Stalker's Top Ten 2009: Daniel Woolstencroft: Horror
Next up in the Stalker's Top Tens for 2009 is Daniel Woolstencroft, and he's decided to move off the Top Ten Films of 2009 just a little bit by looking at his Top Ten Horror Films of the year.
What I like about his list is that he's not sticking to the mainstream, there are some definitely off the beaten track choices here and with his explanations he provides a great guide for some of the best horror films of last year, and perhaps the horror films you might have missed too. Get your rental queues loaded.
I think this is going to be the last time I make a call for more submissions as there are only about three left to do, so if you're interested, get them submitted now, otherwise you'll be too late.
To do it, just create a list, add at least a sentence explanation about each entry, how you'd like to be known on the published article along with a site link, and email it to me at email@example.com, simple as anything.
Now, Daniel and his horror top ten. Oh, and for more on Daniel and his writing, have a look at his own site called istherefood.
In last year's top 10 horror films post for Filmstalker, I said I thought it'd been a pretty good year for horror. My top three were all foreign: I included Spanish zombie chiller [REC], Swedish vampire classic Let The Right One In and disturbing French nasty Martyrs in my top three. The latter two of these were made widely available in the UK in 2009, but since I included them last year, it'd be a bit of cheat if I included them again. And, given their 2009 release status, it would be a bit unfair to conclude that 2009 hasn't been quite as good a year for my beloved genre, but I'm going to anyway. I just don't think we've had anything as good as those three stand-outs this year. But we've had some fun.
So, without further ado or flannel from me, let's get into the list shall we?
10. Trick r Treat
Having languished on a shelf for what seemed like an eternity, Michael Dougherty's fun anthology horror finally got a release in 2009. Reminiscent of all-time anthology great Creepshow (complete with nifty mascot in the form of the pumpkin-headed Jack) there's much entertainment to be had here. There's a great cast, and a nice circular plot weaved through the various stories, and things are never dull. I felt the hype had perhaps been built up a little much by genre fans, but this is still well worth a watch.
9. Drag Me To Hell
Back in May, Sam Raimi returned to the genre that made him with a film that's unmistakably a Sam Raimi picture. There's slapstick, humour, trademark weirdo camera angles, and some genuine spooky jump moments in a hugely enjoyable demonic horror.
8. Paranormal Activity (Filmstalker review)
Probably the most talked about horror of the year is Oren Peli's pretend docu-horror. Made for virtually no money, spruced up by Steven Spielberg, and unleashed upon the unsuspecting world, this is an effective slow-burning chiller that has some very, very creepy moments. A money-shot filled trailer may spoil some of the fun if you've seen it, but the characterisation, performances, creepiness and structure secure this a place in my top 10.
7. Jennifer's Body
This much-hyped offering featuring the formidable girl-power trinity of Megan Fox, Diablo Cody, and Karyn Kusama (not to mention Amanda Seyfried) was way more fun than I expected it to be. Cody's script will almost certainly drive some people to self-harm, and Megan Fox seems to have a kind of Marmite affect on people, but there's much to like here. It's not hardcore horror, and the UK posters actually make it out to be some sort of chick-flick date movie (which I suppose, in a way, isn't far wrong), but there's plenty of zing and action to keep you interested. And Amanda Seyfried is superb.
6. The Hills Run Red
Probably my biggest surprise of the year. I wasn't expecting a great
deal from this, despite being a fan of director Dave Parker's low budget zombie flick The Dead Hate The Living. What's on offer here is a clever take on the classic serial killer feature, with a really neat plot, cool looking killer, and brilliant commentary on horror flicks in general. Sophie Monk turns in a brilliant multi-dimensional performance, and it's only really central character Tad Hilgenbrink that lets the side down a little. Well worth checking out.
And here's another one that people have been talking about this year. Micro-budget zombie horror Colin. Apparently made for £45 on a camera designed for home videos, Colin is a first person zombie horror quite unlike any other. It's poignant, atmospheric and with a great central performance by Alastair Kirton. The story is well told, and this is an absolute testament to the incredible result you can achieve with talent and determination.
4. Zombieland (Filmstalker review)
Everyone's seen Zombieland, right? I'd argue that this doesn't really have any place in a horror list (in much the same way as I'd argue District 9 SHOULD be in a horror list) because, well, there's a distinct lack of horror! It's too cute, cuddly, and funny to be found particularly horrific. Unless you've a fear of clowns. Loose UK equivalent Shaun of the Dead actually managed to pull of some scares, but Zombieland is pure entertainment against a backdrop of zombie apocalypse. Woody Harrelson is great, Jesse Eisenberg is an endearing hero, and Emma Stone is a likeable love interest. The direction is solid, the writing has some great moments, and the whole thing feels slick and stylish. There's also a classic cameo. It's just not very scary. If your significant other isn't into horror and you are, this is probably the best date movie in the world.
3. La Horde
Zombieland's characters wouldn't last two minutes against the ultra-violent French zombies of La Horde. Think Aliens with zombies instead of xenomorphs and bad-ass gangsters instead of space marines. Or Tarantino meets Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake. There's lots of guns, lots of testosterone (even from the female lead), lots of blood, gore, violence, guns, running, swearing, punch-ups, and lunacy. It's one big pot of zombie awesomeness and it bubbles on high heat for 90 minutes. Don't expect any beard stroking "they are us" end of the world pontification, because you won't get it. This is just nasty, violent, zombie fun.
This is probably the least politically correct of my top 10, and the only film to really cross a line this year (much like Martyrs did last year). Two horny teenage boys find a woman chained to a table in an abandoned medical facility. For some reason, said woman doesn't appear to be able to die, and so the boys do what comes naturally to them: they start using her as an undead sex toy. As you'd expect, things don't end well, and the journey is a difficult one to watch at times. It's kind of Stand By Me with a zombie and a big helping of grubbiness. If you can get past the nasty subject matter, it's really highly recommended; horror should make you feel uncomfortable and push boundaries.
1. Pontypool (Filmstalker review)
Director Bruce McDonald's unconventional zombie movie is my horror pick of 2009. It's a great example of performance, script, and direction all coming together perfectly and resulting in something mesmerizing. Stephen McHattie is utterly spellbinding as small town DJ Grant Mazzy, and the only other significant cast members Lisa Houle and Georgina Reilly are similarly strong. As the horror unfolds, you're never shown anything beyond the reactions of the three central characters, and true to the old "it's what you don't see that's terrifying" adage things are more effective as a result. There are a few baffling moments (stick around until after the credits) and the cause of the outbreak will either strike you as genius or lunacy, but this is thought provoking, effective horror at its best.
So, that wraps up my list for this year. What are your thoughts? Did I miss anything you've particularly enjoyed? Have I rated something that you'd totally disagree with?
2010 could be an interesting year for horror, with [REC] 2, the US remake of Let The Right One In [Let Me In - Richard], Daybreakers, Tony, Solomon Kane, The Wolfman, The Crazies, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and more all coming our way. I wonder how many of those will make their way onto next year's list?
Great list, thanks Daniel. What you've done is highlighted just how few horror films I've seen this year in comparison to last year, something I'm really disappointed with myself about. Consider your top ten (minus the Filmstalker reviewed films) being added to my rental queue right now. Superb to see Pontypool making your number one slot.
What did you think of his list though? Do you agree with some of the choices? They aren't the expected mainstream ones, and I like that.