What a year for independent films. Every year we check out all of the film festivals to find out what movies should be on your radars. Most of you ignore us completely, while some of you are treated to quality genre films that aren’t remakes or big budget beasts. 2009 was an extraordinary year for indie horror with Paranormal Activity making all the noise. Beyond the break, you’ll find my own personal picks for the 10 best horror films of the year.
David Harley (Best/Worst) | Ryan Daley (Best/Worst)
MR. DISGUSTING’S TOP 10 OF 2009
10. The Children (October 6; Lionsgate)
Director Tom Shankland broke through into the horror world with his terrifying tale about young little rascals killing their parents. Much different than THE ORPHAN, this UK thriller is actually scary, daring, and even uber violent. The idea of a mother having to decide whether or not to kill her own child is bone-chilling.
9. The Box (November 6; Warner Bros.)
Richard Kelly returns to his DONNIE DARKO roots with this eerie and unsettling adaptation of Richard Matheson’s short story “Button, Button”. The idea of taking the concept back to the `70s was ingenious; it adds a welcome sense of realism to the “Twilight Zone”-esque tale. While not everyone’s cup o’ tea, THE BOX is a film I will watch over and over again when on Blu-ray (the true sign of a great movie).
8. The Loved Ones (September, TIFF; None)
While not all that original, Sean Byrne’s horrific tale of obsession takes cues from various classics and continues to “up the ante” with each progressive scene. It’s dark, brutal and evokes a tone similar to predecessors like WOLF CREEK and HOSTEL.
7. The House of the Devil (October 31; Magnet Releasing)
A film for fans of `80s horror, this slow burn thriller from Ti West requires constant attention, and more importantly patience. Sit back, relax, and soak in this demonic tale in the vein of BLACK CHRISTMAS and AMITYVILLE HORROR.
6. District 9 (August 14; Columbia)
What one man can achieve with only $30m – all I can say is, wow. D9 is literally mind-blowing, featuring special F/X to embarrass even the likes of James Cameron (whose AVATAR boasts a budget about 10 times what this movie cost). Speaking of Cameron: while it’s not near as epic as ALIENS, D9’s pacing nevertheless reminds me of that filmmaker’s breakthrough feature. The film somehow finds a way to constantly top itself, building to a finale that is by turns tense, entertaining, and completely off-the-wall.
5. REC 2 (September, TIFF; Sony)
It’s rare when a sequel is nearly as good (if not as good) as the original. REC 2 nearly jumps the shark, but ultimately manages to avoid that fate. The simple zombie premise of the first film takes a horrifying spin into the world of demons, possession and exorcism in this entry. The first-person shooter feeling, mixed with the constant violent imagery, is guaranteed to have your synapses shooting endorphin overloads.
4. Zombieland (October 2; Columbia)
Most readers enjoyed this zombedy (more of an action comedy if you ask me), but I’m apparently the only person who was absolutely blown out of the water by it. I laughed so hard I was crying on numerous occasions, Bill Murray’s cameo might just be the best EVER, and the screenplay was engaging beyond belief. If ZOMBIELAND had replay value I might even bump it up a point in my review (and that’s RARE).
3. Paranormal Activity (September 25; Paramount)
Talk about a film that divided audiences, holy crap. In the nine years I’ve been running Bloody Disgusting I have never received so much hate mail. Stepping back, I’m willing to bet a good portion of the haters either A: saw it at home on their computers, B: have issues with admitting something is freaky because they want to appear tough and macho, or C: were expecting a big budget Hollywood movie. Sure, there are those who straight-up hated it and I get that (we don’t always see eye-to-eye) but at least show some respect for the film. A $15k (the amount changes all the time) indie movie is released during an onslaught of remakes, finally bringing something original to theaters. It’s successful, kicks SAW’s ass, and yet readers still complain. I guess you can never win. Anyway, I thought the movie was incredibly creepy, taking cues from BLAIR WITCH by building up to the terror at night after a full day of relief. The true genius of the movie is that Oren Peli found a way to play with the audience’s imaginations (maybe that’s why some of you hated it, lack of creative imagination on the filmmaker’s part?). First he shows you the book, then talks of demons and evil spirits, then has the unseen entity walk through baby powder displaying a three-pronged footprint. Mr. Disgusting’s imagination filled in the rest. Terrifying.
2. Drag Me to Hell (May 29; Universal)
Why wasn’t this an EVIL DEAD sequel? It might as well have been, as Sam Raimi brought us another fun, scary and uber-gross horror film that will forever be remembered as a genre classic. As I said in my review, film school students should all be required to watch DRAG ME TO HELL as a lesson in creating a fun and well-rounded horror film.
1. Moon (June 12; Sony Classics)
Ok, I know it’s not really a horror film, but MOON, directed by David Bowie’s son Duncan Jones, is an unnerving thriller that deftly captures elements of films like ALIEN and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. It rocks a beautiful score, Earth-shattering cinematography, the acting powers of Sam Rockwell, and more importantly, miniatures! While MOON isn’t 100% perfection, I will doubtless be watching this movie multiple times every year. It’s also earned a spot in my favorite films of all-time. That’s big stuff.
What a fantastic year for horror. This was the first year I didn’t struggle to reach my top 10 that deserved to be on a list called “The Best Of”. In fact, I was left with some other notable released that I only wish I had room for. I thought Universal’s THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT remake was beautifully shot, well executed and a serious contender for best of the year. The only reason it didn’t make the list was because of the studio’s stupid f*cking finale that still has me livid. I will never forget. While all of you will be waiting until January, I had the chance to see DAYBREAKERS this past September. You will not be disappointed. Lionsgate has an extremely entertaining post-apocalyptic vampire tale on their hands that looks insanely expensive for the budget. The Spierig brothers are for real. After the horrid, horrid turd of a movie SAW V was, I can’t believe how good SAW VI was. Obviously, the film is made specifically for fans of the franchise, and those who stuck with it were rewarded with a socially relevant Jigsaw tale that should stand the test of time. Speaking of SAW, after witnessing SAW V, watching Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton’s THE COLLECTOR (intended to be a SAW prequel) was a treat. Made for a fourth of any of the SAW movies, it was better than SAW V in every single aspect right down to the traps. Then there’s BURNING BRIGHT, a film I pray gets a theatrical run. The thriller starring Briana Evigan and a mother f*cking tiger is exhilarating and engaging from the first frame all the way to the last. ,. Lastly, many props to Dr. Uwe Boll for making a “good” film. While it has its share of problems, RAMPAGE is not only watchable, but pretty darn entertaining. This is another title I can’t wait for you to see, just to believe! See ya 2009. Cheers!