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 February 6, 2014. Available on digital download, On Demand, and DVD/Blu-ray!
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Written by José Saramago (based on the novel by), Javier Gullón
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini, Joshua Peace, Tim Post
Find out more about this film here
ENEMY is a subtle, yet effective thriller that creeps up on you like a predator in the night and waits until the last second to pounce. I’ve heard mixed reactions to the film, which was based on the novel THE DOUBLE by José Saramago. The film is definitely not for the literal minded, but even for those who won’t enjoy the surreal elements, the mixture of atmosphere and acting caliber is not to be beat.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam, a reserved college professor who seems about as enthused about teaching as his non-attentive students are. Adam recites the same speeches over and over about totalitarianism and its roots in both ancient and modern society. In a teacher’s lounge, a fellow teacher asks Adam if he watches movies and guides him to watch a particular movie “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way.” Out of boredom, Adam rents the film and sees an extra that looks exactly like him in the film. Doing a bit of IMDB and internet research, Adam finds Anthony (also played by Gyllenhaal), an actor who looks exactly like him. The rest of the film follows Adam as he seeks out Anthony and the reasons behind the fact that he has an exact double walking around. Adam and Anthony both have significant others; for Adam, it’s a passionless relationship with Mary (INGLORIOUS BASTERDS’ Mélanie Laurent), and for Anthony, a pregnant wife in Helen (THE MOTH DIARIES/ANTIVIRAL’s Sarah Gadon). And both have no real idea why they have a doppelganger…well, maybe that’s not entirely true.
To talk about ENEMY in too much detail would give too much away. I will say that it is a film that needs to be paid attention to in order to get the full effect. Director Denis Villeneuve peppers in little clues throughout the entire film; sometimes obvious ones, at other times more subliminal and in the periphery. But if you’re willing to pay close attention, this will be a satisfying film for you.
But if you aren’t the type to pay close attention to the film you’re watching, the film ends on a genuine “WHAT THE HOLY FUCK DID I JUST SEE!” moment that will most likely infuriate the viewer to no end and leave some folks scratching their heads until it bleeds. But if you pay attention to the themes and look at the symbolism of the double, the reoccurring spider imagery, and even the names of the characters, the clues did fall into place for me, although the ending still threw me a bit.
Whether you’re pissed off by the outcome or not, you’re bound to be impressed with, Jake Gyllenhaal, who ups the ante here in the dual role of Adam and Anthony. He incorporates subtle, yet distinguishable features in both roles making it pretty obvious which is which even when they aren’t identified. Sure, wardrobe helped as Anthony is much hipper than the dour Adam, but less subtle things like posture and stance make the two roles feel like they are two actors in the same room. Laurent and Gadon are fantastic as well, both play love interests unsatisfied, yet loyal to their lovers. Their reaction to the possibility that their lover has been switched are distinct and fascinating to see unfold.
Like the spiders which appear everywhere in this film, the dangers of this movie will creep up on you if you let it. Is this a comment on totalitarianism? It would appear so as everything from paintings in the periphery to Adam’s lectures themselves convey the subject matter of an all-consuming menace taking over the world right under our noses. Is it a doppelganger movie? Or do the final minutes suggest instead it’s a monster takeover film told in the most intimate of ways? Like all great pieces of art, this film is completely open to any and all interpretations as Villeneuve doesn’t provide any easy answers.
I will say that watching the bonus feature behind the scenes footage helped in my understanding of the film itself. Seeing it in Blu-ray format may have added to this experience as I was immediately able to access some kind of logical explanation to the gorgeous piece of cinema I had just seen. But even if the true meaning behind the film is left for debate, the powerful dual performance by Gyllenhaal and the engrossing way Villeneuve has fleshed out this alien, yet familiar blocky, modern landscapes in ENEMY make the film satisfying for those who love ambiguity and aren’t afraid of being overwhelmed with dark unknowns as the credits roll.
THE 2013-2014 COUNTDOWN!
#4 – ENEMY
#5 – HONEYMOON
#6 – OCULUS
#7 – BLUE RUIN
#8 – THE GUEST
#9 – CHEAP THRILLS
#10 – HERE COMES THE DEVIL
#11 – PIECES OF TALENT
#12 – CRAWL OR DIE
#13 – TUSK
#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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