Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2012
2012 was a really good year for movies – just not for horror movies. Putting together my best list was a bit of a chore because there were many horror offerings I felt were okay but unremarkable, few I would include on a best list even as an honorable mention. Despite coming away from the year firmly believing that the found footage genre has now completely overstayed its welcome, my favorite film of the entire year fell into that category: Chronicle. The only reason I didn’t include Chronicle on my best list is because I’m still not entirely sure it qualifies as a horror movie even though it certainly takes a turn towards Carrie-esque horror by the end.
5) THE LOVED ONES - I’m going to cheat here. I watched an import copy of The Loved Ones two years ago and included it on my best list then. It was one of the best horror movies of 2010, and with it having just gotten released in the US this past year, I can say it is still one of the best horror movies of 2012. I’ll just repeat what I wrote then: “I’ve heard this movie described as John Hughes does torture porn. That’s an unfair description. Unlike a myriad of torture-themed films I've seen, The Loved Ones uses the gruesomeness to actually ratchet up the suspense rather than just aiming for shock value or tantalizing viewers with gory money shots. Add in the surreal father-daughter maniac relationship, and you have an extra layer of creep factor. I first saw this film with a room full of teenagers on Halloween night, and believe me when I tell you it had every one of them freaking out. Seek it out when it finally comes your way.”
4) SOLOMON KANE – I don’t know which is worse: that it took this movie three years to finally get released in the US, that it was released to American VOD months ago but has yet to get a proper DVD/Blu-ray release, or that the same talented director made the preposterously, at times hilariously, bad Silent Hill: Revelations. Solomon Kane is the movie Van Helsing should have been. Better plot, better acting, better tone, better everything. If only Solomon Kane had the luxury of even half Van Helsing’s budget, it could have afforded the bigger and better action set pieces and special effects needed to put it even higher on my list.
3) THE WALKING DEAD (VIDEO GAME) – “Hey, Foy’s cheating again! That’s not a movie! That’s a video game!” It sure is - a cinematic game that tells a better story and delivers a more visceral gut punch than both the TV series it’s based on and just about every other horror movie of the past 12 months. I’m willing to include it on my list because it really is more akin to an interactive movie than a video game. Decisions have consequences. Actions have repercussions. When characters die, there’s a genuine sense of loss. Actual suspense! I can’t even say that about half the movies I saw this year. Stunning how movies are becoming more like video games, and now here’s a video game that, when all five episodes of it are put together, makes for a more satisfying cinematic experience than many movies these days.
2) THE COLLECTION – Easily my biggest horror surprise of the year! I wasn’t a huge fan of The Collector: too unpleasant, too mean-spirited, just not much fun. I was initially planning to skip this sequel altogether. Thank goodness I didn’t because I would have missed a horror sequel I had the sort of fun I haven’t felt since the days of Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives and Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. A frigging crazy house of horrors that’s occasional silliness only further added to the thrill ride aspect. What I loved most about The Collection was that unlike so many “torture porn” movies, the premise is built almost from the very beginning around the notion of the victims hunting their tormentor instead of vice versa, even if within his lair he and his myriad of traps give him the advantage. Like Die Hard meets Saw. Saw Hard with a Vengeance!
1) THE CABIN IN THE WOODS – I’m fairly certain this movie is going to appear on most of the Dread Central staff’s best lists (sans Fini) so I’m not going to bore you with yet another spiel about why I loved this film so much. Instead I’m just going to voice my one minor complaint: That guy in the movie was right; it really would have been better with a merman.
Honorable Mentions: TWO-HEADED SHARK ATTACK, JUAN OF THE DEAD, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, THE BAY
5) SMILEY – Smiley makes it onto this list by virtue of its ending. If the ending to The Devil Inside had audiences across the country booing vociferously, throwing trash at the screen, and even spitting on the floor in anger, then it’s a good thing this movie didn’t get a wider release because then we might have heard stories of angry moviegoers trying to set the theater on fire. The ending can be surmised with one word: bull-fucking-shit! Not just implausible, also insulting and infuriating. And to make it worse, there’s a second twist ending that is equally erroneous. The rest of the film leading up to it didn’t offer much to smile about either.
4) BARRICADE – Was the snooze-inducing tedium of Barricade an actual movie or just a hallucination brought on by a bad case of the flu? Such a bore was Barricade that rather than write about it again, I’m just going to steal a paragraph from my review: Barricade isn’t so much a movie as it is a series of often poorly lit scenes almost always culminating in a fake jump scare operating under the mistaken belief that it’s a mind-bending chiller in the tradition of "The Twilight Zone” and The Shining. Not much by way of plot or character development, but, by god, there are flat jump scares, one after another, seemingly half of which culminate in the reveal of nothing out of the ordinary or someone relatively calm wondering why the other person is so freaked out. No matter how many times the Foley artist contributed a loud crash or the music would aggressively crescendo, I cannot recall a single moment that even so much as made me flinch. About all it succeeded in doing was provide enough noise to keep me awake (before delivering one of the year’s worst endings).
3) THE APPARITION – I’m going to assume by this film’s barely 75-minute running time that the producers edited it down into oblivion. If not, then The Apparition can lay claim to having the worst screenplay of any movie this year because the previews did a better job explaining what exactly was supposed to be going on in the film than anything within the film itself. Also never a good sign when a movie’s entire marketing campaign (trailers, TV spots, posters, DVD artwork) are all based around the very last shot of the film. Rarely has describing a movie’s story and characters as “moldy” been so appropriate.
2) DARK TIDE – “Professional diver tutor Brady returns to deep waters after nine years following an almost fatal encounter with a great white shark, bringing happy couple Kate and Jeff. However, before they know it, they discover that the nightmare from the deep is still lurking in the deep, more carnivorous and hungry than ever.” Too bad that completely inaccurate plot synopsis that is still to this day posted on IMDB as the plot summary wasn’t the movie they actually made. Instead I suffered through a 114-minute, painfully boring, semi-thriller that had less to do with sharks and more to do with Halle Berry arguing with her ex-husband, a wealthy father arguing with his slacker son, and all of them taking turns arguing with each other until their boat ends up in a The Perfect Storm scenario where they have to quickly make amends before they either are rescued, drown, or get eaten by stock footage of a shark. John Stockwell’s Dark Tide is so uneventful it felt like the producers tacked on a fairly lengthy sequence around mid-movie featuring characters never seen before just so someone could finally get eaten by (unseen) sharks.
1) PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 – If you’ve listened to the most recent Dinner for Fiends, I’ve pretty much stated why this is the worst film I saw in a movie theater in all of 2012 not titled Red Dawn. I’ve never been a huge fan of this franchise, but I’ve never come out of any of these films feeling this negative. Forgetting the lame attempts at jump scares, the extended periods of nothingness, the head-scratching reasons why the main character is filming everything she does 24/7, and all the other completely worn out Paranormal Activity clichés, these films have never exactly been plot-heavy to begin with; yet, this installment manages to be such a poorly assembled slog that by the time it's over, it's apparent it would require yet another sequel and probably even another prequel just to make the ongoing mythology make a semblance of sense. Which begs my most pertinent question regarding this entire franchise: Why does Paranormal Activity need a mythology in the first place? If it was to become a franchise, why not just set each film in a different location with a different group of people and a different paranormal threat instead of bringing back Katie and family and constantly straining to create some sort of evolving storyline about witch covens, possession, rituals, and a demon/ghost that spends an awfully long time just screwing around when each time it clearly knows exactly what it wants and should just go in for the kill immediately. I remember when the first film opened in theaters how much of a relief it was to finally have something seize the Halloween horror mantle from the Saw franchise. Now we need something fresh to put Paranormal Activity out of its misery because I’m starting to miss Saw.
Dishonorable Mentions: PIRANHA 3DD, THE DEVIL INSIDE, THE RAVEN, FDR: AMERICAN BADASS