Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cannibal Apocalypse: The Walking Dead weren't the first flesh eaters in Atlanta.

It could be due to their similar titles, or that they were all on the “Video Nasties” list, but 1980’s Cannibal Apocalypse (known as Invasion of the Flesh Eaters in its censored form) is often lumped in with the rest of the Italian cannibal movies like Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferrox. Before I saw any of them, I had made that association too. When I was a young horror fan, I loved to get catalogs from video bootleggers. In those days before deluxe super ultra limited Criterion 12 disc ultimate directors cut premium special edition DVD’s, video on demand, and torrents, foreign films in their uncut form just weren’t widely available. There were, however, people willing to sell you 5th generation grainy VHS copies of obscure Japanese laser-disc editions or uncensored European cuts. As a 14 year old kid with no money and no way to get these movies, I would read these catalogs with names like Gates of Gore, Video Mayhem, Horror Obscura, and Unearthly Video and dream of these cinematic atrocities I would one day track down. Cannibal Apocalypse, Cannibal Ferrox, and Cannibal Holocaust were always together on the list. I used to call it “the Cannibal trilogy.” When I finally got to see these movies well into my 20’s I realized that Apocalypse has nearly no similarities to the other 2. Only 2 flashbacks take place in the jungle, there are no tribesman with spears, no real animal killings, and it’s far more Cronenberg than Deodato.

John Saxon plays Norman Hopper, a Vietnam vet who leads a mission into a Vietnamese POW camp to save Charlie and Tom. Turns out Charlie and Tom have developed a taste for human flesh, and can spread the cannibal hankering with a bite, and so Tom bites Norman. One year later, Charlie and Tom are in an asylum, while Norman tries to go on with his life. Charlie is released, immediately attacks a couple getting it on in a movie theater, and holes up in a flea market. For all you locals, this was filmed in Decatur, Ga and the Flea Market is the one on Buford Highway. Anyway, Norman talks him into surrendering, but back at the asylum Charlie teams up with Tom to bite some nurses. Why the cannibal nurses never got their own movie is beyond me. Seems like a no-brainer. Norman starts feeling the munchies, springs his army buddies from the nuthouse, and they take to the sewers with the authorities in hot pursuit. As you can see, this “violence as a communicable disease” plot definitely calls to mind some of Cronenbergs early movies like Rabid and Shivers, which is a far more apt comparison than Ferrox or Holocaust.

There are quite a few reasons to love this flick, amongst them the actors and the soundtrack. It’s driven by 3 great performances. John Saxon is, as always, excellent. Giovanni Lombardo Radice, who you might remember from the legendary power drill through the skull scene in Gates of Hell (and coincidentally Cannibal Ferrox), plays Charlie. His creepy menace just radiates out of the screen. He’s also the only person I’ve ever seen in any movie pee on a tear gas canister to neutralize it. Pure Genius. Wallace Wilkinson is Captain McCoy, the most stereotypical 70s foul mouthed tough guy police chief I’ve ever seen, and has all the great lines in the movie. The soundtrack is horrifically dated, but that just adds to the charm. Cannibals fighting bikers to music rejected from Shaft? Count me in. These flesh eaters are downright funky! Watch the trailer below this review. That song at the beginning is playing while the GI’s are storming the Vietnamese camp. No, I’m not kidding.

Also setting it apart from its cannibal brethren is the fact that there are only two, maybe three real scenes that are more graphic than an R rating in 1980 would allow. One is the dismembering of a corpse with a bonesaw, and yes it is pretty meaty. In the other a character gets a big hole blown in their abdomen with a shotgun. There is a great shot where we pan from the actors face, which is still moving, down to the gaping hole, where we see the action taking place behind him through the hole. This would be an amazing practical shot today, and looks better than any cgi would, but this was 1980! That shot holds up better than a lot of special effects from 10 years ago. There’s a pretty good close up eye gouging too, but I’ve seen more brutal (Fulci, I’m looking at you on this one.) Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot more blood and violence (flamethrowers, tongue bitten off, chunks of flesh bitten off), but it’s not enough to warrant this film’s extreme reputation.

The version I got is from the Studiocanal/Image Euroshock Collection, and this is the one to get. It is LOADED with great special features. Of particular interest to Atlanta residents is a featurette where they show you where they filmed many scenes. Or, if you’re into nostalgia, go get one of those grainy vhs bootlegs if you can find one. Long live the old school. Two severed, and probably half eaten, thumbs way up. Nathan says check it out.

Friday, January 7, 2011

R.I.P. Anne Francis

Actress Anne Francis died Sunday of cancer at the age of 80. She was best known for starring in the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet with another recent loss, Leslie Nielson. Definitely two severed thumbs up. Not only is that movie a classic, but I'm willing to bet that some of you have sung about that particular acting credit in a dark theater more than a few times. She starred in many other films, including a very underrated noir titled Brainstorm. Later, she had an extensive career in television, including appearances on Alfred Hitchcock presents and one of my personal favorite Twilight Zone episodes, "The After Hours."

On a side note, this means that Janette Scott, who fought a triffid that spits poison and kills (What the f**k is a triffid? Sorry, couldn't help myself) is the last surviving actor/actress to be named in "Science Fiction Double Feature."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010: The Year In Horror Part 3: The Top 5

5. A Serbian Film The most disturbing thing put on film since concentration camp footage.

When it comes to movies, I’m pretty jaded. I’ve seen Cannibal Holocaust. I’ve seen Salo. I’ve seen the August Underground trilogy. I’ve seen the Guinea Pig series, Irreversible, The Girl Next Door, Begotten, Audition, Nekromantik, Slaughtered Vomit Dolls, and Men Behind the Sun. Hell, I even saw the first half hour of Twilight (shudder). It’s very VERY rare that I see a flick I would describe as “disturbing.” Serbian Film is definitely one. I’d read all the hype about just how gut wrenching A Serbian Film is. I heard all the stories of people storming out mid-showing at European festivals, and figured there was no way it could live up to the hype. I stand corrected. There are many who say that, its core, the whole purpose of cinema is to elicit an emotional response. If that is true, this is cinema at its most effective. I’ll put it this way. Christmas night I took this movie to show a bunch of guys who, like me, are sometimes considered to be “sick bastards.” Throughout the first half, everyone was drinking, making jokes, and having fun. The second half, even until the end of the credits, this group sat in stunned silence. That’s how this Grinch steals Christmas. Muahahaha. Anyway, the plot concerns a retired porn star lured back to do one more job. It then devolves into quite possibly the vilest parade of atrocities ever depicted on film. I cannot overstate the absolute depravity of some of the scenes. The kicker is that this is a very well made movie. The acting is brilliant. I can only imagine the psychological state of the lead actor after filming some of those scenes. The camera work is imaginative, the soundtrack is used perfectly, and the direction is inspired. This is one of those films that inspire debate about why subversive art is important, mainly because you want to rationalize the fact that you just watched THAT. It’s definitely not for everyone. This is not an “enjoyable” watching experience per say, but it is a challenging and strangely beautiful one.

4. Human Centipede (First Sequence) – The mad scientist movie is back! Just ignore the hype.

As I stated in the last review, hype about how “extreme” a movie is works backwards on me, making me immediately skeptical. Any time a movie is touted as the “sickest/goriest/most demented/most shocking” movie ever, I automatically put up my defenses. Is it the sickest movie ever made? Not by a long shot. Not even this year (see #5.) What it is, however, is maybe the sickest premise ever placed into a tightly paced, dark, bleak thriller. It seems that everyone who didn’t like this flick either does so either because it was too sick for them (if that’s the case, you might want to think twice about taking my movie recommendations), or that it didn’t live up to the hype. This movie is far more extreme in concept than execution. There is very little in the way of gore. This could have been just another hardcore gore flick competing for the gross out title. Not that there’s anything wrong with that by any means. I dig gore. A lot. I just personally think that in this case, with the unthinkable premise of stitching people together at the pie hole and poop chute, it wasn’t necessary. What really makes this film for me is the mad scientist himself. I’ve always thought that the mad scientist was a terribly underused horror villain. The other “science run amok” movie on my top 10, Splice, wasn’t about mad scientists, just scientists who went too far. Dr. Heiter, on the other hand, is just plain bat-shit crazy. He is portrayed by German actor Dieter Laser, who looks like the love child of Udo Kier and Lance Henriksen. He plays this part to absolute perfection. I’ve never seen him in anything else, but his performance in this film screams that this is the role he was born to play. The scene of him calmly (and with visual aids) explaining to his test subjects the exact procedures involving sewing them mouth to anus while they scream in horror is absolutely chilling. The best thing about this movie is the subtitle “First Sequence.” That sounds a lot like there’s gonna be sequels, and I can’t wait. Call me twisted, but the only thing that would have made it better was randomly inserted clips from Clerks 2 of Dante saying “You never go ass to mouth!”

3. Piranha 3D – A film that actually delivers on its promises, in this case; blood and boobs. These are a few of my favorite things.

Anyone who knows me could tell you that I’m a big fan of blood. They could also tell you that I’m an even bigger fan of boobs. When I heard that these were the selling points of Pirhana 3D, I had to see it, but I thought “there’s no way it will deliver the goods as much as they claim.” Boy was I wrong! There is gore and TaTa’s galore! In fact, I’m shocked this got an R rating. This movie, much like Sharktopus, does not take itself seriously in the least, and never pretends to be anything but an exploitative parade of B-movie clichés pushed far beyond the limits of good taste. It’s obvious that the makers of this film were having such a great time seeing what they could get away with that you can’t help being swept up in the crass, hilariously gruesome glee of it all. There’s not a damn thing in this film that isn’t 100% gratuitous. Let’s face it; no one went to see this for the story. It’s a good thing too, because it plays out like a couple of 15 year old boys saying “Dude, you know what would be cool…” The gore relied way too much on CGI, but that can be forgiven considering the amount of practical effects that were used also. That scene where the piranhas attack the lake party is an amazing orgy of mutilation. The outboard motor scalping was worth the price of admission alone. The nude underwater ballet is a sight to behold. Jerry O’Connell’s severed penis being puked into the camera by a fish? Why the hell not? There was one problem with this movie, however. Post converted 3D looks terrible, plain and simple. It only emphasized the bad animation on the fish. I would have enjoyed the 2D version just as much, but my 3D rant can be saved for another time. I can’t really complain about anything with this movie, it was just pure shamelessly sexy and violent fun. There’s a wet t-shirt contest that becomes a bloodbath? That says masterpiece to me. You bet your ass I’ll be first in line for the sequel. On a side note, is it bad that I recognized Gianna Michaels in her cameo as a topless parasailer BEFORE we saw her face?

2. Never Sleep Again For Nightmare on Elm Street fans, it’s an 8 hour geek-gasm. ‘Nuff said.

Documentaries about certain horror franchises have become rather popular lately. Friday the 13th, Psycho, and Halloween have gotten this treatment, and Best Worst Movie, about Troll 2, was a surprise theatrical hit this year. Never Sleep Again, however, will forever be the measuring stick all other horror docs are compared to. Clocking in at 4 hours long, yes I said 4 HOURS LONG, this leaves absolutely no stone unturned in its exhaustive look at the Nightmare on Elm Street phenomenon. Every tiny aspect of the series is examined from the origins of the original story, to the motivations behind the sequels, to a wealth of behind the scenes stories and footage. We hear the makers of part 2 finally admit to all the homoerotic subtext. We see Robert Englund on the set of part 5 bitching out the crew. We hear people wax philosophical about Freddy’s resurrection via flaming dog piss. I mean, it is truly all inclusive. With the notable exceptions of Johnny Depp and Patricia Arquette, nearly everyone remotely involved is interviewed. Sure, you expect Englund, Craven, and Lagencamp, but the freakin’ hall monitor with one line from part one? Screenwriters who had their scripts rejected? Dokken? Yep, they’re all here. This would have been more than enough, but it comes with another 4 hours of bonus materials. That’s 8 hours of NOES goodness. This was a straight to dvd release, and may be hard to find in stores, but if you are in any way a Freddy fan, or a horror fan at all, you owe it to yourself to track it down.

And the winner is………………….

1. Hatchet 2 – A love letter to horror fans. The best movie this year that NOONE SAW!

I’m not going to rant about how the first unrated horror film to get a major release since the mid 80’s could have been a turning point in cinematic history had anyone gone out to support it. Ok, maybe a little. I drove 2 hours to see it, and my 2 friends and I were the only people in the whole theater. Where was the horror community? It was opening night for a lot of local haunted attractions, so if you were working there, I’m not talking about you. I also understand that it was only in select areas, so if you live nowhere close to one of the 60 theaters showing it, you have an excuse. Anyone within driving distance, however, specifically the so called thriving horror community in Atlanta, has no excuse. The next time you want to bitch about PG-13 horror having no balls or about how everything is a remake, I don’t want to hear it. You could have helped make a difference. Oh well, you all missed out. Sorry, I’ll step off my soapbox now.

Even if this movie had been terrible, I would have loved it just for giving the finger to the MPAA, but Hatchet 2 is quite possibly the greatest pure slasher film ever released. I was not a huge fan of the first Hatchet. The old school-ness of it was enjoyable, but the jokey tone of the film made it more parody than homage. Part 2 fixes this problem. Sure there is some funny dialogue between characters, but it’s not Naked Gun level like some of part 1. Much of the humor comes in the form of inside jokes for the hardcore horror fan, from Leslie Vernon references to a Lloyd Kaufman appearance. The rest of the humor comes from the over the top violence, but I’ll get to that later. The 3 leads all show why they are deserving horror icons. Danielle Harris, mark my words, will be this decade’s biggest scream queen. The underrated and always entertaining Tony Todd as Rev. Zombie chews scenery like no other. His menacing voice makes me wonder why he isn’t tapped for more voiceover work. Personally, after Candyman and now this, I think Mr. Todd should be named mayor of New Orleans NOW! Kane Hodder plays a hulking killer as only he can as Victor Crowley, but he also takes off the makeup to play Victor’s father. I never thought I’d ever say these words, but this movie has Kane Hodder in a sex scene. Go back and read that again. It’s one of 2 sex scenes in the movie. The other involves a little mid-coital decapitation, which brings me to the real selling point, the gore. The copious gore. The glorious, insane, visceral, hilarious, unapologetic gore! Victor cuts a man’s head in half. Why is that a highlight you may ask? Well, because he does it with about 40 whacks with the BLUNT END of the hatchet. There is a death by gas-powered belt sander. There is a double crotch to head bisecting with the biggest chainsaw in cinema history. That’s just the tip of the iceberg folks, but I don’t want to spoil any of the other surprises. All in all, this is a great flick, and my favorite of the year, because it is obvious that director Adam Green knows how to please hardcore horror fans because he is one. When Victor Crowley and Rev. Zombie have their fight scene, my inner horror fanboy couldn’t help saying “Holy shit, its Jason vs Candyman! I have a feeling Green said the same while filming it. Go buy this on DVD February 1st, it is required viewing.

So there you have it folks, my look back at horror in 2010. Do you agree with my list? Of course you don’t! I’ve looked at dozens of top 10’s for last year, and not a one is the same. What do you think was the best of 2010? Comment and let me know. In conclusion, I just wanna say Happy New Year you sick freaks. Here’s to 2011, and all the fear, blood, and guts it can throw at us.

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.

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.

Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name.

My name is Nathan, and I’m a horror movie addict. OK, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me tell you about myself and this blog you’ve stumbled upon. I am an unabashed horror movie geek. I’m “that guy.” You know, the one my friends go to for recommendations or to borrow something for their blood and guts fix. During my years in film school and working in various video stores, I’ve seen just about everything the horror genre has to offer. I’ve decided to start this site because I love to talk about my passion, and writing short reviews on facebook just doesn’t cut it anymore. That being said, here’s an idea of what you’re getting yourself into…

Things to expect from this blog

  1. I am an everyman fan. I’m not an industry insider. I don’t get advance press screenings, get invited to all the exclusive film festivals, or get sent screeners of upcoming movies (although I wouldn’t complain at all…hint hint.) I hate when critics write a great review of the latest indie opus, but oh by the way, it will be 2 years before you MIGHT get to see it. Anything I review, you could track down too.
  2. I do have a degree in film studies, so I may slip into talking about mise en scene or auteur theory or some other pretentious film school bullshit. If I do, just slap me.
  3. My language may get colorful at times.
  4. I will be wordy. As I said, until now, my movie reviews have been limited to 420 characters. Now I can rant about movies, and as many of you know, get me talking about movies and sometimes it’s hard to get me to shut up.
  5. My reviews of new releases may be a couple of weeks behind. As of the start of 2011, and hence the beginning of this blog, I am unemployed. Therefore, I wait for much of the theatrical fare to hit the discount theaters.
  6. I will state the good things about movies I hate and address the faults of movies I love. No movie is flawless, nor is any movie without a single redeeming quality. Except maybe Twilight.
  7. I will bash Twilight every chance I get. I will bash M. Night Shamalamadingdong every chance I get also.
  8. I will NOT be discussing the latest word to come down the rumor mill. I could care less who is rumored to be directing the remake of whatever reportedly starring whoever. You want the latest whisperings amongst the fanboys, there are plenty of sites for that.
  9. If I know you in real life, I might talk about you on the blog. Just so you know.
  10. I think everyone is entitled to my opinion.

Basically, I’m just here to talk about horror and have a good time. I hope you enjoy reading it too. Feel free to give me feedback. If there’s something you want me to write about, tell me. I want this blog to be as interactive as possible. So stick around. Sit a spell. Actually, to tell you the truth, that door behind you is locked. You ain’t going anywhere…

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