Monday, January 21, 2013

Ten Best in 2012

And now, for the fourth year in a row, A Wasted Life presents its list of the 10 Best Films in 2012. Again, as is the case every year, the films chosen need not have been made or released within the year in discussion, they need only to have been watched for the first time in 2012.
In 2012, of the 82 blog entries, 12 were Short Films of the Month, 26 were career / R.I.P. reviews and only 44 were actual critiques of films. In 2009, the first time we made this list, we arbitrarily decided that short films could not be placed on the list — a decision we keep this year as well. And thus, despite how amazing we personally find them, the short film for February, A Day in the Death of Donny B, (USA, 1969), for  October, The Little Girl Who Was Forgotten by Absolutely Everyone (Including the Postman) (USA, 2008), and for December, the fucking fab gore short Treevenge (USA, 2008), are not on the list. Still, if you haven't watched them yet, you should... 
Likewise, any film that we had already seen prior to viewing them again and reviewing them for the blog are, like every year, not eligible for the list. That means one film that definitely would be on the list otherwise is not there: Stuart Gordon's masterpiece Re-Animator (USA, 1985) a film that is as great today as it was the day it hit the grindhouses. Watch it now. In theory, Daybreakers (Australia, 2009) also cannot be included on the list because we only reviewed it after seeing it a second time within one month, but in all truth as much as we liked that film we would be hard placed to say it is one of the 10 Best in 2012. Good, yes; excellent, not quite — unless, of course, you compare it to the directors' first film, the well-shot but aggravating horror comedy entitled Undead (Australia, 2003 / trailer): then Daybreakers suddenly seems like a fucking masterpiece. But be what it may, we saw Daybreakers twice before writing about it and thus it is banned from this list. 
Of the remaining 42 films we reviewed, we still had a hard time trimming the list down to only 10, but in the end we managed with only an occasional gritting of our teeth. They are all, for the most part — see:  Cannibal Holocaust (Italy, 1980) — new discoveries, and as such they made it onto A Wasted Life's list of the Ten Best Films in 2012. One or two films are, as always, not really that good, but they were all a pleasant surprise (or at least made for such entertaining viewing) that we feel they belong where they are. 
The order in which they are listed is not necessarily a statement of preference. To see what A Wasted Life had to say about the given film when first viewed, follow the linked titles to the respective original review. Enjoy our selection—and feel free to have something to say about it!

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl
(Japan, 2009)

Teenage love and angst in Nippon High — over-the-top pop art gore with fountains of blood, catchy tunes and purty young things that can bite us on the neck any time they want to. Japanese burlesque horror at its best... we loved it, and so will you! A bit racist in one or two characterizations, maybe, but it fits the overall ridiculousness of this great gore film. Cute but bloodthirsty Vampire Girl steals a twinky boy out from under the nose of another local Lolita who ends up dead but returns from the other side ready for revenge as Frankenstein Girl... who needs reality in cinema when you can have ridiculously fun scurrility like this.

Boogie, el aceitoso
(Argentina, 2009)

Tasteless animation with a decidedly less-than-complimentary view of the US, this movie bathes in its own P.I. with gusto. You don't need to see it in 3D to laugh, but the technology does support the movie's decidedly odd mixture of animation styles. Plot: gun happy misogynist hitman gets even after being double-crossed by his boss, leaving a trail of bodies and body odour behind.

Dellamorte Dellamore
(Italy, 1994)

In all truth, we began working on this list one dull early December day, long before we saw this film here. And amongst the Ten Best in 2012 we had chosen at that point was undoubtedly one of the worst films we saw in 2012: Ich Piss' auf deinen Kadaver. Ich Piss' auf deinen Kadaver is truly terrible — the script and the acting and the cinematography suck like a vacuum cleaner with teeth, and there is nothing about the film that in any way at all indicates talent or even technical proficiency. Indeed, if there was a script, it was made as it was being filmed, and the actors appear mostly to simply be strangers picked off the street. But the film had us laughing our heads off and we weren't even stoned. (One chase scene is truly memorable for illustrating exactly what is meant when they say someone runs like a girl.) But we enjoyed it so much when we saw it, that we thought we should include it... Still, anyone with even a dingleberry of good taste would probably hate the film — and, really, although it was on our preparatory list, it shouldn't be on anyone's final "Best of" list. Which is why we're happy that this film stumbled before our eyes in December 2012, for Dellamorte Dellamore is indeed a film that should be on many a "Best of" lists. A truly unique and funny and weird film that enjoys cult popularity but has nevertheless remained generally unseen by the masses. Help change that — watch it now!

The Locals
(New Zealand, 2003)

Two boys out for a weekend of surf and fun do the typically stupid thing of ignoring a "No Trespassing" sign in hope of a short cut and stumble upon two babes out to party — and a yitload of homicidal men. The Locals is a low key but pleasant horror film from the land of kiwis that manages to toss in a surprise or two — not high on gore, but the camera work is quite nice at times, and we've always had a weakness for New Zealand accents. There is nothing about this film that is particularly flashy or splashy or shocking or explosive, but it is tightly made and not only catches and keeps your interest, but succeeds well in building its mood and carrying it through to the end...

Mutant Aliens
(USA, 2001)

Bill Plympton films are always good for a gander and they do keep us laughing. This alien invasion revenge film is typically off-the-wall and drenched in a total lack of respect for the mainstream — in other words, it should be required viewing in kindergartens across the USA. A surprisingly mean film for one as funny as it is, in Mutant Aliens Plympton tells the tale of an astronaut left to die in space who returns with a band of mutant aliens to get revenge upon those who left him to die — his now adult daughter and her horny fiancé lend a helping hand...

Die Beauty / Du Sköna
(Sweden, 2010)
Never heard of this film? Neither has anyone else we know. We stumbled upon it purely by accident and loved it. Swedish surrealism, we think.... or could it be that life in Sweden is really like this? An extremely calm film that meanders to an end that could just as well be a new beginning, and that starts less at the beginning then it does just suddenly take up a variety of narrative strands about unhappy wives and missing husbands and young blonde daughters and an unhappy German prostitute and other peripheral characters living in the oddly bizarre backwaters of Sweden. The painting above was found at the film's website.

Bao chou / Vengeance
(Hong Kong, 1970)

This 1970 Shaw Brothers film is not exactly a typical example of Shaw Brother sock-em, chop-em kung fu costume madness. Set in 1920s Peking, Bao chou / Vengeance does feature flying fists and high kicks, but knives and even guns make an appearance in a tale that follows the narrative schema of good ol' U.S. Film Noir. Tough-fighting man in love with a shady, traitorous lady is killed when one of his two-timing wife's lovers decides he's a bother; his tougher-fighting brother shows up to revenge his death, hitting the town like an unstoppable bulldozer... The bodies pile and love blooms, but tragedy is predestined.

Tourist Trap
(USA, 1979)

This film got lost in the slew of horror films that was released in the late 70s, early 80s and it didn't help any that it was rated PG and released at the same time as Halloween (1979 / trailer). As a result, one of the most quirky and original horror films of the time was completely overlooked and sank into oblivion, where it has pretty much remained to date. OK, Tourist Trap has achieved a certain level of cult popularity over the years due to word of mouth, but the film is still an under-appreciated treasure that is not even half as well known as it deserves to be. We went into it thinking it to be a typical body-counter, and though you can count the bodies it is anything but a typical body count movie. Rather unlike the promise of the French poster above, Tourist Trap has a lack of uncovered boobage, but for that it is incredibly creepy and consistently surprising. The final showdown throws in one of the least expected mind fucks ever expected...

Castle Freak
(USA/Italy, 1995)

To simply re-use the opening paragraph of our review (which can be found by following the linked title above): "In-between his popular cinematic fart Fortress (1992 / German trailer) and his much less popular but far more entertaining flop Space Truckers (1996 / trailer), Stuart Gordon flew to Italy to make this direct-to-video horror film for Full Moon. Based ever so loosely on H. P. Lovecraft's short story The Outsider, Castle Freak is a modernized Gothic horror story along the lines of, say, The Virgin of Nuremberg (1963 / Italian trailer), but instead of a woman in her nightie being confronted by a mad woman-killer driven crazy by the disfiguring experiments he experienced under the Nazis, we have an emotionally damaged American family of three unknowingly sharing their inherited castle with a now-malformed monster that had been maimed and mistreated deep in the cellar for 40 years by his literally castrating mother. [...]" Perhaps not the best of Gordon's films, but definitely one of his better ones, which makes it so surprising that it is so under-appreciated...

The Brain that Wouldn't Die
(USA, 1959)

Like most people, we long knew this film by name but had never bothered to watch it... but when we finally did, we found out that it is a true masterpiece of vintage trash. Perverse sleaze like this is always fun to watch, and we found it grand — and we weren't on drugs, either. Wonder how we ever missed catching this piece of fabulous flotsam back in the days of Creature Feature. Plot: A driven scientist bereft of morals goes shopping for a new body for his fiancée, who is a living but bodiless head since a car accident. The Brain that Wouldn't Die is great film for the whole family. 
Full film:

Honorable mention: 
Cannibal Holocaust
(Italy, 1980)

This film definitely should be on the list, 'cause it is a distasteful and disturbing work of art that truly leaves an impression. Its soundtrack is one of the most memorable the great Riz Ortolani ever composed, an unforgettable easy listening track that is as soothing as the film itself is disturbing. But while we wrote our review in 2012 after having seen the film in its entirety for the first time, the movie wasn't exactly unknown to us: oddly enough, back in the days of VHS, three totally different times in our prior life in the USA we stopped by friends to drop something off (or by dealers pick something up) and a video of this flick was playing on the tube. Each time, we stayed as long as we could to see as much as we could, but were unable to watch it till the end due to other commitments (namely: work). Thus, though we saw the whole film for the first time in 2012, we saw too much of it in piecemeal to truly say Cannibal Holocaust is a new film for us. Thus, this masterpiece of Italo exploitation is relegated to a simple honorable mention — and the recommendation that if you haven't seen this nasty flick yet, you truly should. Cannibal Holocaust is nothing less than mandatory viewing for those types of folks that waste their lives reading blogs like this...
The unforgettable theme to Cannibal Holocaust:

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