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Dread Central's Best & Worst of 2009





The Foywonder's Picks

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2009

5) Zombieland - I don't care what any of my fellow Dread Central colleagues say; I thoroughly enjoyed Zombieland. I liked the characters, I laughed frequently, and the surprise cameo was one of the funniest five-minute sequences of the entire year. You can question the faulty logic of firing up that amusement park at the end or complain that it doesn't have enough zombies or argue that it pales in comparison to Shaun of the Dead or bemoan that the lead guy is doing a bad Michael Cera impression - so what? It's light and breezy, like hanging out with some of your friends for an hour and a half. Neither filling nor nutritious, Zombieland is just a tasty little snack to be momentarily enjoyed - much like the Twinkie Woody Harrelson so desperately seeks.

4) Pontypool - Numerous critics have described Pontypool as "a thinking person's zombie flick." That is an apt description. I would also add riveting and wonderfully weird. The idea of a word virus turning people into violent zombies is unquestionably the most original horror idea of the past year - perhaps the past several years. Even if I didn't fully understand everything that was going on, given the Twilight Zone-ish nature of the story, all of the answers were never meant to be revealed. I sat spellbound, hanging on every word out of Stephen McHattie's mouth with no idea where this one was going. With shades of Orson Welles' production of War of the Worlds, more chills were generated by the harrowing radio reports of events I couldn't see than by the copious amounts of special effects and blood & guts that a majority of this past year's horror releases had to offer.

Orphan Review3) Orphan - Orphan was probably the biggest surprise of the year for me. Every trailer and TV spot did little to impress me; my going to see it at all stemmed more out of my sense of obligation to the site. Thank goodness I did because watching Isabelle Fuhrman vamp it up as that diabolical little Russian munchkin totally fucking with her adopted family was one of the best times I had at a movie all year. I have never heard an audience cheer that loudly at the sight of a small child getting punched in the face. One could easily pick apart the plot holes and questionable behavior on the part of many of the people around her, or you could just sit back and enjoy this movie as it constantly teeters between being very well made and total camp with just a tinge of sleaze.

2) Trick 'r Treat - Unlike Paranormal Activity, this was the much hyped horror film of the year that lived up to its hype. Denying Trick 'r Treat the theatrical release it deserved was nothing short of a criminal act. So much has already been said by so many about what makes it great that I am just going to say Trick 'r Treat perhaps best captures the spirit of what makes Halloween such a fun holiday.

1) End of the Line - I could have given Trick 'r Treat the #1 slot since it probably is my favorite horror movie of the past year. But since TrT has already received more than its fair share of praise, I thought I would give my top slot to a smaller movie that flew in somewhat under the radar and never quite got the attention it richly deserved: Maurice Devereaux's End of the Line. A bunch of everyday citizens on a subway find themselves stranded when the power goes out. A good number of the passengers are members of a religious cult that receive pager messages telling them that Armageddon is at hand and they need to use their crucifix daggers to kill the other riders in order to save their souls from the evil occurring upside. But is it really Judgment Day, or are these folks just insane doomsday cultists? Not a perfect movie - the opening few minutes are a bit shaky - and not quite on the level of, say, Frailty either, but End of the Line is one of the eeriest and most unnerving horror offerings of '09. I only watched it once, months ago, and it has stuck with me ever since. That is the true testament of a disturbing horror movie.

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2009

5) The Twilight Saga: New Moon - I didn't hate the first Twilight flick. I didn't think it was very good, but I didn't think it was the death of cinema some others have proclaimed it to be. If nothing else, the first film in "The Twilight Saga" didn't feel the need to drag itself out for more than two hours without ever telling anything that resembled a complete story. New Moon is 130 boring minutes of suffocating soap opera melodramatics built around two of the most insufferable protagonists in recent screen memory. Edward Cullen (AKA Count Mopes-A-Lot) is like Louis from Interview with the Vampire mixed with Dylan McKay from "Beverly Hills 90210" if he only fed on the blood of manic depressives. Bella Swan could very well be the worst female role model for young girls out there right now. Bella constantly needs a man to come to her rescue because she is incapable of doing anything to defend herself. When Edward decides to end their relationship for her own good, her reaction is collapse right there in the woods and remain seemingly catatonic until a police posse finds her. The break-up causes her to become a shell of a human being only brought to life by living dangerously. She constantly cockteases the nice underwearwolf, and when she talks of her reasons for liking him at all, it has more to do with how he makes her feel sane. Yeah, I think if I had a daughter, I'd rather her idolize Paris Hilton than Bella Swan.

4) The Stepfather - From JS Cardone, the man that gave us The Forsaken, The Covenant, and the remake of Prom Night, comes about as worthless a Hollywood remake as you will ever see. Inferior to the original on every conceivable level, Cardone's screenplay for The Stepfather remake eliminates everything that worked the first time in favor of a vapid hybrid of a Lifetime Network evil husband flick and Disturbia. Might as well have retitled this superficial remake Disturbia for Dummies. Dylan Walsh is no Terry O'Quinn, and more emphasis was clearly placed on showcasing the beach bodies of the two young leads than ever went into crafting an intense thriller. The only good thing about The Stepfather is Amber Heard in a bikini in nearly every scene she's in. Of course, if that's all you're interested in, why not just watch The Informers instead and see her naked in nearly every scene she's in? Even in that respect there is no justifying the existence of this worthless remake.

Whiteout Review3) Whiteout - Never quite making up its mind whether it wants to be a serial killer chiller, the most boring episode of "CSI: Antarctica" ever, or a really lame South Pole version of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Whiteout would make a perfect companion piece to X-Files: I Want To Believe - both are talky, boring, suspense-free murder investigation movies set against the backdrop of snowy terrain. A whiteout is a severe snowstorm with 100-mile-per-hour winds that kick up so much snow you can't even see six inches in front of your face; those weather conditions are recreated on film in an action sequence involving three characters all clad in identical hooded winter coats. Now try to imagine how watching such an action sequence play out might prove problematic to the viewer.

2) Transylmania - Too much of my life has been wasted on this film already so I'm just going to quote directly from my review: I went into Transylmania with the lowest of expectations and quickly came to realize I had not set the bar nearly low enough. I have always said the two worst kinds of bad movies are unfunny comedies and films that are boring; Transylmania pulls off the dreaded double whammy. The first time I felt compelled to check my watch to see how much longer it had to go, I was mortified to realize that only fifteen minutes had transpired; sitting there stone-faced as irritating people engaged in one flat joke after another, I would have sworn at least twice that amount of time had passed. That writers Patrick Casey and Worm Miller give us a megalomaniacal midget mad scientist in a robotic ghost costume kidnapping women to create a new Frankenstein body for his hunchback daughter and still fail to come up with a single funny thing for him to say or do is symptomatic of how their script fails to capitalize on any of the fantastical elements provided by the Transylvanian setting. Transylmania is to comedy what gas station hot dogs are to nutrition.

1) Train - Train is a vile film in addition to being boring and insulting to the intelligence. Many a horror fan gets defensive over the use of the term "torture porn". Train is the very definition of "torture porn". This execrable movie is a pointless exercise in seeing characters you're given no reason to care about rendered helpless and getting eviscerated while screaming or crying. No suspense or villains you fear, not even a sense of macabre fun or semblance of artistic merit that in some little way attempts to justify the inhumanity. I can appreciate a good bloody kill, but this is nothing more than 90 minutes of mean-spirited sadism for sadism's sake. Yet, as willing as Train is to wallow in the depths of depravity, it suddenly pulls back when it dares to introduce rape into the mix. This is a movie where two guys bash another guy's face to a bloody pulp with brass knuckles and then tag team piss in his open facial wounds, a movie where a guy strung up with spikes through his wrists still thrashes about a little too much so they slice his back open with a knife and break his spine with a hammer and chisel; why is showing us violent gang rape the line they wouldn't cross? Because Train knows it's just a hollow, chickenshit piece of torture porn.

[Andrew Kasch]

[Matt Fini]

[Morgan Elektra]

[Nomad]

[The Buz]

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Matt Serafini's picture

Thanks El Regio, that was definitely one of the most enjoyable films I've seen in a while.

I've been tracking down movies since I saw the thing in July.


Submitted by Matt Serafini on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 3:14pm.
El Regio Dude's picture

Yeah, after watching it, i want desperately to take
a look on every movie that appears there.
That movie it´s a must see!

"Santo llamando a Blue Demon..."


Submitted by El Regio Dude on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 4:31pm.
frank_dracman's picture

Watchmen is hands down my favorite movie of the year. Not horror movie, that belongs to Drag Me To Hell.


Submitted by frank_dracman on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 12:09pm.
DavidFullam's picture

You're not Andrew Kasch. Andrew Kasch would have named Funny Games in all the top spots. It breaks the 4th wall you know.


Submitted by DavidFullam on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 12:10pm.
Foywonder's picture

Okay, I'll be the one to ask. Watchmen? I know we tend to cross genres a little but how exactly does Watchmen make it onto a horror list?


Submitted by Foywonder on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 11:38am.
Terminal's picture

I'm also wondering why District 9 made it on some lists. It's clearly science fiction. I also disagree it's a horror/sci-fi hybrid.

Oh well.


Submitted by Terminal on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 10:14pm.
RingoJ's picture

District 9 makes sense, because it at least had the whole transformation thing going on, but I also don't understand the inclusion of Watchmen on so many lists.


Submitted by RingoJ on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 10:28pm.
Terminal's picture

Sure it had the transformation bit but that wasn't specifically horror oriented. The film is clearly science fiction based around themes not related to the genre. District 9 shouldn't even be on a horror list.

Watchmen is a puzzler as well. It's a fantasy sure but it's a superhero movie first and foremost. It can't possibly be on a list of best horror movies. There must have been more horror movies this year that warranted a spot on Morgan Elektra's list.

Try harder next time.


Submitted by Terminal on Wed, 01/06/2010 - 2:59am.
Morgan Elektra's picture

I'd disagree that Watchmen is a superhero movie "first and foremost". For one, I consider "superhero" to be a sub-genre of fantasy the same way I consider "zombie" to be a subgenre of horror. Only superhero would be a much broader subgenre, because it would include movies like My Super Ex-Girlfriend... which in my mind is very, very different than Watchmen.

Watchmen was very dark, thematically and tonally. The main story revolves around a man who is plotting to murder thousands of people in order to, in his estimation, better the world. He's willing to kill his own friends in order to do so. It explores, even embraces, the idea that people are hideously flawed and often terribly brutal and awful... but possibly worth saving.

Yes, there are superheroes in it, and what Ozymandius does is more mass murder than serial killing but it reminded me more of Seven than anything else.

Classifying genre can be a slippery thing, and definition often changes from one person to the next... but I honestly didn't consider this as anything of a stretch, and it was one of the best movies I saw this year, so I thought it deserved a place.


Submitted by Morgan Elektra on Wed, 01/06/2010 - 12:02pm.
Terminal's picture

Boy that's a lot of rationalizing Morgan.

"what Ozymandius does is more mass murder than serial killing but it reminded me more of Seven than anything else."

Are you kidding me? Well you'd be the first person I've read say that, that's for sure.

"Classifying genre can be a slippery thing, and definition often changes from one person to the next..."

You're right. I've heard people describe "Speed" as science fiction.

"but I honestly didn't consider this as anything of a stretch, and it was one of the best movies I saw this year, so I thought it deserved a place."

But I have to keep asking: It may be the best movie you saw this year, but is it a horror film?

You have to admit that you're pretty much stretching and reaching for reasons for the inclusion. If you think about it it seems more like a desperate place holder. Sorry but it's the truth.

At the end of the day everyone but you seems to know what kind of movie Watchmen is. Hell Star Trek had themes of Genocide, had some mean creatures and aliens too, so does that mean it should be on the list too?

But hey whatever helps.


Submitted by Terminal on Wed, 01/06/2010 - 7:52pm.
Morgan Elektra's picture

No, it's not a horror film. I'm pretty sure I said already that I consider it a dark fantasy film. I don't see you complaining about me including Ink on my list, which is also a dark fantasy film.

As for my being the only person that was reminded of Seven, that may well be. Doesn't mean it's not true. Tonally, Watchmen is very bleak and dark, but with that same sliver of hope. The line regarding the Ernest Hemingway quote that is the closing line of Seven ("Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for." I agree with the second part) came very much to my mind when I saw Watchmen. It very nearly perfectly summed up what it made me think of and how it made me feel.

Desperate place holder? Last year, I included The Dark Knight on my list of bests. It was also an honorable mention on Buz's list. The Incredible Hulk got an honorable mention on Debi's list. Uncle Creepy included Hellboy II: The Golden Army on his list, and Andrew gave it an honorable mention.

In 2007 Foy included Dragon Wars on his best list. Plagiarize mentioned The Invasion on his worst list that year, as did Andrew. Nomad gave Sunshine a nod on his best, and so did Debi. Ghost Rider made Buz's worst. So, if I'm stretching by including a film that's not strictly horror (which I said in my first post), there seems to be some decent precedent for my doing so because none of those picks raised a comment from anyone before.


Submitted by Morgan Elektra on Thu, 01/07/2010 - 1:25am.
NO U BUTTFACE
RingoJ's picture

NO U BUTTFACE


Submitted by RingoJ on Wed, 01/06/2010 - 6:52am.
Styling Shatner's picture

Well, I remember that in 2008, The Dark Knight was at least an honorable mention on one or two lists, so there's that.

Anyhow, I'd also love to see The Foycast return; if the next episode is about the worst direct to DVD movies in 2009, that would be even better, as the episodes talking about the worst in 2007 and 2008 were pretty great.


Submitted by Styling Shatner on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 5:57pm.
moderator We're recording a new
Steve Barton's picture

We're recording a new Foycast this week. Not to worry!


Submitted by Steve Barton on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 6:36pm.
Styling Shatner's picture

Awesome. That is good to hear.

As for last year's Friday the 13th, I saw it at its midnight debut and while I knew it wasn't the same as the other flicks in the franchise, I ended up enjoying it, but it was mainly due to by far the rowdiest theatre crowd I've ever been a part of. They were really into the film and were flipping their shit at the most basic of scares. But, then I listened to the Dinner for Fiends podcast about the movie and agreed with most of it and then I realized that I should never watch the movie ever again as if I did, it'd be ruined and the fun I had that night would be ruined too.


Submitted by Styling Shatner on Tue, 01/05/2010 - 12:38pm.
LifeMi's picture

Great. Can't wait to hear a new Foycast.


Submitted by LifeMi on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 9:24pm.
Morgan Elektra's picture

I'd say we cover horror and dark fantasy, and I consider Watchmen dark fantasy. It certainly doesn't fit well, in my mind, into any other genre. What genre would you consider it?


Submitted by Morgan Elektra on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 1:36pm.

I'd call it a superhero film.

For that matter, Moon is a hard sci-fi film, and whoever described it as a horror hybrid provided the most hilarious bit of fake rationalization on this list.


Submitted by Raygun on Tue, 01/05/2010 - 11:11am.
moderator Glad I could inject some
Debi Moore's picture

Glad I could inject some humor into your day since you obviously are starving for it.

As for Moon not being a horror film, without giving too much away for those who haven't watched it, I see it as a spin on the Frankenstein tale with Lunar Industries standing in for the good doctor and Sam, of course, representing the Monster. The whole situation is beyond horrific. I'd say that more than qualifies it for our lists.


Submitted by Debi Moore on Tue, 01/05/2010 - 1:20pm.

And I see a film that deals with the moral issues of very real science, a film that never plays the situation in a horrific way, but rather deals with it in a thoughtful (and sometimes poignantly sad) manner that explores ideas.

The director himself has described it as hard sci-fi. No less esteemed a critic than Roger Ebert has described it as hard sci-fi. There's no hybridization here (whereas something like Alien is clearly a hybrid, one that leans toward horror, in fact) and even on an atmospheric level, it stays far away from horror and traffics instead in provocative sci-fi ideas based in reality (it's no surprise that Duncan Jones consulted with NASA). On an emotional level, it plays the situation for loneliness and sadness, more than anything else.

A Frankenstein tale? Not really. A tale of hard science and morals with an uplifting ending? Yep. You're spackling and rationalizing and misrepresenting.

Moon is a terrific film, no doubt. But it isn't remotely a horror film. Its ancestors are things like 2001, Silent Running and the works of Robert Heinlein, not Alien or Event Horizon. Classifying it as a horror hybrid would seem to devalue the fact that it's a sterling example of the type of hard science fiction that is all too rare in cinema these days.


Submitted by Raygun on Tue, 01/05/2010 - 2:54pm.
moderator You're certainly entitled to
Debi Moore's picture

You're certainly entitled to your opinion, but I still see it as a mixture of sci-fi and horror. Sure, it's more the former than the latter, but does that mean it's not worthy of mention on Dread Central? I think our readers are savvy enough to appreciate it when we expose them to things that might not be 100% pure horror but have ties to the genre. Somehow I don't think Duncan Jones would mind its inclusion on my list considering he gave interviews to *gasp* horror sites like B-D to help promote the film. And since when are loneliness and sadness not permitted to be components of a horror film? Not only that, but if I were to wake up and find that I'm a clone, I'd be pretty horrified at the situation.

From your comments, you're as bad as those filmmakers who refuse to concede their films have any horror elements, preferring to call them "supernatural thrillers" or some other nonsense. Injecting a bit of horror into "hard sci-fi" is hardly a detriment to a film -- on the contrary, to me, it just makes it even better.

And I still feel my Frankenstein analogy holds up. What else would you call Lunar Industries' actions other than playing god? And they did it for profit no less, even worse than what Victor did. They are the true monsters of the piece.


Submitted by Debi Moore on Tue, 01/05/2010 - 3:32pm.

Wow, so you're seriously comparing my notion that a science fiction film that was premiered to an audience of scientists and NASA workers isn't a horror film to that of a studio denying that a film a la The Sixth Sense has nothing to do with horror?

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. After your simplistic Frankenstein comparison, it's fairly clear that you're not well-versed at making analogies.

That's marvelous that you see horror in a film that decidedly contains none. Congratulations, you are the only reviewer on the planet to call Moon a sci-fi horror hybrid (even Bloody Disgusting, who clearly participated in a round-table interview, declare it "thinking man's science fiction"). And you're completely entitled to your opinion as well, as misguided and foolish as it may be.

Maybe next year you can put 2001 on your list as a latecomer. After all, it's as much a horror film as Moon or Watchmen. (g)

I think the real truth here is that you didn't see that many great horror films in 2009, so you decided to include a film that was 100% non-horror and come up with a rather goofy excuse. Good for you, but it's still bullshit. You can ramble on about how some of its core ideas are horrific until the cows come home, but the fact is that not one scene in the film is played horrifically.

Seriously, if you're going to review non-horror films (Moon, District 9, Terminator: Salvation, Watchmen, etc.) maybe you should think about changing your name to Film Central.


Submitted by Raygun on Wed, 01/06/2010 - 2:53am.
moderator Are you privy to some sort
Debi Moore's picture

Are you privy to some sort of mission statement on behalf of Dread Central that says we absolutely, positively refuse to ever, under any circumstances, stray from covering something that is not 100% pure, unadulterated horror? Because, if so, then you have every right to give us shit for including films like D9, Moon, T:S, etc., in our coverage. On the other hand, if you had been paying even the slightest bit of attention to what our editor-in-chief and the rest of the staff have said over and over again, you'd realize that we do sometimes report on, review, and yes, even include on our year-end lists, those films that we see as having ties to the genre in one way or another even if they are tinged with (or even contain primarily) sci-fi elements, superheroes, etc., and shut the fuck up already.


Submitted by Debi Moore on Wed, 01/06/2010 - 1:13pm.
moderator David. David. David. If only
Steve Barton's picture

David. David. David. If only you were writing screenplays that portrayed such passion, vigor, and theatrics.


Submitted by Steve Barton on Wed, 01/06/2010 - 5:49am.

Do you think I'm David Koepp? If I was, I wouldn't have this crappy office job.


Submitted by Raygun on Wed, 01/06/2010 - 12:26pm.
Floydian Trip's picture

Kudos to the ladies for mentioning The Burrowers. What? Is it considered a chick flick?


Submitted by Floydian Trip on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 9:52am.
moderator I guess great minds just
Debi Moore's picture

I guess great minds just think alike, and in this case they happen to be female! :)


Submitted by Debi Moore on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 1:50pm.
Floydian Trip's picture

I knew you would mention it Debi but I didn't think Morgan would too but I've never seen her mention it before. It's better than PA that's for sure. Just a how to on making a monster movie imo.


Submitted by Floydian Trip on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 1:56pm.
Floydian Trip's picture

Debi and Morgan win!


Submitted by Floydian Trip on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 4:09pm.
Terminal's picture

One thing I did like about it was the closing credits. Loved that whole comeuppance angle in the end.


Submitted by Terminal on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 6:51am.

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