1. Maniac (Dir. Franck Khalfoun) – Upon viewing this reinvention of the 1980’s William Lustig cult masterpiece, fans had lots of questions, curiosity and concerns that rang out before its initial release. Mirroring a majority of the same vibe and ideas from the original, Director Franck Khalfoun, writers Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur, crew and producers set out to create a film from the opening moments to the very emotional and disturbing end that fans would find a place in their dark hearts and minds. Showing care and respect for Lustig’s and Joe Spinell of this 80’s New York City grindhouse film, the screening at Horror Hound weekend 2012 was packed to the gills with dedicated fans as the crowd rode the waveof POV action, dark humor, visceral action and the creation of a modern day psycho in Frank (Elijah Wood).
Many things work right in this film including the casting of Wood (which people questioned) which brought a mix of experience, method, on screen appearance and connection. This IFC Midnight film was a no brainer for my Top horror film of 2013 and this list as again IFC never seems to have very few misses and an eye on what fans want with diverse horror. Whether a fan of the original Maniac or not, this film has it bumps along the way but it drives home tension, style and a wave of power that cannot be denied just like Frank and the darkness he carries inside! Get this film and DON’T GO OUT TONIGHT…
2. Contracted (Dir. Eric England) – There are really no original ideas anymore for horror films. Very few projects ever find even 50% originality for a variety of reasons in the filmmaking business. Young minds like an Eric England and others are a reason why horror as a culture, genre and fan base can breath instead of scream!Contracted is a film written, produced and directed by England that takes the tired and money making concept of body horror to a smart and reinvented level. Portrayed by brilliant actress Najarra Townsend, Townsend plays Samantha a girl confused on life, love, her place in the world, future and those her around her. Dealing with issues in her past, her mom (Caroline Williams) is on her about the right path and following it. Hmmmm…. Sounds like every other teen drama out there???
Hold on… England never allows you to stay in the mindset for very long. Using great practical effects, emotion and symbolism, he throws in an STD that Sam contracts after a one night stand of drinking, drugs and confusion with an insidious stranger (Simon Barrett). Over the next 60 plus minutes, the STD takes a hold of Sam transforming her and leaving you shocked, questioning and screaming for more! Contracted does not bring original idea but reinvents a multi-genre film that needs it and deserves! Hats off to England and those involved as they show the viewer respect and bloody goodtime never letting the devil fully out the door.
3. Grabbers (Dir. Jon Wright) – IFC Midnight is known for quality horror genre films from around the world in all the dark shapes, stories and sizes. Grabbers is no exception to this truth. Helmed by filmmaker Jon Wright, the narrative is based in the breathtaking country of Ireland and takes the concept of the alien/monster movie serious but not too serious! Blending action, humor, horror and alcohol, Wright, writer Kevin Lehane, crew and cast members including Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradleyconcoct a brew that settles in your system that gets you drunk on all the good things about horror film making! Grabbers reminds you of the talented writer/directors like Joe Cornish with Attack the Block and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz &The World’s End). Available in multiple viewing platforms, it is the perfect film for an evening on the couch and expectations as a horror fan for quality writing, characters to connect to, horror based action, laughs and cool MONSTERS!!!
4. Proxy (Dir. Zack Parker)–In a complete 180 degree turn from Grabbers, Zack Parker’s Proxy is that dramatic horror film of 2014. Parker, who is known for his talents as a brilliant and psychological writer and filmmaker (see Scalene) takes body horror to a dark levels achieved by only a handful of filmmakers. Hitting you hard from moment one and never allowing you to feel safe for the run time, Parker constructs this film on different and distinctive levels of narrative that dangerously and successfully connect to you the viewer with a stellar cast of incredible and believable characters including actors Joe Swanberg, Kristina Klebe and Alexa Havins to name just a few!. Sandwichedwithin the framework of a thriller, body horror drama and revenge narrative, Parker knows how to conduct an orchestra using all his resources to the fullest power and emotional heights. Parker’s care to detail, point of view and sense of reality will leave you thinking you can predict what will happen but you can’t! Proxywill sit with you as you watch it and days after, a brilliant acquisitions by IFC Midnight!
5. Almost Human (Dir. Joe Begos)–The last spot on this list had several contenders. It can be a challenge to just narrow to five films with IFC Midnight. With kick ass practical effects, awesome kills and different sub genres within this horror film, Almost Human rounds out this list! Directed by filmmaker and writer Joe Begos, Almost Human is a buffet for horror fans! Taking place during the cold season on the east coast of the United States in Rhode Island, Begos constructs a story of alien abduction that is laced with tension and excellent performances. Headed by talented cast and crew, the film offers no real explanation to what has happened and will happen in the all-out opening sequence! During the next 75 minutes, the pace and narrative unlocks the events and actions of Seth (Graham Skipper), Mark (Josh Ethier) disappearance and return after two years and Jen (Vanessa Leigh) connection to them both. Laced with grizzly violence, hentai style sex/rapebody horror scenes, elements of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and we constructed action!Begos constructs a timeline that shows us that the skies are not friendly, you never know what is behind the door and mating can be a horror story! Special note to Josh Ethier who is so talented and handled not only the editing in Contracted but sound, editing and acting as the intense main villain in Almost Human.
As a special HORRORIDAY present for you reading this, wanted to give you five more films from IFC Midnight from 2009 to now that are also recommended by The Ghost and I! Happy holidays!
2009 - I Sell the Dead: Directed by Glenn McQuaid
2010 -Stakeland: Directed by Jim Mickle
2011 - Rites of Spring: Directed by Padraig Reynolds
2011 – The Human Centipede: Full Sequence: Directed by Tom Six
2013 - Beneath: Directed by Ben Ketai