Tuesday 22 December 2015

Top 20 of 2015: 15 to 11

15) Enemy by Denis Villeneuve

A mind f*&k of the highest order, Enemy is one of those rare films that keeps the audience guessing, not giving much in terms of narrative clues while never feeling frustrating. This story of a man who discovers himself a doppleganger feels like we are plunged into a permanent yellow stained fog of rarified air, and has layers of meanings and themes that demand to be carefully unpacked, all the way to a terrifying final shot that had the whole audience I saw it with gasping and jumping, and that has kept me wondering about its true meaning ever since. And Jake Gyllenhaal in a dual role has rarely been better.

14) We Are Still Here by Ted Geoghegan

FrightFest this year was basically a one-woman festival, with guest of honour Barbara Crampton appearing in no less than four films, including We Are Still here, one of the best of the festival and the year. The story of a grieving couple seeking refuge in a snow swept New England town and being haunted by a malevolent force might sound like a familiar premise, but it is as affecting as it is terrifying, and is chilling in more ways than one, with a winter setting that brilliantly sets the tone, pervaded by death and sadness. For all its seriousness however (meant in a good way), We Are Still here is also a great tribute to some of the grubbiest horror films of the 80's, especially those of Lucio Fulci, with some crazy gore and a brilliant, practical creature design of scorched zombies.

13) Nina Forever by the Blaine Brothers

A FrightFest presentation again, a festival which each year manages to unearth at least one gem or two within a wildly uneven selection. In Nina Forever a young man finally gets over the tragic death of his girl-friend, only for her to return and haunt him in his most intimate moments with his new girl-friend. Nina Forever is all about learning to let go (or not), and portrays grief in a surprisingly mature and honest way. It is one of the bleakest, saddest and most assured films of the year, and a triumphant debut for the Blaine brothers. And Fiona O'Shaughnessy as Nina gives her character a ghoulish Betty Boop vibes and makes a lasting impression.

12) Wild Tales by Damián Szifrón

Seldom have the frustrations of modern life been so beautifully and ferociously captured than in Wild Tales, a film which, I am hoping, heralds the return of anthologies in cinema (a rarity outside the horror genre these days). The danger when tackling the darker side of humanity and its everyday, small time awfulness is to come across as too cynical but no such thing here, we care about all these characters who spectacularly lose control in such a satisfying and cathartic way. Wild Tales is an assured, energetic and hilarious debut.

11) Lost River by Ryan Gosling

I seemed to be the only person who loved Lost River back in Cannes in 2014, when I saw it at its very first screening. One has to wonder if the film would have suffered the same stigma (and exposure) if it had not been for his illustrious director. Lost River is the exact opposite of what you would expect from an actor turn director, a beautiful phantasmagoria very much anchored in our modern times and its economic woes, which transcends them through a dreamlike setting, infused with the influences of David Lynch, Mario Bava and Nicolas Winding Refn.

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