Pan’s Labyrinth

2007: Film’s Greatest Year

I’ve always enjoyed film. It’s a temporarily beautiful escape into worlds that are visions and dreams of artists and innovators. It’s why I started this website. So when I think about which years brought us the best movies, 2007 has to be at the top. The 26 films below average out to an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, and would actually be at an 84% if it were not for a couple of critical disappointments I happen to enjoy (they’re at 20% and 40%). The following list comprises my argument for why I feel 2007 is film’s greatest year.

January

Pan’s Labyrinth, Children of Men

Pan’s Labyrinth

When it comes down to it, this will be forever hailed as Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece. It’s haunting and gorgeous, and will tear your soul to shreds if you let it.

Children of Men

There is probably not a movie I have watched more in the last decade than this. Clive Owen is wonderful as Theo, but the real credit goes to director Alfonso Cuaron, the master of the ridiculously long takes as seen in Gravity.

March

Zodiac

Zodiac

David Fincher has made some really great movies, including Fight Club and Seven, but in my opinion, this is him at the top of his game. It’s an epic undertaking and one of the best true-crime films I’ve ever seen.

April

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Grindhouse, Hot Fuzz

Grindhouse

While one half of this fun double-feature isn’t exactly the greatest, Death Proof makes up for Planet Terror‘s faults. Kurt Russell is excellently campy and it’s a welcome addition to the Tarantino canon.

Hot Fuzz

I have a hard time deciding which of the Simon Pegg – Nick Frost films are my favorite, but Hot Fuzz is usually right up there at the top. The cast is excellent and the direction is razor sharp.

May

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28 Weeks Later

28 Weeks Later

This certainly is not as good as Danny Boyle’s original 28 Days Later, but it’s still an excellent zombie flick and Robert Carlyle is amazing in the heartbreaking starring role.

June

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Knocked Up, 1408, Live Free or Die Hard, Ratatouille

Knocked Up

I didn’t really like this movie when it first came out. With time, though, I’ve grown to appreciate it. I still find Heigl a bit insufferable, but the rest of the cast is funny as hell.

1408

Again, it took a while for me to appreciate this movie, but as far as Stephen King adaptations go, this one rises up toward the top. Cusack is pretty great, as well as Samuel L. Jackson.

Live Free or Die Hard

The theatrical cut of this was great, but if you can find the Unrated Cut, go for it. It’s violent and lives up to the R-Rated expectations of the first three classics.

Ratatouille

I’ve always been into the Toy Story movies, but Pixar failed to do much to pique my interest up until Ratatouille came out. It’s not only that Patton Oswalt is in it, but I loved the story so much. I watch this one pretty often.

July

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Rescue Dawn, Sunshine

Rescue Dawn

As familiar as we all are with Werner Herzog’s documentaries steeped in nihilism, he’s actually a damn good dramatic director as well. Bale’s physical decimation is horrifying to watch and Jeremy Davies is incredible as well.

Sunshine

Part 2001: A Space Odyssey, part Event Horizon, Danny Boyle’s sci-fi thriller is one of the better of the genre of the new century. Cillian Murphy is great and it’s written by Alex Garland, writer/director of 2015’s excellent Ex Machina.

August

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Hot Rod, Superbad, Death Sentence, Inland Empire

Hot Rod

While the critics hated this movie, the memorable lines and outlandish weirdness of The Lonely Island fellas shines through in this. Probably one of the funniest SNL films.

Superbad

This movie is funny every time I watch it. Cera and Hill’s relationship is absolutely heartwarming and the guest spots are pretty amazing.

Death Sentence

Sitting at a dismal 20% on Rotten Tomatoes, I feel the critics were sorely mistaken on this almost perfect revenge flick in which Kevin Bacon beats the living shit out of some gang members.

Inland Empire

While I still don’t know what the hell this movie is about, it’s an absolute nightmare put on film and one of the strangest trips I’ve ever taken. Laura Dern is wondrous and David Lynch has not made a stranger movie.

September

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3:10 to Yuma, Eastern Promises, The Darjeeling Limited

3:10 to Yuma

Yes, this is a remake. What we have here, though, is one of the best westerns of our new century. Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, and Ben Foster shine brightly and the cinematography is at times breathtaking.

Eastern Promises

If you saw A History of Violence, you probably had a lot to expect from Viggo Mortensen in Cronenberg’s follow-up. This movie is gritty as hell and probably one of the better gangster flicks I’ve ever seen.

The Darjeeling Limited

While this is not exactly my favorite Wes Anderson film, it’s grown more endearing with age. The way he presents India is like a painter’s palette, and the performances from Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman are mightily impressive.

October

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Michael Clayton, 30 Days of Night, Gone Baby Gone

Michael Clayton

Corporate espionage films are not normally one of my favorite genres. This one is a twisting thriller that is shot beautifully and features a great performance from Tom Wilkinson.

30 Days of Night

Not since The Thing has there been a more impressively violent and frightening horror film set against the inescapable backdrop of an arctic tundra. One of my favorite vampire films done just right.

Gone Baby Gone

With time, this depressing crime drama has become one of my favorite films ever. Ben Affleck directed his brother, this year’s expected Best Actor winner, Casey Affleck and it really is one the greatest Boston-area films.

November

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No Country for Old Men, The Mist

No Country for Old Men

Let’s not beat around the bush here. This one won Best Picture and for very good reason. It’s hard to say there is a better Coen Brothers film, but perhaps the most impressive part is taking Cormac McCarthy’s difficult source material and translating it to film.

The Mist

Another great film based on a Stephen King story. I didn’t like this movie until I watched it for the second time, but I have a few more times since. Check out the excellent black and white cut if you get a chance. It’s really fun.

December

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The Orphanage, There Will Be Blood

The Orphanage

Though Guillermo del Toro’s name is plastered all over releases of this film, J.A. Bayona actually directed this gorgeously depressing ghost story. Unless you’re terribly inhuman, the end will rip you apart.

There Will Be Blood

No film, in my opinion, is more important than this one. I really feel that this might be the Citizen Kane of this generation. Daniel Day Lewis is incredible, but it’s the story and the way that this movie is filmed that I think is most important.

Do you think a year in film was better than 2007? Let us know in the comments!

Nick Spanjer, Editor of CinemAbysmal

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Crimson Peak

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Crimson Peak (2015) – Horror | Drama

Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro

Starring: Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hiddleston

How I Watched: Amazon Instant Video

Best Line: “A house as old as this one becomes, in time, a living thing. It starts holding onto things. Keeping them alive when they shouldn’t be.”

Let me begin by warning you that this movie is not scary in the way that you’d expect an R-rated haunted house flick directed by Guillermo Del Toro to be. Crimson Peak is at times, uncomfortably frightening but it just manages to avoid terrifying you into oblivion. Its story instead grows increasingly insidious as it progresses and is almost surgical in its mental burrowing of the viewer. What it will not do however, is cripple you into fear like some scenes in The Conjuring or The ExorcistCrimson Peak is a classically well-told ghost story built upon the back of a Victorian era love affair.

Those of you that are now planning to avoid this one due to the words, “Victorian era love affair,” hey, I don’t blame you. From the trailers, I could tell that this one was possibly more Jane Eyre than Del Toro’s exceedingly brutal Pan’s Labyrinth or The Devil’s Backbone. When all is said and done though, trust me, it works. Fear not, thy testosterone. There’s enough tense moments in Crimson Peak to get at least a couple nods out of even the most jaded Horror film aficionado.

If you’re familiar with Del Toro’s track record, you know he’s made some pretty solid films. Including the two mentioned above, he’s credited with the insane Cronos, the Hellboy series and Pacific Rim. Sure, Mimic and Blade II weren’t exactly Citizen Kane, but c’mon. Everybody is allowed to slip up once in a while. While The Devil’s Backbone is his only other true ghost story, there were plenty of horrifying scenes in Pan’s Labyrinth, as well as movies he helped produce like The Orphanage and Mama, so I was not worried that he could handle the task of scaring us again.

For a little background on the film itself, the story features a young American writer that is swept off her feet by a mysterious entrepreneur that lives in a haunted British estate. For a bit, I felt the movie was going to be like 2012’s The Woman in Black. English accents swept over the lines and it started to seem as it was going to be a costume-themed period piece, until it really began to pick up once the story moved to this British estate. Those that have picked up on it might have already realized that the estate is called ‘Crimson Peak.’ I won’t tell you why but really, the more I think about it, the stranger this story gets.

The cast in Crimson Peak is pretty good, but it’s not exactly something to write home about. I was a bit disappointed that Del Toro didn’t manage to slip stalwart Ron Perlman anywhere in the movie, but hey, Doug Jones made it in so I guess I can forgive the man. Leads Wasikowska and Hiddleston do enough the keep the story going, but I really think this one belongs to Jessica Chastain. Del Toro is famous for his absolutely stone cold, evil villains and Chastain does not break this chain. It’s pretty refreshing to see her play a character that is not emotionally or morally confounded in a muddled thriller and she definitely steals the show from the rest of the cast.

As I mentioned above, this movie isn’t going to turn your blood cold. A few scenes will have you gripping the arms of the couch (if you’re in the right mood), but honestly, Crimson Peak is just more of a really cool movie. The cinematography is absolutely stunning and though I felt Guillermo was a bit liberal with some of the CGI effects, it was not enough to take away from the tale itself. Del Toro weaves his story intricately with those scares and avoids the easy jump-frights that a good number of recent horror films are guilty of. He instead takes the opportunity to build the terror like a layered cake, until those final few moments when he knows he has you roped in and invested in the storyline.

Final Score: 3.5/4

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Similar Films: The Others, The Devil’s Backbone, The Shining

The Hallow

The-Hallow_Still_2

The Hallow (2015) – Horror

Directed by: Corin Hardy

Starring: Joseph Mawle and Bojana Novakovic

How I Watched: Streamed on Netflix

Best Line: “Hallow be their name / And blest be their claim / If you who trespass put down roots / Then Hallow be your name.”

Every once in a while, a movie comes along that you’ve never heard of previously and bites the living hell out of you. This is one of those. Grasping onto its predecessors in the ‘shack in the woods’ genre, The Hallow knows what its job is right from the get-go. Never taking itself too seriously, but at the same time, avoiding any laughable moments, this flick will definitely get under your skin. There’s monsters, some paranormal weirdness and some really jumpy scares. So switch off the lights and turn it up loud.

There is a blast of immediate dread when the movie begins that seems to be lacking in a lot of horror movies lately. Very often, we get the slow burn for the first hour or so, that builds into a bloody, chaotic payoff that just manages to hold the film together. That’s not the case in The Hallow. We are introduced to the characters a lot like in The Shining as an automobile is seen looping through country roads on the way to its ominous destination. Without ruining anything, a married couple with a newborn is moving from London to the Irish countryside, where the father is tasked with preparing the forest for logging. This does not make the forest or inhabitants happy, and did I mention the couple has a newborn? Ok, that’s all I’ll tell you about the plot.

A lot like Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series, there are a number of disgusting and squishy moments that made me recoil. When I say squishy and Evil Dead in the same sentence, you probably know what I mean; revolting sounds of flesh getting smashed and the gooey crunching of various parts in monster’s teeth. There’s a lot of that in this one. But unlike Sam Raimi’s series, it’s not very funny. At all, actually.

Now, a lot of people have problems with CGI in horror movies. I am one of those people, but I understand it in moderation. The Hallow does a great job of using it when they need to. At times, you can tell the CGI would probably look ridiculous, but the creators did a great job with the lighting so that the effects don’t take center stage. This by all means is a monster movie, so there were plenty of chances for the team that filmed this to screw it up.

Those of you frightened by the creatures in The Descent or some of the fairy tale monsters in Pan’s Labyrinth need to stay away from this one. The Hallow borrows from those films and turns it up to 11. There are some absolutely jarring jump scares in this and the things causing them are anything but pleasant. Watch out, too if you’re easily affected by eye injuries on film.

I think one aspect of the film that it could have improved upon was to further explore the mythology that is behind the menacing force out in those woods. It is briefly touched on as the small town’s unspoken folklore, but there was definite opportunity to make this story as chilling as something out of Lovecraft. There is even what seems to be a direct reference to the Necronomicon in one of the scenes, which again, is not focused on enough.

Really though, this was a great film. It’s vicious in pace, storytelling and bloodletting. It does a great job of building dread, but not for so long that you anticipate the next scare. The film knows right when to surprise you. If you have surround sound, you’re in for a treat as the sound editors did a wonderful job using the rear sound field to assist in the scares. The acting was pretty good, but if you have a difficult time with English and Irish accents, you might need to flip on those subtitles. So switch those lights off and enjoy tonight’s nightmares. This one will do everything to make you feel like you shouldn’t be in the dark.

 

Final Score: 3.5/4

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Similar Films: Evil Dead (all of them), Pan’s Labyrinth, The Descent