10. You're Next (D: Adam Wingard)
9. Mold! (D: Neil Meschino)
Chances are you probably didn't get a chance to see Mold! in the theater this year. Neither did I. And that's a shame because Mold! is exactly the kind of movie that is so much fun to see in a theater or drive-in environment, but because of it's size and budget will never get a wide release. Nevertheless, fans of old school low-budget horror and sci-fi should still have a lot of fun with this one on DVD. Director Neil Meschino is obviously a fan of the genre tropes he is paying homage to/parodying and there's tons of slimey practical effects and gore to keep fans of junk cinema entertained. As with any ulta-low budget movie, don't expect amazing acting or flawless photography, but I think Mold! makes up for it with plenty of cheesy insanity.
8. WNUF Halloween Special (D: Chris LaMartina)
Since the success of The Blair Witch Project, the goal of any found footage horror film is to make you believe that what your are watching is real. However, most found footage films are clearly staged and the viewer never once has the illusion of watching actual amateur video of strange or horrific events. The WNUF Halloween Special not only succeeds in fooling the average viewer that what they are watching could be real but also taps into childhood Halloween nostalgia for those of us who grew up in the 1980's. Presented as an actual Halloween special that aired on a local TV station in 1987 and shows supernatural events happening live on air, the 'movie' features believable segments and impossibly authentic looking commercials and bumpers. Even after you learn that it was all manufactured, it's still a great tribute to 80's TV and one I will be watching annually around Halloween time.
7. The World's End (D: Edgar Wright)
2013 was the year of the apocalyptic movie. It seemed liked every month there was a new movie in theaters that took place during or after the end of the world. While that sounds great, most of them weren't worth the price of admission. There were even two end of the world buddy comedies this year, This is the End starring Seth Rogen and his posse and The World's End starring Simon Pegg and his posse. I opted to see This is the End in theaters, expected The World's End to be a stale retread of Shawn of the Dead. I made the wrong choice. The World's End is a brilliantly funny film about holding onto the past too long and the way friendships change over time. Not to mention it has some wonderfully culty sci-fi elements to boot. Pair that with some great performances and cool special effects and you have a movie that is a lot of fun and instantly re-watchable.
6. Elysium (D: Neil Blomkamp)
5. Bad Milo (D: Jacob Vaughan)
4. The Rambler (D: Calvin Reeder)
I went into The Rambler not knowing much about it. It was recommended to me by a friend and I just assumed it would be some kind of road movie or crime thriller. What I didn't expect was how weird and David Lynch-ian this movie would be... and for that matter, once the movie took these strange, disjointed turns, I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. Dermot Mulroney plays the titular rambler who after been released from prison, quickly becomes fed up with his cheating wife and shitty job and takes off hitchhiking across the country to work on his brother's farm. Fairly straight forward so far. But what he encounters on the road can only be described as surreal. Wacky characters who drift inexplicably in and out of the story, unconventional editing and a stylish atmosphere all add to the dream like qualities that truly make The Rambler's journey "a trip". Mulroney does a good job of playing the strong silent type, who embraces every strange twist and turn without a lot of commentary or emotion. I suggest viewers take Mulroney's lead and just sit back and take in the weirdness.
3. The Congress (D: Ari Folman)
Speaking of trippy flicks, The Congress was another film I saw without a lot of prior knowledge. All I knew is that it was directed by Ari Folman (Waltz with Bashir) and that it mixed live-action and animation. The story centers around Robin Wright, who is playing herself, and is not sure whether or not to accept an offer from a major motion picture studio and her agent (Harvey Keitel) to have her image and personality scanned into a computer to be used however the studio wishes in the future. Then we travel 20 years into the future, where now that same movie studio and major corporations are now using chemicals to basically put the populace in never-ending customized acid trips. This part of the story is done through animation, and looks outstanding. The story is far fetched but believable at the same time. There are great performances by Wright and Keitel as well as Paul Giamatti and John Hamm (the latter only appears in animated form). As a fan of cult animation like Ralph Bakshi and Heavy Metal, I am so glad to see that there is still smart, adult-oriented, drug-friendly, 2D animation being made in 2013.
2. Spring Breakers (D: Harmony Korine)
Between Miley Cyrus's transformation into a drug using sex pot and Selena Gomez's turn as a bikini-clad partier in Spring Breakers, 2013 seemed to be the year of former Disney good girls going bad. I saw Spring Breakers in the theater in early 2013 and enjoyed it's colorful off kilter portrayal of a group of bored teenage girls who turn to crime to fund their spring break trip to Florida. However, it wasn't until subsequent viewings on blu-ray that I truly appreciated the film for how genuinely insane and beautiful it really is. James Franco is great as the wannabe gangster who shepherds the girls through their descent into the seedy crime world of the F-L-A. While I enjoyed Harmony Korine's writing on Kids, I wasn't a big fan of his post-Kids work, but I feel that Spring Breakers's silicious neon-coated world is probably his best work to date and am excited to see what he churns out next.
1. Only God Forgives (D: Nicolas Winding Refn)
I was huge fan of Nicolas Winding Refn's previous film Drive, so when I found out his follow-up would feature the same star (Ryan Goslin) and the same composer (Cliff Martinez), I made a special trip out of town to see the film in theaters as soon as I could. While a lot of people disliked Drive for it's lack of dialogue and overt stylization, I latched right on to it and Only God Forgives ups the ante even higher with more style and even less dialogue. However, I feel the movie more than makes up for it with amazing atmosphere, over the top violence and an intriguing story about the sordid underbelly of Bangkok's crime world. Not to mention that Vithaya Pansringarm's performance of the stoic cop out for justice is one of the best I've seen in a while. I can totally understand how some may find Refn's penchant for style over substance off-putting, but for me, Only God Forgives was the most exciting thing I saw on the big screen in 2013.