2010 was not the greatest year for horror. that said, as i started to compile this list i realized that there were some noteworthy stand-outs that i’d forgotten about, and quite a few that i realized were actually more fun and enjoyable than i’d thought on first viewing.
the layout of my awards are similar to last year, with best films & documentaries, worst films, and special categories for particularly surprising or disappointing films. oddly, the same as last year, a single director appears both in my “best” list and my “most disappointing” list, something i didn’t notice until i’d already finished compiling it. last year, director toby wilkins appeared in the “best” category with SPLINTER and in the “most disappointing” list with THE GRUDGE 3. this year, adam green found his way into both categories. both directors are very active on twitter and seem like nice guys, so i can only assume this is a trend that will continue next year with yet another friendly director who loves to tweet finding his way to make one film i love and one that doesn’t quite live up to my (probably unreasonably high) expectations. mark that down as my prediction for 2011.
the best horror films of 2010
the latest tri-dimensional entry into the SAW franchise is far from perfect, but a damn sight better than some of the later entries (i’m looking at you 4 & 5). the 3d is fun, and the triumphant return of a principal character from the original made this a very enjoyable, if not horribly original, “ending” to the series (i trust this being the last entry as much as i did THE FINAL CHAPTER and FREDDY’S DEAD.)
SPLICE starts off weird, and then just keeps getting stranger and more depraved. not every choice pays off in the film, but regardless a lot of the storyline and visual directions were brave, whether they all worked or not. a little inconsistent, but definitely worth a view from cronenberg fans or genetic scientists who wish their profession involved more kinky sex.
one of films i’m embarrassed to say i’ve never seen is george romero’s THE CRAZIES. it’s on netflix instant, so i really have no excuse. after seeing this slick, enjoyable remake, i may have to finally sit down and watch the original, because if it it’s anything like the new one, then i’m missing out. the remake features some great suspense moments, likable characters and law enforcement (timothy olyphant and his deputy) wearing some disturbingly tight pants (maybe that’s an iowa fashion thing i’m unaware of).
THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE
i went into THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE like most — equally horrified and intrigued at the film’s simple premise, but not expecting much beyond that. i was shocked to find a clever and surprisingly restrained thriller with some great and (in the case of dieter laser) incredibly creepy performances.
this is a remake of a film that was itself a blatant rip-off of another, more successful movie about a shark eating people. if that sounds like something you might like, then i doubt you’ll be disappointed by this tongue-in-cheek and ridiculously gory and nudity filled 3d extravaganza.
THE LAST EXORCISM
i have yet to tire of these shaky-cam horror films when they’re done well, and this one is. doesn’t quite reach the heights of creepiness that BLAIR WITCH and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY achieved, but still well worth checking out.
in the hitchcockian tradition set by LIFEBOAT and ROPE, BURIED is an exercise in filmmaking. in this case, the exercise is setting an entire movie in a closed coffin. there are no cheats here… no flashbacks or dream sequences. this is an hour and a half of ryan reynolds stuck in a box. you’d think that’d be a hard thing to make tense and interesting for 90 minutes, but this film did it.
adam green’s FROZEN is similar to BURIED in that the majority of the film takes place with people trapped in a single location (here it’s a stopped chair lift). it also shares the same serious tone, with the very occasional moment of dark comedy thrown in to alleviate the near-constant tension. a welcome departure from green’s over-the-top silliness exhibited in the HATCHET series.
LET ME IN
i have not seen LET ME IN, but i am including it in the number two slot anyway, because that’s the kind of shit-house-rat crazy bastard i am. i wouldn’t blame you if that makes you disregard my opinion or this list, but bear with me. every review i’ve read of this film (at least the ones written by people i trust) says the same thing — “almost, but not quite as good as the original.” since i know exactly how i feel about the original, i’m going to trust my fellow horror reviewers on this one (well, at least until it hits blu-ray). after seeing it, i will add an addendum* to this entry stating whether my educated guess on its placement on this list was accurate or not — but i’m almost certain it would reside here, if not higher. *after seeing LET ME IN, it would definitely either be in the #2 slot or tied with #1. i’m planning to look at the film more closely in an upcoming post.
this film was the biggest holy crap that was better than i ever thought it would be moment of 2010, which would definitely place it on my “most surprising” list if it weren’t already residing at the top of this one. i’d kind of given up on the 8films2die4 gimmick as the films usually range from the terribly bad to the terribly mediocre and this one looked to be more of the same (although, to mix things up, it also looked to be “terribly australian”). i wouldn’t blame you if you missed this one, but i urge you to go back and give it another chance. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY left me a little unsettled when the curtain fell, but LAKE MUNGO had me feeling ill-at-ease hours after it’d finished. if you’re a fan of ghost stories and faux documentaries, this is one of the best out there.
the worst horror films of 2010
LEGION is like THE PROPHECY but without christopher walken or anything else cool or interesting. the trailers centered around an ice-cream man opening his mouth real wide which seemed like an odd choice, until i saw the film and realized that was the least crappy two seconds in the whole film.
i normally try not to come down too hard on low-budget films, but this one is damn near unwatchable. other films this year managed to come up with something slightly interesting with limited resources, but THE RIG fails to even make william forsythe seem cool, a feat i’d previously thought impossible. this monster tale on an oil rig (which looks suspiciously like a high school in most scenes) redefines tedium and is the only film this year that caused me to literally yell at it, begging it to just, please, end already.
the best horror documentaries of 2010
NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY
similar to last year’s voorhees’-centric documentary HIS NAME WAS JASON, this in-depth look at the ELM STREET series is far slicker and engaging.
BEST WORST MOVIE
this bizarre but oddly touching look into the making of and current lives of those involved in the cult classic TROLL 2 is well worth seeing, regardless of whether you’re familiar with the film it examines.
the most surprising horror films of 2010
when i first read the description of BURNING BRIGHT on netflix (woman is trapped in a house with a circus tiger), my initial thought was “there’s no way i’m adding that to my queue.” after a moment’s reflection, that quickly changed to “that sounds so stupid, there’s no way i’m not moving that up to #1 in my queue.” i’m glad i changed my mind as this turned out to be a surprisingly tension-filled film, despite a few minor short-comings (mainly due to budget limitations, i suspect).
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS
i’ve always had a soft spot for the 1980s NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, so when i heard it was getting a straight-to-video remake, i was not particularly optimistic. however, the new version far exceeded my expectations, retaining the same silly tone of the original while adding some interesting new plot points and imaginative special effects. also it features a scene where people’s lives depend on how fast they can trace, which must be a horror film first.
the most disappointing horror films of 2010
after the beat-you-over-the-head ya-gotta-have-faith message at the end of SIGNS (which, apart from that bit, i kind of liked), i should have known that m. night shamalamadingdong could not possibly treat the idea of satan trapped in an elevator any less subtly. i was optimistic though given he did not direct it himself, but that optimism was misplaced. DEVIL has a few good moments and some decent scares (even if it uses the same ones over and over again), but the overall effect, theme and tacked on “moral” of the film felt insultingly lame.
i have mixed feelings about the first HATCHET because it’s just so damn silly and hardly the return to “old school american horror” that it billed itself as, but i had to admit it was an often funny and entertaining film. the news that fan-favorite danielle harris would be joining the sequel gave me high hopes that it might eclipse the first, but those hopes were smashed against the rocks minutes into my pay-per-view screening of HATCHET 2. the sequel keeps the over-the-top gruesome deaths of the original film, but makes the bizarre choice to be just as silly but not nearly as funny as its predecessor. if it’s not scary and it’s not funny, then you’d think that with a slasher film you’d at least be able to enjoy looking at some young, attractive people talking about sororities and fumbling with bra straps before being killed — but there too you’d be wrong, as the people being hunted by victor crowley are almost all middle-aged, slightly over-weight hunters and bikers (with the exception of harris, of course). despite dying in the last film, parry shen returns, but is completely underused and is never given the chance to be as funny and interesting as he was in HATCHET. i give adam green huge props for going up against the mpaa and standing up for independent horror, and i loved FROZEN, but i was horribly underwhelmed by victor crowley’s second outing.