Monday, January 3, 2011

2010: The year in Horror Part 1: The Worst

As I look around the internet, I’m seeing an almost unanimous opinion that 2010 was a terrible year for horror. I’m constantly reading people saying there weren’t enough good movies to make a top 10. With this, my first foray into this whole horror blogging thing, I say COME ON PEOPLE! 2010 was no worse than any other year. True, a lot of crap came out, but what year hasn’t. 2009, which everyone seems to be lauding as infinitely better than this year, sure as hell did. Everyone remembers it fondly now for its bumper crop of good stuff i.e. Paranormal Activity, Zombieland, Laid to Rest, Dead Snow, Trick r Treat, etc. Folks, did we forget about the other side of the coin; about the pain of sitting through Jennifer’s Body, The Final Destination, Children of the Corn, The Box, Sorority Row, Saw 6, The Stepfather or that godawful Last House on the Left remake? 2010 was the same story as it’s been for at least the last 10 years, more bad theatrical flicks than good, but enough great independent and foreign product to make up for it. If you sift through all of 2010’s lame remakes, bad sequels, uninspired Hollywood fare and indie pretension, there is a lot of worthwhile stuff and even a few nuggets of greatness.

In 2010 Hollywood continued to have a tough time coming up with any original ideas. The remake train kept a rollin’. There were a few bright spots though. For every Nightmare on Elm Street or Wolfman atrocity we saw, there was a Piranha or Crazies. I think the epitome of this remake nonsense was Let Me In. I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t say if worked or not, but I can say with utmost certainty that it was completely unnecessary. Let the Right One In is a masterpiece. It’s a sad fact that Hollywood remade it only 3 years after its release simply because most American moviegoers won’t go see foreign language films. Then again, the same thing happened with all of the J-horror remakes a few years ago. I also hear people bemoaning the amount of sequels this year. There really weren't any more than usual, but they were definitely a mixed bag as far as quality goes. In fact, 3 of my Worst 5 list of the year were sequels. Then again, so is my #1 best.

There seemed to be a few trends emerging this year. Led by grindhouse throwbacks Piranha and Machete, a lot of movies were released that seemed to be less concerned with being “good” than with being “fun.” In both of these cases, they succeeded. I, for one, am all for a good, mindless, gory romp. Speaking of Machete, this year there was some serious genre line blurring. Machete, an action flick, let the guts fly more than 90% of 2010’s horror, and Shutter Island and Black Swan, a couple of big budget psychological thrillers, skirted the boundary and were embraced by horror fans.

Horror documentaries came into their own this year, with the release of Never Sleep Again, Best Worst Movie, American Grindhouse, and many others. Unrated films challenged the MPAA, unsuccessfully unfortunately, as Hatchet 2 and I Spit On Your Grave both saw short uncut theatrical releases. Of all this years trends, this is the one I most want to see continue. I think this year’s biggest story in horror, however, was the rise of horror on TV. The Walking Dead became a phenomenon, pulling in amazing ratings, while True Blood, Vampire Diaries, Dexter, and Supernatural all continued to do great numbers.

All in all 2010 was a mixed bag, but if you look hard enough, there was a lot to enjoy. So without further ado, lets get these lists out of the way. Since, when it comes to horror, I try to be twice as positive as negative, I did a 10 best and 5 worst list. Lets get the worst out of the way first, shall we? By the way, Nathan says do not check these out.

5 Worst:

5. Paranormal Activity 2 : Or, as I like to call it, PA2: Book of Shadows. If you get that reference, you know exactly what I’m talking about. This is what happens when a big studio takes a great low budget horror flick and tries to improve on the formula. Everything that worked in PA1 is overdone and ruined here, because Hollywood doesn’t understand suspense or subtlety, the main 2 ingredients in PA1’s effectiveness. Katie basically turns into Michael Myers at the end. Need I say more?

4. Saw 3D/7: The plot was even thinner than usual, the twist made even less sense, the traps were just ok, and so little was done with the 3D that I forgot I was watching a 3D movie at all halfway through. The last good Saw movie was still 3, but at least this one was better than 5. By the way, for those of you who have been duped into believing that this was the end of the franchise, I only have one thing to say: Friday the 13th 4: The Final Chapter.

3. 30 Days of Night: Dark Days: Oh man, where do I start? There is nothing about this flick that isn’t cliché. The 28 Days Later style 3rd person shaky cam/rapid fire editing (don’t get me started on 28 Days Later) is here, as is the awful acting, the worst fake blood since Hammer films, one of the most ridiculously tacked on bad sex scenes ever, and a plot that I had figured out 10 minutes in. Did I mention the acting? Ok then. I only paid a buck to rent this crap and felt ripped off.

2. Legion: I’ve always said that I can forgive a lot of things when it comes to movies, but there is one thing I will never forgive a movie for being…boring. Legion is boring. All of the good stuff is in the trailer. Add to that about an hour of people talking, 5 minutes of shots of people shooting guns, 10 minutes of people crying, and an ending that’s an angelic rip off of Terminator 2, and you’ve got Legion. If the next movie hadn’t been not only a bad movie, but an act of heresy, Legion would have been #1.

1. Nightmare on Elm Street: I have been accused of not judging this movie fairly because it is a remake of one of my favorites, so I’m going to forget for a moment that it’s even a remake and tell you why it sucks on its own. Jackie Earl Haley is good as the killer. I’ll give them that. The rest of the cast apparently went to the Twilight acting school, in which looking bored and constipated counts as emoting. The characters themselves are so annoying that you can't wait for them to die. The CGI is absolutely awful. Just look at the “Freddy through the wall” shot or the final claw through the face and you’ll see what I mean. You’d think they could afford decent effects with Platinum Dunes money. The director and writers tried to compensate for their inability to build suspense or even interest by relying on constant cheap jump scares. I stopped counting at 50 and the movie wasn’t even halfway over. The Freddy makeup, while looking a bit more like an actual burn victim, also makes our supposedly frightening villain look like a rubber frog with down syndrome. Add to that the fact that they did, in fact, take a giant steaming dump on everything fans loved about the classic film and its iconic story and characters, and you have the worst cinematic travesty in a long time. If there was ever a movie I would use the cliche EPIC FAIL for, it’s this one. Die Michael Bay, die!

Enough about the bad movies of the year, come back tomorrow for part one of my Top 10.

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