I have a confession to make. Actually, I have two confessions to make. First of all, I hate these ‘Best of 2012’ lists that have been popping up everywhere since mid November. I find, for me, that they get very tiresome very quickly; especially if they are published before the end of the year; Christmas isn’t the only thing that happens in December, lest we forget.
My second confession is about the films themselves. The truth is, when I sat down to write this list, I realised that while I had seen lots of films in 2012, they were either new, and as yet, unreleased films shown at festivals, or they were one-off screenings of classic films that I hadn’t seen before, so they weren’t exactly ‘new releases’.
So after much thought, here is my ‘not a list, don’t call it a list’ of my three favourite films of last year.
The Shining (1980)
Ok, I know that Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation Stephen King’s most famous novel, The Shining, isn’t a brand new piece of cinema, but the release of the extended US cut of the film in the UK in November brought a new dimension to Kubrick’s cult horror. While the US cut, which features an extra 24 minutes of footage, which were omitted from the European release, wasn’t Kubrick’s favourite version of the film, this cut brings something else to the familiar plot. Initially ignored and misunderstood upon its release for its ‘Art House’ style, and also due to Kubrick’s many changes to King’s story – which King didn’t approve of – The Shining has now become a right of passage for almost every film fanatic.
Featuring Jack Nicholson’s infamous turn as the out-of-luck writer with a dark past, this film showcases both Nicholson’s performance and Kubrick’s ability to create real, lasting tension and unease. In part, King’s tale of a haunted hotel and the evil of the spirits contained within, The Shining is also a piece that explores a family at breaking point, and analyses the effects of isolation whilst delving into the more extreme aspects of mental illness. Intriguing, masterful and still chilling more than 30 years after its original release, the extended version of the film is an unforgettable piece of late 20th century horror cinema.
You can read my review of the film on TVBomb.
Ridley Scott’s long-awaited addition to his Alien franchise, Prometheus was released to great fanfare in June, and quickly split the critics and the viewing public. Featuring an all-star cast, the film was initially marketed as a prequel to Scott’s highly influential 1979 sci-fi horror, however, Prometheus, while featuring terrifying creatures like ones featured in the original film, was designed to be a companion film, and not a prequel.
Although the film came under some harsh criticism for its somewhat unexpected back story, and a few other plot points – Guy Pearce’s make up, anyone? – Prometheus is, at its heart, a film that’s less about sci-fi and more about horror. Exploring Alien‘s existing themes of body horror, gender, and perhaps, most importantly, of violence, rape and unwanted pregnancy, Prometheus is concerned with humanity, and our fears. It taps into our most basic terrors; the fear that we are not alone, that our bodies are not our own, and that we are powerless and important when compared to the vastness of the universe.
Best viewed as a companion film to Alien, rather than a direct relation, the thing to remember about Prometheus is that while it can’t emulate the shock created by or be the game changer that Alien was, it doesn’t have to, it’s concerned with deeper things.
You can read my review of the film on TVBomb.
Killer Joe (2012)
When I saw Killer Joe at the 2012 Edinburgh International Film Festival, I couldn’t speak properly for a few minutes. I hate writing in clichés, but William Friedkin’s film adaptation of Tracy Letts’ 1993 play of the same name does everything film is meant to do. It entertains, it unnerves, it terrifies, it shocks and, most importantly, it gets into your head and stays there. A tale of a dysfunctional family hiring a contract killer that they can’t afford – the ‘Killer Joe’ of the title, expertly realised by Matthew McConaughey – to kill their mother for her life insurance takes the viewer on a number of twists and turns throughout. But the real power of the film lies in its overarching theme of exploitation, and of course, the film’s final scenes, which culminate in an explosion of violence so unexpected and so frightening, that they really has to be seen to be believed.
A true return to form after Friedkin’s last few films, Killer Joe was not only one of the highlights of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, but also one of the strongest new releases of the year. For me, this tale of contract killings, exploitation, selfishness and greed is perfectly realised and completely and utterly disturbing. A must see.
You can read my review of the film here.