Well, folks, 2010 is officially in the can, and unlike 2009 horror movie fans took it in the can a lot less this year. Sure the last twelve months had its fair share of lows, but it also brought us a couple of new classics. As always we covered every single one of them mostly in great detail for you.
Now, with a fresh movie-watching start before us, we’re taking our usual yearly look back at the good, the bad, the WTF, and everything in between.
Don’t just read along, though … give us your lists in the comments section below. We wanna hear from you regarding what we nailed and what we dropped the ball on, so let the games begin!
Dig on our Best of and Worst of lists for 2010 by following the links below!
As per usual I failed this year as a horror fan and a movie fan in general. When I was working on Never Sleep Again, I didn’t go to a single movie for at least five or six months. I’m still trying to catch up on what I missed. So sadly I didn’t get to watch a lot of movies this year, but I did see at least five great ones and one really bad one. So without further ado here are my best and worst picks of 2010.
5. “The Walking Dead”
What’s this? A television show in a best movies list? Damn straight. Out of all the horror films to come out this year, “The Walking Dead” stood out to me, television or not, as being one of the single best pieces of horror entertainment to hit our genre in decades. Who’d have thought that zombies would have translated so well to television? Horror fans did. And it was nice to see just how right we all were. I look forward to next season and what it has to bring us in zombie shenanigans.
4. Shutter Island
Some may argue that this wasn’t horror, but I’m one of the few people out there that considers the psychological thriller part of the horror genre. Besides, a chance to put a Martin Scorsese film on any list is reason enough alone to include this incredible film. From start to finish Shutter Island is mesmerizing. The cinematography, direction, acting, editing, and score are all top notch; and this truly was a treat to see in the theatre. It unfortunately got panned by many for having a predictable twist ending; however, I feel that the twist worked perfectly within the film and the movie isn’t so much about it being a twist but more so about Teddy’s last line of the film: “Is it better to live as a monster or die as a hero?” If the movie had come out 15 years ago, I think people would have hailed this as an instant classic.
3. Paranormal Activity 2
If you’d asked me last year which list I’d be putting PA2 on at the end of this year, I would have predicted my worst. As it stands, I would have been dead wrong. PA2 was every bit as scary and entertaining as the first film and succeeded in being one of the few horror prequels to actually work. And once again, the film has infinite replay power seeing as how the greatest joy with these films is to show them to your friends and watch them shit themselves with fear. And for the record: Fuck kitchens.
2. Piranha 3D
I don’t really think I can say much more on Piranha 3D and just how mind bogglingly awesome it is. Talk about a film that perfectly encompasses the ideology of tits and gore. The greatest thing about Piranha, though, is it knows how ridiculous it is yet, at the same time, plays it straight. With this winning combination it never went too far either way and made it easily the most entertaining movie I’ve seen all year. If there is a God, he’ll grant us a new killer fish movie every year that is every bit as good as this one was.
I debated with myself on whether or not I should have Piranha 3Dor Frozen be number one. In the end I decided that while Piranha 3D was a rip roaring good time, it wasn’t exactly a great movie by critical standards. Frozen on the other hand is a damn fine movie. I can’t remember the last time I watched a film and truly felt the dread and sorrow that the characters felt in Frozen. Absolute empathy. That is just one of the many great things Frozen has to offer. I’m even more impressed with the film knowing that the crew actually shot on location and the actors really were 200 feet up on a ski lift. That alone is a fantastic feat for an independent film. And the one thing about this movie that I hadn’t seen in a long time was the feeling of loss when a character dies. Fortunately director Adam Green keeps these people real with moments of heartbreak and pure gut-wrenching terror. I absolutely loved this film and hope Green does some more like this.
4. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010
Can you tell I really hated this movie? There was so much potential for another entry in the Nightmare franchise with all the new technology available these days. But what do they do? Rehash classic moments from the original with no creative identity of its own. Everything just felt wrong in this movie. And would people stop saying Jackie Earle Haley was a good Freddy? Are you high? You might as well have put Warwick Davis in the role and have him sing “Fred in da Hood come to do no good.” This is easily the worst movie of the year and nothing at all can even come close to topping it. The only movie from the decade that MAYBE is as bad as Nightmare 2010 is Rob “Hell Yeah” Zombie’s Halloween 2, but at the end of the day I think H2 at least tried to do something different, as bad as it was, whereas Nightmare just sat there and looked at you in the theatre and snickered because you just lost 12 bucks on a ticket. The movie was akin to watching The Chris Farley Show: “Remember when…um…Nancy…was sleeping and then Freddy came out of the wall and…stuff? Yeah…that was cool…”
Fuck this movie.
For me, 2010 was a mixed bag movie-wise. There were so many films released theatrically and to home video that being able to keep up often became a daunting task. There just never seemed to be enough time to get all the films on my list seen. Add to that the fact that I tend to watch a lot of foreign product and stuff damn near impossible for the “average Joe” to get his or her hands on… and the filtering process gets even more difficult.
So, with that said…
What follows is a sort of “from the hip” list of readily available films that were either released to theaters or on DVD all broken down into a Best/Worst listing. I’ve left out a TON of foreign product (even though, in my opinion, the Korean, Japanese, Thai, Spanish, and even Philippine markets have cornered the market on truly terrifying films) only because they can be a nightmare in and of themselves to procure.
Agree or disagree… that’s what makes being a film fan so fun!
Visually stunning and thematically engaging, Aronofsky defies convention and offers up a mind-numbing tale about the price of beauty and the intensity of perfection that both delights and disturbs. Unlike most films, Black Swan takes for granted that its audience is intelligent and never panders or over-explains. Instead, it presents its compelling and beautifully detailed story almost matter of factly and leaves it to the audience to figure it all out. Stellar direction and pitch-perfect acting make Black Swan required viewing for film fans.
Scorsese does it again by taking a well-worn subgenre (The Mystery in a Mental Hospital) and spinning it on its ear. While there is an over-abundance of CG in the film (so much so that it gets a little distracting), it’s still brilliantly shot and acted well. And yes, sure… the film is not exactly a puzzler (I mean, who didn’t see the ending coming down Main Street?), but it is just so beautifully photographed and superbly acted (especially DiCaprio) that it demands inclusion on this list. Shutter Island is simply a great film and sadly one that may take a few years for audience to embrace. Its narrative just might be a little too subtle for audiences who want the “Biff Bam Boom” so prevalent in American cinema. Still… this is some great stuff by one of America’s preeminent directors!
Picking up right where [REC] left off, [REC] 2 wastes very little time on character development or even introduction here. We have a SWAT team entering the building and BAM… we’re off and running. There is very little dickin’ around, and the cause of the infection is given outright with lots of creepy make-ups and some great headshots rounding out the proceedings. If you have seen [REC], you know what to expect. If you haven’t, see that fucker NOW. If you’ve seen QUARANTINE and think it’s the same thing as seeing [REC], you’re wrong. DEAD wrong.
Starkly told and yet beautifully shot, this is a film that, while not for everyone, is, in my opinion, absolutely amazing. While not strictly horror, the film’s themes of isolation, fear, and death warrant its inclusion here. The pace of the narrative is slow and one really has to pay attention to each and every word spoken (because there aren’t very many of them), but damn… just a terrific cinematic experience. VERY violent at times and yet lyrical and introspective, there is one stunningly crafted scene shown after another. Without ever saying a word, Mads Mikkelson smolders in the lead role and conveys more emotion than many actors could ever accomplish. This is easily one of the best films I’ve seen in recent memory. Absolutely amazing and, for the patient viewer, highly recommended.
La Horde (aka The Horde)
What a pleasant surprise! Goddam… once again, leave it to the French to show us Americans how to do a horror movie right. This time… it’s zombies, and boy do they get it right. This is… by far… my favorite zombie film I’ve seen this year. A group of cops enter a dilapidated building which has been taken over by a Nigerian drug lord/arms dealer in a simple act of retribution for the killing of one of their own. The assault goes bad when several of the cops are injured. So, we have a pretty standard crime thriller starting out. Then, far off, we hear howls of some animal and shadows are seen flitting about the building’s periphery. From that moment on, La Horde is a balls-to-the-wall zombie action hootenanny. Good performances (especially the old man and the main Nigerian lead), inventive scenarios, and competent direction from the filmmakers make for a rollicking good time. Very fun! Well worth seeking out. Viva La Horde!
With a script seemingly written by a hormonal 12-year-old boy who’s watched WAY too many Tarantino movies, this film is a T&A cavalcade with little heart and even less brains. It’s a train wreck of one-dimensional characters and comic book screenwriting (and I don’t mean that in a good way). All you need to know about this fiasco is that the director cut his teeth on episodes of “Xena”, “She Spies”, “Hercules”, and “La Femme Nikita”… do I need to paint a friggin’ picture? Ok… that said, the women in the film are HOT, but that by no means makes a decent film or a satisfying viewing experience. Watching this with a bunch of guy friends and a ton of beer might be fun, but… I walked away feeling frustrated and irritated.
An interesting premise (Maximum Overdrive meets Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight meets The Prophecy) gets hamstrung by LOOONG talky (i.e., boring) sequences and a moronic third act. Make no mistake, though; at its core Legion is a zombie film (think Night of the Living Dead in a diner with some goofy Biblical shit thrown in to obscure its true origins), but a bad one. Director/writer Scott Charles Stewart is an ex-FX guy and it shows; there are some decent looking FX shots in the film. The problem is… the story is cobbled together and not exactly well thought out. I mean for example, towards the end, a woman who has JUST given birth is seen rapidly climbing up a mountain with her newborn baby in her arms. The shit just don’t make sense – from an anatomical standpoint alone. Further, the internal logic having to do with God and his relationship with Michael and Gabriel is loaded with inconsistencies. And don’t even get me started on the fact that this is supposedly a film about angels, but very few angels are ever seen. Having now seen Legion, I worry about Stewart’s next project – the big screen adaptation of Hyung Min-woo’s comic Priest. From his handling of Legion, he’s bound to fuck that up as well.
This is really a film that needs to be reviewed in two parts – the plot and the FX. The plot… is terrible. Full of holes and idiotic inconsistencies, the film is a mess. While the cinematography and set design are first rate, the script keeps getting in the way and drags the film down. Now… the FX… are impressive. The metamorphosis scenes are breathtaking and Rick Baker outdoes himself. The creature pays homage to the classic monster design as well as updating it into something both cool to look at and something that gives off a sense of genuine menace. But… for all of that… the script shoots holes in any credibility. Oh, and Benicio del Toro is TERRIBLE. When you first see him – doing Hamlet on stage of all things! – you know you’re in for a bumpy ride. Bottom line: Is the film worth seeing? Well, yes… the set design, the cinematography, and the FX are all things every genre fans should see. If for no other reason than to see how good this film COULD HAVE been. Just know going in that there are some MAJOR problems with the narrative and the main performance.
Someone’s Knocking at the Door
Low budget and poorly acted, you have to at the very least give this one credit for chutzpah. I mean, it’s not often that you see a film in which the murder weapon is a 15” long phallus. Reportedly shot in 11 days, the expediency shows around the edges. One problem with the film is that, from the beginning, we are supposed to believe these chuckleheads are med students. Really?!?! Drug addled and not too smart from the looks of things, it’s a huge leap of faith expected from the audience to believe these kids are anything but dropouts. It’s also pretty obvious that the director, Chad Ferrin, is REALLY into David Lynch from the erratic editing and wacky internal logic. And then, there’s the end… I won’t say what it is, but I will say it’s a copout and shows one of the hallmarks of bad storytelling. The gore is minimal and I guess the big “controversial” aspect of the film is the supposed male-on-male rape scenes. Whatever… The best thing I can say about this film is that it’s short (76 minutes). Oh, and look for Vernon Wells (Commando, Road Warrior) in a small role.
Having absolutely nothing to do with the first Mirrors, this completely inane film is more of a Scooby Doo mystery than supernatural thriller. Where to begin, though… The script is one whose ending you will see coming a MILE away. The acting is sub-par and delivered without conviction. While there are a few interesting CG moments in the film, they are few and far between. What bugged me most about Mirrors 2 is that it is obviously cut from a completely different cloth than Mirrors was and the labeling it as part of the franchise was more marketing decision than anything else. William Katt shows up for absolutely no reason and his encounter with the spectre of the mirrors in fact goes against everything that the resolution implies. Dumb, silly, and completely without merit, Mirrors 2 is not worth your time or your rental.
Sadly, there were so many more bad films this year than good ones… Skyline, Devil, The Lost Tribe, Hatchet II, The Last Exorcism, the brain cell killing Monsters, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Splice, the Japanese Dead Rising film, the inane and unnecessary Night of the Demons remake, Aaah! Zombies! , dear god, Giallo… and then there was the incessant shitpile that was the After Dark HorrorFest and Fangoria’s Frightfest, which featured (with maybe one or two exceptions) films that closely resembled something you’d find left on your lawn by the neighbor’s dog.
Still, what was bad was really bad, but what was good was also really good. Here’s hoping 2011 is another fascinating year for cinema!
If there’s a word that sums up the movie year of 2010, it would have to be unmemorable. I can think of only three movies in the past 12 months that I would go so far as to call great. Narrow the field down to just the horror genre, and assembling a list of the five best of the year becomes a near impossibility for me. Even most of the ones I enjoyed left no lasting impression on me. So in putting this list together, I decided to base my opinion on what horror movies do I still remember at year’s end, what movies I still talk about, what films I still recommend to others, the ones I’d be willing to watch again. Basing my decisions on such criteria, a movie from The Asylum is on my best of the year list. Even I cannot believe this. This could be a sign of the apocalypse.
5) MEGA PIRANHA
I decided to give my #5 slot to my favorite so-bad-it’s-good movie of the year. A movie like this you either laugh with it, at it, or hate it. I had a blast doing the first two. In fact, thinking back on it long and hard, I had more fun watching Mega Piranha than Piranha 3D. Despite crazy Christopher Lloyd, fully nude Kelly Brook in 3D, and some of the most over-the-top nature gone amok carnage ever put to film, Piranha 3D never fully clicked with me for some reason. On the other hand, in an over-the-top b-movie way, Mega Piranha did. What can I say? I had more fun watching fake CGI giant piranha leap out of the water, crashing and exploding into multi-story buildings, than I did watching fake CGI prehistoric piranhas devour spring breakers. I called this film “blissfully retarded” in my review. In a year I found to be as lackluster as this, “blissfully retarded” is just good enough to make it onto my best list.
4) THE LOVED ONES
For my #4 pick I selected a film I’ve been lucky enough to see that most of you have not yet had the opportunity to see because it has yet to be released in the US. I’ve heard this movie described as John Hughes does torture porn. That’s an unfair description. Unlike a myriad of torture-themed films I’ve seen, The Loved Ones uses the gruesomeness to actually ratchet up the suspense rather than just aiming for shock value or tantalizing viewers with gory money shots. Add in the surreal father-daughter maniac relationship, and you have an extra layer of creep factor. I first saw this film with a room full of teenagers on Halloween night, and believe me when I tell you it had every one of them freaking out. Seek it out when it finally comes your way.
3) THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE)
I’m still not even sure I actually enjoyed this seriously fucked up horror film from the demented mind of Tom Six. His is most definitely a demented mind. Normal people don’t dream up movies about mad scientists sewing people together ass-to-mouth. There is no denying The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is the most memorable horror movie of the year. Even people who haven’t seen it talk about this one, if just to let it be known they find the premise so vile they’ll never watch it. The only reason I think the film works and the reason it’s on my list at all has to do with one man: Dieter Laser. His mad scientist is one of the best deranged geniuses gone wrong in ages. Combine his intense, sometimes darkly comical performance with the icky imagery of people getting sewn together ass-to-mouth and… I’m not even sure how to finish that sentence.
2) [REC] 2
[REC] 2 is the very model of how to make a sequel that’s really just more of the same yet feels fresh and delivers everything you liked about the original while expanding upon its mythology in a way that enhances both films. Aside from the motivations that leads to the introduction of a group of dumb teenagers (I refuse to believe any teenagers could be this dumb), this a smart, scary, exciting dark ride of a movie that delivers the first-person POV thrills I’ve never gotten from the Paranormal Activity films.
1) RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE
I can very much see this one becoming a Christmas tradition in my household. In my review I heralded it as not only the best Christmas horror movie since Gremlins, but I proclaimed it one of the best movies of 2010. Now I can just call it the best horror movie of 2010. If you need any other reasons why, then just read my review.
Honorable Mentions: Frozen, Birdemic
5) RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE
Alternate title: Paul W.S. Anderson Jerks Off with James Cameron’s 3D Camera for 90 Minutes. This was the first Resident Evil movie I’ve ever seen. That in no way had any impact on my complete inability to comprehend what the hell was going on in this film. I don’t even believe this was an actual movie. This was merely an excuse for Paul W.S. Anderson to recreate all his favorite moments from better movies in 3D. The only thing he didn’t throw at the screen was a kitchen sink. I can only imagine how stupid this movie must look in 2D. After House of the Dead I declared “bullet time” officially dead; after this debacle I hereby declare Zach Snyder’s special brand of hyper-stylized slow motion action officially uncool.
Having seen quite a few glowing reviews for this film, I can only assume one’s ability to enjoy Altitude is predicated on one’s ability to not hate the four lead characters and not roll one’s eyes at the explanation behind it all and not sigh in disbelief at the “Stephen Spielberg’s Amazing Stories” ending. That twist ending might have actually worked if everything preceding it hadn’t annoyed the hell out of me. I absolutely hated these characters, especially the idiot blonde guy, the most obnoxious character from any movie this year. Uncle Creepy told me before I saw Altitude that he hated the ending so much he threw the screener he was sent in the garbage immediately after watching it instead of sending it to me so that I wouldn’t end up paying $10 buying a copy from Wal-Mart like I did. I called him up immediately after watching it for myself and told him I would mail him my copy if he’d throw it in the garbage for me.
3) VAMPIRES SUCK
Yes. Yes, they do. They really, really do. Zero knives, bitches!
2) MY SOUL TO TAKE
I still want to know how the blind kid found a rope hanging out of a bedroom window, a rope he wouldn’t have had any clue was even there if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes. I still want to know why a slasher movie ended with characters standing around verbally explaining the proceedings as if it were the reveal at the end of an Agatha Christie novel. I want to know a lot of things about My Soul to Take. The thing I most want to know is what the hell was Wes Craven thinking? Craven cannibalized his own creations, Nightmare on Elm Street and Shocker, to create this dull mishmash about a back-from-the-grave, body-possessing, switchblade killer in what looked to be a papier-mâché Rob Zombie costume. So weirdly awful I actually found myself wanting to know where in the hell Craven was going with it. Then he got where he was going, and I realized he had just wasted 90 minutes of my life. This could be worst movie of Wes Craven’s career, and I say that as someone who paid to see Vampire in Brooklyn theatrically.
1) THE DESCENT: PART 2
I saw a lot of bad horror movies in the past 12 months but only one that truly pissed me off. If they’d just gone and made a classless cash-in sequel to my favorite horror movie of the past decade, I wouldn’t have come away nearly as outraged. Instead they decided to make a direct sequel that rewrites both endings to the original and screws with the dynamics of the relationship between the two lead actresses which had already ended on a perfect note. This sequel is a cast of photogenic CW Network actors and actresses away from being what the original would have been like had it been produced by Dimension: over-reliance on gross-out visuals, dumb characters making unbelievably dumb decisions, amazingly well lit subterranean caves, monsters that get so much screen time they lose their proper effect, and an insulting twist ending to boot. They should have just marketed this as The Cave Part 2 as it was closer to that brainless dud than Neil Marshall’s monstrous masterpiece.
Dishonorable Mentions: A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Wolfman, Case 39, Night of the Demons, The Graves
Part Children of Men, part District 9, but 100% spell-binding storytelling, Gareth Edwards’ Monsters is by far my favorite film of the year. Few movies are able to capture the true independent spirit of filmmaking while delivering a tender story amidst a sci-fi epic, but Monsters does just that. Set in a world where aliens already exist on our planet, Monsters shows that human or not, everyone is just searching to find their place in this world. The last 20 minutes of the movie alone are Oscar-worthy, and sci-fans would be remiss if they didn’t seek out this gem when it comes out on DVD.
2. Paranormal Activity 2
A sequel that not only is better than the original but actually makes the first one a far more satisfying experience after the fact? Yes, indeed! I never would have imagined at the start of 2010 that I would call Paranormal Activity 2 one of the best films of the year, but here I sit. Effectively jarring, and the only film since The Blair Witch Project that actually kept me up, PA2 shows other filmmakers working out there that sometimes it’s not gore or over-the-top villains that keep audiences on the edge of their seats – it’s good, old-fashioned creepy storytelling.
3. The Crazies
The Crazies is a movie that was the underdog from the start: a smaller-than-needed budget, an independent studio that hadn’t much experience handling wide releases of theatrical horror, and it was a remake of a horror film that is not well-known to mass audiences. But somehow, Breck Eisner’s The Crazies prevailed, connected with audiences, and showed independent studios out there that when marketed and made right, horror will find an audience. On top of all that, you have a stellar cast, a genuinely strong script, and an ending that makes you anxious for a sequel. The Crazies ended up being one of the more refreshing films for me this year.
It’s hard to make a horror film these days that’s just about three people stuck on a chair amidst our culture of short attention spans, but somehow, Adam Green found a way to make it work in Frozen. As a storyteller, Green delivers a horror film that makes you care about the protagonists through a delicate character study, coupled with a chilling exploration of your worst fears, relentlessly holding you as the viewer in a death-grip of emotional terror that doesn’t let go until the film’s conclusion.
5. Red Hill / Machete
I reserved my last spot for two films that weren’t necessarily horror but were by far two of my favorites overall for the year. The first is Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, which features a perfect blend of B-movie machismo, ass-kickings aplenty, and Danny Trejo’s Rambo meets Robin Hood meets Robocop performance as the titular character was killer enough to spawn one of my favorite catchphrases of the year: Machete Don’t Text. The second is Red Hill, an Aussie drama featuring “True Blood” star Ryan Kwanten as Shane Cooper, a man caught in the middle of the deadly showdown between those he’s sworn to help uphold the law beside and a wronged convict, hell-bent on revenge. Like Monsters, it’s a film that deserves to get some Oscar love (but most likely won’t).
Personally, I just can’t do a list of the top 5 worst films of 2010. Let’s just say I prefer to focus on the good rather than the bad.
The Loved Ones
The surprise hit of the year for me. First-time director Sean Byrne takes the high school romance genre and gives it a massive psycho injection with gripping and effective sequences of torture and abuse that put to shame most of the lazy torture porn offerings of the past two years. Lead antagonist Robin McLeavy, alongside actor John Brumpton as her utterly insane father, is an unhinged treasure.
The most fun genre release of the year, Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D does exactly what it set out to do: Take you on a wild and gory thrill ride from start to finish. Sure, some of the effects work is a little dodgy; but limitless gore, Ving Rhames, Jerry O’Connell, Eli Roth’s head being crushed, Kelly Brook and Riley Steele in a nude underwater make-out session, Christopher Lloyd and THE cameo appearance of the year by Richard Dreyfuss are all top-notch ingredients for one great big monster-movie feast.
Christopher Smith’s cinematic track record goes from strength to strength with the Sean Bean-starring Black Death. A bleak, harrowing, unsettling and plain vicious cross of The Wicker Man and Witchfinder General, Black Death is not a film you will soon forget.
Genre favourite Adam Green returns to the swamp for more head-mashing mayhem at the hands of Victor Crowley. An immediate sequel to the events of the first movie, Hatchet II is bigger, better, funnier, gorier and just plain better than the first. Some of the year’s best kills are to be found here alongside a great cast of legends including Danielle Harris and Tony Todd.
While not specifically a horror film per se, Buried – like District 9 last year – has shouldered its way onto my year-end list by virtue of just how utterly fantastic it is. Director Rodrigo Cortés manages to perfect the impossible: Keep the audience interested for 90 minutes with a single physical cast member in a single location. When that single location happens to be a coffin, the chances of failure are astronomical. Thankfully, actor Ryan Reynolds steps up to the plate and makes the role of Paul Conroy all his own, punching out a career-defining performance that makes Buried an unmissable, and unforgettable, success.
A Serbian Film
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
The problems with this pathetic action-horror hybrid are synonymous with its title – a nonsensical story involving killer angels that look like demons and a bold-faced rehash of the plot of The Terminator. Not even Dennis Quaid can save this utter mess of a movie, drowning in ridiculous dialogue, brain-dead characters, unimpressive action sequences and plot-holes so big I assume the angels flew through them on their way down to torment us.
As with most every year, 2010 had its fair share of straight-to-DVD crap polluting shelves and players. Quite possibly the worst of the bunch was Asham Kamboj’s pseudo-political borefest Basement. Sporting a lethargic pace (which makes the brief 77-minute runtime feel twice as long), painfully poor lighting (if you thought AvP: Requiem was bad, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet), annoying characters, poor performances and a half-baked storyline that’s just plain shite, this particular basement should be filled in with cement and forgotten about.
New Terminal Hotel
B.C. Furtney is a magician; a technological wizard. Somehow, the director has managed to capture the very essence of boredom and seamlessly fuse it to celluloid. Insomniacs around the world rejoice – the answer to your prayers has arrived. Sluggish, tepid, uninvolving, and just plain vacuous; not even the best efforts of the oft-reliable Tiffany Shepis and Ezra Buzzington can elevate New Terminal Hotel above plain worthless. This is one dive you do NOT want to check into.
Isle of Dogs
A British gangster flick that aspires to being a giallo, Tammi Sutton’s attempt at crossing genres is an extreme disappointment. Most of the elements are there, but they’re undercooked, underdeveloped and carelessly used. As described in the original review, the film is more of a rag-tag mish-mash than a careful symbiosis of genres. Isle of Dogs is slow, boring, emotionally impenetrable and just downright tedious.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Would the real Brad Fuller please stand up? SO WE CAN PUNCH YOU IN THE FUCKING FACE!
5. Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy
There might have been two big Freddy Krueger films in 2010, but only one of them was fit to don Freddy’s crumpled old fedora. Some of my Dread Central colleagues were heavily involved in the creation of this exhaustive and expansive documentary – a fact which has no bearing on the accolade I’m giving it.
Here’s a film that explores its subject with as much depth and insight as humanly possible. Funny, fascinating and surprisingly touching, Never Sleep Again brilliantly documents all facets of “Freddy Mania” with a keen eye.
4. Best Worst Movie
Yes, this made the film festival rounds in 2009, but its official theatrical release wasn’t until this year – which qualifies it for this list. This Troll 2 reunion isn’t simply an exploration of the longevity and appeal behind Claudio Fragasso’s ridiculous cult sensation but, more interestingly, works as a character study of leading man George Hardy. Watching Hardy’s emotions run the gamut from awestruck to annoyed makes for gripping storytelling – especially when he’s joined by the film’s other participants. Alternating between hilarious and depressing, there have been few films in recent memory as compelling as this.
While Adam Green is perhaps best known for the over-the-top Hatchet double feature, his psychological films have convinced me that this guy knows how to put a movie together. Frozen is so affecting that it guarantees you’ll be watching it through squinted eyes and the cracks of your fingers. It certainly helps that the actors bring these characters to life in a way that makes them completely believable. Green’s commitment to old school filmmaking (i.e., filming this in impossibly brutal conditions instead of bullshit green screen) solidifies this as one of 2010’s greats while also being the best film to date in his promising career.
2. The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
No film this year was more of a delightful surprise than Tom Six’s mad scientist oddity. Audiences were disgusted before this film even hit theaters (to this day I have friends who angrily refuse to watch it) as we all know people love controversy. Of course, the detractors might be shocked to discover the depravity is considerably restrained and frequently hilarious. It’s not without some unsettling moments, either. In fact, Human Centipede works so well because it’s a rollercoaster of humor, horror and well-executed suspense. The end result? A new classic in my house. FEED HER!!!!!!
I’m still astounded that Warner Bros. had the stones to release such a commercially unfriendly film to theaters … and in a summer slot to boot! It’s a shame the risk didn’t pay off, but Splice was an easy choice for my number one spot this year as no other film managed to resonate in quite the same way. The idea that sins of the parents are repeated on their children is what drives this twisted little sci-fi shocker and provides some surprisingly complex substance to chew on once the credits have rolled. Not for all tastes, this unexpected trip back into old school Cronenberg territory isn’t afraid to take risks, while Dren is one of the most magical CGI creations of all time.
5. Resident Evil: Afterlife
I didn’t hate watching this, the fourth installment in the inexplicably enduring franchise, but it’s writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson’s absolute contempt for coherent storytelling that places this one on the list. It’s nothing but a barrage of amazing coincidences as our heroes combat an evil corporation seemingly hell-bent on killing everyone – despite the fact that there’s only a handful of survivors left in this ravaged wasteland. Time and time again, Anderson has displayed his startling inability to think his story through, but never has it been as glaring as in Afterlife. It’s watchable, but you’re going to hate yourself afterwards.
I wanted to love Robert A. Masciantonio’s Neighbor based on its premise alone: a mysterious woman stalking and killing the residents of a small town for no discernable reason. Unfortunately, America Olivio proves she doesn’t have the chops to carry a film of this nature, and the rest of the cast succeeds in nothing but grating on the nerves. Poor writing and slack direction that fails in generating any suspense really sinks this abominable effort on nearly every level.
Seriously, Full Moon, why’d you even bother? The same no budget crap you’ve been churning out for the last seventeen years … only difference being that this time you said it would be different. You lied.
2. Road Kill (Road Train)
When I put an Aussie movie on my “worst of” list, you know it’s a pile of filth. This isn’t just among the worst piles of garbage of 2010, it’s one of the worst things I have ever encountered in the genre.
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street
Thanks for making it easy, Platinum Dunes. Make no mistake; this remake is among the most execrable ever put to film. Let’s attribute it to the complete lack of innovation in the dream sequences and the bland collection of actors slogging their way through this turgid mess. Jackie Earle Haley never had a chance with this script, but he does nothing to elevate the character of Freddy Krueger either. Everyone involved here succeeded only in one thing: killing this new franchise before it even got out of the gate. Good riddance.
In a town hit by a man-made chemical weapon causing neighbor to turn on neighbor, there is nowhere to hide. If the government knows it happened and seals the place off from the rest of the world, that’s double true! The premise is not overly worked with characters so well formed; all it took was a cast of excellent actors to make it swing. This is an epic tale with tragedy at every turn and absolutely no need for a sequel.
Sometimes, a crew is just allowed to do everything right. The fact they are ALLOWED to is the real miracle. Black Swan is the darkest fairytale about a ballerina trying to make her dreams come true. Unfortunately, her success can only be attained as her sanity unravels, on screen, like a terrifying creature of infinite beauty. This is the saddest of soul-stirring songs with a finale that will stay with you long after the credits roll.
While 90% of Hollywood seeks to wow their audience with overwhelming spectacle, earth-shaking horrors…or at the very least, ye old tried and true remake, one film crew decided to take us back to school. Three people on a chair lift in the dead of winter. As each light goes out below them, we wonder what will happen next. Superb acting, perfect direction and sound effects that will make you ball up in your seat with imagined pain are all the movie magic you’ll ever need.
When is the last time you heard a soundtrack to a movie and said, “I need to own that!!” Not for a long fucking time, yea? This movie has that at its core, and built around it is a gritty cyberpunk tale with very few traditional “good guys” to be found anywhere. It’s bloody, fast, sexy and even alongside the unflinching horror, it’s funny! This is everything I ask a perfect date movie to be…if your girl is as twisted as you are, of course.
Best Worst Movie
Brilliance. The filmmaker, who was also an actor in the abysmally bad Troll 2 (the subject of this movie), paints a portrait of triumph wrestled painstakingly from the clutches of total failure. We are now in the future, where we celebrate the cataclysmically bad in films, and so a movie outlining such a fall and rise with nothing but pure honesty behind the lens makes for an insanely good time, not to mention the source of many an hysterical moment. Even worse, the documentary is so good, IT MAKES YOU WANT TO WATCH TROLL 2!!! For that, the filmmaker should be applauded, then shot.
A pack of unlikable characters locked in an elevator, and one by one, they start dying in the most brutal ways possible. Instead of playing up the claustrophobia of the situation, we get breaks with a detective trying to unravel the mystery. This might also be a gripping option, except that the ENTIRE PREMISE OF THE MOVIE IS BASED ON THE FACT THAT THE KILLER IS THE DEVIL!!!! Thus, the fucking title…and the trailers. Why, oh why, would you waste your time and mine trying to spin a murder mystery worse than anything “Law and Order” ever threw in the trash, when the whole idea is the devil is fucking about? Ugh. The only thing more ill-conceived would be if the fucking trees were killing people. Could you imagine that crap?!?
Some movies convince you they started out as a stick figure sketch made in the middle of a pitch meeting. The ink bleeds through the cocktail napkin like a classic Slayer album cover. An angel with rippling abs and leather pants wields a glimmering sword in one hand and a badass automatic weapon in the other. SOLD!! Then the same guy writes the film and directs all the action. The suits stop him when he insists it would be “boss” if they replaced all the gunfire sounds with him making Pew Pew noises. This is a colossal waste of time and one that will give you a headache with brain assaulting dialogue you’ll be convinced a pack of stereotypical jocks from an 80’s movie came up with.
It’s 2…two…TWO bad movies in one! One film is a CGI blockbuster with giant menacing aliens pilfered from your favorite video games and movies. The other, a badly lit, poorly acted, horrifically written and sluggishly paced “humans in peril” saga shot on a sub-par camera phone. Put them together and it’s as yummy as chocolate-dipped dung beetles.
This was a painful one. Most reviewers would agree it is a lesson in what to NOT do in nearly every instance of editing, directing, and shooting. The creators took an edgy, mysterious anti-hero character with years of history already written for him and (as Hollywood is so fond of doing) then said, “You know what…we got this.” They said, “We’ll make him HOT and wisecrackin and give him a perpetually sweaty HOT femme to rescue.” Then they hired an excellent actor to play his nemesis and told him to read all his lines as if he was disappointed with his only female child. They also mentioned that if he could get through the entire film without making a single facial expression, he would get a fat bonus. Success.
Clash of the Titans
Never have I looked forward to a movie more and been so completely disappointed by the result. Just goes to show you can’t computer generate FUN!! Ya know…because it is supposed to be fun, like those movies they make where we laugh and cheer and smile a bit. Instead we got an orgy of flaccid special effects sitting in for any sort of interesting writing and, as a final fuck you, a little dig on how lame the creators thought the original was. Note to Hollywood: If you don’t understand why an original movie is loved, DON’T REMAKE IT.
It’s always interesting to look back over the past year and reflect on what constitutes the best and worst films of a particular time frame. While most of us tend to focus on the negative — too many remakes/reimaginings, unnecessary and unsatisfactory sequels (or prequels), and an overall lack of respect for the moviegoing public exhibited by the studios and especially the MPAA — I was surprised by how few truly low rated movies I had on my 2010 horror list. Out of a total of 80 films, a good quarter of them (21 to be exact) earned a rating of 4 knives or more with just 14 garnering below average scores (0 to 2 knives), which means a whopping 45 (or well over half) received an average or above average mark (2-1/2 to 3-1/2) from me. As a result, it was very easy to pick my Worst of 2010 and keep things to a minimum with a Bottom 5 and an equal number of Dishonorable Mentions, but when it came to honoring the Best, I had a much harder task. So, per usual, I’m bending the rules a bit, and while my Best of 2010 does have a Top 5, the Honorable Mentions simply had to be expanded to an even dozen.
Without further ado, let’s get this show on the road so we can concentrate on what’s upcoming in 2011!
1. Black Swan
I have only one word to describe Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan: breathtaking. It is hands down my favorite film of the year, and not just in the horror category although it certainly provides plenty of chills and squirm-inducing moments for genre fans who might be put off by its ballet milieu. The transformation scene is still burned into my brain and will surely remain there for months to come. Natalie Portman acts her ass off and proves she is a true “movie star”. Black Swan, along with its cast and crew, deserves each and every accolade and award nomination it has received thus far with undoubtedly many more to come.
2. Piranha 3D
We’ve all heard the expression “from the sublime to the ridiculous”, and what better to follow the transcendent beauty of Black Swan than the cheesy hilarity, over-the-top gore, and gratuitous nudity of Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D! Was it technically among the “best” of 2010? Of course not, but it provided more fun and giddy good times than any of the other films on this list did, and it stands out as the first movie since 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake that got me to return to the theatre the same day for a repeat viewing. That’s got to count for something, right?
3. The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
Remember that focus on negativity I mentioned in my opening paragraph? Another thing people complained about this past year was a lack of originality. They obviously didn’t see Tom Six’s The Human Centipede. Crazed, crazy, creative, and disgusting, it was also mind-blowingly inventive (what kind of person thinks up these things?) and gave us the best new horror villain in years: the stunningly deranged Dr. Heiter, played to a “t” by German actor Dieter Laser.
Black Swan isn’t the only psychological thriller that struck a chord with me this past year. Although I hadn’t been much of a Melissa George fan prior to hitting “play” and watching Triangle, I wound up liking this soooo much more than I expected. She gives a terrific performance, and thanks to a great supporting cast and a really smart script from writer/director Christopher Smith, Triangle is a brilliant little mindfuck flick that just seems better and better as time goes on.
I was fortunate enough to be among the first people to watch and review Adam Green’s survival horror tour de force Frozen. Here’s what I said then, and it’s still true today: “Man vs. Nature is an eternal theme that’s tricky to get right on film. In Frozen‘s case it’s damn near 100% right.” There are two remarkable things about Frozen – its realism and its cast. Other than Black Swan, it provided me with the purest emotional experience of 2010. If you’ve still yet to see it, what the hell are you waiting for?
1. Resident Evil: Afterlife
This is a truly awful movie with a ridiculous script that makes virtually no sense and the most pretentious acting we saw all year. It’s only redeeming features are how well it’s shot and how good the 3D looks, but really, don’t waste your time. Play any one of the RE video games instead.
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street
This one starts off decent (much like the F13 remake) up to the opening title card, but then it’s downhill from there. Director Samuel Bayer (or whoever was really in charge) made it boring, dull, and not scary in the least. With actors clearly too old for high school, horrendous acting from lead Rooney Mara (the three best actors sadly get killed off first), and a villain who almost comes off as sympathetic (Jackie tried but is no Freddy, sorry to say), Platinum Dunes continues to get it wrong. However, they do get extra points for the title sequence; it’s the creepiest thing in the whole film. Just make sure you shut it off once they’re done running.
3. Damned by Dawn
It’s a good thing I keep an ongoing list of what I watch during the year or otherwise I would have completely forgotten about this stinker that was downright painful to sit through. At only 80 minutes long, it still felt padded and streeeetched out. It might be an okay installment in an anthology, but otherwise Damned by Dawn is muddled and not nearly worthy of its full feature length.
I feel a little guilty including Altitude among the Bottom 5, but oh, that ending! Worst of the year by far. Before the third act, however, I was kind of enjoying it. It’s very shaky acting-wise, but I give director Kaare Andrews and star Jessica Lowndes credit for giving it their all. Until Altitude falls apart into a sappy, disappointing mess. If the monster had more screen time, I maybe could have partially forgiven it, but better luck next time, kids! Everyone deserves a second chance.
5. Knife Edge
This long-awaited return to the horror realm by Anthony (Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, Waxwork) Hickox is nothing but tedious and sleep inducing – a real letdown to say the least. Uncle Creepy summed it up best in his review: “Somewhere between the ninety-fifth plot twist and the seventy-eighth character turn, I found myself just not caring. During the third act reveals are shot at us in rapid fire succession without even the simplest care in the world as to whether or not they actually make sense. It’s pretty stunning, really, and a total missed opportunity.” Amen.
2010 was a really strange year for horror. It started off slowly with movies ranging from passable to utter shit, then there was the horror drought in which we were lucky to see anything at all, but holy shit did it end on a strong note. So without further ado … in no particular order here are my picks for best, worst, and flicks that came close to being both!
Paranormal Activity 2
Just how in the world this movie worked is still beyond me. It defies all rational ways of thinking. Paranormal Activity 2 should have been a soulless cash-in meant only to ride the popularity of the first. Instead it provided some of the most rock solid chills and scares that I’ve ever had in a theatre. Literally this flick did the impossible.
Though Adam Green is primarily known for the Hatchet film series and getting into as much trouble as humanly possibly, Frozen is easily his best work to date. Doing a flick about three people stuck on a ski lift isn’t exactly the most exciting sounding premise for a film, but it’s Green’s smart and thoughtful script and intense execution that put this one on the top of the pile for 2010.
The Loved Ones
Though it’s not available here in the States as of yet, there’s no way that I could have written this list without including The Loved Ones in my Top 5. Believe everything that you’ve heard, folks. This flick lives up to its expectations and shatters them into a million bloody pieces.
The Human Centipede (first Sequence)
Seriously, what list is complete without a little ass-to-mouth action? Or, in this case, a lot of ass-to-mouth action. While not as disturbing as everyone made it out to be, I found The Human Centipede to be more funny than I did horrifying, but there’s no denying — this is one hell of a gross good time!
The end credits finished. I stood up. Walked three steps and then sat back down in my seat to watch the glory that is Piranha 3D over again. Easily the most fun I’ve had in a theatre in years, this trash is totally my treasure and is a flick I can see watching multiple times for many years to come. This is the feel good and dirty flick of the decade!
The Last Exorcism
Let Me In
Why couldn’t we just have a monster movie? Would that have been so wrong? Why did we have to get saddled with so much bullshit baggage about past lives, alternate realities, and whatever else you decided to ram down our throats? Altitude showed SO much promise and easily stands on its own two feet as my biggest disappointment of the year.
Resident Evil: Afterlife
Oh, how I loathe you. Can we please just reboot this franchise and make it more like the video game series we all love instead of a pointlessly flashy and completely braindead shit meal? Is it really that hard? Can no one else see how wrong things have gone here?
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Ah, Platinum Dunes. Thanks so much for taking one of the horror genre’s crowning jewels and turning it into one of the single most soulless and senseless movies ever to be errantly ejaculated out by a studio in years. You guys are awesome. Here’s to many more years of grit, lens flares, and orange gels!
Never before has a movie about hot chicks with lesbian tendencies been so dull. I can’t even imagine a teenager popping a chubby to this ever-so-flaccid cock-tease of a movie. For the life of me I still don’t even understand who this rancid bowl of drivel and fuck was marketed to. How I wish I could unsee it.
Know why you’re on this list, Wolfman? Yes, you were rated R. Yes, you were exceedingly gory! In all honesty, you really weren’t even that bad. However, the simple fact that you have Rick Baker doing your effects and still went for an all CGI transformation is simply inexcusable and more than enough of a reason to ask you to respectfully blow me. Thanks, I’ll wait.
Clash of the Titans
Don’t Look Up
My Soul to Take
These lists are always tricky because I see a lot of films in special premieres, festivals and market screenings, and that causes major confusion with their actual releases (films like [REC] 2 and DREAD appeared on previous year-end lists). As always, I’m judging solely based on what I watched this year regardless of how widely they’ve played.
“THE WALKING DEAD”
A cheat? Hell no! Frank Darabont’s ninety-minute pilot alone blew away every other horror offering this year and put bite back into the old-school zombie. After decades of wannabes, this show effectively took George A. Romero’s legacy and transcended it into an A-level long-form story with real characters and raw emotional power.
Not since The Signal have I been this excited over a no-budget indie. Writer/directors Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton prove to be one of the best new talents in horror with their psyche-invading debut about a group of historians who venture into a forest right out of the “Twilight Zone”. This is the closest thing to being stuck in a long surreal nightmare where everything and everyone is unpredictable.
I SAW THE DEVIL
South Korea proves it’s still the country to watch for no-holds-barred horror. Like Se7en crossed with Death Wish, this serial-killer/revenge drama combo throws out some of the most unbelievable “holy fuck!” set-pieces and characters since Oldboy. See it before it gets remade.
Much debate has raged over whether or not this is a horror film, but I’m here to say that all the naysayers are crazier than Natalie Portman. Darren Aronofsky’s latest masterpiece plays like a hybrid of Roman Polanski and David Cronenberg, clearly influenced and molded after genre classics like Repulsion. A great head trip with the best performances of 2010.
BEST WORST MOVIE
What starts as a weird catharsis for Troll 2 star Michael Stephenson quickly turns into one of the most interesting character studies on filmmakers and fandom you’ll ever watch. As touching as it is funny, this trip through the freak show perfectly illustrates why horror is the most fun world to play in. The best of its kind since American Movie.
Honorable Mentions: Frozen, Paranormal Activity 2, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
This year offered so many terrible/mediocre/forgettable films that 2010 itself deserves the top honor in the “Epic Fail” category. Yet again, we were hit with another barrage of lousy remakes and poser throwback films that were about as thrilling as an afternoon visit to Grandma. I was lucky enough to avoid most of the worst, but if I have to select one, it would be…
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
If only horror movie characters could kill famous boogeymen half as well as Platinum Dunes. Even with the combined budget of the entire original Elm Street series, Sam Bayer and Co. couldn’t come up with a single imaginative idea for this latest cash grab. The fact that they did it all with complete contempt for Wes Craven’s creation makes its place on every “Worst of the Year” list well-deserved.