2021 Year End Review: Best Viewings

Compared to my movie-watching totals from last year, I really was slacking off! In 2020, I clocked in 422 titles! Not sure how I did that, but that really set the bar high for me from then on. But in 2021, I only got through 278 titles, but at least 160 of those were new viewings. My goal for this year is to hit at least 300, but we’ll see how that goes!

Below are the 10 films that I thought stood out amongst the rest and are definitely worth seeking out. These are listed in alphabetical order, and as always, these are all new viewings to me, so it doesn’t matter what year they actually came out. Enjoy!

Black Box (2020) – A very intelligent and original story, about a man who was in a car accident, which killed his wife. Now he is struggling to raise his daughter on his own but starts having memories almost like they were from someone else. He sees a special doctor that says she can help cure him, but things go a lot differently than he had thought.

Directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, who also co-wrote it, gives us an incredible story, with Mamoudou Athie in the man lead playing the man who is really confused with what is going on with him. Phylicia Rashad plays the doctor trying to help him.

Caveat (2020) – This is probably my favorite of this year’s viewing, one that I just stumbled across on Amazon Prime. I’m sure it helped to pull me in with the graphic of a creepy ass bunny puppet with human looking eyes. If you can get away from the obvious issue with the basic plot, I think you’ll find this one very creepy and really well done.

A man who recently suffered a brain injury causing some memory lost, is asked by a friend to stay at a house to watch over a young woman is suffering from mental issues. The house is on a secluded island, and since she has some trust issues, the man will need to be locked into a leather vest that is chained to the wall. He’ll be able to walk around the house, just stopping short of her room. But BESIDES THAT…it is really creepy.

Written and directed by Damian Mc Carthy and starring Jonathan French as the poor man in chains, we get something very different than the normal, which is one of the reasons I really enjoyed it. French does an excellent job conveying what the audience is thinking, just by the look on his face and in his eyes, as we learn about his past as he does. And that freaking rabbit doll!?!?!

Boys from County Hell (2020) – A new horror / comedy about an ancient vampire creature accidently released in Ireland after a famous old stone is moved during some new road work. I’ve always enjoyed a lot of the horror films set in Ireland because they are usually unique and this one is no different. Once again, we get a different take on the vampire legend, giving us something new that we’re not really sure on what can happen. But it is fun with some good scares in it as well.

The film has a stellar cast, including John Lynch, who I’ve been a fan of since Richard Stanley’s Hardware (1990) and Billy O’Brien’s Isolation (2005), who plays the local undertaker/mortician. Lalor Roddy, another great actor, has a small bit here, which is a shame because he is another treat. This is one of those films that is just a fun watch and don’t need to worry about figuring out the story or getting any subtext. Just some good old fashion monster fun.

Don’t Leave Home (2018) – Speaking of Lalor Roddy, he appears in this film as well, and much more than a bit part. He plays a reclusive painter that has some strange history about him and his work. A young American artist, who makes lifelike dioramas, is asked to come to Ireland to create a special piece. When someone tells you “Make sure you don’t tell anyone where you’re going”, I would be a wee bit concerned about that! But that is what Anna Margaret Hollyman, the artist, is told when she hired for the job. It doesn’t take her long before she starts to realize something else, something darker, is going on here.

Roddy is exceptional here, playing someone with a dark secret that he really doesn’t want to keep, but is seemingly helpless in the matter. Helena Bereen is another excellent actress, who worked with Roddy in the film The Devil’s Doorway the same year. Bereen is one of these older characters that can just stare at you and chill you to the bone. Written and directed by Michael Tully, we once again something very new and original. Very well done.

Impetigore (2019) – Back in 2019, I watched a film called Satan’s Slaves (2017), directed by Anwar Joko. I was blown away by that film, so when I saw he had a new film out, I quickly found it on Shudder and watched it. Once again, loved it. Joko is able to bring something new to us American horror fans that might not be familiar with either Indonesian folklore or just bringing us a story that is outside what we are used to. The story is of a young woman and her best friend, traveling back to her home village that she remembers very little of, to try and find some answers of all the strange things going on recently, like an attempted on her life by a strange guy with a machete!

Tara Basro plays Maya and Marissa Anita is her friend Dini, both who do an excellent job in making the audience follow them through their own discoveries and the terror they come across. Joko gives us some truly frightening and scary sequences that will stay with you long after the film is over. He is a director that I will always be checking out his new projects because I have not been disappointed yet.

The Power (2021) – The feature film debut of Corinna Faith, who was both writer and director, gives us a ghost story that takes place at a hospital back in the mid ‘70s, when forced blackouts were common because of striking minors. Rose Williams plays a new nurse who is forced to work the “dark shift”, which is very troubling for her since she has had some history with bad things happening to her in the dark. But before we learn more about her own past, she discovers another force at the hospital, something there are rumors and stories about, but nothing people are willing to talk about, other than perpetuating the rumors.

I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned ghost story and I feel this one fits the bill. There is a puzzle or secret that needs to be uncovered or resolved and this young nurse who is already afraid of the dark has to face it and try to figure out what this entity is and what does it want before someone gets hurt.

The Screaming Woman (1972) – Recently picked up the new Blu-ray of this made-for-TV movie and was just blown away by it. I’m a sucker for made-for-TV movies from that era and was surprised that I hadn’t seen it before, but so glad I fixed that because it was great. The story is very basic, with an older woman hearing a voice calling for help, seemingly underneath the ground where a smoke house used to be. Of course, because she had recently returned from a mental institute after a breakdown, nobody will believe her, including her son who is debating on having her declared mentally incompetent. The rest of the movie is her trying to convince different people before the poor woman underground dies. We know who the person responsible for putting her into the ground right from the beginning, so it is not a question of “who” the killer is, but if he’ll get away with it.

Olivia de Havilland stars as the older woman, who amazed me at how much running she does in the film! I mean, she is constantly running from the place she heard the scream back to her house, then back to the ground with help. Then later, she’s running from the killer! I think she does more cardio in this film that I have all year! With a great cast helping her, such as Joseph Cotton, Ed Nelson, and even Walter Pidgeon, this is a great little story that will have you glued to the TV to find out what happens. I’m sure it might have something to do that it was based on a story by Ray Bradbury!

The Unseen (2016) – Earlier this year, I stumbled across this Canadian “invisible man” movie that I had never heard of before. What I really liked about it was that it was so different than most of these types of movies we’d seen time and time again. Aden Young has a genetic disease that causes him to slowly become transparent. He’s a loner and keeps to himself, only seeing his ex-wife when he comes to try and see his daughter. Not the best relationship there, but since they are both unaware of his problem, they think he is just being a jerk. But as his daughter starts to develop signs of the same issue, things get really strange.

Written and directed by Geoff Redknap, who has had an extensive career in the special makeup effects department over the years, which makes complete sense on this film. I just love the new angle that he took on this storyline, breathing new life into a sub-genre that constantly seems to repeat itself. Instead, we get a story about some characters dealing with a very serious issue, but we feel and see what they are going through. They are not bad people, or going crazy because of their condition, but just want to lead a normal life. Very impressed with this one.

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (2021) – When you have a documentary that shows a ton of different horror films that I haven’t seen, and a few that I had never even heard of before, that says a lot. But Kier-La Janisse’s 3+ hour documentary hits all the right points. It goes over so many different films, explaining how they fit into the folklore sub-genre, and how effective they are. Yes, this is a very long picture, but well worth your time. Just have a notepad to write down all the titles that you’ll be hearing about. Or pick up the folk horror box set from Severin and knock a few titles off your list!

Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters (1968) – In the late ‘60s director Kimiyoshi Yasuda and Yoshiyuki Kuroda made 3 films for Daiei-Kyoto Studios, based on the manga created by Shigeru Mizuki, that were about the Yokai, or Japanese ghosts. Not what we would consider ghosts but supernatural monsters coming from folklore. 100 Monsters was the first in the trilogy, with Spook Warfare (1968) and Along with Ghosts (1969) following. I had a couple of these in my collection but had never gotten around to seeing them. When this recent box set came out and I sat down to watch them, I was blown away. So unique and different than what we know or have seen, but also the fact that so many other things were branched out from these creatures, including Pokemon and even Mutant Ninja Turtles!

While the films are mainly aimed at kids, the stories try and teach a little morality and kindness to everyone, and are a lot of fun, especially because they are so damn creative in the creatures. Again, not scary at all, but if you like Japanese monster films, I think you’ll find these entertaining.

Shout Outs: I’ve been getting more and more into film noir and knocked out a few titles this year. But the best three were, Sunset Boulevard (1950), Big Heat (1953), and In a Lonely Place (1950). Sure, these aren’t horror films, but damn if some of these aren’t dark as hell.

One of the highlights from this last year were the incredible box sets that came out through the year, celebrating some filmmakers and their work. But real beauty of these sets is that it gives the chance for new audiences that might not be that familiar with the particular subject a chance to experience them for the first time. Plus, a lot of these companies are putting out sets on some subjects that are definitely not big box office draws but they still consider needing some attention. And for that, I salute them!

Severin has been knocking it out of the park with some of their sets. While it didn’t come out in 2021, I was finally able to score one of their Al Adamson box sets. Sure, a lot of Adamson’s work is tough to get through, but I love the fact that Severin took the time, money, and effort to showcase Adamson’s work, which really can give the viewer at least a better understanding of what he was working with and trying to accomplish.

But this year, Severin did it again with The Dungeon of Andy Milligan Collection, which features 14 films of this low budget filmmaker. Like Adamson, Milligan wasn’t the best filmmaker, but he also had that desire and passion to make films, so to celebrate them here in this box set is just incredible.  Of course, their real prize this year was All the Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium of Folk Horror. This box set contains 19 films, the amazing documentary by Janisse we discussed earlier, a CD of the soundtrack for the documentary, and just filled to the brim with extras from short films, commentaries, interviews, and all sorts of great stuff.

Arrow put out a nice little box set on Wisconsin filmmaker Bill Rebane. While it would have been awesome to see a nice upgrade release of Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake, the set does give fans a nice taste of some of Rebane’s other work. Like Milligan and Adamson, Rebane is not the best filmmaker but did what he could with what he had, and that is worth applauding.

One can hope that one day we’ll get to see a Larry Buchanan box set containing some of Buchanan’s . . . classics. Seriously don’t see that happening, but you always have to have one of those dreams just in case it does actually happen!

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