It ain’t easy to pick a whole decade’s worth of films. Father Gore’s not here to say these are the best of the decade in any definitive way. These are his own picks for favourites: films that resonated, lingered, challenged, and entertained. Everybody will have their own opinions, you can share yours in the comments below. But if you don’t see YOUR favourite on the list, don’t take it as a personal attack on your taste, and make your own damn list!
Films reviewed on the site will have links directly in the titles. Take a look at what films affected Father Gore most between 2010 and 2019, from the political to the emotional to the weird, the wild, and the absolutely bat shit insane.
[All entries go by Canadian release dates.]
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has long been a piece of Father Gore’s darkened heart. Larry Fessenden is also a favourite filmmaker here on the site. Imagine the two should clash together in a post-modern retelling that focuses on the way bad parenting, at the level of generations, can corrupt absolutely. Depraved‘s Dr. Frankenstein-like character is a former field doctor whose time in the Middle East shaped him with PTSD that leads to his attempting terrifying experiments in a Brooklyn loft.
Yeah, you know you want it.
Under the Shadow (2016)
Under the Shadow isn’t just interesting or an inclusive look at stories outside the norm for Western audiences, it is also just a damn good horror flick. Director-writer Babak Anvari allows us a look into life, specifically for women, post-Islamic Revolution (also known as the 1979 Iranian Revolution). He taps into the anxieties and fears of people living in Tehran after the events of the revolution. More importantly, Anvari focuses on the plight of women through a look at a mother and wife whose life gets turned upside down during a period of bombing in Tehran.
A lot of people see a PG-13 rating on horror and they say “Horror is no good like that” or “Modern horror is shit.” To them, Father Gore says: open your eyes. This is a fantastic, visual, creeping piece of horror cinema. Anvari opts to explore something outright political. Simultaneously, he cultivates poignant points about what the revolution did to and for women— or rather, what it forced on them.
The Man in the Orange Jacket (2014)
Billed as Latvia’s first foray into horror cinema, Aik Karapetian’s film draws on the Marx-Engels partnership of writing. He represents their idea of communism as a spectre, a ghost, as well as the figurative and literal class struggles represented in the killer (and who he kills). Maybe sounds a bit lofty, right? Yeah, it does. It’s all there, though. Not a perfect Marxist film by any means. However, the way Karapetian begins his film, the context in which he places the characters, these elements together speak to something else than horror with a few blood spattered scenes. The titular man in the orange jacket’s actions at the beginning, the catalyst for everything afterwards, become an all too real metaphor for the struggle necessary for the proletariat to overcome the bourgeoisie. What follows is the man discovers being a part of the bourgeois class isn’t without the prices of selling your soul and becoming a ghost of yourself.
Darren Aronofsky certainly pissed a lot of film goers off with mother! and it’s easily one of the most divisive pieces of American cinema of the 21st century. For Father Gore, it’s a surrealist masterpiece, an allegory wrapped in a metaphor. From how it was filmed to how it looks post-production, Aronofsky offered his cast and audience a wild ride.
Best thing about this film is the energy. At all times it feels like there’s magic happening, or that the unexpected is about to explode— sometimes, it literally does explode. There’s Biblical allegory, there’s parallels between mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and Mother Nature, as well as between Him (Bardem) and God. There’s so, so much to mine from Aronofsky’s madness. If you don’t see it, that’s fine.
mother! remains Father Gore’s favourite cinematic experience of 2017. That’s saying something, in a damn fine year for film.
Awesome action. Wonderfully grim sci-fi set in a dystopian capitalist world. Bad ass Dredd with a super bad ass partner. A lot of fun story, as well as cinematography and fight choreography, too. Although it’s still unclear if we’re really supposed to be morally on Dredd’s side, considering he’s judge, jury, and executioner in this awful futuristic environment. No matter— this movie kicks a whole lot of ass, anyway.
The Hateful Eight (2015)
Some say this Quentin Tarantino film came along too early, that it would’ve made more of a splash with audiences had it been made several years later. Father Gore feels it came along right at the perfect time. Because the racist divide of America between black and white has been there since the country’s inception. Sure, the rise of the neo-Nazis and hardcore right-wingers wasn’t happening in 2015, but it’d only be a year or so later once the red hat craze swept across White America. Seems to Father Gore like Tarantino was right on schedule.
Using the real life killings and crime spree of infamous Australian criminal John Bunting, Snowtown examines how the lower class and the disadvantaged are in danger of being prey for emotional/sexual predators, as well as those masquerading in the costume of saviours. When Bunting came into contact with James Vlassakis and his mother, as well her other children, he did so under the guise of being a protector. From there, the group which began surrounding them all became much like a cult of personality, everyone following Bunting as he launched a self-imposed campaign of murder and torture against paedophiles and abusers, some confirmed, others only suspected. Bunting often called his killings “playing,” as well as the fact he and accomplice Robert Wagner ritually played the song “Selling the Drama” by Live as they murdered, tortured, and cut people into pieces.
While this movie definitely contains graphic, explicit material, Kurzel does an amazing job straddling the line of decency. With regards to movies focused on actual serial killers directors and writers can run the danger of being insensitive, being too overtly nasty, and just generally risk coming off as disrespectful. For all its brutality and dark subject matter, Snowtown remains a disturbingly raw and honest look at one of the most terrible men to have ever walked the streets of Australia, or anywhere else for that matter.
You’re Next (2011)
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett make an excellent team— one of the better horror duos of recent memory. You’re Next is clever, it’s tense, and it’s darkly hilarious. There’s a wealth of awesome performances and gnarly kills. Best of all is how Barrett’s screenplay subverts our expectations re: the typical slasher film. The Final Girl trope is taken on too, the result being an undeniably cool character whose predicament will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Existential. Weird. Erotic. Scary. Two Jake Gyllenhaals a.k.a sexy. Denis Villeneuve’s mind gives us all this wrapped in an enigma of a story. Sure, there may be a concrete answer for what’s going on, or you could take away what you will from this strange film. It’d be cheating you to describe the plot, so go in without seeing too much and this may just be one of the biggest surprises you’ll get watching a film this decade.
Alex Essoe plays a meek woman with a nice life, at least on the outside, and Precious Chong is an older, lonely, and possibly deranged woman determined to form a lasting bond. Their clash in Zach Gayne’s Homewrecker is legendary. Chong and Essoe contributed to the screenplay, making their characters feel all the more real.
Mother of George (2013)
Especially if you only know Danai Gurira from The Walking Dead, you have to see Mother of George. A beautiful, painful look at the life of a Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn. They’re having trouble conceiving, and this is where difficult aspects of their culture come into play. Adenike (Gurira) makes an unexpected decision in her quest to get pregnant that will either save her marriage with husband Ayodele (the ever excellent Isaach De Bankolé) or ruin them forever. It’s a stressful experience watching Adenike navigate the social intricacies of her own culture in order to the live the life she wants, and every second is acted with care. Bradford Young’s cinematography is always impressive, though this might be the best of all so far, capturing the vibrancy of a rich immigrant culture visually to match the intense complexity of the dramatic plot.
Father Gore’s #1 favourite film of 2018, hands down.
This new re-envisioning of Suspiria showcases the power of women. The story also looks at how even in a matriarchy fascism can rear its head, just in different ways from the patriarchy. Maybe the most feminist horror film a man will ever make. Guadagnino and writer David Kajganich offer an amazing and terrifying showcase of mother-daughter relationships, surrounded by a broader narrative about generational guilt and trauma set in post-Holocaust Berlin. Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson are forces of goddamn nature, while Mia Goth’s no slouch, either. The greatest remake. A Grand-Guignol horrorshow full of dread, heart, and a couple unforgettable scenes that will leave their mark on the genre forever.
“Death to any other mother!”
Dee Rees brought us a tender, difficult, and important story of a young African-American girl discovering and exploring her lesbianism while navigating family and friendship in Brooklyn. While you can admire it for the gorgeously captured images of beautiful, young black women frequenting nightclubs, walking the streets of their neighbourhood, moving through the familiar spaces of their lives brought out in exuberant detail, Pariah is a tender if not tough look at this girl and her struggle. There are moments of such beauty you might cry.
And whereas Barry Jenkins’s similarly fantastic film Moonlight ended on a hopeful, heartwarming note, Rees opts to end with a beat depicting the all too common fight of young gay/lesbian men and women out there just trying to be themselves.
Black Swan (2010)
With so much beautiful camera work, the mind bogglingly gorgeous dance choreography by Benjamin Millepied, the always intriguing direction of Darren Aronosfky, Black Swan is enthralling. The entire thing is an elaborate, dreamy tale. All the ballet and the dedicated dancing, that whole world, makes this a unique story we’re not often going to see. Certainly it’s reminiscent of the famous anime Perfect Blue, to which Aronofsky owns the rights, though there’s enough of his own elements to not make it one big rip-off.
All around this is an astounding psychological horror/thriller, one that incorporates body horror, surrealism, among other things. No matter how you view it, Black Swan is a dangerous story about obsession, dedication, artistry, all wrapped into a kind of coming-of-age scenario about a girl finally becoming a woman after a long gestating period of being a child. By the time the credits roll you’ll either love it or hate it. But, no doubt, you’ll find yourself reeled in, and the dark beauty of the film as a whole will take you away to some magical places. They might not be soft, sweet, rosy places, yet they remain magical nonetheless.
Happy Face (2019)
For his film Happy Face, Alexandre Franchi put out casting calls to actual support groups for people who are facially different. He was able to find people who wanted to be on film and their personal experience shines through the story. All their tales of isolation, rejection, and pain of every kind, both corporeal and existential, lend such important reality to this piece of fiction. Franchi avoids any sense of exploitation by the way he centres these people in the plot: it’s as much about them as actual human beings as it is about the semi-fictional characters they play.
Maryland a.k.a Disorder (2015)
There have been plenty cracks, as of late, at tackling PTSD through cinema. It’s all in the way you go about it. You can show many sides. Each person suffering with the disorder can experience it much differently, depending on the event which triggered the symptoms. Along comes Alice Winocour, writing alongside Jean-Stéphane Bron, giving us Maryland— a film that so deftly handles PTSD with suspense, tension, and a few good thrills. Winocour combines visual aesthetic with one impeccable aural feast, from sound design to the soundtrack itself by Gesaffelstein.
Maryland offers up a look into that type of mind, one fractured deeply by the horror of war (and perhaps later the necessity for a life filled with violence). We don’t get all the typical moments you’d expect. Rather, Winocour shows us the genre we’re convinced is in front of our eyes, then makes it into something else more interesting.
Black Death (2010)
Christopher Smith has a will to try and be original. We see that break through widest with his 2010 film Black Death; a horror-mystery set in 1348 as the bubonic plague ripped its way across Europe. In England, religious superstition runs high when a small village in the marshes is rumoured to be untouched by the black death, so a group of knights, cobbled together with fundamentalists and psychopaths alike— plus one monk whose love for a woman tests his own faith— are sent to investigate. To mad result.
The best of what Smith does is give us a savage, genuine reflection of the times, allowing for maximum nastiness and a few excitingly bloody moments. Shooting in the most perfect locations with a grainy sort of aesthetic, his directing makes this feel like something you could have seen 20 years ago. But it’s also refreshingly modern, as Smith brings into question whether anything has changed after so many centuries. Still, one group runs around with fundamentalism in their heart to a deadly extent and the other condemns them with an equally heavy, morally ambiguous hand.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom is a creepy fuck!
Bloom represents the younger generations today and how we widely hold the view that anything can be a career. Even in this case, where Lou risks his own safety and the safety of those around him to get even 60-seconds of footage to auction off at the highest price for different television networks competing against each other. In a day and age where the grotesqueness of reality television dominates ratings it isn’t hard to imagine there are already plenty of Lou Blooms already out there exploiting car crashes and victims of gun violence (et cetera) for money.
Point being: Nightcrawler is highly relevant to the day and age its been released, no doubt it will probably come to be— unfortunately— even more relevant as the role of the media and technology in media changes over the years ahead.
It Follows (2014)
Sexually transmitted ghosts. Urban decay. A solid performance by Maika Monroe. Perfect music from Disasterpeace. Creepy and stylish with strokes of genius at times.
We’ve seen the story here probably more than we care to: young girls are kidnapped, police except for one crusader are inept, one of the parents takes the law into their own hands. Yet even though the story seems familiar, the plot Aaron Guzikowski weaves through it goes into very deep, dark territory. It isn’t the same thing we see time and time again. There’s something in Prisoners that taps into our fears, and it does so easily.
The end is a nice surprise, too. Denis Villeneuve could have went several ways on it, but it is a quiet, subdued ending. It gives an air of hope, even if things are grim. Even if they may still come out grim after all. But there’s a glimmer of hope among the darkness, which is central to the entirety of Villeneuve’s film.
On Father Gore’s favourites of 2018 list, as well as his favourite horrors of all-time list. Solid performances, specifically from Toni Collette and Alex Wolff (though the entire cast is phenomenal). Ari Aster, in his debut feature, gives us equal doses of horror+drama intertwined to create an emotionally resonant and devastating story about grief, mental illness, and spooky, cult-y old people.
The protagonist Leah (Nicole Muñoz) tells her mother, when chastised for being too into occultism since her father passed: “It makes me feel better.” Father Gore’s turned to horror movies, heavy metal, dark literature, and all manners of eeriness in times of need. Many of us who love horror often find the genre cathartic, in a variety of ways. Pyewacket so terrifyingly shows that grief is also a pain capable of warping our minds. In those dark hours, sometimes, dark things only serve to let the already dark parts of our hearts fester. A horrific, even shocking film. Its final moments have not yet washed off Father Gore since he first saw them.
In a Better World (2010)
Susanne Bier covers a lot of ground with this 2010 dramatic thriller. From a small Danish town to an African refugee camp, Bier dissects the meaning and devastation of violent conflict, the constructions of masculinity, and more. The plot’s wonderfully divided between the two separate lives of one man, home in Denmark and away in Africa, as he struggles to understand the nature of violence while holding onto the man he is inside. Although the movie is great to look at and Bier’s directing is solid, it’s the story which ultimately captives, keeping you glued until the final moments determining whether the film is a tragedy after all.
The Selfish Giant (2013)
Clio Barnard directs and writes this modern fable about greed and guilt, loosely inspired by Oscar Wilde’s story of the same name. The spirit of Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher is alive here, too. Apart from the fine acting from the young lads central to the story, Barnard shows us a raw portrait of those on the margins. At times tender, The Selfish Giant gives us a look at characters recognisable to those who grew up in little places, where any feasible way to make money was a good way to make money. If you’ve a heart at all this movie will shake you, though in an eye-opening sense.
The House that Jack Built (2018)
If you’ve frequented this site, you know Father Gore is a huge Lars von Trier fan. The Danish director isn’t a provocateur for the sake of being one. He has things to say.
The House That Jack Built is a totally new puzzle piece in the disturbing tapestry of his cinematic psyche, turning the lens inward rather than outward. The provocateur examines himself and his relationship with women, he looks deep at art, and particularly art that depicts horror in its many forms. Matt Dillon’s a powerhouse, taking von Trier’s words off the page and into the mind of the viewer with force, commanding the eye and ear at once. Not your average serial killer story, it’s profound horror.
Don’t listen to the uptight bourgeois critics who went into a von Trier film about a vicious murderer expecting anything less than nasty madness, only to walk out when their delicate sensibilities were offended by metaphorical violence.
This won’t do it for those who don’t like a slow burn. Entrance is the definition of a slow burning horror, though don’t mistake that buzzword for ‘boring,’ either. The protagonist of the film, a young woman living in the big city and struggling to get by, is put through a ringer of psychological terror, culminating in one of the more chilling finales Father Gore’s ever seen. Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath spend the time steeping us in their protagonist’s isolated world, in the process drawing out the gendered terror women feel often on a daily basis in cities. There’s very raw, real existential eeriness throughout Entrance. For those with patience this film will reward them with a proper scare.
Most Beautiful Island (2017)
A taut, tense little drama that verges on thriller, Most Beautiful Island (produced by Glass Eye Pix/Larry Fessenden) depicts the immigrant experience most people in North American society aren’t willing to admit exists, on the fringes, at the periphery of our collective vision.
A woman called Luciana (director and writer Ana Asensio) is living in New York, undocumented, trying to survive on whatever jobs are available to her. When she gets a job that seems too good to be true, it sort of is, and she must face a night of unexpected tension straight out of a nightmare.
What Father Gore loves about Asensio’s film is that it could’ve easily fallen into exploitation, and gotten much more brutal, graphic, all sorts of ugly. Instead, Asensio sticks to equally ugly territory, delivering her story and its plot in such a way it is fresh, even to the viewer who thinks they’ve seen it all. Even more excellent is the fact Asensio pulls quadruple duties as actor, director, writer, and producer, making this a tour-de-force in front of and behind the camera. She’s a talent not to be missed. This 80-minute film packs as much punch as some that are over two hours long.
The Florida Project (2017)
Set in a motel in Florida, just outside Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, a bunch of kids live with their mostly down and out parents on welfare. Motel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) helps many of them by being lenient on rent, when he’s able to be, at least. He also takes on a role of father figure to most of the kids roaming the motel grounds, looking out for them, as much as possible.
Father Gore truly saw this descending into a much darker place than where it ended up by the finale. That’s not to say Baker’s film is a rosy glow of optimism, because that it certainly is not. However, there’s a dreamy beauty in this story, hiding behind all the greasy, bleak moments.
And those final shots in the park? Take the breath away. No matter what would actually happen in the story of these children’s lives these fleeting dream-like seconds take the viewer to another world.
Dave Made a Maze (2017)
Dave Made a Maze is one of 2017’s more unique offerings. After Dave (Nick Thune) makes a cardboard maze in his apartment, fearing he’ll never create anything lasting or important, his girlfriend Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) and a few others get trapped in the maze after it comes alive.
There’s a lot to love about this little indie. Everyone’s having fun acting. The directing from Bill Watterson is inspired and full of zany energy. The story is unique enough to carry the whole film, so it’s a nice addition that the acting and directing are on par with Watterson and Steven Sears’ screenplay.
What’s most lovable about Dave Made a Maze is its commentary on being an artist, on its toll for both the artist and the people in that artist’s life. It is the story of many. Anyone who does anything artistic will totally relate to Dave, and will also want to give him a kick in the ass, too. This is such a fun film it’s hard to believe more people aren’t raving about it!
The Transfiguration (2016)
We’re dealing more with toxic masculinity these days, which is great, and one of the areas within its framework that needs dealing with is mental illness, as well as how hypermasculine men deal with it (or rather their lack of ability to deal with it). And though The Transfiguration is more than just a discussion on these topics, within its story’s webbing there is deep look at black male mental health.
Milo (Eric Ruffin) is a young kid who lives with his brother; their mother passed away some time ago. They live in a bit of a rough spot, where the local criminals and other kids give Milo a hard time for being sensitive, withdrawn. When Milo befriends a young girl named Sophie (Chloe Levine) whose life is fraught with its own brutality, he finds a kindred spirit. But how will she react when she finds out he’s a vampire? Or, thinks he’s one, anyway.
You can take your own thoughts away from the story and its plot. Director-writer Michael O’Shea presents us with a vision of mental illness that straddles the supernatural, possibly, yet never loses sight of the humanity at stake in its characters. A tender, occasionally bloody, dark little film. At the top of the heap as far as 2017 horror is concerned, too.
The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (2013)
From Hélène Cattet and partner Bruno Forzani, the directors of Amer and Let the Corpses Tan, this is another eerie and mesmeric tale. Expect more of the same (though different) visuals and, in turn, visual storytelling rather than much expository dialogue. A weird, wonderful slice of Giallo-inspired cinema. A man comes home from his business trip to discover his wife’s missing. His apartment building transforms into a labyrinth of mystery and blood and deceit. Another singular work on this list of awesome films.
The Witch (2015)
The Witch is entirely its own brand, despite taking on a timeworn sub-genre in witchcraft. A scary, paranoid, and unnerving piece of cinema. Robert Eggers digs into the religious persecution of 17th-century America, and much more, by using bits and pieces of mythical witchcraft alongside actual practises, which gives the whole witchy plot an odd, wonderful quality. The performances sell everything, but it’s Eggers and his visionary director’s eye that makes the atmosphere, mood, and tone, steeping his audience in terror.
The Childhood of a Leader (2015)
The Childhood of a Leader is one of the more ambitious debuts of any filmmaker in years. Not simply due to the scope of the story, but in the sense that this is a dark, at times morbid rumination on the nature of power, and how the quest towards it can often turn a person into a monster. On top of that it’s a period piece set around the drafting of the Treaty of Versailles near the end of World War I. So in no way is Brady Corbet making anything easily digestible for the viewer.
At the same time, this isn’t pretentious, contrived cinema, either. Corbet shows us what’s underneath his skin: the blood and bones of an artist. The story of the film surrounds the Treaty of Versailles and other pieces of history, everything from Bolshevism to the lack of comprehension of what communism and socialism were in reality. However, the tale of the little dictator-to-be is first and foremost a story of family, of upbringing, of the way in which a boy is shaped by not just historical events during his formative years, but also by the day to day life he leads under the influence of domineering parents.
Green Room (2015)
Green Room is a searing thriller that also has teeth digging into ideology between the brutal action. While the friends in the punk band all come together in unity, the supposedly strong group of white nationalists does the opposite and starts crumbling from within. Among all the suspense and tension, in between the bloody bits of horror and the deepening criminal aspects of the screenplay, there’s great commentary on the nature of these neo-Nazi groups, how they’re only bound together by a collective feeling of being lost and that nothing really keeps them glued together in the end, only hate. And that their ideology, for many, is a thin veil. Once the blood starts flowing, for some of these guys, the less committed to their ’cause,’ all bets are off.
The Duke of Burgundy (2014)
There’s a bundle of things to adore about Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy: it’s queer, it’s erotic, it’s mysterious, and not a single man appears. Strickland plays with preconceived notions of relationships, particularly in terms of BDSM, as we watch two women disappear into one another via a dom-sub dynamic. Appearances are merely appearances, and the truth is always more complex than it seems. Strickland appears twice on this list, an auteur, whose vision shows clearly in everything he makes. One of the best films of the decade because of how beautiful it looks and because it’s a rare diamond. BDSM and lesbianism are barely, if ever, shown appropriately in film. The fact Strickland does this so well— particularly as a man directing+writing an all-woman story— is striking, and makes for interesting perspective.
Hagazussa is a disturbing and provocative film. A heady cocktail of centuries old misogyny, a bit of unnerving antisemitism, dark eroticism, and, believe it or not, more. Sometimes you see a debut from a filmmaker that’ll leave you stunned, and this is one of them. Lukas Feigelfeld made this as his graduation film, so it’ll be interesting to see what he does next as a followup. Aleksandra Cwen’s central performance as the tortured Albrun is hypnotic, as are the visuals Feigelfeld provides, ranging from surreal horror arthouse stuff to the impeccable photography of the film’s Austrian locations.
Les salauds a.k.a Bastards (2013)
There are better Claire Denis films, but that’s also like saying there’s better ice cream than just chocolate— it’s all ice cream! Denis is one of the greatest filmmakers, ever. Bastards might not be at the top of her personal canon, that doesn’t mean it isn’t great work. The film is hard to take at points. Although it steers away from becoming overtly graphic, right when it’s necessary. Denis doesn’t avoid explicit, dark morality. She forces us to look at the results of terrible acts committed by horrible men, refusing to spare our emotions. Hard subjects require a hard look at them head-on, which is exactly what Denis accomplishes here.
Get Out (2017)
Get Out comes hard at race relations in 2017 America. Not only that, it’s a solid, creepy, intense thriller with all the makings of classic horror. No denying its most striking qualities are the way the screenplay tackles casual white liberal racism, exposing the underbelly of whites who claim they’re not racist while doing their own brand of damage to black people. Peele knows America, he knows where the country is in the current day, and the prescience of its story becomes deeper given the sociopolitical state of the U.S. after its 2016 election.
No hype about this film— the praise, it’s all true. This will go down as a classic of 21st-century American cinema.
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
— Karl Marx
(from his rave review of Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite)
Sex workers are people. Cam never loses sight of its protagonist’s agency, nor her humanity. Madeline Brewer plays a woman named Alice. She does a cam show online for paying customers on the other side of the screen. She experiences a surreal division of the self, tumbling down the rabbit hole into a surreal experience where she has to fight one side of herself for the other to survive. Fantastic film powered by Brewer’s strengths.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Ana Lily Amirpour shows up twice on this list, which is testament to her filmmaking. She’s a force, bringing a unique voice to the horror genre. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is another breath of fresh air in the vampire sub-genre. The look is entrancing, fitting the eeriness of perfectly named Bad City. Amirpour brings a woman’s perspective to vampirism, plus she even skateboards on camera. So, y’know, if you haven’t seen this, what are you waiting for? Take a big ole bite of this deliciousness.
Hounds of Love (2017)
Movies about kidnapping and abduction can get heavy into exploitation. Without becoming exploitative writer-director Ben Young makes Hounds of Love, into a tension packed thriller that feels almost like a horror chamber drama. The film tells the tale of Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) who gets picked up by John and Evelyn (Stephen Curry & Emma Booth), a serial killing couple in Perth, Australia. Vicki is chained to a bed and experiences horrific torture of all varieties. Her only hope is to turn the couple against one another using the already shaky power dynamics as leverage.
On the surface this is seems like a gratuitous bit of horror with drama mixed in, when it’s first and foremost a psychological horror made mostly of disturbing drama. John’s misogyny and his treatment of his wife Evelyn becomes amplified when young Vicki is thrown into their midst. The film examines how misogyny is ingrained in many abused women, such as Evelyn, who then go on to perpetuate it against other women, like she does to Vicki. The whole plot hinges on the power of abused women, one way or another. Young’s film is real life scary, mirroring actual cases of abduction. All three performances at the centre are powerful, a showcase of talent— if Father Gore had to pick, Emma Booth is the top of the tops, too.
Mike Flanagan turns a familiar neighbourhood area— a bridge tunnel— into a genuinely haunting space. We’ve all walked through these sorts of places, living in cities and big towns, going under a road, from short to longer tracks stretching on in the dark. Here, they become fearsome, ghost-filled haunted house-like areas, only more claustrophobic and almost more unnerving being outside in the daylight, sitting there, waiting.
This sets up the urban landscape where Flanagan tells his Modern Gothic tale, of grief, of dealing with death and its unknown essence. The entire setup of a woman’s husband being declared dead in absentia epitomises the fear of the unknown that we all have, even those of us who aren’t particularly worried about death— it’s always coming, for all of us. The realm beyond the tunnel is this unknown terror: of an unexplained death, of what comes after death, a literal embodiment of a scary, bottomless, existential void. Go into this knowing little else. A real treat.
The final 10 entries are listed in order,
up to Father Gore’s most favourite at #1.
Official Top 10 of the Decade
10) Kill List (2011)
Interesting how this movie came along about a handful of years before Brexit reared its head. Folk horror’s begun a resurgence, particularly over the past couple years in the midst of Brexit, as well as the nationalist sentiments in North America and other areas. This want for a return to the past— often a white past, or a utopic vision of a homogeneous past that never truly existed, only in the minds of xenophobes and racists— is perfect in theme for Gothic and folk horror, playing off old ghosts, old ways of life, and the isolation of the country versus the bustle of the city. All of this turns up throughout Kill List.
9) You Were Never Really Here (2017)
You Were Never Really Here is a compelling mix of things tossed together, from the man-out-for-vengeance-style story to the wounded war veteran with PTSD navigating civilian life again to a man-saves-little-girl plot, and more. Joaquin Phoenix’s stoic character Joe, whose existence wavers between being caretaker to his aiding elderly mother and taking on secretive assassination contracts against horrible men, and when he’s tasked with saving a young girl with a politician father he discovers just how horrible those men can be at the core.
The dialogue in the screenplay is minimalist. Phoenix’s performance isn’t in the words, rather in the soft looks he flashes to himself in the mirror, the confused anger in his eyes when dealing with violence, the sad memories rolling across his face when he’s alone. The movie examines how someone who’s come from brutal abuse can either sink or swim in their own violence later. Lynne Ramsay’s looking at those who’ve been abused and how they reconcile their abuse. Most importantly, she explores how one man steeped in a violent childhood attempts to shatter the cyclical patterns of violence in his life in a way that can positively affect the world – by ridding it of those who would commit such abuse against the young and innocent, in turn enacting a whole new cycle of horrors.
8) Raw (2016)
Julia Ducournau’s debut feature film Raw hits like a ton of bricks, hard enough to splinter your teeth and a few bones. Transgressive fiction and films don’t necessary sit well with everybody. This is a horror film, to the core. It’s also a heavy drama about the price of love and of family, about what is normal and what is not, so even those who aren’t totally horror-inclined can enjoy it.
All that being said, it’s not for the faint of heart. Father Gore’s a seasoned horror hound and doesn’t find anything here too difficult to— pardon the pun— swallow. However, a few scenes will test the limits of certain people.
Raw is a powerhouse, from start to finish. It’s the final shot, that last image with which Ducournau leaves us drives home the film’s thesis, when you realise the strength, and maybe the at times psychosis, of love. Raw won’t leave your mind any time soon. Transfixing human terror, to say the least.
7) Mandy (2018)
Father Gore fell deeply in love with the style of Panos Cosmatos immediately after seeing Beyond the Black Rainbow, so the director-writer had a lifelong fan, waiting to see whatever he did next. He didn’t disappoint. Mandy is a sweaty, psychedelic nightmare about deeply unsettling loss. It’s a combination of so much stuff from the ’80s that Father Gore wrote a massive article about the many influences in its melting pot. A one-of-a-kind experience and a melancholic horror ode to the power of love.
6) Possum (2019)
Fucking harrowing: enter at your own risk(!!!).
Sean Harris needs to be cast in more leading roles. What an actor.
5) The Lobster (2015)
You don’t have to be cynical about modern love/relationships to love Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster. It sure helps, though. Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, along with a delightful supporting cast, inhabit their strange roles well. They lend humanity to a decidedly inhuman world. One more film that’s great to know little about before seeing. Dystopian and, at the same time, something that feels modern at its core with what it says about our human relationships in the 21st century.
4) The Bad Batch (2016)
There’s a lot to sort through in Ana Lily Amirpour’s film. On the surface, some see pretentiousness. Others see dystopian fiction. The Bad Batch is both a vision of where America’s heading and where it is currently. Not exactly futuristic, though it isn’t entirely all a surreal dream space. This place Amirpour explores is a nebulous yet compelling landscape of nightmares. Not a place entirely devoid of hope, either. A tough film, and many may not enjoy it. Father Gore thinks it’s a compelling, smart, and cheeky story that’s far smarter than it’s been given credit for being, boasting several interesting performances and Jason Momoa’s hot bod.
3) The Master (2012)
The Master is at once an unauthorised, fictional version of the life of L. Ron Hubbard, and also the story of two men locked in a love they’ll never fully express— not in this life, anyway. Perhaps the next, if there is one. And then there’s also the fact this film speaks to that Scientology influence without directly condemning and shaming their beliefs (no matter how crazy they are). Anderson questions what is at the heart of faith: could it simply be the searching of the lost for love and comfort? Who knows. A story that touches on belief, duty, love, war, and so, so much more.
2) Évolution (2015)
We can almost relate Lucile Hadžihalilović’s Évolution to a modernised fairy tale about what happens when we, the adults, interfere with the gender roles, or lack thereof, in the children of our society. The damage can be done on both sides, whether forcing them into certain roles, or even insisting constantly that they ought to be fluid and embrace both sides of their nature, whatever. Maybe Hadžihalilović is pointing out that kids ought to be left as kids. If we interfere too much the consequences are endless. But the consequences aren’t always good ones.
#1 = A TIE:
In Fabric (2019)
You either really dig Peter Strickland’s work, or you probably don’t, which is fine, too. Father Gore thinks he’s an auteur filmmaker, whose eye for the Gothic transcends genre (see: The Duke of Burgundy earlier on the list). His best work to date, and the site’s #1 film of 2019, is In Fabric. Its plot concerns several people who come into close contact with a dress that proves to be haunted, or cursed, or maybe it’s the deviously recurrent, putrid essence of capitalism that will, eventually, kill us all? You decide.
One thing’s for sure, this is a singular slice of cinematic bliss. Strickland pulls out every stop, giving homage to Giallos along the way. The film boasts unforgettable performances from Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Sidse Babett Knudsen. This will haunt your dreams, and it’ll probably make you chuckle a good bit, too.
The Lighthouse (2019)
Somehow, some way, Robert Eggers managed to make two of the decade’s great horror films. The Lighthouse is a mesmerising followup to The Witch, offering as much period piece detail, and, this time, a heavy dash or two of surrealism + mythology. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson play so well off each other it’s a shame they’re not already doing another film together. This has it all: creepy mermaids, nightmare visions, a tentacle or two, queerness, and a pair of powerhouse performances.
Now, go ‘head: spill yer beans.