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.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Best & Worst Horror of 2009

Okay, it’s time for me to wrap up another year and rhyme off my faves of 2009. There were a good number of solid horror titles this year, but it was actually a little tough for me to find a full five that stood out from the pack. Here, in no particular order, are the ones I decided on.

[REC] 2
Spain, Dir: Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza

This ‘nuther go round with this talented Spanish duo did not disappoint me in the least. Picking up exactly where the first movie left off, it is almost like the two installments fuse together to create one tension-filled juggernaut. Like I said before, it would have been easy for the filmmakers to sit back and just rehash the first film, but instead they take it in a fantastic new direction, which somehow manages to make it even more relentless than its predecessor. There are rumours of a third part floating around and I’m all for it.

Drag Me To Hell
USA, Dir: Sam Raimi

No one should be surprised that this movie is on my top five. I think he really hit it out of the park with this. My apprehensions about this being mediocre fare (that the banal ad campaign didn’t help to alleviate) were shredded even before I got to the hilarious parking garage sequence early on. Alison Lohmann performed admirably, taking the kind of punishment usually only reserved for Bruce Campbell. The order of the day here was ‘fun’. You could tell that Raimi & Nicotero were just having buckets full of it here, and we were all fortunate to be along for the ride.

The Children
UK, Dir: Tom Shankland

I love this British flick from Tom Shankland. It’s atmospheric, it’s gory and it’s shot beautifully. I know a few people that shit on it because they say the adults’ reactions in the film aren’t believable, for which I’m afraid I have to call bullshit. I’ve been in enough checkout lines, restaurants and movie theatres to know that these days, parents let their kids get away with murder. Shankland just takes that fact to the next, literal level. The Children also had one of my favourite endings of the year, as well.

Orphan
USA, Dir: Jaume Collet-Serra
This was a shocking surprise, as it was another title hurt by its bland ad campaign. It is only through word-of-mouth that this film is finding new life on DVD. The plot sounds by the numbers, but the emphasis on family relationships, solid acting – I am still reeling from then ten-year-old Isabelle Fuhrmann’s performance in this – and well-placed gore make this a tour-de-force. There has been some debate about the big ‘twist’, but within the context of the film it completely sold me. It’s like something you’d see in an old giallo, so naturally I accepted it with open arms.

House Of The Devil
USA, Dir: Ti West

I wrestled with including this in my top five because I was only lukewarm toward the movie when I first saw it. I still think the ending is unsatisfying, but the overall atmosphere of the movie has stayed with me all these months. There have been many directors that have tried to emulate that late seventies/early eighties horror film aesthetic, but none have nailed it as well as Ti West does here. Everything is so pitch perfect; that I just had to forgive that its climax was not what I wanted it to be.

Honourable Mentions

It was a dead heat between Paranormal Activity and HOTD for the last spot in my top five. It is fitting that Paranormal got released around the tenth anniversary of The Blair Witch Project, as they do share many similarities that now include small budget/immense return. The simplicity of the piece is really its strength and in some ways it was even more powerful than BWP because it took place in the home rather than deep in a forest somewhere. Some people loved it, some hated it, but it was definitely one of the most talked about films of the year.

We all finally got to see the long-shelved Trick ‘r Treat this year, and I was relieved to find that it was a clever and entertaining Halloween yarn. With talent like Anna Paquin, Brian Cox and Dylan Baker in the film, I still say this should have gotten a wide release, but oh well. I love a good anthology and this can sit amongst the ones that came before it proudly.

Low-key, subdued and almost not even really a genre movie at all, The Eclipse totally took me by complete surprise when I saw it last July at Fantasia. It was just one of those this-looks-like-it-might-be-okay titles to fit into an open time slot, but this half relationship drama, half ghost story really affected me. And it had Aidan Quinn as a womanizing boozehound. Score!

Save for maybe King Of Kong, Best Worst Movie might be the most entertaining documentary I’ve ever seen. In it, we see former child actor turned director Michael Stephenson reminisce about his experiences working on the movie Troll 2 – widely considered to be the worst ever made – and delve into how it has become a cult phenomenon. Filled with colourful characters that you can’t believe are real – and they are, I’ve met George Hardy and he IS really like that – this doc had me smiling from ear to ear.

Lastly, I just want to give a shout out to Duncan Jones’ film Moon. A masterful piece of straight-up sci-fi that accomplishes what other films that cost twenty times more have not. Sam Rockwell deserves special praise after a remarkable job as the film’s protagonist.

Now for the stinkers. Well, I actually did a good job from staying away from the ones I knew I’d hate, so there really isn’t one I can single out as being horrible. That doesn’t mean there weren’t disappointments though. The Fourth Kind’s transparency was truly disheartening and Pandorum was a missed opportunity at possible greatness. On the video front, Laid To Rest was pretty bad, but at least its top-notch gore effects made it watchable. I guess if I HAD to choose, I’d have to go with Jake West’s Doghouse, only because I’d waited for so long, for something so flat and unremarkable.

So that was 2009. Come back tomorrow because I’ll be unveiling my top horror films of the decade to celebrate my 500th post! Picking the top five for 2009 was tough, but narrowing down my favourite horrors of the decade was excruciating. See ya then!

1 comment:

Chris Hallock said...

Good post!

Sadly, I have yet to see [REC]2 or The Orphan.

Caught HOTD for a second time last weekend and it held up for me even after only a two week span from seeing it the first time. What a great time at the movies!