December 2020 Review: The Best and Worst Movies I Saw Last Month
Updated: Feb 6
Okay, I realize it has been way too long since I last updated this, and I still have to write for January too. December as a month was not as relaxing as I had hoped and some films that I really wanted to like ended up being total clunkers. I wanted to do an in-depth analysis of what I watched this year but truthfully, I did not have the time. Some cool stats I did want to share include the following:
Total films watched in 2020: 520
Films watched by decade: 2020s (107); 2010s (242); 2000s (49); 1990s (56); 1980s (48); 1970s (17); 1960s (1).
Month with the highest number of first-time watches: May (61)
Month with the lowest number of first-time watches: February (25)
Highest rated first-time watch: 8.5/10 for The Invisible Man (2020); Noroi: The Curse (2005); and Audition (2000)
Lowest rated first-time watch: 1/10 for Amityville Island (2020)
For December, however, I saw 41 films. Here are my picks for the best and the worst of that month. Hope you enjoy!
WORST #3) The Devonsville Terror (1983); Director: Ulli Lommel; United States
Young women begin moving into a small New England town named Devonsville. These women bring relaxed attitudes towards sex, challenging ideas towards religion, and a general distaste for patriarchal authority. This is a problem for the more traditional townsfolk, who react rather violently to their continued affronts to their way of life. Some 300 years ago witches were killed by a mob of angry male townsfolk and a curse was placed upon the land. Soon enough the events that begin to happen in Devonsville mirror the sordid past of the enclave. The Devonsville Terror fumbles an interesting idea with ease. There is very little character development for anyone, even the “main” protagonist. The townspeople are almost comically backwards, and their characterization feels more like a caricature. I did appreciate the commentary on gender brought forth by the film, witches and gender roles always complement each other when crafting stories based on patriarchal violence and oppression of women. A more robust script and a deeper dive into these ideas brought forth could make the message sharper. Overall, a clunky and unenjoyable ride, The Devonsville Terror loses its steam quickly and fizzles out at the stake by the time it’s done despite its potential.
Overall Score? 3.5/10
BEST #3) Three... Extremes (2004); Director: Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike, Chan-wook Park; Hong Kong/Japan/South Korea
Three… Extremes is an anthology film consisting of three short stories. The first story deals with a famous dumpling cook helping a wife appeal more to her husband. The next tale depicts a successful film director and his wife held hostage by one of his actors in their large and illustrious living room on a film set. Last, the film ends with the tale of a woman returning to the exact spot where her sister died many years ago. This selection of East Asian shorts films is an eclectic and engaging bunch. Upon release it was considered rather daring and violent, which still rings true in some ways today. This is particularly true for “Dumplings” and “Cut” which are by far the more memorable and engaging parts of this anthology. These two shorts make up for the fact that “The Box” is plodding and predictable. One interesting thing to note about this film is that the order of the shorts change depending on where you watch it, so please do not take this review as law for which short airs first! A revered and solid classic in its own right, Three… Extremes is a must watch for fans of Asian horror cinema.
Overall Score? 8/10
WORST #2) Cupid (2020); Director: Scott Jeffrey; United States
I did not enjoy this this film, please see my full review here.
Overall Score? 3.5/10
BEST #2) Lost Highway (1997); Director: David Lynch; France/United States
A man is plagued by bizarre visions before and after he is accused of killing his wife. Another young man is caught in a dangerous game whilst having an affair with a married woman. Lost Highway is a hard film to describe without giving away what makes it special. I found myself drawn to the striking characters, eye-catching cinematography, and engrossing plot. It’s hazy, non-linear storytelling and lack of clear answers may turn off viewers, but please give this film a chance before writing it off completely. I especially appreciate Pullman’s ability to command the screen in intense and dramatic sequences; he absolutely steals the scene and leaves little hints at the deeper horror of his predicament. Bill Pullman’s performance is a standout rivaled only by Patricia Arquette doing double duty with two different personas. While it is never an easy film to watch, Lost Highway presents a dizzying and deceptive journey into the unravelling of one man on a journey to discover what really happened to his wife. Fans of films that beg to be taken apart and re-assembled like a puzzle will delight in the cryptic and thematically rich storytelling while those who crave shocks and thrills will revel just the same in Lost Highway.
Overall Score? 8/10
WORST #1) Mandroid (YEAR); Director: Jack Ersgard; United States/Romania
A group of scientists are working on developing advanced robotic technology in a secret hideaway in Russia when they are visited by two CIA agents who are attempting to buy the intellectual property rights to the tech. One of the inventors is starkly against this and in is effort to object steals the robot away. Soon after, the robot begins to act in a bizarre and dangerous manner, threatening the safety of the entire team. It’s discovered that the inventor has programmed the robot to kill and he will stop at nothing to steal and sell it to another bidder. I’m going to be perfectly honest with you, this is truly one of the most forgettable movies I saw last year. It’s barely been more than a month since I saw Mandroid and I can barely remember it. What I do remember is bad acting, lazy writing and dialogue, and budget limitations that prevent this film from even breaking the surface of entertainment. It’s truly a bottom of the barrel venture in all regards. Low budget horror sci-fi is often a really easy way to enjoy some dumb fun but unfortunately this film is all dumb and no fun. Please avoid at all costs!
Overall Score? 3/10
BEST #1) The Dark and the Wicked (2020); Director: Bryan Bertino; United States
I absolutely loved this film, please check out the full review here.
Overall Score? 8/10