Looking Back: Tim Picks the Five Best Horror Films from the Year 2012
by Tim Buel
December 26, 2012
Since the horror genre is pretty much always ignored when awards season rolls around, this year, we figured our horror guru and The Golden Briefcase co-host Tim Buel should take the time to honor some of the best horror films of 2012. For my money, I think there's only a handful of truly great horror films in any given decade, but our own Tim Buel sees many more films in that genre than I do each year. So without further adieu, here are Tim's picks for the five best horror films of 2012. We'll tell you right now that Paranormal Activity 4 will not be found on this list, and you may not have even heard of a few of these films. Read on!
#5. The Innkeepers
Ti West's The House of the Devil was a huge sleeper hit with horror buffs when it came out in 2009, so everyone was greatly anticipating his follow up. What we got was a hilarious and chilling tale of two amateur ghost hunters investigating their place of employment on its final closing weekend. Ti West again shows his love and appreciation for slow-burn storytelling and fantastic use of dialogue to create believable and endearing characters (played brilliantly by Sarah Paxton and Pat Healy). The film delicately plays with tone as we pace through the creaking and haunting chambers of The Yankee Peddler Inn with our main characters, waiting to see what secrets the Inn holds.
#4. Sleep Tight
Juame Balagueró is most widely known for his two entries in the excellent found-footage series [REC] (co-directed by Paco Plaza), yet he has branched out alone in this latest effort and proven he can hold his own as a director. Sleep Tight is a film about an introverted apartment employee who is infatuated with one of the complex's tenants. The main character, Ceasar (played extremely well by Luis Tosar) blurs the lines between the moral and the perverse when it comes to his obsession with Marta Etura's Clara, "visiting" her while she sleeps and violating all terms of privacy. Sleep Tight also challenges the audience with a moral dilemma as we essentially root for a pervert to not get his comeuppance. The film is just now being released in the US, so try to catch it as soon as you can!
Sinister is a film that was very much on the radar of all critics and friends of screenwriter and fellow film blogger C. Robert Cargill (aka "Massawyrm" of Ain't It Cool News), yet the question remained: how good was the final product? The answer is damn good. Backed by Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity, Insidious), Cargill and his good friend Scott Derrickson have crafted a very unsettling and disturbing little horror film that takes some traditional horror tropes and flips them on their head. The film sets true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) in the house of a murdered family where he begins to unravel the mystery surround their deaths and other related murders. The truly memorable and most gut-wrenching scenes of the film come in the form of found-footage (truly found fooage!) on Super 8 film reels that depict the murders. The tapes are accompanied by a fantastic droning score and unforgettable visuals.
#2. Kill List
Ben Wheatley is shaping up to be one of the most important filmmakers of our age due to his phenomenal first film, Down Terrace, and then this year's follow up, Kill List. The film showcases the story of two hit men in Europe who decide to take employment from an enigmatic employer after a particularly nasty affair in Kiev. The main characters, played by Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley, follow a disturbing and harrowing set of murders towards a fiery conclusion that challenges the audience's perception of the film's reality. Kill List not only qualifies as a fantastic thriller, but it truly showcases some of the best horror elements seen on screen in many years with its twists and turns, all done in unwavering slow-burn style. Kill List is now available on DVD/Blu-ray and is, in my opinion, one of the must-owns of 2012.
#1. Cabin in the Woods
It is almost no surprise that the Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard collaboration is ending up on most critics' end of the year lists (including yours truly's), because it is all in all a darn fine piece of cinema. The film spins a web of mysteries surrounding a traditional setup of a group of college kids heading to a cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway where, of course, not all is what it seems. Talking too much about the plot of Cabin is cheating the film, where its mysteries and secrets are integral plot points to the greater picture.
Goddard could not have chosen a better directorial debut than Cabin due to the fact that the film gets to show a little bit of every style of horror film. Whedon and Goddard's script and characters, however, are what truly sell the realism and scope of the picture, which erupts in one of the most ballsy endings seen in a very long time. All in all, Cabin in the Woods is an essential see from this year's film slate (it also made Ethan's list of Surprisingly Good Films of 2012), celebrating all that horror is and what horror will continue to be. Be sure to check out Jeremy's SXSW review which can say more than I could ever say here about what Cabin in the Woods means for horror cinema.
So there's the year's best in horror if you're looking for true terror. In addition, keep an eye out for Ethan's Best Comedies of 2012, another genre that mostly goes completely ignored by the Academy. Stay tuned the rest of the week for our final year-end pieces that include the picks for Best Films of 2012 from Ben Pearson, Jeremy Kirk and Ethan Anderton. Catch more year-end recap goodness with our Best Posters, Biggest Disappointments, Surprisingly Great Films, and Worst Films of 2012. Thoughts on Tim's horror list?