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!
Why is THELMA #22? Because this is a marvelous film that uses super hero tropes in a nightmarish manner. This film from Norway manages to keep you guessing all the way through. While it isn’t made clear until the end, this is one dark tale that pulls no punches. THELMA is relentless in the way the story unfolds. It’s slow in parts, but makes up for it with an ending that’ll hit you like a sledge hammer. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon!
Directed by Joachim Trier
Written by Joachim Trier & Eskil Vogt
Starring Eili Harboe, Kaya Wilkins, Henrik Rafaelsen, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Grethe Eltervåg, Marte Magnusdotter Solem, Anders Mossling, Vanessa Borgli, Steinar Klouman Hallert, Ingrid Giæver, Oskar Pask, Gorm Alexander Foss Grømer, Camilla Belsvik, Martha Kjørven, Ingrid Jørgensen Dragland, Lars Berge, Vibeke Lundquist, Sigve Bøe, Isabel Christine Andreasen, Tom Louis Lindstrøm, Irina Eidsvold Tøien
Find out more about this film here, @ThelmaFilmUS, and on Facebook here
While there might be a case to call this film slowly paced, I was enrapt with this film from start to finish. Expanding on the “It’s a Wonderful Life” theme from the original TWILIGHT ZONE series, the Norwegian thriller THELMA explores the terrifying threat of a child born with the power of a god.<br.
Thelma (Eili Harboe) is a new student at school, shy and tentative for form relationships with her peers. With parents who are devout Christians, Thelma’s ways are scoffed at and ridiculed by her peers, save Anja (Kaya Wilkins) who is enamoured with the
innocent waif. As Anja and Thelma begin their relationship, Thelma begins experiencing seizures and other weird phenomenon (such as birds flying into windows around her). When a tragedy occurs in the school, Thelma returns home where her parents decide to tell her the truth about her power and the childhood she only barely remembers.
What is so compelling about THELMA is that it takes its time to reveal its hand that it is a film about the supernatural. While there are some odd instances (such as the birds killing themselves by flying into the windows around her and the siezures), you don’t know if there is some unseen force tormenting Thelma or if she is exuding this phenomenon herself. As the film proceeds, we see the full extent of Thelma’s devastating power, culminating in a second half that doesn’t make a lot of noise, but is explosive nonetheless. The subtle way Joachim Trier exemplifies Thelma’s power makes it all the more terrifying by the end.
Actress Eili Harboe is a true find as she encapsulates the frustrations of a child becoming an adult even before her powers are evident. She is a mild mannered and well intentioned young woman, celebrating her little victories with a closed-lipped smile and a brightness in her eyes that are often shielded or looking down. These little subtleties are what make this quiet little movie so powerful. This is a story of great power being possessed by a meek soul and because her power has been hampered by strict parents and rigid religious belief, that power is overflowing and manifests itself in an uncontrollable way. Harboe is able to exude that power without so much as a word.
THELMA is not an effects extravaganza like a CARRIE or X-MEN, though she could fit into those universes quite easily. It’s a resonant and often beautiful tale, focusing on the impact of smaller gestures or passing instinctual thoughts and how in the hands of the untrained, power can be devastating. There are a few scenes that are absolutely harrowing (there’s a scene later on involving someone catching on fire that is done with devastating beauty), but in the end, this is about a caged bird released for the first time. THELMA isn’t a film that breezes by and leaves you longing for the next film. It’s one that’ll stick with you if the pace doesn’t get in the way.
THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…
#31 – Sam Patton’s DESOLATION
#30 – CULT OF CHUCKY
#29 – 1922
#28 – PSYCHOPATHS
#28 – PSYCHOPATHS
#27 – GHOST STORIES
#26 – PYEWACKET
#25 – DOWNRANGE
#24 – MAYHEM
#23 – COLD SKIN
#22 – THELMA
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
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!
I’ve been watching movies off of your list for years and years now. Eagerly anticipating it each year; going to disagree with you on this one. But glad you included it, hey at least it provoked some conversation.
Spoiler Alerts, etc…
Maybe it’s because I was unfortunate enough to have made a double feature of two entirely pretentious and derivative movies in the same night, (the other one being the sordid Mandy. Someone write that director a citation for slo-mo abuse) but Thelma left me salty as hell.
First off, and you aptly put it, this film is basically a complete rip off of a classic Twilight Zone episode with some medical horror, weak “I’m young, so of course I’m an asshole” coming-of-age plot, and lesbianism* thrown in. All against the background of a whole lotta seizure enducing strobe light. (And to think the theatre I saw Mandy at had a seizure warning for it, Mandy has nothing on Thelma! Are we using epilepsy as a plot device or trying to induce it here?)
(*lesbians you say? Oh yeah, you’ve got the green light. And not in the 90s “I just wanna see em scissor,” way, heh heh, but because I just believe in love. -Producer of Thelma)
The major point of disagreement I have is that Thelma as a character is so shallowly written (but selfish) so as to be nearly a cipher. Except oh yeah, the movie hammers me over the head (and yes it does) that I’m supposed to root for her and all of her terrible behaviors and decisions; because she’s a burgeoning lesbian. Yeah, uh no. To paraphrase Buford T. Justice: “That’s just Communism!”
I’m so absolutely tired of the Chrisitian as a scapegoat trope (and I’m not a Chrisitian), just as tired as I am of the “lesbian heroine” trope. As in, she likes to kiss girls so no matter what she does, she’s our girl, why? Cause LGBT! Yeah, no, that sounds closer to being clergy in the Catholic Church than anything, to me.
Did I mention the superhero tropes turned on their head? Wondering if it’s actually supernatural or not? All stuff for which I do agree with you was semi-ok. Ok, moving on.
Ugh the seizure lights. Are we trying to accurately cover epilepsy diagnostic tests here or induce epilepsy? Both? Well I’m going to refer my Doc to this movie if they ever need proof I’m not epileptic. “Well, I made it through Thelma without my brain misfiring to shut itself down. And believe me, I sure wanted it to.” Also, were we really thinking of the epileptic community here? Did we think of the epileptics? Cause we gotta think of every possible subclass before we write a screenplay these days. (Unless we’re Tarantino.) I don’t think we thought of the epileptics. Someone inform the Chairman.
Ok, that was a big digression. Back on track.
Ultimately, her father is supposed to be written as this film’s “big bad” because he’s so morally pious that he “repressses” Thelma. A point this film makes that you detected, and described as such. He represses her so much so that she does him off by burning him alive with her awesome mind powers we’ve seen a billion times. And doesn’t bring him back at the end; although she does bring back her Mom’s legs and her hot girlfriend. (Go lesbians! Whoo whoo!) She also doesn’t bring back her baby brother for that matter, who we learn is our burgeoning good girl superhero’s first kill.
I do agree, that her pious father, for all of his incredibly abusive backwards Christian ways (he held her hand over a candle, GASP!) is the least moral character in the movie. The moral thing would have been to pull the trigger on that deer rifle in the beginning of the movie, blowing little Thelma’s brains out, saving his world, and saving us from such a painfully dull watch.
Looking forward to the rest of your list, as always. Glad you’re keeping on with it and hope you continue for years and years to come.
Sorry this one didn’t work for you. I saw it as a successor to Carrie (which had a pretty strong take on Catholics itself) and a middle way between horror and the X-Men films (specifically the openings of those films which highlighted the horror of the mutant’s power when it is first discovered). I felt the “origin” part of those films were the most effective and was reminded of it in THELMA.
And I have to disagree with you on MANDY. I felt it was a fantastic second effort from Cosmatos. BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW blew me away and so did MANDY. Oh well, at least there are close to sixty other films on this countdown to choose from.
Hey thanks for replying! No need to apologize to me, I really owe you one (2, 3 etc haha) for discovering so many of my all time favorites over the years.
Your top 10, top 5, is always been dead on accurate for me, really looking forward to it. Filling out 30 movies is a huge undertaking and I’m really happy that you do it.
Not everyone is bound to agree but you make a good case for every movie. Most of all, I appreciate your honesty considering not only the strengths of a movie, but also weaknesses. You’re a true reviewer, not a cheerleader.
Hopefully I get to watch The Ritual tonight, really looking forward to it and hadn’t heard of it until you brought it to my attention.
The thing I did appreciate about Thelma was the superhero origin turned on its head. Pretty terrifying concept. I suppose that’s why I enjoyed Chronicle, for shades of that theme.
We are in agreement over Beyond the Black Rainbow. I really loved that film.
Hope to get back to you about the Ritual. I check your list everyday, it’s definitely a highlight of Halloween.