M.L. Miller here! Welcome horror fans to my Annual countdown of the Best of the Best in Horror! The countdown is going to be running every day through October, culminating to the best horror film of the year announced on October 31st. Some of these films can be found in theaters—others have unfortunately only seen the light of day On Demand, DVD, BluRay, or digital download. I’ve tried to indicate in the reviews how you can watch and enjoy these films yourselves.

How did I compile this list? There’s no real method to my special brand of madness. I simply looked through films released between October 1st 2017 and September 30, 2018 and worked and reworked the list until I had 31. This countdown is not for the elitists or festival goers, so if the film hasn’t been released to the masses, it won’t be on the list. Also anything released in October will most likely be on next year’s list—so sorry, no films like HALLOWEEN or SUSPIRIA just yet. I hope you’ll join me daily and don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion in a separate post that is worth noting this year or missed being on the list by a skosh for those who can’t get enough horror.

So let’s get to it! Chime in after the review 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 darn list…let’s go!

#31 Sam Patton’s DESOLATION #31

Why is Sam Patton’s DESOLATION #31? It’s a simple lost and stalked in the forest film, but it’s a darn good one. Utilizing the forested environment expertly, Sam Patton is able to tell a tale of ultimate isolation and vulnerability of those who are unfamiliar with the world around them. Fine performances and some surprisingly brutal moments make up a memorable little horror film. You can find it on Netflix, iTunes, on Amazon and on DVD/BluRay from IFC Films/Shout Factory!

Sam Patton’s DESOLATION (2017)

Directed by Sam Patton
Written by Matt Anderson, Michael Larson-Kangas
Starring Toby Nichols, Jaimi Paige, Alyshia Ochse, Claude Duhamel
Find out more about this film here

Sam Patton’s DESOLATION is one simple, yet potent woodland survival film.

Recovering from the loss of her husband, Abby (Jaimi Paige) goes on a camping trip with her son Sam (Toby Nichols) and best friend Jen (Alyshia Ochse). But once deep into the woods, Sam notices a man following them (played by Claude Duhamel) and while he increasingly seems to be trailing them closer, he doesn’t explain his intentions and disappears when Abby and Jen approach him. As bad weather rolls in, the trio battle the environment around them as well as this intruder who attacks with seemingly no purpose other than to kill them.

What I love about this film is the simplicity of its story. DESOLATION is a typical (wo)man vs. nature/(wo)man vs. man setup. The twofold threat of the environment they are lost in and the man pursuing them is relentless and cold. The man says nothing and there is no explanation or heavy discourse as to what his motivation is. The man is simply a threat in the distance that is getting increasingly closer. With Abby’s husband succumbing to cancer and things getting pretty bad towards the end, as hinted at in conversations between Abby and Jen, the man begins to represent that cancer, slowly creeping up on them and increasing in threat as he gets closer. It’s easy to assign a metaphorical heft to this film because of the simplicity of the conflict, but that makes it all the more potent when things start to get physical.

Adding to the excellence of this film are the performances across the board with the cast. For a child actor, Toby Nichols is surprisingly mature as a kid who is trying to assume the role of man of the house after his father passes. But the real treat is seeing two relatively unknown actresses become stars I plan on following from here on out. Jaimi Page is fantastic as the overburdened mother trying desperately to keep strong for her son, but showing a softer side when confiding in her best friend Jen. And Alyshia Ochse is full of personality as the free-wheeling friend who tries to keep levity going in a tough situation. Both actresses have an undeniable chemistry and that’s what makes the film pack such a punch when things go sideways.

There’s a surprising amount of effective and practical gore in DESOLATION. While the body count is low, the violence is high and harsh at times. Director Patton captures both the beauty and terror of the rugged forested environment, making this a film that is full of surprises and danger. While I found the ending to be somewhat abrupt, DESOLATION still is one concise and chilling little film that oozes tension and terror from beginning to end.




THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…


#31 – Sam Patton’s DESOLATION


Best of lists from previous years;
2016-17 #1 – RAW
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

Happy Halloween!


M. L. Miller is an original AICN @$$Hole formerly known as Ambush Bug/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.

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Don’t forget to share and like and finally, Happy Horror Holiday Month to Everyone!