Dread Central's Best & Worst of 2009
District 9 - Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi/action/horror hybrid delivered the kind of hardcore testosterone roller coaster ride we hadn’t seen since the glory days of John McTiernan. With story and special FX superior to that of Avatar (with 1/25th of the budget), we got the best of everything: amazing set-pieces, memorable characters, and Peter Jackson’s brand of madcap New Zealand splatter!
Trick ‘r Treat - I have had Michael Dougherty’s anthological masterpiece on previous year-end lists, but its official release (combined with an underwhelming year at the movies) more than warrants another mention. Y’know what would’ve been great? To see this in a crowded midnight movie theater. Thanks, Warner Bros!
Paranormal Activity - Detractors throw out the same “it was all hype” argument we heard when Blair Witch first rolled around, but to those of us who experienced it before the buzz, Paranormal Activity’s success was a long time coming. Oren Peli’s minimalist ghost classic used simplicity to tap into our most primal fears … and left us with many sleepless nights.
Martyrs - After enduring a wave of overly violent and stupid-as-hell French slashers (High Tension, Frontiers, etc.), I vowed never to step foot near Martyrs. Thankfully, I relented and found that there was much more to this demented film beyond the excessive gore and cruelty. Pascal Laugier takes the worn-out “torture porn” genre and adds a heavy dose of Carl Jung – turning a simple story of two tortured girls into a multi-layered exercise in metaphysical horror.
Dread - After years of disappointing movie adaptations, Dread expertly fleshes out Clive Barker's Books of Blood short to deliver the single best film version of a Barker story since Bernard Rose's Candyman. With strong performances, thick atmosphere, and genuinely disturbing character arcs, director Anthony DiBlasi's film packs an emotional wallop in a well crafted horror tale where the tension and gory set-pieces are actually earned. In an age full of cheap horror remakes and glorified music video directors, Dread shows what filmmakers can accomplish when they focus on real stories and characters over flash and shock value. If only they could all be this good...
Honorable Mention: Drag Me To Hell – As it turns out, we didn’t need Evil Dead 4. The car garage match between Alison Lohman and a toothless gypsy easily stands out as set-piece of the year.
Friday the 13th - Even with a badass Jason (courtesy of Derek Mears), the latest faux-gritty Platinum Dunes remake fails to deliver a single memorable moment or kill. Even Jason Takes Manhattan has more entertainment value.
The Unborn - Platinum Dunes makes the list yet again! What a shocker! We were all surprised when the producing team did something besides cash in on someone else’s work … but their attempt at a so-called “original” film was just as soulless and generic as their remakes.
The Uninvited - A Tale of Two Sisters is a cerebral foreign classic and one of the better ghost films of the last decade. The U.S. remake is a dumbed down Sixth Sense clone for teenage girls.
Wrong Turn 3 - Wrong Turn 2 was a DTV sequel that surprised everyone and turned out superior to the theatrical original. By comparison, Wrong Turn 3 plays like a DTV sequel produced 15 years ago. Take that, Cyborg 3!