Best & Worst of 2009: David Harley Picks His Top 10!

The year is winding down and we’re about to say goodbye to both 2009 and the decade. Helping us look back at this past year is David Harley, one of Bloody Disgusting’s long-time contributing writers who resides in Orlando, FL with Tex Massacre and Horror Guy Keenan. Beyond the break you’ll find Harley’s picks for the 10 best films of 2009. Watch for Mr. Disgusting’s list tomorrow.

Mr. Disgusting (Best/Worst) | Tim Anderson (Best/Worst) | BC (Best/Worst)
David Harley (Best/Worst) | Ryan Daley (Best/Worst)

DAVID HARLEY’S TOP 10 OF 2009

2009 continued the trend of the past few years in horror; the successes were BIG successes, the failures were abysmal beyond all comprehension, but mostly, everything was just average, with a lot of stuff being downright forgettable. But, there was something different in the year; it seems that we’re gravitating towards fun horror flicks again. Zombieland tried its hand at being the next big zombie comedy and succeeded on many levels; My Bloody Valentine 3-D singlehandedly restored my faith in 3-D horror films, giving me the best “glasses required” audience experience since I saw Friday The 13th 3-D a few years back at a convention with a packed house; and Drag Me To Hell showed that us that, yes, Raimi still had what it took to make a horror film after leaving the genre for so long and, yes, he is still very relevant and capable of making fun films. Remakes and reboots continued to be present on release schedules and though they seem to be dwindling a tad, they still have clout at the box office – well, most of them anyway. As always, something I’m thankful for is the decline of torture flicks, which seemed to be almost completely absent this year, and the rise of smaller, indie/arthouse films such as Antichrist and House Of The Devil. They might not have made big bank but, man, did they get people talking. The biggest success story of the year is Paranormal Activity, which was completely driven by the fans and gave original horror a nice boost at the box office. Of course, this means we’re about to get 300 knock-offs but, in the end, we got a great film out of it (also, just for the record, Paranormal was on my best-of list last year).

There are a lot of things to look forward to in the coming year. We’ll finally get to see if The Wolfman is really worth the delay or if it’s been sitting around for a reason – I hope it’s the former and becomes the next Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Maybe Piranha will finally come out? I’m disappointed that it wasn’t shot in 3-D but I’m optimistic in hoping that Aja makes a comeback from his last outing. Is that release date for Case 39 going to hold? I’ve consulted the tea leaves and I’ve still got nothing. Will A Nightmare On Elm Street be satisfying in breathing new life into an undeniable horror icon? I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Daybreakers, The Lovely Bones and a new Adam Green movie coming out within a month of each other? Color me excited. Here’s to a new year and a new decade of the red stuff!

10. House Of The Devil (October 30; Magnet Releasing)


House Of The Devil is easily Ti West’s best film to date, harkening back to the slow-burn atmospheric horror films of the late 70s and early 80s. One of the things I really dig about the film is that it isn’t self-referential at all. It could really be a film from another era, right down to the aesthetic appearance. The ominous, bizarre house owner (Tom Noonan) sets everything up with some off-kilter dialogue that really pays off later on. And as Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) takes her babysitting gig and begins to wander around the house and listening to her cassette player, we’re given exposition that really develops the character and gives way to some dark, great moments later in the film. House is all about setup, with a giant, explosive payoff at the end.

9. My Bloody Valentine 3-D (January 15; Lionsgate)


I don’t think anyone is ever going to accuse My Bloody Valentine 3-D of being a great film. It certainly has a fun, schlocky sense of humor – it has miner puns in the opening exposition scene – and features well-integrated 3-D effects, which I thought showcased some of the best gimmicky death scenes to date, and Tom Atkins (!).And even if the melodramatic, plodding story is a bit hard to swallow, its great sense of humor and flares of personality make for an entertaining night of gore and mayhem.

8. Trick `r Treat (October 6; Warner Premiere)


Trick `r Treat is the exact opposite of most films that sit unreleased on a studio shelf: it’s actually good and worth watching. It was really satisfying to see Sam on-screen since I’ve had a giant toy of him sitting on my shelf for almost a year prior to seeing the actual film. The stories in Dougherty’s directorial debut don’t exactly set the world on fire but, as a whole, they’re fun and the film is really beautiful looking, capturing the season perfectly.

7. Last House On The Left (March 13; Rogue Pictures)


Last House On The Left was a film I really had no stake in at all and it completely surprised me in the best way possible. The original is not really a film I ever cared for too much; I understand its importance and everything but I prefer Bergman’s The Virgin Spring myself. Regardless, Dennis Illiadis’ remake could’ve been derivative torture porn nonsense. However, it defied all odds and was actually a good take on the story. No elaborate, gross deaths (well, save for the last one); just pure suspense and terror. And count me in as someone who appreciates what they were trying to do with the end, but doesn’t necessarily think it’s great.

6. The Horseman (None; None)


The Horseman reminded me of Paul Schrader’s Hardcore in a lot of ways, but is that really a bad thing? The films feels really raw and gritty but, on a second viewing, I realized that it doesn’t really show ANY of its cringe-inducing acts – many of which will have men grabbing themselves to make sure they’re still safe – and that’s really the highest compliment I can give the film: it’s so intense that it actually makes you think you’re seeing stuff that’s far worse than what’s actually on screen. What I really love about the main character, Christian, is that you actually see his character develop on-screen. When he first starts his quest of revenge, he’s uncoordinated and he screws up a lot. But he learns from his mistakes and slowly becomes a lean, mean killing machine. Nothing is rushed here, the character is actually given room to breathe and develop on his own.

5. Embodiment of Evil (None; Synapse)


Like many franchises that have been revived as of late, the latest Coffin Joe film had the daunting task of following up an already classic line-up of films that had already made their mark in the film industry – more specifically, in Brazil where the film was made and banned in several states because of the violence and blasphemy within. Coffin Joe is an iconic character, appearing in numerous films, songs, music videos and comic books. In other words, he’s the foreign equivalent of Jason, Michael or Freddy. Director, writer and actor José Mojica Marins had his work cut out for him but, in the end, he pulled through and made one of the most ferocious horror films in recent memory. I thought a lot about Argento’s Mother Of Tears during the film, simply because they have similar ideas behind them. A storyline with a cult following, left completely unvisited for years, is revisited by (most of) the minds that brought us the originals, to result in their bloodiest incarnations yet. But, where Argento fails, Marins completely succeeds. The film retains the feel of the originals, while introducing new ideas and making them still feel relevant. Coffin Joe is back and as brutal as ever and, hopefully, this will be a stepping stone for people to delve into a really fascinating filmography of one of horror’s more unmentioned superstars.

4. Best Worst Movie (None; None)


A documentary about the greatest awful movie ever made? Who wouldn’t love this? Troll 2 is one of those rare flicks that consistently gets it wrong in the best way possible but manages to be genuine in its intentions. Originally scoffed at as a terrible in-name-only sequel to the somewhat well-known Troll, the film eventually nosedived the number one spot on IMDB’s Bottom 100 and people became taken with it. Revival screenings started turning up all over the country with some of the actors in attendance and soon after, star Michael Paul Stephenson decided to document the film’s cult following, interviewing many of the people involved with it and even visiting conventions and screenings. And it works. Completely. Best Worst Movie is basically the best DVD extra you’ve never seen, giving you almost everything you ever wanted to know about the film and it’s following.

3. Antichrist (October 23; IFC Films)


“CHAOS REIGNS!” Enough said.

2. Martyrs (April 28; Dimension Extreme)


Marytrs left me with such a strange and uncomfortable feeling, something I haven’t really felt since May. I think the reason a lot of people were more than slightly put off by it was because of the strange direction the film takes during the second half, going from an ultra-violent French revenge take on Heavenly Creatures – complete with sexual tension and a pretty in-depth look at the motivation and relationship between the two girls – to something completely unrelenting and, on some levels, thought provoking. I really believe that this is one of those films whose enjoyment is based on what you want to get out of it. If you’re looking for something misogynistic and vile, with crackpot views on philosophy and religion, and only want to see a girl getting her face beaten until it’s unrecognizable as such, then that’s what you’ll get out of Martyrs. If you’re willing to look at the film as an experiment and realize that the film took on a life of its own, morphing into a commentary on religion, relief from suffering and transgression from a familiar horror riff, then that’s what you’ll take away from it. But, regardless of what you think, the performances and incredible effects work definitely elevate it from blatant exploitation to something more.

1. Drag Me To Hell (May 29; Universal Pictures)


Drag was easily the best theatrical experience I had this year. And unlike some films on my worst of list, it’s inclination to be on the more predictable side never really stopped it from being non-stop fun. Instead of cobbling the film together as a “best-of” of his oeuvre, Raimi makes little nods to his older films in this love letter to E.C. comics. And much like those comics, the ending doesn’t come as a surprise and I think a lot of people who dog on the film aren’t taking that into consideration. I can sit through ANY episode of Tales From The Crypt and know the ending a few minutes in; that doesn’t stop me from watching them over and over again. And I think the same fate will befall Raimi’s return to horror in a lot of people’s eyes.