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 Four of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2013 and going through September 30, 2014. 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, 2013 and September 30, 2014 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 April 11, 2014. Available on digital download, On Demand, and DVD/Blu-ray!

THE BUTTERFLY ROOM (2012)

Directed by Jonathan Zarantonello
Written by Jonathan Zarantonello, Paolo Guerrieri, Luigi Sardiello
Starring Barbara Steele, Ray Wise, Erica Leerhsen, Heather Langenkamp, Ellery Sprayberry, Julia Putnam, Camille Keaton, P.J. Soles, Adrienne King, James Karen, Elea Oberon, Joseph H. Johnson Jr.
Find out more about this film here!

THE BUTTERFLY ROOM was one of those films that really hit me upon watching it many years ago and still feel the need to shout in support of this indie surprise starring some of the true greats of the horror genre.

Mothers have always been a great topic of horror to explore. Be it Faye Dunaway’s evil matriarch in MOMMY DEAREST, Norman Bates’ mom in PSYCHO, Jason’s killer mommy in the FRIDAY THE 13TH series, or even the creepy mother of two rapist bastards in MOTHER’S DAY, a mom gone wrong is something that can always get under our skins as an audience. Throwing her hat into the mix as one of the all-time bad moms is legendary actress Barbara (BLACK SABBATH, PIT & THE PENDULUM) Steele who plays Ann, a seemingly harmless elderly lady living by herself in an apartment complex. By day, she keeps busy cleaning and going on walks, but in the room in the back of her apartment, scary goings-on go on and as Ann reaches out to take care of a neighbor’s daughter while she is away, the secrets of The Butterfly Room, a room which has never had a man in it and never will according to Ann, are about to be revealed.

THE BUTTERFLY ROOM sports a cast of horror heavies the likes of which we rarely see. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET’s Heather Langenkamp plays a protective mother with ties to Ann’s past. Erica Leershen (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, WRONG TURN 2, BLAIR WITCH 2) and Adrienne King (Alice from the first FRIDAY THE 13TH), play mothers as well, as does HALLOWEEN’s P.J. Soles and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE’s Camille Keaton. Rounding out the cast are a few quality dudes by the names of James Karen (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) and TWIN PEAKS’ Ray Wise. All of these performances are fresh in this film and makes you wonder why these actors and actresses haven’t worked since their iconic turns in these iconic films.

Aside from gathering a cast to die for, director Jonathan Zarantonello creates an entire fascinating world revolving around Barbara Steele’s Ann. The apartment complex she lives and does her evil deeds in lives and breathes. The intimate close-ups of Ann working on her butterfly collection bring the viewer in uncomfortably close to this bizarre world where beauty is trapped, pinned down, and put on display. The metaphor of butterfly collecting is not an impenetrable one; rather it supplies a fantastic and creepy springboard to bounce Ann’s twisted emotions from. Though it is clear early on that something twisted is happening with Ann, even when the shocks are revealed, they tend to resonate harder than expected.

Zarantonello also takes some interesting and inventive steps in regards to the industrial beat-filled soundtrack and the leaps forward and backward in time in the narrative. Though this is often a surefire way to lose the reader, Zarantonello is able to lead us along, mainly by focusing always on Steele’s Ann character as the touchstone by which all action in this film stems from. A lesser director would have lost me as a viewer, but Zarantonello is far from a lesser director.

But this is all Steele’s show. In every frame, Steele exudes power and was even able to pull some sympathy from me as the viewer, even after we see her doing evil deeds. We are with her the whole time as she tries to cover her tracks, reaches out and connects with others, and gets burned for by doing so causing her to fight back. Hers is a complex role which is able to ascertain both sympathy and revulsion and Steele hits every note with elegance and charisma.

I can’t recommend this film more and I can’t wait for more of you to see it so I can dialog about it with folks. It is definitely one of the best of the year in its complex narrative and masterful performances all around. THE BUTTERFLY ROOM is one of those films which taps into the simple horrors: the horror of harming a child, the horror of love not returned, the horror of betrayal, and the sheer horror of becoming exactly like ones’ parents. And it does it so, so exquisitely well.




THE 2013-2014 COUNTDOWN!


#14 – THE BUTTERFLY ROOM
#15 – FOUND
#16 – PLUS ONE
#17 – AS ABOVE SO BELOW
#18 – WILLOW CREEK
#19 – MACABRE
#20 – GRAND PIANO
#21 – RIGOR MORTIS
#22 – ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE
#23 – THE MACHINE
#24 – DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN
#25 – THE SACRAMENT
#26 – THE SEASONING HOUSE
#27 – THANATOMORPHOSE
#28 – DEVOURED
#29 – CONTRACTED
#30 – DISCOPATH
#31 – SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY


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

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