Sunday, 30 December 2018


So it's New Year's Eve Eve and I'm sitting here with Jerry Goldsmith scores playing in the background, trying to assemble some kind of workable Top Ten of the year that doesn't make me look like some kind of uncultured buffoon. Trickier than usual: I missed a bunch of movies this year for various reasons, some personal, some down to film distribution and exhibition (the loss of the Odeon Leicester Square's six screens for much of the year meant that affordable West End cinemagoing was squeezed).

As usual I'm going by the FDA's schedule of actual UK theatrical releases: even if it's only a minimal release it counts (whether I saw it in a cinema or not), while if it's just a festival screening and a swift appearance on Sainsbury's DVD racks then it doesn't. Sorry, but them's the rulez. And yes, they're mostly genre movies, but that is where my inclinations have generally led me...

I'm not about to make any great claims for Hell Fest, and I don't know that the ranks of Hooper, Carpenter, Cronenberg and Craven are soon to be joined by, er, Plotkin, but this was easily the best of the recent run of slasher theme park movies (Ruin Me, Blood Fest, American Fright Fest, The Funhouse Massacre). It knows exactly what it's doing and does it well, bloody and grisly when it has to be, and doesn't bog itself down in genre meta-referencing.

Not just to annoy the internet's basement full of saddo whiners: I actually enjoyed it as a zippy, colourful and agreeable bit of fantasy fluff. Okay, Ehrenreich's Solo is no more likely to become Harrison Ford's than I am, but it's light and entertaining nonsense which is what Star Wars really should be. I have not been paid by Disney or Lucasfilm or anyone else to say this.

Exactly what I wanted from a Nazi horror movie: gore, monsters and a sense of unspeakable evil. And it went for an 18 certificate rather than wimping out for the teen audience. More of this sort of thing.

Unusual and unsettling horror with some terrific moments before a climax where they decide to resolve it in a less than satisfactory way; there's still some genuine horror and one of the year's best shock twists to be had in the first hour. Not great, certainly, but different enough from the usual fare.

Most horror movies don't actually creep me out, but this one did. Not all the time: the third story (the car in the woods) didn't do anything for me, and the final set of reveals annoyed me a little, but there's a lot of good stuff in there.

I suppose I should have a comicbook movie in here and it was either this or Venom (it certainly wasn't going to be Infinity War). This won out for its more interesting setting and ideas: not to say that Venom wasn't up there, but if I had to rewatch one of them today it would be Black Panther.

I would last about twelve seconds in a proper poker game. Molly's Game works even if you don't understand the first thing about the flop or the river or the diamond fall*: it's fast and tightly written and hugely entertaining.

* One or more of these terms might be made up.

Man is the real monster in Guillermo Del Toro's girl-meets-fish story which is such a weirdie that it's surely impossible to be "meh" about it. For all that I didn't much like (the dance sequence), I still went with it and enjoyed it: dark yet romantic, sweet yet bitter, strange throughout.

A simple idea. beautifully executed: creepy and with just enough shown of its monsters. Also, lovely to be in a cinema where absolutely everyone kept silent for the whole running time and left their damned phones alone.

Out-Bonding Bond again with a dizzying international romp of pretty much non-stop action set-pieces: fights and chases and heists and more fights and more chases and by the time the utterly insane Paris bike chase was over I was exhausted. Keep them coming.

Honourable mentions (in no particular order) to Red Sparrow, Mile 22, The Spy Who Dumped Me (shut up, I enjoyed it), Ready Player One, Venom and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

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