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 January 17, 2014. Available on digital download, On Demand, and DVD/Blu-ray!

BIG BAD WOLVES (2013)

Directed by Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
Written by Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
Starring Guy Adler, Lior Ashkenazi, Dvir Benedek, Gur Bentwich, Doval’e Glickman, Tzahi Grad, Rotem Keinan, Nati Kluger, Kais Nashif, Menashe Noy, Ami Weinberg

Though it is not horror in the sense of having monsters with giant teeth and fangs or insubstantial ghosts or walking corpses or handheld cameras, BIG BAD WOLVES does convey the horror of humanity in a manner that will hit you hard with a gripping story, powerful acting, and scenes that will most assuredly leave a deep gash in your heart.

Much like their previous accomplishment RABIES, writer/directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado map out an intricately charted tale that involves a lot of moving parts, character intersections, and plotlines that twist and turn in all directions. Though the cast is somewhat smaller than RABIES, the motivations of all of the players involved flow in and out of the story and all seem to come together in the ultra-powerful ending. Keshales and Papushado do a fantastic job of not only juggling these storylines so that they make sense from start to finish with the viewer, but they also thread them together in ways you could never guess. Though comparisons are going to be made to Tarantino, I often find his plot construction to be much more obvious and failing in terms of subtlety. More like Hitchcock, Keshales and Papushado deal with multiple storylines, but do so with a gentler, more deceptive handling of suspense and pacing. Scenes which we know will end badly are prolonged to the nth degree just to make the viewer and the unfortunate person strapped to a chair squirm all the more.

BIG BAD WOLVES deals with the theme of child abduction and victimization and how the accusations of these crimes can ruin a person. It also deals with the weight of the crime itself. And also deals with the reactions we all have when the young are endangered. Looking at this concept from such a broad scope might be difficult to pull off, but the filmmakers do this expertly by casting memorable characters which represent each standpoint. Though each of the characters involved represent one view, the actors Lior Ashkenazi, Tzahi Grad, Rotem Keinan, and Doval’e Glickman portray them as real, fleshed-out characters and not just metaphorical representations of an idea.

Though there’s much more to the story, here’s the basics. A series of child abductions and murders have plagued the city for a while. Lior Ashkenazi plays Miki a burnt out cop who recognizes the faults of the system and relies on his gut which tells him that Dror (Rotem Keinan) a school teacher is responsible for the abductions. Tzahi Grad plays Gidi, the father of a girl who has gone missing and has the same feelings about Dror. Though he isn’t convicted of the crime, Dror finds himself bound in the basement of Gidi’s home. The rest of this film plays out mostly in this basement and this latter half is made of stuff tighter than the highest trapeze wire.

Though I don’t recognize any of the Israeli actors, all of them deliver performances of the tip-toppest of calibers. Ashkenazi is fantastic as the desperate cop whose life is crumbling around him. Keinan juggles the truth like a circus clown and while one minute you’re convinced he did the crime; the actor flips and you believe he is falsely accused. Grad’s calm demeanor is haunting to watch. He is a shell of a man without his daughter and is out to make someone pay. And despite the fact that he looks somewhat similar to Larry David, Doval’e Glickman is fantastic as Gidi’s father, the comedic relief/voice of morality. Seeing these four actors slam into one another is amazing.

Be they long takes of the camera following a hammer down a long hallway or tight shots of the facial reactions of Dror strapped to his chair or the calm demeanor Gidi seems to have through it all, the filmmakers make every scene count big, working towards an ending that resonates on levels upon levels. I was moved so much by the ending of this film and feel it’s one of the most powerful in modern cinema.

BIG BAD WOLVES doesn’t have big stars or over the top effects. But it is packing some of the most potent emotional power you’re going to find in a film this year. Keshales and Papushado are going to be huge one they hit mainstream. See BIG BAD WOLVES and their previous film RABIES now and be one of the cool ones who knew them before they break out.

Don’t get caught napping and miss one of the most emotionally horrifying and masterfully executed film of the year.

Click here for the trailer!


THE 2013-2014 COUNTDOWN!


#2 – BIG BAD WOLVES
#3 – UNDER THE SKIN
#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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