The Best and Worst of 2007
1. The Mist - A film like The Mist only comes along every few years, so when we get one its blatantly going to dominate such reflections on the year. For all of Darabont's great adaptations of King's work, he hadn't done one of his horror pieces yet. Unthinkable really when you look at his career which includes scripting duties on the remake of The Blob and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3.
He proved yet again that he's one of the few people out there that get horror. That gets how to scare people, and The Mist doesn't stop there. Andrew called the ending of the film a "gut punch" and there really isn't anything else you can call it. Sure, it probably helped the film tank at the box office by killing word of mouth, but I wouldn't want to see that ending changed. Not one frame of it.
The building tension as people start losing it. The disbelief… the way people are portrayed is so convincing, and so scary. The monsters are brilliantly realized and creative. You really don't know what the hell they're going to run into next, and what the hell it's going to be capable of. Definitely a film I will watch again and again through the years.
2. Grindhouse - Was Grindhouse really released in 2007? Apparently so. A combination of two very different but equally enjoyable films sandwiched together with fake trailer insanity… a ballsy move that unfortunately proved to be a bad one. Split in half and robbed of what made Grindhouse such a fun experience at the cinema, I'm importing the special edition from Japan rather than buying any of the individual releases.
Planet Terror was ridiculous. Over the top. Silly. Brilliant. A film where a character actually rocket jumps. Who could forget Tarantino's genitals? Willis's rotting face? Marley Shelton's advice to her son? Total B movie splatstick. Exactly the sort of thing you don't expect to see screened at multiplexes across the country. I wasn't a fan of From Dusk Till Dawn (to be honest, I much more enjoyed the first half and was disappointed that all those storylines were thrown out of the window) but Rodriguez won me over this time.
Death Proof split opinion much more. Too talky some said, but not me. While I think Planet Terror was the better Grindhouse movie, I think Death Proof was the better movie. Zoe Bell was a revelation. Kurt Russell was brilliant, and when a slow moving film has a payoff like that I find it difficult to see how people weren't satisfied.
3. 28 Weeks Later - Sure it wasn't perfect, and featured a rather silly psychic zombie who seemed able to follow his kids wherever they went, but on the whole 28 Weeks Later was a very impressive sequel to 28 Days Later. A higher budget more Hollywood production did have me worried as to how things would turn out, but the sequel didn't just take the route of more but bigger and had a darker ending than the original to boot.
Throw in some great horror setpieces and a small thread of political commentary (as every good zombie movie requires) and you've got a very satisfying experience. Silly at times and shallower than the original, yes, but still a wholly satisfying and worthy sequel.
And yes. I know they don't call them zombies in the film.
4. Saw IV - I know I'm not the only one to make this observation, but any small actor needs to try and get a bit part in Saw V, so that come VI or VII they'll be the star of the movie. Saw IV felt like ‘who didn't we kill yet?' at times which isn't a criticism just an observation.
Probably the weakest film in the Saw franchise yet, it's still holding up rather well. I enjoyed seeing a little bit more of John's past which was thankfully done in such a way as to not rob Jigsaw of any menace, and arguably if it did rob him of any menace it doesn't really matter now. I did also enjoy seeing those smaller characters take center stage, and while the series is perhaps getting overly tied up in its own continuity (a Saw 2 style refresh would be nice about now) I got my money's worth and will be back next year.
As a footnote Donnie Wahlberg deserves to win some kind of award too for surviving the filming. If he was really put in one of Jigsaw's devices, I have no doubt that the guy would win his game. Once you've spent days hanging from chains stood on a big block of ice everything else mustn't seem so bad.
5. God of Vampires - I don't know when God of Vampires really came out or if it technically is out yet, but Rob Fitz's 8 years in the making, no budget Chinese vampire movie managed to entertain me more than most of the Hollywood horror I saw this year. The sheer dedication involved more than covers up the acting limitations of some (thought not all) of the cast.
The film can't completely hide its lack of anything you'd call a budget, but shot on film, mostly on location, it goes a long way to do so. The make up effects are effective. The action actually exciting… and while it doesn't have any pretences of depth, choosing Chinese vampires as the threat ensures that it's consistently engaging.
If you get the chance to see the film in 2008, do. It's one of those low budget triumphs that don't occur too often, and I wish director Rob Fitz all the best in whatever he moves onto.
1. The Invasion - The Invasion was a film I was very much looking forwards to. I'd enjoyed every adaptation of Invasion of the Body Snatchers on one level or another (and I'm including The Faculty in that) and had been saying we were overdue another for a few years. With the current climate of fear, it was absolutely the perfect time for those flexible body snatchers to represent the fears of modern times.
I hope one day we'll get to see the film Oliver Hirschbiegel made, instead of the "made by committee" one we got. Oliver made his film, and the studio didn't like it because it was too talky. He'd made something cerebral. He'd made a psychological horror movie. Instead of doing an Exorcist: The Beginning, they did something even stupider. They got the Wachowski Brothers to write a bunch of action set pieces, and they got long-time Wachoswski collaborator James McTeigue in to direct them.
The film feels like its evolution: A terrible mishmash of wildly different styles and goals that don't remotely hold together. And the ending. Good god… the ending. You want to see the opposite of The Mist? Rent The Invasion to see how Hollywood would end every horror movie if they could… not only undermining huge portions of the film, but putting a stupidly positive ending onto something that needs a dark ending.
2. Rob Zombie's Halloween - When I first saw the remake, with low expectations… I wasn't actually that disappointed. I thought that once Michael had the mask on, that Tyler Mane did a great job playing the part. I loved a lot of the scenes. I thought Daeg was fantastic as young Michael. I thought that Malcolm McDowell did a great job playing Dr Loomis and hoped for an original sequel to give him more of a chance to shine. I thought Danielle Harris was incredibly brave, and loved that unlike all other heroines in such films, made no attempt to cover up once her life was in danger. She just ran for her life. It was raw and real.
And while those feelings haven't changed, watching Carpenter's original again on Halloween kind of brought home to me all the things wrong with the remake that I was overlooking. It's horribly uneven. Starting like a typical Rob Zombie movie, shifting into more of a psychological drama, then into a clichéd horror movie and finally into almost a note for not condensed retelling of Carpenter's masterpiece.
The actors don't seem to know what kind of movie they're in, and who can blame them? The script doesn't seem to know how seriously it wants to take itself. On one hand Michael is seemingly being presented as just a man, but on the other he impossibly knows where his sister is, something which the film very well establishes that no one could possibly know. I'm not against remakes. Never have been and never will be. But this film neither brings Michael back to his original status (as it keeps all that Halloween 2 motive tosh) nor does it say anything new that the original Halloween did.
3. 1408 - So close. 1408 came so close to winning me over. I loved the idea and still do, and for the first half of the film at least I was really enjoying it. Some moments from it still give me chills thinking back on it. That brilliant "You are here" moment for example. But then all of a sudden the wheels fall off.
If a film is about being trapped in this horrible room for an unbearable hour, maybe, just maybe, you shouldn't take the person trapped in that room out of it for months, in this actually rather nice fantasy where he starts making amends with his estranged wife. For one, we all know he's not really out of the room. That isn't fooling anyone. For two… all that claustrophobia you've been building in the audience, you've just thrown it away. For three, an hour of scariness to weeks of niceness is not a nightmarish scenario. Don't go in room 1408 cause it'll torment you for a little, then give you weeks of fun, then torment you a bit again, AND THEN MAKE YOU RELIVE IT ALL OVER AGAIN!
Yeah. Scary. Plus that ending. It seemed to be going for "It was real all along!" but given that the film hadn't ever presented the events in room 1408 as anything but "now his wife knows it was real too" is hardly the kind of final note that's going to resonate with me after I leave the cinema.
4. Dead Silence - It's just too stupid. Any film where you have to do a certain thing before you get killed is always going to stretch believability. Only Clive Barker has ever managed to pull them off with any success, and Wan and Whannell aren't Clive Barker. You scream, you die. Fair enough, but like most of these things they never actually explain that.
Mary Shaw is able to do a whole bunch of horrible things all by herself. She can make phonecalls. She can make a dead body into a puppet and roll it around in a wheel chair. She can dig up puppets and take them down to the post office and mail them to people. But she can only kill you if you scream. Why? No idea.
Leigh and Whannell did great work on the Saw films, and I appreciate that they wanted to make a modern ghost story with a kind of Candyman-esque figure… but if you can't take the central premise seriously, the film is in trouble.
5. 30 Days of Night - I know this one is going to be controversial. Much enjoyed and much hyped 30 Days of Night was one of the big horror events of the year. People are going to tell me I'm crazy for putting Saw IV ahead of such a well made horror movie as 30 Days of Night but I was incredibly disappointed.
I was hoping for something more like The Mist for one. Thirty days hiding in attics would almost certainly bring about insanity and in fighting and moments of horrible tension. But no. 30 Days of Night instead shows the survivors perfectly safe once they get off the streets, despite constantly shining lights out the window and generally being very unstealthy. 30 Days of Night seems to suggest that you have regular days until you get thirty days of pitch blackness. Then you have the ending. Talk about stupid sacrifices. The sun is about to come up in 5 minutes, and the woman hiding under the car SURROUNDED BY ICE is apparently going to burn to death before then?
Sure, it had some fantastic gore, and some good action set pieces… but it had absolutely no logic and expected me to take it seriously. At least it looked pretty I suppose.