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Like most Americans during the holiday season, I’m making that magical mystery tour to visit every relative and half-relation I have. Obviously not alone on this busy highway, I’ll use this bumper-to-bumper time to sum up the year that was 2010.
Not a high-water mark for the horror genre, 2010 failed to provide me with the standard 10 movies that comprise most “year in review” lists. In my opinion (and since this is my list, I will be giving plenty of that), horror thrived the most in media outside of film. Where the movies left me with an overwhelming feeling of “meh,” television and video games provided hope for the fear scene.
I should also note that not all of my Top 10 are specific titles; some are collective events that piqued my horrific attention in 2010. Without further ado, here are my 10 best—and five worst—horror media events of the year:
10. THE LAST EXORCISM: It’a a combination of cinema vérité and mockumentary, two subgenres I usually despise. I was dreading this when I first heard about it—yet another BLAIR WITCH wannabe with a camera running around the woods, hoping something scary happens. But this turned out to be one of my fav films of the year with its well-structured plot, creative presentation and some damn fine acting. Plus, EXORCISM made me unleash my shrill girly scream in the middle of the theater. Pretty scary flick!
9. Remakes: There were some semi-not-bad, slightly-better-than-horrible examples. I hate remakes, but they are a fact of all genres; it’s the unavoidable cycle of life. We’re born, we grow, we get old and then someone else does the exact same thing all over again. In past years, my Fango Top 10 cursed all of the reduxes from the prior 12 months, but in 2010, I was mildly amused to see a few that didn’t make me throw up in my mouth a little. Though the original still holds a place in my heart, LET ME IN did LET THE RIGHT ONE IN some well–due justice. PIRANHA 3D was a campy romp that I thoroughly enjoyed. The original I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE will never be topped, but the new version didn’t leave me wanting to burn it all to the ground (the frequent side effect of many remake viewings).
8. DEXTER: The world’s sexiest serial killer delivered with another season of thrilling murders. I found myself once again cheering for Dexter as he sliced his way through a collection of gang-raping yuppies and Lumen helped open some of Dex’s weakness and humanity. I’m impatiently awaiting next season.
7. TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL: Made in 2009, this one screened at several film festivals this year, including the Spooky Fest in Washington, DC and Fantasia in Montreal. Smart and witty, TUCKER AND DALE provides a beautiful commentary on “redneck” stereotypes, slasher flicks and other horror motifs, all brilliantly woven into a hilarious plot. “But Bekah,” you may ask, “why have I never seen this potential horror gem playing at a theater near me?” And I would answer, “How the hell did you get in my car?” Then I’d say, “It hasn’t been released, dammit!” I’m now fearing that TUCKER AND DALE could be doomed to the same fate as THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES or TRICK ’R TREAT, caught up in some ridiculous distribution hell, its genius going unseen.
6. SPLATTERHOUSE: I debated putting DEAD RISING 2 on here instead, but in my opinion, SPLATTERHOUSE reigned. This ultra-bloody game lets me geek out on Lovecraftian allusions, awesome frightening landscapes and more carnage than you can shake a disembodied monster head at. Plus, it references the vintage “old school” game that my 12-year-old self nearly sprained my thumbs on. I will never tire of ripping those cute little monsters’ lungs out.
5. A SERBIAN FILM: It’s not a movie you can say you “enjoy.” You’re not supposed to enjoy it. Like MARTYRS, it’s disturbing experience is intended. You should walk away shaken, questioning your own existence and yet mentally stronger for having survived the experience with your eyes open. So, I don’t love this film. As a matter of fact, I will never see it again. I don’t need to. Though the subject matter will haunt me forever, a message was conveyed; shock was reintroduced as an art form and emotional expression, and an audience who thought they had seen it all left weakened and disturbed. This year, we saw a lot of films really trying to push the “graphic” envelope. But whereas THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE just lightly grazed the nerve, A SERBIAN FILM stabbed it, raped it and kept on walking.
4. Questionable horror/art-house/drama/astonishing films: Though they could be seen as “not horror,” SHUTTERISLAND and BLACK SWAN are my two favorite films of 2010. Being a lurker on many horror boards, I’ve seen endless debates as to whether these movies can be lumped into the genre we love so much. And why shouldn’t we argue this? It’s fun to discuss what makes a horror film, and as adoring fans, we’re very protective of our genre and not about to let just any film in that hasn’t demonstrated it’s complete terror chops. So on one side, I see the debate and probably wouldn’t classify these as true horror. But on the other side, I don’t care. They employ heavy genre elements, they impressed the shit out of me on both a “horror” and filmic level, and the simple fact that they can be endlessly debated this way tells me the filmmakers meticulously studied the scare scene to create these works. While I personally—again, protecting our genre—will only call them “horror-ish,” they still deserve a nod just for the heavy amount of those elements they employ. There doesn’t always have to be buckets of blood oozing out of gaping wounds to make something horror.
3. HATCHET II: Gotta be honest—I really didn’t like HATCHET II one bit. Whereas the first one thrilled me, this one was a tad boring. So what I’m about to say is completely separated from the movie itself. But the actual film aside, HATCHET II deserves a few props. First, it brought attention to the problems within the MPAA rating system. Since the dawn of film, there have always been questions of how to control the potential anarchy that could occur on screen. Thus, we have a ratings system. The problem exists in the fact that many theaters will not play films that are NC-17, leading to box-office death for any who get that dreaded label. Instead of altering the film to get below NC-17, HATCHET II launched a campaign geared around its unrated status. This leads to the second reason I’m citing this film: its creators were smart enough to use their ratings plight as a savvy marketing tool. Even I proudly posted the “Support Unrated Horror” icon on my Facebook page—not because I dug HATCHET II, but because I firmly believed the message they had attached to it. The campaign united the horror community with a common ideology in 2010.
2. UGLY AMERICANS: I really feel this show doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Often compared to TALES FROM THE CRYPT or CRACKED MONSTER PARTY, this cartoon comedy is about a social worker in a fictional New York City. He works to help monsters, demons, aliens and the occasional giant two-headed worm acclimate to normal Manhattan “human” life, while dealing with a zombie sex-addict roommate and a demon girlfriend. Each episode is a bounty of horrific humor and genre parodies. It’s definitely worth the attention of fright fans, and worth a lot more genre respect than it gets.
1. THE WALKING DEAD: I knew this was gonna be good when I saw the booth at Comic-Con last year: a full living room set up with images of zombies in the windows, corpses and “Please forgive us” scrawled on the wall in blood. It was brilliant! And when 2010’s big-screen horror didn’t satisfy my need for carnage, I turned to TV. Shows like DEXTER and TRUE BLOOD kept me amused, but WALKING DEAD had me enthusiastically cheering. Based on the equally awesome comic series, this Frank Darabont/AMC creation keeps me anxiously awaiting 2011.
And now, the five worst:
5. VAMPIRES SUCK: I always wonder who goes to see these movies. Then I check out the box-office reports and discover the answer; lots of people. Then I wonder what’s wrong with me, and why I find these “Not Another”-style movies to be so damn annoying and trite. As this film shows, yes, vampires do suck, and many movies do as well.
4. MY SOUL TO TAKE: I’ll start by calling this the most pointless use of 3-D I have ever witnessed. I only experienced two emotions during the film: boredom and confusion. Sometimes there was way too much going on, but most often there was far too little. Though it was one of the worst of 2010, it did make me go back and watch some of writer/director Wes Craven’s older works. I will always love him for creating masterpieces like THE HILLS HAVE EYES, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and even THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS. However, MY SOUL TO TAKE left a bad taste I’m hoping will fade with the release of SCREAM 4.
3. More Damn Sequels: It’s beginning to feel like the 1980s all over again, except for the fact that I liked a lot of the HELLRAISER, ELM STREET and FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise entries. While [REC] 2 proved to be a stellar follow-up and a high point of my horror year, the repetitive minds behind SAW, LOST BOYS and RESIDENT EVIL just need to stop rubbing salt into already festering wounds.
2. More Damn Remakes: While a few of these caught my eye this year (see above), most just activated my gag reflex. Did we not learn anything from THE WICKER MAN, people? I was a little excited when I heard the new “re-imagining” of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET was taking the stand-up comedian Freddy back to his original terrifying roots, but after seeing this production, I’ll go back to my age-old chant of “If it ain’t broke, then don’t try to make it into another lame remake with bigger production values, a marketing budget that would feed a small nation and a script that is just a much weaker version of the original.”
1. THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE): This film is a double-edged sword for me. While I love the fact that it became a hot topic of mainstream discussion for its “shocking” subject matter, it’s still a boring movie. I enjoyed Dieter Laser as the German scientist (who mostly just reminded me of the Purple Tentacle from MANIAC MANSION), the rest of the film relies on the (insert drum roll) human centipede. The movie works like a sideshow act. They pump the main attraction of the human centipede, but try to pad out the show with a lot of fluff. While the main event is amusing, the rest is easily forgettable. I walked away feeling like I had spent an hour and a half viewing nothing more than the disturbing sideshow gag I had already seen countless times in the trailer and web footage.
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