my best of 2008 list was, understandably, comprised of only films from 2008 that i’d actually seen. i see a lot of horror films, but currently my netflix queue has almost 450 films in it, so i don’t get to everything as quickly as i’d like. i did, however, run out this week and pick up two dvds of films i’d missed theatrically in 2008 — quarantine and eden lake. if i’d seen them previously, i think they’d both have made my top ten list — so i’ll include them here to give them their just dues.
somehow eden lake slipped by me completely unnoticed. i hadn’t even heard of it when i saw it listed as one of the nominees on a ‘best horror film of the year’ ballot last week. its status on netflix is the impatient film lover’s death sentence (‘very long wait’), so i had little choice but to pick it up when i saw one lone copy sitting at best buy. that turns out to be one of the better decisions i made this week (for example, much better than my decision to eat some stale hostess blueberry mini-muffins today). eden lake falls into the ‘survival horror’ subgenre, and is similar in tone and plot to wolf creek, frontier(s), the descent and storm warning. the rules are fairly simple in this type of film — naive, usually nice people wander too far away from their familiar surroundings and run into some not-so-nice locals who test the survival instinct of the nice people until one or more of the victims decides to (sometimes successfully, usually not) fight back. in the case of eden lake, our nice people are a couple out for a camping trip (and a surprise wedding proposal) on the shore of (what quickly becomes the ironically named) ‘eden lake.’ the twist here is that the not-so-nice locals turns out to be a gang of obnoxious 10 to 14 year olds out for proverbial “kicks,” one would presume. an argument over the kids playing their music too loud (damn kids!) and ogling the soon-to-be-fiancee escalates to the kids stealing the couple’s car… and things get just get worse from there. there is a type of movie i call an ‘exhale’ movie. when the credits finally begin to roll, you suddenly realize you’ve basically been leaning forward and only taking shallow breaths for the last hour. the final moments of the film are so intense and disturbing, the only real response you can muster is to put your hands on your knees and slowly exhale… you might think of getting up to get a soda, and might even start to move, but then slump back on the couch and exhale again. few movies have that effect on me, but this is one of them. images and moments from this film (those from the last 5 minutes, in particular) will lodge themselves in your gut for days, if not longer. highly recommended.
as mentioned in my ‘best of 2008’ post, quarantine is the american remake of [rec]. as far as i know, quarantine is the first remake put into production before the film it was based on had even been finished. that sounds like a formula for disaster, but in many ways this remake is superior to the original. it’s hard to make comparisons because the films are so incredibly similar, but in the ways they do differ i think the remake comes out ahead. the lead actress (dexter‘s jennifer carpenter) plays paralyzing fear phenomenally, with no concern for vanity. in general the scares are more effective in quarantine, as is the “infected” make-up. the one exception to this is the thin creature in the attic, which is much creepier in the original. the ultimate explanation for the infection is left vague in both versions, but the supernatural “possession” slant is not even hinted at in the remake. the american version also wisely removed the bizarre scene from the original where the characters rewind the tape to rewatch something. Instead of having the camera cut-off then immediately cut-back with the characters discussing the footage they’d just watched (a la cloverfield), the tape actually rewound and replayed itself, breaking the “found footage” framework. you really can’t go wrong watching either version — but if you do like one, you should probably check out the other to decide which you prefer for yourself.