Ryan’s Top 5 Horror Movies of 2010

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A look at his favorites and the worst

I don’t look back on 2010, the year of mediocrity, fondly. In fact, I’ve been forced to cut my yearly “top” list from 10 to only five selections because, honestly, it was a struggle to find 10 films I could say determinedly, “Those were the best.”

So, I narrowed the selection and, as usual, populated the “top” crop with films – or shows, I’m making a special case this year – that were my favorites that I’d revisit again over time. (Black Swan didn’t make the cut as I haven’t seen it yet.) The “worst,” well, that speaks for itself. And it is a list that could have been much, much larger.

What’s most disappointing about 2010 is the ambition I saw going into the year. Daybreakers was an achievement at creating a world you were fascinated in, but the story fell apart halfway through. The UK import Tony presented a disturbing, sometimes amusing, portrait of a disturbed soul, but it felt too similar to Henry. I did enjoy Triangle, The Wolfman, Frozen and Shutter Island, yet there was something about that quartet that kept them out of the “top.” (Although The Human Centipede officially hit theaters this year, I look at it as a ’09 entry and I do dig that film. It’s completely bonkers.)

Once the spring season had passed, 2010 took a swift decline. But again, this is all subjective. And before we boogey with the lists below, I want to recognize that, yes, even though I vocalize my growing fatigue for all things “zombie” in a current episode of Shock’s Choice Cuts (hitting this site soon), two zombie efforts make the “top” and my reasons are sound.

THE TOP 5 OF 2010 (in alphabetical order)

Best Worst Movie

Horror has a new icon in George Hardy, the dentist-cum-actor seen in 1990’s disaster Troll 2 and the protein shake-drinking, charming fella at the center of this documentary directed by another Troll 2 vet Michael Stephenson. The film sets out to be a chronicle of a really bad movie’s cult acceptance, but it finds its true voice in the journey of Hardy, whose big grin and small town aw-shucks demeanor wins you over instantly. Unpredictably, BWM runs the gamut of emotions, playing mostly on laughs. Yet it’s not afraid to make you feel slightly weirded out or embarrassed for those interviewed. The whole thing plays out like a Christopher Guest mockumentary, but the story and the people, in this case, are very real.

Dead Set

The two-year-old British series officially landed on U.S. shores this year, thanks to IFC. At first, the premise made me groan: Zombies wreak havoc on the set of Big Brother during the night of an eviction. But this five-part story goes for the balls and pulls no punches. The zombies attack with a ferocity on par with the infected seen in 28 Days Later and the survivors are an amusing lot (one greasy loaner is nicknamed “Gollum” by his house mates). It goes for the funny bone as well, brilliantly trapping the show’s director, for a spell, with one of the annoying former Big Brother evictees. On the surface, Dead Set is unrelenting, grotesque zombie fun. Go a bit deeper, and it’s a clever commentary on reality show viewers that would make Romero proud.

Monsters

Yes, the monsters here – giant Cthulhu-like beasts that stomp around Mexico – take the backseat to a road trip/love story yet Gareth Edwards’ feature debut is confident and entertaining. The threat to the film’s leads is omnipresent, the locale and photography is refreshing and while some critics panned the “octopus monsters” – I thought they worked. It’s the type of lovey-dovey drama I like, one with an apocalyptic feel and mammoth creatures that will mess you up good.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

To prevent a certain punishment from who he believes is Santa Claus, the “hero” of this film, a young boy, carries a rifle and “armors” himself with whatever he can find. It’s just a minor detail in this awesome Finnish import, but it’s one of the many ways Rare Exports humanizes its characters during its lean 80-minute run time. Okay, so it’s not 100% horror. There are some spilled guts and kidnapped children, however. Creepy old men and a monstrous menace abound, too. It’s a genre mash-up in the best way possible with a little adventure thrown into the mix. Very “Amblin,” but removed from the quaint suburbs of America to the frigid environs of Norway.

The Walking Dead

The Frank Darabont-directed debut episode alone makes the cut, pushing all of the right dramatic buttons while delivering on the zombie mayhem we’re looking for. I have to give credit to the subsequent episodes, even if they were hit or miss. Some characters worked. Others didn’t. I’m not too keen on the fact that the story propelled the show’s survivors to the CDC for a tutorial on the origins of the undead, nevertheless, the series made for good must-tune-in television and it’s exploring avenues George Romero doesn’t even explore in his ongoing Dead series. It filled in a hole in my zombie-loving heart that I wasn’t getting anywhere else.

THE WORST OF 2010 (in alphabetical order)

30 Days of Night: Dark Days

What a goddamn drag. I’m actually a fan of David Slade’s film, a vicious slice of vampire-driven entertainment that floats a unique premise. It looked great and was nasty to boot. This Ghost House-produced direct-to-DVD sequel just features your typical run-of-the-mill vampire hunting story that we’ve seen countless times before (from Buffy to Blade to Vampires). There’s nothing new to set it apart from the pack. A survivor of the first becomes a hardened Ripley-esque bad-ass. She teams up with other hardened bad-asses and everyone sleepwalks through the film. For something low budget, director Ben Ketai at least makes it look slick.

Legion

Somewhere along the script re-writing stage for this one, someone thought it was a good idea to pen a series of epic speeches first, then write a story with some action sequences around them. I’ve never seen an action-horror hybrid so clunky and anchored by exposition. There’s an idea for a movie in here somewhere, but its desire to be the next Terminator shoots everything down.

The Lost Tribe

Sometimes picking on a direct-to-DVD film is like picking on the mentally challenged and I wondered if it was even worth it to throw this film – which has been tinkered with to death – into the mix. Screw it. Equal parts Predator and The Descent (and a few other films I’m forgetting now), The Lost Tribe follows a group of shipwrecked douche bags who are set upon by creatures that appear to be the offspring of the Morlocks from the Time Machine remake and Orcs who were not quite cool enough to be in The Lord of the Rings. Idiocy reigns supreme.

My Soul to Take

Wes Craven’s long-delayed thriller is one of the most baffling things I’ve ever witnessed. The convoluted plot is compounded by the studio’s inane decision to convert the film to 3D, giving Soul a surreal aspect that is perhaps just as frightening as an abstract dream haunted by Freddy Krueger. The core of the narrative is ambitious – a serial killer’s multiple personalities are allotted to several children who are born the night of his death. This is utterly destroyed by the lack of focus and awful, unrealistic characters doing unrealistic things. Possibly Craven’s worst film.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

A lifeless and dull re-imagining that doesn’t explore its full potential. Replay value is super low, as I recently discovered when I tried to watch it on Blu-Ray. Removed from the original series, it’s still an unexceptional film where the actors drone on and 35 minutes is granted to the Tina character who is killed off and more interesting than the heroine we’re stuck with. For a film that propels viewers into various dreamscapes, the main set pieces are uninspiring. Freddy deserved a better reboot than this.

Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor