Dusty’s Best of 2014

You’ve handled my worst, so you’re now getting my best.

Before I get to the list, here are some that just barely missed the cut (or maybe they didn’t, but I wanted to talk about them.)


Honestly, the only reason this one didn’t make the list is because I’m not sure if it qualifies as horror.  It has been a bit overhyped, and I don’t think it’s as good as all the breathless overanalyzing tends to make it sound.  But it’s a solid movie, and I had a lot of fun watching it.  The cast is terrific, the story – riddled with logistical holes as it is – is a lot of fun, and they do a great job with the video game type plot of moving car-to-car, finding a new obstacle in each one.  Try to ignore the hype and watch this for what it is: a fun and unique sci-fi movie.
My original review.


Pacific Rim has ruined me a little, because all I could think was, “Why not just build giant robots and punch Godzilla in the face with their rocket-propelled fists?”  But I got over that before I went into the movie.  I just wanted something fun.  Instead, all I got was a movie following the uncharismatic kid from Kick-Ass as he travels the world as the only bomb expert left, somehow staying in Godzilla’s direct path the whole time.  I also saw two great performers – Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen – get completely washed out of the movie (an early exit and relegated to crying duty, respectively).  There were some good scenes and the last half hour made me walk out excited, but it wasn’t nearly as good as I was hoping.
My original review.

Cheap Thrills

Cheap Thrills
The hype train was all geared up for this one.  I lowered my expectations before I went in.  I’m glad I did, because, even with those lowered expectations, I didn’t enjoy it that much.  Sky high expectations would have led to me hating it.  The cast is terrific (Ethan Embry, David Koechner, Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) and there were some good dark comedy moments, but the story was extremely predictable, made even worse by the feeling that they were trying to deliver a huge emotional gut punch at the end.  (I could see the end coming from a mile away.)  There were also a few scenes that really drove the drama forward by actions that made no sense (I realize it’s a weird statement to make about a movie like this, given all the out-of-character things that happened, but I stand by that statement and am more than happy to discuss it).  It wasn’t a bad movie.  I thought it was decent.  But the overhype really hurt it.  If you don’t expect anything mind-blowing, you should have a good time with this.

Life After Beth

Life After Beth
I didn’t expect much out of this.  Just a fun zombie movie with a good cast.  That’s exactly what I got.  It looked at the zombie genre from a slightly different angle, and I enjoyed it.
My original review.

I, Frankenstein

I, Frankenstein
I know, I know.  Keep in mind that I’m a fan of the Underworld series, the first 3 Resident Evil movies and the first 2 Mummy movies.  I’m a sucker for a fun action/horror movie is my point.  This movie is way more complicated than it has any reason to be, but it was a lot of fun to watch.

Enough of this nonsense.  To the top 10!

Under the Skin

10. Under the Skin
All I knew going into this movie was, “Scarlett Johansson artsy Species,” which is really just word soup.  But that’s pretty much what this was.  There’s not a lot of dialogue, and there’s a lot of Scarlett driving around Scotland in a white van, talking to strangers.  There’s seduction and nudity, but none of it is alluring.  This movie definitely isn’t for everyone, and it’s not for every mood, but I really liked this a lot.  It has a hypnotic quality to it.  Once it clicked for me, I was glued to the screen.
My original review.

Sacrament, The

9. The Sacrament
Those of you who know me know that I have never liked Ti West.  I’ve never liked a single movie of his.  In fact, my favorite Ti West moment is when he gets shot in the head with an arrow in You’re Next.  But this was something different.  The first 30 minutes were pretty slow, and I started to tune out a little.  I knew where the story was going, anyway: it’s basically a retelling of the events of Jonestown.  But then it started to pick up a bit.  Even though I knew where it was going, it was still able to draw me in.  The paranoia and insanity increased incrementally.  By the time it got to the Kool Aid (or, more accurately, Flavor Aid) scene, I was all-in.  There are some images in this film that I’ll never be able to get out of my brain.  There were some extremely chilling moments.  I didn’t love the whole thing, and I had some logistical issues like, “How did they get the footage off that specific camera?”, but that’s just being nit-picky.  I liked this a lot more than I thought I was going to.
My original review.


8. Sacrament
Not to be confused with the last movie.  This one was directed by Shawn Ewert, and it follows a group of friends as they take a trip to Texas and find themselves in a town surrounded by religious fanatics and the sweet, sweet smell of meat.  This could have easily turned into a predictable slasher, but the religious angle helped to add another layer to the film, as did the fact that these characters felt like actual people.  Ewert made me care about the characters and what happened to them.  There were a couple scenes I wasn’t crazy about, but, again, that’s just being nit-picky.
This is also notable for being one of the final performances of the great Marilyn Burns.  She doesn’t have a huge role, but she’s fantastic when she’s on the screen.


7. Tusk
I just watched this last week.  I’m still trying to make up my mind on it, so it has a chance to climb up the ladder or fall down, depending on where I settle.  For now, #7 seems about right.  I thought I had a decent idea of what this movie would be: crazy old man turns mustachioed Justin Long into a walrus.  I figured it would be really gory.  Something like Human Centipede or Hostel or something.  But it really wasn’t.  They didn’t show much of the transformation at all.  That’s good, because just looking at the walrus suit was disturbing enough.  There were a number of scenes in here that made me laugh entirely too hard.  It was a really well done dark comedy/horror.  I loved it.  I could have done without Johnny Depp’s character, and the podcast segment at the end reminded me of how much I dislike Kevin Smith, but those are small complaints.  I thought I would hate this movie, and I was completely blown away by how much I loved it.


6. Oculus
I kind of lumped this into “mirror horror” (which I believe only includes Mirrors and Mirrors 2), so I wasn’t expecting much.  I came away loving this movie.  There were some great performances here (Karen Gillan and Katee Sackhoff were the standouts, but everyone was terrific.  Even the children were great, and I’m normally not a big fan of child actors), the story was good, and there were some really creepy moments.  I love how the film played with the perception of reality.  This is a great movie to put on when you’re by yourself in a dark house.
My original review.


5. The Canal
A great, claustrophobic movie about a man who discovers his wife has been murdered.  The use of old murder footage was really creepy.  This combined elements of The Amityville Horror and Sinister, but still had its own style to it.  I knew next to nothing about this movie going in, and I think I was better off for it.  Just watch this movie.
My original review.


4. WolfCop
Some glorious maniac submitted a review for this, and I don’t know if I can describe it any better than he/she did.  Take Hobo With a Shotgun and, instead of the hobo (sorry Rutger Hauer) and throw an alcoholic werewolf cop into the mix.  Bam.  WolfCop.


3. Horns
I read the book and, while I liked it, I didn’t love it like I thought I would.  Still, I was very much looking forward to this movie.  After Daniel Radcliffe’s work on The Woman in Black, I was excited to see what he would do here.  He was fantastic, and the movie was dynamite.  They nailed the dark-comedy-turns-just-plain-dark mood of the book.  A number of moments had me laughing really hard.  Beyond the humor, the story was handled great.  I loved that, behind all the insanity, was a simple love story/murder mystery.  There were times I was so involved in the story that I almost forgot Ig had horns on his head.  The cast was great, and the story was handled wonderfully.  It was everything I hoped it would be.
My original review.

Dead Snow 2

2. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead
My love for the first Dead Snow is well-known, so it should come as no surprise that the sequel ranked so high on my list.  With the success of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Tommy Wirkola was given a lot more money to work with than he did with Dead Snow.  And he put that money to good use.  Everything was bigger.  More zombies.  More blood.  More intestines.  More insanity.  This movie is a ton of fun.
My original review.


1. The Babadook
How could it be anything else in this spot?  It’s rare that a movie exceeds its considerable hype (for me, anyway), but this movie managed to do that.  The first 30 minutes or so were a bit dicey (screeching children have a way of doing that), but I totally understand why they had to do that.  Then it settled in, and I couldn’t look away.  I was completely drawn in by the story.  By the imagery.  By the relationship between mother and son.  By everything.  It’s a fantastically creepy movie.  Find a dark, quiet night, open a door you can see from your viewing area, and put this on.  Don’t look at your phone.  Don’t carry on long conversations.  Just sit down and drink this in.  You won’t be disappointed.
My original review.  (I may or may not talk about the Pinky & The Brain Christmas Special.)

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead mini review

Dead Snow Poster

I will talk to anyone and everyone about the extent of my love for the first Dead Snow.  It’s a little slow out of the gate, but it eventually delivers the full-fledged insanity I hoped that it would, while still developing characters I wanted to spend some time with.  It’s one of my favorite zombie movies of the past 5 years.  What Tommy Wirkola was able to do on a small budget (roughly $800K) is nothing short of extraordinary.

As I mentioned in my Trailer Talk post, I was very much looking forward to the sequel.  Seeing as how Wirkola’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters made $225 million on a $50 million budget, he was given a little more money to play with this time around.  It’s tough to find exact numbers, but it looks like this film had a budget of around $5.5 million.

As near as I can tell, Wirkola took that money and immediately asked himself, “How can I make this movie crazier than the first?”  The answer, of course, was more.  More characters.  More zombies.  More fights.  More intestines.  More blood.  More deaths.  More weapons.  More laughs.  More insanity.

Daniel (Martin Starr), Blake (Ingrid Haas) and the Star Wars obsessed Monica (Jocelyn DeBoer) – self-appointed members of the Zombie Squad – travel from America to Norway to help Martin Hykkerud (the only survivor of the original) with his Nazi zombie problem.  “We’ve seen thousands of zombie movies,” Daniel proclaims, as if this is enough information for Martin to have complete faith in their zombie-killing acumen.  Martin doesn’t seem overly convinced, but put a hammer/shovel/hatchet in their hands, and they’re more than willing to prove their worth.  Not to mention the fact that Blake has one of the all-time best zombie killing faces.

Dead Snow Blake Screaming

Martin had cut off his arm in the previous movie after being bitten.  In a case of mistaken identity (armdentity?), doctors attached a super-strength Nazi zombie arm to Martin.  At first, he found himself at war with it in a way that conjured up memories of Ash.  Eventually he learned to control it and found that he could bring the dead back to life.  Herzog – the leader of the Nazi zombies – has the same ability.  And so, as the trailer shows, we are treated to a massive zombie war: Herzog’s zombies vs. Martin’s zombies.  It’s the kind of scene Wirkola didn’t have money to do in the first film, and he’s clearly holding nothing back here.  It’s terrific.
The Evil Dead remake was a tense, nasty film, but it was clear the filmmakers were having fun as they dumped buckets of blood on the set.  That same feeling of glee is present here, only the events on the screen are much more comical.  Wirkola clearly had a lot of fun trying to think of new ways to kill people, or new ways to use their intestines.  With every new trick, I found myself grinning like an idiot.  I’m sure he was doing the same thing.

Dead Snow Army

There’s too much insanity to properly describe here.  If you like buckets of blood, miles of intestines and aren’t easily offended, you need to watch this as soon as you can.  Even if you don’t like zombie films, you’re still likely to enjoy this one.

Rating: 5/5

Added note: I loved the chemistry between Martin and Roy (Stig Frode Henriksen) in the first film, so I was really happy to see Henriksen show up in this one as a different character.

Dead Snow Three in Trees

Trailer Talk – Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead

Welcome back to another installment of the wildly popular Trailer Talk (note: this is not wildly popular).  Today we’ll be looking at Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead.

This movie appears to pick up immediately after the first movie.  The lone survivor (Martin) is in a hospital, having somehow escaped the clutches of Herzog, Zombie King of the Nazi Zombies.  (So, basically, it starts like Halloween 2.  But with Nazi zombies.)

Martin has gained some sort of superpowers with his infected arm, which is helpful, since Herzog has raised even more Nazi zombies to aide in his cause.

What follows is Martin enlisting the help of the Zombie Squad (led by Bill Haverchuck, taking a break from his Dallas watching) and raising his own undead army.  The last minute of this trailer is a montage of people and zombies stabbing each other.  There’s so much craziness here that I’m almost afraid they’ve shown us all the good stuff in the trailer.  But I don’t believe that’s the case.    If there’s one thing Tommy Wirkola won’t skimp on, it’s crazy fight scenes.  The first Dead Snow had an $800,000 budget, and includes my favorite zombie fight scene ever.

I haven’t seen what the budget is on this movie, but, based on what I’ve seen in this trailer, I assume it’s significantly higher than $800K.  (Wirkola’s budget for Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters was $50 million.  While there’s no way this movie will touch that, I wouldn’t be shocked if the budget for this is at least $5 million.)
It’s clear that Wirkola is taking the expanded budget and running with it.  Dead Snow was a pretty small movie, involving a small cast of characters in one location.  This film appears to take place in multiple locations, with a ton of people involved.  Two squads of super-zombies will be battling each other in the streets.  Blood and intestines will flow.  (It’s worth mentioning that Dead Snow had more intestines than pretty much any movie I’ve ever seen, and did some very funny and creative stuff with them.  It appears as though Wirkola is taking that theme and running with it in this movie, as well.)

I can’t tell you how excited I am for this movie.  Dead Snow is one of my favorite zombie movies, and this looks like it could be even better.  I’m having a hard time tracking down a US release date for this (initial reports had it listed as February 14, but that obviously didn’t happen), but I’ll be watching it as soon as I can track it down.