Well, it’s the end of 2020 at last – if you’re reading this, you either survived it, or you’re privy to some information that I am very interested in hearing. And that means that it’s time for the best and worst of the year lists! Let’s begin 2021 with some positivity, and start with the best – both of our lists will be just five instead of ten this year, due to a lower amount of new movies released, but we’re just as excited to share our favourites with you as always. We’d love to hear what your films of choice were in the last year, and, as always, thanks for sticking it out with us for another year of film-ery!
- His House
His House is a downright sublime movie. I can hardly believe that it isn’t just the only movie that anyone’s been talking about in the back half of this year; a horror built around a refugee fleeing to Britain and finding that something has followed the there, it’s tight, lean, scary, and gloriously confident in everything from the beautiful effects to the sensational performances. Wunmi Mosaka and Sope Dirisu turn in what should be career-making leads, as the will grinds under the skin of almost unthinkable trauma and yet still manages to find some optimism by the time the credits roll. His House is a masterpiece, and, in the mess of 2020, should rise as one of the best things to come out of this year.
When I find myself endlessly thinking about a movie for months after I watched it, I know that it needs a place on this list. Swallow, for just that reason, is right here where it belongs. Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ woozy, unsettling psycho-drama built around a young housewife (Haley Bennett, Oscar-buzzing louder than a swarm of wasps for this turn) descending into an eating disorder lets you think that you knows where it’s going, and then twists right away from that and hands me one of Denis O’Hare’s finest performances to date in just a single scene. Raw, cathartic, and strikingly beautiful, Swallow is a heart-rendingly affecting and handsomely-made beauty of a movie, and I love it more than I can express.
3. Birds of Prey
Every year, there’s a blockbuster that makes me just impossibly happy. In the few months of this year that we were actually getting cinema trips, Birds of Prey managed to fight anyone else off that top spot with only a Marilyn Monroe reference and a line of cocaine to its name. Kathy Yan’s Harley Quinn movie is a genuine delight, a glorious, messy, and wildly entertaining blockbuster treat, a buckwild mess that captures the ramshackle energy of Margot Robbie’s central performance and manages to reflect it through the entire movie. A great ensemble, a brilliant Ewan McGregor, and a genuine sense of enjoyment that spills through the screen in a way that I just can’t deny makes Birds of Prey the blockbuster of choice this year.
No, not the Saw sequel, though it probably will be on next year’s list. I’m talking about Spiral, the LGBTQ horror starring Jeffery Bowyer-Chapman as a man being triggered into mental instability after a move to the suburbs cast a new light on his relationship with his husband and daughter. LGBTQ stories fit well into the horror genre, and Spiral is a shining example of just how true that is; it’s a small, slight little story, but one that captures with striking accuracy the claustrophobic terror of being trapped in a community that might never accept you or the people you love by extension. I haven’t seen this getting a lot of buzz, and I think it’s a damn shame that something this interesting, this sharp, and this compelling is flying under the radar – let’s put that right, shall we?
5. The Vast of Night
Do I watch anything other than genre movies? Yes, but I don’t care much about them, to be quite honest. The Vast of Night is a science-fiction insta-classic that matches jaw-dropping cinematography with a pitch-perfect period setting, a small-town American alien drama that plays like a throwback X-Files episode, and I mean that as nothing but a compliment. A small-scale, character-based love letter to the genre that manages to stand as an impressive achievement in its own right. It’s a warm, welcoming movies that coaxes you in and doesn’t let go until it reaches that strange and unsettling climax, and I know I’ll be thinking about this one for years.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via ABC News)