Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011
The Devil’s Business - The year’s unsung British success -- Sean Hogan’s intimate micro-budget exercise in simple spooky atmospherics delivers a tight script, endearing performances and a frighteningly oppressive ambience straight from the house of Hammer. See it.
Insidious - Director James Wan continues to flex his cinematic muscle to admirable effect as he once again knocks it out of the park with Insidious. An engaging story and some very clever use of basic horror machinations play second fiddle to some of most unsettling visuals, knife-edge editing and roof-raising frights to grace the big screen in 2011.
Kidnapped - I know – technically, it’s a 2010 release, but 2011 is the year that Miguel Ángel Vivas’ stunning Kidnapped made its way to UK’s FrightFest, where it subsequently burned itself into my brain. The most horrific, brutal and sheer vicious piece of cinema you’re likely to have seen in a long time, Kidnapped is completely unforgiving – and completely unforgettable.
A Lonely Place to Die - In the strictest sense a thriller (shoot me), Julian Gilbey’s A Lonely Place to Die remains one of the most memorable cinematic experiences of 2011. Breathtaking locations and cinematography, a top-notch cast, despicable villains, impactful violence and pulse-pounding action all come together to deliver just what we all crave: a really great time at the movies.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil - It’s rare that a horror/comedy hybrid manages to scrape its way onto year-end lists so it’s a distinct pleasure to place Eli Craig’s criminally delayed exercise in pure delight, Tucker & Dave vs. Evil, on mine. Leads Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk make an effortlessly lovable pair of buffoons, and the constant stream of gags and horror fan service make this a wild and splatterific trip that any genre fan will bust a gut over.
Vile - A film whose very raison d’être is to take advantage of the most base elements of the torture porn sub-genre, Vile is doubly disappointing in its steadfast refusal, or inability, to actually deliver on the repugnant goods. Coupled with a hateful bunch of central characters interacting like utter idiots, plot holes galore and a complete absence of logic, it’s a recipe for a completely worthless waste of time and effort.
The Tapes - A lazy, inept and nigh on cynical attempt at cashing in on the found footage craze, this British offering is barely watchable. The leads are hideously annoying, unlikable cretins, and the plot itself was obviously sharted onto the page as a complete afterthought. Barely one single redeeming quality exists in this turgid black hole of entertainment.
The Theatre Bizarre - How a group of obviously talented and incredibly creative storytellers and filmmakers can come together to make something so incredibly plodding, overwrought and just sheer dissatisfying is mind-boggling – but The Theatre Bizarre manages to do it. Even the legendary Richard Stanley embarrasses himself with a shaky, uneven and unintentionally hilarious segment amongst the various shorts on display – the best of which isn’t even a horror film. A crying shame all round.
Bad Meat - Rob Schmidt’s unfinished tale of juvenile delinquents terrorised by a rehabilitation camp’s brutish staff turned feral cannibals starts off relatively promising. Characters begin to develop nicely, and an abundance of offbeat humour and splashing bodily fluids lend the feeling of Troma’s heyday output. Then, just as we’re led to the inevitable fight for the protagonists’ lives... scenes are missing, and the film ends. Framed by a completely nonsensical wraparound in an obvious attempt to make something of a film only half of which was actually shot, it ends up being the cinematic equivalent of being churlishly told to fuck off out of the theatre halfway through with no refund. Directed by Lulu Jarmen? I’m still trying to work out just which particular insult that’s an anagram of...
11-11-11 - Darren Lynn Bousman’s attempt at apocalyptic religious horror proves itself to be nothing more than a theological snooze-fest. Lead actor Timothy Gibbs feels out of place the entire time as he forces his way through repeated scenes of spiritual disagreements, and the otherworldly villains (while sporting some pretty neat demonic makeup) are distinctly non-threatening. A tone of utter seriousness and self-importance leaves botched attempts at spookiness landing on the wrong side of humorous, all topped off with a stab at aforementioned director James Wan’s style of flashback-revelation ending that reveals nothing surprising whatsoever. 11-11-11 is the big-screen turkey of the year.