Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010: The Year In Horror Part 2: The Top 10 (10-6)

Here it is folks, the obligatory “Best Of” list. 2010 had a lot of good things going for it, and here are my picks. I do need to say a couple of things about this list before we get started.

First, Black Swan was without a doubt the best film I saw this year. Despite the fact that it is dark, and that the horror community has latched onto it, I don’t really consider it a horror movie, so it will not be on this list. It’s one of those films I want to see again before I talk about it, so I will hold off on reviewing it until it’s available on video. In the meantime, I cannot recommend highly enough that you go see this movie.

Second, there are a couple of movies that technically came out in 2009, but had such limited releases that most people’s first chance to see them was their DVD release in 2010. House of the Devil and Dead Snow are both wonderful films and well worth your time and money, but I saw them in 2009, so they’re not on the list. That being said, I reserve the right to put 2010’s limited release films I won’t get to see until their 2011 DVD release on next year’s list.

Finally, for many reasons, I missed quite a few films this year. Some I really want to see and just haven’t gotten a chance, like I Spit on Your Grave, Giallo, Rec 2, Sella Turcica, Horde, and The Loved Ones. Let Me In, Case 39, and My Soul to Take all came out while I was working at Netherworld, so I didn’t get to see them. From what I understand that was no big loss, but I’m sure I’ll end up renting them. I missed a LOT of independent films this year also. My list may have been different had I seen everything, but that the hell? All of these flicks get a big two severed thumbs up, and Nathan says check ‘em out. Let’s get this countdown underway…

Honorable Mention:

Frozen – This would have been tied for #11 on the list. Well done “this could actually happen” type horror, well built suspense, and some pretty good effects. The acting failed to impress me at times though, and it drug in places. Adam Green proves here that he’s not just a gore slinger.

Rare Exports - This would have been the other contender for #11. More a dark fairy tale than straight horror, it delivered some genuinely creepy moments, and its visual style is beautiful, making it a worthy addition to the Xmas horror pantheon.

Buried – Ryan Reynolds was good, but he needed to be great to pull this off. Definitely a visceral horror experience and, despite some story thinness here and there, well worth a look.

The Last Exorcism – Brilliant acting from the entire cast almost saves this movie from its terrible direction and bad ending. Almost.

Suicide Girls Must Die – As a horror flick, this is mind numbingly awful. Yet, I love it for some reason I can’t put my finger on. Although…nah, I’ll leave that one alone.

The Top 10:


10. The Crazies – A big budget studio made remake that doesn’t suck? I know, I’m shocked too.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at this countdown, considering 3 of them are on here, but I HATE remakes. Remakes of Romero flicks seem to come out at least decent though, and The Crazies was no exception. A plane carrying an experimental weapon crashes, infecting a small town’s water supply and turning most of its residents into homicidal maniacs. The government comes in to quarantine the town, and proves to be as homicidal and maniacal as the “crazies.” This film dispenses with the social commentary of the original, instead giving us a straight forward horror yarn about a small group of characters trying to survive the twin terrors of the government and their newly psycho neighbors. The makeup in this movie is very good, which is notable because in this age of CGI good “monster” makeup is becoming a lost art. My main problem is that it didn’t go far enough with the gore at times for me. For example, in one scene wife of the main character is strapped to a gurney with other infected people, and a crazed man starts pitchforking everyone in the room, slowly making his way towards her. This was the single most tense and suspenseful scene in a theatrically released horror film this year, but it would have been much more effective if each death by pitchfork had involved more than a trickle of blood. You don’t even have to show the killings, just a realistic amount of blood. That kind of unfortunate lapse into good taste made a potentially classic scene only damn good. That said, there are some pretty brutal deaths (the knife through the hand into the neck and the flamethrower scene in particular.) Some good touches of humor mixed into a good horror flick made this a remake I can’t complain about, and that’s saying something.

9. Necromentia – Despite its issues, it’s the most potent cocktail of deviant sexuality, bodily mutilation, and demonic forces since the Hellraiser sequels started sucking.

If you like Clive Barker, you should see this movie. Mr. Barker (as far as I know) had absolutely nothing to do with this film, but it captures the mood and tone of his work beautifully. The story, told backwards, shows us various characters who seek to gain something by opening a doorway to hell, and slowly reveals their intertwining back stories. Pearry Teo’d direction occasionally lapses into that tired, overused, shaky cam and music video editing cliché that’s so prevalent today. There is also one GLARING editing mistake. Where this movie shines is in the production and monster design, and boy does it ever shine. The sets look amazing, and lend a palpable creepy atmosphere missing from many flicks with 10 times the budget. The monsters are very effective. There is one scene, however, that single handedly qualifies Necromentia as a cult classic. Mr. Skinny, a demon that looks like a fat guy in a diaper with a pig head wrapped in wire and tubes, sings a “follow the bouncing ball” style children’s song about the joys of suicide to an autistic 12 year old, complete with the words dancing across the screen. Now that’s demented brilliance! Mr. Skinny has all the potential to be an iconic horror figure, and I, for one, would love to see him follow the Pinhead path, expanding his character in a sequel.

8. Night of the Demons – Everything you could want from an 80’s horror flick. What? It’s 2010? Your point is?

I love the original Night of the Demons, so I was expecting to be thoroughly pissed off by the remake. It turned out to be a whole hell of a lot of fun though. The story pretty much stays the same. The cast does a good job, although Shannon Elizabeth shouldn’t be playing a 20 something anymore and Edward Furlong looks like hell. Bobbi Sue Luther (Laid to Rest) is hot enough to make up for that and much more though. The demons themselves look great, and the true horror geek will pick up on some of them being homages to classic horror flicks. Linnea Quigley’s cameo will have fans of the original laughing, and the infamous “lipstick” scene is recreated and taken one step further. It also gets my vote for the best soundtrack of the year, possibly even the decade, featuring TSOL, 45 Grave, The Ghastly Ones, and Type O Negative among others. The drawbacks? It’s definitely silly and over the top, which I have no problem with, but would turn some viewers off. Most of the effects are practical, but when they do resort to CGI, it’s bad. Really bad. There are plot holes you could hide bodies in, and the characters are stupid even by horror movie standards. None of that ruins it in my book though. This is an 80’s throwback in the truest sense of the word, not in look, but in atmosphere and fun. It’s a great Saturday night drinking with buddies flick; dumb, bloody, and entertaining.

7. Sharktopus A 50’s style creature feature done to cheesy, ridiculous perfection.

If you doubt the awesomeness of Sharktopus, I offer this anecdote. At the haunted house I work at (Netherworld in Atlanta, #1 in the nation by the way) there was a group of young boys going through screaming “SHARKTOPUS” at all of the monsters. That’s what I’d call cultural impact. This is the very definition of the “so bad its good” movie. It’s schlock on a level only movies produced by Roger Corman can achieve. Plot? You expect a plot? In a SyFy original? Fine. A Shark has been spliced with an octopus, broken free from its creators, and is rampaging while the scientists race to stop it. This is cheesy, but it’s good cheese. The kind of cheese where the filmmakers know it’s cheesy, and don’t aspire to be anything but cheesy. I call these movies VDOP: Vulgar Display of Cheese. You’ll hear me rant often about bad cgi, but when it’s expected and no one’s trying to pass it off as good, it’s awesome. The acting in this is astonishingly bad. There’s even a fist shaking at the sky “Damn you monster!” moment. I find it ironic that Eric Roberts seems drunk through the whole movie, and the next time anyone saw him was on Celebrity Rehab. The movie as a whole makes no sense at all. If Sharktopus is bullet proof, why are you freaking out because you’re out of ammo? If there’s a computer activated kill switch, why did you wait until he killed 35 people to use it? Why does Sharktopus roar like a lion? How can Sharktopus walk on dry land? WHO CARES? You can’t think too hard with a movie like this. This is bad movie Shangri-La my friends. Lots of blood for a TV movie, ludicrous acting and story, a 50’s style surf rock theme song (Sharktopus won’t be kept at bay/ and you’re never ever gonna get away), and cgi so bad you’d swear it’s from a Super Nintendo game. I dare say it’s this generation’s Plan 9 From Outer Space. ALL HAIL SHARKTOPUS! (Note, I am fully aware that this review rambled and sounded like it was written by a drunken 12 year old. Sharktopus killed that many brain cells.)

6. Splice – A thought provoking Frankenstein tale for the modern age… if the doctor had screwed the monster that is.

From the misleading trailer, this looked like another Species rip off, so I decided to pass. Luckily, when I found out that it was directed by the same guy that did the brilliant film Cube and decided I wanted to see it, it was still playing at the 1.99 theater. This ended up being one of the smartest films I’ve seen in years, with layers upon layers of subtext and a definite Cronenberg-esque feel. The simple “scientists playing god” setup gives way to a surprisingly deep psychodrama involving issues of parenthood, psychology, sexuality, relationships, and scientific ethics. Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, and Delphine Chaneac are all on top of their game here. Considering these 3 actors carry 90% of the film, and the complexity of the triangle, if only one of these performances had been subpar the whole movie would have fallen flat. While this isn’t gory, it is unsettling, delivering the best “Is he gonna…….OH MY GOD HE DID!” moment of the year outside of A Serbian Film. In the last 15 minutes it changes from drama to straight up monster horror, which, while I like monster movies, kinda felt out of place here. Another point in its favor is that it has that rarity among rarities, good CGI. The effects are great. This movie didn’t do much at the box office, but I have a feeling that, like Blade Runner or Donnie Darko, it will be revisited, find its market later, and gain a whole new appreciation years down the road. In fact, my remark when leaving the theater was “Mark my words, in 10 years film school students will write papers about that one.” Yes, it is that good.

Come back tomorrow and check out the top 5.

3 comments:

WYLL A MINA said...

I was able to see the majority of the movies on this list, and have to agree with your crtiques. Looking forward to seeing your reviews in the future :)

Cash Wampum said...

Night of the Demons made me cry. I thought it was absolutely horrible. The only scene I enjoyed was the lipstick bit. The rest blew chunks. I was hoping this one wouldn't suck since the original is one of my genre favs but alas, huge disappointment :(

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