A Decade of Horror: 2009

That’s right, it’s time to finally finish this series off.

Zombieland

Zombies were huge in the 2000’s with 28 Days Later kicking things off in 2002, leading to an avalanche of direct to video zombie flicks, a big screen remake of the classic Dawn of the Dead and the godfather of the genre himself, George Romero returning to the genre he ushered in with the underwhelming Land of the Dead.   But the 2000’s also gave us the zombie comedy, an unexpected off shoot of a beloved subgenre.   Zombieland could be seen as the American answer to Shaun of the Dead, but where Shaun was more of a buddy/romantic comedy with zombies; Zombieland took the road trip movie and tossed zombies into it.   The stand out star of this film was Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee, a man determined to find the last Twinkie in the US, zombies be damned, and featuring Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone and an awesome cameo by Bill Murray. If you haven’t seen Zombieland and you enjoy the zombie genre, you owe it to yourself to see this film.

The Uninvited

I already praised the Korean A Tale of Two Sisters in my 2003 list (right here) and when I initially heard that an American remake was in the works, I immediately dismissed it, convinced it would be an utter train wreck, and considering how badly the Pulse remake had been butchered, I felt justified in my indignation.  When the TV spots and trailer for The Uninvited started to hit, I had the sinking suspicion that my initial reaction was correct and that this would just another case of Hollywood destroying a good idea.  I’m happy to say that I was wrong.  The Uninvited managed to translate the core of Two Sisters perfectly, and aside from Elizabeth Banks slightly over the top performance, every performance in this film is excellent.  For those who have seen Two Sisters (aka: people who know how the story ends) Directors Thomas and Charles Guard throw in several excellent visual cues throughout the film that are both artistically pleasing and clever in their subtlety.

The Last House on the Left

I saw Wes Craven’s original Last House once, and after viewing it I felt like I needed a shower.  It was grimy, mean-spirited and a downright disturbing film.  When the remake was announced I was left wondering why?  When Alexander Aja remade The Hills Have Eyes it at least made sense to me, taking a decent story from a poorly executed film and repackaging it in a slick big budget splatter fest felt natural. But why remake Last House on the Left?  For the same reason we got every other remake of the 2000’s, the studios figured they could make a dime on name recognition, and quality be damned.  Having said that, the Last House remake doesn’t necessarily improve on the original the way Hills Have Eyes did, instead it brings the original story into a modern setting and ups the violence and gore, including some fantastic set pieces toward the end of the film when the parents get their revenge.  I’ve also got to give Director Dennis Iliadis credit for having the balls to push the limits with the extremely uncomfortable and nearly five-minute long rape scene.

Dread

I love Clive Barker’s writing, and I love the film’s he’s directed, and with 2008’s The Midnight Meat Train proving that Hollywood can in fact produce good Barker adaptations, I was excited when I heard about Book of Blood and Dread.  Appearing in Barker’s Books of Blood vol. 2, Dread is a strange glimpse into human nature and the desire to understand why we fear.   The film adaptation expands on the original short story and changes a few things in its translation to screen, but none of these changes are negative ones.  Jackson Rathbone’s performance as Stephen is brilliant, and was welcome proof that this young man is better than his turns in the Twilight franchise would lead you to believe.  Dread is one of the few times where I can honestly say I enjoyed the adaptation as much, if not more than the original source material, and despite carrying the After Dark Horror Festival tag on the DVD, Dread is miles ahead of 99% of the films released under that banner.

Book of Blood

My first thought when hearing that a film was being made of the short wrap around story Book of Blood was “How in the hell are they going to stretch that out to feature-length?”  Using the opening Book of Blood story and its series closing companion On Jerusalem Street, Book of Blood sadly held few surprises for me, as I had read the first short story prior to seeing the film.  However, knowing what was going to happen through most of the film didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film, especially the ending (I’ve yet to read On Jerusalem Street) which caught me completely off guard and fit the “Clive Barker Ending” mold.  Fantastic performances, excellent writing and directing drive this film, but it’s the special effects that help to push this film onto this list.

The Hills Run Red

I would like to take this time to apologize to director Dave Parker.  I hated his film The Dead Hate the Living and for the longest time swore I’d never watch another he directed.  Then I saw The Hills Run Red and he changed my mind.  Bravo Mr. Parker.  Despite the horribly cheesy DVD box art and less than stellar synopsis on the back, Hills Run Red is one of the best slasher films to hit the horror scene in years.  The tale of an obsessed fan searching for a lost film, Hills is a well paced ride through pure nightmares, and legendary splatterpunk David J. Schow’s name in the credits as one of the screenwriters should be enough to grab any horror fans attention.  Sadly this film was released by Warner Bros, and despite going directly to DVD, we get an R-rated cut of the film instead of the unrated cut that from rumor and rumblings around the net, was considerably goreier.  Take note this is not a film for the squeamish, despite its R rating, The Hills Run Red pushes it’s rating to the limits in both visual content and storyline. A brilliant throw back to the 80’s slashers that I love with a healthy dose of modern sensibility, this is one that every horror fan, and especially slasher fans, should check out.

Grace

Hoooooooly Shit was this movie gross.  Centering on a mother and her stillborn child who somehow returns to life, Grace is one of the few “Art House” style horror films that doesn’t disappear up its own ass with pretension.  Every character is clearly defined and comes across as being a real human being, and considering how frankly sexist the horror genre can often be, it was a breath of fresh air to have a film like Grace featuring a strong, predominantly female cast.  Solid story, excellent direction and perfect performances abound throughout this film, but the true gross out factor comes from the special effects and some of the story elements themselves.  I’m not a squeamish guy by any means, and on-screen gore almost never gets to me, but this was one of the rare occasions where the one-two punch of story enhanced by special effects knocked me back and had me cringing more than once.  If you haven’t seen this, watch it on Netflix now.

Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever

First off, I absolutely despised Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever. I thought it was a complete waste of my time and when I heard a sequel was being made, I wrote it off as something I would never bother watching, even if it popped up on for Instant Watch (which I believe it still is).  Adding to this initial reaction was the news that director Ti West wanted his name removed from the film after extensive re-shoots and re-editing by the producers.  Frankly, I don’t know see what the problem was because Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever was an absolute riot. I loved every disgusting, pus-dripping, blood splattered minute of the film.  Picking up shortly after the events of the original Cabin Fever, the flesh-eating virus has made its way into a bottled water plant and has been shipped off to a high school where the Prom is underway. Blood, guts and all manner of nasty goo are on display in this film, and quite frankly I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a gross-out splatter fest film like this in a long time.  The gross outs are balanced by an absurd sense of humor that elevates this film above its predecessor.

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl

I’ve already given this film a full review (right here) and so I’ll spare the rehashing.  I love this movie and if my review doesn’t make you want to watch this film, I don’t know what will.

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