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Horror Movie Madness - A Year in Review   —   Horror Movies

It's no secret that I have an affinity for the horror film. As some women turn to romantic comedies for that soothing feel-good feeling, I inevitably turn to murder and mayhem for those same warm fuzzies. It's not that I'm a crazy weirdo or even a bad person (I wouldn't hurt a fly!), I just have the macabre in my blood, a Nosferatu-shaped shadow in my soul, Bernard Herrmann's compositions playing in my head like my own personal soundtrack to life.

I find that most horror movies aren't horrific at all, and in fact most of them make me giggle. Rarely do I actually get frightened by a film though there are those times that I am horrified, and yes, there's a difference. I know a lot of people who can't watch horror movies because they frighten easily or would be plagued by nightmares, but what scares me more than a bunch of actors and fake blood is the news and American Idol. Horror movies entertain me endlessly so it's there that I indulge my senses, and indulge I do. I read Rue Morgue magazine - the quintessential guide for a horror lover, I research directors and writers and read reviews, I watch old and new, foreign and domestic, low budget no budget big budget - I see them all. But no matter if I get scared by a movie or find it endlessly amusing, no matter if it's good or bad (or so bad it's good), I honestly believe that the horror movie is a work of art like no other. And now, for fear of rambling on about the art of bad horror movies, I'd best get on to the meat of this post - a short list of some hits and misses I've seen this year, so that someone, anyone, may benefit from the mass pulsating horror movie knowledge that I have growing inside my brain.

Horror Movie Madness - A Year in Review

Top 10
The best horror movies I've seen this year.

10.) Chosen Survivors (1974)
Synopsis: After being selected at random by a computer to seek safety in an underground bomb shelter on the eve of a nuclear attack, a group of refugees makes a horrible realization: They're sharing the space with a colony of vampire bats. And since going back above ground isn't an option, they're forced to stay and fight for their lives.
Doll's Review: Chosen Survivors was an unexpected 70's gem, one of those movies you probably saw on late night cable and thought it awesome only to, years later, forget the title and be plagued by vague (awesome) memories of it. The plot has as many holes as the underground bunker where this movie takes place, but really, who cares about plot when you have groovy 70's art deco rooms, bloodsucking bats, overreacting actors, and government conspiracies?! Plot schmot, let's kill some bats!

9.) 5ive Girls (2006)
Synopsis: Ron Perlman stars as the resident Catholic priest in this horror flick from director Warren P. Sonoda set in a reform school. When five troubled teenage girls are sent to the academy, they expect to clash with their keepers -- what they don't expect is that their keeper will be a demon named Legion who holds the institution in thrall. Luckily for the girls, they possess unique powers that enable them to battle the ancient ghoul.
Doll's Review: A surprisingly effective horror movie with solid acting from young unknowns. The abandoned dank atmosphere of the school combined with small acts of witchcraft from the girls and special effects provided later give this little horror movie a unique feel in an otherwise slasher/torture-saturated genre. And of course, Ron Perlman is always a pleasure to watch in film and adds the small boost of star power to make it feel familiar.

8.) Splinter (2008)
Synopsis: Kidnapped by an escaped convict and his young accomplice, a young couple are thrust into the fight of their lives when the four of them become the prey of a bloodthirsty splinter parasite. Trapped inside an abandoned gas station, the foursome is forced to band together to thwart the monster's vicious attacks and make it out alive.
Doll's Review: This gruesome, fun horror movie introduces us to a new form of creature that is way more terrifying than it looks. The plot device of throwing strangers together and trapping them, forcing them to work as a team to fight monsters is something I always enjoy and this particular one does not disappoint. Solid acting, smart plot additives, non stop action, and some interesting gore will keep the viewer on the edge of their seat until the very end. Horror fans can't really go wrong with this one.

7.) Eden Lake (2008) - British
Synopsis: Jenny and Steve are in love and about to get engaged during a calm lake getaway -- but they'll first have to survive a pillaging and murderous gang of kids, led by the psychotic Brett, who suddenly arrives on their front lawn. When Steve tries to quell the violence, matters turn from scary to gruesomely deadly.
Doll's Review: Eden Lake is a horror movie gem. Sure there are some groan-worthy clichés and some really stupid decision making done by the characters, but such goes hand in hand with this beloved genre and we're often forced to take the good with the bad. Once the movie picks up speed though, watch out, it's one heck of a thrillfest that slams into one standing ovation worthy ending. Not for viewers who like their horror movies "light".

6.) Harper's Island - Miniseries (2009)
Synopsis: A group of friends visits a secluded island off the coast of Washington for a destination wedding -- but the festivities are cut short by murder, and the guests realize they are trapped with the killer in this mystery series. The murderer claims a new victim in each episode and everyone is a suspect, forcing the survivors to figure out who is behind the sinister plot, and how they can get back to the mainland alive.
Doll's Review: Harper's Island is like - what if your afternoon Soap Opera turned graphically violent and bloody and some mysterious person was killing off your beloved characters one by one. For this reason it took me a few episodes to really get into the feel of this series, and I'm not sure what the turning point for me was but sooner or later I was completely hooked. Staying up into the wee hours of the morning kind of hooked. The kills are extremely creative, the body count mounts and mounts, and the possible suspects keeps increasing and changing from one episode to the next. The ending really caught me by surprise and once it was revealed who is doing the killings I was full force in love with this series. I'm quite sure Harper's Island isn't as good as my love for it declares it to be, but it's no matter because as they say, love is blind.

5.) Damien: Omen II (1978)
Synopsis: Seven years after Damien Thorn's dad tried to slay him, the demon child has grown into an angry teenager now living with his aunt and uncle. As Damien slowly learns of his unholy heritage, anyone who suspects the truth or stands in the way of his corporate legacy meets a gruesome end. But when the bodies pile up, Damien's uncle sees the light and plots the death of his satanic nephew.
Doll's Review: I was extremely skeptical of a sequel to The Omen. How good could an evil kid movie be, riding on the heels of such a well done classic as its predecessor? Surprisingly enough, very good. And it's all thanks to the brilliant performance of Jonathan Scott-Taylor, who plays a 13 year old Damien. He plays Damien as even-tempered, smooth, and charming. He pulls you in with the levelness of his gaze, soothes you with his cool eloquent speech. Heck, he doesn't even realize he's evil until it's too late, too late for him, too late for everyone. Besides all of this the movie has wonderful 70's appeal, great dialogue, and a great supporting cast. What it doesn't have is any frights, but all is forgiven because I didn't even notice it wasn't there.

4.) Cold Prey (2006) - Scandinavian
Synopsis: Upon breaking his leg, a snowboarder and his four friends find themselves stranded at a decrepit ski lodge in the Norwegian mountains in this thriller from Roar Uthaug. After learning that the hotel was closed long ago when a boy vanished, the group discovers they are not alone and they'll be lucky to stay alive, let alone return home.
Doll's Review: First with Let the Right One In, and now with Cold Prey, Scandinavia is certainly putting itself on the horror map with me! Cold Prey is a straightforward and flawless slasher movie. I've read some recent reviews saying that while this film is good it doesn't offer anything new to the genre, and I've got to say I wholeheartedly disagree. It offers something rare and sorely lacking in most other films of its kind, a great script, likable characters, natural and believable performances, and smart behavior. There wasn't one person among the cast that I was rooting to die, not one annoying or stupid character, in fact I was genuinely sorry to see them picked off. Perhaps not a very remarkable film for non horror fans, but for horror lovers it should be exactly the kind of movie you want to see. I'm just sorry there's not too many more of its kind. (And as with all foreign horror movies, watch with the subtitles not with the overdub!)

3.) Drag Me To Hell (2009)
Synopsis: After denying a woman the extension she needs to keep her home, loan officer Christine Brown sees her once-promising life take a startling turn for the worse. Christine is convinced she's been cursed by a Gypsy, but her boyfriend is skeptical. Now, her only hope seems to lie in a psychic who claims he can help her lift the curse and keep her soul from being dragged straight to hell.
Doll's Review: Thank you Sam Raimi for making yet another fun, gory, and hilarious horror movie! Drag Me to Hell was one heck of a good time, great performances, great script, great special effects, other than the fact that I saw the ending coming a mile away (which still didn't ruin the enjoyment of watching it play out), I honestly have no complaints with this movie. In fact, I can't wait to see it again!

2.) Let the Right One In (2008) - Scandinavian
Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Oskar, the constant target of bullies, spends his time plotting revenge and collecting news items about the grisly murders plaguing his town. But things change when he meets a new girl named Eli, a misfit vampire who steals his heart. As a serial killer continues to prey on teen boys in their small Swedish village, Eli helps Oskar find the courage to stand up to his tormentors.

Doll's Review: A wonderfully stark and bleak movie wrapped in a cocoon of winter, what we think may be a movie about vampires turns out to be a movie about friendship. All of the blood and murder and desperation, all of the anger and bullying and loneliness, it all thrives and throbs here, whirling our two young characters into a hopeful dance of acceptance and understanding, of companionship and devotion. It's a remarkable film and one of the best I've seen in a long while. (And as with all foreign horror movies, watch with the subtitles not with the overdub!)

1.) Martyrs (2008) - French
Synopsis: Years after she escaped from an icy torture chamber in an abandoned slaughterhouse, Lucie enlists the help of her closest friend, Anna to track down the family who tormented her and exact her revenge. But when Lucie and Anna investigate further, they discover that they've only scratched the surface of an unspeakably vile secret organization. Pascal Laugier directs this ultraviolent horror film.
Doll's Review: There is little to say about Martyrs that wouldn't be giving portions of it away so I'll say this, watch this movie with as little knowledge of it as possible. I read a review of it somewhere that said, "The only flaw with Martyrs is that you can only watch it once for the first time." And it's true. One of the wonderful elements that makes this movie work so well is the ultra realistic performances given by the two main actresses. This movie is bizarre and brutal and will make all horror movies watched after it look like pathetic representations of our beloved genre. Rent it today. (And as with all foreign horror movies, watch with the subtitles not with the overdub!)

Best of the Rest
Not my favorites but certainly good fun! Listed in alphabetical order.
*To read my reviews visit my Movie Reviews section of this site.

1.) Dead & Deader (2006)
2.) Donkey Punch (2008) - British
3.) End of the Line (2007) - Canadian
4.) Frostbitten (2006) - Scandinavian
5.) Graveyard Shift (1990)
6.) House (2008)
7.) House on Sorority Row (1983)
8.) Kaw (2007)
9.) Laid to Rest (2008)
10.) Legacy, The (1978)
11.) Mephisto Waltz (1971)
12.) Shuttle (2008)
13.) Unseen, The (1980)

Disappointing High Hopes
I generally know what's coming out months in advance (thank you Rue Morgue!) so these handful of movies I had been looking forward to with high hopes but upon actual viewing was sorely disappointed. However, these movies were well reviewed by most horror critics so I'm still putting them out there for you to draw your own (horrific) conclusions!
*To read my reviews visit my Movie Reviews section of this site.

1.) Book of Blood (2008)
2.) Carriers (2009)
3.) Grace (2009)
4.) Midnight Meat Train (2008)
5.) Paranormal Activity (2009)

So there you have it horror fans - my lists of what's what. Now, I admit, some of my loves and praises may not be for everyone. My taste is all over the place, from slow atmospheric "horror" of the 70's to kill 'em all cheeseball 80's, from low budget contemporary gore fests to a wide range of old and new foreign horror films. And while it's currently widely popular I'm actually not the biggest fan of most of your gut-and-go teen screams of today, or as they call them in the biz, "torture porn". They're bloody and agonizing but ultimately boring and I tend to only watch them when I'm in a really bad mood (die! die!). With that being said, I hope I've steered you toward some horror movies that you will enjoy and can recommend to others. And whatever you do... don't look behind you.

Posted 10.28.2009 1:51:39 PM

Replies
Dad wrote:
You forgot about "Pumpkin Head", you loved my version when your were younger.............scary indeed!
Posted 10/28/2009 5:46:46 PM
Doll wrote:
I didn't forget it! But this list is only some select movies I've seen this year. It doesn't include favorites of years past. God, I don't know how I would even compile such a list. It would be an epic investment of time!
Posted 10/28/2009 5:48:59 PM
CharlieRabbit wrote:
Out of curiosity, which is your preferred variety of horror - thriller or slasher? The reason I ask is because a film's ability to scare its audience seems more a requisite of the former than the latter. I've always found that, when a slasher flick can drum up some scares, it's a bonus, because the film's main objective is to revel in the gore and brutality (and, when well acted, the unnerving but titillating spectacle of victims in terror). Thrillers, on the other hand, are all about the suspense and keeping the audience jumping out of their seats.

So, yeah... do you differentiate the two, and if so, do you have a preference?
Posted 10/29/2009 9:25:16 AM
Doll wrote:
It honestly all depends on the mood. One of my favorite types of horror movie is the slow-burning 70's horror, where the atmosphere is thick and the story is meaty and mysterious. There you don't see too much in the way of gore and sometimes not even a lot of deaths. But it's always very macabre. Or sometimes I'm just in the mood for lots of bloody deaths and that's where the slasher movie comes in. Or something in the same vein wherein there will be a large body count and blood. It's rarer these days that that you can get both qualities in one film but it does happen. Thrillers still don't scare me though, even the more recent high production ones. I've just seen too much to really be affected by them. A movie has to be really unique and off the beaten formula-track to get me worked up. Like the movie Martyrs that I mentioned in the post. But my absolute favorite type of horror that combines both thriller-mystery and lots of gore is old 70's & 80's Italian horror. Directors like Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and Luci Fulci do that genre really well.

And when you mention "keeping the audience jumping out of their seats" I still wouldn't qualify that as a scary movie. Scary movies, to me, stay with you long after you leave the theater. They follow you like some suggestive shadow and compel you to check the closet for monsters and to lock your windows at night. They turn innocent house creaks into malevolent spirits. Mere shock technique in a movie is fun and exciting and jumpy and squealy but it's not scary.

Of course this is all just how I'm affected. I'm sure most people who haven't seen 1,000 horror movies are adequately scared by most teen screams out there today. That's an interesting point actually, I wonder how many horror movies I've seen. List time!
Posted 10/29/2009 12:44:00 PM
Doll wrote:
419 - I only included movies that were actually categorized "horror" so the list does not include "supernatural thrillers" or "thrillers".
Posted 10/29/2009 4:14:03 PM
N@ wrote:
Sadly, the majority of your bad movie list was seen with me. :( I take no responsibility! lol
Posted 10/29/2009 5:18:25 PM
Doll wrote:
But we saw Martyrs together! That was a special night...
Posted 10/29/2009 6:40:18 PM
N@ wrote:
Murder Party needs to be on here!!! Thrilled with that movie still, and that's a good sign. Everytime I think about it I chuckle.
Posted 11/4/2009 4:52:58 PM
Doll wrote:
It DOES need to be on here! Sadly it was watched after this post was made so it'll have to wait for next year's post! I need to watch it again, ASAP!
Posted 11/4/2009 5:18:45 PM
Phil Kerbawy wrote:
You know, contrary to what some say, I liked "Let the Right One In" despite it differing from the novel (which is a WONDERFUL read, btw), but don't know how much I agree with this American version that's coming soon titled "Let Me In". We'll see how it goes I guess.
Posted 2/4/2010 3:47:04 AM - Phil Kerbawy's website
Phil Kerbawy wrote:
Oh and by the way, you've got me curious about the "Harper's Island". Makes me think maybe a more recent "Twin Peaks" (which I absolutely love!).
Posted 2/4/2010 3:50:23 AM - Phil Kerbawy's website
Replies are closed for this post.




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