Dread Central's Best & Worst of 2008
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.