Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2010
It's always interesting to look back over the past year and reflect on what constitutes the best and worst films of a particular time frame. While most of us tend to focus on the negative -- too many remakes/reimaginings, unnecessary and unsatisfactory sequels (or prequels), and an overall lack of respect for the moviegoing public exhibited by the studios and especially the MPAA -- I was surprised by how few truly low rated movies I had on my 2010 horror list. Out of a total of 80 films, a good quarter of them (21 to be exact) earned a rating of 4 knives or more with just 14 garnering below average scores (0 to 2 knives), which means a whopping 45 (or well over half) received an average or above average mark (2-1/2 to 3-1/2) from me. As a result, it was very easy to pick my Worst of 2010 and keep things to a minimum with a Bottom 5 and an equal number of Dishonorable Mentions, but when it came to honoring the Best, I had a much harder task. So, per usual, I'm bending the rules a bit, and while my Best of 2010 does have a Top 5, the Honorable Mentions simply had to be expanded to an even dozen.
Without further ado, let's get this show on the road so we can concentrate on what's upcoming in 2011!
1. Black Swan
I have only one word to describe Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan: breathtaking. It is hands down my favorite film of the year, and not just in the horror category although it certainly provides plenty of chills and squirm-inducing moments for genre fans who might be put off by its ballet milieu. The transformation scene is still burned into my brain and will surely remain there for months to come. Natalie Portman acts her ass off and proves she is a true "movie star". Black Swan, along with its cast and crew, deserves each and every accolade and award nomination it has received thus far with undoubtedly many more to come.
2. Piranha 3D
We've all heard the expression "from the sublime to the ridiculous", and what better to follow the transcendent beauty of Black Swan than the cheesy hilarity, over-the-top gore, and gratuitous nudity of Alexandre Aja's Piranha 3D! Was it technically among the "best" of 2010? Of course not, but it provided more fun and giddy good times than any of the other films on this list did, and it stands out as the first movie since 2004's Dawn of the Dead remake that got me to return to the theatre the same day for a repeat viewing. That's got to count for something, right?
3. The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
Remember that focus on negativity I mentioned in my opening paragraph? Another thing people complained about this past year was a lack of originality. They obviously didn't see Tom Six's The Human Centipede. Crazed, crazy, creative, and disgusting, it was also mind-blowingly inventive (what kind of person thinks up these things?) and gave us the best new horror villain in years: the stunningly deranged Dr. Heiter, played to a "t" by German actor Dieter Laser.
Black Swan isn't the only psychological thriller that struck a chord with me this past year. Although I hadn't been much of a Melissa George fan prior to hitting "play" and watching Triangle, I wound up liking this soooo much more than I expected. She gives a terrific performance, and thanks to a great supporting cast and a really smart script from writer/director Christopher Smith, Triangle is a brilliant little mindfuck flick that just seems better and better as time goes on.
I was fortunate enough to be among the first people to watch and review Adam Green's survival horror tour de force Frozen. Here's what I said then, and it's still true today: "Man vs. Nature is an eternal theme that's tricky to get right on film. In Frozen's case it's damn near 100% right." There are two remarkable things about Frozen - its realism and its cast. Other than Black Swan, it provided me with the purest emotional experience of 2010. If you've still yet to see it, what the hell are you waiting for?
1. Resident Evil: Afterlife
This is a truly awful movie with a ridiculous script that makes virtually no sense and the most pretentious acting we saw all year. It's only redeeming features are how well it's shot and how good the 3D looks, but really, don't waste your time. Play any one of the RE video games instead.
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street
This one starts off decent (much like the F13 remake) up to the opening title card, but then it's downhill from there. Director Samuel Bayer (or whoever was really in charge) made it boring, dull, and not scary in the least. With actors clearly too old for high school, horrendous acting from lead Rooney Mara (the three best actors sadly get killed off first), and a villain who almost comes off as sympathetic (Jackie tried but is no Freddy, sorry to say), Platinum Dunes continues to get it wrong. However, they do get extra points for the title sequence; it's the creepiest thing in the whole film. Just make sure you shut it off once they're done running.
3. Damned by Dawn
It's a good thing I keep an ongoing list of what I watch during the year or otherwise I would have completely forgotten about this stinker that was downright painful to sit through. At only 80 minutes long, it still felt padded and streeeetched out. It might be an okay installment in an anthology, but otherwise Damned by Dawn is muddled and not nearly worthy of its full feature length.
I feel a little guilty including Altitude among the Bottom 5, but oh, that ending! Worst of the year by far. Before the third act, however, I was kind of enjoying it. It's very shaky acting-wise, but I give director Kaare Andrews and star Jessica Lowndes credit for giving it their all. Until Altitude falls apart into a sappy, disappointing mess. If the monster had more screen time, I maybe could have partially forgiven it, but better luck next time, kids! Everyone deserves a second chance.
5. Knife Edge
This long-awaited return to the horror realm by Anthony (Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, Waxwork) Hickox is nothing but tedious and sleep inducing - a real letdown to say the least. Uncle Creepy summed it up best in his review: "Somewhere between the ninety-fifth plot twist and the seventy-eighth character turn, I found myself just not caring. During the third act reveals are shot at us in rapid fire succession without even the simplest care in the world as to whether or not they actually make sense. It's pretty stunning, really, and a total missed opportunity." Amen.