The Best and Worst of 2007
5. Grindhouse - Raucous, slimy, bloody, and stinking of old popcorn and burning tires, Grindhouse stands proudly as a bold experiment that sadly failed. If judged as two single solitary and separate films, the Grindhouse movies admittedly might not belong on a top five list; however, taken as a whole, complete with the brilliant trailers from the likes of Edgar Wright, Eli Roth, and others, topped by a viewing with a hysterically enthusiastic crowd in a sold out theater, Grindhouse deserves a nod as one of the most entertaining and memorable trips to the theater this year.
If you missed this in the theater as so many did, then Grindhouse may never make your own top 5 list. This film was more of an event than a simple double feature, and it was an event that will never happen again. America committed a great sin back on April 6th, when the country stayed home and did its metaphorical hair, and it is doubtful we will ever see such a bold and entertaining experiment in theater such as this ever again. Hope you caught it.
4. The Orphanage - The classic tale of the ghost in the house is arguably the heart and soul of the horror genre. The Orphanage is one of these; a creepy tale of things living in the dark that appear only in glimpses, fragments, and chilling shadows. This is a beautiful film, set in a scenic and believably haunted old home, conveying a natural tone that somehow begs the supernatural to appear from the shadows. There is a deep sadness and tragedy that pervade this story; however, at its core, there beats the bittersweet and tender heart of love and fragile innocence. This is a beautiful movie that is memorable, sweet, and quite creepy; watch it with the lights dimmed, ideally on a rainy day, and enjoy.
3. The Mist - Frank Darabont has dutifully adapted Stephen King's classic novellete with a skill now known and established through repeated success. On the surface, this is a monster movie; a solid skin-crawl in which beasties of twisted imagination are carried forth in a dark and thick mist to reek havoc on a small Maine town. However, The Mist is much more than just a tale of monsters from nightmare; it is also a commentary on the self destructive and superstitious nature of man.
The ending of The Mist is something that will be long remembered and rarely imitated. It is a powerful and frank commentary on some of the darker natures and trends of mankind. It is arguably also a little contrived and forced; however its bold and uncompromising finality helped to make The Mist one of the more memorable films of the year.
2. 30 Days of Night - Vampires reign at the top once again as David Slade's 30 Days of Night adaptation manages to capture what it is to be a savage and brutal blood-drinking monster. 30 Days of Night dismisses the modern stereotypes that burden vampires, those frilly introspective dandies with oh-so-much charm and grace, and instead unveils a more primitive beast that shivers with the simple and base desire to rip your throat out and gorge itself on your blood.
The tone of this film is as cold as its environment; its stark blues and blacks reflective of the harsh brutality unleashed by a few dozen broken toothed killers. This is a mean film; cruel, unwavering, and impolite. By keeping any relieving humor low and the anxiety high, David Slade has created a dark film with a burning tension that chills the heart.
1. 28 Weeks Later - Rarely before has a film shuddered with such energy as in 28 Weeks Later. The energetic anxiety of this film is tremendous; the first 15 minutes alone a veritable work of tension-and-terror art cast and assembled in broken fingernails, coagulated blood, and cold sweat. This film carries themes of cowardice, heroism, of human tragedy, and it does this with a stark chill reminiscent of the sad and true reality of being. Replete with a resounding soundtrack that thunders over the violence portrayed, 28 Weeks Later is a powerful and beautiful film that will stand the test of time for decades to come.
A note must be made before I begin this list. Typically I take some pride in seeing many films in the theater, even those I know beforehand aren't going to be very good. I'm confident I saw all that was good; however, this year, my radar for crap (or, Crapdar™, if you will) was somehow well in force and I just didn't see a lot of the films that I heavily suspect deserve to be on this list. I didn't see Captivity, Skinwalkers, Blood and Chocolate, Hannibal Rising, The Hitcher, or White Noise 2: The Light. I didn't see numerous others that are probably just as bad, and I admittedly don't feel too guilty about this (relieved, mostly). While the films you are about to read about are certifiably bad, realize that the greater failures are likely still out there, lurking on the DVD racks, just waiting to suck. Choose with caution!
5. I Am Legend - I like Will Smith. I also like it when horror films do well in the box office, because that's just good for business. I Am Legend had both of these things going for it. I don't like it so much, however, when classic horror stories are taken and modified through the arrogance of Hollywood. As a stand-alone film, I admit that I Am Legend perhaps is not deserving of being on a top 5 worst films list; however, as an adaptation of a classic, its deviations and revisions are painful enough to warrant a spot.
I Am Legend was adapted in part by the same writer who re-penned 2004's I, Robot, and arguably it's about as true to its source material as I, Robot was to the spirit of Isaac Asimov. The first two acts of the film were reasonable; however, the ending was a revisionist mess that was derivative of so many other sources that were anything but Richard Matheson's classic story. The sad thing is the bankroll hauled in will undoubtedly make the makers think they did the right thing and were justified; they'll never admit, and likely lack the imagination even to realize, that they could have made a film just as profitable that was also loyal to the spirit of the horror classic it was based upon. It is a pity.
4. Rise: Blood Hunter - It's hard to conceive of anything but quality in a film where you have Lucy Lui willing to get nearly naked and covered in blood. How then did Rise: Blood Hunter manage to pull this stunt? Well, they accomplish this first by creating vampires who are a bunch of elitist and pompous self-absorbed fops with no special powers except being able to take a bullet and not die. Then they mix in an awkward scene of a wayward good-old-boy appealing to Jesus after getting wounded, a crappy and mysteriously self-reloading handheld crossbow that's only reason for being in the film is because someone in the props department had one their 12-year-old wasn't using anymore, and a non-linear story telling style that fails to hide the plot holes it so clumsily tries to camouflage. It's a small sin to fail a film; but the sin is quadrupled and triply doubled when you squander Lucy Liu. Serious repentance and atonement are needed here. Someone get a whip.
3. The Invisible - The teenage years are the indisputable peak of all that is awkward. Hormones, acne, fashion, and the fear of getting the crap kicked out of you by ethically confused but inwardly good 98-pound girls can really put a lot of pressure on a young man. Especially if that 98-pound girl leaves you for almost dead in some drainage ditch somewhere and you're trapped wandering the earth in a really weird and socially awkward limbo. You just can't Myspace from the land of the dead, man, and that just blows.
The Invisible takes itself as seriously as teenage angst, and it's just as interesting. This is a film that desperately wants to be saying something but ends up mumbling behind its long uncut bangs. The spiritual state lead character Nick finds himself is profound and it could have been used to equally profound effect; however, here it does the filmic equivalent of writing really bad poetry and then blogging it. No one cares about your blog, Nick. Half your hit count is from your mother.
2. The Hills Have Eyes 2 - In a battle between the military and mutants, you'd think the mutants would have a striking disadvantage of intelligence, wouldn't you? Not so, in this year's The Hills Have Eyes 2. The National Guard has never been portrayed as poorly as this. The guardsmen lose their guns, and fail to notice their camp being set on fire right behind them, only noticing when it's fully enveloped in great leaping flames. They drift off alone to pee, well away from everyone else, which is of course what you do when you're being stalked and picked off one by one. Their equipment is so thoroughly "Hollywoodized" that we're expected to believe that all radio equipment can cease to function because of "the hills". Jesus H. Christ people, we've managed to develop communication devices that can traverse a friggin' hill. A military group isn't going to be cut off just because they go over some piddly hilly terrain.
It goes on. Their military issue flashlights have the strength of a penlight pilfered from the dollar bin at 7-11. They talk to themselves when they're alone and being stalked because we all know when something is hiding and might leap out at you from any possible direction the best thing to do is make a bunch of noise so you can't hear them coming. Given the stupidity of the characters it would have been preferable if the film makers dropped all pretenses and made the story about a length-challenged yellow bus full of the mentally handicapped that crashes with a semi-truck full of loaded guns out in the middle of the desert quite coincidentally near a town of vicious mutants. Our retarded protagonists each seize a rifle and handgun before bouncing into the desert to combat mutants that are only slightly more intelligent than they. They also have pen flash lights from 7-11 that they use to great non-effect in dark caves. They wander off to pee alone and mutter loudly to themselves so that they can't hear the mutants sneaking up on them. This would have made the film more plausible. And better. The National Guard should sue.
1. Rob Zombie's Halloween - I'm not sure if I can convey how much I wanted this film to work. It sparked the underdog syndrome in me and just begged for defense. So much contempt was poured upon this film for months before its release that I just wanted it to surprise and silence all the negativity. I still hold the claim that I always have, that "Halloween isn't that bad", for I think it in no way is deserving of the rabid loathing many have for it. However, as a lost opportunity, as a lost cause, Halloween is without a doubt the biggest letdown this year. To remake a classic of this magnitude requires an end product that isn't shielded by an "it isn't that bad" defense, but rather one that is pristine, striking, fresh and new. Rob Zombie needed to bowl a strike, but he got stuck with a 7-10 split and just couldn't pick up the spare. Please blame three hours of Wii bowling this morning for that metaphor.