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Year in Review: David Harley’s Best Horror Films of 2008!

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 Best 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.

Other Best & Worst Lists:
Mr. Disgusting’s Best & Worst / Ryan Daley / BC’s Best & Worst / David Harley’s Best & Worst / Tim Anderson
Also check out this year’s Best & Worst Posters

David Harley’s Best of 2008

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.

10. Baghead (Sony Classics) December 30, 2008 (review)


When I finished watching BAGHEAD, I felt the urge to go out and watch every mumblecore flick I could get my hands on. The film works similar to an episode of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, with the actors being given a detailed script outline and then allowed to improvise their dialogue. That go-with-the-flow vibe is what makes the film such an interesting experiment and one of the more admirable indie efforts I’ve seen this year.

9. Monster from Bikini Beach (Trash Film Orgy) January 11, 2008 (review)


Anyone can watch a trashy cult film of yesteryear and pick the parts people really love to use in their own films. But it takes a real fan, someone who feels a fervent love for ineptness and accidental greatness, to understand why those sequences work and in what context they could still function in to truly pay homage to their favorite bad movies. The creative team behind MONSTER FROM BIKINI BEACH understood that completely. There’s go-go dancing, wooden acting, SCOOBY-DOO-esque chase sequences and, its greatest asset, a creature that looks like it was made out of papier-mâché.

8. Dance of the Dead (Ghost House Underground/Lionsgate) October 14, 2008 (review)


Finally, a film where teen actors play teen characters that aren’t annoying or cliché. DANCE OF THE DEAD is feverishly fast-paced, gory as hell and full of hilarious dialogue. Filled with well-done homages and fantastic in-camera stunts, it’s a total party film that demands to be seen with a crowd and a few beers.

7. Cloverfield (Paramount Pictures) January 18, 2008 (review)


Walking into CLOVERFIELD, I expected nothing short of a disaster. It was being released during the film-dumping month of January and was produced by J.J. Abrams, who I don’t really like, but it completely caught me off guard. The creature was fresh and epic and, for the first time in a long while, the inclusion of a melodramatic element in a monster film actually worked. I’m hesitant about the Rashômon-esque sequel that’s in the works, but since Reeves and Co. captivated me so much the first time around, I’m hoping it’ll be one of those instances when lightning does strike twice.

6. Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story (Automat Pictures) No Release Date Available


Without a doubt, William Castle is one of the greatest showmen Hollywood has ever seen. After watching HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL at an early age, I became intrigued with his gimmicky approach to filmmaking. Yes, it was schlocky but that’s what made it so enjoyable. SPINE TINGLER! is an in-depth look at the filmmaker’s rise to fame, featuring interviews with Castle’s daughter and the greatest public speaker in the history of mankind, John Waters. It’s easily the most comprehensive and entertaining documentary I’ve seen since DANGEROUS DAYS.

5. Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (Troma) October 28, 2008 (review)


Lloyd Kaufman is one of the ballsiest filmmakers around today. He doesn’t care who he offends or why, he just wants to make sure it’s his vision that’s hitting the screen. POULTRYGEIST is easily the best Troma film since TERROR FIRMER and is filled with the crass social commentary, gore and gratuitous nudity we’ve all come to expect from the company who brought us THE TOXIC AVENGER. For those who haven’t ever seen a Troma film before, this is a great starting point for exploring the studio’s oeuvre.

4. [REC] (Filmax) No Release Date Available


[REC] is a film that manages to be complete and total chaos from beginning to end. Everything is exceptionally executed, from the professional, but appropriately frantic, camerawork to the jolting sound effects. The cavernous apartment building serves as one of the best tension-filled settings I’ve ever seen and kept me on the edge of my seat as I watched Angela and her cameraman creep around every corner, not knowing who or what might pop out at any given moment. Mark my words: [REC] will become a legendary Spanish horror film, proudly standing alongside gems like TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD.

3. Paranormal Activity (Dreamworks) No Release Date Available


PARANORMAL ACTIVITY holds the distinction of being the only film to truly scare me since I was a child. I’m not talking about jump scares or cheesy “gotcha” moments; there is a presence of dread and fear that permeates from every second of the film. It’s a slow-burn, for sure, but the tension builds up to an explosive third act that is sure to cause some nail-biting and more than a few screams.

2. Timecrimes (Magnolia Pictures) December 12, 2008


TIMECRIMES is the best time travel film since BACK TO THE FUTURE. There, I said it.

1. Let The Right One In (Magnolia Pictures) October 24, 2008


I think I speak for all horror fans when I say being disappointed by a festival film isn’t something new. They’re hyped for months, sometimes years (*cough*MANDY LANE*cough*), and by the time we see them, there’s absolutely no way they can meet our expectations. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is not that film. It will not disappoint you. In fact, as of right now, I’d say it’s the best genre film of the decade. It’s a coming-of-age story about love, friendship and the awkwardness and confusion that surrounds adolescence. Instead of being a hyper-stylized showcase of CGI vampires and ridiculous action set pieces, its visual representation carries a natural, and sometimes grotesque, beauty. It’s a film that’s ripe for all-night discussions and, fingers crossed, an eventual Criterion release.



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