Let’s by giving props to four films seen this year, which would have made the list, but were just a little too old to qualify (even in our new, looser definition!) for a ‘Best of 2012’ article. Topping those – and it would in all likelihood have topped the entire list – is Confessions. Probably among my favorite Japanese movies of all time [maybe behind Bird People of China, maybe not], we said it was “tragedy on an intense, Shakespearean level, that packs an enormous wallop in a way you can’t see until too late.” Hardly any less impressive was Elite Squad, a Brazillian action-thriller, with cops that redefine “zero tolerance.” Also worthy of an honorable mention are Tell No One and Eden Lake.
Also worthy of an honourable mention are the following, which did come out this year, and were enjoyed, but didn’t quite make the top 10 list. [Entries are in chronological order of when we say them, the links go to our review, or GirlsWithGuns.org, as appropriate!] Haywire, ID:A, Special Forces, The Devil’s Rock, Claustrofobia, Blooded, Naked Soldier, Zero Killed, Rec 3: Genesis, Mother’s Day, Grabbers and Resident Evil: Retribution. And with those two groups out of the way, let’s move on to the top 10…
10. The Cabin in the Woods. The best film with which Joss Whedon was involved this year, easily blowing away the bloated (if mindless fun) Avengers. Quite why that became the #1 film of the year, while this was sat on, I’m not sure. For this had much more invention and wit, not relying just on large-scale spectacle [though it certainly had its share of that, especially toward the end]. The less you know, the more fun this will be. What we said: “The further this goes on, the further it diverts off-track, providing a fascinating alternative explanation for more or less the entire genre.”
9. The House With 100 Eyes. The pseudo-snuff movie has been done before, with results that could kindly be described as “inconsistent”. But this succeeds because it has a couple of very solid performances at its core, in husband-and-wife psychopaths Ed and Susan, and a defiantly twisted sensibility that helps turn its low-budget nature into a strength, rather than a weakness. What we said: “An impressively sick and twisted creativity at work here, with elements which will stick in the mind for a lot longer than many of its colleagues.”
8. Iron Sky. Two words: “Space Nazis.” A brilliant concept, that almost certainly could only have been fully realized outside the Hollywood system – not least because of its acerbic attitude towards America, which is not always shown as morally superior to the Moon Reich. It’s even more impressive that it was largely created “by committee”, with a lot of the work involved being parceled out and crowd-sourced. Might this be the wave of the future? What we said: “Does a much better job of living up to the trailer than I could have hoped.”
7. The Holding. The first of two British “rural nightmare” films to make the top ten, this starts off a lushly-pastoral piece. But the beauty of the English countryside rapidly becomes a contrast to the creepy stalkerness which unfolds as an itinerant farm-hand decides to take up permanent residence, and turn the single mother trying to run the farm and raise her kids, into his own family. However, he will eventually find out that hell hath no fury like a mother… What we said: “A slick, yet still uniquely British, twist on survival horror.”
6. God Bless America. A deeply-held, passionate scream of anguish about the current state of American culture and life in general, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the equally-unPC Falling Down. But beneath the shock tactics is a movie with a brain, and one that doesn’t shy away from asking questions that we’d rather not answer. Events this year, e.g. the Colorado cinema shooting, have perhaps given this film additional sick resonance. What we said: “The tension between the likeable lead characters and their extremely unlikeable actions makes for a thought-provoking experience.”
5. Inbred. Yeah, I’m biased (the director was a guest at our wedding reception!), but this is such a gleefully excessive piece of horror, it’s impossible not to love it. Alex Chandon’s aim was to make a throwback to the days of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson, a splatter flick to watch with mates and plenty of beer – that target is basically nailed in the bulls-eye. Contains as many FM!RT! moments (such as the one shown on the left) as any flick in recent memory. What we said: “Plenty of originality on view, and the technical skill on view is remarkable, especially given almost all the effects are in-camera rather than CGI.
4. The Raid: Redemption. I love a straight-forward, hard-core action flick, and this is one of the best examples I can remember. It plays like a first-person video-game, and I mean that in the best ways, as the hero fights his way up a tower-block against an apparently endless stream of bad guys, taking damage and acquiring power-ups. More crunchy violence than a Fist of the North Star box-set, and puts the “hits” in “Greatest Hits.” What we said: “in terms of pure, undiluted kickassishness… up there with anything the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen or Tony Jaa have ever delivered.”
3. Kevin Smith: Burn in Hell. I didn’t actually review this, because it’s more stand-up than feature, or even documentary; it’s Smith’s one-man show, filmed in Austin, Texas, and is the fifth such film he has done. This one concentrates on the making and subsequent furore around Red State, as well as his dealings with the Westboro Baptists who were one of the inspiration. It’s simply fascinating, marvellously honest and funny as hell: there aren’t many people whom I could just sit and listen to talk for hours, but Smith is right up there, alongside Henry Rollins. What we said: nothing.
2. ACAB – All Cops Are Bastards. If Elite Squad couldn’t quite qualify due to its age, this is a more than admirable replacement, depicting with wonderful balance the thin line separating, but also the difference between, maintaining the law and dispensing justice. To me, the latter is much more important, and so Cobra and his Italian police colleagues have a truly heroic quality that is easy to buy into, thanks to some excellent performances. What we said: “A very eye-opening look at life on the ground, where the pointy end of law-enforcement meets those who’d challenge its power.”
1. Skyfall. Right up there with Goldfinger and Goldeneye in my personal favourite Bond films, this rejuvenates the franchise in a way the first two “reboot” attempts didn’t manage, because this both re-invents Bond and is thoroughly loyal to what has gone before. It’s the first time that I’ve felt Daniel Craig really became 007, rather than going through the motions, and he also has a memorable villain to go up against in Javier Bardem. Add in more emotional depth than any Bond since OHMSS, and it’s almost entirely undiluted win. What we said: “Mendes delivers some truly kick-ass action sequences, but doesn’t forget time with the characters.”