Thursday, December 31, 2009

10 To Watch In '10

Now matter how horror-heavy a year has been, genre offerings usually dry up during the holiday season and that's definitely been the case with 2009. But I think a few horror-starved months only makes the anticipation of a new year in fear all the more exciting.

Last year when I posted my list of movies to watch in 2009, I jumped the gun on a few titles - putting Piranha 3-D, Shutter Island, The Wolfman, Splice, My Soul To Keep (formerly known as 25/8), and The Crazies as some of my most-anticipated of '09. Well, twelve months later these films - all pushed back to this year - are all high on my must-see list again but in the interest of spotlighting new titles, I'm going with an all-new Top Ten for 2010. And in considering what the future holds, it's worth remembering that some of 2009's most exciting films - like District 9 and Paranormal Activity - were completely off the radar right up to prior to their releases. So who knows what (hopefully pleasant) surprises 2010 might deliver?

As of now, though, these are ten can't miss movies for me:

10. Stake Land
One of my favorite indie efforts of recent years was the impressive Mulberry Street (2006) in which a disease spread through Manhattan, turning residents into rat creatures. Now the core talent behind that minor gem - director Jim Mickle and writer Nick Damici - are getting even more ambitious with their next film, a road movie set in an America taken over by vampires. Can't wait to start hearing more about this one.

9. Frozen
The buzz on Adam Green's tale of snowbound survival is already high. I wasn't too keen on Green's debut film Hatchet (2006) but it had its heart in the right place and Frozen looks to be an entirely different style of horror. I'm not a skier - or even a sledder, for that matter - but I'm sure this cautionary tale of a trio of friends stranded on a ski lift will be able to strike a chord with me anyhow.

8. Dread
Advance word on this adaptation of one of the more disturbing tales from Clive Barker's Books of Blood - the story of a college student conducting an experiment in fear on his classmates - is very strong so far. Unlike the previous Books of Blood films, Book of Blood and Midnight Meat Train, this one will actually see a decent theatrical release as part of the 2010 edition of the After Dark Horror Fest so I'm looking forward to seeing this on the big screen. If Dread lives up to its rep, it's going to be a winner.

7. Season of the Witch
Period-set horror films are a rare occurrence these days (as far back into the past as filmmakers like to go now are the 1970s) so I think it's pretty neat to see a new horror film set in the 14th Century. Better yet, this tale of Crusaders who have to contend with a witch accused of causing the Black Plague looks like its going to go all-out with cool supernatural shenanigans. Maybe for some it's a detriment to see Nicholas Cage in this but hey, Ron Perlman and Christopher Lee are in the cast too.

6. Black Swan
I don't know how much of a true horror film this is but so far it sounds like it's got its feet solidly in the genre. Telling the story of a ballerina (Natalie Portman) who has a rival (Mila Kunis) that may be a supernatural appariation, Black Swan promises to be a eerie mind-bender. It's written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, who isn't one of my favorite directors, but he always does interesting work. Some would say he already tackled the horror genre brilliantly with the brutal drug saga Requiem for a Dream (2000) but I'm excited to see him take on a more traditional scary movie.

5. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
The 1973 TV movie that this is based on remains one of the most beloved TV frights of children of the '70s. The story of a family who discovers that they share their home with goblin-like creatures, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark ought to be perfect material for an upgrade. Director Troy Nixey hasn't made a feature before but if producer Guillermo del Toro (who also co-scripted this remake, along with Matthew Robbins) hand-picked him for this project, it's a safe bet that he's got the goods.

4. Cotton
Eli Roth produced this Blair Witch-style look at a disillusioned priest's final exorcism (I'm guessing that it doesn't go well!). Director Daniel Stamm is something of an unknown quantity but I think the sub-genre of demonic possession movies is an ideal fit for a faux-documentary so I can't wait to see how Cotton plays out (another film in the same vein, The Vatican Tapes, is in the pipeline as well).

3. Area 51
Trying to catch lightening twice, Paranormal Activity writer/director Oren Peli is quickly following PA with another hand-held style movie, this time about aliens instead of ghosts. Fine by me. We're overdue for a great scary alien movie and if Peli can pull one off, I'm all for it.

2. Predators
One of my favorite man-in-suit movie monsters is the Predator and even in the could've-been-better Alien vs. Predator movies (I still maintain that the first was lots of fun while the second was just dismal), any moments involving the Predators had me pumped. So my anticipation is sky-high for a new film getting the solo Predator franchise back on track. Up front, there's not much - if anything - about this project that has me thinking it might suck. Director Nimrod Antal isn't a big name yet (although I really dug Vacancy and his first film, Kontroll, was widely acclaimed) but with a story set on the Predator home world, plenty of new Predator weaponry to check out, Robert Rodriguez producing, KNB handling the FX, and a more than likely R-rating - there's no reason to be anything but jazzed.

1. The Ward
I don't care how disparaged John Carpenter's later-day work has been, he's still my all-time favorite filmmaker and this supernatural tale - set in the '60s - of a girl who finds herself in the psychiatric ward of a hospital where all is not as it seems looks like it has plenty of creepy possibilities. Carpenter's entries in the Masters of Horror series showed that he could still deliver some iconic imagery (Udo Kier feeding his own intestines into a projector in "Cigarette Burns" certainly ranks as one of more indelible movie moments of the 00's to me) so I have every confidence that The Ward will be something special. Come on, John - show 'em how it's done!

And in the interest of spotlighting some non-horror offerings, here's ten more films I'll be blowing my geek wad over next year:

10. The A-Team
Yes, I do love it when a plan comes together. Hopefully this'll be an easy slam-dunk of retro fun.

9. Ninja
To see the blood-soaked Ninja Assassin in the theater was one of the cooler thrills of 2009. This movie will be direct-to-DVD, unfortunately - but hey, I'll take new ninja movies wherever I can get them and this one looks badass. Here, I'll just let the trailer speak for itself:

8. The Mechanic
This is a remake of a classic Charles Bronson movie that really shouldn't be touched. But it's starring Jason Statham so I'm totally down for it anyway. It won't be as good as the Bronson movie but, again, it's Statham so I'll be checking it out.

7. Machete
One of the fake trailers from Grindhouse breaks out as a feature. I never thought it'd actually happen but it's coming, damn it! I guess that's what happens when you're Robert Rodriguez and you can just walk down to your basement and make a feature film. I'm praying that this is a huge hit so Eli Roth will feel compelled to push ahead on Thanksgiving.

6. Clash of the Titans
The original is a sentimental favorite but it's hard to honestly say it's any good outside of the justly famous Medusa scene. I have a feeling this remake will obliterate all memories of Bubo, the mechanical owl.

5. Inception
As far as batting averages go, director Christopher Nolan has a pretty stellar one so far. I'm glad that he used his post Dark Knight clout to get an original sci-fi screenplay made. From the little that's been revealed of it, this looks like some heady, trippy stuff - here's hoping Nolan delivers something thrilling and provocative.

4. Kick-Ass
The hype on this is getting ridiculous - I can't help feeling that it's going to be hard for the film to deliver on the expectations that are building on it. But the comic from Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. - detailing the injury-laden efforts of a teenager to become a real-life superhero - is terrific and from all accounts, director Matthew Vaughn has nailed it.

3. Iron Man 2
Two words: War Machine. While a return of the Armored Avenger is more than welcome, the fact that his buddy Jim Rhodes will be suiting up as War Machine is the real news.

2. Tron: Legacy
It's Tron, it's in 3-D. Tell me how that's not awesome.

1. The Expendables
Sylvester Stallone has been on an incredible roll lately with Rocky Balboa and Rambo being two of the best films of his career - pitch perfect returns to his most famous franchises. With his latest, the mercenary tale The Expendables, Stallone has the most geek-tacular action cast ever assembled. Besides Stallone himself, there's also Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lungren, Steve Austin, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. I don't know if The Expendables will be a classic action movie but I do know that it'll be fun finding out.

So that's 2010 at a glance. Will it be a great year? I don't see how it couldn't. In the words of Spinal Tap, this one goes up to 11.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chas. Balun, R.I.P.

I believe it's impossible for today's internet generation to truly understand the seismic impact that Chas. Balun had on the horror genre. In an age where there's so much instant communication between fans and where genre reviews have proliferated online, it's hard to convey the singular place that Balun's maverick writing was able to occupy in the '80s. Sure, there was FANGORIA and other genre mags, but those magazine rarely, if ever, offered real opinions. They were journalistic entities, dedicated to reporting on the latest horror films in production. And as far as books of film criticism went, what few books that were devoted to the horror genre were typically concerned with 'classic' horror films and what little attention the newer crop of genre pics received was usually negative - with perhaps some grudging admiration expressed for the likes of George Romero. But Chas. Balun changed all that.

A fan so enthusiastic about discussing the often-unacknowledged films he loved, Balun self-published his first book of reviews, The Connoisseur's Guide to the Contemporary Horror Film, in 1983. This was no slick publication, it was proudly handmade - with illustrations by Balun himself.

In a time before the internet and blogs, Balun's writing was a galvanizing influence on a generation of '80s gorehounds. Balun eventually started publishing his work through Fantaco Books but the handmade aesthetic always shone through. Every book with his name on it (as well as the issues of his magazine Deep Red) was always a one-of-a-kind adventure, guiding eager horror aficionados through the wild 'n wooly frontier of splatter cinema. Balun made splatter legit in a way that no one had done before (he even coined the immortal term "chunkblower") but the greatest gift Balun gave his readers was to write with such unbridled good humor and enthusiasm. Yes, he could be caustic when the occasion called for it (and it often did) but his down-to-earth approach was proof positive that wallowing in the wettest gorefests wouldn't warp you. Hell, if anything it seemed to make you a happier, more life-loving person!

In a heyday that stretched for many years (and that reached its peak during his tenure as a columist for Fango's sister publication, GoreZone), Balun was to splatter cinema what critic Lester Bangs was to rock and roll. As indispensable to the scrappy spirit of the splatter age as the films he wrote about, Balun was all about the unfettered fun to be found in slime-spewing aliens, fire-breathing cockroaches, tit-torturing cannibals, and Fulci - always Fulci.

Gone now, at age 61, after a long - and I'm sure incredibly valiant - battle with cancer, it's no exaggeration to say that Balun changed the lives of a generation of horror fans. I never had the pleasure of meeting Chas. but he was a larger than life hero to me. My thoughts go out to his friends and family.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"The Funniest Doll You've Ever Seen"

When buying toys for our young son at Christmas time, I think my wife and I are like most parents in that we avoid buying toys that were designed by Satan and mass-produced in Hell. So it's with some curiosity that I look back on this 1970 commercial for Remco Inc.'s Baby Laugh A-Lot. Go on, take a look:

What parent could've seen that commercial and been inspired to bring this plastic nightmare into their home? More so, what young serial killer-in-training could've possibly asked to own this plaything of the damned - to willingly want to spend even a single night in its company? I have to imagine that any household sorry enough to have harbored this unholy creation would've been susceptible to many tragic misfortunes. Like many murder and suicide, for starters.

And damn, I can only imagine how Baby's laugh sounded when its batteries started to run down. Real fucking evil, is what I'd guess.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dance With The Devil

As much as I applauded the spot-on retro vibe of the posters for the '80s-set shocker The House of the Devil, I had a hard time believing that the film itself would warrant much excitement. And now, having finally caught up with it, I can say that those non-expectations were met. While this is a vast improvement over writer/director Ti West's damn near unwatchable 2005 killer bat film The Roost (I still haven't seen West's sophomore feature, 2007's Trigger Man), The House of the Devil is still a whole lot of nothing.

Set in an unspecified year in the early '80s, The House of the Devil tells the story of Sam (Jocelin Donahue), a cash-strapped college student who can't say no to a suspicious baby sitting offer - even though it's at a house far off in the country, and even though the offer is made by a couple of Grade-A creeps (genre faves Tom Noonan as Mr. Ulman and Mary Woronov as his wife). While it's never a bad thing to see Noonan and Woronov, I feel that West was being too on the nose in casting them. To cast a couple that seemed truly innocent and nonthreatening would've been a much better strategy. Even if we as viewers know full well that appearances in horror movies are deceiving, a couple of friendlier faces would've made Sam seem like less of a dunce in accepting the Ulman's job offer. Or even to have Sam be an early '80s punk - someone who looks threatening herself (and who, thanks to her unconventional appearance, isn't likely to be hired for many jobs) might've made for an interesting wrinkle (and given Sam a much-needed personal dimension).

As is, West puts House at an early disadvantage. This should've been a movie where only the audience is able to percieve the early warning signs that portend danger for the heroine. But as the unmistakably shady Mr. Ulman (who dresses like an undertaker, by the way, and walks with the assist of a silver-headed cane right out of The Wolf Man) explains to Sam that he lied about the fact that there's a child that needs sitting (actually it's the elderly mother of Ulman's wife that she'll be watching over) and when he shows barely restrained flashes of anger at her apprehension, it's hard to imagine that any amount of money would be worth staying for - especially when her best friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) already offered to front Sam the money that she needs.

But believing - despite all evidence to the contrary - that this 'babysitting' gig will be easy money, Sam tells Megan to come back to Chez Satan in a few hours to pick her up. Thus begins a long night of Sam wandering from one shadowy room to the next. This is the best stretch of The House of the Devil as West makes good use of his impressive location. However, the suspense of what's lying in wait for Sam is always kept at a simmer. Even when all the cards are put on the table at the climax, The House of the Devil just isn't scary. This is a film that should be goosing the audience at regular intervals, setting up bigger and bigger scares - instead it progresses at an even keel that's the antithesis of horror. When a horror movie really works, it's when the director is a skilled manipulator who really wants to grab the audience by the throat (see Drag Me To Hell for example). That isn't the case with The House of the Devil, however. West sets a nice mood but he has no idea what to do with it.

They say the devil is in the details and true to that, with the cinematography, music, and costumes lovingly earmarking this as a lost relic of the '80s (although the title sequence, with its use of freeze frames, more accurately evokes the '70s), it's as though West believed that keeping it old-school was an end in and of itself. Instead it just turns The House of the Devil into a banal exercise in nostalgia. Watching this movie is like being reminded of movies that really did scare you rather than watching one that's actually interested in scaring you now. As Sam's acerbic best pal (the kind that every horror heroine needs), Gerwig turns in the film's sharpest performance - giving her character a natural vitality the rest of the film lacks. In the end, The House of the Devil is uncannily similar to the so-called 'satanic panic' of the '80s. That is, as much as it might sound scary, it's nothing to get worked up over.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ten Favorites From 2009

I'm way too behind on the movies of this year to deliver a legitimate 'Best Of' list so I went with a 'Favorites' list instead. Maybe I'm just getting soft but there was a whole lot of films I liked this past year and very little that I didn't. Sure, there were some I wanted to burn off the face of the planet, like Rob Zombie's Halloween II but for the most part the horror offerings of '09 kept me in a good mood. I don't how many true classics, if any, this past year produced - time will have to tell on that. But whether they go on to have a healthy shelf life or not, my favorites of '09 still made this a good year for me.

Click over to Shock Till You Drop for the full list.

Friday, December 18, 2009


It's often been reported that writer/director James Cameron has a something of a big ego. I can't personally verify whether this is true or not but after seeing his latest opus, the long-in-development Avatar, I'm gonna go ahead and say that any ego he has is well-deserved. While there's never any excuse to be a jerk, in regards to Cameron thinking he's the shit when it comes to making movies, he's clear to have an enormous head. To watch Avatar is to watch Cameron mopping the fucking floor with everyone else out there.

Some reviewers have been churlish towards Avatar's storyline, saying that it lacks originality, but while its story of an Earthman who becomes assimilated into an alien culture and rises to be a leader of his adoptive people has plenty of precedents in pulp literature and film, it's how Cameron pulls these elements together that matters. He's out to make a film that is timeless, mythic, and universal in its appeal so it should be no surprise that a story with such broad intentions would have roots in other tales that have been told many times over. Originality is not the most important element of a work of fiction. What makes a story interesting is not whether it's ever been told before but how well it's told and as a storyteller, Cameron is no slouch.

As for Avatar's much-touted technological advances, I can't say how far this film moves the industry ahead or whether this is a 'game-changer' for filmmakers but I can say I've never seen anything quite so jaw-dropping as what Cameron and his FX team deliver here. It's not about money shots or specific moments, it's about everything - the whole package. This is one of the most immersive, intricate environments ever created for film. The painstaking attention to detail and the verisimilitude of everything we see here - machinery, plants, wildlife, aliens - is astonishing. This is a film that single-handedly decimates nostalgia for the methods of the past and leaves you hungry to see what else can be realized with these tools.

There's a moment in Avatar relatively early on where the character that Sam Worthington plays, Jake Sully, is lost in the forest of Pandora at night in his avatar body and he's prowling among the trees and vines while holding a torch while alien animals are encroaching all around him and I couldn't help but marvel at this moment, how every single detail of this complicated scene (on top of the fact that it's at night and that it has to be 'lit' by animated flames) is so beautifully rendered. There's many, many moments like this in Avatar where I sat amazed at the fact that everything on the screen was born entirely in a computer. I thought I was accustomed to CG animation by now but this is far beyond anything I've seen. The character work on the Na'vi alone is breathtaking. The love interest for Jake, Neytrini (Zoe Saldana), is such a convincing presence that I can imagine a day when the film industry starts to give CG acting awards. Neytrini goes through every possible emotion in this film from joy to anger to sorrow and never once do her facial expressions look like something that came out of a computer. There's real acting at play here that goes beyond Saldana's vocal work. The illusion of life that is put into Neytrini's face (and those of the other Na'vi) by Cameron's animators is miraculous.

If it sounds like I'm writing a love letter to this movie, well, I am. What baffles me is how anyone else who loves movies wouldn't do the same. I can understand someone not being interested in Avatar to begin with or to be skeptical of Cameron's ability to pull off his ambitions but it dismays me to see the dismissive attitude of some reviewers towards Avatar where they're engaged in petty carping about the storyline or the dialogue (neither of which are sub-par) and giving just a back-handed acknowledgement of its technical accomplishments. When these are the same web critics who can't say enough about a film like Punisher: War Zone (which hey, I enjoyed myself), it's galling to see them piss on a movie that's genuinely trying (with success) to expand what's possible on film. Dismissing Avatar because the story isn't appropriately complicated or adult by some imagined yardstick is like dismissing, say, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) because the characters are perhaps a little flatly written.

Some might say that effects are just window dressing or eye-candy but I disagree - they're a part of what makes movies a transportive experience. I'm sure that Up In The Air is a fine film that speaks to our current times, but does it have any battles between man-made war machines and primitive alien races who fly through the sky on the backs of dragons? I'm guessing no. Movies can speak to our times and to our everyday concerns but they can also take us out of our lives, out of our bodies, and let us experience realms purely of the imagination. And as a means to enable that, Avatar is as deeply felt and important as any work of art.

Monday, December 14, 2009

247 Words About Black Christmas

Bob Clark's seminal slasher, Black Christmas (1974), is a film that I've only owned on VHS - a fact that I'm reminded of every year as I prepare to watch it again come Christmas time and realize that I still haven't upgraded this classic to DVD. While I haven't rewatched the film yet this season, in taking out the tape today I was reminded of the main reason I love old VHS tapes so much - the descriptive text on the back covers. Up through the mid-'80s, a surprising amount of care and attention was given to what was written on video boxes.

Somewhere along the line, companies started to simplify what was written about their films, reducing word count and usually limiting back cover descriptions to a terse plot description and a vacuous critical blurb. But in the early days of VHS, there was an art to writing the copy that accompanied these tapes. I don't know if they were done in-house at the respective studios or whether the assignments were farmed out to freelance writers but whoever was responsible for penning the text for the backs of these tape sleeves (at least those done for studio releases) showed an effort to write in an interesting fashion and to say something informative as well.

In the pic above, it's impossible to read the print but let me quote from it:

"Black Christmas is a stark and stylish exercise in suspense that turns everyone's favorite time of year inside out. Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder star as two among an ill-fated handful of sorority sisters celebrating the season and semester's end when an obscene phone call interrupts the festivities. The caller rings off with a death threat, which proves all too real. Is the killer a brilliant music student (Keir Dullea) who has gotten one of the women pregnant? No one is sure. And no one can stop the deadly calls preceding the attacks.

Predating Halloween and Friday the 13th by several years, Black Christmas effectively laid the groundwork for the murder thrillers that would follow through its clever interplay of tension, shocks - and humor. Producer/director Bob Clark earned his reputation as a hitmaker for the first two Porky's films, but here works in a vein closer to his highly-applauded Sherlock Holmes caper Murder By Decree, exploring the underside of the holiday he so affectionately - and somewhat sardonically - celebrated in the jovial A Christmas Story.

So have yourself a scary little Black Christmas. It's not at all like the ones you used to know."

That's a nicely done write-up - nothing Pulitzer-worthy, but indicative of the kind of lively, informed text that could be commonly found on VHS tapes back then. Today, when it comes to DVDs it's completely bare bones but in the early days of VHS, it's clear that they got real writers and real film fans on board to help guide prospective viewers. It might be a silly thing to fixate on but when I read the backs of these old boxes, I think it's touching in a way to realize that as this new industry of home entertainment was taking off, that customers were assumed to be real film buffs - or at least film buffs in the making - and that any film released on this new format deserved to have something substantial said about it.

Of course, this was all years before the days of DVDs loaded with special features. Back then, the back cover text was the special feature. And while it was all the service of moving product, looking back I realize that these back covers were (sadly) some of the first instances where I read about modern horror movies in a context that was scholarly and appreciative rather than condescending.

So to those uncredited writers who contributed their efforts to the early days of VHS, I say 'thanks.' You all had a way with words.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lost In Time

In 1979, a fantasy series called Time Express aired four episodes before its own time suddenly ran out. With its hour-long format containing multiple storylines in which passengers aboard a supernatural train found themselves transported backwards in time in order to alter events in their past (hopefully for the better), Time Express was an obvious bid on the part of CBS to replicate the appeal of ABC's hit series Fantasy Island. The same magic didn't happen for Time Express, however, despite the presence of Vincent Price as Jason Winters, a host aboard the train meant to counsel guests on their journeys (Price co-starred with his real-life wife, Coral Browne, who played Jason's co-host, Margaret Winters).

After thirty years, it's not surprising that I don't remember any specific details of the four episodes that compromised the entire run of Time Express. But in thinking back on this show, and of the many other short-lived series during my childhood and adolescence that lasted a few weeks or months before disappearing, I realized that the kind of nostalgia I feel for these shows is something that won't be part of the adult lives of younger fans growing up today. Thanks to the release of every new TV program on DVD, even short-lived series can be a part of their fan's home library. Had that been the case in the late '70s, early '80s, I'd be the satisfied owner of complete sets of Automan, The Phoenix, The Powers of Matthew Star, and Manimal, among others. Today, the cancellation of shows like Dollhouse may be a disappointment to their dedicated viewers but at least fans know that within weeks of their favorite show going off the air, they can own the series and maybe even see a few extra, unaired episodes in the bargain.

If I never experienced the prolonged, and potentially permanent, absences of the series I loved as a kid, would I still feel the same way about them? Much of my lasting affection for all these shows that quickly came and went is undoubtedly based on the fact that I saw them at an early age and, in most cases, never saw them since (save for a few Sci-Fi Channel airings in the '90s). The current generation, though - and those after them - will never know what it is to not be able to relive their childhoods any time they please and I can't help wondering how that will affect their emotional relationships to the shows and movies that they're growing up on.

Up until this generation, a desire to recover the touchstones of childhood has been a large component of the fan mentality. Look at the euphoric reaction among Gen-Xers when it was announced that Fred Dekker's Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps would finally see a release on DVD. Even the most culty of cult movies today gets a special edition DVD right off the bat.

Fans - understandably - now take the availability of everything for granted. Nothing is lost. But maybe until you know what it is to miss something, you can't really appreciate it. And maybe some things have to be lost before they can become valuable.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Wolf Man's Got Nards!

From the get-go I've been pumped for Universal's Wolf Man remake. Director Joe Johnston (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, The Rocketeer) may not be anyone's idea of a visionary but he knows how to pull together a solid film and off-hand I can't think of any of his movies that haven't at least been entertaining. He even made a better sequel to Jurassic Park than Spielberg himself did (with 2001's Jurassic Park III) so my confidence in his ability to make The Wolfman work, even under less than ideal conditions, has been high. Now that the official word has just come in that The Wolfman has gained an 'R' from the MPAA, I'm even more jazzed to see what Johnston has come up with.

An R is no guarantee that it'll be good, of course, but in the post-Howling, post-American Werewolf in London era, a watered down werewolf movie is hardly worth doing so at least this rating is an assurance that this remake won't be soft pedaling its horror elements. And that's a silver lining to this troubled film if I ever saw one.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Top 25 Of The Decade: Post-Script

Over at Shock Till You Drop, we've just published our picks for the Top 25 Horror Films of the Decade. As the combined effort of four opinionated horror fans, this list took plenty of twists and turns along the way before we settled on our final choices. Contrary to those who claim that nothing worthwhile has happened in the genre over the past ten years, we found it extremely hard to narrow our choices and, in the end, several films that each of us individually argued for were left outside the Top 25. Now that the list is up, I wanted to give a shout-out to 25 films that were a part of the debate. Some were mentioned and then quickly shot down, others fell off only at the very last minute.

In alphabetical order, sans editorial comment:

1. Behind the Mask: The Rise and Fall of Leslie Vernon

2. Brotherhood of the Wolf

3. Bug

4. The Devil's Rejects

5. The Exorcism of Emily Rose

6. Feast

7. Final Destination

8. Hatchet

9. High Tension

10. Hostel Part II

11. Irreversible

12. The Mothman Prophecies

13. The Others

14. Paranormal Activity

15. Saw

16. Silent Hill

17. Slither

18. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

19. The Strangers

20. The Texas Chainsaw Masscare

21. 30 Days of Night

22. Wolf Creek

23. Wrong Turn

24. Uzumaki

25. Zombieland

One title that I'm surprised never came up once in our discussions was Grindhouse. I would've been against it myself but I'm surprised that it didn't even get that far. It also would've been nice to get some quirkier titles like Bubba Ho-Tep or Shadow of the Vampire on there but 25 is a small number to work with when you're talking about ten years' worth of films. That's mostly why borderline genre titles like Mulholland Dr. (for my money, one of the scariest movies ever), Rambo (a true splatter classic, with heavy echoes of the 'mondo' cinema that was such a part of the early days of VHS) and The Passion of the Christ (the most successful splatter movie of all time and a key addition to the sub-genre of Catholic horror films) aren't on there. Four titles that I wish I had seen so I could have argued one way or another for them are Antichrist, Grace, The Host, and Martyrs. But at the end of the day, no list is ever perfect or quite complete. Of all the titles that didn't make the cut, the only one I was sorry to see not make it is The Others. But in looking over all the films that were a part of this discussion, it's nice to be able to say that the last ten years have delivered so many horror films worth talking about.