M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved starting with the year I began reviewing the genre officially October 1, 2010 through October 1, 2011. I have posted my best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around a bit. I’ve even added a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!

How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2010 and September 30, 2011 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number, 31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. 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!

Released on August 19, 2011. Available On Demand, digital download, DVD/BluRay, and on SHUDDER!

#1 – THE LAST CIRCUS (2011)

AKA BALADA TRISTE
Directed by Álex de la Iglesia
Written by Álex de la Iglesia
Starring Carlos Areces, Antonio de la Torre, Carolina Bang, Sancho Gracia, Alejandro Tejerías, & Manuel Tallafé
Find out more about this film here and on its Facebook page!

Almost uncategorizable, THE LAST CIRCUS skips from one genre to the next leaving the viewer wondering not only what is going to happen next, but what type of film this will be next. In the end, the only way I can categorize it would be as an epic. THE LAST CIRCUS spans many years, many locales, and many characters, mixing a heart-wrenching drama about circus life with dark comedy, but soon becomes a most bizarre horror film and ends with a climax straight from a Burton-esque Batman film. Sound cool? Well, it is. Director Álex de la Iglesia juggles these genres as if he’d been trained in the Olympics for it, never settling on conventions of any of the genres for too long—just long enough to watch a sad clown stumble aimlessly through his twisted life.

In many ways, I would compare this film in theme to SHAKES THE CLOWN, Bobcat Goldthwait’s cult classic film about the seedy underbelly of clown culture. de la Iglesia goes to great lengths to explain the differences between the sad clown and the happy clown. Seems happy clowns are the stars, loving the spotlight, enjoying life and bringing smiles to children’s faces. Sad clowns have never experienced being a kid, therefore don’t understand them. Instead, the sad clown appears to be the butt of the jokes and spends most of his time making the happy clown look good. Though the story is vastly different, I couldn’t help but think of the dynamic between THE SIMPSONS’ Krusty the Clown and Sideshow Bob, though our sad clown, Javier (played by Carlos Areces who looks like a chubby Tom Lennon), doesn’t covet the stardom of our happy clown Sergio (played by Antonio de la Torre who reminded me of a devilish Kevin Kline). Javier is completely content with being a sad clown and plays the role to perfection. But like Sideshow Bob, Javier does covet something owned by the happy clown: his girlfriend Natalia (played by the gorgeous and talented Carolina Bang), who stars as the circus’ main acrobat performer. Though he is abusive to Natalia, Sergio seems to have her heart, but when she befriends Javier, almost out of spite, she doesn’t know how unstable the sad clown really is. Soon, the two fall into some kind of love, but the relationship is much more complex than that, with Natalia metaphorically and literally swinging from the trapeze from one clown to the other throughout the film.

On top of the intense emotions at play, THE LAST CIRCUS is a visual Old Town Buffet with expansive set pieces such as circus big tops, battlefields littered with military forces, rolling countrysides, dark forests, trippy dream sequences, carnival parks, night clubs with a Kojak theme, and a bell tower sequence that is as gothic and comic booky as they come. Did I forget to mention that the bulk of this film takes place in the 1970’s so everything is steeped in the that gaudy and dayglo style of that decade as well?

Carlos Areces is a new face for me, but one who plays a man who is clearly bent to perfection. He is a chunky man-child, experiencing the world through wide, sad eyes. He is utterly endearing in some scenes, horrifying in others. His descent from boy to clown to man to beast to tool of redemption may be over the top, but utterly believable given de la Iglesia’s lens, the warped story, and Areces’ completely brave performance. Antonio de la Torre, as well, turns in a powerful performance who is a happy clown who would be a murderer if he wasn’t able to make children laugh. His snake-like eyes glaring from beneath his clown make-up makes for truly one of the scariest performances by a clown ever on screen. The hatred between these two clowns boils molten right up until the very end.

THE LAST CIRCUS is an epic masterpiece filled with insanity, violence, heartbreak, visuals both marvelous and nightmarish, and completely, utterly original in every sense of the word. You’ve never seen anything like THE LAST CIRCUS before, I promise you!


THE 2010-2011 COUNTDOWN!


#1 – THE LAST CIRCUS
#2 – ATTACK THE BLOCK
#3 – TROLLHUNTER
#4 – I SAW THE DEVIL
#5 – BLACK SWAN
#6 – MUTANTS
#7 – THE SILENT HOUSE
#8 – LET ME IN
#9 – THE REEF
#10 – RED, WHITE, & BLUE
#11 – A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE
#12 – WE ARE WHAT WE ARE
#13 – DOGTOOTH
#14 – PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2
#15 – KIDNAPPED
#16 – INSIDIOUS
#17 – A SERBIAN FILM
#18 – TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL
#19 – HEARTLESS
#20 – ABSENTIA
#21 – BEREAVEMENT
#22 – RUBBER
#23 – GRAVE ENCOUNTERS
#24 – STAKE LAND
#25 – WAKE WOOD
#26 – LONG PIGS
#27 – HUSK
#28 – YELLOWBRICKROAD
#29 – MONSTERS
#30 – LA HORDE
#31 – THE VIOLENT KIND


M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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