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By James Whittington, Sunday 22nd December 2019
The last 12 months has been a prime year for the horror genre fan with titles that stretched well-trodden ideas mixed with some truly original pieces.
We've had sequels, remakes, and more than our fair share of true oddities and for once the good outweighed the bad.
Here in no particular order are ten of the best the year had to offer either at festivals, in cinema or home entertainment.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot Sam Elliott and Aidan Turner are The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot the critically acclaimed, genre-bending, breath-taking adventure that sees a legendary American war hero as a young man and in his twilight years, taking on two very different adversaries. Decades after serving in WWII and assassinating Adolf Hitler, Calvin Barr (Elliott/Turner) is enlisted as the only man for the job: to hunt down the fabled Bigfoot. Living a peaceful life in New England reflecting on his lost love Maxine (Caitlin FitzGerald), the war veteran is contacted by the FBI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to lead the charge to capture the elusive beast that is carrying a deadly plague.
Us Academy Award-winning Jordan Peele returned with another original nightmare which he wrote, directed and produced. The lady of the moment Lupita Nyong'o is Adelaide Wilson, a woman returning to her beachside childhood home with her husband, Gabe (Winston Duke), and their two children for an idyllic summer getaway. Haunted by an unexplainable and unresolved trauma from her past and compounded by a string of eerie coincidences, Adelaide feels her paranoia elevate to high-alert as she grows increasingly certain that something bad is going to befall her family. After spending a tense beach day with their friends, the Tylers, Adelaide and her family return to their vacation home. When darkness falls, the Wilsons discover the silhouette of four figures holding hands as they stand in the driveway. Us pits an endearing American family against a terrifying and uncanny opponent: doppelgangers of themselves.
Little Monsters Lupita Nyong'o, fresh from the success of Jordan Peele's Us, returned to the screen in a brilliantly inventive and fantastically entertaining horror comedy, Little Monsters. Also starring Josh Gad and Alexander England, Little Monsters is an hilarious piece that perfectly combines genres whilst adding some music added to the mix! Little Monsters follows Dave (England), as washed-up musician who volunteers to chaperone his nephew's kindergarten class field trip after taking a serious liking to the fearless schoolteacher, Miss Caroline (Nyong'o). Dave's intentions are complicated by the presence of the world's most famous kids' show personality and competition for Miss Caroline's affections, Teddy McGiggle (Gad).
Possum Possum is the disturbing debut feature film from writer/director Matthew Holness which stars Sean Harris and Alun Armstrong. The film pays homage to the British horror films of the 70s and contains so many alarming moments that it should come with a health warning! The film's unique and stylish exploration of a man's isolation and abandonment is accompanied by a compelling soundtrack from the legendary electronic BBC music studio The Radiophonic Workshop. The story follows disgraced children's puppeteer Philip (Harris), returning to his childhood home of Fallmarsh, Norfolk, intent on destroying Possum, a hideous puppet he keeps hidden inside a brown leather bag. When his attempts fail, Philip is forced to confront his sinister stepfather Maurice (Armstrong) in an effort to escape the dark horrors of his past.
A Good Woman is Hard to Find Directed by Abner (Road Games) Pastoll and stars Sarah Bolger, Edward Hogg, Andrew Simpson and Jane Brennan the superb thriller A Good Woman is Hard to Find was written by Academy Award nominee and BAFTA winner Ronan Blaney. The movie closed FrightFest 2019 to much acclaim being a crowd-pleasing and violent kitchen-sink revenge thriller which is a dark and daring journey through Northern Ireland's criminal underbelly. Recently widowed mother of two Sarah (a tour-de-force Sarah Bolger) is desperate to know who murdered her husband in front of their young son, rendering him mute. Coerced into helping a low-life drug-dealer, she's forced to go beyond her humanity to protect her children and learn the truth.
One Cut of the Dead One of the finest movies that I've ever seen at FrightFest, One Cut of the Dead (Kamera o tomeru na!) is a film which takes the "meta movie" idea and pushes it right up to 11. With a budget said to have been around $27,000 it has raked in far more across the globe and taken its rightful place in countless "greatest film" lists from the last 12 months. For once the hype is real! The movie opens in a run-down, abandoned warehouse where a film crew are making a zombie film... Yet, this is no ordinary warehouse. It's been said that it's the site of where military experiments took place... Out of nowhere, real zombies arrive and terrorize the crew! Then we cut and travel back in time by a month and discover how this "happening" happened...
Harpoon Rob Grant is a firm favourite here at Horror Channel and his latest piece, Harpoon went down a storm at FrightFest and Grimmfest. Set on a yacht, it's a nail-biting, tension-ripping thriller that hits all the right marks. Jonah (Munro Chambers), Richard (Christopher Gray) and Sasha (Emily Tyra) have been friends a long time... maybe too long. Following a ferocious bust-up, Richard tries to make amends in the form of a sailing trip on his family yacht. After all, a friendship is the kind of ship that never sinks - until the yacht breaks down and the trio are left stranded in the middle of the ocean. As food and water supplies start to sink and rivalries, dark secrets and sexual tension start to surface, the question becomes: which of these three broken humans will run out of air first?
I'll Take Your Dead Chad Archibald has been behind a number of Horror Channel favourites in the past including Bite and The Drownsman. His latest movie, I'll Take Your Dead is a tense psychological/paranormal chiller which is as original as it is atmospheric. With superb performances this dark story is made even darker by solid direction from Archibald. William makes dead bodies disappear. This isn't something he likes or even wants to do, but through circumstances out of his control, his house in the country has become a dumping ground for casualties of gang related murders city. His daughter has become used to rough looking men dropping off corpses and is even convinced that some of them are haunting their house. After a woman's body, is dumped at the house, William begins his meticulous process when he realizes, she's not actually dead. As the gang activity increases, William patches the woman up and holds her against her will until he can figure out what to do with her. As they begin to develop a very unusual respect for each other, the woman's murderers get word that she's still alive and make plan to go finish what they started.
Knives and Skin One of the standout movies at FrightFest 2019 was Knives and Skin from Jennifer Reeder. Emotional, raw, funny, sincere and above all very original, it's a film that defies catagorisation and signals the arrival of one of the brightest creative talents around. In rural Illinois, a drum majorette's disappearance traumatises the small-town residents as secrets are revealed, destroying some relationships and strengthening others. Three girls form a bond in the aftermath of the tragedy as everyone struggles with their own infidelities, dreams and family cruelties while the manhunt continues.
Rabid The Soska Sisters took a film from their homeland hero David Cronenberg and gave it a very cool 21st century twist proving that these creatives have the balls to take on anyone. After aspiring fashion designer Rose (Laura Vandervoort) suffers a disfiguring traffic accident she undergoes a radical and untested stem-cell treatment. The experimental transformation is a miraculous success, transforming her into a ravishing beauty. But she soon develops an uncontrollable sexual appetite, resulting in several torrid encounters, which sees her lovers become rabid carriers of death and disease. As the illness mutates and the contagion spreads out of control, all hell breaks loose as the infected rampage through the city on a violent and gruesome killing spree.
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