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. Last month, counted down my favorite horror films from my first year of reviewing. Now it’s on to Year Two which began officially on October 1, 2011 and went through September 30, 2012. I have posted compilation 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 worked and 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, 2011 and September 30, 2012 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 7, 2012 and available on Video On Demand, digital download, and DVD/BluRay!

HAROLD’S GOING STIFF (2011)

Directed by Keith Wright
Written by Keith Wright
Starring Stan Rowe, Sarah Spencer, Andy Pandini, Lee Thompson, Richard Harrison, Phil Gascoyne, Molly Howe
Find out more about this film here and here!

Like a lot of you, I grow weary of all of the zombie films out there with zero creativity and production value. That said, I don’t want to call a moratorium on watching zombie films because I know that if I do, I’d miss films like HAROLD’S GOING STIFF. Though the title may make you think we’re about to venture into porn territory, HAROLD’S GOING STIFF couldn’t be further from it. I think it’s safe to say that HAROLD’S GOING STIFF is one of the most original takes on the zombie genre.

Harold is an elderly man suffering from a neurological epidemic called ORD (Onset Rigors Disease) spreading across Europe which begins with stiffness of the joints, then spreads to full on violent dementia. Because the culture has been so saturated with the films, these stiff-jointed madmen have been dubbed zombies. While scientists race to find a cure for the disease, vigilante groups have taken it upon themselves to take care of the zombies to prevent an apocalypse. HAROLD’S GOING STIFF depicts the life of Harold as he copes with his illness and forms a relationship with his nurse/physical therapist assigned to treat him during his final days.

Filmed as a mockumentary, director/writer Keith Wright blends humor, drama, and horror to make one of the most unique zombie horror films I’ve ever seen. Wright doesn’t focus on the gore or the violence; rather, he rests his camera on Harold (played by the genuinely wholesome Stan Rowe) and Penny his nurse (played by the plucky and resilient Sarah Spencer). You can’t help but care for these two characters as we see them struggle with all the highs and lows of someone suffering from a debilitating ailment. These two characters are as endearing as can be, with Harold’s soft-spoken pleasantry perfectly complimenting Penny’s vibrant optimism. As Penny’s therapy begins to work with Harold, I found myself rooting for both of these characters to conquer this disease.

The film cuts from this heart-warming friendship to follow a doctor who is dedicated to finding a cure, two workers at a volunteer shelter who are caring for ORD sufferers in the latter stages of the disease, and a trio of bumbling yet homicidal vigilantes offering a clear and expansive picture of how this disease has been effecting the UK society. The trio (played by Andy Pandini, Lee Thompson, Richard Harrison) work somewhat well together. One’s a brute, one’s an idiot, and one’s the leader who may be having some doubts about this mission. Again, unlike other zombie films, Wright takes his time to give these characters multiple layers, showing the good and bad parts, and allowing the audience to be sucked into their story.

I love every aspect of this film. Like all of the best zombie films, it actually has something to say. I took it as a metaphor for the treatment of the elderly in society—shunning them, outcasting them, shuffling them off to some facility to be forgotten and mistreated, and eventually deciding ourselves when to put them down. As Harold’s illness worsens, he is taken advantage of and manipulated by the “villains” of this film. Being the person he is, Harold softly sits by and takes the abuse, with Penny being his only supporter and true friend.

Though the themes may be heavy, I laughed out loud numerous times at HAROLD’S GOING STIFF. There are genuine moments of sheer and infectious joy between Harold and Penny. The bumbling vigilantes are often hilarious to follow as well; all of it captured in a documentarian style that adds to the hilarity. Like TROLLHUNTER, it follows this absurd subject matter convincing you that this is truth on film. Unlike TROLLHUNTER, this is a much more down to earth film, relying less on epic thrills and more on resonating heartwarming/heart wrenching moments.

I can’t champion this film enough. HAROLD’S GOING STIFF is one of the reasons I love the vast horror landscape. It’s unique and fresh, offering a new take on a subgenre of horror that has very little life in it anymore. If you’re going through zombie film fatigue, one look at HAROLD’S GOING STIFF will definitely shut the haters up and prove that when done well, great zombie films can still be made. HAROLD’S GOING STIFF will make you feel feelings you never thought you’d feel while watching a zombie film. I laughed and cried and laughed again. It’s a truly endearing achievement of a film and should be sought out by all readers of this column.

Trust me and just put this film on your radar. It is sure to please.


THE 2011-2012 COUNTDOWN!


#12 – HAROLD’S GOING STIFF
#13 – SOUND OF MY VOICE
#14 – COLD SWEAT
#15 – THE INNKEEPERS
#16 – THE PACT
#17 – V/H/S
#18 – OUTCAST
#19 – LITTLE DEATHS
#20 – JUAN OF THE DEAD
#21 – BLOOD JUNKIE
#22 – THE SNOWTON MURDERS
#23 – PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3
#24 – [REC]3 GENESIS
#25 – JULIA’S EYES
#26 – MOTHER’S DAY
#27 – EL PARAMO (THE SQUAD)
#28 – INBRED
#29 – THE SLEEPER
#30 – FATHER’S DAY
#31 – THE MOTH DIARIES


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

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