Aaron Yap watches a ton of older films over the course of a year – from classics to shoulda-been-contenders, oddities to outright disasters. As 2017 draws towards a close, here are his top twenty discoveries of this year.
Glad to finally knock this one off the watch-list, and it didn’t disappoint. Trashy Hitler-cloning premise pits Nazi doctor Gregory Peck against Nazi hunter Laurence Olivier. Unadulterated ‘70s Hollywood lunacy with irresistibly hammy performances.
Third entry in The Omen saga doesn’t get much love but I actually prefer it to Damien: Omen II. Sam Neill owns the film. Jerry Goldsmith’s score is killer as per usual. Some truly great sequences (that fox hunt!). Effects hold up better than Damien. Good enough to file alongside the Underrated Part Threes of Halloween and The Exorcist I reckon.
This Dakota Fanning/Guy Pearce western was a bit of surprise, considering how much critical thrashing it got, which I 100% get. Treads the fine, polarising line between refined arthouse artistry and high-level horror sadism. Night of the Hunter on crack, or something.
Might be as close to conventional Antonio Campos (Simon Killer, Afterschool) has ever come, but with all his penetrating directorial acumen intact. Gruelling but moving and absorbing character study about Christine Chubbuck, TV news reporter who fatally shot herself on camera in 1974. Rebecca Hall is just outstanding. (Robert Greene’s superb meta-doco on the same subject, Kate Plays Christine, is also worth tracking down.)
Noir curio, shot completely from first-person perspective, is clunky, creaky, and gimmicky. And Robert Montgomery, who also directed, isn’t a great Philip Marlowe. But boy did it grow on me. The lethargic pacing becomes appealingly druggy after a while.
John Paul Getty Jr.’s nephew Andrew makes self-funded horror flick, dies before completion. The results? An astonishing piece of nightmare-fuelled indie filmmaking. It looks and sounds like standard DTV shit, but couldn’t be further from it. Don’t expect coherence or tastefulness, but a unique, sincere, personal vision to be reckoned with.
WWII oddity with a plot I’m not certain could be pulled off today: an actor who specialises in impersonations assumes Hitler’s identity and sabotages the Nazis’ war efforts. Wild, low-budget alternate-history pulp needs to be seen to be believed.
Curious about Making a Murderer but have no time to sit through 10 hours? Just watch this 1992 Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky doc which covers similar ground more concisely and will still leave you an utter wreck.
Now THIS is an indie film debut. Trey Edward Shults’ raw, gut-punch of a drama is so accomplished it feels like he’s been making movies for years. Favourably evokes Altman and Cassavetes. Krisha Fairchild: wow.
Always have time for docos that advocate for film preservation. Reveals itself not only an elegantly crafted tribute to film restoration but also a fascinating, insightful glimpse into life under the oppressive Taliban regime.
Kinda dug this minor-key, meandering satire. At its best observing the sobering, frustrating realities of humanitarian aid work in slightly cock-eyed, wryly humorous fashion. Could have done with less thunderous rock tunes, but the cast is consistently engaging, selling the plucky dedication of the team in the face of absurd obstacles.
Tautly directed, fatalistic-as-hell noir starring Fred McMurray as a cop who falls for gangster’s moll Kim Novak and spends the rest of the film caught between a rock and a hard place. Thick nocturnal atmosphere and scenario’s tight logistics had me grooving from start to finish.
Generated some minor buzz at genre fests, then vanished from radar and turned up on DVD and Blu-ray here. Feels like some freshly unearthed horror sleeper from the ‘80s or even ‘90s. Possibly the smartest, most genre-bending twist on the serial killer genre since Mr. Brooks.
Not another handy-cam found-footage flick… I’m not easily surprised but this inventive no-budget cringe-horror had a few impressive twists up its super-sneaky sleeve. Mark Duplass plays a creepy guy, that’s all you need to know.