Stalker's Top Ten 2008: Daniel Woolstencroft: Horror
With just a few more 2008 Stalker's lists to go, we've got another one from Daniel Woolstencroft from istherefood who is looking at one of my favourite genres, horror.
Horror is a wide genre and while it can deliver some of the best examples of cinema that actually affects the audience, but it can also deliver some of the dullest and formulaic cinema you'll ever see.
So let's see what Daniel has chosen for his best horror in 2008, and see if you agree.
2008 was a pretty good year for horror. We've had vampires, zombies, strange new organisms, psychotic butchers, hoodies, killer plants, and more. I try to write about the films I've seen over at my blog istherefood, but there isn't always time! As I've not yet managed to review some of the films on this list, I thought I'd publish it here. So, with Richard's permission, for Filmstalker readers to enjoy, here's my pick of the top ten best horror films of last year:
10. The Midnight Meat Train
Why the studio treated this as unfairly as they did I'll never know. It's a fantastic looking film, with a wonderful soundtrack, and some great performances. It's got plenty of tension, gore (although some of it is a little too obviously CGI for my tastes), and has a nice pay-off at the end. Vinnie Jones makes an excellent psycho, but then we knew that.
9. Eden Lake
Hoodie horror par excellence. There's nothing here that you couldn't imagine reading about in the papers, sadly. There's a very nasty performance from lead teenage hoodie Jack O'Connell, and the two lead adults Michael Fassbender, and particularly the very photogenic Kelly Reilly, are equally convincing. There's a gruesome note running through the whole film, but the barbed wire torture sequence cements Eden Lake's place in my 2008 horror top 10.
While this quaint little monster movie doesn't quite manage to eek its potential out for its whole duration, it does feature a brilliantly inventive monster. Oh, and the most grit-your-teeth nasty amputation sequence since Day of the Dead's arm chop. For the most part it's brilliantly tense, and played just right by all involved, but drifts off a little towards the end. I'd love to see a sequel on a larger scale with more of a budget.
7. Stuck (Filmstalker review)
Stuart Gordon gets better with every film. Stuck tells the true life tale of an unfortunate homeless man who ends up embedded in a young nurse's car windscreen. There are magnificent performances from all involved, and some pitch black humour. Not really horror in the conventional sense, but there are certainly some horrific moments.
6. The Ruins (Filmstalker review)
This came out of nowhere and proved to be one of the best mainstream horror releases of the year. There's some suitably nasty sequences, a very tense, brutal atmosphere and solid performances all round. I thought killer plants would be goofy before seeing this, but I was dead wrong.
This is the perfect example of a masterful piece of filmmaking. It's even more impressive when you consider that this is director Mark Tonderai's debut; he's a bright talent and, I hope, destined for big things. You know a film has you when you can't help but be reminded of sequences as you go about your daily life. Every time I drive on the motorway I'm reminded of this film. Again, not strictly horror, this is far more of a thriller with horrific elements. It's tense, remarkably intelligent, and brilliantly shot. I urge everyone to see it when it gets a theatrical release.
4. The Children
Tom Shankland's return is a million miles away from Waz. This children-as-psychos movie manages to make kids very, very creepy and has some hand-on-mouth-horrific moments. Imagine the original Night of the Living Dead with small children instead of zombies and you'll have something of an idea. This has been added to my anti-christmas movies list. If you have or work with small children, you'll never look at them the same way again after seeing this!
Terrifying cinema verite almost-zombie horror from Jaume Balagueró. Deserves to be in the list thanks to the most heart-poundingly spooky ending in recent years, but even leading up to that it's a brilliant exercise in mounting tension. The female lead manages the transition from bubbly reality TV host to terrified victim with skill, and the shocks are well measured and effective. Don't bother with the American remake Quarantine, go for the original instead.
2. Let The Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in)
One of the most beautiful films of any kind I've seen all year, let alone horror. Moving, scary, and fantastically well shot, this adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel by the author himself is a rare treat of a movie. It's not a conventional vampire tale, although there's plenty of that particular brand of horror to satisfy fans, but something far more sophisticated. Lindqvist doesn't like vampire stories, and so set out to write more of an autobiographical tale of his bullied youth, with one key element that didn't actually happen. It'll make you jump, make you cry, and make you want to see it again almost immediately. As always, there's a remake in the works, but I can't see how it can be anywhere near as astonishing as the original.
This is what horror is all about: brutal, uncomfortable, challenging, terrifying, and totally uncompromising. Martyrs is not for everyone - there's a level of brutality on display here that will upset, offend, and downright destroy some viewers. At the risk of sounding sensationalist, during the screening I attended, a couple of people had to leave the cinema to throw up. I've heard people dismiss Martyrs as just another torture porn flick, but such a dismissive attitude does Pascal Laugier's film a great disservice. Laugier has created a film that's in equal parts scary, upsetting, and moving. It's the most thought provoking horror I've seen in years, and still haunts me months after seeing it. If you've a strong stomach and are willing to approach something this beautifully grotesque with an open mind, I urge you to see Martyrs when you can. Just don't say I didn't warn you.
So, that covers 2008, but what delights do we have to look forward to in 2009. Let's take a quick look
Romero's Next Zombie Pic - it might be Island of the Dead, it might be something else, but we know for sure that Romero is currently filming his next zombie movie, and it'll probably be out this year. Hopefully better than Diary of the Dead, but Romero is always worth watching.
Grace - Paul Solet directs a feature length version of his own short film. Featuring a zombie baby that must be fed blood to survive, Grace looks more than a little unsettling.
The Wolf Man - Mainstream updating of the Lon Chaney Universal classic, starring Benicio Del Toro. The recently leaked trailer hosted on these very pages looked fascinating, gory, and pleasingly faithful to the spirit of the original. Sadly delayed until alter in the year, I'm still interested in this one.
Dead Snow (Død snø) - Zombie nazis on ice. 'Nuff said really.
Doghouse - Jake West returns! Featuring mutant all female mutant zombie type creatures, Emily Booth, Danny Dyer, and almost certainly bucket loads of gore, this should be entertaining for those who like West's particularly gloopy brand of horror.
Devil's Playground - Apocalyptic zombie goodness with Vinnie Jones, Danny Dyer and more. In theory it sounds great, but it could turn out to be a total stinker.
Jennifer's Body - Diablo Cody's next script after the brilliant Juno is a horror film starring Megan Fox as a flesh eating demon cheerleader. What's not to love?
Friday the 13th - Marcus Nispel does for the Friday the 13th franchise what he did for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Which, in my eyes, isn't a good thing, but no genre fan can chose to ignore this when it's released.
Lesbian Vampire Killers - Lesbian! Vampire! Killers! Gloriously hammy Brit horror that hopefully won't disappoint.
The Descent: Part 2 - More of the same, only more intense! This could all go horribly wrong, but I refuse to write it off until I've seen it.
[Rec] 2 - I have high hopes for this one. The team behind the Spanish original return to scare the pants off you again!
H2: Halloween 2 - It was recently announced that Rob Zombie would be returning to continue to urinate on the grave of the franchise he recently defiled, but given that he's suggested H2 will be The Devil's Rejects (ie good) to his first film's House of 1000 Corpses (i.e. crap) I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
And there we are, a few bloody treats to be looking forward to in this new year I like to call 2009. Stay scared!
Daniel, you've done us proud. That's a great list of horror films there from last year and I really wish I had the time to concentrate on one genre like that. I'm really glad that you got The Midnight Meat Train in there too.
Upcoming films, I have to say I am not looking forward to The Descent: Part 2, or almost identical remake. I do hope that they've got the marketing way wrong and that there's something new here, but so far all we're getting is exactly the same.
I also think that ...of the Dead is not going to be good apart from those who like to see a film about stumbling zombies who chew people up and get shot by poor actors, yes it's the same thing again from Romero for me. I'm up for Lesbian Vampire Killers though!
If you want to look at the other great lists that have been sent in, then just head to the Stalker's Top Ten section.