Dread Central's Best & Worst of 2008
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.