Top 10 Horror Movies of 2016

By Mike

Perhaps it’s the amount of celebrity deaths, perhaps it’s some of the more, shall we say, *unexpected* election results, perhaps it’s a coincidence, but this year has proven to be one of the best for horror cinema in recent memory. From wildly inventive indie gems like The Witch to mainstream sensations like 10 Cloverfield Lane, the genre that often offers one or two memorable mainstream pictures per year has left us spoilt for choice in 2016.

10. Lights Out 

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(Listen to our review on EP 32
This mainstream cash-in adaptation of a 2-minute short film had absolutely no right to be as effective and successful as it was, but the simple central premise was so strong it would’ve been incredibly difficult to mess this up. David F. Sandberg’s story about a demonic woman who only appeared in the dark was genuinely frightening and also offered surprises along the way. Unlike the usual James Wan movies (2016’s The Conjuring 2, for example) Lights Out felt fresh and the jump scares felt earned. The surprise hit of 2016.

 

9. 10 Cloverfield Lane 

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(Listen to our review on Ep 17)
Speaking of surprise, back in January nobody had any idea that J.J. Abrams was producing another Cloverfield movie until a trailer suddenly dropped. The mystery surrounding the movie and the endless questions (is it a sequel? A prequel? Is it in anyway related to the original?) created a huge buzz around this Hitchcockian mystery. The less you know about the premise, the better, but this deliciously fun 3-hander is packed with great performances (particularly from John Goodman), plenty of tension and even some nasty gore in the final act. A must-see for horror fans.

 

8. The Girl With All The Gifts

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(Listen to our review on Ep 35)
It’s hard to imagine a fresh, original zombie concept in 2016, but this year we got two. This is the first, a movie that, despite budget restrictions, had ambition, heart and was bursting with so many ideas that it deserves to be crowned the smartest horror movie of the year. Impossible as it may sound to outshine an ensemble cast of Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton and Paddy Considine, child actress Sennia Nanua steals the movie with her portrayal of Melanie, a very special zombie, the likes of which we’ve never seen in movies before. 

 

7. The Eyes of My Mother 

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For the more hardcore horror fans, this is the essential viewing of 2016. A movie that manages to be both brutally upsetting and beautiful in equal measure, it’s comparable to such horror masterpieces as Martyrs and I don’t say that lightly. Shot entirely in black and white and set entirely in a remote farmhouse, this is a slow (despite the 76 minute running time) descent into the mind of a psychopath. It creeps up on you, lures you in at a gradual pace, but by the final act, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be left a quivering, shell-shocked wreck. Not for the faint hearted.

 

6. Train To Busan 

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(Listen to our review on Ep 36)
The popular description of this movie is “28 Days Later meets Snowpiercer,” which, although fair, fails to capture the tone of this movie. Train to Busan is a fast paced, rip-roaring thrill ride and one of the most relentlessly fun horror flicks of 2016. Like many great Korean films (including The Wailing which narrowly missed this Top 10) the film succeeds in balancing comedy, melodrama, action and disturbing ultra-violence in perfect harmony. What it lacks in scares it makes up for in pure, unadulterated popcorn enjoyment.

 

5. Don’t Breathe 

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(Listen to our review on Ep 34)
Sometimes in horror, the simpler the premise, the better. It doesn’t get much simpler than this: three kids break into a seemingly harmless blind man’s house to steal money, only to discover he’s a gun-toting psychopath. This excruciatingly tense cat-and-mouse is a brilliant twist on the usual ‘handicapped victim in trouble’ premise (a la Wait Until Dark or this year’s fun but predictable Hush). The suspense at times is almost unbearable and the title feels more like a warning than a description, I don’t think I breathed through the entire 90 minute running time.

 

4. The Invitation 

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(Full review HERE)
There’s nothing more horrific than an awkward dinner party. This genius movie by director Karyn Kusama managed to invoke true terror simply through the strange, uncanny, unpredictability of human behaviour. Even before the horror, it’s unbearable to watch. In the first half you’ll find yourself asking hundreds of questions (“Why are some characters acting so strangely? Why is one guest, Choi, running so late?  Who the hell is that naked woman in the bedroom?”) but the initial confusion and frustration you’ll feel at the beginning of the movie is nothing compared to the terror you’ll feel in the film’s final act, when some of the questions are finally answered.

 

3. Green Room 

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(Listen to our review on Ep 25)
Sometimes in horror it’s nice to abandon mystery, subtlety and ambiguity and just enjoy visceral, gory thrills. Green Room plays out like a skinhead version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a shocking, terrifying gorefest that hits you over the head like a sledgehammer and leaves you rung out by the end. Green Room treats violence the way all movies should..it’s sudden, unexpected, grotesque, hateful and terrifying.

 

2. Under The Shadow 

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(Listen to our review on Ep 35)
The best horror movies throughout history have been about more than ghosts, ghouls and monsters; they also tap into our deepest fears about society, human nature and the real world around us. Under The Shadow is a simple haunted house movie with a plethora of meaty themes bubbling just below the surface. Similar to such recent classics as The Others and The Babadook but with a unique political twist, it’s a great reminder for Hollywood that truly scary movies don’t have to rely on contrived jump scares and formulaic narratives to be successful.

 

1. The Witch

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(Listen to our review on Ep 16
Some horror movies defy explanation, description or analysis, they simply achieve what very few other films in the genre do: they evoke true fear. The Witch is a horror movie which needs to be seen to be believed. Not since Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining has a movie elicited such a nightmarish and palpable sense of terror from the filmmaking itself. Despite its flaws (and an ending I’ve still not completely made peace with) director Robert Eggers has managed to make an entirely unique horror movie, a transcendent experience unlike anything we’ve seen before. It doesn’t follow any of the rules or conventions of the horror genre and defies all expectations. It may be divisive, but that only cements its place as a cult classic.

Horror Insurgence?

By Mike
Is it just me or is there a LOT of horror out there at the moment? It seems we’re reviewing another small indie horror every week at the week. I’m certainly not complaining, as none of them have been awful, quite the contrary, some have been pretty decent and at least 2 are arguably horror masterpieces…

 

FUTURE HORROR MASTERPIECES:

The Witch
Dir: Robert Eggers
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Set in 1630s New England, this folktale tells the story of a family of puritans who are tormented by a witch lurking in the woods. Truly terrifying with first rate performances, The Witch plays everything completely straight, doesn’t rely on ironic laughs or trends, but merely sets out to tell a scary story, one that people will tell around a campfire for decades to come.

Green Room 
Dir: Jeremy Saulnier
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Some have argued that this isn’t a horror film, but I couldn’t disagree more. This is in the league of Texas Chainsaw or The Hills Have Eyes in terms of the sheer terror, carnage and violence that ensues. A siege story of a punk rock band who wind up driving into a building full of homicidal, psychopathic neo-nazis is the most tense and horrific two hours I’ve spent in a cinema in a very long time. This plays out in the exact opposite way to The Witch and holds nothing back…it’s full on, gory, violent horror, but also takes the time to build characters and ramp tension. It also features some great starring performances from Patrick Stewart and Imogen Poots. What’s not to love?

 

SCALING DOWN FOR MAXIMUM TENSION

Goodnight Mommy 
Dir: Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz
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This Austrian thriller plays on one of our biggest most primary fears as a child…mommy has changed, and she isn’t our mommy anymore! When a mother returns home from facial surgery covered in bandages and begins acting suspiciously, her twin boys start to suspect and fear that it isn’t her mother under there. A great concept and very deliberately methodically paced, it sneaks up on us and then hits us with some real horror and great twists in the final act.

The Ones Below 
Dir: David Farr
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It’s difficult not to see the Roman Polanski influence on this British claustrophobic thriller…it would fit nicely in a little boxset alongside movies like The Tenant, Romsemary’s Baby and Repulsion. Relying less on frights and more on tense character interplays, the story centres on expectant couple Kate and Justin and their friendship with the two rather strange new tenants in the flat below, Jon and Theresa, who may not be as friendly as they seem. Like Goodnight Mommy, this is all about character and less about shocks, but that doesn’t make the movie any less creepy…

 

GOOD, FORGETTABLE HOLLYWOOD FUN:

The Forest 
Dir: Jason Zada
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Natalie Dormer stars in this supernatural chiller about a girl who ventures into Aokigahara (also known as the Suicide Forest in Japan) to find her missing sister and has to face several demons, both supernatural and personal. A good fun 12A type of horror for fans of the ‘Insidious’ / ‘Sinister’ stuff. There’s nothing remotely original here but there are enough loud jumps, even some decent performances, to keep you entertained.

The Other Side of the Door 
Dir: Johannes Roberts
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A horror movie with heart…this spine-chilling ghost tale borrows from classic ghost stories such as The Changeling and The Orphanage and lays its supernatural  ghostly foundations on themes that are more melancholic, dealing with issues of grief and loss. Frustratingly it loses some of it’s great tension and character work in the second half as it resorts to lots of jump scares and bad CGI ghosts, but initially the movie shows some real promise and is worth a watch regardless.

The Coen Brothers…From Worst to Best

Written by Mike Muncer

This week sees the release of the 17th Coen Brothers movie, Hail Caesar, which, it’s fair to say, has had a mixed reaction. While it’s had positive responses from critics (82% on Rotten Tomatoes), audiences have rejected the movie and it’s bombed in the U.S.

I for one LOVED Hail Caesar and have watched it twice now, but I often find the movies of Joel & Ethan Coen to be divisive. They’re unusual and often difficult to classify into a genre. They range from being deadly, dark and gripping as any film-noir or thriller to being as wacky and ridiculous as any Farrelly Brothers movie, but when at their best, they miraculously achieve both in equal measure.

In my opinion, even the worst Coen movies are still extremely watchable, but for what it’s worth, here’s where I’d place each movie in a ranking of their career to date:

17. The Ladykillers (2004)
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Somewhere in the late 90s / early 00s the Coens lost their magic touch, perhaps caught in a strange transition between the indie and mainstream, after gaining commercial success with movies like Fargo and the Big Lebowski. This movie was the low point. Joel & Ethan’s remake of the 1955 Ealing comedy was a misfire, and even Tom Hanks couldn’t save it. It’s not terrible per se, it’s just nowhere near as funny as it should be, and in no way lives up to the original. As with many remakes, there seems little reason for this film to exist.

16. Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
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Intolerable Cruelty lives up to it’s title – it’s a cruel, frustrating watch – there are some true moments of greatness in here, the character quirks and performances are fantastic, but they get lost in a convoluted, messy story that loses itself in the middle and isn’t very engaging. However, Coen regular George Clooney shines in the movie and proves once again he’s extremely capable of great comedy performances.

15. A Serious Man (2009)
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At some point I’m going to have to go back and revisit this one, as I get the feeling that I may have missed something upon first viewing…but I just didn’t get it. A Serious Man is a painful, excruciating watch, and this may be the point…this ‘Book of Job’-esque tale is the story of Larry Gupnik, who watches his life unravel and fall apart throughout the movie, but for me, there was very little fun to be had and I just wanted it to end. As ever, there are some outstanding performances and intriguing characters, but the balance of serious drama and quirky comedy didn’t quite work for me on this occasion.

14. The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
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This is an underrated Coen gem and one of their most beautiful looking movies to date. Billy Bob Thornton stars as Ed Crane, a laconic, chain smoking barber whose plan to blackmail his wife’s boss goes terrible wrong. It’s classic Coen Brothers stuff and although it’s not as stand-out as some of their other crime dramas, it’s a must-see for any Coen fans.

13. The Hudsucker Proxy (1993)
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An extremely underrated Coen Brothers movie. It’s not perfect and it might be the wackiest most out-and-out comedic movie of their career, but it’s truly laugh-out-loud funny and has a certain nostalgic old-Hollywood magic that will not be matched until this year’s Hail Caesar. Tim Robins is on top form here but it’s Jennifer Jason Leigh who steals the movie as quick witted, fast talking Amy Archer.

12. Miller’s Crossing (1990)
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The movie that put the Coen Brothers on the map and is still often hailed by critics as their masterpiece. This is Joel and Ethan’s take on the gangster / noir movies of the 1940s. The story slowly and expertly unravels but it might be a little too slow for some audiences and I don’t find it has the re-watch value of some of their other films. However, as a piece of filmmaking craft, there’s no denying that it’s flawless.

11. Burn After Reading (2008)
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After the huge critical and commercial success of their dark fable No Country For Old Men, Joel and Ethan returned a year later with this…a movie which is in every way its opposite. It’s no masterpiece and extremely silly, but it’s relentlessly funny and enjoyable. Burn After Reading has a brilliant ensemble cast (Brad Pitt / George Clooney / Frances McDormand / John Malkovich) and a great fun little crime narrative that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. It’s by no means a Coen classic, but one of their most fun movies to date.

10. Raising Arizona (1987)
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Combining influences of 1940s screwball comedies with 1980s Sam Raimi horror, this manic and deranged black comedy remains one of the Coens’ most beloved. Nic Cage and Holly Hunter shine as H.I. and Ed McDunnough, two of Joel and Ethan’s most beloved characters, who decide to help themselves to one of another family’s quintuplets. It’s an insane story that insanely told, but it has that genius balance of comedy and thriller that only the Coen brothers can perfectly pull off.

9. True Grit (2010)
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By far the most enjoyable Western I’ve ever seen and one of the directing duo’s most accessible movies, it’s a simple story of a girl travelling across the old West (accompanied by a cop and a bounty hunter) to kill the man who murdered her father. With a career making performance by a young Hailee Steinfeld, a scenery-chewing performances from the gruff and grunting Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon like we’ve never seen him before, the movie plays out like a beautifully cinematic three-hander play.

8. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
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The first Coen brothers movie I saw at the cinema, aged 13, for me this has always had a special place in my heart. It’s Homer’s story of The Odyssey, transported to the 1930s deep south and it’s perfectly enjoyable as a wacky and laugh-out-loud funny (with some wonderful musical numbers and one of the best soundtracks of all time) but there’s also a lot more substance and depth below the surface for anyone looking.

7. Blood Simple (1984)
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Joel and Ethan Coen’s debut feature is exactly what it says on the tin: a simple story of murder. The film plays less on the laughs and more on the dark, brooding tension which builds throughout…a tension that wouldn’t be matched until the pair’s 2007 masterpiece, No Country for old Men. It still holds up today, with some of the most thrilling and horrific moments in the directors career, as well as outstanding performances (particularly from Coen regular, Frances McDormand). Another huge underrated gem in the duo’s career.

6. The Big Lebowski (1997)
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Perhaps the biggest cult classic across the whole of the Coens’ career, this beloved and instantly quotable story of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski accidentally getting mistaken for a gangster millionaire (also called Lebowski) is full of surreal humour and fascinating characters. It feels as though Joel and Ethan really let loose with this one, throwing in lavish dream sequences and Berkley-esque music numbers, upping the “quirk” factor to 11. It’s also full of fantastic performances, notably from John Goodman and the brilliant Julianne Moore.

5. Hail, Caesar! (2016)
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Creeping into my top 5 Coen movies is their latest outing, an insanely enjoyable love letter (and send-up) of the Hollywood studio system. It’s laugh-out-loud funny throughout but there’s also a lot more going on than meets the eye, subverting and challenging ideas of art, capitlism and the American dream. In some ways Hail Caesar is a series of sketches and set pieces, with each A-List cast member making little more than an extremely memorable cameo, but it’s Josh Brolin who holds the film together, playing it completely straight as the struggling Eddie Manix, head of Capitol Pictures who’s putting out fires left right and centre whilst in the middle of his own existential crisis…

4. Barton Fink (1991)
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The Coens’ fourth feature film is, in my opinion, their first true masterpiece. John Turtorro stars as Barton Fink, the New York playwright who is enticed to California to write movies, but soon discovers the hellish truth of Hollywood. This movie just gets better with every watch, packed full of humour but also some true moments of surreal horror and dread which would give David Lynch a run for his money. The tone is constantly shifting just enough to sustain a feeling of unease, whilst simultaneously remaining endlessly entertaining and watchable.

3. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
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In some ways a brilliant companion piece to Barton Fink, this tale of a struggling song writer navigating his way through the 60s Greenwich Village folk scene is as surreal, profound and existential as anything the Coens’ have done, whilst managing to stay extremely accessible, entertaining and moving. With a fantastic soundtrack and a breakthrough lead performance by the now superstar Oscar Isaac, this intriguing film is one I’m happy to watch over and over again…

2. No Country For Old Men (2007)
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After No Country For Old Men, Joel & Ethan Coen were no longer small-time, indie filmmakers, they were Best Picture winners. I’ll never forget seeing this movie for the first time, thinking I was about to see a typical Coen Brothers movies – a western with perhaps some thrills and comedy thrown in – but finding myself gripping the edge of my seat for the best part of two hours, watching one of the most tense and frightening horror movies I’d ever seen. This beautifully simple cat-and-mouse tale of one man running away with  a suitcase of money as he’s pursued by a homicidal maniac is an absolute perfect movie and only gets better upon every viewing.

1 Fargo (1995)
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How could it possibly be anything else? Fargo is the best Coen Brothers movie to date and one of the greatest movies in the history of cinema. On the surface, this is an extremely dark story –  a man hires a couple of sociopathic criminals to abduct his wife – but the choice to set the movie in the snowy landscapes of North Dakota full of colourful characters (who all speak with *that* accent) gives the story a lot of heart and charm, making it more of a comedy of manners than a thriller. Every member of the cast is on top of their game here, with William H Macy and Steve Buscemi giving career best performances…and I haven’t even mentioned Frances McDormand’s Oscar winning portrayal as Marge Gundersen yet…the greatest movie character of all time.

Twenty years on and there’s still so much love for Fargo, so much so that it’s even spawned a spin-off TV series. Are Joel and Ethan Coen ever going to make a better move than this? Possibly not, but after Hail Caesar, I for one still can’t wait to see what they do next…

2016 OSCAR PREDICTIONS

RHIANNA: 14 / 21

MIKE: 17 / 21

BEST PICTURE
Rhianna: The Revenant
Mike: The Revenant

BEST ACTOR
Rhianna: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
Mike: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

BEST ACTRESS
Rhianna: Brie Larson (Room)
Mike: Brie Larson (Room)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Rhianna: Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
Mike: Sly Stallone (Creed)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Rhianna: Rooney Mara (Carol)
Mike: Alicia Vikander (Danish Girl)

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Rhianna: Inside Out
Mike: Inside Out

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Rhianna: Mad Max: Fury Road
Mike: The Revenant

COSTUME DESIGN
Rhianna: Mad Max: Fury Road
Mike: Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST DIRECTOR
Rhianna: The Revenant
Mike: The Revenant

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Rhianna: Amy
Mike: Amy

BEST EDITING
Rhianna: The Big Short
Mike: The Big Short

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Rhianna: Son of Saul
Mike: Son of Saul

BEST MAKEUP / HAIR
Rhianna: Mad Max: Fury Road
Mike: Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Rhianna: The Hateful Eight
Mike: The Hateful Eight

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Rhianna: ‘Writings On The Wall’ – Spectre
Mike: ‘Writings On The Wall’ – Spectre

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Rhianna: Mad Max: Fury Road
Mike: Bridge of Spies

SOUND EDITING
Rhianna: Mad Max: Fury Road
Mike: Mad Max: Fury Road

SOUND MIXING
Rhianna: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Mike: Mad Max: Fury Road

VISUAL EFFECTS
Rhianna: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Mike: Mad Max: Fury Road
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Rhianna: Room
Mike: The Big Short

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Rhianna: Spotlight
Mike: Spotlight

2016 BAFTA Predictions

BEST FILM – WILL WIN
Mike: The Revenant
Rhianna: The Revenant
BEST FILM – SHOULD WIN
Mike: The Revenant
Rhianna: The Revenant

BEST BRITISH FILM – WILL WIN:
Mike: 45 Years
Rhianna: Brooklyn
BEST BRITISH FILM – SHOULD WIN:
Mike: Amy
Rhianna: 45 Years

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – WILL WIN:
Mike: Carol
Rhianna: Room
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – SHOULD WIN:
Mike: Steve Jobs
Rhianna: Steve Jobs

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – WILL WIN:
Mike: Spotlight
Rhianna: Spotlight
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – SHOULD WIN:
Mike: Inside Out
Rhianna: Spotlight

BEST ACTOR – WILL WIN:
Mike: Leonardo DiCaprio
Rhianna: Leonardo DiCaprio
BEST ACTOR – SHOULD WIN:
Mike: Michael Fassbender
Rhianna: Michael Fassbender

BEST ACTRESS – WILL WIN:
Mike: Brie Larson
Rhianna: Brie Larson
BEST ACTRESS – SHOULD WIN:
Mike: Brie Larson
Rhianna: Brie Larson

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – WILL WIN:
Mike: Mark Rylance
Rhianna: Mark Rylance
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – SHOULD WIN:
Mike: Mark Rylance
Rhianna: Mark Rylance

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – WILL WIN:
Mike: Kate Winslet
Rhianna: Rooney Mara
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – SHOULD WIN:
Mike: Rooney Mara
Rhianna: Kate Winslet

BEST DIRECTOR – WILL WIN:
Mike: Alejandro Inarritu
Rhianna: Alejandro Inarritu
BEST DIRECTOR – SHOULD WIN:
Mike: Todd Haynes
Rhianna: Alejandro Inarritu

BEST DEBUT – WILL WIN:
Mike: Alex Garland
Rhianna: Alex Garland
BEST DEBUT – SHOULD WIN:
Mike: Alex Garland
Rhianna: Stephen Fingleton

BEST ANIMATION – WILL WIN:
Mike: Inside Out
Rhianna: Inside Out
BEST ANIMATION – SHOULD WIN:
Mike: Inside Out
Rhianna: Inside Out

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – WILL WIN:
Mike: The Revenant
Rhianna: Mad Max: Fury Road
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – SHOULD WIN:
Mike: Mad Max: Fury Road
Rhianna: The Revenant

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – WILL WIN:
Mike: Cinderella
Rhianna: Mad Max: Fury Road
BEST COSTUME DESIGN – SHOULD WIN:
Mike: Mad Max: Fury Road
Rhianna: Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST DOCUMENTARY – WILL WIN:
Mike: Amy
Rhianna: Amy
BEST DOCUMENTARY – SHOULD WIN:
Mike: Amy
Rhianna: Amy

EE RISING STAR – WILL WIN:
Mike: John Boyega
Rhianna: John Boyega
EE RISING STAR – SHOULD WIN:
Mike: Brie Larson
Rhianna: John Boyega

 

Top 10 Movie Monsters

By Mike

This week, in celebration of a new Frankenstein movie, Rhianna and I had to countdown our top 3 movie monsters of all time for the podcast. I struggled with this, not because I couldn’t think of enough, but more that there were too many. As a horror movie fanatic, choosing your favourite movie monster feels a bit like a parent choosing their favourite child. Or at least, it does for me. So I felt I needed to post this list, just to give a bit of due credit to those 7 other movie monsters which I didn’t get to mention…

 

10. Frankenstein’s Monster (Frankenstein, 1931)

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I thought the best way to kick off this list would be with arguably the most iconic movie monster of all time. Frankenstein’s monster feels like the definitive movie monster. Ask a 6 year old to impersonate a monster and chances are they’ll hold their arms out in front of them, hang their mouth open slightly, narrow their eyes and walk slowly forward. Boris Karloff’s performance as the monster still holds up today as one of the greatest performances in horror history. He simultaneously made the creature both terrifying and sympathetic, which is no easy feat.

 

9. The Werewolf (American Werewolf In London, 1981)

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One of the very few Oscar winning movie monsters. Rick Baker deservedly received an academy award for the revolutionary monster make up effects in John Landis’ 1981 masterpiece. The movie is an incredibly rare thing, a horror comedy that manages to balance its scares and its laughs perfectly. The werewolf itself is no different…the transformation scene, in which David writhes around in agony on his living room floor as his naked body stretches and deforms while Blue Moon plays in the background, is both shocking and humorous at the same time. A movie monster is only as good as the movie it’s in, and in this instance, both are exquisite.

 

8. Pennywise the Clown (Stephen King’s IT, 1990)

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I know..TECHNICALLY it’s a TV monster, not a movie monster…but it’s impossible not to include Tim Curry’s terrifying turn as the demonic clown in this 1990 Stephen King adaptation. For me personally, this monster gave me more nightmares than any other on this list. When my friends and I decided to watch a VHS copy of ‘IT‘ at a sleepover when we were 11 years old, the mood slowly shifted from absolute excitement, to unease, to sheer terror, to mass hysteria. But what did we expect, watching a movie about a clown who lures children into dark tunnels by promising them balloons and treats, only to then reveal its true monstrous face and then proceed to devour them?

 

7. The Fly (The Fly, 1986)

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Probably the saddest monster story on this list, David Cronenberg’s movie is a true dark, melancholic masterpiece. Whether you look at the film as an allegory for cancer, the 80s AIDS epidemic or simply as a sci-fi body horror, there’s always something new and fascinating you can draw from the movie every time. Jeff Goldblum’s performance at the centre of the movie is one of truly something to behold, and the make up effects in this are startling, memorable and deeply disgusting. As bits of Goldblum slowly start to drop off or decompose throughout the movie, you’ll feel both sympathetic and scared for him, but by the end of the movie, you’ll just be plain terrified.

 

6. The Crawlers (The Descent, 2006)

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The Descent is my favourite horror movie of the 21st century, partly due to the incredible complex characters, the suffocating feeling of claustrophobia and beautiful cinematography…but it also has a lot to do with these nasty little guys. The Crawlers are completely adapted to living in the dark: they have no eyes but incredible hearing. They can crawl up walls and along ceilings, and we never know if there’s going to be one lurking round the corner, ready to pounce. Neil Marshall masterfully holds back from showing us any monsters until we’re more than halfway into The Descent and uses that time dredge up absolute fear and terror through the situation itself, before knocking us for six with these vicious, evil creatures in the final hour.

 

5. The Babadook (The Babadook, 2014)

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It feels hard to come up with a truly original monster these days. Everything seems to be a riff on something else, but in 2014 audiences were introduced to The Babadook, a wondrous creation which felt both completely fresh and terrifyingly familiar at the same time. The Babadook almost feels ancient and mythic. What makes it all the more terrifying is how little we see of it. Director Jennifer Kent never really lets us catch more than a glimpse, a shadow, a flash, or a hideous illustrations in a pop-up book, leaving the rest up to our imaginations. If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook…

 

4. The Thing (The Thing, 1981)

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Three years after John Carpenter proved he could terrify us by scaling down and holding back with Halloween, he then proved that he could also truly shock us with spectacle in The Thing. What’s particularly brilliant about this monster is that we have no idea what it looks like; it jumps from body to body, infecting people and deforming them into strange, horrible, nightmarish creatures. This gave Carpenter the freedom to be as imaginative as he wanted: he could show a a dog turning itself completely inside out, or a man’s chest burst open, sprout teeth and eat another man’s arms. All the effects are in-camera and completely non CGI too, which makes it all the more masterful.

 

3. Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare On Elm Street franchise)

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Freddy has appeared in a total of nine movies so far and I doubt it’s the last we’ve seen of him. Wes Craven tapped into a primal human fear with his 1984 creation. A child molesting serial killer who wears a glove of knives and kills children in their nightmares…is there anything more terrifying? Sadly, what started as a brilliantly terrifying concept slowly became an 80s pop culture icon – Freddy was appearing in TV ads, he was in toy shops, in music videos and in cartoons. It’s only upon revisiting Wes Craven’s incredible 1984 original that one is reminded just how dark and powerful this character is.

 

2. The Pale Man (Pan’s Labyrinth 2006)

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Guillermo Del Toro is the master of horror and fantasy, and a genius when it comes to creating monsters, but The Pale Man must be his most memorable. In the central set piece in what’s undoubtedly the greatest movie of the 21st century (actually in my opinion it’s one of the greatest movies of all time), The Pale Man has a mere 5 minutes on screen but it’s a dazzling, beautiful, tense and ultimately terrifying five minutes. There’s not much else to say about this monster really. If you haven’t seen the movie, why are you even still reading this? GO AND WATCH IT RIGHT NOW.

 

1. The Alien (Alien franchise)

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It’s starred in 4 Alien movies, 2 Alien vs Predator movies, and it’s now gotten it’s own origins trilogy with Prometheus and it’s two upcoming sequels. What is it about the Xenomorph that has captivated audiences for nearly fourty years? Maybe because of all the monsters on the list, it almost feels real, or at least the most realised. We know this creature inside and out, we know the biology of it, how it reproduces, how it eats, how it gestates. We know what kind of blood it’s got pumping around it’s veins. We know the different varieties that exist – the chestbursters, the face huggers, the warriors, the queens…Thanks to (the pretty rubbish) Prometheus we even (sort of) know how it came to be in existence. This monster has it’s own history, it’s own legacy. The more we learn about it, the more fascinating and terrifying it becomes. With Ridley Scott’s Prometheus sequel Alien: Covenant on it’s way for 2017, it seems there’s still much more to learn and discover…