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.


  1. Go see Wrong Turn 2, even better.

    But hate for Chronos and Mimic? Gotta disagree.

  2. The Thing remake/prequel was no good? Lord, I thought it was wonderful, from the music to the scenes being copied, to the characters actually scaring me even though I knew what was going to happen. When she's in the room looking for the keys and the chick does her creepy dance, I knew it was going to happen, and I still jumped a bit.
    That movie had me grinning so much. Tons of fun.

  3. Can't hate Mimic! I have looked at Tucker and Dale VS Evil in Blockbusters and not bothered with it, I'll give it a look now. Hadn't heard about Never Sleep Again, looking forward to demolishing a Saturday watching it.

  4. Nice list. I used to watch horrors so much more as a kid. Need to get back into them. I'm a fan of "horrors that could happen". Like mutant cockroaches and Amityville Horror. My fave is Nightmare on Elm Street, because you can't avoid sleeping. Also, surprisingly enjoyed Thirteen Ghosts. Will have to check out Never Sleep Again.

  5. I still love Pet Sematary. It seems like the framing is all off in that it puts a lot of scares in long-shots instead of close-ups (which makes it more unsettling). It has the kinetic energy of a low-budget film too.

    And probably the most-impressive use of a scary kid. The child that plays Gage couldn't have been more than three. Kid's not even making memories at that stage in life and they put him front and center: pretty rad.

  6. And I also like how carelessly Pet Sematary presents Zelda. Probably pushed the spinal meningitis camp back ages.

  7. Watching the Thing remake reminded me a lot of the Watchmen movie - normally with adaptations I tend to distract myself with comparisons the source material, but with these films it felt like the director was the one distracting me. (This isn't to say that the Thing remake was as bad as Watchmen, by the way.)

    You haven't mentioned Dead Set on your blog - If you haven't seen it, I really recommend it. The premise of a zombie apocalypse movie set in the Big Brother house might sound forced, but it's actually played out very naturally, and feels like an old Romero film.

  8. Have you seen Manhunter? Red Dragon is basically a remake of it. Directed by Michael Mann, when he was DEEP in his Miami Vice phase, so the movie is slick and gorgeous. Lecktor (odd spelling) is played with no bullshit acting tics by Brian Cox, William Petersen methods the shit out of Will, and the amazing TOM NOONAN will blow you away as the Dragon. If you haven't seen this, track it down...I envy those who are watching it for the first time.

  9. I am very heartened by how our tastes seems to coincide, so I'm curious as to how you'll react to Silent House when you see that. I loved every single bit of it, even the end which is, I admit, a bit of a cheat.

  10. Have you ever seen "Slither"? Because given your interest in "Tucker and Dale VS Evil" and "Behind the Mask," you would probably enjoy it. Also it has Nathan Fillion which is all you really need.

  11. I saw Pet Semetary for the first time at a friend's house when I was a kid. We were so scared, we hid under the covers, hugging each other, for the entire night. It was so hot, neither of us could sleep. It was a real let down when I rewatched it recently. I feel like I was constantly sweaty and afraid as a child. But sadly, those days are gone.

  12. If you havent seen it, check out "dead Girl". Its a zombie flick, but more about how people are the really scary things in the world. More than a little unsettling. And NOT a date movie.

  13. Ugh, here's another fan trying to shove one of his fav's trough your throat: Hey, I saw you liked 'Behind the Mask: the rise of Leslie Vernon', then maybe you will like 'C'est arrivé près de chez vous' (English: 'Man Bites Dog'). Same subject, only funnier; black and white (and French, Oh lala), without the slasherbit at the end.

  14. Loved Tucker and Dale, glad another saw it too!

  15. Hello! Long time reader, first time poster.

    Huh... I was kind of looking forward to checking out Martyrs. I think I'll still watch it but seeing as I believe you were the one who I first heard about it from I feel kind of weird now.

    To be perfectly honest, I've always kind of had trouble accepting Guillermo Del Toro's films. I had to rewatch both Pan's Labyrinth and Devil's Backbone a few times before conceding that I was actually impressed by what I was seeing. I don't know why but the first time I see anything by him I always think he's phoning it in. For some reason though, Cronos was the one movie that I automatically liked. It's a nice unexpected twist on the vampire concept. I loved the idea of the bug and the addiction that seems to be more towards it than to blood, though the shot of the man licking blood off the white tiled bathroom floor is most definitely my favorite of the movie. And one of the things I have always been mystified by - Del Toro's tendency to leave the most supernatural elements of the story unexplained, letting your imagination run free - is very present there. Yes, the relationships are rather lackluster and I still don't understand if the man was the grandfather or father of the child but you still have to admire the world building.

    Now I hate to be throwing suggestions at you (but then what are you supposed to do when people list movies in ANY format) but recently I've been taken in by a director named Ti West. I'm a Criterion Collection fan boy (I'll let your comment against them slide 'cause I love you so much) and a couple of months ago I read this little article on their website with Ti West talking about the Polanski film Repulsion and the difficulties of portraying paranoia on film. ( I was immediately impressed by the man's insight and went straight to netflix to check out his body of work. Though I have only seen one of his films so far, House of the Devil, I really enjoyed it. It's more thriller than horror but, hey, that is often not a bad thing. The suspense is creeping, the main character is relatable and even admirable, and the setting a nice 80's throwback.

    I'll give you one more suggestion if you don't mind, and I feel a little guilty about doing so as I've never felt entirely comfortable recommending this movie. You may have of heard of the great Lars Von Trier, who got into hot water last year at Cannes when he premiered his newest film, Melancholia (which I have not seen but desperately want to). Well the previous film he made was called Antichrist (not for the 'ANTICHRIST' but for the original meaning which means anything not christian) and it is... pretty damn powerful. It is literally the greatest depiction of a decent into madness I have every seen. It's unsettling as hell, and I must warn you that if you are fundamentally against psychosexual-thrillers you are not going to like this movie, but dear god will you respect it.

    I'm sorry for the super long post but once the dam opens it is hard to close. Thank you for reading if you actually did. I hope I made sense.

  16. love the movie KOLOBUS. horrible acting, great plot!

  17. Have you seen Fido? It was a Canadian zombie comedy that came out five-ish years ago. It's kind of a "boy and his dog" movie, except it's a zombie instead of a dog. Also, Carrie-Anne Moss as a fifties housewife.

  18. I'm going to be annoyed if any of the (3?) "Night of the Demons" you mention dares to regard themselves as any kind of sequel to/remake of the Jacques Tourneau NIGHT OF THR DEMON. They aren't, are they? Please tell me they have nothing to do with Tourneau's film. Please.

  19. I think it's just a lot more pressure to make the scenes work when you're doing a film, because when you're doing a series you feel like, I have so many scenes, so many episodes, so if I don't get it exactly right this time, I have another scene later. You feel less pressure.

    Horror Movies | Online Movies

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