We made it! Our first full year running the Thirteenth Floor website. It's been quite the ride, filled with surprising ups and expected downs, but mostly it's been a thoroughly positive experience. Being exposed to a breadth of films we otherwise would never have seen, some great, some not as great - but always educational and always an honored privilege. Below we go through some our favorite (and not so favorite) films and moments experienced in our first year, as well as some of the memories we'd rather forget. Read below and join us on a celebratory trip down memory lane, all 365 days of it. Here's to 2017!
5 FAVORITE FEATURE LENGTH FILMS OF 2016
- Cat Sick Blues - What else can I say that I haven't said a million times already. Dave Jackson, Andrew Gallacher, Matthew C. Vaughan, Shian Denovan and the rest of the cast and crew come together to deliver a film so disturbingly jubilant in it's depravity and at times so darkly hilarious in delivery (while also tackling the subject of love and loss) that you can't help but fall head-over-heels for it. A horror fan's horror film; one that gives birth to, in my opinion, the most memorable new "villain" to hit the genre since Wes Craven gave us the ghost-faced killer in Scream.
- The Love Witch - A stunningly gorgeous tragedy layered with feminist commentary that absolutely had us spellbound from the moment Samantha Robinson began her very troubling opening monologue. It's scathing at times, and as a straight male, not a film easily viewed without some level of compunction; Anna Biller's brutally honest Love Witch is not only a film worth studying, but one to experience as well.
- The Greasy Strangler - Forrest Gump said it best, "Stupid is what stupid does". As a fan of stupid-done-right, no other film this year masterfully revels in it like this one. Any claims to the contrary are nothing but BULL-SHIT.
- Dolly Deadly - Heidi Moore was nearly a one-woman army when it came to the production of this film. That should have spelled disaster considering it's feature length and limited budget, but as it turns out, this ended up becoming a blessing in disguise. We have in Dolly Deadly, a highly focused, personal film that tackles the often times dark subject of bullying with a subtext about gender identity, nearly all of it as experienced through the eyes of a young unwanted child.
- The Mind's Eye - It's criminal we never got an official sequel to David Cronenberg's Scanners. Almost anyway. What with Joe Begos taking it upon himself to deliver the next best thing in his synth-fueled mind-bursting telekinetic action gore-fest, I can't really say I care at this point if it ever happens. This film, and Joe, absolutely nail what I wanted from one.
Cat Sick Blues - A sick and twisted masterpiece. Dave Jackson and crew completely blew me away with this one. From the moment the opening credits kicked in I thought to myself... "This was made for me."
The Greasy Strangler - Everything I wanted it to be. Hilarious, crude, and outrageous. It also has the most underrated soundtrack of the year.
The Love Witch - 'The Wicker Man' invades a super sexed up episode of 'I Dream of Jeannie'. It's a visual feast. Anna Biller knows how to make this aesthetic shine. I was under the love witch's spell the entire film.
Francesca - An obvious result of the love and passion it's creators have for giallo. One of the best films I've had the pleasure of viewing this year. Onetti brothers love and have respect for the genre. Their work speaks volumes of that.
- BC Butcher - One of the earlier releases this year that was included in the launch of Troma's streaming service. Kansas Bowling shows promise as a young up and coming director. Most filmmakers play things safe for their debut. Kansas thought out of the box and brought us a fun prehistoric tale with an infectious theme song.
5 DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2016
- Jeruzalem - I really wanted to like this one. Demons, Angels, and a seldom-used gorgeous location with which to set the stage for what should have been a distressing apocalyptic film, Jeruzalem had the makings for something memorable. However, the awkward acting, first person camera tropes, and lack of any real punch took too much of this film's bite away to leave me anything but disappointed.
- Vampyres - A soulless husk of a remake. It was already a tall order to try and recapture what made the original so damn captivating, and this one lacked every ingredient to make it happen. Shame. Even the boobies couldn't save it.
- Model Hunger - Debbie Rochon's directorial debut had a solid premise, and an even better message to deliver, but so much of the film's components fought against each other in doing either one the justice they deserve. I didn't dislike it, but I expected more in its execution.
- Junk Bonds - The Return of Junkbucket - A 2013 film, but we viewed it in 2016, so there. Junk Bonds seemed right up my alley as both a Troma film and a riff on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. And you know what? Massacre is right. What a bloody mess. Go rent Plankface if you want a film that does deranged family of cannibals correctly, or B.C. Butcher for a new Troma movie done right.
- The Neon Dead - It started strong, and had a mostly great cast of quippy characters (Marie Barker being a massive stand out), but the over reliance on its neon gimmick coupled with the uneven pacing and boring back story meant this one wasn't all I had hoped it would be. Still fun though, and worth watching - just temper your expectations.
Model Hunger - I have a lot of respect for a lot of the people involved in this but I would be lying if there was one second of this movie I enjoyed.
Junk Bonds: The Return of Junkbucket - The joke wears itself out very early on. You are then stuck with the same punchline for an excruciating 98 minutes. Trim the fat and make this a short film and then you may be on to something.
The Ones Below - It's like lighting a long fuse, slowly following it, to sadly find out it's attached to nothing.... ZZZZZZZZZ
Excess Flesh - Probably the most competent of all the films on this list. I didn't completely hate it. It toed the line of being something special but in the end it just fell flat. I also saw the twist coming a mile away which rarely happens.
Still not getting to see or review Jessica Cameron's 'Truth or Dare'. It came out in 2013 and still not even a VOD release in sight. One day I may finally see this film. Until then I'll just go cry in a corner.
3 FAVORITE SHORT FILMS OF 2016
- Night of the Slasher - Shant Hamassion's genre commentary is lethal, hilarious, and filled with enough references and subtext that you'll be thankful for it's 10 minute run time, since you're more than likely going to be watching again and again and again. The awards it's garnered speak for themselves, so give the film a viewing and join in on the praise.
- Invaders - We never get to see the prep-work that goes into a home invasion in a home invasion film. It's always from the perspective of the victim, and it's always immediately at the start of said invasion. This film switches things around and gives us the other side of those moments and begins minutes before the - what's expected to be - tragic event. There's a twist here however, and let's just say the perspective isn't the only thing flipped around. Watch the hilarious (yes, hilarious) short film here.
- Death Metal - Chris McInroy made fans out of us when we were given the opportunity to review his violently cheeky short film, 'Bad Guy #2'. It wasn't long afterwards that a kickstarter for a project film he always wanted to make was put into high gear, so we made damn sure to do our part in seeing it come to fruition. 'Death Metal' while coming in as the shortest of all the short-films on this list, probably packs the most wallop per minute. Hilarious, cautionary, ultra-violent and just so much blood pumping fun; something many films 18 times longer than it, fail to deliver.
Madre De Dios - Luchagore Productions and Gigi continue to knock it out the park with grisly visuals, amazing practical effects, and new twists on staple themes in the horror genre.
Death Metal - The latest short from Chris Mclnroy does not disappoint. It's packed with gore, dark humor, and nobody is off limits. \m/ \m/ horns up!
TLMEA - Beautifully shot short. It looks better than most feature length Hollywood films. It took a few watches for me to fully grasp everything that was going on because I was so engrossed in the style.
Probably the hours just following Thirteenth Floor's unveiling after having sent out (poorly formatted) e-mails to PR departments requesting screener links for review purposes, hearing the chime notification of the site's e-mail account go off nearly stopped my heart. Could it be? Was it possible that even with only 6 views to the page (5 of them being mine and David's), someone was willing to take the chance, giving us the opportunity to review their client's passion work? Nope, turns out it was just a confirmation e-mail to our wisestamp signature service membership, and a broken heart. But just as I was about to put the phone down and contemplate the feasibility of running what felt like a drop-in-the-ocean horror site - *DING* - another e-mail pops in, this time from BNC Productions! A warm reply from the PR department with a link to a screener for Hèctor Hernández Vicens' disturbing thriller, 'The Corpse of Anna Fritz'. It was our first official review, and as such, one we were absolutely terrified to tackle; what if it sucked? What if we sucked? What if our first foray into writing horror film reviews ended up as a scathing destructive disaster piece? No one would trust us again (the reality regarding written integrity and the possibility of pissing people off, was something we learned to accept very quickly). Well, thankfully it turned out that the movie didn't suck; no, in fact, it was actually pretty damn good. The review itself wasn't a disaster, and we eventually received more good (and bad) films to review, and the rest as they say, is history.
My favorite moment of the year definitely has to be seeing the site grow into what it is now just within this past year. It was a small snowball that picked up momentum fast. I hope the momentum continues to roll on even more in 2017.
Another thing that keeps me excited is when we get new stuff to review. Horror isn't always a easy accessible genre. Times have made things easier with technology but you still have to dig deep and explore to find some true gems. When we get a new film to review in our inbox it takes me back to the mystery of being at a video store. I begin looking at the film poster, press info, and you get that rush that this could be your next favorite movie.
My review for 'Cat Sick Blues' was published, and when the director Dave Jackson caught wind of it, he kindly pointed out an error found in the text. Apparently, when drawing similarities between the film's opening and the 1978 Dawn of the Dead, I had mistakenly referred to George Romero as John Romero.
On a site that's supposed to be run by horror fans for horror fans, I go and screw up the name of one of the genre's most notable and prolific contributors; THE godfather of the dead! Where the hell did I even get John from?!? Needless to say, I never wanted more than to have the earth swallow me whole and spit out the bones. I still cringe when thinking about it to this very day.
Well they say lightning doesn't strike the same place twice. That isn't the case for TTF13. I had a scenario very similar to Jerry early on. Director of upcoming film 'Dogged' had sent me a teaser short film to review. I was excited about the review, posted it on social media, and instantly messaged Richard Rowntree. Being the awesome guy he is he instantly started sharing out our review. He then messaged me privately letting me know that I had completely made up a non existing name for the main character. I wrote his name was Tom when it was actually Sam. He also let me know that I totally botched the spelling of his name. "My name is spelled Rowntree... not Roundtree." Although completely flustered and embarrassed Richard laughed it off with me and never skipped a beat.
It was a crazy year and I can only look forward to what 2017 has in store for us.