Why is THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE #6? Because this is a fantastic film filled with moments of sheer, palbable terror. There are a handful of scenes in this film that deal with suspense so expertly that it hurts. This is one of those films. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available On Demand from IFC Midnight!
THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE (2016)
Directed by André Øvredal
Written by Ian B. Goldberg, Richard Naing
Starring Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton, Parker Sawyers, Jane Perry, Yves O’Hara, & Olwen Catherine Kelly as Jane Doe!
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Andre Øvredal could have done anything with his second feature film after his imaginative and expansive modern found footage fairy tale debut TROLLHUNTER, but instead of going bigger, he reels the scope back in to tell a more claustrophobic and ominous tale with equal potency entitled THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE.
When the body of a woman is found in the basement of a home, the Jane Doe is taken to the local morgue where a father and son team of morticians (Emile Hirsch & Brian Cox) attempt to find out the cause of death and uncover something beyond scientific explanation. With a storm of epic proportions brewing outside and strange occurrences happening in the dark hallways of the morgue, the morticians find out that this is much more than a simple unnamed corpse.
As with TROLLHUNTER, Øvredal chooses to reveal the horror piece by piece in this film which, for the most part, is all about well timed suspense and thrills rather than fantastical elements like giant man-eating monsters. The first half of THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE is a mystery procedural where the morticians rulebook is followed to investigate the cause of death. This is where the compelling detective work comes in as Cox and Hirsch proceed to dissect the corpse and hypothesize what were the events that lead up to her demise. Øvredal is methodical in doling out slivers of info at a torturous pace that kept my attention all the way through. If you’re looking for a movie you cannot predict, this is the one, and most of that is because of Øvredal’s selfish way of leaking information in the first half.
The second half of the film is somewhat more predictable as the supernatural stuff begins to begin. And while I was hooked into this movie by this time, it does seem to lose a skosh of luster as the mystery gives away to more supernatural elements. Still in these scenes, there are terrifying moments where Hirsch and Cox really do go for their all. Cox especially is very physical in this role, but is cool to see from one of his age. I also loved the way the supernatural is something the morticians finally get to and sort of accept by the end of the movie. While some scientist types are seen to be closed minded towards the occult and the supernatural, it’s nice to see these two accept it as unexplained phenomena begin to occur. So when Cox says “Let’s get the hell out of here.” instead of “Let’s investigate this further scientifically” this is a believable moment of realism that you don’t often see in horror films. But this acceptance that there might be supernatural things one cannot explain in the world of this film is foreshadowed early on when Cox’s Tommy admits to being superstitious by tying a bell to the corpses’ ankles just in case they aren’t dead. This little detail also serves as a wonderful setup for a really effective scare later on.
Out of all of the newcomers to horror, Øvredal is one I am most excited about seeing develop as a filmmaker. I hope he sticks around in the world of horror and is able to explore that dark side of fantasy he did so brazenly with TROLLHUNTER and so subtly here with THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE. While there are some conventions that are peppered through the film such as a cat that is just asking to be killed (and sadly is, poor kitty) and the role of Hirsch’s girlfriend which is less of a role and more of a plot device than anything, Øvredal makes up for it with some nail-whitening moments of tension and suspense as well as some fantastically dark moments of sheer terror. He also gets some great performances from Cox and Hirsch who are extremely convincing as father and son morticians.
One thing I could have done without was the weird “Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sun Shine In)” song used in the film every time something weird is about to occur. This song used to be at the end of some of those old FLINTSTONES cartoons and was featured in one of the episodes where Fred and Barney want to make their kids Pebbles and Bamm Bamm into child stars. I always loved the Flintstones and remember that one to be particularly good. See below.
Now, a little research shows this song as being written in 1954 and then rising to popularity when it appeared almost ten years later on that FLINTSTONES episode. While I attest it is a rather creepy song, especially if you listen to the lyrics mentioning the devil numerous times, the evil in THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE is considerably older, so I don’t know why this particular piece of music was used. Odd choice in music aside, THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE is a potent and powerful horror film that utilizes elements of mystery and fantasy in ways to make it totally unique from anything else out there.
Worth noting: THE DEVIL LIVES HERE!
This modern cabin in the woods horror is a terrific homage to both Raimi and Barker. Playing like HELLRAISER and CANDYMAN played out on the sets of EVIL DEAD, THE DEVIL LIVES HERE is proof that the Portugese know their horror. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available on DVD/BluRay from Artsploitation Films!
THE DEVIL LIVES HERE (2015)
aka THE FOSTERING
Directed by Rodrigo Gasparini, Dante Vescio
Written by Guilherme Aranha, Rafael Baliú, M.M. Izidoro
Starring Pedro Caetano, Pedro Carvalho, Mariana Cortines, Felipe Frazão, Diego Goullart, Ivo Müller, Sidney Santiago, Clara Verdier
The Portuguese horror film THE DEVIL LIVES HERE lifts elements from EVIL DEAD, CANDYMAN, and HELLRAISER to create a moody and diabolical little horror tale.
A quartet of kids gather at an old mansion in the countryside that used to be owned by a rich Honey Baron and has a horrible secret past. The slaves of the plantation used to practice voodoo and put a curse on the Honey Baron and his offspring that still haunts the home to this day. When the kids decide to play around with the site where one of the sacrifices was made, they awaken the curse and end up paying for it dearly.
THE DEVIL LIVES HERE Is a harrowing little ghost story reminiscent of CANDYMAN in the subject matter, specifically the fact that honey and millions of bees and ants are involved in the torture and killing of the slaves of the sadistic Honey Baron. But the way the spirits of both those the Honey Baron killed and the Honey Baron himself is reminiscent of another Clive Barker work, HELLRAISER as the kids unleash the terror from the basement and find themselves trapped in the house. Like HELLRAISER, the film utilizes both human terror in the form of the modern descendant of the slaves taking over the home and punishing the kids for trespassing, not knowing that the ghosts of the past walk the dark hallways, which also include a creepy trapdoor basement not unlike the one found in the cabin in EVIL DEAD. While a lot of this has been seen before in other classic films, everything feels new with the solid acting, cool design of the beekeeper outfits, dark atmosphere, and a solid dire tone.
While this is a haunted house, you won’t see a grudge girl or ghostly apparitions, these horrors feel unique and more akin of demons unleashed than your typical haunted house flick you see from Blumhouse. This film is grungier and grittier. The kills are bloody. This is no FRIDAY THE 13TH film where someone is stabbed and immediately falls dead. In this film, the knife wound is twisted and victims last a long time with scant hopes of getting out of the house that grow dimmer by the minute.
Everything from the lighting to the way the narrative jumps through different areas of the house to tell different aspects of this complex story shows that filmmakers Rodrigo Gasparini & Dante Vescio know what they are doing behind the camera. THE DEVIL LIVES HERE feels like a gnarly grindhouse flick unearthed and shown today. It’s got solid scares and a nuanced diabolical story of family secrets, sins, and horrors.
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
#6 – THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE
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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