It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of remakes — also known as the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of bad, it was the epoch of incredible; it was the season of fright, it was the season of dumb; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair — and man, did we have a lot of it; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; some flicks took us directly to heaven, others took us the other way. The year was 2008, and it was pretty memorable.
Dig on our Best of and Worst of lists by following the links below!
Let the Right One In: This Swedish vampire gem takes us back to the good old days of Friedkin and Polanski, when horror was used to tell complex character-driven stories instead of going straight for the lowest common denominator (see: Twilight). This seemingly simple story of a young bullied boy who falls in love with an undead girl is as dense and well-crafted as they come and something everyone can relate to. Let the Right One In is touching, lyrical, and stunningly beautiful; and if you aren’t deeply affected by it, you don’t have a soul.
Trick ‘r Treat: Remember when horror films used to be fun? Writer/director Michael Dougherty sure does, and he’s given us not only the best crowd-pleaser in years but an anthology film that actually surpasses Creepshow. It’s the kind of movie that makes us remember why we fell in love with horror movies and would’ve been the “Best of ‘07” if it weren’t for the clueless Warner Bros executives keeping it shelved. There’s no telling what year it will be released, but its recent festival tour gives Trick ‘r Treat a rightful place on the list…this year and next.
The Children: White-knuckled suspense at its best from writer/director Tom Shankland, this British horror film delivers the ultimate killer kids movie. The Children has shades of The Shining crossed with a Hitchcockian slasher as psychotic tykes wage war on their parents during Christmas vacation. It’s an eerie, often nightmarish rollercoaster that makes a great double feature with the original Village of the Damned.
Repo! The Genetic Opera: Who knew Saw was good for something? Director Darren Lynn Bousman used his clout from making Jigsaw sequels to bring this long-gestating stage opera to life – and it paid off in spades! A hybrid of Blade Runner, Rocky Horror, and Shakespearean tragedies, Repo feels stunningly original thanks to a killer soundtrack, memorable characters, and a fully realized universe. Embarrassed by the film, Lionsgate buried it quicker than a stillborn fetus but released The Spirit in 2000+ theaters. Nice work, guys.
“Dead Set”: Talk about a show that came out of nowhere! This UK television mini-series follows the contestants on the reality series “Big Brother” as they fight for survival against a zombie outbreak that spreads through the outside world. We’re all sick of zombie movies and the plot sounds wretched, but what follows is a blistering three hours of epic undead carnage, sharp humor, old-school gore, and nail-biting intensity. Created by media satirist Charlie Brooker, “Dead Set” is smart, scary, and easily one of the best zombie productions since George A. Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army: Gulliermo Del Toro unleashed pure imagination in this superior follow-up. The dark fantasy genre exploded to life like a giant Jim Henson orgy and made us all salivate for the man’s version of The Hobbit.
Funny Games: The most divisive film ever discussed at Dread Central, Michael Haneke’s shot-for-shot remake of his German classic feels more relevant today than it did in the 90’s. The sheer number of pissed-off reactions is undeniable proof of the effectiveness of this subversive psych-experiment.
Note: I have not seen Prom Night so I will refrain from the “Roger Friedman School of Douchebag Journalism” and not list movies I haven’t seen on my year-end list.
Lost Boys: The Tribe: One of the single worst sequels ever produced…and it only took ‘em twenty-two years to make it! Angus Sutherland (Kiefer’s half-brother) proves the single worst actor in modern movies while the film retreads the same plot with boring characters and a bad emo cover of “Cry Little Sister.” Our heroes battle surfing vampires but never think to bless the ocean. Nitwits.
Pulse 2: Afterlife: If Kiyoshi Kurosawa had a grave, he’d be rolling in it. Few horror movies are worse than 2006’s vapid Pulse remake, and the delusional producers were under the impression that people wanted more. This green-screen shot sequel has “Lee Adama” fighting naked ghosts and still manages to be unwatchable. At one point a half-naked John Gulager hurls himself off a bridge, and you can’t help but feel a little envious.
Shutter: Another long-haired ghost is on the loose and she’ll … *GASP* … ruin your wedding photos! Out of all the abysmal Asian horror remakes, Shutter is the most soulless, non-descript, and wooden of the bunch. Insurance seminars are scarier.
The X-Files: I Want to Believe: Remember when the whole world was obsessed with “The X-Files”? Ever wonder why no one cares anymore? Watch Mulder & Scully’s latest outing and you’ll see why. Chris Carter proves once and for all that he never knew what he was doing and strikes a death blow to this once great franchise with a directionless script that wouldn’t qualify as an episode of the show.
One Missed Call: Q: What happens when you remake a rip-off? A: You get Ed Burns and cell phone exorcisms. Say what you will about Takashi Miike’s original, but it at least had some good scares and a clever satirical bite. This one is just, well, another painfully boring remake aimed at stupid teenagers.
Saw V: Scott Patterson mumbles to himself and Julie Benz wears a bad wig. I don’t wanna play anymore.
Animals: Douglas Aarniokoski (the “director” of Highlander: Endgame) proves once again that he knows piss-all about filmmaking and ruins Skipp & Spector in the process. Now he’s making Red Sonja. What the fuck, Hollywood?
The Happening: “Hey, goat, how’s it hangin’? I was in The Happening! You see that movie?” Wahlberg not only talks to animals, he babbles about science and outruns the wind.
5) Rogue: This has actually been a very difficult list for me to compile because until you get to my top three, there really weren’t many horror films that I was particularly high on. I saw plenty of horror films this year that I enjoyed – take The Strangers for instance – but didn’t like them enough to actually include them amongst my favorites. I wasn’t blown away by Rogue either but I felt it deserved some love, certainly more than it got from the studio. I prefer to keep my lists strictly to movies I saw in theaters, but had it not been for last year’s wretched Primeval bloodying the waters for killer crocodile movies, we probably would have gotten to see Rogue in theaters instead of it being relegated to direct-to-DVD doldrums. Not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, nonetheless, Rogue is one of the better high profile killer animal movies to come along in recent years and has some genuinely suspenseful moments. It sure as hell deserved better than the DVD dumping it got.
4) Splinter: Again, not a movie I was blown away by. In fact, early on the word “overrated” kept popping into my head. It took a bit before the tight script finally got me hooked, and when the scene with the hand played out, I realized I was watching a very solid horror movie from a very promising filmmaker.
3) Cloverfield: I kind of understand all the complaints detractors of Cloverfield have and even agree to an extent about some of them. None of the issues detracted from my enjoyment of Cloverfield – one of the only movies I saw more than once at a theater this year. Sure, it was essentially the Blair Zilla Project, but Hollywood doesn’t make giant monster movies that often and this delivered more than a certain American Godzilla movie did a few years back. Go back and rewatch Cloverfield and then rewatch the Emmerich/Devlin Godzilla and see just how badly those two botched the most basic concept of a giant monster rampaging about New York City. And when you take into account the rather irritating (and ultimately pointless viral marketing) and consider how much of a tizzy it worked certain people into, Cloverfield made for as much of a sociological experiment as it was a motion picture. Extra points awarded for the closing credits score, a near perfect recreation of classic Akira Ifukube Godzilla marches.
2) Let the Right One In: I suspect you’re probably going to see Let the Right One In near the top of just about everyone’s best list here at Dread Central so I’m just going to summarize my thoughts on the film using three words: believe the hype.
1) Death Note: The more I think about it, the more I kind of think I should have this and Let the Right One In tied for first. The only reason I put Death Note slightly ahead is because of the sheer amount of intricate imagination that went into crafting the story. I’ve never seen one frame of the anime or read one page of the manga, and despite my love for the film I don’t see that changing. The movie is all I need. It left me spellbound with the trickiness of its story and melding of multiple genres. This is a horror movie, a superhero story, a detective mystery, a police procedural, a teen angst film, and a supernatural thriller all wrapped up into one extremely methodical tale that kept me riveted like few films this past year. My only regret is the Death Note 2 didn’t quite deliver to the degree the first part did though that isn’t to say I disliked it. Shusuke Kaneko once again proves why he’s one of the most underrated genre directors out there.
5) Untraceable: This wouldn’t have made my list had it not been for the sheer hypocrisy of the film. Bad enough that it was a rancid movie that wanted to mimic the Saw films while believing itself to be of a higher pedigree, but to lecture the audience on our voyeuristic society while reveling in the very voyeuristic tendencies it rails against makes Untraceable this year’s The Condemned. Between the gross hypocrisy of the film’s message and such asinine moments like the killer taking control of a car’s OnStar and then having the lead character stupid enough to get back in her vehicle, not to mention my favorite bit of a guy having his flesh burnt off in a pool of battery acid still having the where-with-all to blink out a Morse code message revealing the killer’s location and someone watching the video actually recognizes him blinking as Morse code… Just a steaming pile of something awful this movie is.
4) Saw V: The Revenge of Costas Mandylor: The best thing I can say about Saw V was that I found it a bit less tedious than Saw IV. I wasn’t as bored as I was by the last one is hardly damning praise. This time the traps were so uninspired they seemed more befitting a Saw knock-off than a Saw sequel. Costas Mandylor is a pathetic Jigsaw replacement. The less said about the rest of the cast the better. This is a franchise that has completely run its course and is now hellbent to overstay its welcome. “Would you like to play a game?” At this point I don’t even want to watch another Saw movie. Saw V was “sawful“.
3) Shutter/The Eye/Prom Night: This is the first time in many years that a lousy remake won’t be topping my list of the year’s worst horror films. Instead I’ve decided to consolidate and kill three birds with one stone, fittingly enough in the number three slot on my worst countdown.
I don’t even care that Shutter is a remake since I’ve never seen the original. All I need to know is that this is a film so devoid of anything resembling suspense that I hesitate to even label it a horror movie. The whole Asian ghost concept is beyond played out and this film’s ghost in particular is the antithesis of creepy. The movie is so inept it couldn’t even pull off simple cheap jump scares with any modicum of success. Nothing of interest ever occurs. Shutter just flickers before you on the screen amounting to nothing. Scareless. Pointless. Worthless.
Jessica Alba is an actress for whom the phrase “pretty lousy” sums her up on more than one level, and she’s pretty lousy in The Eye remake. Between her bad acting and the overacting of the inconsistently shaven guy playing her doctor, in addition to all the dull spots in between the cheap jump scares and occasional bouts of Alba declaring war on light bulbs, plus the whole ghost subplot ultimately not adding up to much anything significant, and the asinine ending where she practically turns into a psychic superheroine… How many more reasons do I need to list? I suppose if you’re fourteen or are just getting your feet wet in the realm of horror cinema, then this might seem like a scary movie. I don’t fall into either of those categories so I’m just going to have to say The Eye was pretty lousy.
One need only state two simple reasons why the remake of Prom Night made the worst list. First, who the hell makes a slasher movie titled Prom Night and then never bothers to have any of the killings actually take place at the prom. People get killed on the floors above the prom and in a house down the street from the prom (by a killer who looks like a deranged Forrest Gump, no less) but not a single kill actually takes place within the prom itself. Secondly, and more importantly, the original Prom Night was no damn good to begin with and this remake somehow managed to be even worse. That about says it all.
The only reason One Missed Call just barely missed being on this list is because that scene with the fire and brimstone preacher performing an exorcism on a cellular phone was so laugh-out-loud silly I have to give it some props.
2) All the Boys Love Mandy Lane: Hi. I’m the boy who doesn’t love Mandy Lane. In fact, I hate her. I didn’t come away from All the Boys Love Mandy Lane thinking it was just overrated; I came away convinced I’d just watched one of the worst thrillers in recent years. I’m sure this is going to be considered quite the controversial choice since so many have sung this film’s praises. It was those rave reviews that had me psyched to see it. It was those rave reviews that left me wondering afterwards what movie they saw because the one I saw was an awful slasher movie that replaced the typical mainstream Hollywood slasher stupidity with the dregs of Sundance Film Festival pretension. Boring and unlikable characters engaging in boring conversations, a director who lets his film meander about listlessly much of the time, and by all means, please frame a few more shots so that the blinding sun is blazing directly into the camera. And it all builds to a bullshit twist ending that betrays the very psychology the story was built upon. How anyone who complains about M. Night’s twist endings could give this twist ending a pass is beyond me. Why this has gotten so much positive word of mouth is also beyond me.
1) The X-Files: I Want to Believe: I was hoping The X-Files: I Want to Believe would make me a believer again and remind me of what it was that I so dearly used to love about “The X-Files” in the first place. Instead it only succeeded in putting a pillow over the brand’s face while waiting for the legs to slowly stop kicking. It left me was wishing that I’d been watching a big screen version of PSI Factor instead. No aliens. No UFOs. No monsters. No supernatural madmen. No government conspiracies. Just a plot that felt like a rejected “Millennium” episode – a bad one at that – intermixed with a droning subplot about a dying boy Dr. Scully is trying to save that has nothing whatsoever to do with anything else going on. And, no, I don’t I give a crap whether Scully and Mulder fuck. It even recast Mulder as a believer when it comes to matters of faith and Scully the skeptic, not the other way around as it had always been, leaving me to wonder if Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz ever bothered to watch their own damn show. On top of all that, this was quite possibly the single most boring motion picture I saw in a theater all of 2008. If I hadn’t gone to see it with someone else, I probably would have walked out sometime around the 5,000th scene of people stomping about a snowy landscape. This film should have been titled The X-Files: I Want to Leave.
With American companies focusing on getting teenagers to theaters and rehashing-imagining-bastardizing original works into lifeless, bland films that vaguely resemble horror, I found only slight comfort in releases from across the water. The rest of the time was painful.
Let the Right One In: A dark fairy tale of young love in the face of unspeakable horror. Oddly, that horror comes from the young lovers! It was fantastic to see such an original story with incredibly solid writing, all the catchings of a classic horror film, a dark building intensity and an insanely satisfying resolution. This film stands firm as a solid theatrical release in general, much less a fantastic addition to the world of horror. I hold very little hope for the American remake and, instead, am looking forward to more from director Tomas Alfredson in my favorite genre.
The Strangers: A young couple defends a remote woodland house while three masked assailants seem to delight in terrifying them. How do you engage someone with a film based on a premise that’s paper thin and an outcome that, by all evidence from trailers and commercials, is bound to be fatal? It’s all in the execution (no pun intended.) Use of sound, or lack thereof, and pacing made The Strangers a film they should show in film classes as an example of how to get a horror movie right…then they should make some of these modern directors take that class.
The Cottage: Bumbling kidnappers bite off more than they can chew, and soon their karma bites back. This is the most fun I’ve had in a horror movie in a very long time. Hysterical all the way through, bloody as hell and includes a baddie that is relentless, heavy on the ugly and comical in his violence while still keeping his essential menace. This is the perfect blending of over-the-top brutality, comedic timing and evenly paced action. The perfect Saturday night DVD rental!
Repo! The Genetic Opera: A dark future sees people replacing body parts to prolong their lives and others for the sake of vanity, but when the payment is past due, the repo man comes to take back company property without anesthetic. Never have I been so relieved to love a movie. Director Darren Bousman is a friend of our crew and to dislike a movie he is so passionate about would have been…awkward! Repo holds up amid all the hype, selling out every stop on its little road show tour and for good reason. It’s a great time!
Igor: In a land where evil genius is the main export, a young “Igor” gets a chance to surpass his lot in life as a meager horrific helper and step into the spotlight among the mad scientist heavyweights. Igor is a love note to legendary horror films of the silver screen era and their younger brothers of Hammer Horror as well. A unique directing eye brings these trappings of classic horror into the deep, shadowy world animated before you while the writing excels at quick wit, providing plenty of moments that may cause you to spit your drink out. It’s original, hysterical and safe for your kids too! Call it baby’s first horror film.
Special mentions go to The Ruins for presenting a thoroughly new idea executed with teeth-grinding precision that had me wincing in my seat and Big Man Japan, which raises dry humor and ridiculous imagery to an art form. Both are well worth the price of a DVD purchase.
Prom Night: A young girl is stalked by a former teacher who killed her family…out of love … and has now escaped to continue his wooing. I can honestly say I’ve never watched a film where the director sought to make an audience feel sorry for a pedophilic, stalking, knife wielding murderer. I also can’t recall a film where a villain stabbed so many people, leaving behind so little blood. It is certainly some kind of movie magic and the only things the creators of Prom Night can boast, should they dare to. This is a slow piece of drek, void of any scares (jumpy or otherwise), suspense or even a line of good dialogue. A complete waste of time you will feel angered you will never get back.
My Name Is Bruce: Behold, a film so bad that a packed house of four reviewers lost one critic in the first fifteen minutes. Bruce Campbell gets kidnapped by his biggest fan in the hopes he will be able to rid his town of an evil Chinese god of bean sprouts in a horrendous rubber suit. That explanation is as good as it gets. If the kid knows Bruce is an actor, why would he think he could kill a real demon? Further, if the town is aware of his awful films as well, why would they go along with this plan??!! Campbell slaps away at a soundboard filled with Loony Tunes sound effects, directs his own unfunny slapstick and gives Ted Raimi three chances to shine in three different roles. THREE!! That alone should be a hanging offense.
Otis: Have you ever said to yourself “I loved the sitcoms of the 80’s so much; I wish someone would take the dry, whiter than white humor from them and build a horror film around it!”? Neither have I, and yet, still this wish has come true. With the intensity of the most serious of “Growing Pains” episodes, Otis tells the tale of a lonely pedophilic murderer/kidnapper who wishes to re-create his high school days with some lucky girl at his side. Wackiness ensues. The only thing I came away with after watching this horrendous and tedious infomercial of a “horror film” was pity for the actors involved. Hope you all got a nice paycheck for this one, though it is doubtful.
Mirrors: Ill-conceived. Badly written. Heinously executed. Horrifically acted. This is the only moment I will use the word horror in this mini review. Thrill to the story of a man charged with policing an empty department store with a dark secret. The unseen evil lurking within follows him home and proceeds to inflict untold scenes of bad CGI and shabbily executed practical special makeup effects which should never be shown in bright light from a vantage point revealing every wiggly nuance. Director Alexandre Aja, who is usually good for an interesting perspective and well paced scares, settles for high style and zero substance, pulling the lamest of acting performances from a crew we know could have done far better. Lame lame lame. Let’s just make a pact, here and now, to stop with the evil reflections all together and I’ll promise to never speak a bad word about Dick Tracy ever again. ‘K’?
Quarantine: Ohhhh … where to begin. Another remake. Innocent people become trapped in their apartment building as an outbreak of lord knows what takes hold of their neighbors, who then attack them. Not a zombie movie, a monster movie or a supernatural thriller. The creators of this American cinematic abortion removed all tension and threat of the unknown contained in the original and went for a good ol’ fashioned shaky cam fiesta centered around a normal scientific explanation with action we take a loooooong time to get to. WHY??!! We’ve got the POV of a trained network news cameraman who apparently has Parkinson’s disease or some such trembly illness and at times becomes so excited by the breakneck pace of a conversation in a dark room he zooms in and out with wild abandon to emphasize the terror of this moment. WHY???!!! At the next big industry event, I’m handing out tripods. We must stop this shaky cam infection one director at a time.
Special mention goes to From Within for continuing the fine tradition of leaky black-eyed specters, this time killing the townsfolk … one … at … a … time. WOW. There’s more action in R. Kelly’s bathroom. I’ll also mention Saw V, which drove a giant railroad spike in the heart in a franchise that could have gone on forever with new writers at the helm. Good job, you.
I’d like to give a special nod to the TV show “Dirty Jobs” which contained a scene with the show’s host biting the testicles off of baby sheep….repeatedly. One of the most horrible things I’ve ever watched, and surely the worst on basic cable. Congrats.
I unfortunately seem to be the only one on the site who hasn’t seen Let the Right One in, so my list will have to do without it. However, I still saw some really good stuff this year.
5. Stuck: As far as movies making you squirm go, Stuck is one of the most unnerving and fucked up movies I’ve seen in the past decade. Stewart Gordon returns in full fledge awesome with the tale of a homeless man who gets lodged into a windshield by a hapless woman who leaves him there, alive, in her garage … still stuck in the windshield. Fantastic movie that will make you both cringe and cheer.
4. Teeth: This one may be pushing it for having it on a 2008 list since it screened first at the tail end of 2007, but I saw it this year on DVD so I’m putting it here. There are three things in the world that terrify me; sharks, vaginas with teeth, and spiders. Teeth only has one of these things, but it still managed to frighten me just as bad as the other two would have combined. Teeth is so monumentally fucked up, scary, and hilarious that I watched it a second time right after my first viewing. Not only is it a bleak satire, but also a warning to any guy who’s thinking about having his way with a helpless lady. No man wants his dick chomped on, and boy, do a lot of guys get the cut in this flick. It’s so fucked up. I will forever be bringing a flashlight and some goggles with me every time I go down south on a woman just to make sure there isn’t something waiting for me down there. Teeth rules.
3. Cloverfield: You know what I like? Godzilla movies and roller coasters. You know what Cloverfield was? It was like a Godzilla roller coaster. Very rarely these days do I actually have fun seeing a movie in the theater. It usually smells like piss and shit, there’s a kid crying somewhere, and for some reason I can’t get the taste of copper out of my mouth. With Cloverfield those things only added to the awesomeness of the movie. Was it the best movie ever? Not by a long shot, but I had fucking fun. And that’s why I’m throwing it as number 3 on my best of list.
2. Repo! The Genetic Opera: This movie is pure fried gold on a win stick. There are so many things I want to say about this movie and all of it good. The music is fucking awesome (I’m listening to the soundtrack now as I write this), the acting is top-notch, the cinematography gave me an erection, and it’s an all-around amazing movie. Easily the new Rocky Horror, I found myself singing the songs when I didn’t even know all the words! The best rock opera I’ve ever seen. Some of the most fun I’ve had at the theater in a long time, and I loved every second of it. If you get the chance to see this movie, go see it. The Graverobber is worth the price the admission alone.
1. The Signal: I’ve ranted and raved about this movie since the moment I saw it, and I will continue to do so here. The Signal is the best horror film I’ve seen in a long, long time. Not only is it a great movie, it’s extremely inspirational to any independent filmmaker. It’s original and has fantastic cinematography, great acting, and a very peculiar three-act structure that is just all-around awesome. I cannot say enough good things about this movie. Easily the best horror movie of the year, and one of the best horror movies of the past 20 years.
Paranormal Activity: I’d put it on my list, but it’s not out just yet (I also put it on my list last year and will continue to do so until its release).
Midnight Meat Train: Not the best horror movie of the year, but goddammit it was original and I gotta give it credit for doing something unique.
The Dark Knight: Not exactly horror but it’s sooooo fucking good.
Back in the day I used to love to watch bad movies and laugh at them and point out how absurd and awful they were. Then of course come on the Internet and trash them to others who love to watch bad movies. However, these days I find myself having less and less patience for bad movies. When I know something is going to be bad, why waste those two hours of my life on it? I can be doing something far better with that time. That’s why I didn’t waste my time watching movies like One Missed Call, Prom Night, or any of the other horribly atrocious flicks that came out this year. I just didn’t care enough. So you won’t find those movies on my worst of the year list. However, there were some that slipped through the cracks that I somehow found myself watching that stole roughly 10 hours of my life away. Ten hours I will never get back.
5. Diary of the Dead: You may be asking yourself why Diary of the Dead is on my worst list. Surely there are far worse movies that came out this year! This is true. However, unlike the rest of the movies on this list, I thought Diary of the Dead was going to be good. It’s George Romero and zombies dammit! Diary was not just a horrible movie, it was utterly disappointing. I came out of the theater feeling drained, angry, and betrayed. Why, George? Why did you do that to me? The worst part about it? There is a great movie in there somewhere. However, the forced narration, the pretentious forgettable characters, and the tacked on music make it a contrived piece of shit. I really wish I could like it. There is definitely something good there. I just don’t have the patience to sift through all of the shit to find the hidden pearl.
4. Saw V: Do I even need to write an explanation as to why this movie sucked? No. I don’t. Saw V was terrible, and I hope my eyes are never forced to watch it again. I want my $8.50 back, Lionsgate.
3. Lost Boys: The Tribe: This movie really should have been called “We stopped trying!” From the strange incestuous relationship of the two leads to the Jim Morrison knock-off lead vampire, this straight-to-DVD sequel to the classic Lost Boys is utter trash. All I could do to keep myself from smashing my face into the TV out of despair was to quietly quote Doors songs whenever Angus Sutherland was on screen. Even that wasn’t enough to halt my sheer contempt for this pile of garbage.
2. Day of the Dead (2008): I’ve sat here for five minutes trying to decide how to tell all those reading that this movie is awful. But I can’t. This movie killed so many of my brain cells that I honestly cannot think of anything creative to say about how bad this movie sucks. I mean it really fucking blows. From Cirque du Soleil Zombies to Nick “Drop your drumsticks” Cannon’s embarrassing performance, this movie is just downright awful and earns the number two spot on my worst of list. Why number two? Because it’s a piece of shit.
1. April Fool’s Day (2008): Where to begin with this piece of utter shit? It’s boring, poorly directed, shot, acted, you name it. Everything about this movie is bad. I kept waiting for the filmmakers to pop out halfway through, yell “Surprise!” and ass rape me all the way to Tiananmen Square. It’s profoundly bad, almost in a deep shallow poetic way. If you ever decide to sit down and watch this movie, make a game out of it. Sit down with a bottle of Jack and a hand gun and just see how long you can last. It’s like an endurance test. But seriously, don’t EVER watch this flick. It pains me to even give it the attention of writing this up. Easily one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, as well as the number one worst movie of the year.
The Happening — “Doesn’t anyone care about the bees?”
This year brought a lot of changes, both on the global scale (yay President-elect Obama and a return to low gas prices, boo recession and big business bail-outs) and on a smaller individual scale (I moved back to the glorious and at the moment very snowy state of N.Y.). But some things never change … Like the fact that every year we get some genre fare that’s a cut above the rest and some that is decidedly further down on that particular totem pole. Here are my personal picks for this year’s best and worst (in no particular order):
“Dexter“: I have to mention everyone’s favorite serial killer again this year. While the show itself has its ups and downs, the characters are rock solid and the acting superb. And while this last season may not have been quite as satisfying as the first, I can’t deny how refreshing and wonderful it is to have a smart genre show. Too often when a network puts out a “horror show”, they shy away from really taking on that mantle and end up with weak fare. But the creators involved in “Dexter” seem to genuinely embrace the darkness and have fun with it, and I for one am very thankful for it.
Dance of the Dead: It seems like lately you can’t spit without hitting a zombie movie, indie or otherwise. Not that I think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I love zombies. I’m the kind of girl who likes to nibble on my fellow humans now and again myself. And if they were all as quality as Gregg Bishop’s Dance of the Dead, I would be a happy girl. While the story is really nothing at all new – the dead rise from the grave to munch on the living and a small group of tenacious survivors have to blah, blah, blah – it’s executed with skill and aplomb. The cast, lead by the adorable Jared Kusnitz (who also played the brother in Otis, and whom I hope to see in many more genre outings), are all really wonderful. Especially Justin Welborn (you’ll remember him from The Signal), who is absolutely superb as bully redneck Kyle Grubbin.
The Strangers: This movie had flaws. There were things I felt could have been better done. I was not, upon watching it, overwhelmed by its greatness. But there was one thing that, for me, it did so well I felt I couldn’t NOT include it. So few horror movies for the last very many years have really excelled at building tension. We most often get jump scares or major events foreshadowed by loud music cues. Also, while we’re supposed to identify with the victim, most horror movies give us an omniscient view – we can see where the killer is and what they’ve done before the victims can, and when they go in that room or get in the car or whatever, their actions seem stupid. The killer’s in there, duh! But The Strangers kept the audience as much in the dark to the motivations and movements of the aggressors as the victims were – and kept us on our toes and the edge of our seats.
The last 10 minutes of Quarantine: I have not yet managed to see REC, the foreign film of which this is the remake, reimagining, revamping … whatever the hell we’re calling it these days … so I have no way of knowing what that one was like. But for the first seventy-odd minutes of this version, I spent most of my time going “Wait … what just happened?” I was not scared, or enthralled, by the chaos of both noise and movement on screen. I was mostly perplexed and aggravated. I spent most of the movie calling people “that fireman – no, the other one“, or “the doctor guy“. So… after all that, why are the last ten minutes on my best list? Simply because once Jennifer Carpenter and her cameraman (see, I can’t even remember either character’s name without cheating and looking it up) get into the attic apartment, things get infinitely better. There’s only the two of them now, so things quiet down. The lights are off completely, which makes Camera Guy switch to night vision, so you can actually see some things. And as they are in the dark and therefore unable to run around like a virgin with ADD at a whorehouse, things also slow down. Those last ten minutes are tense and really pretty powerful. Jennifer Carpenter looks and acts genuinely terrified. If only the rest of the movie could have been that good.
The Dark Knight: I think, based on the reception this film has gotten since its release, that I don’t need to explain too much why it is on my best list. Most of you have seen it and feel the way I do. This movie was just… wow. Not just Ledger’s wonderfully disturbing Joker, or Nolan’s strong script and good looking cinematography, or Bale’s tortured Batman (despite the sometimes funny voice), or Eckhart’s powerful Harvey Dent, or even Maggie Gylenhaal’s Thank-God-She’s-Not-Katie-Holmes turn as Rachel Dawes. This was a film with some whopping good parts, and still the whole was more than just their sum.
Mirrors: I love me some Kiefer Sutherland. That voice? Mmmmmmm … My vagina is quite opinionated on the subject of sexy voices, and it says you can leave it alone with that voice and a nice glass of wine and it’d be just fine. Oh, and he’s a pretty good actor too. And I think Alexandre Aja has talent. So, what went wrong with Mirrors and why is it on my worst list? Mostly BECAUSE Kiefer Sutherland is a good actor and Aja is a talented director. Let me explain … You know that phrase ‘”the bigger they are, the harder they fall“? Well, it’s kind of like that. There were some really lame, bad movies out this year that overall were much less entertaining than the good parts of Mirrors. (Some of them will turn up later). But most of them were obviously going to be terrible. In most of those cases, it was clear from the get-go that all they were was flaccid studio fare meant to cash in on the teenie-bopper market. But when you have a film like Mirrors that has talent behind it and wastes it in a weak, convoluted and pointless story … well, it has a harder fall. And in my book that makes it worse than some of the more overall bad movies we saw this year.
The Happening: I’ve stuck by M. Night Shmalamala (yes, I’m aware that’s not the correct spelling, I just like saying it). Apart from The Village, when I figured the nature of the BIG SECRET from the trailer, I haven’t had any overly bad experiences with his work. I even mildly enjoyed Signs and Lady in the Water. But this latest movie … Ugh. You know what’s more entertaining than this silly snoozefest of a movie? Just about anything. I was once aggressively groped by a piss drunk frat boy with a cast on his arm while trying to drive down a snowy road in the dark. That was much more fun than The Happening. I once drank so much at a party in Germany that I was unable to walk on my own and crawled around the house or was carried by a handsome German boy named Simon who spoke very little. That was WAY more fun than this movie. Even the massive and debilitating hangover I had the next morning was more entertaining than The Happening.
The X-Files: I Want to Believe: Bad, terrible writing. That’s the biggest problem with the newest “X-Files” movie. From the very first second, the writing is painfully bad and continues to get worse as the movie progresses. Apparently, Scully has spent the intervening years becoming a brain surgeon. And Mulder has holed himself up in a house out in the middle of nowhere and grown an impressive fake-looking beard. Apparently they’re still in contact, but only in a very distant way. Except that the minute they’re in the same room, they’re sleeping together … and then talking about how they have a “home” together. And then talking about how they can never be together. And then talking about how they should get away together. There’s a little boy, too, that Scully is trying to save. And there’s a whole subplot involving that which really only serves to provide her with the key to the big “mystery” – which isn’t all that mysterious – and is then completely abandoned. It’s all just a big, sad mess. You know what I want to believe? That I never saw this movie.
Pathology: Once upon a time, when I was just young girl, I got very high marks in science and my teacher recommended me for a special medical program. I wanted to be a forensic pathologist. I once got to hold a severed and rotting human hand. The skin of the fingertips had been sliced off so the police could try and get fingerprints. It was pretty amazing. I might have stuck with it too, except… that’s a LOT of school. So I was intrigued by the idea of a movie about a bunch of medical students who attempt to use their knowledge of forensics to try and commit the perfect crime. Except that the whole committing the perfect crime thing is sort of sidebar to the whole once-respectable-up-and-coming-doctor-decides-to-do-crack-and-bang-some-chick-doctor-in-order-to-fit-in storyline. All they do is kill some people and then try and have their classmates guess how they did it. In fact, the crimes they DO commit are often sloppy and would in reality leave behind tons of forensic evidence at the crime scenes of people they have a connection to. And of course, no one at this fancy hospital realizes that some of these corpses have autopsies performed on them in the dead of night with no record of it being done. Lame. Although if you’re into the idea of seeing a fake corpse that vaguely resembles a naked Alyssa Milano, you’re in for a treat.
Twilight: I contemplated having this movie occupy all 5 slots on my worst list … but I know you guys already know the depths of my dislike for the movie, so I thought one would be sufficient. I’ve said everything I can coherently say about how bad this movie is and how much it takes what is good about the book and shits all over it. Bella and Edward don’t suck face like sloppy teenagers in the book. They kiss and caress like passionate lovers, overwhelmed by lust, unable to satisfy their deepest want and needs and trying to slake their desires somehow. It can get quite steamy… in fact, there are even reports of women getting so heated they seduce their menfolk and name the resulting babies Bella or Edward. But more than just titillating, the characters are interesting and their story is compelling. But Summit … or Catherine Hardwicke … or someone … decided it would be much better to just stick a bunch of good-looking emo kids on screen and make everything dreary and full of angst and, like, totally serious. What a fucking waste. In the wake of the news that Hardwicke has walked away (or was sent away) from the sequel, I can only hope that my hex works completely, and the production is continually plagued by problems and has to shut down permanently. Now the thought of THAT turns me on.
So that’s it for 2008 … the good and the bad. Here’s to a bloody good 2009!
I saw close to 100 movies over the past 12 months so when it came time to compile this list, I was quite thankful for my trusty spreadsheet with ratings and comments about them all. Despite some very dismal lows (and oh, how low they go!), there are so many bright spots that limiting myself to just five is impossible. As a result, with apologies to the sticklers in the group, here are my picks for the Best of 2008, starting with a quick Top Five:
5. Midnight Meat Train: Certainly the finest looking, most stylish film of 2008 was screenwriter Jeff Buhler and director Ryûhei Kitamura’s adaptation of Clive Barker’s The Midnight Meat Train. When we got home from our journey to find a theatre even showing the damn thing, I wrote “makes the top five”, and now, four months later, I can’t disagree. It has terrific tension and the badass bad guy of the year. The few lapses in judgment by the characters only serve to make it more of a fantasy situation, which ties in nicely with the reveal of the train’s ultimate destination and purpose. The ending could have been fleshed out a bit better, but again, since it’s such a fantasy, it allows the viewers to imagine it however they choose. Not a perfect film by far but certainly deserving of mention and a round of applause.
4. Cloverfield: Aside from Punisher: War Zone (which, I dare say, was a good deal more magnificently bloody and brutal than any other flick that debuted this past year), the only film I saw twice in the theatre was Cloverfield. Its portrayal of our post-9/11 ADD-afflicted, instant gratification-demanding world was dead on. I couldn’t be more different from them, but I connected with the characters and found the whole Cloverfield experience nothing but stellar. And the monster attacks were none too shabby either. Sure, it would have been nice to see more of the beasts, but all in all, it was the best time I’ve had at the movies in years — even more so the second time around.
3. Repo! The Genetic Opera: Meat Train‘s fellow Lionsgate cast-off Repo! The Genetic Opera is next on my list. We’ve told you guys almost everything there is to know about it. It is the hands down winner of the 2008 Blown Opportunity Award. But I’m confident it will find its audience and attain its rightful position in filmdom’s hierarchy. Nothing comes close to matching its visionary sweep and visual stimulation. Or its originality and creativity. Everyone involved does such a great job; it’s imaginative, funny, clever, and touching — in a word, operatic!
2. Hellboy II: The Golden Army: Imaginations must have been running utterly rampant on the set of Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy II. It came close to being my #1 pick, but a few things kept it back, especially Selma Blair’s performance, which I found to be a bit of a weak link with some badly delivered lines. But otherwise it was beautiful — inside and out. His hero may not have a human soul, but Del Toro sure does, and he knows how to use it to its best advantage. Hellboy II is stunning with its deep emotions and poignant moments between the characters with just a touch of comic relief. It’s everything you could want — plus a bunch of truly remarkable monsters and creatures. Even the villain is very three-dimensional and sympathetic. But all empathy belongs to Red — and Perlman. He IS Hellboy!
1. The Signal: You want complex, interesting characters? Look no further than this intense, thought-provoking three-way from David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry. The idea of breaking up a film into segments and having different directors shoot each one isn’t new, but these guys execute it quite brilliantly with just enough overlap to keep things real and moving forward. When I saw it way back in February, I wrote this “scary and extremely violent sci-fi Pulp Fiction plus Affair to Remember [is] probably one of the year’s best.” Indeed, when all was said and done, it was THE best!
And so, what else merits special consideration? My “Best of the Rest” include indie sensations Dance of the Dead, Netherbeast Incorporated, and Teeth. Theatrical releases Quarantine, Doomsday, and The Incredible Hulk easily earned a 4 out of 5 rating so I’d say that makes them worthy of an end-of-year commendation. On the tube we were treated to HBO’s delightful “True Blood” and E4’s ingenious “Dead Set”. Rounding things out are the headsy and arresting Gabriel and Spiral as well as a trio of offerings from Sweden, France, and the UK, respectively: Let the Right One In, Inside, and The Cottage. Any and all of these are outstanding reminders of the superior parts of 2008.
Unfortunately, along with the good comes the bad. Being a firm believer in the old adage If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, I’ll keep it short and sweet:
5. The Happening: The worst script of the year had to be The Happening. Not to insult teenagers, but it honestly could have been written by one. I don’t know when I’ve been more talked down to by a film. Between this and the equally god-awful Max Payne, Marky Mark ought to be counting his blessings he’s got “Entourage” around to pay his bills.
4. Shrooms: Even a ridiculous twist that Shyamalan himself would have seen coming a mile away couldn’t save Shrooms. It wins the award for biggest letdown and most untapped potential. The worst part? I just know there was a decent movie somewhere in that mess!
3. Saw V: On the other hand — trust me — there is nothing remotely decent about Saw V. It is simply a slap in the face to the franchise’s fans with its over-simplifications and explanations. But Julie Benz’s wig is a real hoot!
2. The Eye: There were plenty of direct-to-DVD movies that I rated lower than The Eye remake, but nothing that hit the multiplex was worse in my opinion. The jump scares are abundant, the climax downright silly, and the chemistry between Alba and love interest Nivola non-existent. In short, the prepubescent girls sitting by us LOVED it!
1. April Fool’s Day (2008): Not even the 12-year-olds, however, could muster much affection for April Fool’s Day, the disappointingly substandard follow-up to The Hamiltons from the formerly promising Butcher Brothers. Considering how few critics have included the AFD remake on their end-of-year worst of lists, I’m convinced Creepy, Buz, and I are the only people on the planet who willfully subjected ourselves to it. It’s abysmally dull and boring with awful acting and below average filming techniques. No other project from 2008 came close to matching its level of bad.
But plenty tried. The runners-up include Mother of Tears (oh, Dario, how far the mighty have fallen!), Mirrors (Kiefer, don’t quit your day job), and Pulse 2: Afterlife (on the bright side, Pulse 3 is an improvement). Rounding out the bottom of the barrel, we have Women’s Studies (which I had quite high hopes for), While She Was Out, and Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead. Do yourselves a favor and just keep moving along; there’s nothing to see here.
Thanks for the memories, 2008! One can only hope 2009 will be even more impressive.
Let the Right One In: Not a surprise, I’m sure this one is appearing on the list of everyone who got the chance to see it, and most of them are probably much more talented prose writers than I. Suffice it to say this tragic vampire love story is beautiful and haunting from start to finish, and if you continue to miss it during its limited theatrical run, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
4bia: An anthology film from Thailand, this was one of the biggest surprises of this past summer’s Fantasia Film Festival. I went in with zero expectations and came out very happy. Though two of the stories are pretty weak, the other two more than make up for them. Honestly one of the best anthologies I’ve seen in a long time, and hopefully someone will get this on DVD here in States soon.
Repo! The Genetic Opera: The songs aren’t perfect, some of the singers really aren’t good at all, but there’s just something about Repo! that makes me smile every time I think about it. The production design alone is worth seeing it for, and I highly recommend you see it in a theater, with a big crowd, as soon as you possibly can. Yes, it’ll be nice on DVD in the privacy of your home, but this is a crowd movie if there ever was one.
Splinter: And out of nowhere comes this Brit named Toby Wilkins, whose only claim to fame previous to this were the “Tales From The Grudge” shorts, with a really fun and fast-paced monster movie. A monster movie like we honestly just don’t get anymore, done with practical effects and a respect for the audience. How refreshing!
Hellphone: What the hell is it? It’s a French movie that you haven’t seen, I can almost guarantee, and while its horror cred is somewhat questionable, it was one of the most fun films I saw all year long. The story follows a young kid who needs a cell phone to impress the girl he likes, and ends up with one possessed by a demon. Anyone who crosses the kid meets a nasty end, or just some amusing humiliation, and soon he’s in a rush to figure out how to stop it. Reminiscent of all things about 80’s movies that make them so damn appealing years later.
Asylum: David R. Ellis decided the best way to follow up Snakes on a Plane was this painfully generic teens-in-peril film, featuring one of the most laughably bad “villains” ever put to screen. I kept hoping that it would turn around at some point and become something with a least a dollop of freshness, but that hope was unfounded.
The Attic: For some reason I was really looking forward to this flick from Pet Semetary director Mary Lambert. Maybe because it was being done under the radar, so info on it was scarce, which made it more exciting when something did pop up. Sadly, the final product, about a girl who believes her doppelganger is doing nefarious things when she’s not looking, is about as boring as watching paint dry on grass.
Lost Boys: The Tribe: Really, I didn’t think it could be this bad, but man was I wrong. Between the recycled dialogue shoved down Corey Feldman’s overly-graveled throat, the atrocious storyline that had almost nothing to do with the first movie yet was trying to be a carbon copy of it, and The Sutherland, you couldn’t ask for a more disappointing sequel. So of course it made truckloads of money and they’re already working on a third.
Diary of the Dead: Talk about an amazing letdown; George A. Romero’s first foray into cinema-verite is not only one of the worst things of 2008, but the worst thing the man has ever done. The “acting” is atrocious, the plot is heavier than an anvil and the action is so slow as to be non-existent. I hope Diary was a misstep and his next movie will be the best zombie movie ever, or at least as good as Dawn of the Dead.
Seed: I know, I know. It shouldn’t be surprising that Uwe Boll directed one of the worst films of 2008, but after the surprisingly good Postal, I had some hopes. Hopes that were dashed against the rock of Boll’s ineptitude over and over again during the ridiculously long runtime for Seed. If only he had some loose concept of pacing and lighting, maybe the film could’ve been saved. That’s a big “maybe” though…
What a year. Thankfully we managed to get by without another solid month of bad like February 2007’s 28 Days of Suck! So what hit and missed for Old Creepy? Let’s take a look-see!
Hellboy II: The Golden Army: Know what I like? I like monster movies! Hellboy II: The Golden Army gave me legions of beasties in every shape, size, and color. With this film del Toro once again proves why he is one of the baddest motherfuckers working in the film industry today! Whatever he directs next, I don’t even care if it’s a live action adaptation of the McDonald’s menu — I am so there! Bravo!
Inside: I watched Inside while my significant other lay quietly sleeping beside me. By the time it was over I felt like waking her up and scolding her for being so insensitive! I mean, shit dude, didn’t she have any idea what I was just put through? This movie not only kicked my ass, it left me beaten, battered, scarred, and completely exhausted. I loved every minute!
Repo! The Genetic Opera: What happens when the old EC Comics horror rags crash headlong into The Rocky Horror Picture Show? You get Darren Lynn Bousman’s exercise in the insane — Repo! The Genetic Opera! It really doesn’t get much better than this, folks. The screen is soaked deep red thanks to the gallons of gore that are gleefully splashed about with reckless abandon all while you rock along with a soundtrack that instantly embeds itself into your memory. How could you not have a good time? This is the movie that will become the cult hit that others have only promised. Simply put — it’s one of the most visually stimulating slices of sheer anarchic brilliance you will ever see.
The Signal: Yep. I have the crazy and I’m damned proud of it! The Signal is like horror’s Pulp Fiction. Filled to the brim with stand-out performances, amazing camera work, and rock-solid direction, this is a sterling example of everything that independent horror should be.
Cloverfield: Now this … this is what it’s all about, man! A giant monster fucking up New York City. I bought into every ounce of Cloverfield‘s hype and felt that it lived up to it and then some. It left me slack-jawed and wanting more. Seriously, I’m hard pressed to find a single negative thing to say about it. I know there are many of you out there that will completely disagree with me, but you know what? This is my list so screw you! Cloverfield really did it for me, dude. It was the perfect trip down memory lane for this old Godzilla loving fool!
I will also (like Buz) offer a special mention to Paranormal Activity, which is the scariest film I’ve seen in years. Hopefully the idea of a remake has been put to bed and Dreamworks will finally unleash this movie by giving it the release it so richly deserves.
The Eye: “Being blind is so much fun! Being blind! Being bliiiind!” Of all the remakes of Asian horror I’ve had to sit through over the years, this is absolutely the worst of the crop. It completely missed the mark. Maybe the director was the blind one!
April Fool’s Day (2008): So much anger … hatred … spite. Cannot write … so … much … bullshit. Please … shoot me know … How? Why? It … it hurts … it burns … This movie will make you question your love of film … take it away! If you see it in a store … do your part … hide it … shun it … so … very … bad …
Saw V: Mandylor. Mandylor. Costas MANDYLOR! Sing that along with the Saw theme. They are the perfect lyrics. Pretty amusing, no? Too bad that’s the only thing that’s even slightly enjoyable about this over-written, over-produced, franchise-halting shitfest. Please, Lionsgate … We know you like cash. Who doesn’t? But please stop making these. We’re all done. There was a time when Halloween belonged to Saw but that time is at an end. Take what little dignity this series has left, pick up its bat and ball, and then go the fuck home.
The Happening: Don’t let it happen to you.
Lost Boys: The Tribe: Twenty years. That’s how long we’ve waited for a sequel to the much beloved film The Lost Boys. How I wish we could have kept waiting. Everything about this movie sucks from top to bottom. Surfing vampires? Why even fight these guys? Have a priest bless the ocean, and we’re done. If only it were that quick and painless. There’s a special place in hell waiting for the buffoon who cast The Sutherland™ in this movie. Sleep with one eye open, asswipe!
Mother of Tears, Funny Games, Prom Night, The Haunting of Molly Hartley, Mirrors, and a special heartfelt fuck you to Max Payne for being the worst thing I’ve seen in a theatre in ages. I snuck in and still felt cheated!
HERE’S TO A BIGGER & BETTER 2009!
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