Leading up until the New Year we’ll be unloading the best and worst lists of 2008 from all of Bloody-Disgusting’s official reviewers. Beyond the break you can check out BC’s Best Horror Films of 2008, with lists from David Harley, Ryan Daley and myself coming soon. Click here to keep up with the full year in review and also feel free to post your thoughts below, or at our forum’s Top 10 of 2008 forum thread.
2008 was a rollercoaster year for horror fans. The only bona fide hit was The Strangers, and it’s no coincidence that it was one of the few films of the year that was not a remake, a sequel, or based on anything else that came before (those of you who say it is a remake of Them – shut up. I don’t recall Liv Tyler running into the goddamn sewer for no reason). And two of the best horror films in ages came along, neither from the US. We saw films get buried by their own studios (Midnight Meat Train and Repo from Lionsgate; Trick R Treat by Warner Bros), while pointless nonsense like Shutter and One Missed Call get treated with 2000+ screen releases. And the remakes! Remakes of movies no one has been able to see yet (Quarantine), remakes with new endings that render the movie pointless (The Eye), and remakes that got so reworked that the original’s creators no longer needed to be given credit (Prom Night, April Fool’s Day).
There was also a movie about a Finnish metal band dressed up like monsters and running around a hospital.
Granted, it would have been hard to live up to 2007, which saw a record number of high quality films (The Mist, Hatchet, Grindhouse…), but even so, 2008 ranks as a disappointment overall, because so many of the films listed below (good and bad) weren’t even given a wide release, which just put everyone in a bummed mood. Let’s hope My Bloody Valentine and Friday the 13th manage to bring audiences back to theaters so more distributors will take a chance on our beloved genre.
NOTE – I only count films that were made available to US audiences in 2008 (not counting film festival screenings, which is why Trick R Treat, as great as it is, does not make the list). All of the following top 10/bottom 10 movies are available on DVD and/or are playing in general (if not wide) release in theaters.
Click here to read BC’s Worst of 2008 list.
Very little about The Ruins suggested a watchable film: a WB-ish cast, the tired “American tourists get killed” premise, and… talking trees? Yet, this was one lean and mean movie, with (mostly) smart characters and a surprisingly hard R attitude (including the increasingly rare onscreen death of a child). Hell, even the talking trees weren’t a problem. Of course, it tanked.
If Ruins was ballsy for killing one anonymous kid early on, then what can you call Baby Blues, which is essentially a slasher movie version of an Andrea Yates-style crime? Some have called for the head of writer/directors Lars E. Jacobson and Amardeep Kaleka for their unthinkable crime of making a horror film about a realistic tragedy and not pulling any punches while doing it, as if making a genuinely upsetting horror movie once in a while is a bad thing. I, on the other hand, laud them, and look forward to their future projects.
If the movie had bigger stars, then I can guarantee that Splinter would have been given a wide release. It’s an old fashioned “people band together to fight off a monster while trapped somewhere” crowd pleaser, with a pretty original monster and an incredibly likable group of people (even the resident asshole is pretty charming). If Toby Wilkins hadn’t been so shaky-cam/rapid fire edit happy when it came to showing the monster, this one would place even higher, but as a consolation prize to him, I will give his upcoming Grudge sequel a chance.
So Doomsday didn’t have a single original idea in the entire film. What of it? Neil Marshall made it pretty clear that he wanted to essentially make a movie comprised out of scenes/characters from his favorite movies (Escape from NY, Road Warrior, Aliens), and that’s exactly what he did. Me and the 23 other people who went to see it during its theatrical run had a blast watching it; it’s a shame that everyone else was too busy complaining that it wasn’t original to realize that that was part of the point.
The Pang brothers are a frustrating pair. When they’re on, they’re REALLY on, as judged from The Eye 2 and now Re-Cycle, a superior blend of fantasy and horror, with some truly amazing visuals and sets to boot (I implore you to watch this one on Blu-ray if you can). But they also made one of the year’s worst films (Bangkok Dangerous), which makes me wonder if their successes are a fluke or if their style simply doesn’t work in the American studio system.
“Midnight Meat Train is the best Clive Barker movie since Hellraiser!” Wouldn’t that have sounded awesome on a TV spot or a poster? Well, too bad Lionsgate sunk all their money into a lame Saw sequel and *snicker* The Spirit, instead of promoting this gory and suspenseful adaptation from Ryuhei Kitamura. The film has one of the best kill scenes in recent memory, and its own studio robbed fans of being able to see it on the big screen. Whatever. Just make sure you buy the DVD, not settle for its constant airing on (Lionsgate supported) Fearnet.
I went to see The Strangers, and even with parking and waiting around, I was home two hours later. That’s because Bryan Bertino is smart enough to avoid needless subplots and random supporting characters to pad out a film. So instead of a 100 minute film that could be shorter, we have a near-perfect 80 minute nail-biter that keeps Liv Tyler’s night of terror front and center for almost the entire running time. The fact that it was a huge success at the box office (it kicked Speed Racer’s ass!) gave me hope that non-sequel/remake horror still had a chance.
If you look at this list, you might notice the irony that Repo and Meat Train, both Lionsgate releases buried by new president Joe Drake, are sandwiching The Strangers, which Drake produced at his old job at Rogue. Unlike Meat Train though, Repo has become a bona fide phenomenon (as much as a film can be when it is released on 7 screens and the director has to promote it out of his own pocket). When Darren Bousman and writer/star Terrance Zdunich took the film on a “road tour” across the US, they sold out every single show, prompting a 2nd tour of equal success. Just think how much it might have made if it had been given even a more traditional limited release (i.e. a few hundred screens, and actually being promoted by the studio). Luckily, LG made one good decision regarding the film, offering a Blu-ray release for the countless number of people who didn’t get a chance to see this truly original and crowd-pleasing genre mashup on the big screen.
Cloverfield would have been on this list if Matt Reeves hadn’t pissed me off by singing on to write and direct an insta-remake of Let The Right One In, the beautiful and damn near perfect Swedish film that is still in (a few) theaters. I can buy the reason to remake older films; but the only reason to remake this one is so we can have it in English, which means that the studio behind it is essentially calling us illiterate morons. The film has a universal appeal; there is nothing about it that an American audience wouldn’t be able to identify with. Hell, the Italian language Life Is Beautiful did huge business, and that was about the Holocaust!
Inside is actually a combination of a lot of the movies on this list. It’s foreign (French to be exact), it’s short (not EVEN 80 minutes, and the R rated cut is only 70!), it shouldn’t be watched by expectant mothers, and… once again, it didn’t get an acceptable release. At least Repo and some of the others got a limited theatrical, but Inside didn’t even get that much. Instead, it went direct to DVD earlier in the year after playing some festivals in 2007. However, it plays just as well at home (if not better, since it’s entirely set in the main character’s house). La Femme (“The Woman”) is the best movie psycho in ages, and despite all of the gore (this is one of the bloodiest movies I’ve ever seen), there is actually a heart to it all, with a reveal that while not completely surprising, is definitely interesting and unexpectedly moving. Let’s just hope that whatever Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury do next (they were briefly attached to H2, before Zombie once again reneged on his word and came back) lives up to this film’s promise.
Feast II, The Substitute, Cloverfield, The Cottage, Spiral