Alix Turner’s Top 10 Films of 2020

December 21, 2020
Alix Turner 0
Features, Film

Alix Turner’s Top 10 Films of 2020

In any “normal” year, I would expect to go to the cinema five or six times a month, attend a couple of festivals, and cover as much as I could remotely too. This year, though: you know. The cinema hasn’t been available much, and I’ve plunged myself into all the review screeners I could consume. Consequently, perhaps like many film writers, the titles I’ve had access to were dependent partly on which film festivals I covered, and partly on which publicists’ mailing lists I found myself on: hence, the genre slant. But who knows? Even if I’d seen more mainstream films or the films that were due to be widely released this year, maybe these ten would still have been my favorites.

The Swerve review - stunning observation of a mental decline and its impact

Alix Turner’s Top 10 Films of 2020


1. The Swerve (Dean Kapsalis)

The only film I’ve given five stars to this year, The Swerve shook me up, yet I found it to be strangely cathartic as a few days passed. It’s a psychological and dramatic study of what life and other people can do to someone. Wondering now if my favorite film in any year is always a serious one? As well as reviewing this film, I also had the pleasure of interviewing its director and lead, who both gave some fascinating insight.

2. Possessor (Brandon Cronenberg)

Possessor is truly an incredible film, a piece of art about the nature of self and the value of work. You can see Cronenberg’s heritage here (definitely a step up in quality since Antiviral), and yet he has presented his own identity; ironic, considering the subject of the film. It’s sci-fi, horror, and corporate espionage drama in one, riddled with both bright colors and intelligence.

3. The Invisible Man (Leigh Whannell)

This was one of only three films on this list that I saw on the big screen, and I’m glad I did. The tension was incredible, both in the uncertainty of whether the main character’s fears would be taken seriously and whether her ex was going to strike again soon. Bravo to Whannell for showing the world what gaslighting can feel like.

4. Castle Freak (Tate Steinsiek)

Not a remake of the 1995 film, in fact only just related to it; instead, this one expands on the Lovecraft sources, making a film that is exciting (granted, in a somewhat salacious eighties way) and fabulous to watch. I absolutely adored Castle Freak. Tentacles crossed there will be more to come.

5. Saint Maud (Rose Glass)

Another film, like The Swerve, about mental decline; this time religious, rather than domestic. Beautifully made and ultimately shocking, this one had me trembling as I left the cinema, and I wasn’t able to write about it for a couple of days. Even though Saint Maud was a deeply unbalanced character, I cannot help but admire her passion and dedication.

6. The Dark and the Wicked (Bryan Bertino)

Wow: one of the scariest new films I’ve seen this year. A rural horror with beautiful skies and an intense mood that calls to mind Hereditary. And what’s particularly weird (or impressive) is that it felt subtle while watching it, perhaps because of the slow pace; but a day or two later I recalled the extreme moments, which must have felt like a simply natural aspect of the film.

7. Death Ranch (Charlie Steeds)

So seventies that I expected to hear “Car Wash” at any moment, Death Ranch is an exciting – and way over the top – homage to exploitation films, with a trio of black siblings on the run who just happen to hide out in the same spot that a cannibalistic Ku Klux Klan cult is using. There’s no time wasted on backstory, just bloody action and revenge; but it didn’t need those details to impress me. Oh, and Steeds was great fun to interview too.

8. Caveat (Damian McCarthy)

When I was only about half an hour in, I thought: this could be my favorite film of the year. It’s all atmosphere, suspense, and claustrophobic confusion, yet homely rather than oppressive. I confess I didn’t entirely understand it on the first watch but loved the experience nonetheless; then when things come together, Caveat is an even more satisfying film.

9. Host (Rob Savage)

Found footage that’s both relevant to this year of the pandemic and cleverly made within the confines of quarantine. Initially made for Shudder, but Host has caused such a stir that it’s the only Shudder Original film I’m aware of that’s then made it to the big screen too. And it was just as effective on a second watch.

10. Tenet (Christopher Nolan)

I had to include something a bit more mainstream in this list, and although Tenet is far from perfect (the sound!), I had an immensely enjoyable time watching. A pulp spy thriller with an added time twist, so it’s only natural that it presents genre clichés along with special effects. Good old/new cinema fun.

Archive review - a stylish and unhurried sci-fi film about consciousness and grief

Honorable Mentions:

Honeydew (Devereux Milburn)

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (Derek Carl)

The Oak Room (Cody Calahan)

Anonymous Animals (Baptiste Rouveure)

Clapboard Jungle: Surviving the Independent Film Business (Justin McConnell)

The Crimes That Bind (Sebastián Schindel)

Archive (Gavin Rothery)

Underwater (William Eubank)


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