M.L. Miller here and welcome to my tenth anniversary Best in Horror Countdown! Every day in this glorious month of October I’ll be counting down the best in horror, culminating with the best horror film since last Halloween! With theaters closed for the bulk of this shitty, shitty year, much of the countdown comes from alternative sources like streaming services, digital download, and On Demand. Plus, we saw the return of the drive-in theater, which is awesome! This list compiles the best horror films released beginning on October 1, 2019 and ending on September 30, 2020. No elitism here—only films released to the public on this list which rules out haughty festival flicks that only esteemed reviewers get to see. If it played on a public screen this year, it’s fair game to be on the list. Here we go!

Released on October 1, 2019. Available On Demand, digital download, and on DVD/Blu-ray, also streaming on Shudder!

REPLACE (2017)

Directed by Norbert Keil
Written by Norbert Keil, Richard Stanley, Scarlett Amaris
Starring Rebecca Forsythe, Lucie Aron, Barbara Crampton, Sean Knopp, Adnan Maral, Agnes Kiyomi Decker, J. David Hinze, Teresa Gluck, Felix von Poser, Lea Urban, Ute Cremer, Juana Mauff
Find out more about this film here!

REPLACE is a different kind of vampire movie. While the film’s “monster” does not have fangs or drink blood per se, the themes of the quest for eternal youth is ever present throughout. The film deals with the lengths people will go in order to stay young and beautiful. This being a horror film, of course, it goes to nightmarish places. But unlike most fangy horrors, REPLACE is much more nuanced in the sophisticated themes, nicely orchestrated sequences, as well as the complex performances by its cast.

Kira (Rebecca Forsythe) is a promising young pianist living on her own in the big city. One morning, after hooking up with a guy, she wakes up with little knowledge of who she is and notices a small rash forming on her finger. With the help of a friendly neighbor named Sophia (Lucie Aron), she is prompted to go to a specialist for both her memory loss and her skin condition. As the rash begins to spread and the help she receives from her doctor (played by the always great Barbara Crampton) seems to prove fruitless, Kira gives into primal urges that only seem to be quelled by replacing her decomposing flesh with the flesh of others. Kira and Sophia begin a relationship and Kira feels at home in her skin for the first time, but her cravings for the flesh of others threaten to destroy it. As Kira digs deeper into her condition, she uncovers dark secrets she was never meant to know.

REPLACE has a whole lot going for it. First and foremost, director/co-writer Norbert Keil has a fine eye for making almost every scene vibrant and electrifying utilizing everything from unique camera angles to colorful lights to interesting ways of showing depth by utilizing vertical and horizontal lines. This makes a rather conventional tale of vampirism look amazing in every scene.

Still, the switch from blood to flesh make the story all the more gruesome and tactile. Keil, along with co-writers Richard Stanley (who is having a hell of a comeback this year) and Scarlett Amaris. The story is full of all kinds of twists and turns as we are fully in the head of Kira all the way through the film. She, along with the viewer, has no idea what is happening and the answers, which are patiently released, compound into a thrilling and gruesome tale. While this is grueling subject matter, REPLACE is able to tell a quite beautiful and tragic tale of finding and losing yourself. This is made possible through the time the film gives to developing Kira and Sophia’s love story as well as their plight dealing with Kira’s condition.

It is also helped that both Forsythe and Aron are damn fine actors (as well as amazingly easy on the eyeballs). The two have a great chemistry in the midst of this gory story. The addition of Barbara Crampton always betters a film and it does so here as well.

REPLACE never shies away from the horror but utilizes it to punctuate this tragic love story. It is a slow burner, but the film culminates with thunder. The true choice Kira is forced to make is if her relationship is more important than her own beauty. The answer is a true shocker and only makes this film all the more gut-wrenching. REPLACE is a fantastic body horror film that emulates, but never imitates Cronenberg. It is gory and gorgeous and highlights both the beauty and ugliness that lays within us all. This is a fantastically layered film that will entertain those that like a little more headiness to their horror.

Click here for the trailer!


THE 2019-2020 COUNTDOWN!


#31 – REPLACE


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

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