Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Best and Worst Horror Films of 2008

Was 2008 a good year for horror? Some people might argue that the deluge of PG-13 “bubblegum horror” (Prom Night remake, Twilight, The Haunting of Molly Hartley, etc.) damaged horror’s reputation, but the fact can’t be denied that there were also some mighty fine horror movies released this year that scared the pants off people.

Whether you think 2008 was a good or bad year for horror, I’ve compiled my picks for the best and worst horror films of 2008.

(I’ve tried to be accurate with release dates, but with some films it’s a slippery slope when trying to pin down an exact release date (limited theatrical vs. DVD release, foreign releasing, etc.), so please give me some wiggle room…I'm only trying to showcase the very best (and worst) films that caught my eye this year.)


10.) The Strangers – One of the only movies that genuinely creeped me out this year! Its subtle horror gets under your skin and I love the creepy music that was used. The first appearance of one of the villains in the house (oh, so subtle) had me holding on to the arms of my chair for dear life! A tension-filled, expertly filmed horror movie.

9.) Brutal Massacre – This is just a plain hilarious farce on horror filmmaking. The dead-pan, dry humor had me rolling on the floor, along with the situations the characters found themselves in. The actors were pitch-perfect, including Gunnar Hansen who stole the show as a creepy local.

8.) Re-Cycle – A whimsical, visually-stimulating piece of fantasy-horror cinema from the Pang Brothers. Re-Cycle is absolutely stunning to look at, but it also features an engaging, mysterious and touching storyline. I also love how it skewers the typical Asian horror film in its opening scenes, but it quickly moves into its fantastic fantasy world filled with zombies, abortion babies, ghosts and crumbling, abandoned cities.

7.) Poultrygeist – No movie this year has made me simultaneously laugh and gag as much as Poultrygeist. It’s ultra-low brow humor, musical numbers, copious gore, offensiveness and social commentary made it one of the most entertaining horror films of the year. I’m not even a big fan of Troma films and I think this is one of their best ever! This is a fowl, gross-out movie that super-sizes the fun and comes with an extra side of AWESOME!

6.) Cloverfield – The most scary monster movie of the year, period. Cloverfield perfectly captures the immediacy, confusion and emotion of disaster and really gives us a taste of what have must have been like on 9/11 and other major, big-city catastrophes. This is the one film of 2008 that utilizes the hand-held, “shaky cam” technique the best and in a way that makes the most sense. The monster and its mysterious appearance also adds to the fear factor.

5.) The Orphanage – Haunting, unsettling and heartbreaking best describe this beautifully scary film. If you haven’t seen it yet…do yourself a favor and see it now!

4.) The Signal – An intelligent, gritty, comedic love story peppered with intense bouts of gore. It has three separate “transmissions” (each directed by a different director) that each focus on a different character and carry a slightly different tone.

3.) Red Velvet – I saw this film at Fango in April and was blown away by its originality, horror-movie smarts and witty dialogue. It also boasts a killer creation of a horror movie killer…but is he/she real or just in the imagination of the storyteller? Hopefully more people will get to see it in 2009…I hear it already has a distribution deal!

2.) Let the Right One In – This movie is like an otherworldly, transcendent experience. After watching it you are changed and look at the world in a wholly different way. Everything from the stark atmosphere to the touching relationship between the two main characters to the bouts of violence we see entrances us and pulls us into the film and story even farther.

1.) Midnight Movie – Both an homage to old “midnight movies” (and horror movies in general) and an entirely original storyline about a killer in a film that can move beyond his celluloid prison and stalk and kill the patrons of an old movie theater. Instead of being a standard hack ‘n’ slash movie, there is a great supernatural twist to the proceedings that just adds so much! Everything from the production values to the acting and the gore is top notch and my eyes were glued to the screen for the film’s entirety. Not to mention that the film creates an iconic killer that could stand up there with Leatherface, Freddy, Jason or Michael!  Ever since I saw this movie it has been on my mind and I can’t wait until more people are able to view it when it hits DVD in January.


10.) Automaton Transfusion – With the exception of its gore, I felt that this indie film did everything wrong. Huge inconsistencies, big plot holes, unbelievable circumstances and overuse of the shaky cam irked me enough to include it in my worst of. Plus, the fact that it was so over-hyped but failed to deliver anything new, different or entertaining to the zombie genre really pissed me off.

9.) Diary of the Dead – Heavy-handed social commentary and a lame-o storyline with detestable characters really killed this for me. Incredibly boring with social commentary about as fresh as the rotting corpses surrounding the characters.

8.)  Killer Pad – Feel like torturing someone? Look no further than Robert Englund’s return to directing, Killer Pad. It tries for Dude, Where’s My Car humor, but fails miserably. It is an embarrassing film to watch knowing Mr. Englund was involved, especially with the bad 13-year-old-type dialogue that this turkey is stuffed with, not to mention the unlikable characters, plot holes and the sheer stupidity of the script. After this movie, I might be convinced that Englund should stick to acting…

7.) Pathology – Ok, so I wasn’t expecting much from the writers of Crank, but c’mon! What ever happened to believability in a flick?! This film shows how a regular good guy can turn tail and become a murdering, adulterous druggie, throwing his whole life and future career away. Why, you ask? Because someone triple dog dared him, that’s why! Besides the ridiculously ludicrous plot, it has bad acting (does actor Milo Ventimiglia seriously only have one expression?), little gore and horrible logic. Plus, it lacks the killer autopsy scenes I was expecting to see…This one is definitely DOA.

6.) Asylum – This movie was so forgettable that I’ve had to look at my review TWICE to remind myself what the hell it was about. Stupid characters (each with a deep dark secret…how convenient) find out their dorm used to be some old mental hospital with a craaaaazy doctor performing experiments….yada yada YAWN. Not even the silliness of the doctor’s character can pull this one out of the dregs. Totally unmemorable except for the fact that it’s so forgettable.

5.) Catacombs – I love Shannyn Sossamon, but girl needs a new agent! She was in the awful One Missed Call remake (luckily I didn’t sit through that one) and this atrocious mess of a movie. This film had the coolest and creepiest setting ever (the cavernous catacombs of Paris, though it wasn’t even filmed there – strike one!), but quickly turned to merde with the most annoying characters ever created, a predictable plot, zero scares and a cop-out ending that makes everything you’ve just watched not count for anything. Shannyn, either stay outta the horror genre or land a gig for a film that’s actually good!

4.) Women’s Studies – This indie film, about murders in an all-girls college, had me intrigued when I first heard about it. Like Teeth, it seemed to promise strong feminist values, but, again like Teeth, it failed to deliver. Instead, I was forced to suffer through stereotypical depictions of  “feminists.” According to this movie, feminists are all man-hating, hippie lesbians. Add a plodding, boring storyline, more stupid characters and horrendous dialogue and all that you’ll be studying while watching this film is the ceiling…because the ceiling is far more interesting than Women’s Studies.

3.) Teeth – This movie makes me seething mad. I can’t believe how many people fell for its “feminist horror flick” shtick when it’s just the opposite. The storyline may be original, but the execution was all wrong and downright insulting, especially the end when marriage was presented as a “cure-all” for the main character’s “problem.” Teeth took what could have been a strong woman-centric message but instead decided to shove patriarchal values down our throats instead. Just pathetic. This movie can bite me.

2.) Lost Boys 2: The Tribe – This movie felt like an episode of The O.C. with rich kids in a California beach town driving their expensive motorcycles/cars and throwing massive parties while two outsiders, a brother and sister (though they seem creepily incestuous), try to fit in. Little sister falls for the “most popular guy” and big brother tries to stop this romance…oh, and there are vampires in there somewhere. A complete and utter letdown…I don’t even think your 12-year-old sister would be caught dead watching this.

1.) Return to Sleepaway Camp – I would rather gouge out my own eyes with rusty nails than see this insulting, unfunny and stupid sequel again! Fans of the original Sleepaway Camp films will be appalled at this Return, from the dialogue that sounds like it was written by a five-year-old that got dropped on its head to the horrible, unlikable characters and mediocre deaths. Even a last-minute (and last-ditch) appearance from Angela herself and cameos from actors from the original film couldn’t save me from the painful experience.

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