Hello again, readers! It’s the beginning of the New Year and many of us take this time to reflect on the past year. For us, that doesn’t mean resolutions. It means taking a look at the horror films of 2010. Having a Top Ten is so boring. Here at FGSG, we decided to highlight The Lucky 13. Our thirteen favorite horror films of the year!
Here’s an explanation of what films qualified for our Lucky 13: Our selection is limited to the films we were able to gain access to in our area. This includes 2010 release dates in the United States for foreign films and straight-to-video fare created/released in previous years and unreleased festival films we had a the good fortune to see. This also means films we KNOW belong on this list are absent due to limited availability. (Buried, I’m looking at you.) We also needed to stay within the horror genre. (Inception doesn’t count!) Maybe a few films on our list are on the fence, but we think they have enough of a foot in the genre to qualify.
Enough disclaimers. Here’s our list, in alphabetical order, including notes on personal favorites and comments from our crew. You may not agree with our choices. We didn’t always agree with each other during the voting. However, we think horror fans looking for new films will find some valuable recommendations here.
The Lucky 13:
Available in the States in March via Netflix Watch Instantly. Released on DVD and Blu-Ray in November.
Crowbait: Marvelous atmosphere and gut wrenching genital violence. What more could you want from an art/horror film?
Jenny Dreadful: It’s difficult for me to pick a best horror film of the year, but this film is in my top 3. I already wrote a bit about my feelings for this film when it was released to DVD, but I think it’s a genuinely horrific and beautiful film. I can’t really say I’m confident in recommending AntiChrist to ANYONE. A viewer should expect unflinching shots of violence and sex, nightmare imagery of wounded animals, exploration of misogyny and Art-house sensibilities. It’s not for everyone. If you’re the rare sort looking for a film that’s going to give you an experience… that will disturb you… this could be the one.
StayFrosty: This film is tough to define, and even tougher to recommend. But the visuals are truly beautiful, and the film is definitely thought-provoking. If you think you can handle the difficult subject matter JennyDreadful listed above, it’s well worth your time. Just be ready to be a little uncomfortable.
2. Black Swan
December theater release. Read our review here.
StayFrosty: I already wrote an entire review about this one, so I’ll keep it brief here. A mesmerizing downward spiral of sexual repression, art and insanity. Beautiful and near perfect. This one is not to be missed. My top of the year.
Crowbait: This was a good year for horror films with an artistic bent. The attention to detail and refusal to balk at any subject is what I value in Aronofsky’s work. Discomforting dysfunction, brutal self harm and explicit sex are in, but always in perfect service to the story and never for crass shock value.
Jenny Dreadful: Like AntiChrist, Black Swan is a contender for my best film of the year. We said it all already. Tense. Incredible.
3. Don’t Look Back
November DVD release in the States.
StayFrosty: I only saw this one a few days ago, but I was impressed by the surreal, disturbing quality of it. Marina de Van (director of the body horror flick “In My Skin”) directs Monica Belluci and Sophie Marceau to two excellent performances of a character who is never exactly what she seems in a constantly shifting reality. This is one you have to keep your eyes on at all times, because the screen is never still.
Cowbait: Seriously, don’t ever think you can look away from the screen because you’ll miss something.
Jenny Dreadful: This French production is one of the last horror films I had a chance to see in 2010 and I was very impressed. Because it was so recently experienced and the memory was so fresh in comparison to our other films, I was a bit hesitant to include it in our list. It stays with you though. The changes to environment and body are unsettling. Yes. Don’t blink.
February theater release. DVD and Blu-Ray release in September.
Crowbait: This is always going to be one of those films that has people questioning: How would I react in this situation? Are wolves really that dangerous? It’s this realism, this ability of the audience to insert themselves that makes it horrifying.
Jenny Dreadful: Essentially Open Water on a ski lift. Characters accidentally abandoned and left to die struggling to survive. Although some viewers struggle with the plausibility of the film’s situations (I still like the wolves. I’m not sorry), I was thoroughly engaged by the story and the increasingly desperate predicaments faced by the protagonists. Early in the year, it was a pleasant reminder that original American horror isn’t dead.
StayFrosty: An original take on a classic premise. Well done all around, especially for a director more well known for 80s throwback horror (Adam Green of “Hatchet” and “Hatchet 2”). He clearly has it in him to make unsettling and atmospheric horror, and I hope he continues to explore this side of his directing.
Despite being a film made in the 70’s, “Hausu” was largely unknown to the States until a film festival run throughout 2010 and the DVD/Blu-Ray release in October.
Crowbait: What? The? Hell? Even if you hate this film, you owe it to yourself to see it. I guarantee you’ll walk away with at least one scene that was the funniest, most unexpected, or most unsettling thing you’ve seen in a long time.
Jenny Dreadful: Hilarious Japanese film from the 70’s. I’ve heard it described as Scooby Doo meets Dario Argento or Mario Bava. That’s disturbingly accurate. See it.
StayFrosty: It’s what going mad must feel like, only in celluloid form. See it – as Crowbait said, you might hate it, but there really is nothing else like it.
6. Lake Mungo –
January theater release and March DVD release via After Dark Horrorfest. (aka 8 Films to Die For)
StayFrosty: It’s never what you expect it to be, and that alone earns it a place on this list. High on atmosphere and building fear rather than jump scares. One scene won’t leave your mind for a while after – or at least, it sure as hell stayed with me.
Crowbait: Too easily overlooked. This is a film that works with dread rather than scares and I always respect a film that can make subtlety pay off.
Jenny Dreadful: My third contender for best horror film of the year. An amazing faux-documentary ghost story from Australia with twists and turns that surprise, sadden and unsettle the viewer. The only film in 2010 that came back to haunt me at night.
7. Last Circus (aka Sad Trumpet Ballad, Balada triste de trompeta)
Unreleased in the United States. Seen via the Philadelphia Film Fest in October.
StayFrosty: This is one film where I can truly say I had no idea where it was going from one minute to the next, but while this would make most films seem disjointed, director Alex de la Iglesia keeps the flow smooth and somehow makes all the madness into one cohesive (though very odd) story. I feel I can safely say that you will not see another film like this pretty much ever. Keep your fingers crossed for an American release.
Crowbait: Is it really a horror story? It’s just as much a history, a drama and a superhero’s tale but I guess self-mutilation pushes it into the horror category.
Jenny Dreadful: Crowbait is right that this film rides the fence of the horror genre, but I think the film was dark enough and horrific often enough to be included here. There is at least one scene guaranteed to make you squirm as a relatively innocent character painfully transforms his body to reflect a new darker persona. Beautifully designed, smart, brutal and funny. It defies expectation. Did I mention there are clowns with machetes and machine guns?
8. Last Exorcism
Crowbait: This one had to be here because of the fabulous beginning and Patrick Fabian deserves acclaim for his work. If only they didn’t stumble at the finish line.
Jenny Dreadful: This is a very good film with some fatal flaws. Strong performances and creepy mood are done injustice by inconsistent choices in presentation and a weak ending. What a great film this could have been!
StayFrosty: We’re all in agreement about the end of this film – if it had been handled with more finesse (or any finesse at all), it would have been a home run. However, even with a troubled ending, Patrick Fabian and some intense disturbing imagery keep this one on our list. Exorcism films are rare (and great ones are even more rare), and this is a very interesting take on the subgenre.
9. Let Me In
October theater release. Read our review here. Coming to DVD and Blu-Ray February 1st.
Crowbait: Great remake of a better film. Chloe Moretz is great. The jerk who stole her iPad should be beaten.
Jenny Dreadful: Our review is very thorough and there isn’t much to add. Let Me In is clearly one of the best films of the year. So, why am I not very excited about it? I’ve seen this film already. It’s haunting and well-crafted, but I’d like to see this team’s level of excellence applied to an original concept.
StayFrosty: Like they said, I would have loved this film SO MUCH if I hadn’t already seen a better version. Give this director and team some original material!
September On Demand release and October limited release in theaters. Coming to DVD and Blu-Ray February 1st.
Crowbait: It really isn’t what you’ve been told. This is the anti-Godzilla in which the monsters aren’t a metaphor for some human force but rather, they are a part of nature like any flower, elephant or hurricane.
Jenny Dreadful: An art-house relationship drama taking place within the setting of an extraterrestrial invasion. Don’t go in looking for a sci-fi action movie with rampaging monsters. It’s a slower, thoughtful and surprisingly realistic portrayal of a post-invasion landscape. It’s also worth noting that we found ourselves rewinding this one to review previous scenes more closely. Can’t say that very often.
StayFrosty: The title is almost misleading – there are monsters in this film, but it’s not what you think. It’s probably not even the second thing that you think. But if you can get over your expectations and just go with it, this movie will not disappoint.
Available in the States on DVD in October.
Crowbait: The first half of this film had me really impressed. The character relationships were already in full swing and the story wasn’t bogged down in unnecessary background. There are zombies. Run from them. Though it becomes a more typical zombie story as it goes on, with the group of self serving survivors and the struggle to hide an infected loved one, it’s still a quality typical zombie movie.
StayFrosty: While the concepts aren’t anything new, it does bring an intimacy that isn’t often found in the zombie film.
12. Shutter Island
February theater release. June DVD and Blu-Ray release.
StayFrosty: Who would have ever thought that Martin Scorcese would decide to do a horror film? And for those of you who are going to say ‘no no, this is a deep mental drama’, I say take another look at the imagery. There sure is mental drama, but when all is said and done, it’s horror all the way, suckers! It’s not Scorcese’s best film, but Scorcese’s second best is way better than the top work of most directors.
Jenny Dreadful: Even if you know where the film is going, the journey there is a beautifully executed nightmare. And there is enough subtlety in the story-telling to lead to a valuable second watch.
June theater release. October DVD and Blu-Ray release.
Crowbait: Genetic engineering leads to one of the great sources of horror films: Mother issues. The monsters created by bad parenting and the monsters they create.
StayFrosty: Let’s skip for the moment the acting, imagery, sets and effects (all of which are excellent) and take a minute to think on this concept – parenting is its own special brand of horror. “Splice” takes the trope of science gone wrong and turns it on its head. Instead of uncaring scientists cruelly inflicting their creation on the world, we have young people who try to be a parent to their creation, and who fail spectacularly. This film addresses fear on several levels: the fear of being a parent – the characters in this film make wrong choices, but what parents don’t? – as well as the fear of how parental choices, bad or good, can affect offspring. Of course, when your offspring is a fast growing monster lady made in a lab with wings and killer instincts (to say more would involve spoilers), this can change the scale of things a bit. It’s really a fascinating study, one I am looking forward to watching again. Also, great casting choices.
Pontypool (CB: Cool concept, fabulous lead, doesn’t live up to its potential.) (SF: I loved this and really wanted it on the top list, but in light of the other films I had to let it go. Unique concept, amazing lead performance) (JD: Loved the beginning and the unique “audio apocalypse” angle. Wanted to love the whole film, but thought it fell apart in the last act.)
Devil (CB: Better than I expected. A closed room whodunit takes a supernatural twist.) (SF: Lately I shudder when Shyamalan’s name comes up on a film, but he didn’t direct this one, and the absence of his heavy hand helps this film. A lean, fun ride through devil country. Or devil elevator. You know what I mean.) (JD: A solid 80 minute thrill ride with a brisk pace that keeps you guessing and doesn’t disappoint.)
[REC] 2 (CB: The original was too good for this sequel.) (SF: Agreed. It’s good but doesn’t have the same punch as the original.) (JD: Considering the fact that most sequels are terrible, this is a pretty good second entry in the series. I have my complaints, but the tonal shift toward the established religious elements makes for some chaotic action and creepy scares.)
Piranha 3D (CB: Blood. Guts. Titties. Is this really the same director who wowed me with High Tension? Maybe he killed him and is wearing his skin.) (SF: Superb gore. The rest is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a remake based off of an admitted ripoff of “Jaws”.) (JD: Masterpiece of gore with a good sense of humor. Doesn’t really acknowledge the presence of a female audience and that’s irksome, but the gore is superb.)
In the end, this was a great year for horror. It’s not often that so many excellent genre films are released in the same year, and even less often that one of them will likely be a strong contender for Best Picture at the Oscars. We will be making a post of our own awards for this year very soon (like the Oscars. But way cooler). Happy New Year, and we look forward to what carnage 2011 holds in store for all of us!