PIRANHA DD - I think low expectations played a part in why I enjoyed PIRANHA DOUBLE D as much as I did. I've seen its predecessor a couple of times and don't particularly care for it that much, so I went into this expecting a lesser version of it, which it essentially is, but the comedy works a lot better for me this time around. Set at a water park littered with naked, plastic, big-breasted women, this PIRANHA sequel is basically a cheaper-looking version of its predecessor with a new cast (although a couple of old faces turn up in some of the film's more hilarious scenes), but goddamn if it isn't one of the funniest, most utterly ridiculous movies of the last year. It's a quick watch to boot, barely clocking in at 80 minutes, and Danielle Panabaker looks fantastic in a bikini top and short shorts.
SINISTER - This one had a lot of mixed reviews upon its release (mostly negative), so, while finally seeing it for myself, I had trouble putting my finger on just what it was exactly that people disliked so much. The thing about SINISTER isn't that it's bad (it's actually CITIZEN KANE compared to most of the mainstream horror crap that came out in 2012), it's that it fails to live up to the tremendous amount of potential it has - in my opinion anyway. I'm a huge fan of atmosphere and mood in horror movies; when done well, it can easily make up for a film's faults, and such was the case with SINISTER. There's not much going on in the film plot-wise. SINISTER sets up some genuinely disturbing stuff but does a bad job of following through. Most of the film consists of Ethan Hawke's character - a washed-up True Crime author - in the dark, be it sitting in a private room and watching some shocking snuff footage that he found in his family's new home or walking around and investigating strange bumps in the night. The visuals and soundtrack of SINISTER, however, are fucking aces. The grainy snuff movies are like disturbing, well-made little short films in and of themselves, and the haunting soundscape is comprised of moody pieces from the likes of Sunn O))), Boris, and Ulver. Why filmmakers don't incorporate more of that type of dark and experimental music in horror films is beyond me.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER - When I first saw the trailer for this, I couldn't have been any less interested to see it. Truth be told, I actually don't have a clue as to why I pulled the trigger on this one once it hit DVD, but I'm really glad I did. ABE LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER was perhaps one of the biggest surprises for me when it came to movies from the last year. The film has such a bizarre concept, but it's played so straight that I couldn't help but admire it. On top of that, it's pretty decent as a film and a blast to watch. The characters are appropriately likable or hate-able (is that even a word?) and easy to invest in, the vampire elements aren't stale by any means, the film actually has some teeth (no pun intended), and the stakes (yep, that's two puns in a row) are satisfyingly raised enough throughout the film to keep things interesting. Overall, this was much better than it had any right to be.
THE INNKEEPERS - I'm sure I'm in the minority when I say this, but I prefer Ti West's INNKEEPERS to his surprise hit from a few years back, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL. Well, kinda. I like them both quite a bit and they're both very similar in some ways, but I guess I had less issues with this movie than I did with HOUSE. Sara Paxton plays the most likable character in a horror movie that I've seen in a long, long time, and that says something in a day and age when characters in horror films are either incredibly shallow, too pretty, or all of the above. Aside from that, West further proves with this film that he's got a talent for creating mood and atmosphere. As a true "horror film", INNKEEPERS does kinda fall short in some areas, but it doesn't make it any less of a joy to watch. The visuals, music, and sound are top notch as well. INNKEEPERS also appealed to me on a personal level; I actually used to work the overnight shift at a hotel that was supposedly haunted, and more often than not there would be nights where it would be just me and the chick at the front desk swapping creepy stories.
PROMETHEUS - This ALIEN prequel was one of the more divisive films of the last year. People either hated it or loved it. There's no denying that it's a very flawed film with a laughable script ("I love rocks!"), but I had a blast watching it not once but twice in theaters. I think what killed it for some people was their own expectations of it, but for the most part it seemed to just leave a bad taste in peoples' mouths based on its own merits, or lack thereof. For me, PROMETHEUS is a visual treat with some fun horror-movie violence. It's a throwback to the campy "Terror in Space" movies of the 70s and 80s, but with a large budget and an A-list cast. With Ridley Scott, Charlize Theron, and Michael Fassbender on board (last unintentional pun, I promise), it would have to be truly terrible for me not to get some enjoyment out of it, but luckily PROMETHEUS had a lot to offer for me in terms of what I like. Plus, any movie where Charlize Theron gets to handle a flamethrower is OK in my book.
KILL LIST - While I don't think KILL LIST is the "perfect" film that a lot of people claim it to be, I was obviously quite impressed with it nonetheless. It's essentially a British-as-fuck gangster film that turns into a horror movie. As far as its horror elements, KILL LIST goes to some familiar places, but the "how" and "when" it turns into a horror movie is what makes it so interesting, aside from the fact that it's well-made and well-acted of course. The film follows two hitmen with thick Cockney accents as they go about their business and cross paths with peculiar characters who later come back into the picture in some form or another. I can't really say much without spoiling the film's surprises, so I'll leave it at that. Overall, it's a solid film that really packs a punch in terms of violence and emotion. The score and sound design are terrific as well.
ENTRANCE - When it was all said and done, even I was surprised that ENTRANCE ended up being my favorite horror movie of 2012. I have to admit, this last year has been a shitty one for horror. As you'll see in a few days, there won't be much in the way of the horror genre on my top 30 of 2012 list, whereas I had quite a few horror titles spread throughout my 2011 list. Will I go out of my way to see ENTRANCE again anytime soon as opposed to movies like INNKEEPERS and a few other films on this list? Doubtful. But, considering ENTRANCE did what it was able to do on a budget of only a few thousand dollars is too big an accomplishment to overlook. ENTRANCE follows a lonely young woman who looks to leave the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles behind her, but her past catches up with her in a horrifying way just as she's about to bid farewell to the City of Angels. As much as I think the term is stupid, this film is what people would refer to as "mumblecore", in that it's shot in a cinema veritee style and doesn't have much of a plot. It's also a quiet film without much dialogue, and it doesn't turn into a full-blown horror movie until the end, but it does a lot with nothing in a way that appeals to me. Stephen King is also a fan, so at least I know I'm not alone in my admiration for this indie film. Check out 13 Questions with lead actress Suziey Block HERE.