M.L. Miller here! Welcome horror fans to my Annual countdown of the Best of the Best in Horror! Running every day through October, this list will culminate with 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. I’ll also provide a “Worth Noting” secondary film suggestion in a separate post. These are films that stood out or just missed being on the list by a skosh—a little extra for those who can’t get enough horror.
How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st 2018 and September 30, 2019 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number, 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 this October will most likely be on next year’s list—so sorry, no films like DOCTOR SLEEP or ZOMBIELAND 2 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 on your own personal social media. 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, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
#6 TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID
TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID is the type of film that Guillermo Del Toro used to make. There’s a genuine heart to this one that seems to beat louder since Del Toro has shifted his work to more mainstream fare for the masses. Unique and modern, this is a fairy tale with devastating impact. Released for the first time wide in September of 2019 on SHUDDER, here’s my review of TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID!
TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID (2017)
Directed by Issa López
Written by Issa López
Starring Paola Lara, Juan Ramón López, Hanssel Casillas, Rodrigo Cortes, Ianis Guerrero, Tenoch Huerta
I used to love Guillermo del Toro’s films. I felt he had this great appreciation for horror that matched his talent. It showed in his earlier films (even MIMIC). Unfortunately, the director seems to have done a belly flop into the mainstream and therefore seems to have lost the edge that put him on the map in the first place. His last few films have had soaring budgets, but the product has suffered from that. The director’s focus seems to be on spectacle rather than character, flash instead of fright, and flourish instead of suspense. I guess it comes with the big budgets. Still I long for the Del Toror of old. TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID is the type of horror film Guillermo del Toro used to do.
Estrella (Paola Lara) and a group of children have been orphaned and left to wander the streets of Mexico after clashes between warring drug cartels have destroyed their city, school, and home. The attack occurs in the middle of a school day, leaving their teacher dead. The teachers last act of kindness was to give Estrella three pieces of chalk, stating that they are three wishes—this related to a fairy tale they were reading in class. Estrella takes this gift seriously and believes that she has the power of three wishes that she will use to survive the dangerous streets filled with decimated buildings and bloodthirsty gangs.
While there is a harsh reality behind the warzone the children live in, TIGERS ARE NOT AFRIAD is a modern day fairy tale. It is filled with enlightening and enchanting moments of these children still being children despite the horrors of the world around them. Happening upon an abandoned hotel, the kids laugh and play, they make believe they are doing an AMERICA’S GOT TALENT style TV show, they play soccer and believe that the overflowing goldfish pond is their own private zoo. It’s absolutely heartbreaking and heartwarming to see these kids retain their childish wonder in these dank conditions. Being forced to grow up faster than they should, this is a story of innocence being held onto just a few days more before it is lost forever.
But this isn’t just a triumph of the human spirit story or a tragedy centering on the loss of innocence. TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID is a wonderful fantasy film as seen through the eyes of Estrella as she witnesses all sorts of magical and terrifying things. Are they figments of her own imagination? Is it a coincidence that the wishes she wishes for come true? Could be. Director Issa López stages it all as if it can be read either way. It’s truly a work of cinema magic that she is able to walk this tightrope, balancing between what could be true horrors or might be the stuff of dreams and nightmares. There are moments of true horror as Estrella seems to be able to communicate with the dead souls of those caught in the path of this warzone. There are moments of sheer fantasy as Estrella’s wishes seem to take form. But it’s all through Estrella’s POV (as realized with some truly marvelous CG), so we see everything with a sort of childlike wonder despite how terrifying the real and imagined world is.
There were more than a few times that I jumped, laughed, gasped, and held back tears at TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID. It’s a true achievement from a real artistic voice from Issa Lopez. Reminiscent of THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE, PAN’S LABYRINTH, and THE ORPHANAGE, TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID is a chilling look at the real horrors befallen the youth of Mexico as well as a glimpse at the unextinguishable spark of innocence and wonder within the eyes of children. See this fantasy horror masterpiece. It’s truly something special.
THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…
#6 – TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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