Horror 2.0 : A Decade Of Horror Movies Part 2


Hello again, friends.  Welcome to the second installment of the 2000's in review.  The first five years brought us a diverse amount of product that recaptured the interest of the movie going public and the studios.  Halleluiah.  Unfortunately, in waiting for the next cash cow to tip, Hollywood would become inundated with far too many sequels and remakes.  There were some notable exceptions, but these were admittedly few and far between.  As the decade continued, it was on foreign soils that the genre began to see a real resurgence.  Some familiar faces would return to wreak their own particular brand of havoc, too.  All in all it was a very busy period.  Let's see how things played out.

2005.  George Romero would finally resurrect and extend his dead trilogy after a 20 year burial with Land Of The Dead.  No one takes a bite out of social commentary like Papa Bear.  Zombies rule, 'nuff said.  Hey, speaking of!  Rob Zombie would direct his quasi-sequel to House of 1,000 Corpses entitled The Devil's Rejects; a modern exploitation film par excellence and still Z-man's most accomplished work to date.  Neil Marshall went spelunking and found strange nocturnal predators in The Descent.  It was relentless entertainment for those of us above ground.  Where's the beef?  Irish barn-stormer Isolation took the Alien premise out to pasture to gruesomely answer that infective question.  Ellen Page was offered Hard Candy; however, it's the audience whose in for a treat in a clever cat and mouse reversal.  Real events directly inspired Australia's answer to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the grisly and uncompromising Wolf Creek.  All happy campers beware.  Stateside, Eli Roth returned and got all Hostel on his unsuspecting travelers - if you'll pardon the expression.  The term "torture porn" (although I prefer gorno) would first be used to classify this film and any hereafter with a similar penchant for sex and violence.  The previous year's Saw, Turistas (2006) and Captivity (2007), to name just a few, quickly fell victim to the highly subjective classification.  If you were hungry for gut-busting gross-outs, one could find plenty to Feast on in John Gulager's deviant debut.  Two additional helpings would further beg consumption, but did little to compliment the first entrée.  The year also saw The Amityville Horror remake, an amusement ride through cliché and House Of Wax, which never took itself seriously enough for much criticism.

2006.  The Hills Have Eyes was the next beloved classic to see the light of day.  Alexandre Aja's interpretation hints at more than it delivers, thematically speaking, but remained involving and rather gruesome.  Things that couldn't be said for remakes of The Omen, Black Christmas, When A Stranger Calls and The Wicker Man, however.  Slither wormed its way into our funny bones and Hatchet carved out an 80's slasher homage that hit all the right marks in genre glorification.  Fido took a bite out of the neighbors and consequently our hearts; Leslie Vernon took us along for the hunt; and Mandy Lane was the girl to love, although I personally only developed a small crush.  Silent Hill would take cinematic game adaptations to a whole different level - I'm guessing Level 2.  On the foreign front Black Sheep would stand out from the herd; the powers of Sheitan were strange and perverse; the chiller Ils (Them) subtly invaded our homes; and the Cold Prey looked pretty bleeding in the snow.  Arguably the most accomplished work of the year in any genre was the Pan's Labyrinth.  Guillermo del Toro's dark yet whimsical fable would spellbind the inner child in us all.

2007.  Romero returned with Diary Of The Dead; not exactly a continuation of the series, not exactly a complete success, either.  In a similar vein, Dario Argento attempted to extend his legacy with Mother Of Tears to mixed result.  Staged poorly and completely lacking the visual flare of previous entries Suspiria and Inferno; the film is full of sinister set pieces and little else.  Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez brought us back to the days of the Grindhouse double feature.  Those in the know got it and enjoyed the hell out of it, including many a critic, but it failed commercially.  Monster movie fans were shrouded by The Mist and never saw that end coming, even if they read the novella.  If only Frank Darabont could direct every Stephen King adaptation.  Teeth, a black comedy about the pink, had many a member-able moment.  The Signal and End Of The Line both were movies with messages, apparently very deadly ones.  Richard Matheson's I Am Legend got the all-star treatment and made big box-office, but purists were not impressed with its devout deviations.  The highly anticipated re-imagining of slasher staple Halloween had a similar effect.  Rob Zombie can surely be applauded for making the material his own, but in giving "The Shape" more character he sanded off the ambiguous edge of the original.  Funny Games were afoot when Michael Haneke "Americanized" his own harrowing essay on violence shot for shot.  Platinum Dunes added to their refutable remake resume with The Hitcher, although nobody gave it a ride.  It helps to pull the thumbs out of your ass first, guys.  Distant shores again would bring some of the most substantial offerings.  Spanish import The Orphanage was a stunning addition to supernatural cinema, while its alarming amigo [REC] offered scares of another vérité.  Finally, from fevered France we got the Inside look at a pregnant woman in peril.  An intense and atmospheric bloodbath that would never get made in Hollywood.  Remade, maybe.

2008.  The wildly popular Saw franchise had now hacked out a sequel each year since its inception.  Where Part IV had just become tedious, Part V finally jumps the shark and even Jigsaw refused to enter the plot's convoluted waters.  Cloverfield became a monster hit; luckily the shaky performances are eclipsed by the shaky cam and the fantastic special effects it captured.  Subway ate flesh when Clive Barker's Midnight Meat Train ground to a halt.  The ride seemed hurried in spots, but was worth the ticket for tone and style alone.  The Strangers broke into Ils territory with another kiddy crawler thick with menacing tension.  Not truly as effective as all the ticket receipts would have you believe, however.  Jack Brooks slayed in his decidedly nostalgic approach to execution.  Not since the likes of Ash has the genre seen a hero of Jack's, um, caliber.  The Ruins luridly planted man against nature, but left some rooting for a better realized script.  Retro-rauncher Gutterballs scored big points if mindless gore and sleaze were up your alley; Dance Of The Dead took its leaping zombies to the prom; Otis messed with the wrong family in a Raw Feed direct-to-video gem; while Splinter got under our skin and had us freezing in terror.  The Asian adaptation One Missed Call was worthy of neglect as it turned out; while Shutter captured the original's essence, but didn't offer any new developments to the picture; and Mirrors reflected Alexandre Aja's penchant for making films that look great on the surface, but are flawed upon closer inspection.  Quarantine withheld [REC]'s supernatural slant and gave it a Hollywood sheen; nevertheless, it retained the same fevered intensity almost frame for frame.  Literally.  Special places in hell would be reserved by the Prom Night and Day Of The Dead remakes.  Now on to the films of most "import".  Three British brutes would make marks.  The Children had us brooding in suspense; Mum And Dad raised their family and many a viewer's eyebrow; whilst a delinquent dip in Eden Lake proved extremely chilling.  In Sweden, if you Let The Right One In you were guaranteed a compelling coming-of-age drama framed by vampirism; America's Twilight, as it turned out, was the one to leave on the doorstep.  Lastly, French force majeure Martyrs raised the bar for extremity in horror and beyond; a transcendental experience for those willing to see it through to the other side.

2009.  The remake wrecking ball would continue to flatten down its forerunners.  Platinum Dunes would take Jason far too seriously in their Friday The 13th revamping.  Make a date for unintentional laughs.  The Stepfather couldn't rear the satirical undercurrent of the original and thereby failed as a replacement.  The Uninvited was not very welcoming to fans of 2003's A Tale Of Two Sisters.  My Bloody Valentine took the 3-D route, forgetting to add any real dimension to the story.  Not a horror hallmark, but at least it was a lot of fun.  The Last House On The Left remodeling came to better ends; it's admirably richer in character and comparable in carnage to the pioneer.  The anthology Trick 'r Treat would be hallowed for its inspired inventiveness and yearly observances are surely forthcoming.  Rob Zombie would celebrate Halloween, too. Unfortunately, the festivities felt a little too forced and inexplicably random for praise.  We would loan our attention to Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell.  A return to the director's ribald roots and an instant classic.  Body-horror got an unexpected resuscitation with Paul Solet's first remarkable progeny, Grace; Deadgirl would succumb to the basest of young men's impulses; and an ambiguous war of the words was broadcast in Pontypool.  Norwegian nightmare Dead Snow had us camping out among Nazi cadavers; while Zombieland taught us the rules of survival when bad goes to total shit storm - Twinkies not included.  Chaos also reigned when Dane Lars von Trier unveiled his highly ambitious and controversial Antichrist.  It polarized viewers to either worship at its feet or discount its gratuitous nature.  Finally, after having hid in the closet for several years, Paranormal Activity would record one of the most profitable takes in movie history.

Well there you have it - my look back at the past decade.  I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing it.  Any additional thoughts or comments are always welcome and strongly encouraged.  Let's keep our collective fingers crossed that the next ten bring us, the fans, even more to positively scream about.

The second half of this editorial came much later than expected (sorry, friends) so if you happened to miss the first installment or need a refresher, here's the link to bring you up to date.

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