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 David Harley’s Worst Horror Films of 2008, with the final lists from myself coming tomorrow. 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.
In many ways, I feel the same about 2008’s horror output as I did 2007’s: the highs were very high and the lows were very low but, ultimately, most films had me leaving the theatre, or shutting off my DVD player, with a resounding “meh” being muttered under my breath. It’s not that this was a terrible year; it’s just that most of what was released is completely forgettable. Does that make these films in question bad? Yeah, but in a way that doesn’t make me angry as much as it begs the question, “Why did they even bother making (insert film’s name) in the first place?” The frustration of seeing films with decent premises being made into such soulless final products is what irked me above all else this year.
There was a lot I was thankful for though. “Torture porn” almost faded from the radar completely, with SAW V being the only notable exception. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN reinvigorated my love for art house horror and became my favorite genre film of the new millennia. The reality/hand-held camera subgenre made a comeback and delivered some of the year’s best scares with CLOVERFIELD, [REC] and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (the latter two of which, I realize, were technically not released this year but I saw them via festival screenings and screeners during 2008). What stands out to me the most, though, is the sense of community we all shared in our support for MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN and REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA. Now, neither of these films are in my top 10 for the year (the former showing off its adaptation stretch marks a little too much and the latter being bogged down by too much exposition, with some uneven songs thrown in the mix) but they brought horror fans together for the simple fact that Lionsgate didn’t really want us to see them but we were going to, whether they liked it or not. MMT was a small victory, having a good per-screen average for the ticket prices it had, but REPO! was the big success story this year. At the Orlando screening I attended, people flew in from Puerto Rico to see the film and they didn’t even have a theatre ticket! Someone had one of the film’s characters tattooed on their body and they hadn’t even seen the film yet! Whether you think that’s stupid on either party’s account, it demonstrates that horror is still alive and how much fans are willing to celebrate it.
My outlook on 2009 is based solely on my determination to stay optimistic. Will Warner Bros. finally stop hiding TRICK `R TREAT from us? I hope so. Will PIRANHA 3D ever get off the ground? As long as they get rid of everything that made the Chuck Russell script so terrible, I hope so. Will THE WOLFMAN wow us like BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA? I’ve got my fingers crossed. Is Paramount ever going to build up the courage to release CASE 39 and get it over with already, if only so we can see if it really is that bad? I’ve been told yes but we still don’t have anything official. Is MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D going to be as much fun as it looks? I’m 99.9% sure it will be, especially after all the good word-of-mouth coming out of BNAT X. Here’s to 2009 and all the potential thrills and chills we have in store for us.
Watching DARK FLOORS is a lot like playing a video game, only it’s not as entertaining and serves no purpose except to be a glorified ad for Lordi. The characters scramble around each floor of a decrepit hospital, only to face a member of the band before they reach the elevator/staircase/doorway to the next level. The monsters don’t put up much of a fight; they just roar and get rid of an unnecessary character before they’re defeated. I figured that, at the very least, it would have a Silent Hill-esque atmosphere, but it ended up being one of the most visually boring films I’ve seen in quite a while. Supposedly, they want to make more of these things. Oh Lordi…
The friends I watched STUCK with said it looked like I was writhing in pain from the sheer stupidity that was being projected on the screen before us. The film attempts to be as realistic as possible in presenting its characters and situation, but for some reason, Stuart Gordon and John Strysik decided to turn their homeless victim into the incredible healing man. There’s a scene where he removes a windshield wiper from his side and doesn’t bleed to death, which is impossible. If this was a dumb film that didn’t want to take itself seriously, I’d be more willing to excuse the sort of nonsense that fills its 85 minute runtime, but STUCK is infuriatingly serious and aggravating to watch.
I’m a big fan of FINAL DESTINATION 2 and SNAKES ON A PLANE, so I was excited to check out David Ellis’ new horror film. Therein lies my mistake: I was actually looking forward to this piece of garbage. A rip-off of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, ASYLUM managed to combine the most overused elements from both films. An ex-doctor who kills his victims when they’re in a dream-like hallucinatory state? Really? They didn’t even go for subtlety here.
The original APRIL FOOL’S DAY seems to have a bad reputation with genre fans, mostly because of the ending, but I enjoy it. Sure, the twist is completely predictable and I understand how it could make someone feel like they wasted an hour and a half of their life (it’s a film called APRIL FOOL’S DAY; what the hell did you think was going to happen at the end?) but I think the build-up is a lot of fun. Plus, it gets points for having Biff from BACK TO THE FUTURE in it. Point being, if a person with a lick of common sense were to remake this film, they’d probably change the ending. But the Butcher Brothers had other plans; they decided to change everything except for the ending! If you’re going to remake something, you should improve it, not do the same thing that got the original negative attention. Filled with terrible “death” scenes and really unlikeable and unsympathetic characters, APRIL FOOL’S DAY has got to be the most pointless and boring remake ever.
I’m at a loss for words about what else I could possibly say about SOUTHERN GOTHIC to deter anyone from watching it. Everything about it is terrible. When I watched it at SXSW earlier this year, I’d say the theatre was three-fourths full before the film began. Afterwards, I’d say less than half the theatre was left. Before the screening started, director Mark Young introduced the film and said it would be preceded by one or two short films. After the Alamo trailers, we got an opening sequence where a man argues with a woman in a bedroom, stabs her and then gets dressed. On his way out, the woman comes back to life and bites him, with the screen going black right after. Up until that point, I thought it was one of the short films. It had a gritty vibe going for it but other than that, the acting was horrendous, the gore was childish and the lighting seemed to have done by some first year film students. Then, a few seconds later, the title popped up on the black screen: SOUTHERN GOTHIC. Those few moments were a true sign of things to come.