It's been a bit of a mixed-bag year for horror. 2010 has had it's ups and downs for the genre with some incredible visual feasts and more direct to disc tripe that'll be propping up my coffee mug for much of 2011. Some of the staff here at the Horror Asylum have decided to do a quick rundown of the horror flicks that have grabbed them and annoyed them this year. They've each picked 5 of their favourite horror films of 2010 and balanced it out with 5 of their least favourite horror movies from the year. There isn't much we all agree on with some movies such as supernatural sequel 'Paranormal Activity 2' and the rebaked 'A Nightmare on Elm Street', which appear in both the best and the worst lists, however we are all certain that 'Saw 3D' is more definitely one of the lesser horrors we've all seen this year! So take some time out to read our thoughts on what this year had to offer in terms of shocks, scares, blood, gore, tits and more.
MY BEST HORROR's of 2010
My true expectations of this flick were never anything special, but I have to admit I loved every second. Did this Alexandre Aja redo get my bum on a cinema seat with promises of pornstar nudity, endless topless college honies and 3D blood and gore? Yes it bloody well did, but it kept me hooked for the whole journey. Above all this tongue in cheek movie was endless fun. Great laughs throughout and some truly shocking and unbelievably unsettling gore, particularly in the Spring Break massacre scene. It's pretty disturbing stuff for those who can't stomach mild blood splatter at the best of times. The whole experience is an adolescents wet dream and has a big budget b-movie feel to it. Great stuff.
Read my full 'Piranah 3D' review here.
Incredibly satisying horror follow-up from Spanish writer/director duo Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza. '[REC] 2' kicks off exactly where the first installment ended and the SWAT team has been sent in. Yes, it's all very 'Aliens' in the concept. The obvious stage in such a catastophic scenario would be to send in the police and the troops so get over it! The difference with '[REC] 2' is that it totally spins the genre of the first film on it's head. It moves from the expectant virus/infected concept into new routes altogether in a totally plausible manner (very briefly covered in the first movie). Great scares and effects and also an interesting mid-way twist that involves two simultaneous timelines.
Shamelessly overlooked this year was Philip Ridley's 'Heartless'. Starring Jim Sturgess as Jamie, a young lad who discovers that there are demons on the streets of East London. Really well shot drama/fantasy horror with outstanding performances and a subtle beauty all spun together by Ridley's expert hand and a powerful emotion-filled soundtrack featuring a number of songs by it's star Sturgess. Oh and it includes a decaptiated Noel Clarke, always a bonus! Catch it if you can.
As French horror goes it's fast becoming my favourite go-to international horror fare. There has been some outstanding horror movies from our Eiffelistic Euro-cousins over the past few years now and zombie action flick 'The Horde' is right up there. What I think I like most about these French shockers is the style, the sharpness, the colours, the vibrantness of the horror-action I'm seeing on screen. That's what keeps me pulling back for more. It's a visual treat and the 'The Horde' immerses itself in that style and ties in it's odd-ball characters and survival requirements. Reinventing the zombie genre is getting more difficult these days with the number of flesh-eating movies out there by 'The Horde' rises above it enough to bring us some much needed freshness. Action, gore and an overwhelming sense of ominousness.
I've gone with Rodrigo Cortés 'Buried' as my final selection for the best of 2010. It's certainly debatable as to whether this can even be considered as 'horror', but it's thrilling, forceful, seat-shifting and extremely Hitchcockian. Being buried alive is a major fear for most people and this film certainly does nothing to put their fears at ease. 'Buried' is very intense and will have you squirming and you'll find yourself trying to catch a breathe as you immediately become sympathetic with the lead characters fight for survival as he tries to uncover where and why he is where he is. To seriously engage an audience for so long with no more than a coffin and a ragged Ryan Reynolds on screen is some achievement.
Read the full 'Buried' review here.
Honourable Mentions: Would like to include 'Shutter Island' and 'Inception' in this list, even if both are dubiously related to horror/sci-fi.
MY WORST HORROR's of 2010
Why I put myself through Danny Dyer direct to DVD releases is beyond me. However, my stupid curiousity got the best of me again. I was half expecting a well thought out and executed survivial horror much in the vein of 'The Hole' (not the recent Joe Dante flick but the Nick Hamm 2001 thriller starring Thora Birch and Keira Knightley). But also I was instead treated to 80 mintues of pointless characters and even less than pointless plot. This quote: "Do you remember me telling you about my twin sister who died in childbirth?" just sums up the dire dialogue and direction-less route the movie takes. Dyer's a bit of an annoying c#nt at the best of times and 'Basement' is no exception. Avoid like the plague.
Paranormal Activity 2
Although my colleagues have planted this supernatural follow-up into their top 5 horror list for 2010 I'm afraid to say this has to sit in my list of worst horrors this year. Disappointed doesn't even go far enough to explain my feelings. Not particularly scary, not particularly clever and not particularly interesting. PA2 reworks the story into a prequel-esque tale involving Katies' (from the original) sister. The bizarre 30 seconds of screen blackout and silence at the very end of the movie only to then be faced with nothing more than the credits scrolling and an ultimate anti-climax just sums this one up for me.
Although not yet released stateside Christopher Smiths' 'Black Death' was one of the oddest experiences I've ever sat through in my local multiplex. Half the time it felt like I was watching some low-budget 80's period horror and the rest of the time I was simply faced with a slew of strange characters, plot idiosyncrasies and general boredom. From what first appeared to be a very solid early filmmaking career I hope Christopher Smith, whose past credits include 'Creep', 'Severance' and 'Triangle', will soon be back on track surprising and entertaining us horror fans. Clearly moving away from one-word movie titles was his downfall here.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Yikes I'm really upsetting the apple cart here. Again I have to go another way on this one, selected by my colleagues as one of their best of 2010. Samuel Bayer's re-imagining of 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' makes a real hash of a classic horror tale. Don't get me wrong, it must a freaking nightmare to try and re-invent the wheel when it comes to horror redo's. However, in spite of a half-decent performance from the new Freddy Krueger, played by Jackie Earle Haley, there's no solidifying character elements that make this project effective or necessary. The Krueger victims here are as 2-dimensional as I've come to expect from studio remakes of late. It reminded me how glazed I felt whilst watching the 'Friday the 13th' remake. Also the blatant paedophilic behaviour and references involving Freddy does goes a long way to really spell out and explain the character in more depth than what has been portrayed previously, yet feels like over-darkening an already notorious movie character. Still it was a good lesson to learn, stop remaking movies that don't need remaking!
Wow. One word - disappointed. I am an avid fan of the 'Saw' franchise and what it's achieved this past 6 years. But as the whole series ebbed and flowed over the years 'Saw 3D' was sadly a major let down. Despite some intense death scenes the whole experience is ruined somewhat by the promise of conclusions and answers. Therefore the story itself is somewhat marred by the expectant culminations of timelines, back stories and character demise. It was always going to be a difficult one to pull off but at least in my opinion it managed to wrap up every loose end, unlike this year's 'Lost', which still frustrates me to this very day! And as pointed out by Phil (below) what the hell was the point of the 3D!? Probably just done to piss me off and make sure my DVD collection doesn't include numerical roman numerals!
Ian J. Martin
MY BEST HORROR's of 2010
Paranormal Activity 2
The first Paranormal Activity was quite the sleeper hit back in 2009, and was definitely one of the most profitable films of that year, so a sequel was inevitable. One year later, and in time for Halloween, Paranormal Activity 2 graced our screens. After the success of the first film expectations were high, and if you ask me they didn’t disappoint. For the most part it lacked a lot of the subtle rises in tension of Oren Peli’s original, but the scares, when they eventually came about, were significantly bigger. In true sequel fashion, we had more characters at our disposal, which mean more victims, which in turn meant more scares. They also did a very good job of tying the sequel into the first film, explaining a lot more of the mythology behind the psychopathic demon, as well as giving us more insight into the family undergoing these terrifying hauntings. The build up of Paranormal Activity 2 as relatively slow, but once it got going it providing some of the best scares horror has seen in a long time.
Its been a good 30 years since Jaws first had audiences all around the world absolutely terrified of sharks, and since then there hasn’t been a shark attack movie that has been able to match it for quality and effect. But this year writer-director Andrew Traucki gave us reason to be fearful of sharks again. The Reef didn’t get the release it deserved over here, instead going straight to DVD. It follows a group of friends who go sailing around the Great Barrier Reef, and end up with their boat capsized. Rather than wait around for the boat to sink, they decide to swim in a direction they know there is land, despite it being around 10 miles away. It doesn’t take long for a shark to catch site of them, making their lives significantly worse. The tension is turned up to 11, and Traucki used a combination of footage of a real shark, and an incredible sense of isolation, to make The Reef incredibly shocking. Expect to find your hands vice-gripped to your sofa by the end of the film.
Just scraping in a 2010 release here in the UK was Daybreakers, and incredibly stylish and unique vampire movie. Vampires have been getting a hard time in recent years with the release of the Twilight series, but through films like Daybreakers they may still have a chance at horrific redemption. Set in the year 2019, a plague has transformed nearly every human into vampires. Faced with a dwindling blood supply, the dominant race plots their survival. Daybreakers felt like it should have been the start of a franchise, or a TV series, rather than a stand-alone film. There is a very deep sense of history that the film struggles to explore in its short running time, and the end leaves a lot of promise for a follow up. As well as a very unique story and some incredible on-form acting (Ethan Hawke and Sam Neil we salute you) Daybreakers has some terrific concepts and images, from human blood farms to malnourished vampires. The ending feels quite abrupt, as it comes about just as the film feels like it is starting to get going, but it still makes for one of the best and most unique horror films of the year.
Although you wouldn’t strictly think of Shutter Island as a horror film if you were to look at it as a whole, Martin Scorsese’s film has moments of pure terror scattered throughout, some of which stand up against some of the scariest films of all time. Between nightmarish scenes of the Holocaust, being chased in a dark and insecure insane asylum, and DiCaprio dreaming his wife disintegrating into ash in his arms, Shutter Island pulled no punches in trying to shock and unsettle you. Some techniques are taken straight out of Horror Films For Dummies (dark corridors, evil scientists, etc.) but Scorsese applies them so perfectly that you may well find yourself watching some of the film between your own fingers. To make matters worse, we’re never completely sure if DiCaprio is crazy or if it is all a big conspiracy – neither of which make any of the scenes taking place any less scary.
Nightmare on Elm Street
Horror remakes tend to be very hit and miss. There are some successes such as The Ring, and then some disasters such as The Hitcher. The remake of Nightmare on Elm Street, if you ask me, falls very comfortably in the middle. Replacing the legendary Robert Englund, and stepping into the shoes of one of horror’s greatest villains, is Jackie Earl Haley. Haley, as is probably expected, makes for a terrific Freddy Krueger. His voice alone is enough to send chills down your spine. Unlike the original Nightmare on Elm Street, the remake doesn’t do much in terms of building tension and trying to unsettle you, something Wes Craven’s original was very successful at. Instead it opts more for jump-shocks, which, admittedly, are incredibly successful. You might find yourself getting bored between scares, focusing more on trying to make sense of the plot than what’s happening on screen, but every now and then is a very convincing, and very unexpected jump-scare that is sure to send popcorn flying out of your bag. These scares make the nonsensical plot very bearable, and just get bigger and bigger as the film goes along. Not a scratch on the original, but still stands well above most horror remakes that are being churned out these days.
MY WORST HORROR's of 2010
The first Saw film was a terrific horror-thriller and, besides some over-the-top gore, deserves to stand along side the likes of Seven and Silence of the Lambs. The second Saw film upped the ante in gore, but lost a lot of the suspense and charm that made the first one such a great film. From then on the franchise just seemed to lose its way. Things picked up a little around Saw 6, but by this point we were just retreading old ground. With Saw 3D (the seventh and final installment) we were promised that we would be going out with a bang, but instead we just sauntered off with more of a sizzle. The plot felt forced, there was no revelation to Jigsaw’s “grand plan” and the big reveal at the end was just disappointing. Even the torture scenes, which the franchise is best known for, fell insignificant compared to some of the Jigsaw traps we have seen in the past.
Zombie Women of Satan
Any film that promises scantily clad women, comedy and buckets of blood raises strong expectations in my books so, understandably, I was quite excited at the prospect of Zombie Women of Satan. Sadly though, it’s neither scary nor horrific, and the gore and F/X are embarrassingly unconvincing. Considering the zombie film has been at the forefront of the horror genre for decades now, creating something new and exciting was always going to be a challenge, and instead of rising to the occasion Zombie Women of Satan instead gives us a crude, poorly strung together film with production values that resemble something you could make in your own garden. All that being said though, it is a film that screams, and undoubtedly will have a cult following.
Sadly slasher films just aren’t what they used to be. It’s a genre that has had its ups and downs over the years, with genre classics like Halloween and Friday 13th, to the slasher revival through the Scream trilogy. But in recent years it’s just been a sub genre that feels like it’s starting to outstay its welcome. Twelve really doesn’t help this case. All the ideas are there, with concepts that have worked well in slasher films in the past being used (the masked killer, the innocent “virgin” type that survives, etc.) but the film itself just falls short. I’m always quite forgiving with films made on a low budget, but a lack of funds doesn’t instantly mean there should be a lack of substance and charm to a film. The acting feels very wooden, and the effects at parts are just embarrassing. But all this aside the biggest issue with Twelve is that it just feels like it plods along. It’s just a case of one dull scene following another, with a few poorly executed kills stringing it all together.
I personally had very high expectations for this film. The teaser poster, featuring Paul Bettany with a six-pack, angel wings, and a gun, had me sold from the start. On top of this was an awesome trailer showcasing angel Michael (Bettany) and a host of misfit characters battling hordes of demons in a small diner. The action looked terrific and the demons terrifyingly awesome. Despite all this though, Legion had to have been the most disappointing film of the year. The action scenes ended up being few and far between, and were strung together by performances that were so wooden they would give a bench a run for its money. Visually the film was still incredible, but this doesn’t really help when you have 90 minutes of dross to put up with. Hopefully Bettany’s upcoming horror-actioner Priest will be a significant improvement.
In a time when we can convincingly have cars literally transform into giant robots, and have a man swing through New York City fighting crime, is it really too much to expect a convincing werewolf transformation? The werewolf transformation is reminiscent of An American Werewolf in London, only with more CGI, and the result is a peculiar and unconvincing blend that leaves a very bad taste. In a time riddled with bad horror film remakes, Wolfman is no exception. The scares, what little there were, were cheap an unnecessary, and considering the talent available, the performances were all a little too lacklustre. It comes to something when every single English person is shown wearing a bowler hat regardless of job or class.
Phil Davies Brown
MY BEST HORROR's of 2010
Despite the poor 3D post-conversion job, this film IS hands down the best fun I've had in a cinema all year!
Despite being one of the first horror films out of the gate last year, this managed to stay high on my list thanks to a well crafted script. I loved the pacing of this one. There was no meandering. Breck Eisner and co had a story to tell and got on with it. Thumbs up.
It All Kicks Off in 'The Crazies'
The Last Exorcism
This was incredibly smart, with sympathetic characters and a surprising conclusion. I loved it.
Sadly underrated thanks to everyone thinking M. Night Shyamalan had directed it. This was an enjoyable tale with a few creepy moments.
A Nightmare on Elm Street & Paranormal Activity 2 (tied)
Much better than the crappy Friday the 13th remake. I loved the serious tone. This probably wouldn't have made my top 5 but it was a slow year for horror. Paranormal Activity 2 was a fine continuation of the original story with a neat twist.
MY WORST HORROR's of 2010
A huge disappointment! I expected better from Christopher Smith. I was bored and very tempted to skip through this.
Pretentious and overly complex. The director set out to make a thought provoking film. It's a shame it was dull, head-ache inducing and required a special feature on the DVD to explain the plot!
This was a wasted opportunity. An obvious lack of interaction between the real tiger and the actors made this look shoddy in places which lessened it's impact for me.
Briana Evigan About to Attack Her Pussy
Cherry Tree Lane
I expected this film to be far more intelligent than it inevitably was. It was just full of mindless violence and was made worse by annoying protagonists who did everything wrong.
Whilst the film was better than parts 3 and 5 it wasn't as good as last year's part 6 and there was no need whatsoever for it to be in 3D! The 3D didn't even look that good. I for one am glad the series is over and done with.