2016 in review

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Remo D
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2016 in review

Post by Remo D »

The best thing about the horror year 2016 was that it was loaded with goodies and featured very few out-and-out stinkers. The worst thing about the general movie-going year 2016 was that I didn't get around to individually reviewing numerous titles... sometimes because of personal commitments but also sometimes because the fantastic line-up (read: franchise films) were utterly uninspiring and I didn't feel like spending any more time with them. I can't promise any of that is going to change in 2017, particularly as the first 'horror' release we're going to get is yet another UNDERWORLD film. I haven't seen a single film in the series since the first one... which gave me a headache. But let's jump in on the year that was all the same--no time like the present! The genre and semi-genre films unseen by me this past year include DESIERTO (if some of the survival-horror films on this list count, then that one probably counts, too), THE WAILING, THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE and the animated LEGEND OF THE CHUPACABRAS.


THE BOY lived up to the creepy promise of its trailer as an American babysitter promised to take care of a porcelain doll representing an elderly couple's long-gone son, even though it took a predictable swerve in to 70s TV movie territory. That in itself is NOT a bad thing.

The mash-up fad had already faded and it was simply too late to unleash the film adaptation of PRIDE + PREJUDICE + ZOMBIES on a public that no longer had any interest in the deal--nevertheless, the actual film served quite well as a zombie movie AND as a Jane Austen story.

THE WITCH (sorry--I'm not going for the double-V spelling) was an exhaustively-researched and authentic creepfest involving Puritan-era terror and superstition (?). And it also gave us the charismatic goat known as Black Phillip as part of its unique and sincere presentation.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE was the sequel that wasn't really a sequel and provided plenty of intensity with its dilemma... yes, John Goodman might be quite insane--on the other hand, something might very well BE out there and he just might have the perfect safety shelter. How far do you want to push him?

We can debate the 'true facts' all we like, but James Wan returned to prime horror form by treating THE CONJURING 2 as a genuine high-stakes haunting with heavy Italian flavoring. As a MOVIE, it undeniably works.

Far more 'high-concept' was CLOWN, an expansion of Eli Roth's phony trailer of years ago... and it gave us a child-eating monster perversely hiding in the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese. That alone was worth its weight in greasepaint, but the rest of the movie worked pretty well, too.

Also expanded from a much shorter Net sensation was LIGHTS OUT, a lean and mean ghost story that managed to sustain itself even at feature length.

THE SHALLOWS managed the near-impossible and gave us yet another shark-attack movie that wasn't really yet another shark-attack movie.

DON'T BREATHE nearly snagged the top prize as a blind terror drew the reins in on a gaggle of unwitting burglars, and it also supplied what was probably the top 'gross-out' moment of 2016 (the entirety of THE GREASY STRANGLER notwithstanding). But I had to acknowledge that the moment also managed to take me out of the movie for a spell, and I fear that the filmmakers will feel obliged to 'top' it in the inevitable sequel.

TRAIN TO BUSAN was a gripping and exciting instant-apocalypse disaster 'don't call them zombies' thriller from Korea. My only frustration with it was the way that the script perpetually shifted the odds and went out of its way to let one character in particular run interference on pretty much everybody else in the film.

I didn't get to see PHANTASM: RAVAGER on the big screen, though I did get to see the J.J. Abrams restoration of the original thus, and that was certainly time well spent (and denied me when PHANTASM first came out, so that's one off the bucket list). The conclusion of the saga offered a sad and uncomfortably realistic resolution to the whole bloody tale, which was certainly in keeping with the progress of the series--I just didn't want to be there. At least it offered an alternative 'out' at the same time, and the film as a whole was certainly better than OBLIVION as a wrap-up.

And ALWAYS SHINE was an independent local favorite (shot largely in spectacular Big Sur) in which two aspiring actresses (experiencing either mild success or lack thereof) allowed their simmering resentment of each other to explode into an out-and-out psychological horror show during some 'quality time' together. I'm glad I got the chance to see this on the big screen... most of the world will have to settle for on-demand.

THE GREASY STRANGLER unquestionably takes the WTF prize for originality, audacity and quotability in 2016... however, I can't give it top honors in 'horror' because it was never actually frightening. I just hope its creators quit while they're ahead before we wind up with the diminishing returns of the HUMAN CENTIPEDE franchise.

But when it comes to relentless violence, character-driven shocks and unrelieved suspense, there was no stopping GREEN ROOM this year. How much would you like to be that they'll remember Patrick Stewart come Oscar time? Ho. Ho. Ho. But there's your best of the year, right there.


THE FOREST started promisingly as an exploration of the true-life Japanese 'suicide forest' phenomenon and featured some terrific individual scenes even as it inevitably meandered around to fulfill feature length.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR was the umpteenth lesson in why you shouldn't wish your dead child back from the pale, but at least it had a nifty sting in its tail.

Did you remember that we got not one, but two PURGE films in 2016? Yeah, MEET THE BLACKS was supposed to be your typical SCARY MOVIE spoof of the whole deal, but it WAS a Universal release that got carte blanche to invoke "The Purge" by name with impunity, so it amuses me to count it as part of the series. It avoids the bottom of the barrel by virtue of a few truly hilarious isolated moments along the way. As for THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR? It was great at pushing buttons and stayed more than watchable throughout even as it suffered from the 'too many endings' phenomenon inherent to the deal.

I was more than grateful that the local arthouse gave me the chance to see THE NEON DEMON on the big screen (after months of trailers in the mainstream houses). However, the actual film was yet another triumph of style over substance, as Nicholas Winding Refn gave us a visually hypnotic take on little more than "This business will eat you alive."

BLAIR WITCH was a far more in-keeping follow-up to the original BLAIR WITCH PROJECT than was BOOK OF SHADOWS, but by now we all know the concept and the rules. You're in the zone, so you're screwed no matter what you do... the ending was pre-ordained even as it offered a nice variation stemming from the legend of Orpheus.

SHIN GODZILLA was almost painfully talky and slow-moving and stood as yet another unsolicited reboot when we're anxiously awaiting the follow-up to the 2014 Gareth Edwards epic. But when it DID kick in, it featured some of the most amazing and awe-inspiring imagery ever invoked in the Toho series.

OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL was a vast improvement over the truly dreadful original--however, its status as a prequel locked it into a pre-ordained conclusion.

MORGAN deserved better than its 'biggest flop of the year' reputation, yet it was still essentially SPECIES done as psychoanalysis. Nevertheless, the final twist worked quite well.

And SHUT IN managed to make a truly preposterous storyline work reasonably well by virtue of its cast.


THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM was exactly that. D.J. Caruso continues to ape Hitchcock with an unpleasant tale of a personal trauma viewed as a ghost story--but with a script that seemed cobbled together from numerous AMERICAN HORROR STORY reruns.

And then there were two 'possession' stories featuring David Mazouz (young Bruce Wayne in GOTHAM, which I continue to enjoy). THE DARKNESS had him bring a handful of rocks home from the Grand Canyon to set up ye olde POLTERGEIST rehash yet again. But it was INCARNATE that showed up near the end of the year to give us a thoroughly uninspired hodgepodge of THE EXORCIST and INCEPTION. Framing the action with a cool song was a nice try, but none of the actual movie worked... even for a moment. INCARNATE takes bottom honors for 2016.

As for the rest of the year's releases I caught on the big screen?

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR kept my interest up in the Marvel franchise successfully (the jury's still out on yet another Spider-Man), while DOCTOR STRANGE proved that there was, indeed, room for yet another origin story to sweeten the pot for the future. X-MEN APOCALYPSE held my attention while it played before proving itself completely unnecessary (I could say the same thing about STAR TREK: BEYOND). It turned out that the raucously rude DEADPOOL was exactly the Marvel film I really needed in 2016.

As for DC? BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE was overly long and contrived (Martha!) but I appreciated Ben Affleck's take on the Dark Knight all the same. And while there was PLENTY wrong with SUICIDE SQUAD, I had too much fun watching the film to care about any of that.

Let's see... what else off my particular beaten track? I saw not one, but two Christ-centered films in 2016... the Coen Brothers allegory HAIL, CAESAR! worked best in incidents as opposed to a satisfying whole, but was enjoyable enough; and RISEN interpreted the Easter story as a faith-based detective thriller and proved remarkably entertaining in the process.

THE JUNGLE BOOK was a terrific CGI/live-action take on the Rudyard Kipling classic... I equally enjoyed Bill Murray as Baloo and Christopher Walken as King Louie.

THE NICE GUYS played very well as a mismatched 'buddy' comedy set in the BOOGIE NIGHTS era, even if it pulled a TRAIN TO BUSAN or two and went out of its way to kill off a sympathetic character who, quite frankly, didn't need to die for any greater reason than that the scriptwriter wanted it to happen.

MECHANIC: RESURRECTION was the lone Jason Statham vehicle to hit the big screen in 2016. It worked decently whenever Jessica Alba wasn't on camera. Don't hold your breath for a third installment.

I was essentially ordered to see HELL OR HIGH WATER on the big screen on the promise of a truly excellent modern Western. It was. And it was probably the best non-genre film I saw all year.

I deliberately went out of my way to see something completely off my beam when opportunity presented itself... I went and saw the Mexican comedy NO MANCHES FRIDA (a high-school 'super teacher' romp in the guise of a crime drama). It was a bit overlong and contrived... but it was still good fun.

ARRIVAL was literate, thought-provoking and imaginative science fiction (bound to disappoint anyone expecting a typical ‘invasion’ storyline)... even if it, like RAVAGER, went to places that are sad enough in real life...

And finally, I attended the two biggest 'holiday' releases of the year. Gareth Edwards gave us ROGUE ONE instead of a second Godzilla installment. I'm afraid that too many spinoffs will give us a STAR WARS saturation that will stop making the series special. This DIRTY DOZEN variant played reasonably well and gave Peter Cushing fans pause to consider... but we all knew how it was going to turn out ahead of time. My favorite thing in the movie was another appearance of the full-strength Darth Vader sorely lacking in the prequel trilogy.

Meanwhile? I went and saw SING. All by myself. Because I couldn't deny that the trailer with the pig belting the Lady Gaga number cracked me up. No greater reason. The story was every show-biz cliche you've seen a hundred times, but it was pitched to a young audience that hadn't already seen those. And the actual film made a great point... everything was chaos when singers thought they were competing for a huge cash prize, but when they finally decided to sing just for the pure love of it? There it is. And I can deal with that.

Wishing you great cinematic adventures and experiences in 2017!

Remo D.
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Darth Tanner
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Re: 2016 in review

Post by Darth Tanner »

Nicely done, Remo! How for my recap.

I have to say that I only took in 9 theatrical viewings in 2016, but I caught up to 9 more on video bringing the total to an even 18 (plus an honorable mention as noted below). So here are my thought on 2016 as follows:

Theatrical viewings:

DEADPOOL - Although I found this one very funny and creative, I just didn't enjoy it as much as most people did (most likely due to my disdain for Ryan Reynolds). But I'm not sorry that I saw it and will definitely give it another chance at some point.

BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE - I had an opposite reaction to this one as opposed to DEADPOOL. While most people that I know didn't get into this one, I actually had a great time with it. Although the theatrical version was somewhat bloated, I thought the movie moved right along. However after seeing the R-rated director's cut on Blu-Ray, I have to say that version is much more superior to the theatrical version. I really wish Warner Bros had released that version theatrically instead, but I'm sure they didn't want to do it for obvious reasons.

FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF - Since this movie is a classic, I'm sure everybody knows about it by now and really doesn't need a review from me. Even know I really don't seek out many classic reissues in cinemas these days, I made an exception with this one since it was a childhood favorite and I finally got to see it on the big screen for the first time. I'm also happy that this movie can still generate laughs from audiences even after 30 years.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR - This was my favorite Marvel movie since the first AVENGERS movie. Despite the CAPTAIN AMERICA title, I like to think of this as an AVENGERS movie even though Hulk and Thor are absent. The story was great and it did a great job of juggling so many characters. I had some misgivings about Spider-Man being introduced into this (although it was great seeing Marisa Tomei again). But the awesome action scenes and well-placed laughs made up for it. I can't say I'm looking forward to the upcoming Spider-Man film, but I'm definitely in line for the next AVENGERS adventure.

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE - I was really surprised at the backlash that this one received. Although it wasn't as good as the last two X-MEN outings, I still thought it was way better than X-MEN: LAST STAND. Great performances and story all around, and I really dug Quicksilver's big moment in this. My only nitpick is that the Wolverine sequence seemed out of place and did nothing for the movie aside from giving Hugh Jackman screen time. Still I would have to say that this was my favorite movie I'd seen in the theatre this year.

SUICIDE SQUAD - I didn't have a whole lot of expectations going into this, but I walked out pleasantly surprised. Despite a weak ending, this movie was a blast from start to finish. My only gripe is I wish it had been R-rated and gone the extra mile with the darker premise. I know that there is an "extended cut" now out on disc, so I'll have to check that out to see how it compares.

STAR TREK BEYOND - Even thought I really loved the last two STAR TREK movies, I do have to agree that this one was somewhat of a letdown. While not a terrible movie by any means it could have been so much more and was honestly forgettable by the end. I just hope they get things back on track for the next installment.

MAGNIFICENT SEVEN - As much as I enjoy watching westerns, I hate to admit I have never seen the original version of this. But I went to see this remake because of the talent involved and a chance to see a western on the big screen (which is pretty rare these days). While this wasn't the greatest movie I saw this year, it had some great performances and some nice action sequences. Worth seeing as long as your expectations are at a minimum.

ROGUE ONE - As much as STAR WARS has been a part of my life, I was really skeptical about this spin-off adventure when it was announced. While ROGUE ONE didn't work the same magic on me as THE FORCE AWAKENS did, it was still a breath of fresh air and definitely worthy of inclusion in the STAR WARS canon. A terrific story with some awesome action scenes along with a few great surprises. This film also boasted some of the best use of CGI I have ever seen. Aside from the next two chapters of the "sequel trilogy", I'm also anticipating the spin-off films focusing on Han Solo and Boba Fett and hope they turn out just as good.

Video viewings:

GREEN ROOM - This one was a terrific surprise. It was great seeing Patrick Stewart playing a villain for a change. Plus Anton Yelchin gave a great performance and it's sad that he left us so soon after this movie came out. I wouldn't call it the best movie of the year in my book, but it was still great and I was happy that I saw it.

5TH WAVE - Yeah I saw it. I have never read the book series, so I can only comment on this movie adaptation. It wasn't the best movie I ever saw, but I still enjoyed this much more than the HUNGER GAMES movies. Chloe Grace Moretz is a very talented actress who I enjoy watching in anything. Next up she is co-starring in the long-awaited remake of SUSPIRIA and I'm really curious to see how that one turns out.

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME - I really loved Richard Linklater's DAZED AND CONFUSED and I was really looking forward to this one since it was promoted as "DAZED AND CONFUSED for the 80's". For some reason, I really couldn't get into this one as much as the earlier film despite some funny moments and a great soundtrack. It might have been more interesting if Linklater had done a sequel to DAC following the same characters and set it in the mid-80's. Still I'm not sorry that I saw this. Hopefully it will grow on me more after a few more viewings.

31 - Rob Zombie's latest film didn't play theatrically near me, so I had to catch it on Vudu. While I enjoyed this more that LORDS OF SALEM, it was nowhere near the level of DEVIL'S REJECTS and honestly pretty forgettable. But I'd say it's still worth checking out.

NEON DEMON - Another one that I was denied the chance to see on the big screen and caught up with on Vudu. Aside from the buzz, I didn't know much about the movie going in but walked out pleasantly surprised. This is definitely an arty horror-film which probably wouldn't go over too well with mainstream audiences. But I still liked it mainly for the great performances by Elle Fanning and Keanu Reeves as well as the ending that totally caught me off guard. Elle Fanning is another talented actress who I will watch in anything and I look forward to seeing her in Sofia Coppola's upcoming remake of THE BEGUILED.

TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTAL - Jeffrey Schwartz (who gave us the outstanding I AM DIVINE documentary a few years ago) returns with a documentary focusing on Divine's POLYESTER co-star Tab Hunter. This is a fascinating look at Tab Hunter's life and career along with some great interviews (including Tab himself). It is available for streaming on Netflix and I'd encourage everyone to check it out.

PHANTASM: RAVAGER - Yet another film that didn't play theatrically in my area and had to catch up with on Vudu. Although I would have preferred a better finale to the series, it was still great seeing all the characters back in action again. Even though I liked all the PHANTASM movies, I thought that RAVAGER was the most fun I had since PHANTASM II. My only complaint is that the story seemed to jump around a lot and it will probably take an extra viewing or two to make sense out of everything.

ELVIS & NIXON - Great little film about the King visiting President Nixon at the White House in 1970. Kevin Spacey and Mike Shannon both give terrific performances, plus there are a few surprisingly funny moments. Well worth checking out on a slow afternoon or evening.

HELL OR HIGH WATER - I would not have seen this had it not been for an enthusiastic review from a certain someone. While I wouldn't classify this as a western in my book, it still had similar elements and was a terrific drama all around. Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges were both great to watch and I'm glad I took a chance on this one.

Honorable mention:

11.22.63 - I read Stephen King's novel back when it was first published and really enjoyed it. But I knew it would be really hard to do a film adaptation while remaining true to the source. Luckily this 8-episode miniseries (which I caught up to on disc) did a great job and was probably the only way King's novel could be faithfully brought to the screen. Although I was dismayed that some elements from the book were scrapped for time constraints and the ending was somewhat changed (most likely due to the current political climate), this adaptation was still pretty much what I imagined when I read the book. Even though I prefer the book a lot more, this is still a great miniseries and I'd encourage everyone to check it out (but I'd suggest reading the book first if you haven't already done so).

So there is my take on 2016 in a nutshell. Here's hoping that 2017 turns out to be a somewhat better year.