Andrew Buckner’s 100 Favorite Feature Films of 2020

By Andrew Buckner

*This list is dedicated to the many theaters that were closed or permanently shutdown this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without your ever-comforting presence a pivotal part of the one-of-a-kind artistry, understanding, and universal joy inherent in the cinematic experience will be forever erased.

*Please note that the inclusion of the films in this list are based on an initial 2020 U.S. release date.

100. Cadaver
Director: Jarand Herdal.

99. Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight
Director: Bartosz M. Kowalski.

98. Vampires vs. the Bronx
Director: Osmany Rodriguez.

97. Unhinged
Director: Derrick Borte.

96. Nocturne
Director: Zu Quirke.

95. Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics
Director: Donick Cary.

94. His House
Director: Remi Weekes.

93. The Phenomenon
Director: James Fox.

92. Notzilla
Director: Mitch Teemley.

91. May the Devil Take You Too
Director: Timo Tjahjanto.

90. Impetigore
Director: Joko Anwar.

89. Relic
Director: Natalie Erika James.

88. The Rental
Director: Dave Franco.

87. Dead Life: Wormwood’s End
Director: William Victor Schotten.

86. Antebellum
Directors: Gerard Bush, Christopher Renz.

85. Host
Director: Rob Savage.

84. The Mortuary Collection
Director: Ryan Spindell.

83. The Honeymoon Phase
Director: Phillip G. Carroll Jr.

82. Skyman
Director: Daniel Myrick.

81. Bill & Ted Face the Music
Director: Dean Parisot.

80. Tesla
Director: Michael Almereyda.

79. Porno
Director: Keola Racela.

78. Save Yourselves!
Directors: Alex Huston Fischer, Eleanor Wilson.

77. Cut Throat City
Director: RZA.

76. Alone
Director: John Hyams.

75. Elephant
Directors: Mark Linfield, Vanessa Berlowitz, Alastair Fothergill.

74. Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind: Contact Has Begun
Director: Michael Mazzola.

73. Why Don’t You Just Die!
Director: Kirill Sokolov.

72. An English Haunting
Director: Charlie Steeds.

71. The Gentlemen
Director: Guy Ritchie.

70. VFW
Director: Joe Begos.

69. First Love
Director: Takashi Miike.

68. Extra Ordinary
Directors: Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman.

67. Bit
Director: Brad Michael Elmore.

66. Gretel & Hansel
Director: Oz Perkins.

65. #Alive
Director: II Cho.

64. The Invisible Man
Director: Leigh Whannell.

63. Come to Daddy
Director: Ant Timpson.

62. Snatchers
Directors: Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman.

61. We Summon the Darkness
Director: Marc Meyers.

60. 1BR
Director: David Marmor.

59. The Lodge
Directors: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz.

58. Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time Volume 1 Midnight Madness
Director: Danny Wolf.

57. Comic Book Junkies
Directors: Lenny Schwartz, Nathan Suher.

56. Sputnik
Director: Egor Abramenko.

55. Tigertail
Director: Alan Yang

54. A Secret Love
Director: Chris Boln.

53. Far from Perfect: Life Inside a Global Pandemic
Directors: Lenny Schwartz, Nathan Suher.

52. Blow the Man Down
Directors: Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy.

51. Uncle Peckerhead
Director: Matthew John Lawrence.

50. Rent-A-Pal
Director: Jon Stevenson.

49. The Platform
Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia.

48. Scare Package
Directors: Courtney Andujar, Hillary Andujar, Anthony Cousins, Emily Hagins, Aaron B. Koontz, Chris McInroy, Noah Segan, Baron Vaughn.

47. Bacurau
Directors: Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonca Filho.

46. Scare Me
Director: Josh Ruben.

45. The Hunt
Director: Craig Zobel.

44. Da 5 Bloods
Director: Spike Lee.

43. Possessor Uncut
Director: Brandon Cronenberg.

42. Time
Director: Garrett Bradley.

41. The Vast of Night
Director: Andrew Patterson.

40. Frank & Zed
Director: Jesse Blanchard.

39. The Swerve
Director: Dean Kapsalis.

38. The Trial of the Chicago 7
Director: Aaron Sorkin.

37. First Cow
Director: Kelly Reichardt.

36. The Social Dilemma
Director: Jeff Orlowski.

35. The Assistant
Director: Kitty Green

34. Vivarium
Director: Lorcan Finnegan.

33. Emma.
Director: Autumn de Wilde.

32. Strapped for Danger II: Undercover Vice
Director: Richard Griffin.

31. Family Romance, LLC.
Director: Werner Herzog.

30. The Assassination of Western Civilization
Director: Nathan Suher.

29. Seeds
Director: Skip Shea.

28. Before the Night is Over
Director: Richard Griffin.

27. Rewind
Director: Sasha Joseph Neulinger.

26. The Other Lamb
Director: Malgorzata Szumowska.

25. Color Out of Space
Director: Richard Stanley.

24. Planet of the Humans
Director: Jeff Gibbs.

23. Totally Under Control
Directors: Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, Suzanne Hillinger.

22. Shirley
Director: Josephine Decker.

21. Vote Motherf***er
Director: Lenny Schwartz.

20. Swallow
Director: Carlo Mirabella-Davis.

19. Beastie Boys Story
Director: Spike Jonze.

18. Fulci For Fake
Director: Simone Scafidi.

17. Gremlins: A Puppet Story
Director: Chris Walas.

16. Circus of Books
Director: Rachel Mason.

15. Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story
Directors: Ron Cicero, Kimo Easterwood.

14. Cleaning up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters
Director: Anthony Bueno.

13. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Director: Jason Woliner.

12. Hamilton
Director: Thomas Kail.

11. Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
Directors: James Lebrecht, Nicole Newnham.

10. Spaceship Earth
Director: Matt Wolf.

9. Luz: The Flower of Evil
Director: Juan Diego Escobar Alzate.

8. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Director: Charlie Kaufman.

7. Tommaso
Director: Abel Ferrara.

6. Slay the Dragon
Directors: Chris Durrance, Barak Goodman.

5. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Director: Eliza Hittman.

4. Beanpole
Director: Kantemir Balagov.

3. Sister Tempest
Director: Joe Badon.

2. The Painted Bird
Director: Vaclav Marhoul.

1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Director: Celine Sciamma.

Andrew Buckner’s 40 Favorite Films of 2020 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

*Please note that the inclusion of the films in this list is based on an original 2020 U.S. release date.

40. Resistance
Director: Jonathan Jakubowicz.

39. Spaceship Earth
Director: Matt Wolf.

38. Elephant
Directors: Mark Linfield, Vanessa Berlowitz.

37. Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind: Contact Has Begun
Director: Michael Mazzola.

36. Why Don’t You Just Die!
Director: Kirill Sokolov.

35. An English Haunting
Director: Charlie Steeds.

34. The Gentlemen
Director: Guy Ritchie.

33. VFW
Director: Joe Begos.

32. First Love
Director: Takashi Miike.

31. Extra Ordinary
Directors: Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman.

30. Bit
Director: Brad Michael Elmore.

29. Gretel & Hansel
Director: Oz Perkins.

28. The Invisible Man
Director: Leigh Whannell.

27. Come to Daddy
Director: Ant Timpson.

26. Snatchers
Directors: Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman.

25. We Summon the Darkness
Director: Marc Meyers.

24. 1BR
Director: David Marmor.

23. The Lodge
Directors: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz.

22. Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time Volume 1 Midnight Madness
Director: Danny Wolf.

21. Tigertail
Director: Alan Yang

20. A Secret Love
Director: Chris Bolan.

19. Beanpole
Director: Kantemir Balagov.

18. Far from Perfect: Life Inside a Global Pandemic
Directors: Lenny Schwartz, Nathan Suher.

17. Blow the Man Down
Directors: Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy.

16. The Platform
Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia.

15. The Hunt
Director: Craig Zobel.

14. The Assistant
Director: Kitty Green

13. Vivarium
Director: Lorcan Finnegan.

12. Emma.
Director: Autumn de Wilde.

11. Slay the Dragon
Directors: Chris Durrance, Barak Goodman.

10. Before the Night is Over
Director: Richard Griffin.

9. The Assassination of Western Civilization
Director: Nathan Suher.

8. The Other Lamb
Director: Mlgorzata Szumowska.

7. Color Out of Space
Director: Richard Stanley.

6. Planet of the Humans
Director: Jeff Gibbs.

5. Swallow
Director: Carlo Mirabella-Davis.

4. Beastie Boys Story
Director: Spike Jonze.

3. Circus of Books
Director: Rachel Mason.

2. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Director: Eliza Hittman.

1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Director: Celine Sciamma.

Runner-Up:

Bacurau
Directors: Kleber Mendonca Filho, Juliano Dornelles.

Before the Night is Over – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***** out of *****.

Lean, beautiful and mysterious, Before the Night is Over (2020) is a masterful return to horror for director Richard Griffin. Stylistically reminiscent of such generally single-setting efforts from the 1960’s-70’s such as Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace (1963) and Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977), the 73-minute film is also admirable for its subtlety and restraint. This is immediately evident in the wordless five-minute opening sequence of the picture. In this evocative and brilliantly rendered bit, a wonderfully mood-setting musical composition, facial expressions and hand gestures potently speak all that needs to be said. Griffin also ends the production on an equally quiet and poetic note. Such touches make for incredibly effective bookends to an exercise that is eloquent, classy and classic in both its narrative and in its approach. It also calls to mind the commencing section of Griffin’s equally magnificent Long Night in a Dead City (2017). Such instances are made evermore breathtaking by John Mosetich’s gorgeous, colorful, awe-inspiring cinematography.

Complimented by a superbly penned script from co-authors Griffin and Lenny Schwartz, which perfectly balances character-focus and buildup, Griffin tells the tale of Samantha (in a captivating portrayal from Samantha Acampora). Suffering from the loss of her parents, she becomes a maid at a bordello run by her aunt, Ms. Blanche DeWolfe (in a wonderful enactment by Lee Rush). Immediately intrigued by the erotically charged nature of the place, she finds herself slowly on the trail of a secret. It is one which has led before to death and, Samantha soon finds, will do so again.

With this intriguing premise, Griffin erects a surreal tour-de-force. It is one which is utilized as well in its credibly etched dramatic sequences as it does in its psychological thriller and slasher-on-the-loose instances. Griffin also keeps the project as tightly paced as possible. This is while giving his characters plenty of room to breathe and make themselves closely known to the audience. The third act also delivers quite a few twists that are genuinely surprising. Best of all, they never break the finely woven credibility or old-fashioned elegance Griffin has so delicately sewn into the endeavor. Such is just another sample of the top-notch craftsmanship that has gone into Griffin’s latest undertaking.

What also works is the equally deft turns given by Griffin’s performers. Bruce Church is exceptional as Ambrose. Jay Walker commands the screen as Mr. Wheatstraw. The same can be said of Terry Shea as Clay, Roberto Alexander as LaRue and Ricky Irizarry as Jameson. Victoria Paradis gives a terrific depiction of Ms. Olivia. Furthermore, Griffin’s editing is seamless.

Before the Night is Over (2020) is another winner for Griffin and The Reasonable Moving Picture Company. Reportedly made on a budget of $5,000, the feature is ambitious and hypnotic. This is while being economical and intimate. It is also deeply cinematic, while respecting the traditions of past big-screen excursions into fear. The movie also has Griffin’s unique stamp on every frame. The piece deftly addresses many of the ever-timely themes and notions from his previous creations. All of this is to grand consequence. In turn, Griffin has created a haunting and thoughtful symphony of sight and sound; a perfect storm of indelible imagery and directorial flair. Cinephiles and genre fanatics alike are destined to adore it. I know I did.