I have this theory, that horror movies are a lot like wine. It takes a few years to really appreciate that while some of them transcend into something worth experiencing, a lot more diffuse into so much piss and vinegar. Horror is somewhat of a refracted lens of the world we live in, a sign of the times, so to speak. And much like it’s hard to define today’s style today, you can point out something from, let’s say the 70’s, or the early 80’s, or the late nineties and really identify it by its theme, as much as any character’s wardrobe.
I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and reviews that make the statement that 2011 was a bad year for horror movies, and I don’t necessarilly know if that’s fair. I know a lot of stuff has been hit or miss, but that’s every year. And while I could spend a page and a half ranting about what didn’t work this year (A certain extra-terrestial prequel set in the Antarct- Nope, not going to get sucked in, not now…), I’d rather focus on the stuff that I loved, and there really were quite a few gems in 2011. Here is my list of the Top 10 Horror Films of 2011
10 – The Ward Normally, if you were to suggest watching a movie about a bunch of women locked in a mental institute together, I’d probably beg off to go do something else, like get my teeth cleaned or go to a supermarket and watch the produce get rinsed off. However, because it was directed by John Carpenter, I was willing to give it a shot, and wasn’t disappointed. Kind of a slow start, along with some characters straight out of central casting (Wait… A dickhead orderly aaand a bitchy nurse?!), put this one at the bottom of the list, but still, it was definitely worth watching.
9 – Final Destination 5 I’ll stop supporting this franchise as soon as it stops being so much goddamn fun.
8 – The Woman I have mixed feelings about Jack Ketchum, and Lucky McKee. JK’s books, without fail, are the most visceral and disturbing stories I’m willing to read. Each one is its own endurance test, and every time he comes out with a new one I say to myself, I’ll read the first 10 pages, and then put it down if I’m not sucked in. And then I get sucked in. Every time. His collaborations with Lucky McKee are much the same way. I don’t care for hardcore horror in most cases, but when it’s done well I’ll watch it, sometimes more than once. This is one of the good ones. Just make sure that you don’t accidentally rent The Women. Trust me on that.
7 – Troll Hunter Tired of glittering vampires and man-scaped werewolves? I know I am. That’s why it’s great to see a movie about building sized, earth-shaking, foul smelling, thirsty for Christian blood Trolls wreaking havoc across the Scandanavian landscape. Even though the script follows the standard FF formula rote by rote, it feels fresh given the subject matter.
6 – Stakeland When I was about 6 years old I watched Tobe Hooper’s made for TV version of Salem’s Lot on Showtime. It fucked my whole world up. For years afterward I used to take this stuffed-animal snake and wrap it around my neck like a stole when I slept. I’m surprised I didn’t strangle myself in my sleep. Jim Mickle, you managed to make vampires frightening again, and for that you have my undying gratitude.
5 -The Dead I think that zombie movies are a lot like competetive diving (wait, hear me out). There are so many points for originality and technical proficiency, and then there’s a whole other scoring system for virtuosity, which is another way of saying “an evident mastery of the basics”. Now, when you look at the very best zombie movies, there is a simplicity to them that almost makes it seem like anyone could make one of these movies. Then, consider how few zombie movies are actually any good. Hell, George Romero has launched his fair share of turkeys and he basically invented the fucking genre. I don’t know exactly what it is that makes some zom-films succeed and some fail, but I count The Dead among the successes.
4 – Tucker & Dale vs Evil Every once in a while, a movie comes along that is simply so much fun that by the time the credits roll, my face hurts from smiling so much. There was so much that this movie did right that I don’t think a minute of it went by that wasn’t an absolute blast to watch.
3 – Fright Night As it seems to happen every year, in 2011 a few iconic horror movies were hauled out and dusted off for an attempted retread. Most of them were utter, gut-wrenching failures, and I really wanted to despise a remake of Fright Night. After all, the original was so great, and so quirky, and so many people didn’t even realize that there was an original goddamn version to measure this one against (headshake). But, it didn’t suck. Instead, it managed a new and adrenalized take on the story that honored the original film without feeling like a rip-off.
2 – Attack the Block I don’t even know where to begin with this one. There was just so much about it to like, from the early John Carpenter-esque action sequences, to the aliens’ low-tech but completely original look. And Nick Frost was as terrific as usual.
Which brings us to the number one spot. Honestly, each and every one of the top 5 were so good that they are almost interchangeable, but here is my pick…
1 – Red State Again, I believe that great horror movies have an tendency to act as a lens, with which we can view the actual feelings in a given era. It’s hard to say whether or not Red State is going to stand up along side films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Night of the Living Dead, or The Exorcist, but what Kevin Smith manages to do is create something that manages to express some pretty complex ideas into about 90 minutes or so. It’s intense and scary and funny and sad, thought -provoking while never coming off as heavy-handed. Plus (SPOILER ALERT), I’ve always wanted to see Kevin Pollack get his face blown off.
So there you have it. All in all, I thought 2011 was a pretty damn good year for horror, and 2012 looks to be even better. Happy New Year’s!