While many would say that this year was ‘slow’ for the horror genre, I would have to firmly disagree. Last year when I was compiling my list of films for my ‘Best Of 2009’, I was having trouble even remembering half the movies I had seen that year. Of course, the top 5 were cemented, but by the time I got past the sixth film on that list things began to get a bit hazy. That was the direct opposite this year as I had to leave out several films that could have easily made the list last year. But alas, there are only 10 spots, and so for all of you gorehounds, big and small, young and old…I give you my look back at the years best films in the horror genre. Read on for the skinny!
Slashing its way onto my list of the years best horror films is Robert Rodriguez’s fan friendly, cashed check of a 70s nod Grindhouse film, ‘MACHETE’. The director, who had been promising for years since the flop of his 2007 directed ‘PLANET TERROR’, that he would be adapting the trailer into a major motion picture was thwarted at almost every turn on his quest to bring fans what they wanted. A fun, no holds barred, over the top bloodbath. What they got was an adequately brutal Trejo, an ensemble cast featuring Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez, and Lindsay Lohan dressed as a nun. The results were nothing short of greatness, and while the film may not have broken any new ground, ‘MACHETE’ will forever be one of the most fucking fun cinematic rides I have ever been on.
One of the most surprising films to hit theaters this past year would have to be the Shyamalan produced ‘DEVIL’. Billed as the first film in the ‘NIGHT CHRONICLES’, ‘DEVIL’ was able to take a very simple idea, couple it with some key performances by Chris Messina and Bojana Novakovic, some Hitchcockian direction from Erick Dowdle, and deliver a film that proves once and for all that M. Night is better off staying behind the scenes and letting the new breed take the helm. Claustrophobic, entertaining, funny, and downright creepy, ‘DEVIL’ is a film that goes far and beyond what we have come to expect from a film that carries the ‘Shyamalan’ banner.
What is quite possibly the absolute BEST film in the subgenre since ‘THE EXORCISM’ itself, ‘THE LAST EXORCISM’ reminds us of why films of its ilk are so terrifying. Daniel Stamm’s first person account of one man’s venture into his own inner demons only to be encountered by some very literal ones, was able to hand viewers enough red herrings that it was able to keep you guessing until the very end. M. Night take note: this is how you deliver a ‘twist’.
With the largest horror franchise of the new millennium on the ropes after several sub-par installments in recent years, it wasn’t a shock to anyone that the 7th film in the ‘SAW’ mythos would be the franchises’ last. But instead of crawling away with its tail between its legs, ‘SAW’ managed to go out on the highest note of its run since ‘SAW 2’, and also deliver to fans an ending that they deserved. And while we all expected slow torture as we slipped on our 3D glasses, ‘SAW 3D’ left us a cheering mangled mess as we finally reached the end of Jigsaw’s games.
The LAST film I would have predicted would make this list if you had asked me last year at this time – ‘PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2′ was a sequel that had the odds firmly stacked against it. With a rushed shooting schedule, a tight budget, and behind the scenes turmoil threatening the films’ success, not even the most well learned horror critic could have predicted that Tod Williams’ sequel to the 2009 blockbuster hit would have even been able to count as passable much less be just as good. Thank God for small miracles, aye?
The follow-up to my top film of 2009, ‘REC 2’ manages to be both an improvement upon an established formula, as well as break some new ground on a subgenre that is on the verge of becoming overused. The directing duo of Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza manage to weave together a fantastic make-shift follow-up for fans of the first that answers enough questions to sew up the story, as well as create enough new ones to truly begin the next great horror franchise.
One part ‘ROSEMARY’S BABY’ and two parts 80s homage, Ti West’s ‘THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL’ managed to blow film fest viewers worldwide away with its unapologetically simple approach to the horror genre. Fans of classic slow burners won’t help but be impressed by the films kitschy opening, slow roll middle, and mind blowing ending.
Adam Green’s out of nowhere hit about 3 skiers stuck suspended in the air and exposed to the natural elements for a week after being forgotten one terrible Sunday night at a ski resort will do for the winter sport what ‘JAWS’ did for swimming. Rarely is a film so simple able to be so damned compelling, but what Green was able to do on a shoestring budget (and cast) is downright admirable. A film that you should search out at all costs, ‘FROZEN’ is yet another brilliant film to add to an already impressive resume for the writer/director.
This might be the most obscure choice on my list for most, but After Dark Horror Fest’s surprisingly traumatizing (and grisly) expose’ into the darkest depths of humanity, ‘DREAD’, is one of the most overlooked films of 2010. It is possible that it was simply pushed under the rug due to its disappointing predecessors (Here’s looking at you ‘THE GRAVES’.) , but the make-shift cast lead by Jackson Rathbone managed to string together some of the most disturbingly real horror scenes in recent memory.
While I will be the first to admit that I was like everyone else when I thought that Matt Reeve’s Americanized remake of the Swedish masterpiece ‘LET THE RIGHT ONE IN’ would be the biggest dud this side of ‘A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET’. the dark pseudo-romance had more heart and depth per frame than an entire episode of ‘THE PACIFIC’. While it might not have been better than its predecessor, the film managed to improve upon a few key plotlines while still being faithful to the source material. (A feat few movies can achieve.) Couple this with some of the best performances we have seen in a horror film in years from Moretz and Smit-McPhee, and you have a modern day genre classic. The only shame in this film is that it went so unnoticed by general audiences who will clamor for the next ‘Twatlight’ installment, but won’t shell out $10s for a true vampire film.