The Best and Worst of 2007
5. Dragon Wars - Admittedly not really a horror movie per se but since we've covered it here at Dread Central I'd say it qualifies. Let me also make it perfectly clear right up front that Dragon Wars is not a good movie - not by a long shot. The script is indefensibly bad and the acting is probably worse; Jason Behr alone gives what may very well be the worst performance of his or anyone else's career. So why is D-War doing on my best list? I found it to be a modern day Godzilla vs. the Smog monster; a film worthy of ridicule, scorn, and unconditional love. It had an enthusiasm about it that's inescapable and reminded me of those hopelessly goofball Japanese monster movies of the 1970's - the ones where Godzilla would have to save the world from some giant monster menace unleashed by cockroaches masquerading as humans or purple monkey men from outer space - and there's stuff here that appealed to the bad movie fan in me who loves laughing at schlocky films worthy of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment. Like many an old Japanese monster movies, I've no doubt I'll be fast-forwarding past a lot of the crud in any subsequent viewings to get to the fun stuff with the monsters. And if you thought Dragon Wars was atrocious, Boll-level bad, I can't argue with you. Movies like Dragon Wars only come along rarely these days. I dare say that's both a good and a bad thing.
4. Hatchet - Despite some reviews that say otherwise, Hatchet is not a film that will revolutionize horror or create a new horror movie icon in the form of Victor Crowley. It's just a damn fun slasher flick - nothing more, nothing less. Hatchet would have been perfect as one half of a 1980's style Grindhouse double feature. It's campy and over-the-top without being overly cartoonish. At once both a loving homage and a send-up of Reagan Era slasher movies that's just a whole lot of fun. If there's such a thing as a good natured killing spree this would be it. The flailing tongue beheading is one of the most memorable movie kills I've seen in ages.
3. Sweeney Todd - "There's a hole in the world like a great black pit/And it's filled with people who are filled with shit/And the vermin of the world inhabit it." But enough about the IMDB message boards. Geez, I cannot get that song out of my head. Who'd have thought one of the best horror movies of the year would be based on a Broadway musical? I usually hate musicals too. For all you gore-hounds out there that think an R-rating and a lot of gore are all that matter, all of you should be forced to watch Sweeney Todd to see how Tim Burton spilled buckets of blood to a far more dramatically effective degree than most every other blood-soaked gore flick to come along this past year and did so in the form of a Gothic musical. A great tale of obsession, vengeance, and cruel irony sprinkled with a good deal of dark humor, a tremendous orchestral score, and far too many songs that'll stick with you after you've left the theater, Sweeney Todd is more than just a big screen version of a Broadway musical, it's one of the most sardonic horror flicks to come along in ages - sort of like an operatic Hammer film of old.
2. The Mist - Some quibbles with the ending not withstanding, Frank Darabont's "Twilight Zone meets 1950's sci-fi monster movies" adaptation of Stephen King's novella gave us something that's increasingly rare these days: a serious-minded monster movie with a brain in its head. It certainly helped that it had a great menagerie of monsters and a cast of characters that might be familiar archetypes but the actors breathed new life into them, especially Marcia Gay Harden as an insane religious zealot - one of the best movie villains of the past year. Simply one of the best monster movies to come along in a long time too.
1. Grindhouse - I'm actually a bit hesitant to put Grindhouse at the top of my list because of some of my past choices. There's no denying that seeing Grindhouse on opening night with an audience that very much got it and were there to have a hell of a good time made this quite possibly the most fun night at the movies I had all year. Not even Tarantino's obnoxious self-love affair with his own dialogue during what I dubbed "My Dinner With Death Proof" could kill the jovial mood. But at the same time, I've yet to go back and revisit either film since they arrived separately on DVD. I recall putting Snakes on the Plane at the top of my list last year after having a similar theatrical experience and then later watching it again on DVD and coming to the conclusion that it didn't hold up as well without an enthusiastic group viewing setting. Same goes for Peter Jackson's King Kong, a film I had some issues with but otherwise enjoyed immensely when I saw it at the theater, but a second viewing on the small screen struck me as a three-hour endurance test that reached masturbatory degrees of self-indulgence. I don't know how I'll feel about Grindhouse upon a second viewing - aside from knowing liberal use of the fast forward button will be made during Death Proof - but for now Grindhouse goes on the top of my list for being a riotous experiment in both homage and excess. The faux trailers alone are works of pure genius.
5) January 1st through April 6th - I joked I would do this during the Dinner For Fiends when we discussed Grindhouse and now here I am living up to my promise. When I say January 1st - April 6th I'm talking about damn near every crappy horror movie that got a wide theatrical release from the start of 2007 until Grindhouse's opening day: Thr3e, Primeval, The Hitcher, Blood & Chocolate, The Messengers, Hannibal Rising, Ghost Rider, The Number 23, Dead Silence, Premonition, The Hills Have Eyes 2, and The Reaping. So very much suckage in so little time...
4. The Number 23 - I realize I just listed it amongst the refuse of films listed between 1/1 and 4/6 but it warrants an extra kick to the groin. If you were to take I Know Who Killed Me and Dragon Wars and put them in a line-up with The Number 23 and ask me which one boasted the most improbable plot I'd still point to The Number 23. I Know Who Killed Me, if nothing else, achieves a "must be seen to be believed" surreal level of badness and Dragon Wars was just a nonsensical monster movie in the vein of many a Japanese monster movie of old; what's The Number 23's excuse? This film is supposed to be taking place in the real world; it's supposed to be a realistic yet mind-bending psychological thriller and yet the sheer number of improbabilities, amazing coincidences, and grossly overlooked details we're supposed to accept would make even Jigsaw's head explode. Wife Virginia Madsen had no idea her husband had spent time in an insane asylum despite the fact that she met him on the steps of one? And thank goodness the owners of that seedy motel never painted the walls in almost two decades otherwise we'd have never gotten all the answers. I could go on all day because there's so much more where that came from and it's all insulting to your intelligence. That the movie boasts such lush production values only makes it the very definition of a well-polished turd.
3. Saw IV - I've never been a big fan of this franchise but I've always kind of dug its Abominable Dr. Phibes vibe and find the Jigsaw character to be an interesting one, at least since part two. That's all now as dead as Jigsaw himself. 2007 really was quite the year for horror movie villain origin stories that only succeeded in making the character infinitely less compelling. Finding out Hannibal Lechter started out as a man-eating samurai Punisher was ludicrous and Michael "I grew up in a dysfunctional white trash family but that still doesn't really explain how I managed to grow up to be a superhuman killing machine that my 'best friend' Dr. Loomis will describe as evil incarnate" Myers' new humble beginnings achieved the exact opposite effect of what the character should have been. Finding out Jigsaw went mad because a junkie inadvertently caused his pregnant wife to miscarry demystifies Jigsaw's madness to a boring degree. That combined with the lousy reason for the person at the center of the plot being chosen to play the game to the lame traps this time out to unveiling the star of Dino-croc as the new Jigsaw and not offering any reason as to why - it was sawful!
2. Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem - A studio that doesn't give a damn about anything other than making a quick buck, a pair of novice directors in over their heads, dark cinematography and erratic editing that made following the action nearly impossible, and a screenplay so execrable that it makes the worst Sci-Fi Channel original movie seem richly nuanced: all of have come together to make a movie that not only came within a hair's inch of making me walkout halfway through – an extraordinary feat considering some of the films I subject myself too, it left me thinking that maybe I had been a tad harsh on its predecessor. Terrible as it may have been, the first AVP at least felt like a real movie and had a few ideas of its own. At the heart of this story is an uncool teenager with the hots for a pretty co-ed who has a jerkwad boyfriend that beats him up every chance he gets … I'm sorry, but is this supposed to be a sequel to Alien vs. Predator or The Karate Kid? Oh, if only the Predator would use some of that disintegrating blue liquid on this film...
1. The Hitcher and Rob Zombie's Halloween
The more I thought about it the more I could not decide which one was worse than the other. Since I picked two awful remakes as my #1 worst last year (When a Stranger Calls and Black Christmas, irrespectively), I figured why not do it again this year?
The Hitcher – Allow me to state upfront that I have no real affection for the original film. It's a good movie, just not one that I put on pedestal. This remake, however, I would love to see on a pedestal - preferably with a noose around its neck waiting for me to kick that pedestal out from under it. Sometimes a film is just reprehensibly bad in the most basic way that a film can be and little more needs to be said. Platinum Dunes' remake of The Hitcher is utter garbage, plain and simple.
Halloween - Do I really need to tell you why? Has not enough already been said on this site, on the message boards, on an entire Dinner For Fiends devoted to venting about how awful, how misguided, this movie was? Maybe so since I know there are those of you out there that swear this film is great. Hey, I liked Dragon Wars but still admit the film is terrible. People who seem to defend this steaming pile usually use words like "hardcore" to describe it as if that somehow exonerates an awful movie that fails on every level, even worse given it's an unnecessary remake of a classic. They argue that Rob Zombie should be given some credit for at least trying to put a new spin on the original. No. Zombie recycled the same white trash psycho material he's done in every movie and then turned around and did a deplorable, at times shot-for-shot, retread of what Carpenter did a million times better thirty years ago. Zombie neither made the material his own, nor made a worthy remake. And for a guy who has practically built his entire career around horror movies, watching his take on Halloween it becomes abundantly clear that Rob Zombie really is pretty clueless as to how to make a movie scary. He just seems to be a one-note filmmaker only capable of reproducing that same riff over and over with every movie he makes. If his music was the same as his filmmaking he wouldn't be Rob Zombie - he'd be Firehouse! Rob, please, don't treat me bad anymore.