I saw 118 feature films in the theater this year, and yet I had a pretty hard time compiling this list. I saw a lot of good movies, but I feel like I saw very few GREAT ones. Very little truly blew me away, including a lot of the films everyone else is putting on their end-of-year lists. It’s not that those movies–or many of the others I saw and liked–weren’t good. It’s just that few of them particularly touched me, for some reason. I can count on one hand the number of times I cried in a theater this year, which is very unusual (I’m a big movie crier; I admit it). And nothing I saw left me as slack-jawed as The Witch or Goodnight Mommy from last year, or pushed artistic boundaries as interestingly as Birdman the year before. I can’t tell if I’m just getting old, or if being a filmmaker and seeing how the sausage is made has made movies more difficult to appreciate. But for whatever reason, it felt like a very ‘meh’ year for me.
That said, I did see some great stuff, mostly at festivals (of which I attended 10 this year, thanks to Found Footage 3D). I like to include festival movies on my list because I think it’s good to make people aware so that you can catch them in their general release. Here’s the best of what I saw in 2016:
Before too much time went by, I wanted to share my top ten movies of 2015 with you. I saw 174 feature films this year. Of those, 128 were movies I had never seen before. I saw 79 movies in a theater (80 if I count Star Wars twice). This is down slightly from 2014, when I saw just shy of 100 movies in a theater, but that’s to be expected, what with an infant to take care of and a movie of my own to finish. (Note: this tally does *not* include the roughly 800 billion times I watched Found Footage 3D.)
For the second year running, I saw my favorite film of the year at Fantastic Fest. Last year I opted to not include festival movies that had not been released to the general public by the end of the year. This year, I’m taking a cue from Simon Barrett and including any movie I saw in calendar 2015. This not only saves me having to compare movies I saw nearly two full years ago with stuff I just saw last week, but it also gives me an opportunity to put some great movies on your radars so that when they do finally come out, you can make sure to see them.
Three years ago this very day, I had a sudden inspiration for a story that no one had ever done before… a feature film that I could write and direct myself, and possibly even raise the money to shoot. Given that I’d never done any of those things on that scale before (especially the money raising part), it was pretty crazy to think I would be able. It required a pretty big leap of faith, especially on the part of my very supportive wife, who thought I was nuts but went along with it anyway.
Some more thoughts on the reactions to the rough cut that we showed people a few weeks ago:
When producer Charles Mulford and I were discussing a much earlier draft of the script a few years ago, he expressed a little concern that it might not be scary enough. I asked him to trust me, because I knew that if we executed the movie properly, there were moments in the script that were going to play much scarier than they read on the page. That’s true for any horror script, honestly, but it’s especially true, I think, for found footage.
Last Wednesday night was our first screening of the movie for people who aren’t cast or crew. Someone asked me beforehand if I was nervous, and weirdly, I wasn’t. felt pretty confident in what we have right now and where the movie is at, and I was looking forward to hearing what people had to say about what was and wasn’t working at this stage in the editing process. This is the first of what I hope will be several blogs about what I took away from the screening.
My wife pointed out to me earlier this evening that there is a difference between being scared and being horrified. A lot of people enjoy being scared. You will be, if you watch FF3D. But I can’t promise that you won’t also be horrified a few times as well. Consider this a warning.