In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Best & Worst Horror of 2007

The end of the year is a time for reflection and with it brings a sea of ‘Best of’ lists. Who am I to break from convention? Here, in no particular order, are my thoughts on the best and worst of the genre this year.

El Orfanato (The Orphanage)
Spain, Dir: Juan Antonio Bayona

I was pleased to have caught this at the Toronto film festival this year. The atmosphere built in this film is extremely effective. Bayona should be proud of his first turn behind the camera because he does some really creative stuff, crafting some great jump scares. Now, because Guillermo del Toro produced this you can make easy comparisons to his 2001 film The Devil’s Backbone, but The Orphanage focuses more on the adults (namely the mother figure) rather than the children. It’s a bit slow, but the film spikes enough to have you on edge during those long stretches.

Spain, Dir: Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza

I had heard good things about this film and I wasn’t disappointed. It is all shot Blair Witch style with a handheld camera and even though there is a lot of shaky cam technique, it is still very well executed. The filmmakers are always careful to show you what you need to see. There are so many great shots in this movie. I’ve heard people harping on the performances, saying they are over-the-top. I don’t know. They seemed pretty natural to me. How else would you react in a situation like that? It’s a really fun, yet visceral experience that unfortunately the majority of people won’t get to see because the American remake (with Jennifer Carpenter and Jay Hernandez) is already underway for release in 2008.

Ils (Them)
France, Dir: David Moreau, Xavier Palud

This is another title that got almost no theatrical release here and that’s a shame because it’s one of my current favourites. Like High Tension and The Descent before it, this was a film that I absolutely MADE people watch. It’s a perfect example of smart, simple and tight filmmaking. Ils is an outstanding little French home invasion thriller with excellent sound design – think High Tension without the gore and audience splitting ending.

30 Days Of Night
USA, Dir: David Slade

Considering Ghost House Pictures shoddy record (The Boogeyman, The Messengers), I was almost shocked with how well this turned out. They totally captured the visual style of the graphic novel, which was of paramount importance to me. Despite some annoying shaky-cam which I think may have been due to the director just not being comfortable shooting action (his debut was the phenomenal Hard Candy which was really just two people in a house), I think Days was an overall success. I also give mad props to Raimi & Co for going for the R and playing the subject material completely straight.

Faet (Alone)
Thailand, Dir: Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom

Alone was by and large the best film I saw at this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival. The directors somehow managed to improve on their remarkable debut Shutter. I’d totally rank this up there with the best Asian horror has to offer. It is not only scary as hell, but also has a clear and well-paced narrative – something missing from at lot of its peers. There has been a surge of good Thai films lately. Monthon Arayangkoon’s The Victim is one I’ve heard good things about and am still trying to track down.

Honourable Mentions:

George A. Romero's Diary Of The Dead.
Romero’s newest zombie opus is tons of fun. This would have made my top five if it hadn’t been trumped by REC, which has not only the same sub genre, but also narrative format.

A l'interieur (Inside)
Another French home invasion thriller (sensing a trend here?) that would have surely been at the top of my list if it weren’t for that MADDENING last ten minutes.

Both Mulberry Street and P2 were a lot better than I was expecting them to be, but the biggest surprise was probably Stuart Gordon’s new film Stuck. He deserves praise for being able to effortlessly stretch the scant material to feature length. It’s tight, bloody and the two leads (Stephen Rea and Mena Suvari) are totally believable.

As for the worst, that’s a tougher one. Generally, if I think I’m going to hate a movie, I tend just not to see it. I did catch some stinkers though. Rise: Blood Hunter was pretty bad. So was Skinwalkers. But the dishonour of worst horror movie of 2007 goes to Captivity. It was predictable, repulsive and just plain empty. I still have no idea how Elisha Cuthbert got mixed up in this dreck. This movie was so bad; I actually swore off the medium that weekend and caught up on my reading. Captivity made the Saw films looks like Citizen Kane by comparison. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

So, that’s it for the 2007 wrap-up. Here’s to a blood soaked 2008!

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