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. Moving on to Year Three of my decade-long Retro-Best in Horror recap Countdowns begins officially on October 1, 2012 and goes through September 30, 2013. 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, and even adding 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, 2012 and September 30, 2013 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 June 27, 2013 and available on digital download, On Demand and BluRay/DVD here!
EUROPA REPORT (2013)
aka EUROPA, EUROPA ONE
Directed by Sebastián Cordero
Written by Philip Gelatt
Starring Sharlto Copley, Michael Nyqvist, Christian Camargo, Karolina Wydra, Daniel Wu, Anamaria Marinca, Embeth Davidtz, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Dan Fogler
Sci fi and horror can go hand in hand sometimes. Not always, but sometimes while sci fi can evoke more feelings of wonder, it also can summon the same feelings associated with a good horror film. That’s why I’m recommending EUROPA REPORT right about HERE. It’s a film that deftly harnesses that feeling of wonder and hope, but also those darker feelings of hopelessness, despair, dread, isolation, and sheer terror.
An international crewed spaceship makes its way to Europa, a moon of Jupiter that shows once and maybe still signs of life. The crew is filled with hope as they boldly go where no one has gone before, but that mood quickly changes when bad luck, technical miscalculations, and unpredictable factors from environment of the moon arise.
EUROPA REPORT is a found footage film. But it sort of plays fast and loose with the rules of that genre. As most of those who read my site know, I’m a bit of a stickler with found footage films and the trappings of it all. One of the most crucial aspects of found footage is capturing key scenes and actions on tape and finding a reason not to drop the camera and run. Here, of course, no one can run anywhere. But also, as there is a camera in every room of the spaceship, we see everything that is going on clearly. Still, I lost count of the amount of cameras that seem to be posted in every inch of the ship, sometimes rooms have multiple cameras so we can see these conversations and actions going on. I bought it, but wondered why there were so many of these conveniently posted cameras all around. The film is also set up as a sort of mock-documentary comprised of all of the footage from the mission, rather than something actually found and untouched by editors, sound guys, and a symphony strumming a score for the dramatic moments. While music wasn’t added to the space-footage, there are dramatic cues wedged in there during the interview portions with the crew on Earth who are looking back on all of the mistakes and unforeseen happenings that occurred on the mission. None of them break the rules and sever my suspension of disbelief that the footage seen is actually found in the world of the movie, but they are cheats that help strum the heartstrings and amp up the emotion that most true found footagers can’t do with their limitations.
While many feel that making a found footage is a good way to cut corners, it doesn’t seem to be why EUROPA REPORT was made. Quite a bit of dough was put into this movie to make it look, feel, and sound authentic. There seems to have been a lot of science and research into the story as well as the tiny details that make the ship, the researchers, astronauts, and the scope of the terrain of Europa are quite extensive. Sure the moon parts are most likely CG and while the rooms of the spaceship look authentic, they are all built on a stage. But the production of this film makes it all feel like a multi-million dollar flick.
But the fact that this is a capable and convincing found footager isn’t the highlight of EUROPA REPORT, it’s the profound character scenes that really make this film hit home and hit home hard. Sharlto Copley usually plays over the top characters, but man does he hit this role out of the park as a simple yet noble astronaut. While some might find the character bland, his heartfelt reminiscing of time with his child and what he is missing back home and his earnest motivations for being on the mission really work here. It’s not a dynamic role, but one that will haunt you after viewing in the sheer sadness of it all. All of the characters are well developed and motivated, making the danger of this mission loom all the more. Also notable are the spirited performance of Anamaria Marinca, the stoic leadership of Daniel Wu, and the wide-eyed wonder of Karolina Wydra.
EUROPA REPORT is an all around winner of a film. It’s deftly acted, finely crafted narratively, and offers up a threat that is both unusual and thrilling. It’s a film that feels like it could fit firmly between THE ABYSS and EVENT HORIZON on your video shelf. It’s a film that straddles the wonder of sci fi and the terror of horror masterfully and should please fans of both.
THE 2012-2013 COUNTDOWN!
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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