Madonna’s Albums Ranked From Worst To Best

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WHAT!? Madonna albums on a movie blog? Yes I know it’s a jarring tonal shift but on this blog, on this page, I. AM. GOD! You might be surprised to find out that I have a rather large passion for old divas as well as strange and disturbing horror films. It’s a bit of a strange combination, but I never said that I was normal.

One of my favourite artists of all time is Madonna. She is the unadulterated queen of pop and quite possibly the most famous woman in the world. She has sold over 300 million records worldwide (the most by any female artist), won almost 300 awards including: 7 Grammy awards, 16 Guinness World Records and 2 Golden Globes, and has embarked upon 10 world tours. At 58 years-old she’s showing no signs of slowing down and is a true ground-breaking talent.

It’s interesting for me because I started getting into Madonna’s music a couple of years ago upon the release of her latest album, ‘Rebel Heart’. I saw her fall down those stairs at the Brit Awards and fell in love. So I have been able to judge each album objectively and with no previous attachment to any. To me, all of these albums are new as I’ve just discovered them! So let’s explore my extremely biased thoughts on the astounding 13 albums by Madge.

13) Erotica (1992)

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Picking the weakest Madonna album is like saying that ‘Following’ is Christopher Nolan’s worst film. It might be true, but that’s not to say that it isn’t in any way good! For a lot of people, Erotica is their favourite Madonna album and I can see why. It caused an almighty stir upon its release thanks to the album coinciding with Madonna’s ‘Sex’ book (basically a high-brow celeb porn mag masked as art) and its liberal attitude towards sex. Madge even created an alter-ego for the album in the guise of Mistress Dita, a masked dominatrix with a penchant for whips and orgasms (so basically just Madonna herself then). However, for me the album has aged poorly with its 90’s electronica beats and cheeky lyrics which sound tame compared to the filth on the radio of today. Aside from a couple of terrific bangers and some surprisingly good covers, most of the tracks are flat and forgettable.

Best song: Erotica
Album Rating: 6/10

12) Bedtime Stories (1994)

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After a spout of number one albums, ‘Bedtime Stories’ ended up being one of the queen’s lowest charting albums and unfortunately it’s not all that hard to see why. Madonna collaborated with a slew of R & B producers which resulted in a nice album but a little bit too mellow to what we’re used to. In terms of reinvention, it’s fantastic as you’d never think of putting Madonna and R & B together, and it does work surprisingly well. There are also some classic tracks in here including Take A Bow (one of her biggest ever hits) and tour favourite, Human Nature which sees Madge as the unapologetic bitch we all love her for. The Bjork-penned title track is also too deliciously weird to miss out on!

Best song: Human Nature
Album rating: 7/10

11) Like A Virgin (1984)

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It might seem like sacrilege to place such an iconic album at the bottom of the pile but that’s just a testament to how strong Madonna’s output of music has been. It has an extremely strong 80’s sound to it and features some of the decade’s biggest hits with Material Girl and Like A Virgin despite both of them not being written by the queen herself! Unfortunately (and somewhat shockingly) all of the songs written by Madonna are the weakest and contain some of the fluffiest lyrics. There’s no denying the infectious catchiness of it all though and it still remains as one of the best follow-ups to a debut album of all time.

Best song: Like a Virgin
Album rating: 8/10

10) Madonna (1983)

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This is the one which introduced the world to arguably the most famous name in the world. It took over a year and a half for the album to turn gold, but thanks to the enduringly catchy tunes and iconic music videos, ‘Madonna’ solidified itself as one of the most influential albums of the 80’s. With only eight tracks on the album, there’s barely any room for a weak song so pretty much any one of them will get you dancing. Upon release Madge was likened to sounding like “Minnie Mouse on helium” and many critics cited her as being a mere “one hit wonder” but little did they know, eh?

Best song: Lucky Star
Album rating: 8/10

9) Music (2000)

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How does one follow up a ground-breaking critical smash hit like ‘Ray of Light’? With a dance/country/electronica beast like ‘Music’ of course! The material girl evolved herself beautifully from the gorgeous stripped-back sounds of ‘Ray of Light’ to something a little more experimental and playful. It’s still an intensely personal album which provides some lovely ballads, although Nobody’s Perfect and Paradise (Not for Me) are a little dreary in comparison. Everything else is a winner though, particularly the hit title track which reached number one in 25 countries and is still incredibly danceable almost 20 years later!

Best song: Music
Album rating: 9/10

8) True Blue (1986)

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If anyone was still in any doubts about Madge being a young flash in the pan then ‘True Blue’ showed them that she was here for the long run. Selling 25 million copies worldwide and providing the world with anthems such as Papa Don’t Preach and Live To Tell, Madonna proved that she was a true talent with superstar quality. A lot of the songs were inspired by her marriage with Sean Penn so there’s a wonderfully romantic, upbeat quality to the album as a whole. It proved to be a monstrous hit with critics and audiences alike and saw her transforming into the queen of pop we know her for today.

Best song: Live To Tell
Album rating: 10/10

7) Hard Candy (2008)

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For many, ‘Hard Candy’ represents a low point in the queen’s career and I have to admit that when I first heard it, I wasn’t a huge fan. The hip hop beats and R&B collaborators didn’t sit well with me on the initial playthrough. However, when I heard it again, it all clicked for me and there isn’t a song which I don’t love. Now I consider it one of my favourite Madonna albums and one of her most underrated efforts. The album has an incredibly cool sound to it and features some fantastically sassy dance numbers such as Candy Shop and Beat Goes On, as well as some surprisingly powerful ballads in Miles Away and Devil Wouldn’t Recognise You. Even the much criticised Spanish Lesson is infectious and could be read as a tongue-in-cheek sequel to La Isla Bonita. Thankfully the album was a huge hit and supported the biggest selling tour by a female artist of all time, ‘Sticky & Sweet’.

Best song: Miles Away
Album rating: 10/10

6) Ray Of Light (1998)

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Often referred to as ‘the comeback’ album even though Madge didn’t really have anything to ‘come back’ to! She was hotter than ever in the 90’s, with two chart-topping albums and massive ground-breaking concerts in ‘Blond Ambition World Tour’ and ‘The Girlie Show World Tour’ Madonna was at the height of her powers. This only increased when Alan Parker’s ‘Evita’ was released, earning the queen of pop a well-deserved Golden Globe award. ‘Ray Of Light’ was undoubtedly a terrific reinvention though. It saw Madonna sporting her best vocals ever, earning her numerous Grammy awards, as well as her most open-hearted, personal lyrics. William Orbit’s distinctive stripped-back production was also pretty innovative and still sounds fresh today. It shows Madonna as a more mature artist and remains as one of the very best albums of the 90’s.

Best song: Drowned World/Substitute For Love
Album rating: 10/10

5) American Life (2003)

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Another terribly underrated album which was met with mixed reviews from the critics. There’s no denying that this album is a masterpiece though, for Madonna fans at least. Not only is it a terrific concept album with an innovative electronic acoustic sound running through the record, but it also shows Madge bearing her soul and being vulnerable for once. All of the songs are incredibly personal and the ballads are downright beautiful, especially the Stuart Price produced X-Static Process which features some heart-breaking and powerful vocals from Madonna. There’s also some cheeky fun to be had with the title track and Hollywood which raise interesting questions about the American dream and materialism. ‘American Life’ is Madonna at the height of her song writing powers here, it’s just a shame that no one else quite got it.

Best song: X-Static Process
Album rating: 10/10

4) MDNA (2012)

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OK call me crazy but I honestly think that ‘MDNA’ is one of the best albums she’s ever done. At 53 years-old Madonna proved that she could still outdo her peers by releasing a thumping EDM-inspired record designed to blow your socks off. Despite lukewarm reviews, ‘MDNA’ debuted at number one worldwide making Madonna surpass Elvis in the UK for having the most number one albums for a solo artist. From the infectious Girl Gone Wild opening right through to the reflective Falling Free, ‘MDNA’ is a consistently strong and surprising record which never fails to get your hips moving on the dance floor. Tracks like Gang Bang and Love Spent also show an experimental side to the songstress which suitably expresses her anger towards ex-husband Guy Ritchie, whilst Golden Globe-winning Masterpiece shows a more tender side.

Best song: Girl Gone Wild
Album rating: 10/10

3) Rebel Heart (2015)

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It’s criminal that ‘Rebel Heart’ didn’t receive more attention than it should’ve done. The fact that it got leaked days before its release might have had something to do with the lower sales, but there’s no denying that the record is terrific. It showcases every glorious side of her and her music. There’s the fun, the sexual, the serious, the playful, the egotistical, the vulnerable and the humorous. It’s also her longest album (I’m counting the deluxe as the definite version) which proves that even after almost three decades Madge is still at the top of her game and can create a banger of a song. How Living For Love didn’t become a monster Hung Up level hit still puzzles me to this day. Ghosttown and Joan Of Arc also serve as two of the material girl’s most powerful ballads. It’s an almightily solid record.

Best song: Living For Love
Album rating: 10/10

2) Like A Prayer (1989)

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After breaking records with ‘True Blue’ Madonna followed it up with this iconic work of art. ‘Like A Prayer’ exposes Madge’s soul and is less interested in producing fluffy pop songs. She had a lot more creative control over the record and it’s all the better for it. It opens with not just the best Madonna song but arguably the best pop song of all time and follows it up with the remarkably catchy and empowering, Express Yourself. Promise to Try, Oh Father and Spanish Eyes all show off the extraordinary song writing talents of Madonna as well as some powerful vocals. Madge has always been criticised for her voice and it might not be the strongest, but you can really hear the raw emotion on this record, it’s impossible not to get moved by it. She really doesn’t put a foot wrong with this one, it’s simply extraordinary.

Best song: Like A Prayer
Album rating: 10/10

1) Confessions On A Dance Floor (2005)

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Now this is how you do a concept album! If the world didn’t quite embrace the stripped-back quality of ‘American Life’ then a dancetastic 70’s inspired floor filler is definitely what the world needed. Madge evolved herself seamlessly into a disco goddess and showed that after 22 years of great music, the best was still yet to come. In her forties, Madonna was the best she’s ever been and ‘Confessions On A Dance Floor’ became an instant critical and commercial smash hit, and it isn’t difficult to see why. Sampling ABBA and Donna Summer, Madge resurrected the golden age of pop whilst putting her own unique modern twist on it. It’s quite simply one of the greatest dance albums of all time and features some of the greatest pop songs Madonna has ever produced. It was also followed by a stunning record-breaking world tour which served as a powerful warning to her younger peers. You think you can follow this?

Best song: Hung Up
Album rating: 10/10

Twin Peaks: The Return

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Director: David Lynch

Stars: Kyle Maclachlan, Sheryl Lee, Catherine Coulson

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Before I start delving into the two-part premiere of Twin Peaks: The Return, I’d like to give you some context to my Lynch obsession. To me David Lynch is the greatest filmmaker that has ever lived and I mean no hyperbole by that statement. His films aren’t for everyone but there’s no denying that there’s nothing like them around, he’s simply incomparable to his peers. Watching his films is like viewing a painting or listening to a piece of music, there’s something inside of you which either likes it and accepts it or doesn’t, and it’s fine if you don’t like it. It’s a perfectly normal reaction to watch a woman in a radiator singing at you with massive hamster cheeks and think ‘what the heck is this load of rubbish!?’ and turn it off. However, to me it’s an indescribably haunting and hypnotic experience which makes my heart race.

I am definitely more of a David Lynch fan than a Twin Peaks fan. For me, the episodes directed by the man himself are by far the strongest and most ground-breaking, particularly the final cliff-hanger episode which stands as one of the most fantastically immersive things Lynch has ever done. I also much prefer the dark, horrifying vision of Fire Walk With Me which departed from the jovial tone of the TV series, signified by the opening shot of a television being destroyed. However, there are still hardcore Twin Peaks fans who consider the film an abomination due to how drastically different the story and tone is. These same people are going to be incredibly frustrated by the opening of season 3.

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David Lynch seemingly (and tragically) disappeared from the edge of the Earth after the release of his impenetrable feature film, INLAND EMPIRE in 2006. So you can imagine my excitement when it was announced that Twin Peaks was going to come back with 18 episodes, all directed by David Lynch. That’s almost 18 hours of pure magic after over ten years of nothing Lynchian on our screens. The announcement was made back in 2014 so we’ve been patiently waiting for what feels like an age for Twin Peaks to come back on our screens and the other night it finally appeared!

No one knew what to expect when the two-hour premiere was about to start. The production has been kept absolutely top-secret and the teasers released by Showtime barely show more than three seconds of new footage at a time. However, I can guarantee that no one in the world would predict how the opener turned out as it did. In typical Lynch fashion our expectations were completely and utterly subverted within the first ten minutes. Those expecting a cosy rehash of the original series must be incredibly disappointed because this is not the old Twin Peaks we know and love, however it is unapologetically the David Lynch we know and love.

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I was immediately reminded of Eraserhead in the opening five minutes which sees the kindly giant chatting with Dale Cooper in stark monochrome adjacent to a puffing gramophone. They’re in the iconic red room which they’ve been sitting in for twenty five long years. Everything about the scene has the director’s fingerprints all over it and it’s beautiful to see. The giant spouts total nonsense to an aged Cooper to which he responds, “I understand” a hysterical in-joke for Lynch fans. Things don’t become much clearer in the next 100 minutes.

Shockingly, the premiere spends barely any time in Twin Peaks and is more interested in startling events surrounding New York, South Dakota and Las Vegas. Old characters are met fleetingly and with more weirdness than usual. The structure and atmosphere of the show resembles Mulholland Drive more than the original Twin Peaks as there are so many strange strands and subplots which all somehow relate to each other in intriguing and inexplicable ways. It’s interesting to think that most of the feature film, Mulholland Drive is actually a pilot episode; so this new season may give us a glimpse of what the shelved Mulholland Drive TV series could have looked like.

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Like most David Lynch films, the best way to experience it is to just go with the flow and ask questions later because nothing makes sense. It feels like we’re watching an explosion of Lynch’s unconscious mind on film, only I do believe that there is a solvable plot in there unlike the anarchic madness of INLAND EMPIRE. There are some extraordinary scenes of pure cinema which cannot be explained with words. The New York segment, for example, is utterly hypnotic and finishes with one of the scariest moments I have ever seen on screen thanks to nightmarish imagery and a terrifying sound design. I literally flew out of my seat, something I haven’t done since the tramp sequence in Mulholland Drive. There are also moments of surreal terror in the red room which go beyond anything we’ve ever seen in the world of Twin Peaks.

It’s the most astonishing two hours of telly I’ve ever experienced. It’s a true work of art and the directing is unparalleled. No other director can conjure up such an immersive dreamlike atmosphere quite like this. Detractors will moan about how they don’t understand it but it isn’t supposed to be totally understood. It isn’t a Christopher Nolan sci-fi flick, it’s a surrealistic painting designed to terrify and thrill. After watching The Return and being thrown back into normal life I stuck on an episode of Game Of Thrones (which I’ve just started watching) and was struck by just how ordinary it was.

The original Twin Peaks was ground-breaking stuff and The Return looks as if it’s going to be no different. This is unlike anything that has ever been on TV before and is already way ahead of its time. Thank the heavens that Showtime have given David Lynch free reign to truly create what is bound to be a masterpiece. David is back with a vengeance and reminding us what we’ve been missing whilst he’s been on hiatus for years. It’s incredibly exciting to think that a whopping 16 more instalments are left. Who knows where they’re going to take us, but it’s going to be one hell of an unforgettable ride.

INLAND EMPIRE (2006)

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Director: David Lynch

Stars: Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons

Admittance to Lynch fans only

I remember when I watched Inland Empire for the first time. You could say that I was something of a David Lynch virgin as I had only seen The Elephant Man, Wild At Heart and Mulholland Drive. I have since devoured everything and anything he’s put his hands on from his earliest short film, Six Men Getting Sick to his bizarre animated series, Dumbland. Inland Empire is definitely jumping into the deep end though if you’ve only seen a handful of Lynch’s stuff, so I was either going to sink or swim. Luckily for me I sat there completely spellbound throughout the hefty 180 minute acid trip and was left completely shaken by what I had just seen. It was the film which turned me from a fan and into a super-fan.

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This isn’t the normal reaction to Inland Empire though. Even the most die-hard Lynch fans find massive fault with it and I can completely understand this viewpoint. This is a film which defies description. Some people liken it to David Lynch shooting random crap on a cheap digital camcorder, but I think it’s important to approach the film as you would with a piece of art or music. It’s a feeling and you either get it or you don’t. I could write an essay about how Cher’s ‘Believe’ is the best song of all time but if you hear it and don’t like it then nothing’s going to change your mind. Inland Empire is not something you can casually stick on and watch whilst playing on your phone, it’s a film which requires your absolute fullest attention. Your eyes can’t afford to leave the screen otherwise the magic will be ruined. Forget everything you know about coherent plots and movies, this is something which you have to truly immerse yourself and get lost in.

It has that lucid dream-like quality to it just like Mulholland Dr, but this time even more so. If Mulholland Drive was a dream captured on camera, then Inland Empire is a full-blown nightmare. It made me feel as if I was turning insane (in a good way). If David Lynch aimed to get his audience in the same twisted mind-set as his protagonist then he certainly succeeded. The film was a total mind funk from start to finish. I have never taken drugs before, but this is what I would imagine a ‘bad trip’ feels like. It’s exactly like experiencing a dream because dreams feel like they’re going on forever when you’re in them, yet when you wake up you can only remember bits and pieces. Inland Empire is three hours long and yet I find it difficult to recall most scenes. It feels like it’s going on forever when you’re watching it and not long at all, all at the same time. It’s the closest you will ever come to experiencing a dream whilst awake.

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You could argue that Inland Empire does lack a strong plot. Whilst Mulholland Drive by no means has a coherent and linear narrative, there is still a strong sense of a plot and a lot of it is open to deep analysis and interpretation. However, Inland Empire will have you utterly bemused right from the black and white opening which sees a blurred-faced Polish girl interacting in a hotel room. That’s not to say that there is no plot though, I just wouldn’t worry about it too much on the first viewing, just go with the flow and let the madness wash over you. It somehow manages to be grossly unwatchable, yet utterly hypnotic. I remember first watching the film and thinking that this is either the worst film of all time, or the greatest.

Most people don’t class Inland Empire as a horror film, however it’s one of the very scariest films I have ever seen and I don’t scare easily! The look of the film is very early Lars Von Trier, as it was shot on a digital camera, which adds a very raw and real edge to the film. It feels like you’re experiencing a nightmare first-hand. There are some very claustrophobic moments where the camera is right up to the actor’s face and some moments which will chill you to the core. If you jumped at the Winkie’s Diner scene in Mulholland Drive then wait until you see Laura Dern’s face in this (no offence to Laura, you’ll see what I mean).

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Talking of Laura Dern, what a performance she gives in this! If the film was more accessible then people would be calling this a performance for the ages and she would’ve rightly won the Academy Award. It’s also important to note that Dern wasn’t even given a complete script so she was as in the dark as us in regards to what the heck is going on. David would write the film as the shoot was going on and give Laura a freshly written page of script each day. I’d also like to mention the extraordinary music used in the film which adds the unsettling atmosphere. Composed by Marek Zebrowski and Lynch himself, some of it is reminiscent of The Shining and a piece of music from The Shining is even used at one point which is delightful.

If you’re going to watch Inland Empire then it’s important to do it right. Set aside three hours at night time and make sure there are zero distractions. Put your kids and partner to bed, make sure you’re comfortable and switch your phone off. Make sure you have a sizable TV with good sound, pop in the disc, press play and do not take your eyes off the screen. If you follow these tips then you should find yourself feeling lost in a nightmarish labyrinth that will seemingly never end. It’s not always a pleasant experience, but it’s certainly like nothing you’ll ever see again. In some ways, Inland Empire is the epitome of David Lynch’s gorgeous filmography.

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10 Best Horror Movies Of 2016

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2016 has been a stellar year for horror films. Every year people declare our beloved genre dead due to the tired tropes and cliches, but this year has proven that horror is very much alive and thriving. Below you’ll find my top 10 horror movies of 2016. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to catch Under the Shadow and The Handmaiden, so those titles have been regrettably omitted.

10. ‘Green Room’

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I wasn’t as impressed with Green Room as a lot of people were. The acting was a little strange, the lighting was a dark and there were quite a few slow patches. I did love the dark, grungy atmosphere though and there were some fantastic moments of shocking violence and intensity. It follows a group of young punk rockers who get trapped in a venue run by neo-Nazi skinheads. It’s a fun premise and it does boast some memorable scenes, but it doesn’t deserve the rave reviews it received, which is why I’ve placed it at the lower end of the list.

9. ‘Lights Out’

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Thanks to an effective short film, David F. Sandberg got the chance to debut a fun, feature-length chiller with an original premise. The premise features a family haunted by a crooked spirit called Diane who only appears when the lights go out. It boasts good performances and likable characters, which are all too rare in horror films of today. The scares aren’t entirely effective, but there are moments of genuine suspense, particularly in the thrilling third act, which adds an innovative #supernatural spin on the home invasion sub genre. Despite suffering from some clichés and a sudden ending, #LightsOut stands out as one of the most memorable horror films of the year.

8. ‘Ouija: Origin Of Evil’

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This could possibly be the most surprising film of the year. A prequel to one of 2013’s worst horror films, #Ouija2 was surely guaranteed to be a disastrous abomination. However, talented writer-director Mike Flanagan (#Oculus, #Hush) raised everyone’s expectations and crafted a supernatural horror film that is better than it has any right to be. Yes, it has the usual jump-scares, possessed little girls and #Insidious-inspired demons. It also disappoints in its last act with odd pacing and an all too familiar finale, but Ouija also does so many things right. It focuses on a family that you genuinely end up caring about and has a fantastic eye for detail in its period setting. It also cleverly deconstructs the genre and plays with our extensive horror knowledge while also delivering some scenes of surrealism, which makes for unsettling viewing. Most of all though, it’s just a fun time from start to finish and you can really see that it’s been crafted by an intelligent team who have genuine affection for horror films.

7. ’10 Cloverfield Lane’

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Dan Trachenberg’s film had a strange release. No one had heard about the film until a trailer surfaced just months before the film was set to hit the big screens. People were also confused as to whether the film was a sequel to 2008’s #Cloverfield, even though the trailer looked as though it had nothing at all in common with Matt Reeves’ found footage monster movie. Lots of people (including me) are still confused by the mysterious title, but nevertheless, #10CloverfieldLane is an impressive exercise in suspense and mystery. It features a menacing performance from John Goodman as the enigmatic conspiracist, locking up two innocents with him in his bomb shelter. It’s a film that always manages to engage thanks to the constant, intense atmosphere and intrigue. It also doesn’t opt for a predictable finale, rather, going for something delightfully crazy and different altogether. It never takes itself too seriously and I look forward to seeing where exactly the Cloverfield universe is heading

6. ‘The Conjuring 2’

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Here’s another sequel that managed to surpass expectations. #JamesWan managed to outdo himself with this beautifully crafted supernatural horror film. It follows the (supposedly) true story of a family in England experiencing some spooky activity of the paranormal kind. #Conjuring2 places most of its focus on the family instead of scares, so that we’re totally invested in their story. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have scares though. James Wan’s directing is as effective as ever at building up an atmosphere of almost unbearable suspense. He has also created one of the most iconic horror villains in recent memory with Valek, the terrifying demon nun. It’s a masterful film that manages to unsettle, entertain and emotionally involve its audience in equal measure.

5. ‘The Neon Demon’

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Nicolas Winding Refn’s polarizing look into the fashion industry feels like a natural progression from the criminally underrated Only God Forgives. He’s swapped stunt driving and gun-slinging for gals and make-up. The story itself isn’t anything original — it’s the tale of a wide-eyed girl with big dreams who ends up getting consumed by them; however, the way it’s told is nothing short of masterful. Every shot in #NeonDemon is a work of art that oozes absolute style and beauty, which is exactly what the film is about. It’s full of hypnotic, Lynchian imagery, which makes you feel as if you’re watching a dream unfold. There are several stunning moments of pure visual cinema which is something of a rarity nowadays. The film also ends on a memorably whacky and disturbing note which will have you pondering over for weeks. It’s not a film which everyone will appreciate, but those who are attracted to strange and immersive films will find a lot to love.

4. ‘Don’t Breathe’

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It hasn’t been a good year for the homes of the disabled. We already had a deaf woman getting her home invaded this year in Mike Flanagan’s #Hush, and now Fede Alvarez’s #DontBreathe shows us a blind man getting his house burgled by a gang of youths. Surely the most intense movie of the year, Alvarez makes every shot and sound count in his home invasion horror. Don’t Breathe is masterfully directed and dripping with suspense. It delivers non-stop thrills at every corner as well as featuring a memorable villain in Stephen Lang’s deadly Rambo-esque veteran and a badass heroine in Jane Levy’s Rocky. It’s a terrific experience on the big screen and is pretty much guaranteed to have you holding your breath on several occasions.

3. ‘Train To Busan’

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This Korean undead tale is arguably more of an action thriller than a straight-up #horror movie, but it does have #zombies in it. It’s also great and easily the best zombie flick since Shaun of the Dead. It follows a neglectful father taking his young daughter on a train to a nearby city to see her mother. Unfortunately for them, hordes of the living dead begin to overtake most of Korea just as the train is about to depart, leaving the passengers in a desperate fight for survival. #TraintoBusan is pretty much a non-stop, two-hour thrill ride — no easy task considering that it’s almost entirely set in the confines of a train. It hurtles from set-piece to set-piece in waves of brilliant intensity that leave you gasping for air. The film also packs a surprising emotional wallop thanks to its terrifically drawn-out characters who you end up genuinely caring about. I found myself holding back the tears on more than one occasion.

2. ‘The Wailing’

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The Koreans have been ruling horror this year with Train to Busan, The Handmaiden and now this, #TheWailing. It’s an enigmatic mix of crime, thriller, supernatural horror and dark comedy. It could’ve easily turned into a mess, but thanks to Na Hong-jin directing an unpredictable screenplay we’re left with an unforgettable near-masterpiece. It follows a bumbling yet lovable policeman as he investigates a series of mystifying murders plaguing his tiny village. Does it have something to do with the strange Japanese man who recently moved to the nearby forest? The Wailing keeps you guessing to the very end and always enthralls with its surprising twists and often hilarious comedy. Some may find the film silly, but it has such ambition and engaging characters you can’t help but appreciate what it’s trying to succeed. It’s a fantastic horror film that plays on your mind long after the credits roll.

1. ‘The Witch’

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I can hear the cries of abuse now. For some reason, The Witch didn’t sit well with a lot of audiences after generating a lot of early critical acclaim. There’s no denying though that #TheWitch is the best horror film of the year so far and is destined to become a classic. Someone described it as “a Brothers Grimm fairytale directed by Stanley Kubrick” and that is the most accurate description I could think of. Robert Eggers’s debut film is a phenomenal piece of filmmaking and one if the scariest horror films to hit our screens in quite some time. Everything about The Witch is masterful, from the intense foreboding atmosphere to the bold unsettling score.

The film is set in 1630 and follows a God-obsessed family who suffer a series of tragic events after being banished to an isolated house next to a terrifying forest that is possibly home to a witch. It’s a film laced with horrifying imagery and suspense that explodes into an entirely satisfying finale that left my mouth agape. The Witch isn’t just the best horror movie of 2016 so far, but the best film period. Oh, and let’s not forget that it contains the best performance of the year in the shape of Black Phillip the goat.

So there we have it. Told you it’s been a knockout year for horror! What films have you enjoyed the most?

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

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Director: Tom Ford

Stars: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson

This animal deserves to be seen in daylight

Tom Ford’s brilliant new thriller, ‘Nocturnal Animals’ had a release date primed just in time for Oscar season. When I first saw it, I was sure that it was going to get nominations for every major category because it deserved them. When the Golden Globes were announced I was surprised to see that it was only up for three gongs (Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor) despite all being deserved, I would’ve liked to have seen noms for Best Actor and Actress as well. Thankfully the BAFTA awards came and recognised the film’s fantastic efforts by nominating it in 8 categories. Surely that means that the Oscar noms will come flooding in? Apparently not as #NocturnalAnimals is up for one measly award for Michael Shannon as Best Supporting Actor.

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Whilst I’m glad that Michael Shannon has finally been recognised for his sensational performance in the film, a film as visually gorgeous and stunningly complex as Nocturnal Animals really should be recognised for more awards. In my opinion it’s better than Best Picture nominees #Arrival and #Lion, more competently directed than Mel Gibson’s #HacksawRidge and has a screenplay more dazzling than any film nominated in the Best adapted screenplay category.

Let’s also not forget just how incredible the cast is. #AmyAdams always seemed to be Oscar-nominated but in the year when she pulled out not one, but two career-best performances (the other film being Arrival) the Academy completely snubs her. Her performance in Nocturnal Animals is so brilliantly subdued and intricate, she could’ve single-handedly stole the whole film if it wasn’t for the equally strong supporting cast. #JakeGyllenhaal can always be relied upon for giving a role his all and that’s exactly what he does here. Playing two characters (the author and the book’s character) Gyllenhaal is up for the task of playing two different characters, one a love-struck author and the other a weak father on the quest for vengeance which is no mean feat as seemingly both characters are different; however Gyllenhaal still has to stay true to his author character whilst in the role Edward Sheffield as he is essentially the author’s manifestation. Jake pulls it off exquisitely.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson rightly garnered a lot of recognition in his supporting role as the slimy villain of the story. The Kick-Ass star is often known in likable roles, however here Taylor-Johnson boasts his versatility by playing a vicious and animalistic character that you can’t help but hate. However, it’s the previously mention Michael Shannon who steals the show for me. He plays Bobby Andes, a stone-faced detective with a Southern drawl and a troubled past. He chews up just about every scene he’s in and still proves himself to be one of the very best actors of our generation.

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It isn’t just the acting that makes Nocturnal Animals so great though, if anything it’s the screenplay. Adapted by Tom Ford himself, the film beautifully weaves and winds around a dual narrative reminiscent of David Lynch. Not only does it manage to be entertaining and gripping on the surface, but if you dig a little deeper you’ll find a rich smorgasbord ripe for analysis and interpretation. Each character is fantastically realised and fleshed out, and both stories are handled with a precision which is close to perfection. Let’s also not forget about Tom Ford’s gorgeous directing. Pretty much every shot could be framed and placed in an art gallery, it’s that beautiful.

So where are this film’s much-deserved Oscars? It does everything a great film should do and more. Its intelligent ambiguity means that the film never quite leaves you. I was left wondering about the events and characters for weeks after which is more than can be said for a few of the films nominated this year.

nine-out-of-ten

The Wailing (2016)

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Director: Hong-Jin Na

Stars: Do Won Kwak, Jung-min Hwang, Hwan-hee Kim

A wailing delight

Anyone who follows South Korea’s horror film output will be unsurprised to hear that Hong-Jin Na’s (of The Chaser fame) latest film is yet another K-horror classic. If there’s one country you can count on for producing innovative, gripping and unpredictable horror films then it’s South Korea. We’ve had countless high quality horror from them including: Oldboy, I Saw the Devil, Bedevilled and even the recent Train to Busan. The Wailing can now be added to that lovely long list.

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It’s labelled as a ‘horror’ movie but really The Wailing is an exciting mix of comedy, thriller, mystery and supernatural horror. For the first time in quite some while, I had no idea where this 150 minute journey was going to take me. It begins as a Memories of Murder style crime drama. We’re introduced to our lovable bumbling hero, played by an enthralling Do-wan Kwak, who is a policeman investigating a string of strange incidents in his small town. Mass murder seems to being some local folk’s mind and they’re also turning into red-eyed, mindless zombies for no apparent reason. Does it have anything to do with a mysterious Japanese recluse who has recently resided in the nearby forest? Or perhaps the talk of ghosts and goat-eating loons play a part in this mystery?

From the get go, The Wailing effortlessly draws you into its enigmatic story. What surprised me was how funny the film was, particularly the first half. Honestly, The Wailing has to be one of the funniest films of 2016, I was howling with laughter every five minutes. It never takes itself too seriously and always finds the comic side to its bizarre situations so nothing ever seems overly silly. A lot of what makes the dry humour so effective is down to Do-wan Kwak’s comic timing. His performance is so endearing and he makes his character so likeable that you can’t help but get sucked into the story. The film also cleverly takes its time to explore his home life as well as work, so we’re fully involved in every aspect of our protagonist.

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Once the film hits around the halfway point though, it ceases all comedic aspects and segues into much darker territory. The change is seamless within the story though and only adds to the edge-of-your-seat unpredictability. It’s difficult to talk about the film without giving away any plot twists (of which there are many) and I don’t want to do that. Just be assured that you’ll be surprised and thoroughly absorbed by our main character’s journey. In the hands of a less skilful director and screenwriter then the twists would come across as implausibly silly and tonally distracting, but Hong-Jin Na makes every turn seem fresh and exciting.

The Wailing only gets more gripping as the film progresses. When the horror gets close to home, the film becomes a dizzying tale of a desperate father rather than a police drama. A big shout-out has to be said for Hwan-hee Kim who plays Kwak’s young daughter. Her performance is nothing short of mesmerising. A lot of the time I forgot that I was watching a film with actors and started to really believe about what was happening on screen, which is no easy task when you’re dealing with themes involving the supernatural. Perhaps the film is a little longer than it needed to be, but not once did I find myself feeling bored or uninvolved.

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The Wailing is a real showcase for Korean cinema. It has such an ambition and originality which is sadly lacking in most Hollywood productions. No doubt they’ll get their hands on remake rights, but it’ll never be as authentic as this one. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film and had absolutely no idea how it was going to end. The Wailing builds itself up to such an unpredictable and intense finale that it’s bound to become a deserved cult classic. I also liked how the film is so ambiguous and unforgiving in its lack of exposition that you can’t help but think about it long after the credits have rolled. Don’t read any reviews, don’t watch the trailer, just watch it and then watch it again. The Wailing is a brilliant highlight in a year that has been full of them.

nine-out-of-ten

Train to Busan (2016)

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Director: Sang-ho Yeon

Stars: Yoo Gong, Soo-an Kim, Yu-mi Jeong

Zombies on a train

Zombie films have been hitting our screens since the dawn of time. Well, it certainly feels like they have anyway. Popularised by George A Romero’s terrific Dead trilogy, zombie films have since been rearing their heads like hordes of the undead themselves. Whilst they can be a lot of fun, more often than not, they can also be cliché ridden and trashy. We have had some quite enjoyable zombie films recently such as, Cockneys Vs Zombies and The Horde but we haven’t really had a properly great zombie movie since 2004’s Shaun of the Dead. Train to Busan changes that.

I saw Train to Busan on a whim. I’m travelling in Singapore and had a few free days so I thought that I’d check what’s on the cinemas here. Train to Busan caught my eye but I had never heard of it, however I saw that it was Korean and that it had zombies in it, so I was sold! To my surprise, I came out of the cinema having just viewed easily the best zombie film in a decade. Korean films have hardly ever let me down and Busan is no exception.

As there’s very little coverage of this film on the Internet, I’d better give a rough plot outline. It basically follows a selfish father who is cold and neglectful towards his cute young daughter. For her birthday, she wants to travel to Busan to see her mother so he reluctantly takes her on the train to Busan (creative title) however, a rather inconvenient zombie outbreak occurs as they board the train. The rest of the film is a claustrophobic and thrilling fight for survival as the survivors desperately try everything in their measure to get to Busan on a undead-infested train.

What makes this film so great is the characters. Most horror films (particularly ones with zombies in) sprinkle a load of disposable characters in who all die in a predictable order. We don’t often particularly care when they die, in fact we’re more likely to relish the gory death shown in all its bloody gory. In contrast, Train to Busan focuses in on a line of memorable characters who we actually care about and want to see survive. They’re developed in such a way that when someone cruelly perishes, we feel a great sense of loss and emotion. This is where the film’s strength lies. What’s also interesting is that they’re not all stereotypes either. The protagonist isn’t your typical hero, he’s a character who is grossly selfish and unlikable at the start, but he subtlety develops into someone you begin to care about and admire.


The film starts off as a good little zombie thriller. There’s a sense of realism to the whole situation as we’re made to watch the panic unfold on the train in an effective way. There’s also a nice comic touch to the whole thing with some witty dialogue so it never takes itself too seriously. It also somehow never gets boring even though the film is essentially two hours set on a train, which is no easy task. There’s always tension and a sense of peril. You get the feeling that anything could happen to these characters at any given moment. Once the film reaches the mid-way point though it stops being good and starts becoming great.

Things get going fairly quickly so the characters develop through the action, making the film all the more gripping as it goes on. It’s an unpredictable ride with lots of thrilling set-pieces to keep you on edge. The final half hour is essentially non-stop action and it becomes exhausting to watch without ever feeling too ridiculous. What really impressed me though was the emotional charge in the second half. There are a few scenes which had me welling up with tears, which I wasn’t expecting. I just got so absorbed in the characters and their intense situation. The use of music and editing is also hugely effective in pulling at your heartstrings.


There’s really very little which Train to Busan does wrong. If I were to nitpick, I’d say that I would’ve liked more gore. Zombie films always give a good excuse to give us an array of fun, gory effects but this film is surprisingly restrained. There’s a lot of hand-to-hand combat and nothing else creative. However, this does sort of add to the realism of the situation as you’re not going to find many axes or chainsaws on a train. It’s still not as bloodless as World War Z.

I can’t urge you enough to watch Train to Busan, especially if you’re a fan of Korean cinema. It doesn’t just offer plenty of nail-biting thrills and impressive special effects, It offers emotion and splendid characters whom you can properly invest in. It’s a powerful film which wears its heart on its sleeve and contains more character development in two hours than The Walking Dead has in six seasons. Once the film was over I became overcome with emotion. I felt like I could just break down and cry at what I had just watched. This is so much more than a zombie flick, at its heart it’s a devastating drama about family and the importance of human kindness. I loved it.

nine-out-of-ten