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 Tim Anderson’s Best & Worst Horror Films of 2008, with lists from David Harley, Ryan Daley, BC 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.
As another year passes, I find myself once again staring at this blank sheet of digital paper, struggling to fill its empty spaces with a summation of my last 365 days of cinema.
2008 was definitely a profound year for horror—but unfortunately it was mostly in the negative sense. Big studio films like THE X-FILES and THE RUINS seemed to fail the box office every week. The great remake machine chalked up loss after loss, with dismal returns for dismal productions like SHUTTER, ONE MISSED CALL, MIRRORS and DEATH RACE. Studios even started dumping garbage like APRIL FOOLS DAY and DAY OF THE DEAD straight to the sell-thru market rather than risk another box office clobbering. Masters like George Romero and Dario Argento delivered new films to a decidedly limited market, while reality horror hybrid films like QUARANTINE and CLOVERFIELD seemed to be the only successes at the Box Office. Lionsgate virtually shelved Clive Barker’s MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN and Darren Lynn Bousman’s REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA. PG-13’s shining hopes were delivered with the egregiously ridiculous remake of PROM NIGHT and the non-horror teen vampire romance TWILIGHT. Even the stalwart annual SAW installment left audiences bewildered and split. Really, the only original American success belonged to a group of STRANGERS and one very scary night at home. In what is fast becoming the norm, the vibrant world of foreign horror continued to deliver shocking surprises—specifically Sweden’s LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. On the home video front, the battalion of straight to DVD horror films from studios both major and micro continued to march onto store shelves week after week brining a few highlights and a nearly incalculable number of lowlights.
Every year, I try to boil down what I loved most and what I hated the most and every year it seems to get more difficult. Last year, I decided (for the first time) to only consider the films that I personally reviewed for this site. I left off dozens of films I genuinely loved and more than a few that I absolutely loathed. This year, I’ve decided to do something a bit different. This year, all bets are off. The reason is: I was so underwhelmed by the collective output of the studios and the independents that I need to truly reach out to fill these lists.
With that in mind, for those of you that have read my previous lists, I assure you I will still highlight the small, independent and even microbudget films that I’ve been known to champion in the past.
Without further adu (far too late for that) here is my 2008 Best and Worst list.
Don’t let its last place position on this Top 10 list fool you; this is quite simply the best DVD release of the year. Encyclopedic in its content, this 2-disc special edition contains documentaries, commentaries, visual essays, radio broadcasts and over 250 pages of notes, stories, the full screenplay and original source material for this masterpiece of expressionist cinema. A must have film for any serious horror fan!
Congratulations go out to creators Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury. No other film made me physically ill this year. (…and SALO even got re-released!) The only thing scarier than extreme violence on display in this French film is what the next batch of moviemakers are going to have to do to top it!
Even with its muddled production history, this brilliant little film—based on a Jack Ketchum novel—excels on all counts. Featuring a tour-de-force and utterly tragic performance from star Brian Cox, RED—like most Ketchum material—utterly destroys your faith in humanity while simultaneously celebrating mankind’s resilience in the most extreme of circumstances. Despite his being removed from the production, RED still oozes with every nuance of another great Lucky McKee film. Let’s hope his next production runs a bit more smoothly.
Uber-fans might be in an uproar about the liberties taken here. But as a loving homage to all things H.P., this broad revision of The Shadow Over Innsmouth really is one of the best Lovecraft film adaptations thus far. But, more importantly this film is sitting at number 7 on my Top 10 because, it delivered, not what I wanted or anticipated, but, what I least expected it to and yet I still found it captivating. Also, for a film that is 99% drama and 1% horror, this is the only film I saw all year that made me jump!
This set is the other example of Spain’s new dominance on the international stage. The highlight of these 6 features has to be [REC] Director Paco Plaza’s A CHRISTMAS TALE which was also one of the very best films I saw this year. Still…if you’re looking for bang for your buck, you can’t do better than picking this up and fully immersing yourself in the broad world of Spanish horror.
PAN’S LABYRINTH Director Guillermo del Toro gets a lot of credit for Producing this film adaptation and while it does seem to bear his fairy tale signature, what really makes the film work—beside the look and feel—is the totally commitment Director J.A. Bayona elicits from his cast. In the current world of horror cinema, Spain leads the pack for providing the classiest examples of genre cinema. THE ORPHANAGE is just another shining illustration of that country’s output.
You probably thought this list was gonna be filled with haughty horror films and sweeping masterpieces of macabre terror. Please…POULTRYGEIST makes the list because of two things. Number One: In 38-years, it’s by far the best Troma film ever produced (and I know we’re grading on a curve here). Second: You know what? There’s no need for a number two. I clucking dare you not to love this movie!
If you thought HOUR OF THE WOLF was the closest you’d ever get to seeing Ingmar Bergman make a horror movie, well…you’d be right since Bergman died last year. But, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is almost exactly that thing. It’s cold, bleak, dry as a bone and meticulous in its portrayal of human suffering, even if the suffering in this film is for someone or something that is no longer human. This doesn’t sound like the plot for the next 30 DAYS OF NIGHT film does it? If you’re looking for bloodsucking fiends and guttural eviscerations then you’ll want to pass on this one too. This cerebral horror and if you’re used to hack and slash fests that bleed buckets of blood then you’re in for quite the shock here. But, that’s the point!
I’m sure I said this all in my Blog and some of it just seconds ago in the last paragraph. But…REPO defined a movie going experience. The film was not perfect. It’s dense, challenging and if you don’t like musicals, you’re really not gonna like this. The casting is bizarre and I fear a great deal of the film’s visual splendor will be irreparably damaged in its journey to the small screen. But, if you saw a screening of REPO this year, then you bore witness to a single screen cinemaplex revolution. Major studios think an “Event Movie” is when you all run out on Opening night and drop 10 bucks on tickets and 20 bucks on popcorn. A real event movie is when you show up at the theater and the line stretches down the fucking block and the girl in front of you already has one of the characters tattooed on her back!
A great film (of any genre) should move you. It should captivate you and transport you. It should make you forget where the fuck you are for 5 minutes or 5 hours. The more movies I see, the more a film has to really deliver for me to step away from analysis-mode and absolutely give myself over to the cinematic experience. I don’t have to believe I’m in the land of Oz or tooling around Gotham City in the Batmobile but my brain better be turned off and turned on to something magical. That happened only a handful of times this year. The first time was when I saw DANCE OF THE DEAD. It’s the perfect amalgamation of Horror and Comedy. Its cast is likable, believable and the clear love for the genre that Director Gregg Bishop and Writer Joe Ballarini show their film is seeping out of every single frame. I’ve watched this flick 4 times since I first saw it back in March, every time expecting it to stop working, but it never does. Not only is this the best Horror film I saw in 2008, it’s one of the best films I saw in 2008.
The short films and short film collections—VISCERA 2007, THE HORROR VAULT and THE MISLED ROMANCE OF CANNIBAL GIRL AND INCEST BOY. Plus, the double-double feature of QUARANTINE and [REC] and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR and AN AMERICAN CRIME. Don’t forget THE MOTHER OF TEARS, we only had to wait 26 years for that one!
The real disappointment here is that the film’s trailer makes it look like the perfect continuation of the original films promise. What it wound up being was a piss-poor attempt to capture the magic of the original by relying on stale and unoriginal death scenes, an ending that lacked any semblance of tension or revelation, and one of largest collections of unpleasant cast characterizations I’ve seen in years.
Lionsgate started off by confusing the hell outta J-Horror aficionados who thought this was the upcoming Tsui Hark film THE EYE 3. What it really is is The Pang Brother’s insanely stupid production THE EYE 10. How stupid? Well, this film teaches us that if you want to repel evil spirits you only need to fart in their general direction! (Monty Python would be so proud)
Troma guru Lloyd Kaufman once implored wannabe filmmakers to “make your own damn movie”, if this is the result of that charge, I’d suggest Lloyd’s next book be called “You know what? Just go back to work at Taco Bell”
I’ve seen a lot of bad effects work over the years, but that’s usually because the film was shot by an 18-year old kid and edited on an 8-year old laptop with bootlegged software. This film boasted half-a-dozen digital effects artists with resumes—on major motion pictures—as long as my arm! Next time, they should just hire the freaking kid!!!
I already gave too much of my life just watching this film and writing it up the first time. I’ll be dammed if I’m gonna say any more about it here.
Remake hell: ONE MISSED CALL, SHUTTER and APRIL FOOLS DAY. More bad Lionsgate films: SIGHT, KNOCK KNOCK. Sequels to films we didn’t want sequels to: JOYRIDE 2, REST STOP 2, FEAST 2 and ANACONDA 3!