Deadhorse's Top 10 Horrors of 2009

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Here we are at the end of another year, my fellow horror-whores, and it’s time for me to pick my ten favorites of the year.  Despite the slow simmer, ’09 eventually proved to be a rather interesting year.  I’ll touch on all the remakes and get those out of the way as quickly as possible.  My Bloody Valentine got things off to a fun and hopeful start, but it lacked dimension when I wasn’t wearing my goggles; the inane F13 remake could only offer nipple placement as its only element of perfection; Sorority Row came off as artificial as its subjects; A Tale Of Two Sisters remake had me leaving the theater wishing I been the one left uninvited; I couldn’t mind The Stepfather despite Dylan Walsh’s earnest attempts; while Rob Zombie juggled far too many masks for my taste in his second re-imagining of the Halloween mythos. 

The Last House On The Left proved a welcome exception, although I didn’t exactly “warm-up” to the film’s final gratuitous money shot.  (I mean, really?)  Ultimately, the horror purist in me was not impressed and consequently none of these films made the grade.  The true highlights of the year were admittedly few, but I at least enjoyed the majority of what I was given to work with. I even found myself occasionally impressed here and there.  So, without further ado, I bring you my Top Ten Horror Films of 2009.

10. Zombieland.  Woody and company stormed out of the gates to the tune of Metallica and ushered in this braindead barnstormer that was just too fun to ignore.  The enjoyable cast and clever execution (not to mention a cameo par excellence) helped make this the most fun in the theater I had this year this side of Hell, but we’ll get to that one later.  The Nazi-zombies of Dead Snow also put up an inspired fight for my revenent romp of the year, but in the end I had to double-tap the Norwegians.

9. The Children.  I wonder if I’m getting soft in my old age.  It’s not often that creepy kid movies can get under my skin.  In fact I often find the majority of them laughable.  However, something about The Children held a certain amount of menace for me.  A technically skillful and well directed production that I could actually find few faults in. It had me in honest suspense, something of a rarity when I’m on the playground.  At the very least it reinforces the importance of practicing safe sex, too, so there’s that.

8. Pontypool.  The second apocalyptic scenario to make the list effectively mined the Welles of Orson, if you will, to make an engaging bit of sensational nonsense.  Longtime character actor Stephen McHattie’s performance is paramount in helping Pontypool to resonate with its listeners, or make that viewers.  It’s deliberately paced and has a slow simmer, but the strange nature of the event and the dilemmas it presented kept me fascinated throughout.  The real sleeper hit of the year if I had to call it.

7. The Haunting In Connecticut.  I’ve always been a sucker for a well told ghost story and The Haunting In Connecticut proved to be just that.  No more, no less.  Yes, the film felt a little too formulaic and clichéd at times, however this was offset by sumptuous production values, a fantastic score, interesting characters and even a few genuine thrills. Another case of style winning over substance. I’ll take small victories where I can get them, thank you.

6. End Of The Line.  Maurice Deveraux has proved he can both work a budget and make clever, inventive films. His previous effort, Slashers, came off as awkward fun but little else.  With End Of The Line he crafts an intense, well acted film full of foreboding atmosphere and several very shocking set-pieces.  A religious cult receives a cell phone message (what would Jesus text?) and begins randomly killing people in the subway forcing a small band of travelers to fight for survival.  Far more intelligent than it had any right to be.

5. Paranormal Activity.  Paranormal Activity didn’t see the light of multiple projection screens for nearly two years after it had been made.  What a shame.  The simple premise focuses on a couple who set up their camera in their bedroom to try and capture strange things going bump in the night.  And capture, they do.  Just when I thought the “found footage” novelty had surely run its course, this $15,000 dollar wonder comes along and chills the living shit out of me.  Its eventual returns at the box office seemed to prove I wasn’t the only one who found this spirited offering highly effective.

4. Trick ‘r Treat.  This anthology also suffered in limbo outside of the festival circuit before finally seeing a straight-to-DVD release.  Lucky for us genre enthusiasts it proved to be all treat and no trick.  This inspired celebration of all things Halloween was a feast for the eyes and pure nasty fun from beginning to end.  Sure to become a seasonal staple in the genre.  How something as unique and imaginative as this gets swept under the red carpet is beyond me.

3. Drag Me To Hell.  The interwebs were really spinning over Sam Raimi’s long awaited return to horror and how it would hold up in comparison to his past evil exploits.  Well all the things we’ve come to love and expect in a Raimi horror film were gloriously on display, so it easily met my hopeful expectations.  I think it even surpassed a few considering the PG13 rating.  Hyper, gross-out fun as only the man himself can deliver.  Watching the reactions of those unfamiliar with the director’s particular aesthetic was almost as enjoyable as the movie itself.

2. Grace.  Paul Solet’s freshman directorial effort is a master stroke of well measured psychological horror.  The film is fittingly graceful in its overall delivery; there’s a craftsmanship to it that proves Solet wise beyond his years.  Fluid direction, fantastic photography, strong performances, an original story and loads of suspense easily helped Grace topple the competition.  It’s almost as if two of my favorite directors, Roman Polanski and David Cronenberg, had a bastard baby especially for me.  Joy.

1. Antichrist.  Fuckin’ A Right.  Lars von Trier takes the gold in 2009 for this ambitious, artful, visionary, poetic, shocking, disconcerting and highly thought provoking meditation on depression and the darker sides of human nature.  A troubled couple (known simply as He & She) explore personal demons in Eden (a remote cabin retreat) in an attempt to come to terms with the loss of their baby.  Unfortunately for them, nature is apparently Satan’s church where chaos reigns and basically shit just gets real messed up – to put it simply.  Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg both give bold captivating portrayals, while von Trier’s close attention to style and detail made this the most compelling film of the year in my eyes.  It’s a dense film full of symbolism and open to varied interpretation.  The director’s willingness to push the envelope will surely polarize some viewers during the more difficult moments, but it’s still a film I strongly recommend.  Then draw from it what you will, but I dare you to not think about it at all.

I must give special mention to the French powerhouse, Martyrs, which also bravely pushed at convention. Although I was privileged enough to view the film in late 2008, it wasn’t until its April DVD release that most got to endure its sheer blunt force. I personally find it to be one of the most absorbing and harrowing films of any genre, ever.  I’d also like to give honor to Laid To Rest for best mindless splatter platter; Deadgirl just for being so damn perverse; House Of The Devil for very effectively recalling the past; and Black Devil Doll for being the most worst piece of trash I’ve seen in ages.

Now talk amongst yourselves.  Or hey, even better yet, leave me a comment!

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