Saturday, January 14, 2017


Just like every year that has come before it, there are a plethora of new releases that are slated for release in 2017 that I am eagerly anticipating. From last years list, I'm still really only waiting for Martin Scorsese's “Silence” to be released (which comes out in mid-February here in Australia). On the cards for 2017 are new films from talented directors, the likes of Ridley Scott (“Alien: Covenant”), Denis Villeneuve (“Blade Runner 2049”), David Michod (“War Machine”), Joe Wright (“Darkest Hour”), Darren Aronofsky (“Mother”), Terrence Malick (“Song to Song”), Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”), Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”), Roman Polanski (“Based on a True Story”), Edgar Wright (“Baby Driver”), Tomas Alfredson (“The Snowman”) and Sofia Coppola (“The Beguiled”) , to name but a few. All of the above I am looking forward to greatly, but the thing that I am looking forward to more than any other actually isn't a film at all but a television event. I'm talking about none other than the revival of:


Yes it is a cheat to add this to my list, but there was no way I was not going to mention David Lynch's return to the director's chair for the first time in eleven years since “Inland Empire” came out all the way back in 2006. However it is also the first time that Lynch has shot on film since 2001's “Mulholland Drive” which is cause for mass celebration. After “Fire Walk With Me”, Lynch said that he was done with “Twin Peaks” but here we are twenty five years later and he is back. Lynch has directed all eighteen episodes of this new season, and whilst no details about the plot of the show have been revealed, the fact that he got the majority of his original cast back just gets the mouth watering, and that is why it is my most anticipated EVENT of 2017. May 21st can not come soon enough.

This is a film blog, so my inclusion of “Twin Peals” does not count as part of my official list. Instead, the next seven titles below are my most anticipated films of 2017.


This little known title makes the list on the strength of the director's first film alone. Her first film was also the first Saudi Arabian film ever made. “Wadjda”, was the beautifully simple tale of a young rebellious Saudi girl doing whatever she can to buy a bicycle that had caught her eye, including entering in a Quran recitation competition at school. The director is none other than Haifaa Al-Mansour and her second film is the aforementioned “A Storm in the Stars”. The film could've been about anything and I still would have been interested in it, but the fact that it is about, as per imdb, “the love affair between poet Percy Shelley and 18 year old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, which resulted in Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein” is just like the cherry on top. Add in Elle Fanning as the lead and that is why it has made it onto this list.


I have severely cooled in my appreciation of Japanese director Sion Sono in the past couple of years, but I must admit to being very excited for his latest venture, “Anti-Porno”. The film is a part of Nikkatsu's re-boot of their famed “Roman Porno” label where they have hired a number of directors and given them total freedom to do what they want as long as they fulfil the required quota of nudity needed for the label. Apparently Sono's film is a “feminist take on sexuality” and is also quite the “metaphysical exercise”. The trailer for the film came out only a few days ago and although it had no English subtitles, I was sold by its incredibly bold use of colour, making it look like something Seijun Suzuki would've made in his prime. The fact that the film also only goes 76 minutes intrigues me too, plus it has an awesome poster.


Another Japanese filmmaker makes my most anticipated list, although this time for a film he made in France and in French. Whilst the initial response to the film during its festival run has been rather luke-warm, I still am very much looking forward to Kiyoshi Kurosawa's latest, “Daguerrotype” (which had the much cooler sounding working title of “The Woman in the Silver Plate”). Just from the images in the trailer you can tell that this is a Kurosawa film, but I am always interested in how well a director can transpose his ideas and style when filming in a language that is not his own. I thought that after the mis-step of “Journey to the Shore” from a few years back, that Kiyoshi Kurosawa hit back hard with the very entertaining thriller “Creepy” which was him somewhere close to his best. I'm trying to go into this film as cold as possible but the synopsis from imdb “describes “Daguerrotype” like this: “when an assistant to a daguerreotypy photographer falls in love with the latter's daughter the relationship mirrors the art form as love and pain combine”.


Aki Kaurismaki's previous film, “Le Havre” was actually my first film I had seen from this brilliant Finnish auteur. Since the release of that film, I have been able to catch up with (nearly) all of his previous narrative features (sorry, “Hamlet Goes Business”, I promise I will get to you soon) and own them all on blu-ray. Kaurismaki is a director that I just get, I am on his wavelength thanks to his drier than dry comedy and his exact visual style. His films are always a joy to watch, even when most of the characters are miserable in them. “The Other Side of Hope” is the second part of his refugee trilogy which he began with “Le Havre”, and is about a poker playing restaurateur and a former travelling salesman who meet up with a group of refugees newly arrived in Finland. That is a simple sounding plot but knowing Kaurismaki bad stuff with happen and it will be funny too. Actually, “Le Havre” was the director's most optimistic film to date, so he may continue down that path with his latest too. The film is premiering at the Berlin International Film Festival in February and had its trailer released last week which looks exactly how you think it would; beautifully shot and very, very dry. I can not wait to see it.


Another director who has a style that is easily recognisable, but in a much louder and bigger fashion, is Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia. He actually has two films coming out in 2017, but since “Perfect Strangers” is not due until late in the year, I'm going to focus on “The Bar” which, like “The Other Side of Hope”, is also set to premiere at Berlin. The trailer for the film indicates that this is going to be another one of de la Iglesia's black comedy / thriller mish-mashes that he is so good at making and it looks like a total blast. The trailer has no English subtitles (at least the one I saw) but it looks like the whole film will be set inside a coffee shop when a group of morning regulars are trapped within due to a sniper outside picking off anyone that leaves. Tensions arise and they appear to start to turn on each other inside. It looks like a fast paced film that should be a lot of fun.


One film that I am trying to go absolutely cold into is Guillermo del Toro's new film “The Shape of Water”. However I have found out that the film is about a fishman that has been captured and tested on by the U.S government at the height of the Cold War in 1963. Apparently though, the film is more of a love story than anything else which may seem atypical for a del Toro film but I have enough faith in the man that this is going to be something special, and if not, at least it will be something different. I was rapt that he decided to direct this smaller, potentially more interesting film, than the overblown sequel to his worst film, “Pacific Rim”. I also love the title of this film. Having Michael Shannon in the cast doesn't hurt either. “The Shape of Water” should come out between mid to late 2017.


My most anticipated film of 2017 is Bong Joon-Ho's “Okja”, which was initially described to be a monster movie. Since then though the director has come out and said that while yes, there is a monster in the film, do not go into it expecting it to be an aggressive beast like his earlier film “The Host” (which is flat out genius by the way! See it if you have not yet). This is going to be a shy monster with a mulit-national corporation attempting to kidnap (and I'm assuming exploit) the creature. Other than that, little is known about the film but Bong Joon-Ho has never made a bad film to date and he really is an impressive filmmaker, so I have no reason to expect “Okja” to be any different. He also has Jake Gyllenhaal and Tilda Swinton in the cast so I'm actually expecting this to be pretty special and blow away expectations.

Well, that is it. My enormous round up of the year that was 2016 is finally over. Hopefully you enjoyed reading it and got something out of it, but how about we go back to watching some new films now?

Thursday, January 12, 2017



Similar to what happened with Richard Bates Jr., I fell madly in love with director Bryan Bertino's directorial debut “The Strangers”. It was a perfectly paced, suspense filled, gory home invasion thriller. However, his second film, “Mockingbird”, I absolutely loathed. I hated it with an absolute passion and could not believe that the same director made both films. This October saw Bertino's third film, “The Monster” released and once again I loved it. This was the kind of talent I saw in the guy who made “The Strangers”. The story in “The Monster” is a very simple one as it is about a mother and daughter who are driving to the girl's father's place but along the way in an area surrounded by forest, they are involved in an accident that renders their car useless and the mother's wrist broken. Whilst waiting for an ambulance to attend to them, they soon realise that they are not alone and that a vicious monster is hunting them down. While this is the crux of the story, there is so much more going on in this film. Firstly, the mother / daughter relationship is not a good one and the reason for them to be out on this trip is because the young girl wants to now live with her father. While there is a “real” monster in this film, the main “monster” is the mother's addiction to drugs and alcohol that she just cant break. Her addictions make her a horrible mother, with her daughter looking more after her than the way it should be. The journey they make on this rainy night ends up being a night of redemption for the mother as she realises just what is most important in her life and to fight for it. The whole thing is quite an emotional story but “The Monster” also works equally well as a straight horror film. It starts off slowly and builds its atmosphere, but when the monster finally does attack, it is incredibly brutal and vicious and Bertino is not afraid to not hold back on these scenes. You feel the ferocity in the attacks and the whole thing becomes very bloody. Zoe Kazan plays the mother, and she is an actress I normally do not like at all, but she is magnificent here and does an excellent job of portraying a woman with a lot of faults but one who is also worthy of redemption. Ella Ballentine plays her young daughter and it is a performance full of strength; she doesn't come across as a little girl, as you get the feeling that she has had to fend for herself most of her life, but you can also tell that this is a girl that just wants to be loved by her mum. In regards to the monster, I really loved his design and the fact that he was all black. I also appreciated that he was done via practical effects but I rolled my eyes a little when the monster turned out to be afraid of the light which is something of a cliché these days. I loved this film; its dark, vicious, and gory but it also has the biggest heart too. It is also beautifully shot by cinematographer Julie Kirkwood.


I have already mentioned, in my “most underrated” section of this list, my enormous love for this film and I am going to reiterate it again here. This is the best children's/family film that I have seen since “Tangled” came out in 2010. This is another emotional journey about family and love and it has been very sensitively made by everyone involved. All of the performances are beautiful and subtle, without any grandstanding and I was particularly impressed by the father/daughter relationship between Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford's character, and the relationship they both had had with Elliot the dragon in the past (with Redford's character having seen the dragon when he was younger, and then later in life telling the story of it as a bedtime story to his daughter when she was little). Behind the scenes, director David Lowery shows that he can paint a story with a gentle hand, and I loved the look of the film with it being bathed in different colours of green, the colour of Elliot. Elliot himself, whilst CGI, its beautifully designed with his soft green fur giving him a cuddly look so you can see why Pete would trust and fall in love with a dragon so easily. I should briefly mention that I have never seen the original film that this version is based on, but from all reports this is a much greater film, even if it does stray a bit from the original storyline. I recommend this film wholeheartedly whether you have kids or not, it really is that good and deserves to be seen by as large an audience as possible.


Jeff Nichols had a busy 2016 with two of his films being released. Earlier in the year his sci-fi film “Midnight Special” was released to limited fanfare, whilst in November his true tale of love between an interracial couple living in Virginia during the 1950's entitled “Loving” also came out. If you had asked me at the start of the year which of these two would be on my end of year list I definitely would've chosen “Midnight Special” before “Loving” but the opposite deemed to be true. I was particularly impressed by the low key nature of the film. Even though this was a film about a court case that ended up changing the constitution of the United States of America, the story was told through the eyes of Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple at the centre of the court case who had no intention of trying to change history nor the world, all they wanted was to be able to live with the person that they loved. Staying true to this spirit, Nichols does not over-sensationalise the “big” dramatic moments. In fact at the end when the big ruling of the courts is given, we are not even witness to it, instead all we see is Richard and Mildred working on their farm, acknowledging that its finally over. It is a quiet film and that is also a good way to describe the performances. Joel Edgerton in particular gives quite an internal performance, keeping everything inside him, which is much different than in anything else I have ever seen from him. Ruth Negga, as Mildred, is a revelation. I do not believe I have seen her in anything before this, but she is amazing and incredibly beautiful too. It is a quiet performance, but it is also weighty and has a strength behind it. This was a woman that was going to fight to the end to be with the man she loved. It was also good that Nicols was able to find a small role for Michael Shannon to keep their working streak alive. Once again, Jeff Nicols proves just how great a director he is with this beautiful film about true love. I must say that I also love the simple title; originally I thought it was very awkward sounding but then finding out that the subjects of the film had the surname of Loving, well it is just perfect.


The darling of the indie horror scene, Mickey Keating has the ability to make movies of good quality at an increased speed than most. So far all of his films are quite different from one another with the exception that all of them seem to be an homage to a certain type of film from the past. “Darling” is his riff on Roman Polanski's “Repulsion” and whilst I initially had major reservations about the film (due to being a massive fan of the Polanski original), I ended up loving every minute (almost) of it. I'm a sucker for films that deal with a mind fracturing and this is essentially what happens here. Lauren Ashley Carter gives a totally depraved performance as the titular Darling, a girl who, when we meet her even at the beginning of the film, is clearly not all there and dealing with some issues. House sitting in a residence where a suicide has taken place, Darling's mind starts to take over but it isn't until she actually leaves the house and bumps into someone from her past that her mind truly shatters in earnest, and sends her on the path for murderous redemption. Carter is brilliant at depicting a character who is always physically present in a scene, and yet you can feel behind those eyes she is just not there. To visually portray Darling's deteriorating mindset, Keating uses a number of techniques to shake up the audience including extreme rapid montages, bizarre camera angles and even strobe effects (which I am never really a fan of). The black and white photography used in “Darling” is exquisite and gives the film an older, classier feel to the film, as well as being an obvious nod to “Repulsion”. Whilst I found some of the musical choices in the film a little on the nose, the rest of the film I absolutely adored.......with the exception of the final thirty seconds which without giving anything away, removes some of the films ambiguity and in particular makes the film less about Darling having a mental breakdown and more about something else entirely. Click here to read my original review.


What can I say about this film that hasn't been already said? Going on just a month since being released and “La La Land” is as universally loved as can be in these non-musical times. It is currently the favourite to take home the “Best Picture” Oscar, and earlier this week took home a record seven awards at the Golden Globes. The success is well deserved because this is a phenomenally fun and inventive film celebrating music, love and happiness. Anchored by the two most charming of leads, in Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, the whole film explodes with energy and colour from its opening frame and doesn't let up until its brilliant “five years later” finale. Its no secret that the golden age of musicals, at least in cinema, are long gone but every now and then we get something special like “La La Land” to remind us why they are so great. My favourite moment in the film is the night time dance Gosling and Stone share together on a road, as the first flicker of love between the two of them is ignited. These two have the most wonderful chemistry and even when the two of them are not together in a scene, you can not help but be charmed by these hugely likeable stars. What I also loved about “La La Land” is that director, Damien Chazelle, made it to be enjoyed on the big screen by shooting the film in “Cinemascope” in the very wide 2.55 : 1 ratio and also on actual film to give the amazing colours of the film that bold Technicolor feel. This is old school filmmaking celebrating the wonder of happiness; its big, its beautiful, its funny, it may be a little long, but it is also worth sitting back and just letting the fun wash over you.


Paul Verhoeven's latest film is about power and control and it is the kind of story that only Verhoeven could've tackled and got away with so brilliantly. The film opens with a vicious rape of our main character, Michele. After the assault has finished, instead of being a hysterical mess, Michele essentially just picks herself up and goes about the rest of her day. This is a woman with a lot of strength and power as she is the CEO of a computer games company which she runs with an iron fist. She is hard and expects results, and thus can rub people the wrong way. Being the control freak that she is, Michele finds it very hard when she loses some of this control via her rape and goes about finding her rapist to turn the scales of power on their head, even if it means exploring the dark side of her own sexuality. For a film that begins with a rape, and from a director as masculine as Paul Verhoeven, you could assume that “Elle” may be a film filled with misogyny and you would be wrong. In fact the complete opposite is true as this is a film about female empowerment and of a woman reversing the ownership of perceived power. Being a Verhoeven film, “Elle” also has with it a level of black comedy sprinkled throughout the film, that is both very funny and shocking that the director was able to get away with it. This is a film that just could not have been made in Hollywood, as the whole thing is as un-PC as it gets. Whilst I am not blind to her immense talent, I have never been a massive Isabelle Huppert fan; she is always an actress that comes off very cold to me. Her performance in “Elle” though is simply masterful and easily my favourite of hers from her very long career. Her coldness works to her character's advantage, and yet because of this, I actually found some warmth in her playing Michele (if that makes any sense at all). This is a woman of 63 and yet comes across looking like someone no older than her mid forties. She is truly stunning in the role and thoroughly deserved her recent Golden Globe win for her performance. I am a massive Paul Verhoeven fan, and it is sad that it took ten years between this and his previous feature (and my personal favourite of his, “Black Book”) but the wait was definitely worth it. I am super impressed that he was able to go to France and shoot in French too, but I also can not think of another director aged in his seventies who still makes films with such bite and can get away with it too.


As of this writing, “February” (re-titled “The Blackcoat's Daughter” in the US) still has not received a commercial release in the United States and it is something I just can not get my head around because this film is totally brilliant. It is a film that I cannot get enough of and have already watched three times thanks to my French blu ray of the film. This is Osgood Perkins directorial debut and it is the story of three girls, all who are connected to a horrific event that takes place at their all-girls school during the holidays whilst they are stuck there by themselves (with minimal adult supervision). To go too much into plot details would be unfair, but “February” is a stunning achievement from a first time director as he shows just he masterful he is at creating and sustaining a horrific and creepy atmosphere right from the opening frame. This is a slow moving horror film, but its pace works wonderfully at exploiting the creepiness on display. I must say that my own interpretation of the events in this film seem to differ from the general consensus as to what exactly happens, as most people believe that Satan or a demon plays a significant part in “February” whereas my own take is that this is another case of mental breakdown. I have no doubt that the person suffering the breakdown believes the devil to be real, but I do not think this is reality. I'm also surprised when people claim the existence of the devil in “February” to be a certainty because I believe Perkins has left this ambiguous and deliberately so. Either interpretation does not alter the fact that “February” is brilliant and chilling. This is the third (and final) film on this list shot by Julie Kirkwood, and it is much more pared back than the previous two films. She creates a sense of isolation and uses the snow covered landscapes to perfection. I love this film with an absolute passion and will forever champion it. Whilst it may be my fourth favourite film of 2016 overall, “February” was my favourite horror film of the year, and by a long way too.


Before I write these lists, there is the process of going through all the films you have watched in a single year and then whittling them down slowly until you get to the final twenty. Then you basically put them against one another to work out the final order in which they stand. I must admit that I was stunned when “Paterson” took the number three place because until then I hadn't realised just how much I loved this film back when I saw it at MIFF. “Paterson” is the latest film from US indie veteran Jim Jarmusch and it is another stellar piece of work. The more I watch of his films, the more I realise just how much his cinematic voice talks to me. “Paterson” is actually about the beauty and poetry of everyday life, of the mundane, and of repetition. The film is set in Paterson, New Jersey and we follow a week in the life of a bus driver, whose name also happens to be Paterson, and who also moonlights as an amateur poet in every spare moment he finds. His poems are about the simple things in life such as a box of matches and he carries around his notebook full of these poems wherever he goes. Each day is essentially the same with him waking up (without an alarm), heading to work, coming home and eating with his girlfriend, before he takes the dog for a walk and stops for a quiet beer and conversation at the corner pub. Each day he meets different people and this is where the variations take place and while it sounds like it could be very boring, it is actually mesmerising. Myself, I am a person of routine and repetition and get very anxious when my routines are disrupted so I guess I was able to connect to the character of Paterson on a personal level. But then it is very easy to do so, as he is a beautiful man with not a bad bone in his body. He is respectful of everyone he meets, he is caring, and he has time for anyone looking for a chat. The performance from Adam Driver, like his character, is beautiful. It is a quietly restrained performance and very still. It is all about the little movements as opposed to big loud gestures. I must admit I was not impressed by his performance in the recent Star Wars film, but seeing him in “Paterson” was like witnessing a completely different actor. He just gets the humanity of Paterson. I was also very impressed by Jarmusch's casting of Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani in the role of Paterson's hilarious girlfriend, Laura, who has unending energy and spends all her time redesigning the couples apartment in black and white designs, while at the same time coming up with new taste sensations for dinner (which Paterson's reactions to are hilarious). I also got a kick out of seeing Masatoshi Nagase playing a Japanese poet at the end of the film, as it is the first time he and Jarmusch have worked together since “Mystery Train”. There is so much more I would love to say about this film and I regret now that I didn't write a full review of it back in August when I saw it, but I think I will stop here and just recommend “Paterson” wholeheartedly. Jim Jarmusch is a genius.


Pedro Almodovar's “Julieta” was my most anticipated film of 2016, and thankfully it did not disappoint. As I just mentioned above, some filmmakers just talk to you more than others, and Almodovar is one whose wavelength I am on almost 100%. Right from the opening frame of this film when the screen is bathed in bright, bold red, I knew I was in the hands of a master filmmaker and was just able to sit back and let the story he was about to tell wash over me. The story he does tell was a lot more low key than is usual for Almodovar, but that did not make it any less brilliant. We follow thirty years in the life of a woman named Julieta from the eighties when she was a young beautiful teacher, full of love and a vitality for life, up to the woman she is today; struggling from bouts of depression estranged from her adult daughter, and ready to leave Spain to move to Portugal with her new love. Just before she leaves though, Julieta runs into one of her daughter's friends which then forces her to look back on her life and see how she became the person she is now. The original title of the film was “Silencio” and it was a great shame to lose this title (which Almodovar gave up so as to not to cause any confusion between his and Scorsese's latest film), as this is the main theme of the film. How staying silent can cause unrepairable grief to the exact person you think you are helping by keeping quiet to. It is such a painful little story, as poor Julieta goes through a lot of heartache in her life, but there is also a lot of laughs and happiness too, in case you are thinking the film could be a bit depressing. This is another great achievement from Spain's greatest living director; a man who seems incapable of making a bad film. Click here to read my original review.


My favourite film of 2016 is none other than Tom Ford's “Nocturnal Animals”. This is a complex and very adult thriller that works on many different layers. Whilst it can be seen as a revenge film, it is also an allegory about the pain and hurt one can feel over a break-up when they end in a bad fashion. The film is about an owner of an art gallery named Susan who receives a copy of a manuscript that her ex-husband, Tony, is about to have published. It is a violent and sad tale about a man who goes out for revenge when his wife and daughter are abducted, raped and murdered. The fact that Tony dedicated the book to Susan sends chills down her spine, because theirs was a relationship that did not end in a good way and she is unsure if this is a clue that she could be in danger. “Nocturnal Animals” is an exhausting movie to watch because there is just so much going on in it, from what is happening on the screen to the subtext behind it all. It really is an amazing piece of work but it is not an easy one. This is not the kind of film you throw on in the background on a lazy Sunday afternoon, this is one you need to focus on and pay attention to to get the most out of it. I really do not want to say much more than that about the story to be honest as it is an exhilarating film to watch unfold. Technically the film is almost perfect with Seamus McGarvey's stunningly beautiful cinematography (another movie on this list shot on film) being the stand out. For such a dark film tonally, it is filled with lovely bright colours, and with Tom Ford's keen eye for visuals, nary an image goes past that isn't frame worthy. The film also has some of the best performances of the year with Amy Adams, and Jake Gyllenhaal being their regular impressive selves, but whilst it appears that Aaron Taylor-Johnson's performance is getting all the plaudits (it is after all the flashiest role in the film), my favourite was Michael Shannon's cop with a conscious who is willing to help Gyllenhaal's character out with his revenge because he knows the courts will let him down. It is a subtle role but extremely powerful and whenever he is onscreen, you cannot take your eyes off of him. Like a lot of the films on this list, I really do not want to talk too much about them in case I ruin anything, but suffice to say this is a fantastic film, my favourite of the year, but it is not for everyone. It goes to incredibly dark places story wise and in its tone, and there are scenes that are quite gruesome to watch, but for mine this was the best piece of cinema I saw in 2016.

Well there you have it, that was my  round-up of the year that was 2016; hopefully you got some enjoyment out of it.  Just want to make a quick note that when this list was written I had been unable to see both "Arrival" and "Rouge One: A Star Wars Story".  There is no guarantee either would make this list but thought it was worth nothing. Now before I finish, lets have a brief look at the upcoming year and my most anticipated films of 2017.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Let's get onto the good stuff finally.  I am not going to do any honorable mentions, this is it, my top 20 of 2016, and while the title of this list states that these are the "best" films of 2016, that is not really the case, these are my "favourite" films of 2016.  Alright, enough talk, lets begin with my:



This is the sophomore effort from Australian horror director Sean Byrne whose debut, “The Loved Ones”, graced the screen back in 2009. It has taken seven years for his follow up to become a reality, but the wait was definitely worth it as Byrne proves that he was not just a one trick pony and that the talent he displayed was the real thing. “The Devil's Candy” is about a struggling artist trying to support his family and in doing so finds a great deal on a farm house. Soon after moving in though, the artist is possessed by an evil being determined to destroy his family. The greatest thing about this film is the father/daughter relationship at the centre of it. It feels so incredibly real, that the two come across more like best friends, mainly due to their shared interest of heavy metal music. In fact that music style features prominently in the film, which is why I think I resisted the film at the start. However, it became far too easy to like the characters involved due to their genuine love for one another, and when that becomes threatened you cannot help but feel it too. This is another great horror film that builds slowly, and it has the most incredible pulse pounding twenty minute finale. This is a brilliant horror film, perfectly acted by all involved, and it is a mystery why “The Devil's Candy” has not seen a commercial release as of yet (I was lucky enough to see it at MIFF this year).


I fell in love with the atmosphere of Tim Burton's latest film right from the get-go and was spellbound by this story of misfits and freaks. There was a naivete and innocence to the whole thing that I found really beautiful and it felt different to the regular Burton film whilst also feeling familiar at the same time. In other words, there was no doubt as to who the author behind the film was, but it felt like he was tackling new ground with “Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children”. I loved all of the designs and looks of each of the individual children, but my personal favourite had to be Emma Bloom, who has the power of air, thanks to the lovely performance from Ella Purnell. She had a beautiful ethereal quality to her and I loved her budding relationship with Jake, the protagonist of the film. I will admit that I think the film falls apart slightly in its messy third act, as Burton starts to lose some control of his film, but until the Harryhausen inspired skeleton fight, the whole thing is heavenly. I must make mention of just how beautiful the film looks, thanks to Bruno Delbonnel's bright and colourful cinematography.


You may notice pretty quickly that low budget horror films seem to dominate my list this year and “Shelley” is yet another one of these. The film is about a middle aged couple whose only wish is to have a child but since the woman is unable to conceive, they come to a financial agreement with their Romanian maid if she will be their surrogate. While everything goes to plan early on, the pregnancy starts to rapidly increase and it soon becomes apparent that what the maid is carrying may not be human. What makes this film stand out is the location where its set with the couple living in a shack by a lake away from all of the comforts of modern technology. Things like electricity or phone lines do not exist where they live, and this gives the film a real old quality atmosphere to it. The other thing that is done very well is the creation of believable relationships especially between the two women. Although from different nationalities, they can relate to each other through the unborn child as being a mother is something inherent in women. As you may suspect by the plot summary, this is a slow paced horror film that continually builds in its creepiness towards its finale. Thanks to the location, it is also beautifully photographed too. People may find “Shelley” a frustrating experience because it is not the kind of film that answers every question that it asks, threads are left dangling, but for me it was exhilarating and I look forward to rewatching it soon.


This is actually director Osgood Perkin's second film; the first being his magnificent “February”, that inexplicably still has not been released commercially. While both films could be classified as slow burn horror, “I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House” is a completely different film to the earlier one. It has a simple premise; its about a young nurse who moves in with an elderly woman who was once famous for writing horror novels, but the nurse soon questions if these novels came out of her reality as it quickly becomes obvious that the house she now resides in is haunted. The whole thing moves at a snails pace, but its also an exercise in style and atmosphere and it rewards the patient viewer grandly. The whole thing has an eerie feeling throughout that continually builds as dread and danger starts to creep in more and more. This is definitely not a film for everyone, in fact I think the majority of people could find the movie boring, but I found it amazing. It was also stunningly shot by cinematographer Julie Kirkwood (who actually has three films that she shot in this list) in quite a distinctive and unusual manner, in particular the ghostly manifestations. Again, as much as I loved this film, I recommend watching the trailer to gauge if this film is for you, but for me, after two films, Osgood Perkins is a very bright light in regards to the future of horror.


When the initial trailer for “Allied” came out I was sold straight away. It told a story about a soldier and a former leader of the French Resistance joining forces in Casablanca to pose as husband and wife in an attempt to get close to and assassinate upper level Nazi soldiers and collaborators. The cream on the cake was that the film was directed by Robert Zemeckis and starred Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. Seriously, shut up and take my money!! But then the second trailer came out and exposed a whole new layer to the film (the second half) that wasn't even hinted at in the first trailer. The film still looked amazing but I thought just how much better the surprise of the second half would've been if it wasn't shown in the trailer, and because of this I wont be speaking of this half of the film but I will say that this is a great film that also, thankfully, has an equally great ending. I'm a big fan of films that deal with the resistance during World War II; the dealings in the shadows, the life and death consequences of every action/inaction they take, so because of this “Allied” had my attention from the start, and it did not waver once. The whole thing is perfectly paced and edited. Not once was I not interested or got bored in “Allied”; I was with it 100% of the time, which sadly is a rare thing these days. Actually in the first minute I thought I was going to hate it because the CGI in the opening was terrible, but after that, I never noticed it again. Unlike a lot of the films on my list this year, I think “Allied” is a film that could appeal to anyone. It is a ripping yarn, superbly acted, filled with palpable suspense that continues to build until it is white knuckle stuff and then ends with a perfect finale. One of the very best from Hollywood in 2016.

15. HUSH

Already responsible for my “biggest surprise” of 2016, now Mike Flanagan enters my top twenty list with his stunning home invasion thriller. “Hush” was a film that came out of nowhere; shot on a very low budget in secret, between “Before I Wake” and “Ouija: Origin of Evil”. It was immediately scooped up by Netflix after premiering at Sundance, and then appeared on that service within a few weeks. It was an incredibly quick turnaround from shooting the film to release, but Netflix obviously had massive faith in the film and after watching it its easy to see why. Home invasion thrillers are very easy to get emotionally involved with because everyone has the fear of a stranger entering their home, their safe place, and causing havoc within. What makes “Hush” stand out from the pack is that the protagonist is actually deaf, so obviously does not have one of her main senses to keep her safe when danger approaches. In fact the opening confrontation of the film is so chilling as we, the audience, know that the killer is around her but she herself has no idea until he steals her phone and starts sending photos to her of herself. It is very creepy. However, just because she is deaf does not mean she is helpless, and Maddie (the girl) ends up giving just as good as she gets. From a technical standpoint the flowing smooth camera work is exemplary, creating unnerving suspense, but my favourite aspect of the film is the sound design, which helps to give some indication of what it must be like for a hearing impaired person. Again, the film is not perfect, as I was not a fan of the fact that the killer removed his mask so early on in the film, ruining his mystique and there is also a scene towards the end that I'm still not sure about. When I initially saw it, I was just stunned; my mouth was agape because I couldn't believe that the filmmakers had the balls to do what I just saw. However it ends up being Maddie working out the best option for her survival, so what we saw did not actually happen which is a little bit of a cheat. It makes sense within the story, on a greater level than I make it sound, but I'm still torn by this scene a bit. Besides that though, the rest of the film is a breathtaking (literally) thriller with the suspense level turned all the way to 11. I also loved the fact that the film is relatively short and has very limited dialogue. Great horror film.


When I reviewed this film all the way back in August, I was a fan of the film but a little colder on it than I am today. I would now even go so far as to say that this is Park Chan-Wook's best film since 2003's “Oldboy”. Park is just having fun with “The Handmaiden” as this is him, at his most playful. He gives the film a very light tone and there are times when the whole thing feels like a comedy, you are laughing so hard. But of course with this being a Park Chan-Wook film you know that the comedy must be of the darkest variety. He also does not disappoint in the visual department either; as usual he has created a sumptuous looking tale with image after image being stand-outs. The twisty-turny narrative is complex but richly rewarding for those who pay attention. While a film that is hard to talk about in fear of ruining its secrets, I can say that the film is split into three sections where each section upturns everything you thought you witnessed in the sections prior. “The Handmaiden” is also Park's most sexually explicit film to date but this is one aspect of the film where I think he isn't as confident in and as such gives us more of a male's fantasy of lesbian love and sex, as opposed to a real flesh and blood depiction. While the film has a long running time, it is well worth it; just sit back and enjoy watching all of its secrets unfold before you. It is such a bizarre and complex story, I'm sure that most will be impressed by it. Click here to read my original review.


The funniest film I saw in 2016 was Shane Black's ridiculous detective thriller “The Nice Guys”. I was literally laughing out loud through the majority of this, finding particular amusement out of Ryan Gosling's high-pitched screaming and bumbling detective, who his own daughter describes as the “world's worst detective”. Seriously, until this film who would've thought that Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe could work so well together and be this funny, but they are just perfect together. The whole story is batshit crazy, as what initially starts as a simple missing persons case ends up being a small part of a much bigger tale. Whilst the film is always funny, it also has some excellent action scenes and as usual Shane Black does not shy away from the blood and gore. By the end of the film, the whole thing plays like a Looney Tunes cartoon with the amount of abuse that poor Ryan Gosling's character goes through. Another nice touch is having the film set in Los Angeles in the late seventies. The stand out of the film is young Australian actress Angourie Rice who plays Gosling's daughter. I thought she was magnificent as the young innocent girl in the Australian apocalyptic thriller, “These Final Hours”, from a few years back, and she follows up her good work in that with a more rugged and hard edged (whilst still amazingly innocent) performance in her role of Holly here. This girl is going to be a star, mark my words. My favourite scene in “The Nice Guys” is when they infiltrate an L.A party on a fact finding mission but Gosling gets too inebriated by all the free liquor that he is unable to get his mouth to ask questions with the words in the right order. So funny!! If you have seen Black's previous “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” and enjoyed it, I recommend wholeheartedly “The Nice Guys” as it is cut from the same cloth. My wife said after the screening that she had never seen me laugh so hard in a movie before.


This is a film I saw during the last week of 2016 and was totally blown away by it. I was a massive fan of director Richard Bates Jr's debut feature “Excision”. It was that rare kind of horror film that made me feel totally uneasy and disturbed throughout. It was so ballsy and unlike anything I had previously seen, that it was my fourth favourite film of 2012. However, when his second film came around, “Suburban Gothic”, I was much more cold to it; in fact I was not much of a fan of it at all. It just seemed so safe and generic, that I was ultimately disappointed after the extremeness of “Excision”. I actually wondered whether or not the first film was just a fluke and as such did not pay much attention when his third film, “Trash Fire”, came out. I also wasn't too impressed by its trailer. However I was suckered into seeing it thanks to some very positive reviews and I was so glad I made the effort. I love films where you never know where it is going to take you, and “Trash Fire” does exactly that. From where the film starts, you would never be able to guess where and how it will end. The film is about Owen who, after his on again / off again girlfriend Isabel confides in him that she is pregnant with their child, must confront his troubled past and re-connect with his own family who he hasn't seen since he was the cause of a house fire that killed his parents and scarred his sister for life with horrific burns. That is all I'm saying about the film's plot because it is so good to go into this film cold because it takes many twists and turns and then the tone changes entirely until it becomes very dark and horrific. The most amazing thing about “Trash Fire” is that the main character of Owen is a total prick, selfish to the nth degree, and yet through Adrian Grenier's honest performance, we find ourselves actually caring for him. He is an epileptic and has many seizures in the film, which is actually the source of the films funniest scene when he has an attack in the middle of having sex with Isabel, with her reaction being priceless. It is so wrong but oh so funny, that you will question yourself for laughing at such a moment. The whole cast is fantastic with a particular mention going out to Fionnula Flanagan as Oliver's foul mouthed but super religious grandmother. I also enjoyed the fact that Bates Jr once again cast AnnaLynne McCord, a stunningly gorgeous woman in reality, as the hideously disfigured burn victim, Pearl. It must be something of an in joke between the two because he did the same thing with her in “Excision”. Finally I want to mention that I was rapt that Bates Jr had the balls to follow through with his finale of this film. It is so incredibly dark but fits the film like a glove. I think it is safe to say that I am once again on the Richard Bates Jr bandwagon once again.


This is another one of those low budget horror films that impressed the hell out of me this year, but its also one of those films that you cannot talk about in much detail without destroying its secrets. The film is about a fifteen year old boy named John, who attends therapy for homicidal tendencies. He has all the signs of a person that will eventually turn and become a monster to society but he is actively trying to stop this. However, when murders start to begin happening in his little sleepy mid western town, John is drawn to them trying to work out the who the culprit may be whilst at the same time combating his own demons to not follow down this same path. I was totally unprepared for how great this film was going to be. While it has a lot of dark elements to it, it would probably be more apt to call “I Am Not a Serial Killer” a drama which skirts the realm of horror. It deals with a coming of age process but in a much darker fashion than normal. Something I found interesting is the fact that John, while trying to help himself, at the same time helps his mother out in the family run mortuary, so he is constantly surrounded by death, the one thing he is trying to stop himself from committing. While watching the film, I had no idea that the actor playing John was actually Max Records, who was the little boy in Spike Jonze's “Where The Wild Things Are”. It is a brilliant performance, beyond his years, in that it is both such an honest depiction and a very creepy one. The stand out scene in the film is when John confronts a bully at a party, all with a smile. Even though his face looks happy, he never feels more dangerous and the entire thing is chilling. Christopher Lloyd is also a nice surprise in the film, as is the fact that John has a genuine friendship with the old man. It isn't something you see in films, teenagers befriending the elderly, but here he helps the man particularly with modern day technology that he is struggling with. I don't really want to say any more about the film, other than it is fantastic and well worth seeking out.