05 January 2010

EDITORIAL - Favorites of the Decade: Horror

Confession: I don't watch enough horror movies to made a fully adequate list that would do justice to the horror films of the 2000s. There's still plenty big-timers I haven't seen, like 28 Days Later & 28 Weeks Later, Quarantine, Dog Soldiers, or The Orphanage. I know, bad me. So this list may not be favorable to many, but I know these horror flicks are the ones that I consult if I'm feeling in the horror-movie-watching mode. Enjoy and discuss!


HALLOWEEN (Rob Zombie - 2007)
You'll either love it or hate it. I just happen to be one of those that love it. For all two hours of its running time, Zombie's take on Michael Meyers grabbed me and wouldn't let go. From the first thirty minutes of a young Michael not taking crap from bullies to his spontaneous murder of three people on Halloween night, all the way to the exciting, intense, never-let-up adrenaline right of a chase between him and Laurie, writer/director Rob Zombie made quite the damn good movie. Now that I've complimented it, I just want to complain about Zombie's constant use of hippies and vulgarity; his word usage is worse than Kevin Smith's. There's plenty of times it's unnecessary and adds nothing to the character(s). Anyway, now that that's sidenote's kaput, I'll go back into lovin' gushy mode: young Mikie was as freaky as his adult counterpart, and was chillingly played; Malcolm McDowell may not have been at his A game, but I can't think of anyone else taking the Dr. Loomis mantel (BTW, didn't very much like everyone addressing him as "Samuel"); and the last forty minutes as Michael is out stalking Laurie and her friends, and eventually gets a little knife heavy - well, that was some intense stuff right there. Michael was a brute force - not unlike Jason - and he could hardly be stopped. Rob Zombie made Michael Meyers frightening again (not too difficult of a task after H20 and Resurrection). Now, unfortunately, Zombie ruined all my lovin' with 2009's quite bad Halloween II. Here's hoping that Zombie's 'vision' has henceforth concluded in Halloweenville.

FEAST (John Gulager - 2005)
For once, a horror flick that lived up to its hype. Most of my thoughts on the Feast franchise can be found here, but I'll just give a quick overview. Basically, I dug it (obviously). There were some awesome moments, some brilliant gut-burstin' sequences (such as the death of a young child, right after the equally brilliant 'life expectancy' card pops up), and the design of the monsters (when they were actually visible and easy to make out) was quite impressive. Sadly, the direct-to-DVD sequels really, really sucked, and became a parody of itself by the third installment, which attempted to go all Dead Man's Chest on us and tell a ever-expanding story in two connected movies. One of the rare horror movies that invokes fun, horror, and the apparently much-needed blood & guts, Feast is definitely deserves a spot as one of my favorite horror flicks of the decade.

SAW III (Darren Lynn Bousman - 2006)
Indeed, the first SAW movie was one of those horror thrillers that left you with your jaw straight down on the floor as the final moments passed you by, and when the 'Directed by' credit rises, you're all "No freakin way!!!" You just saw one of the more original, intense, and truly disturbing horror movies in a while. SAW II was more of a procedural action film with a serial killer at the heart of it; SAW III, for me, is just emotionally draining. All the stories - from the affair-having doctor Lynn, the grief-stricken father Jeff, Jigsaw's apprentice Amanda, and John Kramer's final hours - it's absolute thrilling stuff, and that's just one of the reasons why I love this movie. Not only is it fueled by characters more than, I argue, the other installments, but it also features one of those endings that totally and completely leave you speechless. Sadly, the following trilogy of post-Jigsaw wasn't nearly as spectacular as the first, er, 'prequel' trilogy (haha, haha, hahah [?]). SAW III is the Saw franchise at it's absolute best.

PLANET TERROR (Robert Rodriguez - 2007)
Arguably the superior movie in the Grindhouse double feature (Death Proof, written & directed by Quentin Tarantino), Planet Terror is so 'out there', it's just one of those 'I can't believe what I'm watching' flicks that will leave you either totally head-over-heels in love or just wondering, 'WTF, mate?' Luckily for me, I dug it. Writer/director Rodriguez mixes high-adrenaline action sequences, Rose McGowan's beautiful body, and a lot of mutant zombie-like people and creates a highly entertaining movie. And how can one possibly not mention the BRILLIANT missing reels gag? (used at the best not-best moment)

DAWN OF THE DEAD (Zack Snyder - 2004)
Going against the general horror population, I don't like zombie movies. I don't find them remotely interesting. That said, Zack Snyder's update of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead grabbed me before the opening credits. Having that creepy little, zombie-fied, watching from the hallway, and then spontaneously attacking - gave me chills...and possibly nightmares (don't remember, five years later). Additionally, this was my first experience watching zombies run. To me, that made all the difference in the world. Zombies were scary. Zombies were actual, honest-to-God threats. There was jeopardy. And no character was safe. The ending was entirely appropriate, and instantly left me hoping Snyder would take the reigns for some sort of sequel, that hasn't materialized, and probably never will. The only other zombie movie I love is 2009's Zombieland, mostly for the characters but not for the zombies. That's another thing Dawn '04 has: awesome, real characters that make their own choices, ones that weren't dictated by the paint-by-the-numbers story, and let me tell yah - that makes a lot of difference as opposed to crappy, cardboard characters with a A-B-C story. So to get back to the original point - Snyder did a phenomenal job with Dawn of the Dead, and is one of the best remakes out there.

THE DESCENT (Neil Marshall - 2005)
It wasn't until '09 that I finally saw this much-talked about British horror movie. The day after I saw it (after rewinding and watching the ending 10 times over), I immediately ran to work and bought the Blu-Ray. There was no way it wasn't going to be in my collection. The first fifty minutes of the movie is pretty intense, as you're literally sucked into our main characters plight; and when strange things start happening and weird, unnatural sounds echo throughout the cave, your heart begins to quicken, quicken, and then....BAM! A strange creature, dubbed Crawlers, bursts onto the screen and you jump in fear. The main lead character, who has endured the death of those dear to her - friends and family - turns into freakin' Xena Warrior Princess and kicks some Crawler ass. Claustrophobic, beautifully filmed, edited, and scored - The Descent is quite the accomplishment in this day of horror filmmaking [in regards to its ability to make you jump and thrill you simultaneously]. And the ending - oh boy, do I love it. Beautiful, tragical, appropriate.

DRACULA 2000 (Patrick Lussier - 2000)
Chalk it up to a guilty pleasure, but Dracula 2000 is one of my favorite Dracula movies, and one of my favorite of the decade. Of course, it doesn't follow Dracula lore or the history of Vlad at all, but it does present an intriguing alternative that I wager many were displeased or even outraged over. The notion that Dracula is the ultimate betrayer (if one believes in religion) and was cast out of both Heaven and Hell, doomed to walk the earth, immortal, on the blood of the living - it's infinitely intriguing, and I would love to see the concept pursued [I didn't bother with the two direct-to-DVD sequels; Legacy & Ascension]. Gerard Butler, pre-300 days, gives a phenomenally eerie performance as Dracula, conveying both the threat and the attraction with relative ease. The only other part of Dracula lore, aside from the whole being a vampire thing and having three maids, that makes it into the movie is the presence of Van Helsing, who is also given an interesting story as well. It's a fun ride that has a bit more sense than your average vampire movie (especially in this day 'n age).

It's a remake! How dare I have it on ANY sort of list that doesn't have the word 'bad' in the title? Or 'terrible idea'? Actually, strangley enough, this is the third remake I have on this list. Truth is, New Line's Texas Chainsaw remake isn't all that bad. Creepy as hell, and as intense as The Descent, Chainsaw was a experience (not unlike Descent). It definitely follows that saying where once it takes you, it "doesn't let go." Obstacle after obstacle, I was right there with Jessica Biel and her bouncing boobs as she faced each and every one and ended up alive - miraculously. Throw in some genuinely creepy hillbillies (as creepy as the cannibals from Wrong Turn), and a maniac chainsaw-wielding big guy who can also run as well as a skinny, tall chick, and there's the recipe for a damn good horror movie.

I don't have much to say other than that it was a original take at the horror genre that was entertaining, surprising, and at the same time paying homage to horror films of old (a la Hatchet, but in a much better way).

TRICK 'R TREAT (Michael Dougherty - 2008)
Again. Hype. Gotta love it. I knew next to nothing about this movie other than it had been in the can for a while, was the directorial debut of X-2 writer Michael Doughtery, and featured several cast members from movies and TV shows I quite love (Battlestar Galactica, Kyle XY, Popular, X-Men). When the DVD/Blu-Ray hit shelves, it was literally gone within a day. So, finally, when shipment came, I blindly splurged $25 on this flick, and boy was it worth every little penny. Trick 'r Treat is awesome stuff; awesome indeed. I won't go around spoiling any of its awesomeness or its actually well done twists, nor gush about it endlessly (there's more than enough reviews for it), but if you haven't already seen it, do yourself a service and do so. It may not be the 'masterpiece' at it's been heralded as, but it certainty is the next best Halloween movie since John Carpenter's 1978 original.

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