M.L. Miller here! As I go into my 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 Seven of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2017 and going through September 30, 2018. I have posted Best of 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! 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 23, 2018. Available on Blu-ray/DVD, On Demand, and digital download!

ANNIHILATION (2018)

Directed by Alex Garland
Written by Alex Garland (screenplay), based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer
Starring Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Oscar Issac, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Benedict Wong, Sonoya Mizuno, David Gyasi, Sammy Hayman, Josh Danford
Find out more about this film here!

Alex Garland, the filmmaker behind EX MACHINA offers up another blend of sci fi and horror adapting Jeff VanderMeer’s riveting novel ANNIHILATION. It’s got an all-star cast, big budget effects, a whole lot of chills and thrills, and a few idiotic things that murdered my suspension of disbelief like a camper at Crystal Lake.

After a meteor lands in the swamps of Florida, a scientific anomaly dubbed “the Shimmer” begins growing outward from the impact crater. After a few military excursions into the Shimmer have proven unsuccessful, resulting in the disappearance of numerous soldiers and scientists, a biologist named Lena (Natalie Portman) is recruited to be on a top-secret team to investigate the phenomenon. So they cautiously suit up in hazmat suits and protective gear, accompanied by well-armed professional soldiers, and venture tentatively into the Shimmer using all of their scientific knowledge of infestation, contagion, and radioactive contamination they learned in “the Science School” to get to the root of the problem.

Except, they don’t do that at all.

Instead of using things like precaution and scientific know-how (because, this is a team full of the leading biological and scientific minds in the nation), the barge in sleeveless, maskless, and precaution free into an alien zone where numerous previous excursions have resulted in the disappearance and possible death of multiple soldiers. Did Garland not see ALIEN COVENANT? You know, the movie where a group of big brain scientists venture onto an alien world without gas masks, gloves, or any protective gear and end up being infected by an alien virus because they weren’t wearing gas masks, gloves, or any protective gear? So, what happens to Natty P, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and a few others when they venture into the middle of the Shimmer without gas masks, gloves, or any protective gear?

THEY FUCKING GET CONTAMINATED BY ALIEN SHIT!!!

These are scientists going into a strange environment where several people have disappeared and most likely died in previous excursions. These are scientists. Smart people. Sure, they were smart enough to arm-up with machine guns, but no masks to protect from contamination and wander around this place in tank tops!?!?!

This happens in the first twenty minutes of the film and dammit if it didn’t knock my ass straight out of this film and into MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER-ville for quite a while after it. I understand this film was a strong character piece where the cast had to show emotions and communicate clearly between people. I also understand that this is a film about female empowerment, and they wanted to show that this is a team of women venturing into an unknown that men have failed to survive before. I also understand that, as with any superhero movie, for reasons that all point to ego and lack of faith in the audience that stars don’t like the wear masks and need to remind the viewer that there’s a person under those masks because we are all morons. But this is plain stupid and for what, so we can see Natalie Portman scream and fire a machine gun at alien shit.

Thankfully, this film picks up after that unbelievably boneheaded move midway through the film and offers up one of the most terrifying sequences you’re bound to find in any movie this year involving an infected bear that channels the screams of its victims. This is a razor-sharp sequence that you can’t get out of without a few scars. The effects in this film are downright amazing, especially the monster bear sequence, but also during some of the other sequences as the Shimmer chips away at the sanity, souls, and the bodies of these idiot scientists. All of it looks fantastic, from sequences where people turn into plants, to demon bears, to the final trippy battle Lena (Portman) and a doppelganger.

I was impressed with the finale of ANNIHILATION. It’s is one of those existential battles involving a lot of 2001 psychedelia, rife with strobe lights, swirling colors, and hypnotic imagery, but I can understand why it wouldn’t be universally loved as it does transport this film, which had been a pretty gritty and grounded sci fi monster fest, into something a little more heady. I can also understand why people didn’t really dig the ending, which leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

Apart from the boneheaded precaution these “smart” scientists failed to take, ANNIHILATION is one of the better genre films of the year. After viewing the bear sequence, I’d love to see what Garner could do with straight up horror. He is a truly visionary director and one I will always follow, but all it takes is one ridiculous moment of really ruin a movie and this one teetered on the abyss of ruination because the producers decided see-through protective helmets wouldn’t be a good thing. Sorry to harp on it, but that simple fact makes ANNIHILATION an almost great film.

Click here for the trailer!


THE 2017-2018 COUNTDOWN!


#10 – ANNIHILATION
#11 – FAKE BLOOD
#12 – MON MON MON MONSTERS
#13 – THE ENDLESS
#14 – THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
#15 – LET HER OUT
#16 – FOUND FOOTAGE 3D
#17 – DOWNRANGE
#18 – BLACK HOLLOW CAGE
#19 – HAPPY DEATH DAY
#20 – MOM & DAD
#21 – THE LANDING
#22 – TONIGHT SHE COMES
#23 – THE RITUAL
#24 – THE BABYSITTER
#25 – MARROWBONE
#26 – BETTER WATCH OUT
#27 – THE NIGHT EATS THE WORLD
#28 – BE MY CAT: A FILM FOR ANNE
#29 – PYEWACKET
#30 – TERRIFIER
#31 – MAYHEM


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

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