Dread Central's Best & Worst of 2008
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.