Monday, May 6, 2013
25 Greatest Horror Movies of the Decade (So Far) - Part One
25. The Ward (2010). John Carpenter returned to feature filmmaking after a 10 year hiatus with this film, and while it doesn't live up to his glory days (can anything ever?) it was pretty worth the wait. Films like Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, and The Fog, proved that while Carpenter would be known for the more "man's man" characters like Snake Plissken, there were no shortage of strong women in his best work, so it was really interesting to see Carpenter at work with an all-female cast in this story about a young woman moving into a mental health facility with a dark past (sounds cliche, maybe is, but I'm also trying not to give away the twist.) I only wish he'd scored the film as well.
24. The Hole (2012). Shot in 2009 but released in 2012, this film--like The Ward--marks the long-awaited return of another celebrated horror director. In this case it's Joe Dante (of Piranha, Howling, Gremlins and Twilight Zone: The Movie fame) who takes what looks to be a standard "new family moving into a haunted house" story and has great delight turning the whole thing on it's head. There are some definite scares here, although the movie is pretty tame, proving once again that nobody can pull off family-friendly horror like Joe Dante. Probably nobody should even try.
23. The Tall Man (2012). This is the American debut of French filmmaker Pascal Laughier who directed the absolutely brilliant and absolutely intense film, Martyrs. The Tall Man tells the story of a small rural town plagued by disappearances. While not as violent as Martyrs (because nothing really can be...) Laughier brings the same fevered intensity to this. Jessica Biel may feel miscast, but young Jodelle Ferland's importance really carries the acting of the whole picture. Another atmospheric and hard-hitting piece dampened only by an unnecessary and painfully obvious twist.
22. The Innkeepers (2012). Ti West is a director to watch. The House of the Devil was one of the absolutely best films of the previous decade and this one holds up as well. Filmed in on location in VT in a hotel who's creepiness I can personally attest to, The Innkeepers follows two young caretakers in a mostly empty hotel who double as paranormal investigators at night. Sara Paxton carries the film more than most leading ladies in horror these days and is an absolute delight to watch. The film packs on the scares but maintains a witty, at times almost Whedon-ish sense of humor that was fairly absent in House of the Devil. West is proving to be a versatile director, even within the genre, and I'm definitely looking forward to what he comes up with next.
21. Wake Wood (2011). This Irish horror film is another home-run for recently resurrected Hammer Studios (infamous British horror studio of the 50's and 60's producing hundreds of classic horror films, most of which starred Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing). It's moody, atmospheric, very Irish, and raises a lot of unsettling questions as only the best horror films do. The story is centered around a man and his wife who, after losing their daughter, move to the small country village of Wake Wood. A town with pagan roots, a town of dark magic, and one that can even raise their daughter back to life. At a cost. Timothy Spall is, as always, absolutely wonderful to watch.
20. V/H/S (2012). I am an absolute sucker for anthology movies and absolutely nostalgic for the days of VHS so this movie was on my radar from the get-go. It didn't disappoint. The movie is the collective brainchild of some of the best rising horror directors, including Ti West and Adam Wingard. Some segments hold up better than others, but the ones that are great are truly great and worth the price of admission. After seeing this film, I have allowed found-footage to stay around another year. It's your last, though, and I won't be changing my mind again (until V/H/S 2 comes out.)
19. Cloverfield (2010). Speaking of found footage. This one remains one of the best uses of that style (probably in a neat trio with the original Paranormal Activity and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon) Cloverfield is a bit massive for a horror film, but the hand-held, POV camera always makes it feel constricted. The characters have no idea what's going on as a giant monster invades New York, and they never find out. That very notion is horror to its core. The movie is well-paced and manages to somehow feel realistic, in part due to smartly keeping the monster hidden (or blurred out) for most of the film.
18. Dream Home (2011). This film is Korean. This film is also incredibly, incredibly messed up. The two are directly related. This is not the Daniel Craig film that happened to come out around the same time. This is about a woman who will do absolutely anything (in escalating, messy and inventive ways) to obtain the apartment she feels she deserves. Something that, unfortunately, anyone in their twenties can relate to kind of easily.
17. Chronicle (2012). Okay, it's another found-footage movie. Most people categorize it with the superhero films of recent, but horror is a much more appropriate place. There are a lot of superhero movies bouncing around right now. There are not so many super villain movies. This is the brilliance of Chronicle. Where there is, yes, neat powers and action, there is also a disturbing character study (even more disturbing in POV) of a boy who obtains great power and manages to avoid the lesson of great responsibility at every turn as he moves down a darker and darker path.
16. Troll Hunter (2011). We'll, um, we'll run out of found footage movies eventually, I promise. But this one! This one is so... Norse. The basic setup is that of basically the Norwegian version of Ghost Hunters (awesome), only they hunt trolls (awesome), and when they tag along with some crazy Crocodile Dundee-looking motherfucker (awesome) they find actual trolls (awesome!) only, these aren't Ernest Scared Stupid style trolls, which is good, because that troll was absolutely terrifying. These trolls are enormous and ravenous and Norse and why are you still listening to me talk about it? Call Thor, tell him to bring the finest of mead, sit down in one of our more sturdy chairs, and enjoy.
15. We Are The Night (2011). It's a lesbian Lost Boys.
...Oh, you need me to go on? Okay. I guess so. This film is about a young woman who is, well, bitten by a vampire and drawn into a sisterhood of crazy psychotic vamp chicks. It's a rare sort of vampire film that manages to keep the hotness of vampires and monstrousness of vampires perfectly balanced. Also, it's German, in case you start watching and wonder why everyone's speaking German. The vampires in this film are treated as realistic characters who wear their condition as both a badge of honor and an excuse to be pants-shittingly psychotic.
14. Red State (2011). Kevin Smith is a big, fat comedy guy. That's been his thing. He's done it for quite some time, but this time he decided to switch the gig up to big, fat horror guy. And so he went and made a horror film about the Westboro Baptist Church, because my God, somebody had to. The characters are not actually the Phelps' in name but the inspiration is abundantly clear. Michael Parks owns this movie (John Goodman also rocks it, but when doesn't he?) and there is a deep intensity and disquiet to the acting. What is depicted herein is extreme, but probably not so far from the truth, so it's a bit of an awareness film in that regard as well.
13. Lovely Molly (2012). This movie is from the director of The Blair Witch Project and in my opinion it is far, far superior to that supposed horror classic. Molly has moved into her childhood home with her guy, and the experience has brought back some demons, both metaphorical and literal, because this is horror. But the poor girl has succumbed to illness in the past, and the question persistent throughout the film is whether or not the experiences (which are only happening to her) are actual manifestations, or her mind is simply proving too haunted to keep itself functioning.
12. The Bleeding House (2011). This one was a sleeper, even for me. I heard nothing about it, no reviews, saw it blind on Netflix when I was looking for movies to compile for 2012's Cadaver Awards. So glad I did, though. It's a small, character horror about a kind, Priestly stranger who comes in out of the rain into the home of a family that doesn't see many visitors after a tragic accident that the whole town has come to blame them for. Their daughter, after said event, has begun developing some... unnerving tendencies that her parents are trying to repress. But when the kindly Baptist proves to be more than he claims, the daughter's burgeoning psychotic side might prove to be the only thing that can save her family.
11. The Snowtown Murders (2012). Goddamn, Australia, you crazy. This is inspired by a real case, but the film feels very, very real. It's not found footage, it's not particularly documentary-style, but you feel completely as though you are watching something real unfold. Not one person in this film feels like an actor. Everything feels real. The colors are dulled, the sound is dulled, there is little to no music and you can never look away as this one boy is being trained to kill in a town that has made an art of turning a blind eye. Gripping horror that feels entirely like a character drama until it carries you into very dark places.
...so that's 25-11, hope you enjoyed everything so far. Check back in tomorrow for the top ten horror movies of the decade so far!