Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011
2011 was a sad year for mainstream, big screen horror. As I run over lists of what was released, I see a lot has come from other countries, and others crept into minimal release from the indieverse. That being said, if you weren’t keeping track of what was lighting up the film fest circuit, you would have missed a lot of it. I hang my head and count myself as one of those people. For this reason I only have 4 “Best ofs” as I’m not about to reward a sub-par film by defaulting into an open spot.
Chillerama - Prepare for 4 tales of terror that double as love letters to Lloyd Kaufman and his Troma super-shlock legacy as well as the over-the-top drive-in cult classics that came before him. You’ve got "Wadzilla", a tale of a sad little sperm that grows up to terrorize a city with the help of modern science in a 50’s setting. "I Was a Teenage Wearbear" is a coming-of-age musical that’s a little John Waters… a little Lost Boys. It’s like Cry Baby with gay dudes! Big, hairy, sweaty gay dudes…with fangs. We’ve got "The Diary of Anne Frankenstein", a hysterical “what if?” putting Hitler in the shoes of Doctor Frankenstein to create a Jewish engine of destruction. Finally, we have "Zom-B-Movie", the wrap-around-tale of horny zombies bent on literally fucking your brains out. What’s not to love?! I laughed through 90% of this movie. I can’t think of a better film to play for a room full of friends who brought plenty of alcohol…and I’ve done so three times since the Blu-ray showed up. This is a damn good time!
Troll Hunter - Follow a group of young filmmakers into the woods with a genuine troll hunter tasked with keeping a lid on the exploits of those extra large creatures when they wander into human territory. He’s the cleaner...and his job is not a pretty one. The special effects are top notch, making the coming of each monster a palpable experience. There is also a good deal of humor in the writing, creating my favorite brand of monster film. If they made a modern Godzilla film like this, fans would keel over from overwhelming joy.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil - It’s an idea so simple, it is baffling no one has done this before. Two working class men travel out to the boonies to spend some quality time in their broken down vacation home. At the same time a group of over-privileged teenagers have hit the woods for camping, drinking and a little heavy petting. When our working class heroes are suspected of being stereotypical backwoods horror hillbillies, it's game on! Limbs fly, blood sprays and no one seems to have any idea what the hell is going on. Tucker and Dale is so much fun you’ll be in shock no one grabbed you to see it sooner.
Rabies - Israeli horror, you say?! These people have clearly done their homework. This tale of crossed paths, dire circumstance, violent clashes and a place in the middle of nowhere that doesn’t seem to want to let anyone go is a textbook lesson in building suspense and telling multiple stories in a non-confusing manor while keeping the audience engaged the whole time. This one was my most pleasant surprise of the year. This isn’t just an excellent foreign film. This is what most films should aspire to be.
Insidious - The story of a young family struggling to keep it together while demonic forces plot to tear them apart unraveled for me rather quickly. I couldn’t connect with the central characters, and every time they introduced someone or something new to either scare or engage the audience, it just made things funnier. The crowd I saw this with was laughing more often than not and mostly in disbelief. The horror gags fell flat and failed to creep. A big disappointment for me.
Priest - Oh man. Where do we begin with a mess like this? What happens when you try to make a super-charged action film in an apocalyptic future with hand-to-hand battle, gunfights, monsters and explosions around every corner? A headache usually. The story is disjointed and makes little sense. The characters lack essential likability or, in the case of the lead villain, enough baddassery to make you hate. Vapid is a good word to use here. Vapid and empty…and lacking in even enough of a spectacle to act as mindless eye candy. Just a waste of time.
Shark Night 3D - How this made it to big screens will be a mystery debated for some time to come. It sounds like a Syfy Channel original movie, doesn’t it? Well, sometimes a duck is a duck is a duck. Like most Syfy monster fests, the characters run about at the drop of a hat amid circumstances that have little logic behind them while the title monsters themselves get little screen time. Each scene is a vehicle for a kill, and not even 3D can make you care in the slightest for the intended victim. Halfway through you’ll ask to stop, sure that you’ll never have a desire to return. This is a waste of Hollywood energy and dollars.
The Roommate - A neutered Single White Female remake for fans of "The OC"? YAY! Ever watch a movie that made you want to harm yourself in public so that someone would come and drag you from your seat, simultaneously saving you from further torture and providing an excellent excuse as to why you fled the scene with all due haste? You’ll pray for such kindness. This tween friendly “thriller” lacks suspense, an engaging story, likable characters, an ounce of horror or even a slightly rockin’ soundtrack to ease your pain. There is NOTHING here worthy of conversation.
Apollo 18 - What horrors were left behind on the moon? Oh man…you don’t want to know…and if I could get you to trust me on that fact, we’d all be a happier race of fleshbots. Unfortunately, there are people out there who seemed to think Apollo 18’s ridiculous mystery is worthy of praise and so you may be talked into watching this tedious sort of Paranormal Activity in space rip-off. Even alluding to notes of Paranormal is getting your expectations too high… and lying. This is sci-fi dreck with a story so dim it’s no wonder the film sat on a shelf for as long as it did. If this movie had a face, you’d want to punch it.