2009 was a pretty decent year for the horror genre, offering up a nice diverse batch of movies featuring dead babies, evil children, graverobbers, zombie hunters, gypsy witches and devil worshippers. (Oh my!)
It’s always tough putting any kind of list in numerical order, so I usually rank these end of the year lists by how entertaining a movie was to me personally and how many times I’ve sat down to revisit the movie over the course of the year. Please note, (and I’m stating the obvious here) this is merely my own opinion.
There’s still a handful of genre offerings I have yet to check out that I really, really want to (Martyrs, Carriers, Surveillance, Pontypool, The Haunting In Connecticut), but I welcome recommendations in the comments below for some stuff I might have missed this year.
Otherwise, here’s my favorites of 2009!
I only now got the chance to check out this movie and set the expectation bar fairly low. I was pleasantly surprised by how freakin’ bizarre and weird this movie was! A lot darker than the trailers led on, Jennifer’s Body has that Heathers-esque quality to it. It reminds me of something that would’ve gotten frequent play on HBO back in the late 80’s and that I would’ve watched a bunch and loved. A devil worshipping band sacrifices a non-virgin girl for fame and glory and inadvertently turn her into a boy eating succubus. Great performances by leads Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox (yes, believe it or not, she’s pretty good in this), as well as a creepy turn by Adam Brody as the band leader. The flick also gets bonus points for Amy Sedaris and J.K. Simmons making appearances. It’ll take a little while, but this quirky dark horror/comedy will eventually go on to be a quotable cult favorite.
I’m a sucker for the zombie genre, especially when it’s done extremely well like in Zombieland, so this was a welcome addition to that particular sub-genre of horror films courtesy of director Ruben Fleischer. Plus, Woody Harrelson can do no wrong. I’ll watch anything with that guy in it. Having him be a bad-ass zombie hunter? Why hadn’t anyone thought of that sooner? (13!) Easily one of the coolest openings from a genre flick this year, coupled with some really cool zombie sequences and a cameo that makes the movie worth watching for that alone. (Although it is worth it for the whole thing.) Now, do we need a 3D sequel? Once I revisit this a few more times on DVD, I imagine I’ll probably welcome further adventures from Columbus and Tallahassee.
Well, if you were thinking about having kids, this movie will most likely deter you not to now. Tom Shankland’s shocking little flick about a handful of children catching “the crazies” took me completely off guard. After sitting through 20 minutes of loud, crying tots (which pushed my patience and nerves to the limit), the filmmaker gracefully shifts gears and has these terrible little tykes doing some awfully nasty things to the adults. It’s all done by a filmmaker with a true vision though, so never does this touchy subject fall into exploitive territory. Instead, it delivers one of the most tense-ridden (and beautiful looking) films I’ve seen this year. Highly recommended if you want something different.
Writer-director Glenn McQuaid’s I Sell The Dead was among one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen this year. The movie’s about a pair of gravediggers, one of which is about to be executed (Arthur Blake played by Dominic Monaghan) and confesses all about his extracurricular evening activities to Father Duffy (Ron Perlman). Delicious black comedy ensues. I love Larry Fessenden as a filmmaker, but he’s equally as great as an actor too playing the vile other gravedigger Willie Grimes. It’s also great to see a welcome cameo from Phantasm‘s Angus Scrimm, a regular stable to the Glass Eye Pix family. Although not an anthology film, it’s got a great horror comic book feel to it. A wonderful gem that deserves to be discovered, so seek this one out.
With the sting of Saw V still fresh in my mind, Saw VI surprisingly turned out to be my favorite of the sequels and I think a lot of people will agree with me when they discover this one on DVD/Blu-Ray. The problem with the last few entries? This series has become episodic, much like a television show, leaving way too many loose ends. I think by not having satisfying enough conclusions for the last two entries, it really hurt the franchise. Parts IV and V really can’t stand on their own as individual movies because they rely too heavily on your knowledge of the previous and future films. With that said, Saw VI brought it back to the basics with one antagonist (nicely played by Peter Outerbridge) making decisions that drastically affected lives, tackled a timely issue like heath care and tied up all the loose ends we’ve been hanging on to for years. Not to mention, it had some of the best, most cringe-worthy traps of the series and (in my opinion) the best ending of the sequels. They really could have let the series end here, but now I’m curious as to how Saw VII will continue with all the story points now neatly wrapped up.
There’s only really been a small select handful of memorable movie maniacs over the course of the last decade, so if you’re able to create one that immediately looks iconic, then that’s half the battle. And if anything, you can’t argue that Babyface is visually one of the coolest looking on-screen killers we’ve seen in the “slasher” genre in years. Couple that with a smart unpredictable story that plays up to genre conventions (they do bring working cell phones and a gun!), a beautiful looking, colorful film as envisioned by director Dave Parker (proudly wearing his influences on his sleeve) and as Rotten stated earlier in his write-up, the best “oh sh*t” moment I’ve had all year, The Hills Run Red was one of my personal favorites and the best of Dark Castle’s slate of movies.
I may be biased with this one, because I’ve been following it since before the original short film was made, but even knowing as much as I did, I was still surprised when I saw the final film. Writer-director Paul Solet managed to create a strong debut that made me uncomfortable while watching, as well as conflicted, after the fact because I felt very ambivalent towards all of the characters. Any film that makes me want to talk about it at great length afterword obviously did its job. Jordan Ladd also had the difficult task of carrying this entire movie and did a phenomenal job as Madeline, the mother that would literally do anything to protect her daughter Grace, a universal theme that seems to resonant particularly with new parents that watch this film. It’s rare a genre movie bases things in reality and then sticks with it, so that’s why this one stands out for me. Evoking the early work of David Cronenberg, it’ll be interesting to see what direction Solet takes his future films.
The term “less is more” has never been executed as efficiently as it is in Ti West’s The House Of The Devil. While some refer to this as a “slow burn” movie, I was drawn into the information and meticulous detail that filled every single frame of the movie. Add to that newcomer Jocelin Donahue’s performance (which reminded me of a Susperia-era Jessica Harper) and the subtleties of Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov’s work, Devil is my favorite acted film of the year. Let’s not forget AJ Bowen’s show-stealing turn as deranged Satanic son Victor Ulman whose appearance mid-movie garners the film’s most quoted line of dialogue. Always feeling like a lost gem plucked from obscurity during the early ’80s, it’s the type of film where you’re rewarded on repeat viewings.
I recently re-visited this on Blu-Ray prior to writing this list and I loved it just as much as when I saw it in theaters. (Which by the way, was the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year.) Evil Dead 2 is my all-time favorite horror movie, so I can not fathom if you’re a fan of that film not loving Sam Raimi’s return to the horror genre. Yes, it’s got a lot of over-the-top funny moments to it, but Raimi’s Evil Dead pictures have always had his manic sense of humor all over them. And as much as I love Bruce Campbell, I feel for Alison Lohman for having to endure all of the nasty fluids that were flung at her (primarily down her throat) for this movie. This is also the best Justin Long has been in something I’ve seen. (Watch him during those last few moments!) Sadly, because you guys didn’t go support this one, it’s probably the closest we’ll ever get to an Evil Dead 4. Alas, you can revisit it on home video and help make it the cult classic it will inevitably be. Here’s hoping Sam forgives us and eventually makes another movie like this one not too far into the future.
What can I say about Michael Dougherty’s love letter to Halloween that hasn’t already been said? Well, nothing really! Other than that I absolutely love everything about this movie, which immediately reverts me back to a 12-year-old trick âr treater every time I watch it. This movie will frequent my Blu-Ray player every October from here on out.
Notable mention: Dexter Season Four
I’ve been a big fan of Showtime’s Dexter since the first season. The concept of a serial killer that kills other killers, paired with some of the best writing and acting on a cable series has made this my favorite show. Season two was a high point for the series, literally raising the threat level of Dexter’s capture to an all time high with every single episode. And while I enjoyed the third season and welcomed the addition of Jimmy Smits, it was arguably the weakest season in terms of suspense and tension. (Let’s face it, season two was going to be tough to follow no matter what they did.)
However, this year they did just that. They tapped John Lithgow to play the Trinity killer, added Dexter’s marriage and newborn child as yet another obstacle from letting his Dark Passenger out and produced one of the best seasons of the show yet. Not to mention that shocker of a season finale, which myself and other Dexter fans are still reeling over, this series deserves notable mention as one of the best genre-related things to happen this year. I’ll be eagerly anticipating that opening episode of season five.
Notable movie mentions: Rec (for finally coming out in the US); Orphan (for being far better then I expected and for an amazing performance from newcomer Isabelle Fuhrman); The Burrowers (because I love JT Petty’s work); My Bloody Valentine 3D (for bringing Tom Atkins back to the big screen and for providing a reason to put out an uncut director’s cut DVD of the original); and The Final Destination (which was far from a good movie, but entertaining as all hell in 3D).
Here’s to 2010!
Source: Rob G.