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!
#2 THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS #2
Why is THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS #2? I toiled between this film and my number one pick for quite a while and short of having a two way tie, I SOPHIE’S CHOICE-d it and chose this one as my number two only by an inch. If you’re sick of zombies, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is the remedy. It’s simply that good. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available On Demand from Lionsgate/Saban Films!
THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (2016)
aka SHE WHO BRINGS GIFTS
Directed by Colm McCarthy
Written by Mike Carey
Starring Gemma Arterton, Dominique Tipper, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Sennia Nanua, Anamaria Marinca, Fisayo Akinade, Anthony Welsh, Tessa Morris, Elise Reed
Find out more about this film @girlwithallthegifts and on Facebook here
I promise you. While you’re going to have to fight back the urge to roll your eyes when I say that one of (if not THE) best horror films of the year is a zombie film, after watching this amazing new take on the well worn subgenre, you’re going to look folks straight in the eye and say it’s true. THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is a sophisticated and wonderfully original tale of the zombie apocalypse that you’ll never forget.
While we aren’t made privy to it in the opening sequences, the world has been overrun by zombie like creatures. The military and scientific communities have been working together for a cure and a defense against these rampaging beasts which spread their virus fast and cause those afflicted to sprint and bite anything and everyone in their path that isn’t afflicted. Meanwhile, a second generation of the affected has been discovered. A handful of children afflicted with the virus are being studied alive and dead to understand the virus better. One of these children is Melanie (Sennia Nanua) a polite and smart little girl who happens to also be afflicted with the virus. Every day Melanie counts down to the moment she is shackled to a wheelchair and taken to class with Miss Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) a kind hearted teacher who struggles with seeing the virus in the eyes of these innocent looking children. When the gates to the military facility are knocked down and the camp is overrun, Melanie, Helen, a gruff Sergeant (the always amazing Paddy Considine), and scientist Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) continue the research and search for both a cure and a safe place to survive.
Right from the top, this film is absolutely amazing and most of that has to do with the bright hearted spirit of Sennia Nanua as Melanie. When we are introduced to her, we only see the inhumanity in the way she is treated in this prison cell where all she has is a few pictures of cats and families to give her hope. And despite all of the horrors around her, Melanie never seems to lose hope and look at the brighter side of horrific situations. She truly is a caged animal, only allowed out for a class she looks forward to and spending time with Helen, a person who actually shows her kindness. But instead of wallowing in self pity, Melanie never seems to have her spirit broken and this is a role that will make you go through a myriad of emotions through as we laugh with her when she is happy and cry when we see her still chin up even in times of true horror. Nanua has a bright career ahead of her and seeing the power in her performance here is something most folks will leave awe-struck. I certainly was.
The story itself, by comic book writer Mike Carey (who wrote LUCIFER and UNWRITTEN) is exactly what I am looking for in zombie film, in that it ventures into uncharted territory. This is not the same old outbreak film you’ve seen a million and one times. This is an altogether new monster as it focuses on humanity trying desperately to cling to this earth despite insurmountable odds. Sure there are scenes of zombies bursting through gates and humans battling masses of biting creatures. But while those scenes are intense, it gets those scenes out of the way for newer, more interesting scenes that takes the story into more of a DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS realm than your typical George Romero joint. The virus is more spore-like and grows like a weed out of the mouths and eyes of the zombies once they are spent and blossoming into something more beautiful and deadly. Again, by giving us something we haven’t seen before, THE GIRL WITH ALL OF THE GIFTS shines brighter than any zombie film I’ve seen in years.
Top level effects, nerve-shredding directing, phenomenal performances from actors who rarely don’t give their all like Paddy Considine to big names who don’t mind getting grungy like Glenn Close. But the glue holding it all together is the amazing relationship between Melanie (Nuana) and Helen (Atherton). It makes the film all the more poetic, unique, and iconic from beginning to end. All of this makes for a shining gem in the crown of horror and something all who call themselves horror fans have no excuse not seeing.
Worth noting: SHE WAS SO PRETTY!
There are a lot of films that deserve to be mentioned this year that I wasn’t able to get to, but SHE WAS SO PRETTY is one that really unnerved me. While it is done on a limited budget, it is able to get under the viewer’s skin (at least this viewer) simply by having its star Jerry Larew pervasively pop up in the background and finally get closer to his prey as the movie goes on. But once this creeper takes action, the weird shit is just beginning. More of an uncomfortable experience than an outright horror film, this one will makje your skin crawl. You can find out how to see it on its website here!
Available on VHS and Vimeo digital download from Dirt Candy Productions!
SHE WAS SO PRETTY (2016)
Directed by Brooke Ewing
Written by Brooke Ewing
Starring Amanda Butler, Garrett Chewning, Justin Ewing, Whitlee Flinn, Jerry Larew, Elvis McComas, Chris Parsons, Natasha Parsons, Rayna Smith, Felicia Zartman
Find out more about this film here, @SheWasSoPretty, and on Facebook here
SHE WAS SO PRETTY is a patient and disturbing little creepshow that takes some risks that work and some that don’t. But overall, it is able to harness a skeevy and twisted feeling that most films only wish they could achieve.
Valerie (Whitlee Flinn) has the sinking feeling she is being watched—at the Laundromat, at the local ice cream parlor, when she’s out partying with her friends, but she has no idea how right she is when the creeper watching her from the shadows makes his move. When Valerie wakes up in the home of serial creeper Alfred James Ellis III (Jerry Larew), she is in for horrors she could never imagine.
SHE WAS SO PRETTY is the ultimate in creeper horror. For the first portion of this film, we bare witness to Valerie happenstancially meeting Alfred James Ellis III then having that meeting turn into full blown stalking and beyond. We see the silent Ellis stand and stare at her, sometimes in the background of the frame without one noticing. And as Ellis seemingly is waiting for a moment to strike make these scenes utterly terrifying as early on we see what Ellis often does with the women he stalks as he catches up to a woman in a parking garage with a knife and no place to go for the woman.
The film can almost be cut into two parts, as the film truly takes a plunge into perversity when Valerie is taken back to Ellis’ home. Decked out in what one would expect from a middle aged creeper in old timey décor as if he hasn’t changed things since his parents had passed, Ellis’ home is a thoroughly planned out den of horrors occupied by one woman he has already converted into a obeying slave and now the prison for Valerie who is going to need some convincing. Seeing Ellis silently manipulate these women is twisted and mesmerizing. It’s utterly perverse and not for the sensitive types. With a little gore and a lot of skeevy perversion, these scenes are going to make every inch of skin on your body crawl.
My only complaint about SHE WAS SO PRETTY is a late in the game twist with an over the top cop (Chris Parsons). His role is so odd it just doesn’t feel like it should occupy the same universe as Ellis. While Parsons is not bad in the role, it just sort of feels flippant and unnatural to the quiet creeping terror we have experienced in the first hour and a half of this film. On the other hand, James Larew is excellent in the role of the creepy Ellis. His blank stare, penetrating eyes, and slighted posture are like nails on a chalkboard and is definitely going to make you shiver.
SHE WAS SO PRETTY is not for the impatient. It’s not for those intolerant of low budget horror. And it’s not for those who cringe at icky situations. It’s perverse, morose, and sometimes just plain wrong, but for a film to do that, it definitely is doing something right when it comes to horror. I look forward to the sequel to SHE WAS SO PRETTY currently being filmed this year subtitled BE GOOD FOR GOODNESS SAKE, which apparently is going for a holiday feel added to all of that creepiness. Can’t wait.
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
#5 – IT
#4 – THE DEVIL’S CANDY
#3 – THE EYES OF MY MOTHER
#2 – THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS
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.
I’ve also set up a Patreon Page to help keep this website rolling. It’s going to be crucial in these early stages that we get some kind of funding to keep the lights on, so if you have extra dough, please support me! Also, if there are any people in need of advertising on MLMILLERWRITES, feel free to contact me here and we can talk turkey!