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Dread Central’s Best and Worst of 2011

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Well, folks, 2011 is officially in the can, and surprisingly it wasn’t such a horrendous year. It was definitely better than 2010, which was a huge step up from the putrid 2009. We laughed, we applauded, we were left dumbstruck, and of course we were infuriated. Read on for our cheers and jeers!

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.

And don’t be lazy by just reading along! Get off of your asses and give us your lists in the comments section below. We wanna hear from you if only to compare notes. Lots and lots of notes.

Speaking of notes, the most common complaint we’ve heard over the years is that we don’t have one definitive list representing Dread Central as a whole so for 2011 we dropped everyone’s choices in the blender, hit puree, and came out with the overall best and worst of the year, and those films are:

BEST: Attack the Block and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (tie)
Runner-up: I Saw the Devil

WORST: The Roommate
Runner-up: Hellraiser: Revelations, Red Riding Hood, Creature (three-way tie)

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

Dig on our individual Best of and Worst of lists for 2011 by following the links below!

“>[Andrew Kasch]

“>[Doctor Gash]

“>[The Foywonder]

“>[Heather “The Horror Chick” Wixson]

“>[Gareth Jones]

“>[MattFini]

“>[Nomad]

“>[The Woman in Black]

“>[Uncle Creepy]

Andrew Kasch’s Picks

2011 was a year of slim pickings. Hollywood’s growing fear of original content and endless remaking have finally taken its toll on the horror genre, which seems to be entering its biggest dormant phase since the early 90’s. Luckily, a few foreign and indie gems slipped through the cracks and reminded us cinephiles just why we turn out to these things to begin with.

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

 Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011- Andrew Kasch's Picks (click for larger image)I Saw The Devil: This is a bit of a cheat since this was on my Best of list last year. That said, this South Korean revenge masterpiece officially saw its U.S. release in 2011 so I’d be remiss not to include it like every other year-end list.

Black Death: I was hardly a fan of Christopher Smith’s films Creep and Severance so color me shocked by how powerful his medieval witch hunt tale turned out to be. A beautifully written and directed film that uses the bubonic plague as a back drop for religious hysteria and fanaticism, this is further proof that Sean Bean and swords is a winning combo every time (Troy excluded).

Attack the Block: Joe Cornish’s ghetto kids vs. aliens flick does everything right and actually managed to one up J.J. Abrams’ (still great) Super 8. Through clever writing and low-budget ingenuity, Cornish stages this film like an “urban Goonies meets bloody invasion movie” with honest characters and the perfect balance of horror and humor.

The Last Circus: Madman Alex de la Iglesia delivers his best film in years with this beautiful and demented story about dueling circus clowns in post-war Spain. Like a strange cross between A Very Long Engagement and Santa Sangre, this lavishly produced masterpiece leaves no genre untouched and is hilarious, horrific and heartbreaking in equal amounts.

The Woman: While its notorious reputation was overblown thanks to an overly sensitive audience member at Sundance, Lucky Mckee’s subversive psychodrama is still a knock-out. I’m a fan of Jack Ketchum’s series of cannibal books so it was nice to see his world finally brought to vivid life, led by an Oscar-worthy performance from Pollyanna Macintosh. Psychologically tough and surprisingly funny, The Woman treats its gruesome and potentially exploitive subject matter with real class and intelligence.

Honorable Mentions: Red State, Insidious, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Rubber, Cold Fish and Tucker & Dale vs Evil.

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

These days my tolerance for Hollywood bullshit has severely waned, so I deliberately skipped out on duds like The Roommate, Case 39, and The Thing premake. And while I still managed to take in generic crap like The Rite and Fright Night, nothing compares to the agonizing experience of sitting through Hellraiser: Revelations – a movie so bad I wouldn’t wipe my ass with the DVD sleeve. The lowest point in a franchise you never thought could sink any lower.

“>[Andrew Kasch]

“>[Doctor Gash]

“>[The Foywonder]

“>[Heather “The Horror Chick” Wixson]

“>[Gareth Jones]

“>[MattFini]

“>[Nomad]

“>[The Woman in Black]

“>[Uncle Creepy]

Doctor Gash’s Picks

Before I give my list, let me just thank all you guys for reading my stuff and for the great comments you posted all year. This being my rookie season at Dread Central, I needed all the positive feedback I could get! I can’t thank Creepy and The Woman in Black enough for making me part of this awesome family. And just think about what an awesome community we all have here at DC, the writers and especially the readers. No other genre of film can claim the unity that we have. You don’t see a lot of websites for fans of romantic comedies or dramas. Horror is more than a type of film, it’s a union of fans that embrace and hold dear the best of the best (…and we pound the bad ones pretty good, too). If you succeed in horror, really succeed even just once, we’ll love you forever. That’s what being a horror fan is all about. Thanks for everything, guys!

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

 Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011- Doctor Gash's Picks (click for larger image) As for my Top 5, I love the films that get people talking, especially those outside our circle of interest. When a work of horror attracts the attention of the mainstream media, for whatever reason, I’m going to give it credit. No such thing as bad press, Gorehounds! Without further ado…

I Saw the Devil – An absolutely hypnotic South Korean film that brings new meaning to the term “revenge flick”. Why just exact your revenge once when you can do it over and over and over again. The story is enthralling, and tension is built masterfully throughout the film, culminating with an amazing climax. The 360-degree taxi cab slash scene was one of the best murders shot in recent times. Great action, violent content and characters that evoked a wide range of emotion from the viewers throughout the film. Awesome!

“The Walking Dead” Season 2 – Talk about horror getting headlines…11 million viewers helped “The Walking Dead” Season 2 premiere smash cable television viewership records. This set the stage as the show proceeded in a bit different format than we saw in Season 1. Now, with 13 episodes to work with (instead of six), the creators of the series have been taking their time, delving much deeper into the characters and how they are dealing with their post-apocalyptic situation. Each survivor evokes a strong reaction from the audience, a reaction that sometimes changes from week to week (Shane, we love you, we hate you, we love you…but you might be the only one who’s never lost focus). And if the final scene of the explosive mid-season finale is any sign of things to come, we’re in for a real treat when the episodes resume in February.

A Serbian Film – I said I loved movies that generated attention from the outside world, right? Here’s one! When the organizer of a film festival gets arrested simply for showing a movie, you know it’s going to draw attention. Regardless of whether you felt the outcry over A Serbian Film was justified or a bit overblown, what we all can agree on is this movie contains some extreme imagery that got the world talking. You sympathize for Milos in his drug-induced state, even as he commits one heinous act after another. It’s a brutal film that dares you to watch, then unleashes itself on you when you relent. Perhaps too many people got a bit too excited over the content and forgot to keep repeating that famous line from the original promotions for The Last House on the Left: “…It’s only a movie…It’s only a movie.”

The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) – Here’s another one that stirred the pot. Horror certainly got under people’s skin this year. After the original film grabbed publicity from “South Park” and “Tosh.O,” The Human Centipede 2 raised the bar (in many ways). The new film even found itself as a topic of discussion, on more than one occasion, on The Howard Stern Showand had audiences clamoring to check it out. Perfect teaser trailers and tempting one-sheets effectively enticed would-be viewers. Everything director Tom Six implied in the original, he showed you in the sequel. And the choice to film in black-and-white with select color made it an ass-to-mouth Schindler’s List. Campy and extremely gruesome in so many ways, The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) brought it to audiences…hard.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil – Brilliant! Simply put, this is the film that entertained me the most this year. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil had me from the opening scene, which turned the entire backwoods weirdo sub-genre of horror on its ear. This movie is insanely funny. No, there aren’t any scares or mentally disturbing scenes in this one, but the bloodshed is ridiculous! Wood chippers, sticks in the eye, chainsaws, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is the rare horror-comedy that knocks it out of the park! An amazing effort! Gory…hilarious…vastly entertaining! If for some reason you missed it, go back and check it out. You’ve got to see this movie!

Honorable Mentions
Stake Land
Troll Hunter
Hobo With a Shotgun
The Orphan Killer

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

Red Riding Hood – Promotion for the film implied it to be a gruesome horror movie, but we all should have known better than that. Featuring the director of the original Twilight film, Red Riding Hood was never going to be anything more than a weak Twilight wannabe.

Psych:9 – With genre mainstay Michael Biehn and Cary Elwes (who gained some big-time horror credibility with his appearances in the Saw franchise), you’d expect a lot more from this film. You don’t get it. A giant, lame snoozefest from start to finish, Psych:9 commits the biggest offense you can in horror…it’s boring.

Hyenas – Not even sure how I ended up watching this one. Costas Mandylor (of the Saw series) plays the lead role, but he’s not nearly enough to save this film. Apparently the filmmakers thought turning the infected into hyenas instead of wolves was enough to reinvent the genre. It was not.

The Bleeding – This film had a chance to be something. Maybe something along the lines of John Carpenter’s Vampires, but oh no, the sucking didn’t stop with the vampires. This film sucked right down to its core. They even had Kat Von D, who seems born to play a vamp. Unfortunately, they buried her until the end of the film, leaving us with nothing. P.U.

Unnecessary Remakes – Here’s a perfect example of the one bad thing about being a family of horror fans…filmmakers take advantage of us. They prey on our sense of nostalgia and remake films that don’t need to be remade. What other genre does this? Any remake of Tommy Boy on the horizon? Didn’t think so. Anybody doing Forrest Gump or Pulp Fiction again? Nope. Only horror because filmmakers know we love our movies so they go ahead and do a remake instead of creating a new idea because they know the fans will turn out (usually for a far inferior product). Fright Night, Straw Dogs, The Thing, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark…why?

“>[Andrew Kasch]

“>[Doctor Gash]

“>[The Foywonder]

“>[Heather “The Horror Chick” Wixson]

“>[Gareth Jones]

“>[MattFini]

“>[Nomad]

“>[The Woman in Black]

“>[Uncle Creepy]

The Foywonder’s Picks

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

 Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011- The Foywonder's Picks (click for larger image) 5) [REC] 2 – I put this at #2 on my best list last year after watching an import DVD and wasn’t planning on putting it on my list again this year for that reason despite it finally getting an American DVD release. Then I figured what the hell – it’s that damn good. Since I already ranked it last year, I’m just going to give it my #5 slot this year, and because I’m lazy, I’m just going to repeat what I wrote about it last year, too. [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 is 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.

4) TROLL HUNTER – The very notion of Hollywood doing an Americanized remake of Troll Hunter is lunkheaded because much of what makes this film so wonderfully kooky can be traced back to its Norwegian roots. Look no further than the designs of the trolls themselves, taken straight out of the pages of Scandinavian fairy tales. At first goofy sights to behold, they quickly become unconventionally menacing when ferociously charging the actors like large, angry, feral, mongoloid Muppets on a rampage. In an age when every movie monster seems to be a riff on Alien or Predator or looks like whatever the hell those things are that keep appearing in JJ Abrams’ monster movies, these whimsically horrifying trolls are a true breath of a fresh air. And while the movie – more mockumentary than found footage in my book – can be a bit uneven at times, I was thoroughly riveted by this offbeat excursion into Norwegian troll mythology and the scenic wilds of Norway in pursuit of said behemoths.

3) RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – I know some people would argue this movie isn’t horror. I’d beg to differ. Sure, it’s a prequel to a famous science fiction franchise, but take a good look at the story being told, and you’ll find a whole lot of Frankenstein and some Island of Dr. Moreau as well. For a movie that wasn’t inherently a horror movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes successfully pulled off more horror tropes than most every other horror movie of the past year. Without question a movie that turned out far better than it had any right to be. If you had asked me even a month before it opened, I would have told you it was probably going to suck hard and wouldn’t make a penny at the box office. Sometimes it’s a good thing being dead wrong.

2) ATTACK THE BLOCK – I’m fairly certain this movie is going to turn up very high on the lists of most of my colleagues and reckon anything I write about why I loved it will only echo their sentiments. All I’m going to say is that Attack the Block is the movie I wanted Super 8 to be.

1) TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL – Thinking back on it, I do believe this may have been my favorite movie of the entire year. I’ve watched it now on four different occasions, each time with a different group of people, and not only have I been thoroughly entertained each time, everyone I’ve viewed it with has fallen in love with it, too. This type of good-natured horror comedy is rare enough as it is; to be this smart and funny is a revelation and a joy to behold. Great performances. Lovable lead characters. Hysterical death scenes, even the ones you can see coming. There’s something to be said for a movie that is just plain fun to watch, and I don’t think I’ve seen anything in all of 2011 that was as fun as Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. Much as was the case with Trick ‘r Treat, that this hilarious movie did not get a wide theatrical release is a travesty because I’m willing to bet it would have been a hit. It’s certainly been a crowd pleaser to everyone I’ve shared it with.

Honorable Mentions: Black Death, Chillerama, Sint, Machete Maidens Unleashed, I Saw the Devil, 2012: Ice Age

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

5) DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT – It was a toss-up between this and Apollo 18. A literal toss-up – I couldn’t decide which was worse so I flipped a coin. Lunar ticks get relegated to the “Dishonorable Mention” category, and this year’s sorriest excuse for a supernatural buddy comedy takes its well deserved spot in the #5 position of my worst list. The hero is completely devoid of personality. His comic relief sidekick is trying so hard to milk non-existent laughs his flop sweat achieves a Marlon Wayans level of irritation. The whole sorry film is just these two riding around New Orleans questioning various vampires and werewolves, getting ambushed or set up by them, going back to question and fight them again – that could have still been entertaining if the action scenes weren’t so dismayingly impoverished – before the insultingly stupid finale in which the unstoppable monster is easily destroyed by its own self-destructive stupidity while the hero the movie is named after bravely lies unconscious in a crumpled heap on the ground. The coin chose wisely.

4) THE ROOMMATE – As soon as I got out of the matinee screening, I phoned up Uncle Creepy and told him that if I wasn’t committed to reviewing the film for the site, I would have walked out. I also demanded he refund the $5.50 my ticket cost. Single White Female goes to college and flunks out. Certainly whoever edited at random the last half hour of this dreck flunked out. Despite a plot that involves sex, masturbation, shower scenes, lesbian seduction, murder in the midst of having sex, and tumble drying kittens to death, it’s so tame, so lame, so lifeless and stodgy, so unwilling to allow itself to revel in the trashy fun it wanted to be, it’ll have you reevaluating the merits of films like Poison Ivy: The New Seduction and The Crush. Worst of all, I never got my $5.50 back.

3) CREATURE – The only good thing about Creature is that one day I will be able to say to people that I was one of the very, very, very, very, very, very few people who actually paid to see Creature in a theater. Then those people will look at me and ask, “What the hell is Creature?” I’ll tell you what it is – a movie that broke my monster movie loving heart. Finally, at long last, we get a man-in-a-rubber-monster suit swamp creature feature on the big screen again, and we get one that wouldn’t even have been worth watching for free on Syfy? So very boring, never making any sense, with characters that vanish from the film without a trace, not even making good use of its rubber suit monster, and then has so many endings I expected the last one to be actor Mehcad Brooks returning to the Shire. Just read my review if you really need more reasons this experience was so depressing and its inclusion on this list so deserving.

2) HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS – I’m just going to sum it up this way: Ever see the episode of “The Simpsons” that opens with an extremely bored Homer suffering a boring trip to an apple cider factory? Just watch this brief clip from that episode and imagine Ned Flanders is Hellraiser: Revelations and I’m Homer enduring a half-hour of watching it. Amazingly, I somehow didn’t end up crumpled on the floor.

1) HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2: FULL SEQUENCE – Two years ago I put The Human Centipede on my best list. I kind of wish I hadn’t because apparently all we did was encourage its maker to become so full of himself that for the next sequel Tom Six should just sew his mouth to his own ass since he clearly loves the taste of his own shit. Roger Ebert summed this one up best when he described it as “reprehensible, dismaying, ugly, artless and an affront to any notion, however remote, of human decency.” But Ebert forgot one very important adjective. It’s not just full of shit, it’s boring as shit. For all its arthouse Troma movie sensibilities, for all its empty attempts at grotesque shock value, for all its intentions of flipping the bird to critics and fans of the original alike in the most insipid manner possible, I was so bored by the pointlessness and masturbatory antics of this useless sequel I just became numb to it all. The original had the benefit of a great mad scientist performance by Dieter Laser, a truly unique premise that wasn’t nearly as disgusting as it sounded, and the director at the time showed a level of self-control completely missing from whatever the hell this bullshit was supposed to be. I realize now that first film wasn’t a centipede, it was a fluke.

Dishonorable Mentions: Apollo 18, Beastly, Cowboys & Aliens, Trail of the Screaming Forehead, Boggy Creek, 1313: Giant Killer Bees

“>[Andrew Kasch]

“>[Doctor Gash]

“>[The Foywonder]

“>[Heather “The Horror Chick” Wixson]

“>[Gareth Jones]

“>[MattFini]

“>[Nomad]

“>[The Woman in Black]

“>[Uncle Creepy]

Heather ‘The Horror Chick’ Wixson’s Picks

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011- Heather Wixson's Picks (click for larger image) * Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel – In a day and age when genre-related documentaries seem to be all the rage, Alex Stapleton’s Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel arrived late in the year like a huge breath of fresh air and completely blew me away. Chronicling the early years of legendary filmmaker Roger Corman’s career as well as many of his ups and downs throughout the latter part as well, Corman’s World is a revelatory and inspiring work by relative newcomer Stapleton and features a gaggle of in-depth and candid interview subjects (Jack Nicholson cries!) profiling Corman’s influence as the maverick of independent cinema.

If you’ve ever fancied yourself something of a Corman fan, then there’s no doubt Stapleton’s intelligent, entertaining and heartfelt documentary should prove to be right up your proverbial alley, and even if you’ve never seen a single Corman flick in your life (unimaginable around these parts, but not entirely impossible either), then there is no better way to dive right into Corman’s World than Stapleton’s documentary.

* Tucker & Dale vs. Evil”We have had ourselves a doozy of a day, officer.”

Starring Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk as the titular characters who are mistaken by a group of college kids as a pair of redneck serial killers, Tucker & Dale’s script is brilliantly crafted by director Eli Craig and his co-writer Morgan Jurgenson- it hits all the right comedic beats as it takes almost every horror cliché fans have grown to love over the last 30 years and turns them squarely on their head with often hilarious results.

Call me an old softie, but as a horror fan I generally like my movies more on the light and campy side, and Tucker & Dale is just that. Anchored by great comedic performances by Labine and Tudyk and coupled with a refreshingly natural-feeling love story, the movie succeeds because while it’s parodying the genre as a whole, it’s done with respect for both the horror fans watching and the horror movies that have preceded it (take note, Joseph Kahn- this is how you pay homage). It may be somewhat on the schmaltzy side to call Tucker & Dale the feel-good genre flick of the year, but dammit, who cares- Craig’s story is both humorous and adorable, the kills are both hysterical and gory and frankly, I’d prefer to hang out with these hillbillies over the ones in the Wrong Turn franchise any day.

* Attack the Block – For a movie that I’ve written about several times already this year, I’m sort of out of ways to describe my love for writer/director Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block. A movie that had an insane amount of hype coming out of this year’s SXSW Film Festival, I was unsure of what to expect going into the flick when I finally had the chance to see it for myself this past July. And while it’s no secret that I completely fell in love with Attack the Block, what impressed me more was that the movie truly lived up to the hype (a rarity these days).

Attack the Block is like Cornish’s love letter to so many of the favorite films so many of us fans discovered as kids growing up during the 70s or 80s; and yet, what manages to elevate Attack the Block above its peers is how the film cleverly walks the homage line but somehow manages to never come off feeling like it’s trying to rip-off any of the films it’s paying tribute to either. With hints of ET, The Monster Squad, Gremlins, The Warriors and The Goonies, Attack the Block is easily the best alien-themed flick of the year (sorry Super 8, Cowboys & Aliens and The Thing prequel) with PRACTICAL effects used the entire time (imagine that?).

* Rise of the Planet of the Apes – I love being right.

From the very first frame of the very first trailer released for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I was sold. As a huge fan of the original Planet of the Apes series, it finally seemed like someone understood what fans were looking for in a contemporary addition to our beloved original franchise. There were a lot of naysayers online who lamented over the use of digital apes and James Franco’s wooden stares, but this writer’s enthusiasm for the prequel never waned once- I was ready to see just how the rise of the apes began on the big screen for myself, and a bunch of internet chatter wasn’t getting in the way of that. And somehow Rise of the Planet of the Apes actually managed to exceed my already high expectations, and part of that was because director Rupert Wyatt made sure to pay attention to what makes an Apes film truly successful- the apes themselves. Whereas Burton’s were all mostly angry and one-dimensional, Wyatt delivered to us not only a chimpanzee leader in Andy Serkis that fans could believe in but several more primates that made the flick all the more enjoyable as well (including Maurice the orangutan).

If you missed Rise of the Planet of the Apes while it was in theaters, then do yourself a favor and make sure you see it now that the movie has hit all the home release formats. While there have been a lot of great action films of 2011, Rise definitely leads the pack in terms of creating a kickass movie with brains and heart (and an epic bridge battle that will leave actionphiles breathless to boot).

* Hobo With a Shotgun – A brilliant effort by first-time feature director Jason Eisener, Hobo With a Shotgun is pure sleazy cinematic gold for fans of grindhouse-style filmmaking. Not only do you have Rutger Hauer starring as the titular character, but you also get an evil crime lord named The Drake (the delightfully malicious Brian Downey), two wannabe crime lord sons who aren’t afraid to torch a bus full of kids to get some attention, a pair of Goth Thunderdome-looking assassins named “The Plague” who unleash holy hell around “Scum Town” as well as the proverbial hooker with the heart of gold (Molly Dunsworth) who does unspeakable things to assailants with her arm (wouldn’t want to ruin it for those of you who haven’t seen it for yourself yet) when provoked.

With touches of a number of Troma films as well as Evil Dead, Blue Velvet, Mad Max, Death Race and, oddly enough, the first live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hobo With a Shotgun is by far one of the most ingenious and depraved films of 2011.

Honorable Mentions: Insidious, Troll Hunter, Paranormal Activity 3, Contagion, Stake Land, The Perfect Host, Drive Angry 3D, The Catechism Cataclysm, Midnight Son

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

* Fading of the CriesFading of the Cries is the perfect example of ambition getting the best of a first-time feature filmmaker. In this horror/sci-fi/fantasy/pseudo-action/romance mash-up, director Brian Metcalf relies too much on his visual effects skills rather than taking some time to trim down just a few of the dozens of genre clichés featured throughout the film. Not to mention the film stars the one American Pie actor I’ve never liked (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and makes poor Brad Dourif into some sort of schlocky evil wizard with a hero that’s a complete rip-off of Brandon Lee from The Crow and Atreyu from The Neverending Story. I still cannot believe that not only did someone spend money to make this movie, but it actually made it into theaters.

* Savage County – Ugly and completely uninspired, Savage County dumbed down an otherwise strong year for the slasher subgenre of horror. With a plot that was clearly borrowed from its predecessors – including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, House of 1000 Corpses and Wolf Creek – it’s obvious first-time director David Harris enjoys the horror genre because he clearly borrowed from it over and over (and over) again in Savage County. If you missed seeing this one in 2011, consider yourself lucky.

* Detention – While I’ve seen a lot of bad movies in 2011, the only one that felt like it assaulted every single one of my senses was Detention, which I screened during the SSSW Film Festival. Generally I’m known around these parts as one of the more forgiving reviewers, but Detention had me so riled up by the end that I was ready to tip some cars and burn shit in the parking lot. Detention is just a serious travesty of bad acting, mundane pop culture references, nonsensical plots and insulting horror movie “homages” which end up playing like Joseph Kahn’s own statement on how stupid he thinks the modern horror genre is. Loud, unintelligent and painfully annoying- stay out of Detention if you can!

* The Howling: RebornThe Howling: Reborn manages to hold up the legacy of just truly awful Howling movies that have followed in the footsteps since the release of Joe Dante’s original film back in 1981, which begs the question- just why is it so hard to get a Howling sequel right? I guess The Howling: Reborn director Joe Nimziki is still looking for that answer himself based on his efforts here. Flawed, soulless and overall boring, The Howling: Reborn could have been a great new start for the long-suffering Howling franchise but sadly ends up being even worse than anything we’ve seen in the Twilight series (if you can imagine that).

* Straw Dogs – I’m not opposed to the idea of remakes at all, but if you’re going to have the balls to remake a classic like Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, then I think it goes without saying that you damn well better have something pretty freaking spectacular tucked up your sleeve to wow audiences with. I guess someone forgot to tell director Rod Lurie, though, because all he managed to deliver in his reimagining was a bland and mediocre psychological thriller with no sense of tension or intelligence to speak of- oh, and don’t even get me started on Dominic Purcell’s groan-inducing performance as a mentally-challenged man. There are really only two words needed to effectively sum up the Straw Dogs remake: triumphant failure.

Dishonorable Mentions: Cowboys & Aliens, Battle: Los Angeles

“>[Andrew Kasch]

“>[Doctor Gash]

“>[The Foywonder]

“>[Heather “The Horror Chick” Wixson]

“>[Gareth Jones]

“>[MattFini]

“>[Nomad]

“>[The Woman in Black]

“>[Uncle Creepy]

Gareth Jones’ Picks

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011- Gareth Jones' Picks (click for larger image) The Devil’s Business – The year’s unsung British success — Sean Hogan’s intimate micro-budget exercise in simple spooky atmospherics delivers a tight script, endearing performances and a frighteningly oppressive ambience straight from the house of Hammer. See it.

Insidious – Director James Wan continues to flex his cinematic muscle to admirable effect as he once again knocks it out of the park with Insidious. An engaging story and some very clever use of basic horror machinations play second fiddle to some of most unsettling visuals, knife-edge editing and roof-raising frights to grace the big screen in 2011.

Kidnapped – I know – technically, it’s a 2010 release, but 2011 is the year that Miguel Ángel Vivas’ stunning Kidnapped made its way to UK’s FrightFest, where it subsequently burned itself into my brain. The most horrific, brutal and sheer vicious piece of cinema you’re likely to have seen in a long time, Kidnapped is completely unforgiving – and completely unforgettable.

A Lonely Place to Die – In the strictest sense a thriller (shoot me), Julian Gilbey’s A Lonely Place to Die remains one of the most memorable cinematic experiences of 2011. Breathtaking locations and cinematography, a top-notch cast, despicable villains, impactful violence and pulse-pounding action all come together to deliver just what we all crave: a really great time at the movies.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil – It’s rare that a horror/comedy hybrid manages to scrape its way onto year-end lists so it’s a distinct pleasure to place Eli Craig’s criminally delayed exercise in pure delight, Tucker & Dave vs. Evil, on mine. Leads Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk make an effortlessly lovable pair of buffoons, and the constant stream of gags and horror fan service make this a wild and splatterific trip that any genre fan will bust a gut over.

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

Vile – A film whose very raison d’être is to take advantage of the most base elements of the torture porn sub-genre, Vile is doubly disappointing in its steadfast refusal, or inability, to actually deliver on the repugnant goods. Coupled with a hateful bunch of central characters interacting like utter idiots, plot holes galore and a complete absence of logic, it’s a recipe for a completely worthless waste of time and effort.

The Tapes – A lazy, inept and nigh on cynical attempt at cashing in on the found footage craze, this British offering is barely watchable. The leads are hideously annoying, unlikable cretins, and the plot itself was obviously sharted onto the page as a complete afterthought. Barely one single redeeming quality exists in this turgid black hole of entertainment.

The Theatre Bizarre – How a group of obviously talented and incredibly creative storytellers and filmmakers can come together to make something so incredibly plodding, overwrought and just sheer dissatisfying is mind-boggling – but The Theatre Bizarre manages to do it. Even the legendary Richard Stanley embarrasses himself with a shaky, uneven and unintentionally hilarious segment amongst the various shorts on display – the best of which isn’t even a horror film. A crying shame all round.

Bad Meat – Rob Schmidt’s unfinished tale of juvenile delinquents terrorised by a rehabilitation camp’s brutish staff turned feral cannibals starts off relatively promising. Characters begin to develop nicely, and an abundance of offbeat humour and splashing bodily fluids lend the feeling of Troma’s heyday output. Then, just as we’re led to the inevitable fight for the protagonists’ lives… scenes are missing, and the film ends. Framed by a completely nonsensical wraparound in an obvious attempt to make something of a film only half of which was actually shot, it ends up being the cinematic equivalent of being churlishly told to fuck off out of the theatre halfway through with no refund. Directed by Lulu Jarmen? I’m still trying to work out just which particular insult that’s an anagram of…

11-11-11 – Darren Lynn Bousman’s attempt at apocalyptic religious horror proves itself to be nothing more than a theological snooze-fest. Lead actor Timothy Gibbs feels out of place the entire time as he forces his way through repeated scenes of spiritual disagreements, and the otherworldly villains (while sporting some pretty neat demonic makeup) are distinctly non-threatening. A tone of utter seriousness and self-importance leaves botched attempts at spookiness landing on the wrong side of humorous, all topped off with a stab at aforementioned director James Wan’s style of flashback-revelation ending that reveals nothing surprising whatsoever. 11-11-11 is the big-screen turkey of the year.

“>[Andrew Kasch]

“>[Doctor Gash]

“>[The Foywonder]

“>[Heather “The Horror Chick” Wixson]

“>[Gareth Jones]

“>[MattFini]

“>[Nomad]

“>[The Woman in Black]

“>[Uncle Creepy]

Matt Fini’s Picks

2011 wasn’t a good year for mainstream horror. James Wan’s Insidious was the only breakout hit for first ten months of 2011, and it’s obvious that the PG-13 rating helped it along. Meanwhile, half a dozen other releases disappeared into box office obscurity after one weekend of pitiful business each. Over the summer Paramount’s Super 8 was a marginal success that seems to have already faded from audience consciousness. Then Paranormal Activity 3 opened in October, grossing a staggering $202 million (worldwide) off of a paltry $5 million budget. It showed that audiences were still willing to turn out for an established franchise while highlighting a much bigger issue: Why doesn’t anyone turn out for original horror anymore?

Argue that there wasn’t much good in theaters this year. I won’t disagree. Films like Season of the Witch, Fright Night and The Thing were hardly worthy of audience attendance, but why don’t studios show a little more confidence in their indie titles? None of the movies on this “Best of 2011” list were ever going to be blockbusters, but with the right marketing some of these might’ve stood a chance of pulling down a few bucks. I guess it’s easier for smaller companies to release directly to VOD/home video rather than spend crucial dollars on making the public aware of a film they A) most likely won’t see because they don’t recognize the cast or B) won’t understand anyway, but when box office attendance is this low month after month, it may be time for these companies to consider giving us some interesting alternatives to warmed over Hollywood junk.

Because it’s that Hollywood junk that continues to disillusion: The older I get, the easier it is to throw around the old ”they just don’t make ‘em like they used to” cliché. To use the aforementioned examples, walking out of both Fright Night and The Thing, it’s all too easy to bemoan the lack of quality writing, direction and overall craftsmanship intrinsic of the modern-day genre – especially when recalling superior (and earlier) versions of reheated material. But when it comes time to reach back into the memory banks for a long think regarding new and enjoyable horror films, I find there’s still plenty to like. And 2011 is no different. It may require some digging to find all these diamonds in the rough, but the effort is well worth the time of any hardcore horror fanatic.

So, without further ado, I present to you, dear reader, my best/worst of 2011, with a few honorable/dishonorable mentions added in for good measure. Enjoy, and please leave your own lists below. It wouldn’t be a year-end list without seeing what stood out in your minds, too, after all.

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011- MattFini's Picks (click for larger image) 5. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil – What surprises most about Eli Craig’s Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is that it shouldn’t have worked. Not as a feature. It’s pretty much a one-note joke, albeit one that never overstays its welcome thanks in part to the fantastic energy of its cast and the ingenuity of the setpieces. Loaded with more comedic misunderstandings than an entire season of Three’s Company, it’s a film that knows how to entertain. It’s also the film I was thinking of when I said some of these indie flicks might’ve stood a chance at making some box office; it’s funnier than any other comedy released this year.

4. Bereavement – Stevan Mena’s prequel to Malevolence is a pitch-perfect throwback to 1970s filmmaking. A film that’s unafraid to tell its audience about its characters before plunging them into the unspeakable horrors that await. It’s also pretty smart. Mena is an intelligent writer and has plenty of parallels to explore in this story of family matters and upbringing. Performances are uniformly strong, and the story is bleak and unexpected (more so if you watch this before Malevolence, which is recommended). It may contain one murder setpiece too many in the first act, but there’s plenty of tension and suspense to be found throughout.

Word is that Mena has one more movie to go in this proposed trilogy, and I’m hoping to see him tackle this story sooner rather than later.

3. Attack the Block – While just about every website was busy proclaiming Attack the Block as the best movie of 2011, I was tempering my expectations. Could this little flick about an alien invasion in an inner city slum really be a genre great? Turns out the answer is “yes!” Joe Cornish’s little monster flick plays out like Inner City Critters with strong characters (who you hate at first and then grow to like), an effective locale and a pulsing musical score (very Carpenter-esque) for extra ambiance. Plus, how cool are those creatures? It’s a lot of fun while managing to be unexpectedly moving as well. Forget the forced schmaltz of Super 8, this is a far superior version of kids vs. aliens that should’ve had a chance in wide release this summer.

2. I Saw the Devil – An absolutely brutal serial killer flick becomes an even more vicious revenge thriller. I Saw the Devil is a brilliant example of taking its characters into the ugliest rabbit hole imaginable: where there is no good outcome, no shot at redemption or heroics. Sure, we’ve got a protagonist, and it’s easy to cheer his unorthodox methods, but the ultimate cost is great, and the ride this film takes us on is both emotionally and physically draining. The futility of vengeance has never been made clearer, and it’s an experience its audience won’t soon forget.

1. Black Death – A masterful and, as of now, still underlooked little gem of a film. Shades of Robin Hardy’s original Wicker Man are all over this, but it’s the way Black Death challenges the beliefs and ideals of its protagonist that resonates to create a substantial experience. Tackling religion is always a tricky subject, but writer Dario Poloni’s screenplay explores these issues without ever preaching. Whether or not this story is pro/anti-religion is also up for debate, creating nicely textured food for thought. Performances are excellent, but it’s Carice van Houten who steals the show as the spooky and mysterious leader of the heretic cult.

It’s rare enough to find a horror movie with brains in this day and age, and Black Death never patronizes. It challenges. Well worth multiple viewings, this one will make you think.

Honorable Mentions:

Paranormal Activity 3 – It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of this franchise. The original film, an undeniably shining example of this genre, never resonated with me while the sequel is among the laziest, most uninspired examples of by-the-numbers filmmaking. But this? Against all odds, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman have delivered the ultimate haunted house thrill-ride. A delicious concoction of wonderfully spooky setpieces, each one building steadily toward one of the scariest finishes in recent memory, this is how to make a sequel!

Hobo With a Shotgun – If this were more of a horror film, it would’ve landed in my top five (same reason why Rise of the Planet of the Apes didn’t even qualify as a runner-up … no horror to speak of). Director Jason Eisener is one of the precious few filmmakers who understands what worked about the films that inspired his own, and therefore, this exploitation homage works perfectly: It’s played straight. It’s unflinching and nasty but lined with real heart and soul. Rutger Hauer is pitch-perfect as the drifter who stumbles into town and quickly gets pushed too far, and there’s a real style to the mayhem. It’s a perfect weekend movie; watch it with a few friends (and a few beers), and it’s bound to please everyone around.

Stake Land – In a world decimated by vampires, how hard would it be to survive? What would make someone go on living? Stake Land‘s outlook is bleak as it tracks a small band of survivors on their trek to reach ‘New Eden’ – a place where civilization has allegedly been restored. Jim Mickle’s film never gets bogged down in needless exposition, and it works to thrust viewers headfirst into a savage world where anyone can succumb at any time. Survival isn’t easy, and Mickle has no mercy on his players. The end result is a vampire film as uncompromising as any. And one of the best in recent memory.

Human Centipede II: Full Sequence – Tom Six’s hilarious meta response to his own Human Centipede: First Sequence is a dark comedy that outright lambasts critics of the original film as well as its ardent admirers. A grotesque parody of the ”movies can create psychos” argument, there’s no end to the perversity on display here. Laurence R. Harvey turns in a fantastic (and mute) performance as Martin, the disturbed individual who can’t seem to get the original movie out of his head – so much so that he decides to recreate it (with twelve people). It gets sicker as it goes but also funnier, too. Hurry up and give us The Final Sequence, Tom. I can’t image what you’ve got in store for us next, but I’m sure I’m going to love it.

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

5. Hellraiser: Revelations – Yes, it’s awful. And I loved it in a weird way. But that doesn’t excuse Dimension for churning out such a worthless pile of drivel. Clocking in at 69 minutes (sans credits), Revelations isn’t the nadir of the series, but it’s so hopelessly executed that one can’t help but feel ripped off by this cash-in. Sure, it’s hilarious (soupy incest, Pinhead as a genie in a bottle, surviving a point-blank shotgun blast to the chest and so on…), but the original Hellraiser was one of the most innovative genre experiences of the 1980s. This is as far away from that concept as you can get.

Meanwhile, Clive Barker continues to tell original and enthralling Hellraiser stories via Boom! Comics. Seek them out. Forget about this.

4. Red State – An incomprehensible mess of a movie – a narrative that has no idea what its final message even is. Kevin Smith’s foray into the genre is a menagerie of Hostel-ish horror and siege thrills with none of it working out all that well. There’s a moment just before the long-winded (and worthless) final speech where it seems like Red State is about to veer into unexpected territory and have a payoff. Instead it’s a cop-out (hardy har har); a prelude to a joke which doesn’t even remotely jibe with the utter bloodbath we just witnessed. This isn’t bold. Credit Smith for trying something new. I’ll chide him for failing miserably.

3. The Howling Reborn – It would’ve been nice had writer/director Joe Nimziki tried to make an actual horror movie out of this, the eighth installment in the long-running franchise. Instead, it’s Twilight-inspired hokum that can’t even really do angst-y romance convincingly. Yes, the werewolves are cool when they finally rear their heads. By then we’ve slogged through 80 minutes of nonsense, and the lycanthropy carnage we do get is far too little, too late. Hell, at least Twilight has an island off the coast of Brazil. That’s more than this insipid wannabe werewolf flick has.

2. The Resident – It’s a psychological thriller without any bite. Hilary Swank menaced by Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a flick that barely musters TV movie thrills. Instead, Swank sulks around her apartment half naked, oblivious that Papa Winchester is leering at her while she sleeps. If any of this sounds creepy, you’re either an eleven-year-old girl, or you haven’t watched enough 90s thrillers. Take one Never Talk to Strangers and one Sliver, and call me in the morning.

PS – you can swap out my number two choice for The Roommate. Should you do that, skip Sliver and watch Single White Female instead. Either way, they made these things better back then.

And to think The Resident bears the Hammer name. Thank God for Wake Wood.

1. Apollo 18 – I shouldn’t have. But I just watched this. Everything my esteemed colleague The Foywonder said is true.

Scarcely have I been as bored as while watching Apollo 18, a movie so astoundingly terrible that I almost wish I’d seen it in theaters. Because someday it’s going to be hard to believe they played this junk in multiplexes across the country. A leaden pace, unlikable characters and laughable creatures, this is just … nothing. Even when things happen, nothing happens. An atrocious experience through and through, it’s the polar opposite of Paranormal Activity 3, the twisted rollercoaster ride of found footage flicks while Apollo 18 is that line you stand in if only to see what the fuss is about. And once you find out, you can’t help but think how badly you’ve wasted your time.

Dishonorable Mentions:

Fright Night – Even if we pretend this isn’t a remake of Tom Holland’s 1985 classic, Fright Night sucks. Marti Noxon’s shocking inept screenplay consists of clunky “tell, don’t show” moments and more amazing coincidences than I care to count.

Add to this the fact that director Craig Gillespie can’t stage an exciting or scary moment to save his life (all the big action comes off flat and laughable), and you’ve got a recipe for pure shit. Colin Farrell’s Jerry can be menacing, but his performance is only that. There’s no nuance, no personality and no point. But he can yank a gas line out of the ground like nobody’s business.

People may like David Tennant because he was great on “Doctor Who”, but his ‘Peter Vincent’ is little more than a poor man’s Jack Sparrow: glib, unlikable and complete with one of the worst character arcs I’ve ever seen in film. This isn’t a top five candidate because it’s watchable in some regard I suppose. It’s also seriously stupid and poorly executed all-around.

Rubber – What a pretentious slice of utter garbage. This homage to no reason doesn’t offer a single solitary reason to slog through these 80 minutes. Forced irreverence has never been this tired or obnoxious.

“>[Andrew Kasch]

“>[Doctor Gash]

“>[The Foywonder]

“>[Heather “The Horror Chick” Wixson]

“>[Gareth Jones]

“>[MattFini]

“>[Nomad]

“>[The Woman in Black]

“>[Uncle Creepy]

Nomad’s Picks

2011 was a sad year for mainstream, big screen horror. As I run over lists of what was released, I see a lot has come from other countries, and others crept into minimal release from the indieverse. That being said, if you weren’t keeping track of what was lighting up the film fest circuit, you would have missed a lot of it. I hang my head and count myself as one of those people. For this reason I only have 4 “Best ofs” as I’m not about to reward a sub-par film by defaulting into an open spot.

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

 Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011- Nomad's Picks (click for larger image) Chillerama – Prepare for 4 tales of terror that double as love letters to Lloyd Kaufman and his Troma super-shlock legacy as well as the over-the-top drive-in cult classics that came before him. You’ve got “Wadzilla”, a tale of a sad little sperm that grows up to terrorize a city with the help of modern science in a 50’s setting. “I Was a Teenage Wearbear” is a coming-of-age musical that’s a little John Waters… a little Lost Boys. It’s like Cry Baby with gay dudes! Big, hairy, sweaty gay dudes…with fangs. We’ve got “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein”, a hysterical “what if?” putting Hitler in the shoes of Doctor Frankenstein to create a Jewish engine of destruction. Finally, we have “Zom-B-Movie”, the wrap-around-tale of horny zombies bent on literally fucking your brains out. What’s not to love?! I laughed through 90% of this movie. I can’t think of a better film to play for a room full of friends who brought plenty of alcohol…and I’ve done so three times since the Blu-ray showed up. This is a damn good time!

Troll Hunter – Follow a group of young filmmakers into the woods with a genuine troll hunter tasked with keeping a lid on the exploits of those extra large creatures when they wander into human territory. He’s the cleaner…and his job is not a pretty one. The special effects are top notch, making the coming of each monster a palpable experience. There is also a good deal of humor in the writing, creating my favorite brand of monster film. If they made a modern Godzilla film like this, fans would keel over from overwhelming joy.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil – It’s an idea so simple, it is baffling no one has done this before. Two working class men travel out to the boonies to spend some quality time in their broken down vacation home. At the same time a group of over-privileged teenagers have hit the woods for camping, drinking and a little heavy petting. When our working class heroes are suspected of being stereotypical backwoods horror hillbillies, it’s game on! Limbs fly, blood sprays and no one seems to have any idea what the hell is going on. Tucker and Dale is so much fun you’ll be in shock no one grabbed you to see it sooner.

Rabies – Israeli horror, you say?! These people have clearly done their homework. This tale of crossed paths, dire circumstance, violent clashes and a place in the middle of nowhere that doesn’t seem to want to let anyone go is a textbook lesson in building suspense and telling multiple stories in a non-confusing manor while keeping the audience engaged the whole time. This one was my most pleasant surprise of the year. This isn’t just an excellent foreign film. This is what most films should aspire to be.

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

Insidious – The story of a young family struggling to keep it together while demonic forces plot to tear them apart unraveled for me rather quickly. I couldn’t connect with the central characters, and every time they introduced someone or something new to either scare or engage the audience, it just made things funnier. The crowd I saw this with was laughing more often than not and mostly in disbelief. The horror gags fell flat and failed to creep. A big disappointment for me.

Priest – Oh man. Where do we begin with a mess like this? What happens when you try to make a super-charged action film in an apocalyptic future with hand-to-hand battle, gunfights, monsters and explosions around every corner? A headache usually. The story is disjointed and makes little sense. The characters lack essential likability or, in the case of the lead villain, enough baddassery to make you hate. Vapid is a good word to use here. Vapid and empty…and lacking in even enough of a spectacle to act as mindless eye candy. Just a waste of time.

Shark Night 3D – How this made it to big screens will be a mystery debated for some time to come. It sounds like a Syfy Channel original movie, doesn’t it? Well, sometimes a duck is a duck is a duck. Like most Syfy monster fests, the characters run about at the drop of a hat amid circumstances that have little logic behind them while the title monsters themselves get little screen time. Each scene is a vehicle for a kill, and not even 3D can make you care in the slightest for the intended victim. Halfway through you’ll ask to stop, sure that you’ll never have a desire to return. This is a waste of Hollywood energy and dollars.

The Roommate – A neutered Single White Female remake for fans of “The OC”? YAY! Ever watch a movie that made you want to harm yourself in public so that someone would come and drag you from your seat, simultaneously saving you from further torture and providing an excellent excuse as to why you fled the scene with all due haste? You’ll pray for such kindness. This tween friendly “thriller” lacks suspense, an engaging story, likable characters, an ounce of horror or even a slightly rockin’ soundtrack to ease your pain. There is NOTHING here worthy of conversation.

Apollo 18 – What horrors were left behind on the moon? Oh man…you don’t want to know…and if I could get you to trust me on that fact, we’d all be a happier race of fleshbots. Unfortunately, there are people out there who seemed to think Apollo 18’s ridiculous mystery is worthy of praise and so you may be talked into watching this tedious sort of Paranormal Activity in space rip-off. Even alluding to notes of Paranormal is getting your expectations too high… and lying. This is sci-fi dreck with a story so dim it’s no wonder the film sat on a shelf for as long as it did. If this movie had a face, you’d want to punch it.

“>[Andrew Kasch]

“>[Doctor Gash]

“>[The Foywonder]

“>[Heather “The Horror Chick” Wixson]

“>[Gareth Jones]

“>[MattFini]

“>[Nomad]

“>[The Woman in Black]

“>[Uncle Creepy]

The Woman in Black’s Picks

In 2011 I was fortunate enough to see a lot more good films than bad so while the second half (the Bottom 5) of my list of the best/worst movies of the year was a piece of cake to compile, it was much more of a struggle to come up with the first half (the Top 5). In addition, I’ve been accused in the past of including too many “fringe” films (i.e., not pure horror) so this time I’m leaving off a trio of my favorites since they could easily be categorized as more sci-fi than horror, but you can find them as the first three listed among my honorable mentions.

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011- The Woman in Black's Picks (click for larger image) Topping my Best of 2011 compilation is Absentia, which I saw very early in the year but still managed to stay in the forefront of my mind as the months wore on. It’s a perfect example of a filmmaker doing a lot with very little. That is, if you consider an intelligent script, completely natural actors, and a director (Mike Flanagan) who gets that we don’t need absolutely everything explained in minute detail to be “very little”. For me it was enough for Absentia to be my No. 1 film of the year. It’s accompanied by the following (in no particular order):

Stake Land – As a fan of vampire films, I was ecstatic to see director Jim Mickle and his co-writer Nick Damici (who also stars as the mysterious vampire slayer simply named “Mister”) put some bite back into the sub-genre. This isn’t the first offering from Glass Eye Pix to land on one of my year-end lists (see 2009’s I Sell the Dead), and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Attack the Block – Without even seeing my fellow Dread-heads’ lists, I’m pretty sure this film will land on more than a few of them so I won’t bother going into a lot of detail about why I selected it other than to quote Drew’s five-knife SXSW review from back in March: “A fantasy-adventure that hearkens back to Eighties monster movies…Attack the Block transcends the genre it’s referencing, becoming a truly fresh and exhilarating marvel rather than just an homage to what came before.

Sint (aka Saint) – A pair of holiday-themed horror flicks came out in 2011: Rare Exports, which garnered the lion’s share of attention, and my favorite of the two, Sint from the Netherlands, which flew in a bit more under the radar. I’m not usually a huge fan of slashers, but this one is so fresh and unique that it totally won me over. The Black Petes alone are worth the price of admission. If you’re looking for a new Christmastime classic, this is it as far as I’m concerned.

A Lonely Place to Die – You want intense? How about nail-bitingly suspenseful? This movie is all that and more. It’s actually the first film I’ve watched in years that I had to pause in the middle to go outside and get some air. Melissa George really shines in A Lonely Place to Die, and as Gareth wrote in his review, the on-screen violence is “harsh, impactful, and shocking…a thoroughly gripping, expertly crafted, and visually sumptuous mix of white-knuckle tension and adrenaline-pumping action.” One of the biggest surprises of the year.

Honorable Mentions: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Contagion, Super 8, Paranormal Activity 3, The Road, Insidious, The Caller

Memorable Performances: Since I always have to bend the rules a little when it comes to these best/worst lists, I wanted to be sure to include a couple of shout-outs to those actors and actresses who gave the most memorable performances of the year, even if the projects in which they appear aren’t listed elsewhere.

In movies we had Gretchen Lodge from Lovely Molly, who thrilled me like no one else in 2011 with her raw, brave portrayal of the title character as she terrifyingly descends into madness. Or is there more to it? Seek out this film and find out for yourselves! There’s also Brian Austin Green from ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2, who chilled me to the bone as ChromeSkull’s facilitator turned nemesis Preston. We already knew from “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” how much BAG has matured from his “90210” days, but ChromeSkull really sealed the deal.

On TV we had Mos Def, the one shining light in what turned out to be an uneven (yes, I’m being kind) season of “Dexter” – they never should have killed him off! But the one performer who stands heads and shoulders above them all is Jessica Lange as saucy Southern belle Constance in “American Horror Story”. The accolades have been pouring in for her all year, and I must once again add mine. Jessica, start writing your SAG, Golden Globe, Emmy, etc., acceptance speeches! Note to the powers-that-be at FX: Do whatever you can to keep her on the show for at least one more season please.

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

Now we turn to the Bottom 5. In all honesty, a few of these films were such stinkers that as soon as I finished watching them, I promptly did my best to forget they existed so my comments regarding each will be minimal.

The worst of the worst has to be Creature. I really hate to add to the disdain my cohorts here at Dread Central have been piling on this flick, but there’s simply no other option but to do so. Fred M. Andrews, your heart was obviously in the right place, but it takes a lot more than heart to make a good film. Try to include some of those other ingredients the next time.

Kill Katie Malone – If listing Dean Cain as the “star” of your film when he’s in it for probably a total of five minutes is the best you can do to market it, then maybe you should find another line of work. On top of that, Kill Katie Malone was dull, silly, and mostly senseless. Steer clear.

Red Riding Hood – Oh, what a letdown this one was! With the likes of Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Julie Christie, and Virginia Madsen being directed by Catherine Hardwicke, I had hopes of Red Riding Hood transcending its “teen fantasy movie” tag and delivering a product worthy of its big-name roster. Obviously, since I’m putting the film in this position, my hopes were dashed.

Psych: 9 – Here’s another instance of the bad outweighing the good. A decent premise that starts out okay turns muddled and melodramatic with some over-the-top performances that pull out every cliché in the book. As Uncle Creepy said in his review, “ It’s all been done before and done much better.

Ghost from the Machine – Another film I had high hopes for given its premise (bringing dead loved ones back to life), but it was so sloooooooow and booooooooring. It might have made for an interesting short film, but trying to stretch it out to feature length just didn’t work.

Dishonorable Mentions: The Rite, Hellraiser: Revelations, The Howling: Reborn, The Sacred, Super Hybrid

Biggest Disappointment: Sucker Punch might not technically be a horror film, but it got quite a bit of coverage here on the site by virtue of being directed by genre darling Zack Snyder and including several of our favorite actors/actresses. I’m not one to get offended by anything, but man, is Sucker Punch offensive in just about every way. I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt, but as it wore on … and on … and on, I could feel my anger rising … and rising … and rising. The people I was watching it with wanted to leave, but oh no, not me! I had to stay for every single sordid moment of this abomination. Was this really Snyder’s “vision”? If so, I felt duped and dismayed. Certainly everyone is entitled to a misstep or two along the way in their careers, but it’s going to take some time for him to work his way back into this Woman’s good graces.

“>[Andrew Kasch]

“>[Doctor Gash]

“>[The Foywonder]

“>[Heather “The Horror Chick” Wixson]

“>[Gareth Jones]

“>[MattFini]

“>[Nomad]

“>[The Woman in Black]

“>[Uncle Creepy]

Uncle Creepy’s Picks

2011 was an odd year for movies, but not because there were many head-scratchers out there. The simple truth is this past year saw more good flicks than bad, and that in and of itself is quite the achievement. Still, several flicks rose above the crowd as both winners and stinkers, and I’m ready to give my take on the state of cinema for ya, right here right now, along with a few honorable and dishonorable mentions sprinkled in for flavor. In no particular order …

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011- Uncle Creepy's Picks (click for larger image)Super 8 – For me this flick was nothing short of pure magic and spectacle. It’s a true love letter to everyone who grew up loving monsters and monster movies. Yes, it had that sickeningly sweet Spielbergian ending, but for my money the movie is just impossible not to love.

The Road – Though the film hasn’t come out officially yet here in the States, this shriek-fest from director Yam Laranas ranks up there with not only some of the best films of this year, but quite possibly of the last several as well. It’s beautifully shot and frightfully scary and intelligent; you guys need to do whatever you can to see this flick ASAP!

Stake Land – Who says vampires lack bite? Never mind the sparkling drama queens who rake in the dough at the box office, this is what the vampire sub-genre should be revered for. Thanks to over-exposure to legions of teenage girls and cougars alike, vampire projects have been universally defanged. If you need a reminder of just how terrifying these beasts can be, look no further.

Attack the Block – Every time the hyperbole wheels starts rolling for a foreign film that we’ve yet to see here Stateside, it becomes easy to be disappointed. Attack the Block is one of the few films I’ve ever seen that not only lives up to the hype, but it completely transcends it. It’s really too bad that Sony didn’t trust this one enough to give it a proper release. If you haven’t seen this one yet or have been on the fence, go ahead. Blind buy it. You’ll be thanking me right after your first of many viewings.

Troll Hunter – I know, I know. A third foreign flick on my best of list. What can I say? What’s good is good, and Troll Hunter is simply great. In a sea of failed cinema verite movies, this flick gets everything right. There are moments in which you just won’t believe your eyes. You’ll be sitting there, mouth agape, in a state of awe. If that alone is not enough to be included here, then I don’t know what is.

Honorable Mentions:
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Insidious, Paranormal Activity 3, Final Destination 5, Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2011

The Rite – Any movie featuring the great Sir Anthony Hopkins playing a priest who is possessed by demonic forces should be a no brainer of a home run; yet, the makers of this atrocity still managed to find a way to make the film’s events fall flatter than the sunny state of Florida. Horrid demon CGI, hammy performances, and the completely unusual usage of frogs for dramatic effect were enough to make The Rite the first film of 2011 to scrape the very bottom of the barrel.

The Roommate / The Resident – It’s true we’re only supposed to list five movies here, but damnit, even if you combine the similarities of these two shitfests (awful acting, no suspense, ridiculous events leading nowhere), they still don’t amount to at least one halfway decent movie. If you’re a true glutton for punishment, I wholeheartedly recommend setting up a double feature here. Just don’t forget to sign your suicide note. You will be missed.

Rubber – Though critically acclaimed by nearly everyone and their grandmother, I fuckin’ hated this movie. It’s not high art, and it’s nowhere near as smart as it likes to think it is. A story featuring a sentient tire with the uncanny ability to make people’s heads explode should have been no less than a rip roaring good time. The filmmakers, however, had other plans. Instead of the mayhem-laden hilarity that should have permeated the screen, the fourth wall is broken to bits and a pretentious experiment in arthouse filmmaking rolls on a seemingly endless path to boredom. What anyone sees in this flick is completely beyond me.

Red Riding Hood – Holy shit. The word “rancid” comes to mind along with “putrid”. When you have big name actors up on the screen delivering performances worthy of a school play, you know there’s a problem. Here’s your classic example of a flick that cares far more about how pretty it is than it does about delivering anything that even remotely resembles substance. Shallow, empty, and stupid, not even the biggest of metallic elephant torture devices could make this shell of a movie even slightly interesting.

Creature – For my money this could be one of the worst damned movies of all time. Here’s the thing … you have a cool looking practical swamp monster out in the wild killing people. You have actors known to deliver quality performances. The only thing you have to do is roll the camera and let the mayhem begin. Not here. No way. There’s no fun to be had, no events that take place which even remotely make sense, and little to no interaction between the guy in a friggin’ suit and the actors of the movie. This is the biggest fuck up of a simple formula I think I’ve ever seen. It’s astounding in its relentless pursuit of being as awful as possible and not in a good way. It’s simply wretched.

Dishonorable Mentions:
Fright Night 2011, Zombie Diaries 2, Hellraiser: Revelations, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, The Howling Reborn

“>[Andrew Kasch]

“>[Doctor Gash]

“>[The Foywonder]

“>[Heather “The Horror Chick” Wixson]

“>[Gareth Jones]

“>[MattFini]

“>[Nomad]

“>[The Woman in Black]

“>[Uncle Creepy]

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13 Lesser Known Found Footage Films That Just Might Restore Your Faith in the Genre.

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Found Footage.” Are there any two words as polarizing in the horror community? Once the cutting edge of indie horror, now the simple utterance of the words is enough to turn people away at the door. To be fair, it’s not like the genre has been kind to us. For every quality film like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity, there are dozens of films that can only be described as, “some dude had three friends and a camera.” Even major theatrical releases are no guarantee of quality.

Personally, I have some kind of sick obsession with found footage. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve whittled away on Amazon Prime, scrolling through the unending horde of found footage, searching for the next diamond in the rough. I have watched so many groups of friends get trapped in abandoned asylums that I could probably draw a map from memory. Seriously, I don’t even need their contrived reason to get locked in whatever building overnight anymore. I just assume their goal is to get ghosted to death.

People often ask me why I torture myself so, usually as they walk into the living room and witness a version of Ted that has become more couch than person. Maybe I am just an eternal optimist, genuinely believing that this next one might just be great. Maybe I really like the gritty, indie feel. Or maybe I just hate myself. Regardless, every once in awhile I do stumble across something that shows me just what the found footage style is capable of.
Now, I get that a lot of people are just sick of found footage. Spurned too many times and drowning in crap, many have decided to board the S.S. The Genre Is Dead To Me and sail above seas of shit looking for dry land. But wait, what’s that in the distance? It’s Ted, manning the lighthouse to safe harbor. After years of diving through the roiling waves of turd, here and there I’ve found some gems. So let me take you on a journey of the 13 Lesser Known Found Footage Films That Might Just Restore Your Faith in the Genre.


13) Final Prayer/The Borderlands (2013)

Now, stop me if you’ve heard this one. A priest, religious brother, and cameraman walk into a church. The ghost in the alter goes, “ooga booga.” Someone lights a sheep on fire. General spookiness ensues.

My favorite kind of movies are those that throw in a twist that makes you go, “wait, the fuck just happened?” If this were a list of most unexpected endings, Final Prayer (known as The Borderlands outside of the US) would be way closer to the top. Mixing religious skepticism with a hefty amount of spooks, Final Prayer bucks found footage trends by having characters you actually care about. There’s a bit of spotty logic (especially in the “who found this footage” department), but by the time the end rolls around you will be genuinely disturbed.


12) Afflicted (2013)

Answer quickly and honestly: would you be a vampire? Of course you would. Supernatural powers, living forever, homoerotic undertones with Tom Cruise, sounds great. If only you didn’t have to kill people to maintain your unholy existence… It’s that pesky little killing people catch that most people fail to really think about. It’s always touched upon in vampire movies, but is vastly overshadowed by the sexiness of eternal life and beauty. You just can’t really buy that the vampire is super upset about their endless bloodlust when they just look so fabulous while brooding.

Afflicted does things differently by taking this personal struggle and making it the focus of the film. Protagonist Derek Lee suffers from AVM, a malformation of the brain that can cause his death at any moment. Deciding to live life to the fullest rather than spend it in fear, Derek and his best friend Clif decide to travel the world. Documenting their trip for a series they call “Ends of the Earth,” their plans are altered dramatically when Derek comes down with a bad case of vampirism. Initially reveling in his new found strength and vitality, things take a darker turn when the bloodlust turns Derek into little more than an animal.

This is one of the rare films where the found footage style really works to enhance the film. You get an intimate sense of Derek’s personal struggle, caught in an impossible situation with no easy answer. But the story isn’t the only thing that sets Afflicted apart from other found footage films. The camerawork is smooth and clear, without any of the cheap “static” effects so common to the genre. It makes the frequent action scenes far more impressive, since you can actually see what’s going on. Even if you’re not a fan of found footage, chances are you’ll like Afflicted.


11) Rorschach (2015)

If I were to pick one reason why people are so tired of found footage, it would be that it’s predictable. Four friends investigating an asylum, you say? Perhaps you should start by establishing some pointless romantic tension that won’t enhance the plot at all. Maybe have a few false start scares involving puckish pranks and people jumping in front of the camera. Don’t forget to have a door close behind the main characters when none of them are looking! Nothing says spooky like ghosts emulating a strong breeze.

Now by all logic, Rorschach should have been a movie that did nothing special. Following a pair of paranormal investigators looking into a single mother and her daughter’s haunting, it’s the stock standard setup to a forgettable found footage movie. Hell, it’s even got a creepy doll, in case just plain ghosts wasn’t unoriginal enough. I watched the whole thing on YouTube of all places, and from minute one you can tell that these are amateurs with no budget.

So how come it’s on this list? Despite the clear lack of experience and budget (or perhaps even enhanced by it), Rorschach manages to feel incredibly real. The haunting is subtle, with small things like scratching at the walls and sweaters falling off of chairs. Shit never goes full crazy, and even during the film’s climax the most the ghost does is slam some doors. Hell, no one even dies in the movie, which must be a found footage first. If you’re looking for a slower burn that actually manages to use the found footage style to feel real and believable, Rorschach might just surprise you.


10) They’re Watching (2016)

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I wrote a glowing review for They’re Watching in conflict with another Dread Central critic. It’s pretty rare that I’d outwardly go against another contributor like this, as even I must admit I’m frequently wrong about shit. Hell, I think I even gave The Gallows a 4/5 at some embarrassing point in the past. But in the case of They’re Watching, I just couldn’t keep quiet. This film is simply glorious.

I’ll have to curtail this a bit by saying that I don’t think anyone will be actually scared during They’re Watching. It’s pretty damning to say that a horror movie isn’t scary, but They’re Watching definitely leans to the comedy side of the horror/comedy marriage. From Moldovan Nathan Fillion to the bitchy producer Kate, the exaggerated characters give the movie far more life than your typical found footage fare. There’s a ton of little things they do to spice up the world, even inventing their own fake chocolate bar that you’d have no idea was fake if you didn’t google it.

But the real reason this movie is here is the ending. Oh sweet Jesus, the ending. It goes from a pretty subdued but believable comedy to 11/10 schlock in a split second. The glorious final 15 minutes are a cavalcade of gore and debauchery worthy of a Cenobite orgy. The first time I saw it, I literally hurt myself laughing. A dude gets turned into a pile of frogs for Christ’s sake. It’s the closest man will ever come to filmmaking perfection.


9) Marble Hornets (2009-2014)

When Slender Man first graced the Something Awful message boards back in 2009, no one could have predicted it would eventually lead to two girls stabbing someone in the woods. In the years since its creation, Slender Man has gone from obscure meme to full blown cultural icon. He’s got his own video game, several indie films, and billions of amateur knockoff stories. Chances are you’re already sick of Slender Man, and he hasn’t even gotten his major motion picture debut yet.

Chances are you have no idea about the long and complicated history of Slender Man. While not technically in the public domain, the character has been shaped by the modern internet zeitgeist. He’s more of a campfire story than a character, growing and changing with each new telling. And no Slender Man tale has been more influential than “Marble Hornets.”

Now I will warn you, don’t try to get into “Marble Hornets” unless you are willing to dive in head first. The series is 92 episodes long, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are numerous side channels, interwoven plots, and full blown theory boards that you’ll have to check out if you want to get the whole pictures. An entire alternate world has been set up around the events of the series, and the world is vast. This really is way more than just a series of YouTube videos.

As for the series itself, it’s undeniably rough. The acting is very stiff, and camerawork amateur. Camera malfunctions are now cliché, but “Marble Hornets” takes them to the max. Expect grating audio distortion and nauseating visual cuts in every single episode. But it’s part of what gives the series its charm. There’s so much going on, so vaguely explained and hinting at something much larger, that it practically begs you to comb through every episode looking for every detail. You’ll scan the screen, looking for something out of place in every scene. There’s really nothing else like this out there, something that you can really get lost in.


8) The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)

I really struggled with putting this movie on the list. I’ve watched The Poughkeepsie Tapes twice, and doubt I ever will again. It’s not that the movie is bad. It’s just far too effective. The Poughkeepsie Tapes legitimately disturbs me.

Following the exploits of a serial killer that comes to be known as “The Water Street Butcher,” the footage they find is all filmed by the killer. We get to see first hand the killer’s sadistic exploits, and all too intimately. Without ever showing his face or explaining his motivations, we still get a sense of exactly who this man is. He’s pure evil.

The actual tapes themselves are sufficiently disturbing, but it’s only part of the picture. The crime documentary style interviews giving some context to his methodology paints an even larger pictures of a man who is not only sick, but incredibly intelligent. He does everything he can to avoid detection, tricking investigators at every turn. The extents that he goes to in services of his killing spree are truly fucked up. This is a game to him, and every move leaves a trail of bodies.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes created a villian that genuinely upset me. He isn’t some force of nature like Jason Voorhees or simple maniac like Leatherface. He’s methodical, calculating, and infinitely sadistic. He is the worst mankind has to offer, and his tapes give us shots into his depraved world. The scene towards the end with Cheryl sickened me. I don’t like The Poughkeepsie Tapes, but I respect the hell out of it.


7) Savageland (2015)

When you think “found footage,” you think shaky camcorder footage of a forest/abandoned asylum/whichever actor’s apartment had the least amount of empty pizza boxes. Savageland does things a bit different, with the footage in this case being from a camera, and not the moving picture kind. Styled like a crime documentary, the pictures tell the story of a horrifying attack by unknown forces on a small Arizona border town. The official story is that the sole survivor, an illegal immigrant and amateur photographer named Francisco Salazar, went on a killing spree and murdered the whole town. The story that his pictures tell is quite different.

You might think that telling a story through a series of photographs is counterintuitive, but the constraints give Savageland a unique feel. You never really get a clear picture (no pun intended) of what exactly is going on, instead piecing together the general story through individual moments. Salazar is dead by the time the cameras start rolling, so the various experts and theorists can only speculate as to what actually went down. It keeps you engaged, and lets the plot evolve past the simple monsters/zombies/demons/whatever they are. Fair warning, this does get fairly political, intersecting the struggle of an illegal immigrant in the US justice system with the monster story. It grounds Savageland in some reality, making it feel more like a true story than your typical horror movie.


6) Noroi: The Curse (2005)

I discovered the works of Kōji Shiraishi back when I was on a J-horror kick in college (read as trying to hook up with edgy anime chicks). Not widely known to western audiences, Shiraishi has made a number of found footage films that are all worth checking out. There are actually quite a lot of Japanese found footage films you’ve probably never heard of, including a direct sequel to Paranormal Activity called Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Nights. But when it comes to which one to recommend the most, Noroi was an easy pick.

Noroi sets itself apart by avoiding pretty much every single cliché you’ve come to expect from found footage. Practically devoid of jump scares, this slow burn relies on atmosphere and storytelling to slowly fill you with uneasy dread. You aren’t going to jump out of you seat (maybe at the end), but it will make you squirm. There’s an inescapable tension that permeates the film, like something terrible is lurking just behind a curtain. While most found footage movies would rip the blinds aside and have a screaming ghost jump at the screen, Noroi is content to just let you stare and try to make out its figure while the real monster slowly sneaks up behind you.


5) WNUF Halloween Special (2013)

This might be the most “found footage” found footage movie of all time. Rather than being comprised of some shit the cops found in the woods and then inexplicably edited together to make a movie, WNUF Halloween Special is designed to emulate a home VHS recording of a local news broadcast. No need to explain away the editing or wonder why they are still filming. Someone just popped in the VHS, hit record, then stuck the final product in a shoe box.

This is another that falls more on the comedy side of the horror/comedy scale, but I doubt you’ll mind. The stellar performances and spot-on tone perfectly emulates a small town local news broadcast from the 80’s. It takes you back to another era, complete with hokey commercial breaks for local businesses and segments where it fast forwards. Sure, it’s not very scary, but it’s endlessly enjoyable. Even having seen it a few times, it still manages to slap a smile on my face.


4) Dark Secrets (2013)

I have yet to meet a single other person that has seen “Dark Secrets.” It was on Netflix a while back, hidden in some non-category away from mortal eyes. I honestly don’t even remember how I stumbled on it, but I’m glad I did.

“Dark Secrets” is a 10 episode, single season show that mixes SCP, “Unsolved Mysteries,” and “The Twilight Zone.” Now if that sounds awesome to you, it should. I seriously have no idea why this isn’t more well known. The premise is that during a demolition of an abandoned industrial building, a locked door is found in the basement. Inside is an archive of all sorts of strange paranormal events, collected by an unknown individual known only as The Teller. Building on these files, the show interviews various witnesses and experts to try to get the whole story.

Now of course none of this is real, but there’s a hilarious trend on the IMDb page of people not getting that. Seriously, some of the major criticisms against this show are people saying that they think it’s a hoax. This is a show where the first episode is about a house that eats people. You have to give it credit for emulating a real “Unsolved Mysteries” type show so well that people thought a house eating people was supposed to be taken at face value.


3) Ghostwatch (1992)

Long before The Blair Witch Project would revolutionize film by making a generation of horror fans consistently motion sick, Ghostwatch shocked the UK. Styled to emulate a live BBC broadcast, Ghostwatch follows a group of reporters as they document the haunting of a single mother and her two daughters. Hounded by a ghost they call “Pipes,” the otherworldly assaults steadily escalate as the night continues. Unlike most other found footage films, it doesn’t just stick with the camera crew the whole time, instead switching between the studio footage and the crew at the house.

The effect is quite convincing, enough so that it caused a War of the Worlds style panic when it first aired. It’s reported that the BBC switchboards lit up with people trying to call into the “live” program, and there are actual reported cases of PTSD from children traumatized by the program. It was… a more innocent time. With decades of found footage seasoning my cynical mind, it doesn’t quite pack the same punch when watched today.

It doesn’t really matter though, since the movie is just damned scary. This is one of those films that really lives up to the promise of found footage. Things happen on screen that the characters don’t notice, and it’s up to the viewer to spot it. As recently as 2016 there have been new sightings of Pipes in the background of various shots. This is a film you can pick apart frame by frame to find all the hidden goodies. On top of that, it’s also damned scary. The haunting extends past the four walls of the family’s home, bleeding out to everyone watching. For the people that were fooled into thinking it was real, the effect must have been terrifying.


2) Lake Mungo (2008)

More than just a great found footage film, Lake Mungo is one of my favorite horror films, period. It’s my trump card when I need a movie I know both horror and non-horror fans will like. I’ve shown this to horror nuts, girlfriends, even my mother. All the while it still manages to be both interesting and genuinely frightening.

I don’t want to give too much of Lake Mungo away, as experiencing the twists and turns is a lot of what makes the film special. This isn’t what you expect. It’s about a haunting, but it becomes more than that. Aided by fantastic performances and a gradual pace that lets you come to know the characters naturally, the emotional core of Lake Mungo is miles above what you typically expect from horror. This movie will really get to you in ways you don’t expect.

It also doesn’t rely on cheap scares to be terrifying. A lot of build comes from simple descriptions from the main cast, making you wonder what you’re actually in store for. When the actual ghost does reveal itself, it’s slow, and without clear purpose. When you finally finish the film and it all comes together, you’ll want to go back to see what you missed the first time. This is a film that definitely benefits from repeat viewings. And if you’re like me, that won’t be a problem.


1) The Tunnel (2011)

If there is a theme for this list, it’s that the best found footage movies are the ones that do things different. There’s only so much you can get from four friends running around a dark building while doors slam. What makes The Tunnel exceptional is how it takes this basic premise and polishes it to a mirror shine.

The Tunnel follows an Australian news crew as they investigate a series of abandoned railway tunnels that have been mysteriously cordoned off by the government. Switching between present day interviews with the crew and the footage of their experience in the tunnels, you quickly find that there’s something far more sinister than they expected. While a story about four people being chased by a monster in the dark is pretty much the definition of stock standard found footage, the skipping of time and differing accounts raises it above its peers. The characters feel very real, and their different perspectives on what happened (and who to blame) gives the story a lot of mileage. The monster is also scary as shit, so bonus points.


Chances are, you aren’t going to like every movie on this list. That’s okay. I’m not trying to sell you on every found footage movie. Rather, I’m just trying to show you that found footage is far from dead. It might be stale, but that’s just because people keep doing the same thing with it. Between these 13 movies, you can see a wild variety that defies being crammed into a little box.

Now as you all know, Dread Central has partnered with Epic Pictures. Epic recently released The Monster Project on Amazon Prime, which a surprising amount of people I know are giving a pass simply because it’s found footage. It’s troubling to me, since I found The Monster Project to be a hell of a lot of fun.

Hopefully, something on this list will surprise and delight you. And if it does, maybe it’ll open up your heart a little to found footage. Not all the way of course, not everyone can binge watch crap like I can. But enough to at least give new found footage movies a second glance. Then maybe check out The Monster Project. It’s got a vampire, demon, and werewolf, all at the same time!

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Four Things You May Have Overlooked in IT

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This week saw the home video release of Andy Muschietti’s IT (review), the 2017 horror smash success that brought in nearly $700 million worldwide, a staggeringly high number for any genre of film, much less horror. Since the film has hit shelves at your local retailer, we wanted to do a fun little post where we highlight four moments in the film that you may have missed the first time you saw it.

In fact, it’s little things like this that keep me coming back to revisit movies multiple times. There’s a certain amount of joy in watching a movie and finding something new, even if it’s small. It gives you a reason to love that film all over again, all because you can appreciate one of those “little things” that are so precious and delightful.

So, without further ado, here are four things that you possibly overlooked when watching IT!


1) The Creepy Library Lady

Alright, this is probably the most obvious one but considering the intensity of the scene, it’s theoretically possible that this one slipped you by.

When Ben is in the library researching the dark and bloody past of Derry, there’s a woman in the background (who is never focused on directly) who stops looking at whatever books are in her aisle so that she can stare extremely creepily at him. She even appears closer and closer with each revisit to a shot of Ben, her presence looming like a shadow who just so happens to be wearing a grandmotherly floral dress, a dark grin adorning her face.

Then, when Ben gets up to investigate the mysterious red balloon that seemingly levitates across the room, that lovely, terrifying old lady is right back at the books, acting like she wasn’t just the creepiest thing to happen in the past few minutes. I’m onto you, Granny. I’m onto you…


2) The Upside-Down Chumash

This is one that many people may overlook simply because they don’t know Hebrew! When Stan is practicing for his Bar Mitzvah, his father chides him for his mistakes, seemingly disgusted that the “son of a rabbi” could do so poorly. Whatever will the townsfolk think of him if his progeny says “Barook” instead of “Baruch”?

Fed up, Stan’s father tells him to take his Chumash to the study, whereupon Stan closes it to reveal a slight and quite humorous goof: the Chumash is upside-down!

As a Jew, I’ll be the first to admit that Hebrew can be a very strange looking language to those who don’t see it with any frequency. In fact, I found this error to be kind of endearing instead of offensive, as some might think. It’s such a harmless, innocent mistake that I can’t help but shake my head with a smile and wish I’d been there to wordlessly flip the book around, pat Wyatt Oleff’s shoulder, chuckle a bit, and walk away.

“No gelt for you this Hanukkah!”


3) Pennywise’s Pyramid

This one falls more into the realm of trivia than something that might’ve been overlooked, especially because we never really got a clear, up close look at Pennywise’s sewer pyramid. However, I can tell you from having been on the set of IT that the tower of clothing and toys has a very cool little gimmick behind it: as you go higher up on the tower, the more you’ll notice that the clothes are cleaner and the toys are newer. That’s because Pennywise has been doing this for so long that he continuously stacks all those belongings on top of the old ones, leaving antiques at the bottom and more modern items at the top. Next time you watch the movie, see if you can spot this in those rare moments where the camera is higher up on the pyramid!

“This better not be some clown pyramid scheme, I swear to God…”


4) Tim Curry’s Pennywise

This one might be me cheating a little since I wrote about this after a trailer for the film had been released. That being said, not everyone who saw the movie saw my post, which is why I’m bringing this back up.

When the kids venture into the Neibolt St. house, there’s a part where Richie is locked in a room with a ton of clown statues and dolls. Filled with coulrophobia, Richie is clearly terrified and haunted by these overly cheerful visions. But one particular design stands out amongst the others because it’s a direct homage to Tim Curry’s design from the 1990 miniseries. Bearing that same elongated, porcelain head and the bright red skullet (it’s a thing, I promise), there’s no denying this nod to Tommy Lee Wallace’s adaptation.

“Is this some kind of weird “Take your kid to work day” thing I’m not aware of?”


You can pick up IT on Blu-ray through Amazon.


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The Best Horror Films of 2017 as Picked by the Dread Central Staff

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2017 is officially in the can, and it’s time for the Dread Central staff to compile all their “best of” lists into one neat little index for you to click on and swim through! Pull up a chair, and check ’em out!

According to our staff Raw (review), Kong: Skull Island (review), and Get Out (review) were this year’s big winners appearing on 4 lists each.

Runners Up: Stephen King’s IT, Gerald’s Game, Brawl in Cell Block 99, The Babysitter, Cult of Chucky, and Devil’s Candy.

What were YOUR picks? Tell us in the comments section below!

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