Sunday, December 9, 2012

THE 1ST (MAYBE ANNUAL) SEVERED HEAD AWARDS

A whole month has come and gone since I finished my horror movie marathon, October 2012: 1 Month, 31 21 Horror Films. Come November I briefly reported on the outcome and teased an upcoming post where I would honor some and officially draw the curtains on this marathon so I could begin another. For a last bit of fun I am going to give out some virtual awards based on my marathon with only the 21 films as nominees. Let me get that list out of the way now:

1. The House of the Devil

2. Citadel
3. Red State
4. The Manster
5. The Fog
6. Cropsey
7. The Innkeepers
8. The Loved Ones
9. Grave Encounters
10. Martyrs
11. The Tall Man
12. ATM
13. Black Death
14. Rammbock: Berlin Undead
15. Three... Extremes
16. 페이스 (Face)
17. 첼로 (Cello)
18. 박쥐 (Thirst)
19. 스승의 은혜 (Bloody Reunion)
20. 장화, 홍련 (A Tale of Two Sisters)
21. The Exorcist



I am calling this The Severed Head Awards in honor of the genre at hand (punny). The title calls it "The 1st (Maybe Annual Severed Head Awards." There are still many, many horror films I need/want to see. I could see me attempting this again next October. Maybe some year I will actually reach 31.. Anyways, lets get on with occasion. Remember and note, these awards are only for the horror films that I personally watched during the October of 2012. Enjoy the casual ceremony!

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The Severed Head for the Most Shocking Moment goes to...

The House of the Devil

Yes, even though it was the first film I watched there is a moment in "The House of the Devil" that was more shocking than anything that followed. This is largely due to the film's undeniably slow-burn pacing. After Megan has dropped off Samantha (our protagonist) for her "babysitting gig" Megan begins to drive back to their sleepy college town. She pulls off the side of the road to light a cigarette when a stranger appears out of nowhere with a lighter lit. That's a jump to be sure, but not what I'm getting at. Megan has a casual but suspicious chat with the friendly man. When he says with realization, "Wait, you're not the babysitter?" She says, "No-" only to have her sentence and life ended with a shot to the head. This is a half-hour into the slow film and nothing nearly as intense happens in the half-hour after that. It might be enough time to get over the shock...
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The Severed Head for the Most Disgusting Film goes to...


The Martyrs


There's a scene of shocking violence against an entire family that comes early in Pascal Laughier's "Martyrs." The tables are turned when we later see what the parent's kept in their underground chamber: what is left of a still-somehow-living woman, tortured for God knows how long in the dark. It is only a foreshadowing of what is to come to Lucie. The slow and steady torturing of our young female protagonist is incredibly tough to watch. It's almost the kind of film you feel you deserve a shirt reading "I made it through Martyrs" upon completing.


Honorable Mention: The Loved Ones


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(Author's Note: What we find scary just might be the most subjective element in films, even more so than what we find funny. The situation we put ourselves in while watching a movie can greatly affect how much terror we feel. Some horror films are not going for scares and that's fine, but those that do (such as "The Blair Witch Project" and the onslaught of found-footage films in its wake) are worth shining the light on. In fact, it is one of the latest "Blair Witch"-inspired projects that I am giving the next Severed Head to.)



The Severed Head for the Scariest Film goes to...

Grave Encounters

I mostly watched "Grave Encounters" alone in our far-from-fully-furnished living room one night in October. That was the ideal climate for the Canadian crew responsible for this mock-documentary to scare the pants off me. They spend a night in a abandoned insane asylum, hoping to document some paranormal activity. Gradually they do. This had an impressive build-up of tension. Unfortunately the film does not stick its landing and goes off the rails in the final minutes, but all that came before was easily one of the scariest film-watching experiences I've ever had.

Honorable Mention: The House of the Devil


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The Severed Head for the Best Opening goes to...

The Fog

Far and away the best part of this subpar John Carpenter horror film is the opening 10 minutes in which the observe the denizens of Antonio Bay as their town reaches the midnight on the eve of its centennial. It plays out in almost real-time as we meet the principal characters and even those who will make up the background for the rest of the film. It's a quiet observation that has us anticipating all that may follow, unfortunately it doesn't deliver.

Honorable Mention: Three... Extremes (Cut)



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The Severed Head for the Best Closing goes to...

Red State

John Goodman's final scene where he reports to his superiors following the raid of a crazed cult brings everything the unusual calm. Besides some needed explanation he tells them (and us) a story about dogs that perfectly and poignantly wrap up the mess that has come before it. We then cut to Father Cooper (a terrific performance by Michael Parks) in his jail cell, still singing up one of his church songs. Another inmate tells him to, "Shut the **** up!" - it's the voice of director Kevin Smith.

Honorable Mention: Thirst, The House of the Devil



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The Severed Head for the Biggest Dissapointment goes to...

The Exorcist

One of the highlights in my marathon was to finally see the horror classic, "The Exorcist." Perhaps I went into this film with expectations it could never meet (I've only been hearing about it my entire life). Perhaps I made the grave mistake by selecting the Director's Cut. Perhaps this film just isn't that great. Yes, I pick that last option. Trent and I talk about "The Exorcist" at length in our first After Dark episode of The Film Tome Podcast. I invite you to listen to it to fully understand why I'm giving this "classic" this undesirable Severed Head. Basically, I found all of the effects to be laughably bad to the point of voiding all the carefully placed tension that came before.


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The Severed Head for the Biggest Surprise goes to...

The Tall Man

From the title, to the poster, to the trailer itself I was absolutely sure this was going to be a typical mother saves child from boogeyman romp. In fact, that may have been some of the genius of the marketing. Pascal Laughier's "The Tall Man" is atypical if anything, leading us on the tightrope of tropes and completely lambasting our tired expectations to the point of being better than the genre itself. "The Tall Man" is one of the noteworthy titles of my marathon and of this year.

Honorable Mention: Grave Encounters, The House of the Devil



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The Severed Head for the Runner-Up Worst Film goes to...

Face

This film proves that not everything coming out of South Korea is gold. It has its novelties to be sure, but the mix of poor acting, convoluted story and embarrassing "scares" had me groaning when I wasn't laughing.


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The Severed Head for the Worst Film goes to...

ATM

Not only the worst film of this marathon, but the worst film of 2012. The idiotic characters deserve to be stuck in the ATM booth with an equally idiotic madman threatening them in the parking lot. The film went out of its way to make poor decisions for everyone emulating anyone's poor decision to watch it. The bookends prove the film has no high meaning or aspiration. Our villain only wanted to watch us watch the debacle.

Oh, "ATM" also takes home Dumbest Film.



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The Severed Head for the Runner-Up Best Film goes to...

The Loved Ones

This Australian horror film is as stylish as it is disturbing and tells the simple tale of high schooler who falls victim to a seriously deranged and lonely girl (and her father) on prom night. It goes to some unimaginable places and keeps you both on the edge of your seat while squirming back from the screen. If you are looking for a crazy time, you'll find it here.

Honorable Mention: Three... Extremes


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The Severed Head for the Best Film goes to...

Thirst

After his wildly acclaimed Vengeance trilogy Park Chan-Wook could have made just about anything and I would have seen it. One of those projects was a Catholic priest who acquires vampirism and must deal with the consequences of it while balancing the expectations of him. He meets a suffering girl and is challenged even further. This is such a unique story with the "Thirst" is one of the best vampire films ever made.

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There you have it: The First (Maybe Annual) Severed Head Awards. Look forward to news of my next marathon, coming soon!

Updated 12/10/12

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