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.


Timmy Crabcakes said...

Great list of stuff that was pretty much off my radar.
I'm hoping Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark will be cause to put the original out on DVD... and that Nicholas Cage thing looks pretty interesting too (I always like Cage but much less often do I like the movies he's in).

If even half of this stuff pans out then it will be a good year.

Matt-suzaka said...

Fuck yeah, dude! Awesome list of films - too many to even talk about! I knew about most of these, but there were a few I did not know about, so thanks for the direction pointing!


William Malmborg said...

Great list. I'm really looking forward to many of these, especially the Nicholas Cage one since that time period has always been fascinating to me -- just as long as they handle it properly.

Jeff Allard said...

Knob, good news - the original was just recently put on DVD! Here's a link for you:

Matt, The Expendables will rock us all!

And William, I've got my fingers crossed on Season of the Witch! Here's hoping it's at least a fun movie.

Anonymous said...

I cried a geek filled tear of joy reading this list. Thank you thank you.

But Jeff, you aren't the least bit interested in seeing Jackie Earle Haley's take on everyone's favorite cheeseburger faced slasher?

senski said...

I've said it before...I love this point! Everything looks like it could be great...until it isn't!

Jeff Allard said...

PoT, I'm definitely interested in seeing the NoES remake but right now I'm too skeptical about it (thanks to reports of a dismal test screening and extensive reshoots) to call myself excited. I'm sure Haley's going to be great, though.

And Senski, I'm totally with you - it's so exciting to look forward to a new year where everything has at least a chance to be amazing.

jmcozzoli said...

Okay, my list is made. Thanks.

The Man-Cave said...

Expendables, A-Team, Cotton and Inception are definitely high on my list too. And this is the first I am hearing about Stakeland. I thought Mulberry Street as a good indie as well, so I am looking forward to seeing what that team can do with this cool premise. Very, very nice '10 list, Jeff.

The Man-Cave said...

Happy New Years Jeff!!

I nominated you for an award, so please check out this link to my post when you get a chance and I hope you will be interested in participating:

Timmy Crabcakes said...

Thanks for that ... Afraid of the Dark link.
By the comments it sounds like the DVD is very much no frills... but if that's all there is I'll take it.

Jeff Allard said...

John, thanks - I hope these movies are worth the anticipation!

Geof, glad I could give you the heads-up on Stake Land! And thanks for thinking of me with the Kreativ Blogger award - you've put in good company, that's for sure!

And Knob, I guess a no-frills DVD is better than nothing. I haven't picked up a copy yet myself but I will eventually. I've got to see how well DBAoTD holds up to my memories of it!

I Like Horror Movies said...

Nic Cage = HATE, but I am definitely hoping the best for PREDATORS. Glad to see The Wolf Man didnt make the list because we all know its going to blow.

Jeff Allard said...

I actually have high hopes for The Wolfman. I only left it off my list this year because I had it on last year's list. I know it's been a troubled production and I'm not crazy about the CGI but I've been very impressed with most everything I've seen so far. At the very least, this won't be some Stephen Sommers abomination. I think that Joe Johnston and co. have done their best to make a kick-ass Gothic horror film. Personally, I can't wait to see how it came out. If it sucks, Carl, you can say "I told you so."

I Like Horror Movies said...

I truly hope I am wrong, but Stephen Sommers is exactly who came to mind when I saw the first trailer roll. Ugh. I SWEAR I thought I heard the preproduction team explain how they were going back to the basics and were planning on doing all of the makeup and effects in camera. We'll see though.. We'll see.. At least Nic Cage isnt in it.