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Ambush Bug counts down the best horror films on AICN HORROR since last Halloween – Number 1!!!

Logo by Kristian Horn
What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its second year in October! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers in search of worthwhile horror, I decided to compile a list counting down to my favorite horror film released since last October and covered in this here AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days that aren’t toothless remakes or watered down sequels. Theaters aren’t where the horror is at these days, I’m afraid. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video on Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay. I’ve also compiled quite a few films I’ve seen advance screenings of at festivals and other outlets, and I’ll try to update you when you can see these films.

As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year after October 1st (which happens to be the birthday of this little column two years ago!) and worked and reworked a list until I had 31. No real method to my madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween toward my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion for those who can’t get enough horror that has something to do with the film I chose that day.

So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how right or wrong I am, and come up with your own list…let’s go!


Though it was the talk of the festival circuit last year, my favorite movie reviewed this year on AICN HORROR is by far Lucky McKee’s adaptation of Jack Kethum’s THE WOMAN, a harrowing, quirky, and altogether unique horror film that is fathomous subtexually and still retains its entertainment value throughout. With standout performances by PollyAnna McIntosh and Sean Bridges and McKee go-to Angela Bettis, this film was supremely acted as well. I flipped when I reviewed this back in November and for me, nothing even came close to the horrors that THE WOMAN thows at its audience. I’d love to hear your picks for the best of the best in the last year, but mine’s THE WOMAN!

THE WOMAN (2011)

Directed by Lucky McKee
Written by Jack Ketchum & Lucky McKee (based on a book by Jack Ketchum)
Starring Sean Bridges, Pollyanna McIntosh, Angela Bettis, Lauren Ashley Carter, Carlee Baker, Zach Rand, Shyla Molhusen
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Having seen Lucky McKee’s THE WOMAN twice now, I feel like I’ve wrapped my head around it all. It is a fantastic film and had I seen it before the deadline of my Best of the Last Year of AICN HORROR, it definitely would have been high on the list. As is, there would have to be some pretty amazing horror films to knock it off next year’s list. This is a story that will disgust. It will cause debate. It will shock you. Having seen it with someone who isn’t really a horror fan, I have to say it does make for an interesting discussion afterwards, especially if that person is a female. In many ways, Lucky McKee continues to explore womanhood, a concept he touches upon in the film that made his name, MAY. But in this film, the director shows he is bolder, more experienced, and more skilled in the presentation. If I were to comparer this film to anything, I’d shy away from the torture porn some might think it to be and compare it more to films like DONNIE DARKO, HEATHERS and AMERICAN BEAUTY: films that that, at their heart, are twisted comedies about the complexity of the concept of family while offering a warped view of what the American ideal of family is all about. It is also a film which most definitely takes a stance on women’s roles, using the various female characters in the cast to represent the complex roles a woman plays. From abused housewife to angsty teen to bright eyed window into the future, even before exploring the role of the title character the story of THE WOMAN is rich with metaphor and ripe for a varied interpretation.

There will be those who pan this film as misogynistic and I understand why folks may misinterpret that. The Woman, played by the mesmerizing Pollyanna McIntosh, spends the bulk of her screentime chained to a wall in the cellar of a farmhouse. Female characters are abused, sexually molested, degraded, and viewed as objects rather than humans. If that’s not misogynistic, I don’t know what is. But in the hands of director Lucky McKee, he uses these uncomfortable scenes for a reason. His Woman is the harbinger of wrath for all of the abusers, the users, the takers, and those who sit idly by and watch it all happen. Though some could argue that the bulk of the film depicts an uncomfortable degree of abuse towards women, the dramatic and bloody finale rings as the point McKee is trying to bring across. If anything, this is a cautionary tale to respect the power of women.

On top of all of those heavy themes, McKee has made a fantastically entertaining film. His use of music in this is genius, twistedly juxtaposing Sean Spillane’s often poppy and folksy soundtrack with the dark secrets going on in the entire cast’s heads. The songs are quite catchy too, especially Spillane’s Cobain-esque “Distracted” which plays just before all of the shit goes down in the film. Immediately after finishing the film I downloaded the soundtrack into my iPhone.

This is not a comfortable film to watch. It’s gory. It’s demented. It’s perverse. It shows a part of America that folks are not willing to admit exists and are definitely not proud of. I’ve always said that films that cause unease may not be the favorites of most folks, but they are the most effective horror films. McKee has achieved both. Using Jack Ketchum’s fantastic screenplay and book as the backbone, THE WOMAN is a brain twisting, moral churning, hypnotizing film experience.

As our final alternate pick of the month is one of my all time faves, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN which, like THE WOMAN, has a lot going on thematically underneath all of the monster make up and scares. Though compared to the torture porn and found footage inundation that all the rage today, some of the scares might seem tame, there’s something sinisterly beautiful about the whole film about a lost soul in search of love, albeit a dead lost soul.

Thanks so much for joining me for this countdown of my favorite horror’s I’ve covered this year on AICN HORROR. Again, if THE WOMAN was not to your liking, I invite you to list your Top 31 or Top 10 or even Top 2. Look for more horror interviews and reviews focusing on all forms of spooky cinema mainstream, indie, past, present, and future every Friday and throughout the week.

The Countdown…

#15: V/H/S

See ya tomorrow, folks, with a special post-Halloween review!

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in late 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.

Find more AICN HORROR including an archive of previous columns
on AICN HORROR’s Facebook page!

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 31, 2012, 9:23 a.m. CST

    Hard to argue with Ketchum / McKee

    by emu47

    Going to read the book first, though.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 9:24 a.m. CST

    Cool list. Your posts are the only reason I'm here.

    by Steve

    And to the guy who kept sighing loudly every 5 minutes at the screening of the original Halloween in Detroit last night. Fuck off, you ADD troll. If you're bored, just leave the theater. No one is making you stay.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 9:25 a.m. CST

    Interesting choice

    by AlibyebyeEssmob

    I liked this film, and I appreciate what was going on, but to suggest it's subtexts are rich is silly. It's an exploitation film, through and through, which is fine, as I love exploitation films, but it's not a deep film by any stretch. The acting was excellent, but I have to say, the music really rubbed me the wrong way. I thought it was mostly crappy. I think they were going for a Last House on the Left thing, but I just did not like the music. I tried to read a Jack Ketchum book after this, and found the prose very lacking. He's got some good, gory, gritty ideas, but his execution, to me, left much to be desired.

  • In descending order, from least favorite to favorite: * Killer Joe - A great, scary crime flick. William Friedkin's best in a long while, and Matthew Mcconaughey has totally ruined KFC for me. * The Grey - Seriously? No love for this one? I found the elemental battle between man and wolf really gripping. Maybe not the best film of the year, but would be very high on this list for me. * End of Watch - Technically, this is supposed to be a buddy cop film. I think it has more in common with Blair Witch than it does with Cops; their encounters with the cartel are terrifying, and it goes places a lot of the films on this list didn't dare to. Quite possibly my favorite horror film of the year, and it completely underscores the rising importance of ending the war on drugs. Other than that, I'm pleased to see the love given to The Skin I Live In (fantastic movie!) and The Innkeepers.

  • ...very thoughtful and well-reasoned choices. We may not all agree with them, but I for one sure as hell enjoyed reading them every day.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 10:03 a.m. CST

    This movie was garbage

    by CountOrlok

    Not a single question the viewer might have is answered. Complete dog shit of a movie.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 10:20 a.m. CST


    by Ryusei

    Killer Joe is awesome, but is clearly not horror. It's crime drama, albeit, really fucked up and disturbing crime drama. Wolfpuncher sucked, and since these were wolves and not werewolves, I don't see how it qualifies as horror. It might have been cool if I saw it as a poetic allegory when I was younger, but I was expecting Taken with Wolves, so alas, I was very disappointed. Haven't seen End of Watch, but by the trailer, it resembles Training Day and also doesn't appear to have any horror connections.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 10:31 a.m. CST

    Great Film but I have always wondered

    by LoLWut

    What people thought about the "Woman" who never read Offspring or Offseason.This film is pretty much a follow-up to those novels and if you knew about her you might not root for her to come out OK. Always thought that was a neat twist for those that have read his novels.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 11:05 a.m. CST

    Hated it. A horrible piece of nasty shit.

    by Baron Von Penguin

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 11:05 a.m. CST

    Big thanks

    by Mark

    I've been following your list all month long, and a great way to end it--I completely missed this movie but am jazzed (that's right: jazzed) to see it. Thanks!

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 12:09 p.m. CST

    This movie is a sequel, btw

    by thefreshestthing

    Good movie, but I'd actually completely forgotten about it's existence.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 12:25 p.m. CST

    How come no FATHER'S DAY on this list?

    by poonhead

    You can't possibly think these 31 movies are all better than Father's Day?

  • Much like Lustig's Maniac, this picture could be interpreted as anti-woman, but a more critical eye notes the underlying feminist theme. A great pick for #1.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 1:07 p.m. CST

    It's true, I have a broad definition of "horror film" ...

    by emu47

    Disliking The Grey makes sense; I feel all criticisms of it are valid. I just liked it a lot. Killer Joe and End of Watch, okay ... I'm reaching, sure. I think I'm right, but fine. I know that's a losing battle. However ... why isn't a movie considered horror if men are stalked by a pack of smart wolves? I didn't know horror had to be supernatural. (The Woman, for example, is not supernatural -- and holy shit, I did not know if was connected to Off Season and Offspring!) I dunno. I thing The Grey should count as horror.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 1:28 p.m. CST


    by clupula

    Yeah, I was going to question how any of those movies were horror either, until someone else beat me to it. In fairness to you, though, there are three movies on this list that I don't think qualify as horror either (The Tall Man, The Skin I Live In, and Rabies).

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 1:30 p.m. CST

    The Woman

    by clupula

    Interesting choice for #1. I liked it a lot, but to be honest, I saw it when the screener first leaked online, so I had completely forgot it came out officially in the last twelve months. I actually did make sure to check out Offspring first, though. I liked that they even kept the same actress. Considering how low budget Offspring was, I don't think many people would have faulted them for switching actresses for The Woman.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 2:11 p.m. CST

    emu47: THE GREY was in the 'horror' category....

    by Mike Soiseth in 'Horror-ible'.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 2:14 p.m. CST

    The Woman as # 1? Nah.

    by The Angriest Planet

    I liked The Woman but I fail to see why it would rate as the number one horror film of the past year. It, like all of Lucky McKee's work, is wildly overrated but it's not like like "Best of" lists aren't subjective.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 3:38 p.m. CST

    The Woman was interesting and had its moments, but...

    by captaincosmos

    ...overall I found it lacking. I'm not squeamish, by any means, so the violence and perversity weren't an issue. But I don't really think they did a very good job of examining the family in any meaningful way. They touched upon a lot of things, but it never really came together. It felt like a quickly made, somewhat disconnected piece that could have used a bit more thought. I quess what I mean to say is I found that the several interesting parts did not add up to a satisfying, cogent whole. With a bit more work, could've been much better. That being said, some terrific, extremely brave acting in the film.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 3:59 p.m. CST

    @ubermanagain ... "horror-ible" ... lol

    by emu47

    Yeah, yeah, ok. Haha, guess I'm just a sucker for wolves in the dark.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 4:12 p.m. CST

    Well done Ambush Bug!

    by adeceasedfan

    I haven't watched The Woman, but she's been tied up in my queue for long enough. Tonight's the night.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 5:03 p.m. CST

    It was a weak horrormovie year...

    by lovesamuelfuller

    ... there were no horror movies that surprised or really scared me this year. Maybe i'm just getting too old and jaded. Some were OK (the innkeepers, lovely molly, the woman in black, excision, cabin in the woods) but at no point was i blown away by these films. Most were disappointing and terrible (a long list which includes: the woman, the skin i live in and the tall man) The only horror/thriller movie that i loved this year was the brilliant THE GREY!!!! Hope next year (or the last two months of this one) will be better....

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 5:04 p.m. CST

    oh, and great column this month Mark!

    by lovesamuelfuller

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 5:13 p.m. CST

    Wow, no SINISTER?

    by John Maddening

    The fact that it was written by AICN's Massawyrm aside, It was a lot of fun. Very good scares, some excellent acting, great music, nice cinematography... I haven't seen every movie on your list, but I've seen enough of them that SINISTER was better than.

  • Does that help?

  • Nov. 1, 2012, 2:25 a.m. CST

    Just watched it on Netflix

    by StrokerX

    Not a bad pick for your number 1. The imagery at the end is so damn fun you can't help but smile. I think my favorite from the list that I've seen so far and I've seen most of them would be The Skin I Live In. Just well shot, acted, directed and a wicked fun concept. And Snowtown Murders for being the most fucked up. Just wrong.

  • Nov. 1, 2012, 2:38 a.m. CST

    You're right

    by dancetothebeatofthelivingdead

    People will say that this film is misogynistic. But Ambush Bug sees through that to the heart of the film and goes out of his way to tell you that he understands how your eyes misinterpret women being punished and tortured and beaten and tied up would fool you into thining of misogyny, when actually what you are seeing, Ambush Bug had discovered is empowering to women. Now, Stephen King for decades has brought young and coming genre authors to a mainstream audience. He has always been gracious with a quote for a book jacket, and has gone out of his way to give shout-outs to any book he likes. That being said, through King, I have discovered a lot of good authors and books based on his recomendations and a few great ones too. That is whi it took me so long to give up on Jack Ketchum, who wrote the book this movie was based on. Now again, I haven't seen the movie or read the book. However, I have read all of Ketchum's early work and most pf his current work up to around four or five years ago. The problem with his work is that he is extremely, and Imean extremely cruel, misogynistic, painful, and brutal just purely for the sake of being brutal. It's not even little bits of shock brutality garnered to bvring about a shcked response. No, it's wall to wall dark and painful brutality. Now, I'm on this ite daily, just like most opf the rest of you out there and I love horror. That means, in certain aspects I love brutality. I'm not a fan of this new wave of horror that began with the Saw years called torture porn, but it's not a deal breaker for me either. That's where I stand, I have found quite a few hidden gems in the torture porn genre, and will contine to look too. It's not that I'm squeamish. Haute Tension's violence is extremely brutal, and most of us can agree that it added to the effectiveness of the film. Jack Ketchum, however, is just brutal. It doesn't seem to be a conscious effort to bring brutality into the story, he's just sickeningly brutal. SO I finally gave up on his books because along with the unnecessary brutality comes the fact that this an has some issues with women. All his brutality is thrown on women. With the exception of one of his novellas, the Bigfoot one, all of his work seems to be just punishing the fucking shit out of women. It's to the point where you read it and just say to yourself, what the fuck/ The book that he had, Off Season, that was pretty much banned in today's society is a great exaple of his contempt for the female gender. So when Ambsh Bug starts talking about a movie where a woman spends the entire film chained up and is beaten, sexually assualted, degraded, used as objects and just treated in ways that Ambush Bug readily admits made him very uncomfortable, but then says we seeing it as misogynistic is us not getting the movie, I call bullshit. I haven't seen the movie. I haven't read the book. I get it though, I get just as much as everyone who has seen or read it. I get it because due to King's over the top shouting endorsements of Ketchum that have been pumping out of him for years now, I read as much Ketchum as was available until fairly recently. I get Ketchum. What we have here is Ambush Bug throwing a pre-empitive strike. Knowing that anyone who has seen this is going to start in on just how cruel it is to women, Bug has gone ahead of the argument, stating tat it just seems to be misogynistic, when actually, if you are intelligent enough to see it, it is a cautionary tale about the power of women. It's Bug's own guilt over liking this garbage coming out on the page as a thinly veiled insult and a question posed regarding the thought process of anyone who views 90 minutes of beating, raping, kidnapping, and punishing a woman as hatefulk to women. I for one am insulted,

  • Nov. 1, 2012, 2:47 a.m. CST

    your taste..

    by darkpassenger

    in horror sucks... seriously p.a 3 and not sinister? No chromeskull : laid to rest 2 ? smiley was better than tall man, no Devils carnival?

  • Nov. 1, 2012, 2:55 a.m. CST

    Great choice for the Number 1 spot, Mr Bug.

    by Knuckleduster

    I completely agree. The Woman is brilliant. Definitely the best horror film I've seen all year, and a new cult classic.

  • Nov. 1, 2012, 7:13 a.m. CST

    The Woman In Black tops my list.

    by loafroaster

    Atmospheric as hell, well shot and acted, and fucking terrifying.

  • Nov. 1, 2012, 10:55 a.m. CST


    by MrLongbaugh

    Thanks for the work you put into putting all this together. Definitely a few on the list I want to check out.

  • Nov. 1, 2012, 11:21 a.m. CST


    by DukeDeMondo

    Saying "I haven't seen it, but..." doesn't make those comments about The Woman - not about Ketchum or about any books of his that you've read, but about this film made by someone who has been making sharply satirical films about women and the role of "the woman" within horror cinema and within the context of upper middle class Western society for years - any less wide of the mark. Always best to assume you don't know, if you're talking about something you haven't seen. I could go on all day about, say, the music of Ice Cube, and whether I do or I don't like it, and here's why, and here are the albums I heard, but if, I dunno, Jack White announces that he's going to be covering an Ice Cube track, I can't say a thing about it until I've heard it, regardless of how much I know of Ice Cube and ESPECIALLY if I don't know anything about Jack White, because this is going to be something else. Anyway.

  • Nov. 1, 2012, 11:32 a.m. CST


    by Ambush Bug

    The fact that you took the time to write such a long, albeit snarky post is commendable, but had you actually WATCHED the film in that time, maybe I would give you my attention. Since you admittedly haven't seen the film, you're talking out of your ass and don't warrant any more of a response that this one I just wrote. Watch the film and then make such broad accusations or don't watch it and stay ignorantly quiet about it. I really don't care. Just don't categorize something before seeing it. From your post, I could categorize you as a pathetic twat seeking out attention in a talkback by writing bile about something you are ignorant about in hopes for a response which will somehow fill a hole mommy and daddy never left, but I wouldn't want to make that assumption since I don't know you in real life, so I'll reserve judgment. Instead I'll focus on the film. THE WOMAN is definitely not exploitative. It has a character that is exploited by another character, but surely since you are able to string a decent sentence together, you can distinguish between the two. If you look at moments of the story out of context, you might be able to assign the term misogynistic to it, but if you have the two brain cells to follow a narrative that depicts both the trials the central character goes through leading to a climax that ultimately empowers the woman and allowing her to overpower her captor and even take out a woman who was not strong enough to stand up to the abuse to women, you can clearly see there's more going on with this than anything the SAW franchise could come up with in a million years. In my opinion it's more exploitative not to challenge a female character, take her through a compelling narrative, and then end with her overcoming oppressive odds and ultimately being a stronger person. There are scores of films I'd list as much more degrading to women in that they depict them in a fairy tale way or some ideal that can never be attained by the common folk. Watch any SEX IN THE CITY episode for shallow depictions that I find much more exploitative and offensive than anything in THE WOMAN. Then again, you didn't see the film and most likely won't, so why the hell am I even acknowledging a troll?

  • Nov. 1, 2012, 5:15 p.m. CST


    by Kabukiman

    So when someone says something is misogynistic your response is to say "No, it's not exploitative"? When are you planning on running for public office?

  • Nov. 1, 2012, 10:59 p.m. CST

    thought this movie was alright

    by Killdozers Evil Twin Brother

    others further up the list definitely got to me more, but McKee was really putting it all out there for this. I knew this movie was somehow related to Offspring. Offspring just ended up making me mad - the cops were literally one step above Keystone in their skills. They literally had no idea how to use a police radio, nor stage a manhunt...yet they have jobs near miles of unsettled forest. it's pretty funny when you think about the central concept too. so - they're absolute savages because they're hunters who haven't modernized? even tribes who have lived in isolation in the South American jungles for two centuries aren't that beastly or violent. Anthropologists must have had quite a chuckle over Ketchum's work.

  • Nov. 2, 2012, 2:26 a.m. CST

    GET 'IM BUG!!!!

    by lUIS pRIETO

  • Nov. 2, 2012, 9:20 a.m. CST

    I think saw this the first time...

    by Dana X

    When it was called The Girl next Door talk about one trick pony smh