Monday, January 9, 2012

A quick impression of movies I watched in 2011.

So, the blog is a year old now!

I didn't think every movie I watched this year was worth writing individual posts about, but I enjoyed reading Emily's book list (and Ryan's!) so much that I thought it'd be fun to do a horror movie version for my year.

1. 28 weeks later - A stronger movie than the first one, in a lot of ways, but it lacks the intensity and the manic feeling that Danny Boyle can create when his characters go feral like Cillian Murphy does at the end of 28 Days. Still, Robert Carlyle is great in this, and the premise was fun.

2. 30 Days of Night - The visuals of bloody splashing on snow and of completely animalistic brutal vampires are high points in an otherwise just okay movie. And Ben Foster is as weirdly captivating as always.

3. Addams Family Values - So dorky, and so fun. I have a weakness for this ghoulish sort of gentle comedy. I can't imagine enjoying these movies quite as much without Raul Julia and Angelica Houston. They are two very talented actors who commit themselves to such silly material completely. I have a lot of respect for that. And Christina Ricci will always be Wednesday Addams to me.

4. Behind the Mask: the rise of Leslie Vernon - This was a fun faux-documentary style that turns into a more genuine horror movie at the end (which is the weakest part, I think.) I normally don't enjoy the faux doc style, but the idea of ambitious journalists unsure how far to go in search of a behind the scenes story about a real life slasher before their morals get in the way is an interesting one. The killer himself is charmingly candid in the behind the scenes doc parts, complaining about how much cardio he has to do and things. It's fun.

5. Black Christmas (original) - I think Courtney told me to watch this one. It's Canadian, and sometimes claimed as the first slasher? I found it sort of slow, though. There were moments of creepy brilliance, and I enjoyed seeing a young Andrea Martin in it, but I just couldn't get into it.

6. Constantine - I love this movie. It's nothing like the comics, which gets people up in arms, but with its weird occult procedural elements it's like a movie version of Supernatural. It knows exactly how to use Keanu Reeves' limited range, and how can you go wrong with Tilda Swinton as an androgynous sociopathic angel?

7. The Crazies (remake) - One of the best remakes ever, I think. It's stylish and smart and creepy as hell. Timothy Olyphant sure does play a lot of sheriffs, though.

8. Cronos - Part of my early-year obsession with Guillermo del Toro, I bought the Criterion Collection version of this, sight unseen, and hated it. I don't understand Criterion sometimes. They released a version of this - a sort of emotionally empty and uninteresting vampire movie with good special effects, but not The Devil's Backbone? Ron Perlman is a highlight here, and I suspect it is his acting that gives his character its depth, as no others have any. There IS however, a sort of hilarious short horror film del Toro made in film school included. It's insane and not "good" exactly, but it made me laugh.

9. Dark Water (original) - This movie didn't do it for me. But I LOVED the idea of water haunting people. Water where it isn't supposed to be can be scary! Who knew? Scenes in the apartment with water pouring down were really unsettling.

10. Dark Water (remake) - Liked this slightly more than the original, but only because of John C Reilly's slimy landlord. Still almost entirely ineffective as a horror film.

11. Devil's Backbone - this movie and Pan's Labyrinth are the reasons I became obsessed with Guillermo del Toro early in the year. Sad and chilling in about equal parts. Love the tagline, too - What is a ghost?

12. Drag me to Hell - Sam Raimi's newest. I liked this okay at first, but grew to love it on rewatches. It isn't perfect, but it has a giddiness that makes it easy to love. And holy shit does Raimi ever get the most out of his PG Rating. Not a lot of blood, but some seriously gross scenes.

13. Evil Dead II - I had a chance to see this on the big screen actually! A local indie theatre got it around halloween. I usually say that Evil Dead 1 is my favourite, because it is actually trying to be scary (even if it fails sometimes) where ED2 is going for laughs, but I had forgotten how often this movie is actually really freaky. It was wonderful to see it in a theatre. This movie was a big part of my teen years and has a place in my heart.

14. Evil Dead - Showed this to a lady who hadn't seen it, on a date. And let me tell you, I turned pretty red when I realized I'd forgotten the tree-rape scene existed. In my head I can make allowances for scenes like that, and still enjoy the rest of the movie, but here I'd been gushing about how inventive and fun it was all night and bam - tree rape. Anyway, they didn't seem to mind, but yeesh. This just goes to show you - Evil Dead 2 is the better date movie.

15. Final Destination - not as much fun as I remembered. Except that I forgot Candyman is death! Awesome. Also, whatever happened to Devon Sawa? It made me want to try and find a copy of Idle Hands. Also, unrelated but strangely, it made me want to watch American Pie again?

16. Friday the 13th (original) - I always forget how great this movie is. In my head Nightmare on Elm Street is the superior series, because Freddy is so much more awesome (and the first Nightmare is so great) but that's because I always think of Jason. Jason isn't in this one, really. And Betsy Palmer is fucking AWESOME as Mrs. Voorhees.

17. Fright Night (remake) - David Tennant! I will admit that Doctor Who is what drew me to this remake originally, but he was only a small part of why it was great. If the vampires in 30 days of night were pure savagery, then Colin Farrell was PURE SEX. Jesus.

18. Ghost Ship - Almost entirely stupid, but with a great opening scene involving a cruise ship ballroom and a long length of wire. Part of my OTHER early-year obsession, Robert Zemekis and Joel Silver's production company Dark Castle Pictures.

19. Hatchet - another date movie, and I couldn't even finish it. Too stupid for my tastes.

20. The Haunting (1963) - based on a Shirley Jackson novel, this movie is more charming than scary, but is a lot of fun.

21. His name was Jason - the first documentary by the people who later made Never Sleep Again (which was amazing) I found this earlier look at the Friday the 13th movies sort of boring. Way less gossipy. Way less fun.

22. House of Wax (remake) - another Dark Castle picture. Hated it, I think. I can hardly remember it at all to be honest.

23. House on Haunted Hill - another Dark Castle picture! This is one that I really liked. Cheesy, but a lot of fun. Not quite as over the top awesome as Thirteen Ghosts, but well worth your time if you like special effects heavy tongue-in-cheek-but-not-parody horror, which is sort of what Dark Castle excels at.

24. I Saw the Devil -  A cop hunts a serial killer who killed his wife, doing increasingly horrible things in his quest for revenge. Totally amazing, and a movie I have to write something more about. Made me laugh out loud with happiness during a late movie scene where the serial killer shakes his head in amazement and says "This guy is crazy."

25. Inside - great french horror film. Two ladies in a house. One is pregnant and one has a pair of scissors. Clearly made by people who love horror movies.

26. Insidious - The previews for this almost kept me away. "From the people who brought you Paranormal Activity (which I HATED) and Saw (which I haven't seen, but which in my head is the starting point for the torture porn movement)"  But this was a very clever haunted house movie with some really well constructed scares. It was funny too, unexpectedly. One of the best modern ghost movies I've seen.

27. Jaws - rewatched Jaws this year, and it is every bit as amazing as ever. I'm always surprised by how fucking awesome the shark in this movie looks. And it's just a great thriller.

28. The Mist - also a rewatch, although this time I watched the special edition black and white version. The CGI monsters felt sort of cheesy in the color version, but in B&W they have an old monster movie feel that matches the rest of a movie that is a love letter to horror. It also introduced me to the work of Drew Stoddard, the cover artist. Or anyway, drew my attention to him. William Sadler and Marcia Gay Harden are both compelling in their supporting roles too.

29. Martyrs - Hated this movie. Very well made, and had a conceptual purity that I admired, but it was just too unpleasant for me. Too hopeless.

30. Mimic (Director's Cut blu-ray) - Another del Toro movie, and maybe the end of my obsession. So damned stupid. I held out for the director's cut, believing that maybe it would strengthen the movie to have it be his original vision, but it is muddled and idiotic. Even the always amazing Charles S Dutton couldn't save it.

31. Monsters - Super low budget film that seemed interesting. More like a road trip movie where the monsters were sort of in the background, just a part of the devastated future landscape. Boring and sometimes obnoxious.

32. Mother - One of my all time favourite movies. I wrote a bigger review here.

33. Never Sleep Again - a super gossipy look at the nightmare on elm street movies. I was 4 hours in before I realized it was 6 hours long. I watched it all in one sitting. So fun.

34. Night of the Demons (original) - Watched this one twice. The first time, I came away thinking it was awesome. I wrote that it was Evil Dead level awesome. But on a rewatch, it is a lot less impressive. It is more like an Evil Dead rip-off with some insane choices that keep it fun. Still worth watching.

35. Night of the Demons (remake) I went through a phase this year where I watched movies and their remakes back to back. The Night of the Demons remake made me sad both because of its low quality, and because Ed Furlong looks like he's been having a rough time lately.

36. Night of the Demons 2 - This movie is a) stupid, and b) the only time I've ever seen a movie where the best scenes are actually just footage from another movie. Did they think we wouldn't notice that it was actual scenes from the first just spliced in? Jesus.

37. The Others - Another favourite. I wrote a big post about it, too.

38. Pan's Labyrinth - I loved this. I'm not sure that I really enjoy the modern fairy tale thing, but this was so strange and lovely visually, and so weirdly dark that I overcame my skepticism. I still prefer Devil's Backbone, but this is an amazing movie.

39. Pet Semetary - I remember hiding my face throughout this whole movie as a kid. Now it's a little less impressive. It has a TV movie feel to it, but I still really got a kick out of the line "Sometimes dead is better" and it was never boring.

40. Piranha (remake) - terrible for the first hour, then a work of demented art for the last 30 minutes.

41. Pontypool - a canadian zombie movie set in a radio station. The zombie virus is transmitted by language, rather than bites. It loses some of its strength toward the end, as it embraces insane b-movie characters, but Stephen McHattie is great as the radio DJ, and the ideas are neat.

42. Quarantine/Rec - essentially the same movie. I enjoyed Rec (the spanish original) slightly more, but I suspect that is just because I saw it first. A good "what the fuck" moment movie.

43. Rec 2 - I enjoy sequels that overlap with the original. This first part of this takes place during the first movie. Otherwise it's fairly standard, and not as interesting as the first, I felt.

44. Red Dragon - Loved this movie, despite feeling like Hannibal was cheesy in it. The real heart of the movie was Ralph Fiennes as the disfigured serial killer and Emily Watson as the blind woman he begins a relationship with. I am fascinated by sympathetic portraits of villains. I find it much more compelling than just showing them as monsters.

45. Shutter (original) - an unexpectedly intelligent thai horror movie. I expected just another j-horror influenced ghost story, and instead got a horror movie about the ways men lie to themselves about what they've done.

46. Shutter (remake) - almost exactly the same as the original in terms of plot, clearly made without any understanding why the original was so brilliant.

47. Silent Hill - This movie made no sense, but looked AMAZING doing it.

48. Sixth Sense - first time I've seen this since it came out. Cheesy in parts, but all in all a strong movie with a nice feeling of sadness that hangs over every scene. Knowing the twist doesn't make it any less watchable.

49. Perfect Host - great serial killer thriller/comedy starring David Hyde Pierce. He's clearly having fun playing such a crazy character, and it makes it so much fun to watch.

50. The Thing (remake/prequel?) No good.

51. Thirteen Ghosts (remake) I could watch this every year. The best movie to come out of Dark Castle. I wrote a big post about it, too.

52. Tucker and Dale VS Evil - a really REALLY charming comedy about two hillbillies who head out to the woods to fix up their "summer home" a run down creepy cottage, and get mistaken for crazy backwoods murderers by idiot college kids. A one-joke premise that is carried along easily and enjoyably by the incredibly likeable lead performances of Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine and Katrina Bowden.

53. Wake Wood - HAMMER is making horror movies again. This is a good horror/thriller about a family whose daughter dies, and they bring her back (sort of like Pet Semetary, but also, sort of not like that.) Cheesy, and occasionally predictable and stupid, but fun enough, and worth a watch.

54. Wrong Turn - a killer hillbilly movie that I really enjoyed. I'm not sure how I missed it the first time around, but Eliza Dushku is great, and the movie is tense and propulsive. The final scenes in the treetops (?!) were really inventive I thought. Not brilliant, but really solid horror movie. Far better than the Hills Have Eyes, if you are itching for some killer redneck mutants.