Archive for the ‘Lists’ Category

Awards Season 2012 Part 1: The Lucky 13

Posted: February 24, 2013 by StayFrosty in Film, Lists, Reviews

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We thought we weren’t going to be able to find 10 best films this year, let alone 13.  But when JennyD, crow and myself actually sat down and went through our lists, we found plenty of gems that we felt needed to be recognized.  This list runs the gambit from independent hauntings to adorably disturbing stop-motion to big budget sci-fi horror.  So there’s plenty for every type of fan out there.  And compared to last year’s highly gorgeous, well-made but incredibly depressing films, this list is a picnic (a blood drenched picnic, but still).

The real winners this year are the monster kids and kids-at-heart – we saw a resurgence of the creepy, weird and wonderful films for younger viewers.  JennyD called them gateway films, and she’s not wrong.  These movies, aside from being fun, scary and touching all at the same time, help introduce kids to a world where although things may seem normal, by the end of the film they (and we) are taught normal is boring and weirdness is something to be celebrated.  Good lesson for people of any age.

Of course, we didn’t get to every film, so we freely admit there’s some stuff that should be on this list that isn’t there solely because we couldn’t get out to the theater.  We do our best.  So here it is, the Lucky 13 of 2012:

  1. ABCs of Death – The anthology film has made quite the comeback in 2012, and I’d say ABCs is the strongest of the bunch.  26 short films made by 26 different directors, each with one letter of the alphabet to guide them.  With that many shorts, the odds would tell you that most of them would be fair to mediocre, with a few gems and a few total bombs. There were definitely a few that should have been left on the cutting room floor, but that’s to be expected in any movie with 26 directors.  However, the pleasant surprise is that well more than half of these creepy, gory and sometimes intensely disturbing shorts were not only enjoyable, but beautiful and thought-provoking as well.  Special mention to letters A, D, O, R, U and X.  I’d say why, but that would be giving too much away.  Just check it out for yourself.
  2. The Bay – You most likely didn’t even know this film existed unless you have an Xbox (that’s where we found it), and that’s sad for everyone, because The Bay is a creepy found footage flick that’s a little too close to reality for my comfort.  It’s directed by Barry Levinson, whose best known for more kind-hearted fare like Rain Main, Toys and Wag the Dog.  But then again, he also did Sleepers, which is pretty damn horrific, so he’s got it in him.  In The Bay, a small town in the Chesapeake Bay area is overrun by a ecological virus/disaster.  The incident is covered up by the government, with the movie consisting of the leaked footage of what really happened.  It combines Jaws with early Cronenberg body horror films.   The creepiest part of this whole film is that according to Levinson, about 80-85% of it is fact-based.  Originally, Levinson was approached to make a documentary about the Chesapeake Bay, but after he realized there was not only viewer apathy but a Frontline documentary that covered most of the information, he decided to tweak it for a feature film.  Isopods are real, the incredible amount of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is real.   The film is a great watch, but the reality is scary enough.
  3. Cabin in the Woods – We already reviewed this wildly hilarious film earlier in the year, so most of what we needed to say was said there.  This movie rocks – probably my pick for best of the year.
  4. Frankenweenie – I love Tim Burton, but I won’t lie that in the last several years I haven’t loved most of his output in general.  It’s just seemed less…weird.  And special – that special strange that he used to deliver in spades.  However, Frankenweenie, a stop-motion animated tale (based on Burton’s 1984 live action short ) is a much welcome return to form.  It’s also a love letter to monster kids and monster movies, with references to so many classic films it’s hard to keep track of them all.  But if you love your Burton in the flavor of Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas (yes, I know he didn’t direct it. It’s still part his. Shut up), this is definitely one to watch.  And bring the kids.
  5. The Grey – If seeing Liam Neeson tape broken bottles to his knuckles to fight wolves isn’t enough incentive to see this movie, well, you probably won’t see it based on this recommendation either.  The Grey got a little lost in the shuffle (and the cinematic black hole that is January), and probably suffered from misleading marketing as well.  The trailers made it look like an action-packed Taken 3: Wolves!  Not so much, marketing team.  Liam Neeson and a bunch of other plane crash survivors must battle not only the freezing temperatures, blinding wind and lack of food, but some big ass wolves decide they want in on the free dinner.  Given that the tone of the film was completely misrepresented, I can see why people would feel a little cheated.  But go in with an open mind, and you’ll find that while it might not be what you expect, there’s a great survival horror film in there.
  6. Livide – It’s French.  There’s a creepy ballerina girl.  Do I really need to say much more to catch your interest?
  7. The Loved Ones – I reviewed this one already, so there’s not much to add here.  It’s great.  Keep up the good work, Australia.
  8. Lovely Molly – Directed and co-written by Eduardo Sanchez (one half of the pair behind The Blair Witch Project), Lovely Molly is one of those films that on paper didn’t seem so great.  But I very much enjoyed the Wicker Man-type vibe, the strong performance from Gretchen Lodge as Molly, and the open to interpretation ending.  I liked it even better the second time around.
  9. The Pact – After her mother’s death, a pair of sisters (Caity Lotz and Anges Bruckner) move back into their childhood home, where things are not what they seem.  The film focuses mainly on Lotz in a strong performance, with Casper Van Dien in a supporting role.  The film handles the building tension well, without showing too much, and Haley Hudson plays one freaking creepy girl with a connection to the supernatural.
  10. Paranorman – Another gateway movie, this time about a young boy who can see and converse with the dead, and how sometimes even the dead can be misunderstood.  I really loved this movie, both for its sweetness and for the references that came about every minute (but didn’t distract from the film).  Double feature this with Frankenweenie and you’ve got a great night of creating some new horror fans.
  11. Prometheus – I have so much to say about Prometheus that it’s almost impossible to cut it short for this top 13.  And since crowbait already covered this one, I’ll leave my thoughts until later.  An imperfect creation this might be, but it’s head and shoulders above most other director’s best work.  Alien fan or not, it’s a must for any sci-fi or horror fan.
  12. Sinister – If you saw the trailer for Sinister, I’m sorry, because it gives SO much away (not that this is a huge shock, since trailers pretty much always do that now).  It’s especially a shame here, though, because while Sinister doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it does go for a different take on a standard formula.  Ethan Hawke plays a true crime writer so desperate for another successful book that he moves his family into a house where some horrific murders occurred.  He also discovers some suspicious-looking filmstrips and player in the attic, sitting all by itself.  When he starts to watch them (like you do), he begins to uncover not only some creepy footage of murders but clues that all of these deaths may be linked.  Hawke plays his character well, and by that I mean he’s not particularly likable – he lies constantly, he’s selfish and kind of a jerk.  But he also loves his kids and thinks he’s doing something that will help them (even though he is WILDLY off base about the whole “help” thing).  His choice to try and solve these filmstrip mysteries is a terrible idea (or there wouldn’t be a movie), and once things start getting weird there’s some great creepy scares – and yes, a few crappy jump scares and stings.  But when the scares are played right, they really work.  Using multiple media (filmstrips, photos, computers) create some effective moments, especially when they’re not telegraphed.  I can’t emphasize enough how much better the mood and scares are when they’re not telegraphed.    The film boasts some excellent lighting (especially in the darker, low-lit scenes) and carries an atmosphere of dread for most of its running time.  Definitely an enjoyable, unsettling flick.
  13. V/H/S – Our second anthology film on this list, V/H/S is a little uneven but still interesting and unique enough to earn a place on our list.  Special mention to “Amateur Night” and “10/31/98” – definitely the strongest of the set.  But almost all of them (with perhaps one exception) have something interesting to keep your attention.

So there it is, horror-loving friends, the FGSG top 13.  We’re looking forward to what 2013 will bring.   ~SF.

Awards Season 2011 Part 2: The Ripleys

Posted: February 27, 2012 by StayFrosty in Editorial, Film, Lists

Look, we like the Oscars.  Sort of.  There’s all that political crap and there’s always some sort of stupid upset that makes us yell at the TV.  And rarely does our beloved genre get rewarded by the Academy.  So we’ve made our own Oscar categories this year, and are honoring the performances, visuals and villains that made us sit up and take notice.  We’re calling them The Ripleys because hey, who better to represent than our #1 Final Girl?

The Ripleys 2011

Jenny adds: Our group, like most, experiences some disagreement and indecision. We could knife fight about it or hit our heads against the wall until we choose, but we’ll settle for a few ties.  We listed the rest of our qualifiers in our last post and they’re no different here.

Best Actor

Rutger Hauer (Hobo with a Shotgun)

Min-sik Choi (I Saw the Devil)

Jenny Dreadful: I’m always a fan of Min-sik Choi, but Rutger Hauer is definitely my choice. I praised him in great detail in my review of Hobo with a Shotgun, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat myself a little. Centered in an irreverent and colorful setting slick with cartoony splatter, we experience this incredibly poignant character that calls to mind the hardships of the homeless and damaged. It’s a testament to the success of his performance that we can feel such sadness and affection for the titular Hobo moments away from laughing at a decapitation.

crowbait: Both our contenders are playing people neck deep in gruesome violence and who are on both the giving and receiving ends of brutal treatment. Both also work overtime to bring a real sense of sympathy to their characters. Though it may seem easy for Hauer at the start, his character being the typical, down-on-his-luck drifter with simple hopes, the violence he brings to those around him and himself mars that simple goodness. Min-sik Choi is working from the opposite end of the equation and must work to make us feel sorry for a monstrous serial killer but the simple bafflement he shows as his own ways of violence are turned on him (and the deplorable tactics used by his tormentor) bring real complexity to the character.

StayFrosty:  Both of these characters could so easily fall into the one-dimensional trap.  But thanks to Hauer and Choi, they become nuanced men who are at turns brutal, cruel, sympathetic and almost heroic.  Sometimes all in the same scene.

Best Actress

Kirsten Dunst  (Melancholia)

StayFrosty: In the best possible way, this performance hurts.  Dunst’s portrayal of the cycle of depression (itself a reflection of the emotional state of director Lars von Trier) hits all the right notes, and all the raw spots.  She takes this character from apparent happiness to crippling indecision to calm acceptance in the face of destruction brilliantly.  That she wasn’t up for an Oscar last night is a damn shame, but I’m sure Meryl Streep isn’t crying about it.

Jenny Dreadful: It’s surprising that the most realistic portrayal of paralyzing depression I’ve ever seen is found within this beautiful and surreal art film. From facial expressions that speak a thousand words to channeling the worst of von Trier’s demons on screen, Dunst was incredible. I don’t enjoy judging other viewers, but I suspect audience members who question her performance and character’s behavior have never experienced or witnessed the extremes of chronic depression firsthand. If you have, her execution of the role and the overall film are emotionally overwhelming. I… was cutting onions before the screening. Or I had something in my eye. Allergies?

Runner-up:  Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Best Supporting Actor

David Tennant  (Fright Night)

StayFrosty: Okay, it’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love David Tennant.  LOVE him.  But even putting that adoration aside, Tennant’s Peter Vincent is the perfect supporting actor in a film:  he comes in, he steals every scene he’s in, he leaves.  And he fights vampires.  And he’s shirtless often.  What’s not to love?

Jenny Dreadful: Although the film itself won’t be getting any praise here on FGSG (see my review on Cinedelphia here), David Tennant’s Peter Vincent is worth the price of admission. A surprisingly fun spin on a beloved character.

Best Supporting Actress

Lin Shaye  (Insidious)

StayFrosty: From the moment she first sets foot on the screen, Lin Shaye takes over this movie.  She can change from a kind, friendly medium to terrifyingly describing a demon behind a fan to wearing a gas mask during a seance.  This lady knows how to work a movie, and she manages to be amazing without taking away from the other performances or sticking out in a bad way.  It’s a balancing act, one she does wonderfully.

Jenny Dreadful: Agreed. From grandmotherly warmth to intensity that chills you to the bone, the always delightful Shaye excels in Insidious.

crowbait: This is a great role for Lin Shaye to play because it is so wide ranging. It shows her commitment to the genre and her willingness to do some really odd things to make a movie powerfully creepy.

Runner-up: Charlotte Gainsbourg (Melancholia)

Best Director

Lars von Trier  (Melancholia)

James Wan  (Insidious)

StayFrosty: We couldn’t decide between these two gentlemen because the films are so different, and the effect they have on us are so opposite.  Without a doubt, Lars von Trier has made one of the best movies of the year – beautiful and devastating and unforgettable.  But Wan has made the movie we invite people over to watch again and again, the thrill ride that uses mood and atmosphere instead of CGI and cheap scares.  And both of those things are worth rewarding.  Congrats, gents, for making movies beautiful and fun and scary and amazing.  We can’t wait to see what you both do next.

Jenny Dreadful: Von Trier’s heart-breaking use of the screen as personal exorcism results in difficult, beautiful and groundbreaking film. Wan is fun, innovative and in love with the genre; a treasure within the horror community. We’re not the Oscars. You can’t make us choose.

Best Cinematography

Melancholia  (Manuel Alberto Claro)

Jenny Dreadful: Although this film is gorgeous throughout its significant running time, the piece opens with a series of astounding images; both representational and abstract interpretations of the events to come slowed to an aching crawl. Kirsten Dunst in wedding gown as Ophelia, the main players ominously lined up on the “stage,” the planets about to collide… The big climax is equally beautiful and affecting. This is a film meant for the big screen.

StayFrosty:  That opening sequence.  It took my breath away when I first saw it, and the gorgeous, disturbing images have never strayed too far from my mind.  These are shots that stop you in your tracks, and while the rest of the film is no less beautiful.  I feel lucky that I was able to see this one on the big screen.

Best Art Direction

Hobo with a Shotgun  (Ewen Dickson)

Jenny Dreadful: Getting a little sillier now, but no less sincere. From the color palette to the playful comics-style costuming and sets… to the freaking FONTS… Hobo with a Shotgun has some serious visual style. The look is consistently reminiscent of the material Eisener seeks to emulate without falling into the common trap of sacrificing quality for nostalgia.

Best Costumes

The Last Circus  (Paco Delgado)

crowbait: The costuming of the circus, in all its extravagance, becomes horrifying as the costume of warring clowns in an ending that can only be described as a battle between monsters. In all the grunge of the war and the decrepit world outside the big top the contrast is delightful.

Jenny Dreadful: We’re cheating a wee bit as we named The Last Circus among our Best films of 2010, but these wild designs (part whimsical, part nightmare fuel) warrant recognition.

StayFrosty:  From the opening scenes to the gut-wrenching final shots and all moments in between, our characters might be in clown costumes, but those costumes have never been more serious, scary and sad.  Special notice to the costuming choices for the main character (the sad clown).  His costumes reflect the intense emotional changes he undergoes, and when he spirals down into rage and insanity, he makes for one of the scariest – and striking – looking clowns I’ve ever seen.

Best Score

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo  (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)

StayFrosty: I love this score.  It’s evocative of the stark, bleak mood of Fincher’s film without ever overpowering the scenes.  It works exactly like a score should.  And frankly, I listen to it on its own as much as I listen to any “regular” CD.

crowbait: I might not be popular for thinking this but I much preferred this score to this duo’s work on last year’s The Social Network. I like to think that the Oscar was awarded by psychic prediction for this one instead. A great, understated score for a film very much about the internalization of hurt.

Runner-up: Insidious (Joseph Bishara) Because we’re afraid he’ll come get us. See below. Also because he was great.

Best Song

“Immigrant Song” by Karen O, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross  (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

crowbait: Yeah, it’s a cover but as with other Reznor covers it infuses a driving, dangerous energy into the music without overwhelming the source. A great compliment for the opening segment of the film.

StayFrosty: The Oscars may not recognize cover songs, but we do.  And this is without doubt, the best song from a genre film this year.  Possibly the best song this year that wasn’t by a Muppet.  Karen O’s wailing vocals, combined with Reznor’s gritty arrangement, make for a dark, electrifying take on the Zepplin classic.  I could listen to this all day.

Best Short Film

The Diary of Anne Frankenstein  (Adam Green)

StayFrosty: Holy shit, this is hilarious.  I can’t possibly describe it, you must see it to believe it.  It’s all funny, but special props to Joel David Moore for possibly the funniest Hitler (and definitely the funniest use of the German language…sort of) ever committed to celluloid.

crowbait: Whenever there’s a compilation of shorts released as a whole there has to be one standout and the mania on display here easily buries the accompanying stories. Though there is also a funny musical about homosexual werebears.

Best Remake

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo  (David Fincher)

StayFrosty: I love David Fincher.  The man makes no compromises in any of his films, and I respect that.  And though people complained when he started the remake of TGwtDT, I knew that it would be worthwhile if he had chosen to do it.  And boy is it ever.  It’s beautiful and rough and painful and rewarding, and at times so very upsetting to watch (and this is from a lady who’s seen a lot of stuff, just check our top 13).  It’s a credit to Fincher that he doesn’t flinch from the difficult topics addressed in these books and the original film, and while his take on Lisbeth Salander is different than Sweden’s Noomi Rapace, it’s no less quality.

Best Gore

Human Centipede 2  (Tom Six)

Jenny Dreadful: Ah. The timeless classic. A wonder for all ages. Human Centipede 2. Surprised to see it on our Awards list? Although we had a fair number of disturbing and violent films to choose from, HC2′s gratuitous use of sand-paper, staplers, pipes, gas pedals and more ordinary objects pushed the limit and yielded surprisingly realistic results. Tom Six, you take the cake. The… horrible… poop cake. No one should eat poop cake.

StayFrosty: I don’t think I could say it better than JennyD on this one.  HC2 made you wait for it, doling out some sandpaper here and some hammer bashing there, but once the gore-splosion hit, man did it hit hard.  And unrelenting.  And gross.  When the two of us are shouting in disbelieving horror at the screen, you know it’s something special.  And by special I mean poop cake.

Runner-up: Hobo with a Shotgun by Jason Eisener

Best Creature

Lipstick Face Demon  (Joseph Bishara in Insidious)

crowbait: Exactly what you want from a film monster. Strong, highly graphic visual design and an inherent brutality that marks it as the alien source of evil.

Jenny Dreadful: I picked this icon imagery for two reasons. 1. Unlikely as it may be in our modern world, I thought it would be fantastic if someone could watch Insidious without having the appearance of the threat spoiled for them. And… 2. I don’t want to look at it! A wonderful frightening entity that manages to freak me out every time I watch the film despite knowing when the best scares are coming. (Fun trivia: Joseph Bishara is also the composer of the film’s score.)

StayFrosty:  We’ve already established that Wan is a smart filmmaker, and the choice of Lipstick-Faced demon as the main villain of Insidious is another great move. At first, you just get glimpses – shadowy shots of long, claw-like hands reaching out for a sleeping child.  And then, out of nowhere, smack in the middle of the day, that face.  That fucking terrifying face.  I’m not ashamed to agree with JennyD that I didn’t want to have to look at that face behind a face each time I went to write here.  By the end, when you finally see the whole creature in all its messed up glory, you aren’t disappointed.

Runner-up: Trolls from Troll Hunter

Best poster art

TIE: Human Centipede 2 & Hobo with a Shotgun

StayFrosty: It’s pretty simple for me.  HC2 has the most evocative image of the year on a poster- you can love or hate the movie, but that poster is a hell of a thing.  And HwaS is done in such a fabulous exploitation style.  They don’t make them like that anymore.

Jenny Dreadful: Even if you hate the film, you have to admit this Human Centipede 2 poster image is wonderfully creepy and well-designed. From afar, I thought it was a spinal column. Next, I figured it was probably the shape of an insect. Then I realized I’d stumbled into the gateway of a Boschian Hell landscape. (Bosch LOVED butts. Connection?)

Ah. Moving on. In a world overrun by floating Photoshopped heads, The Hobo with a Shotgun poster is welcome tribute to the illustrated posters of film’s past. Artwork by Tom Hodge. Mr. Hodge, all of my fellow illustrators working today, and the ghosts of illustration past… we salute you!

Best Credits Sequence

Dragon Tattoo  (David Fincher)

StayFrosty: This is the best opening sequence in many many years.  Probably one of the best I’ve ever seen.  I can’t think of a better way to open this movie than sending you on a nightmare (but beautiful) trip into Lisbeth’s subconscious – by the time the music fades and the actual film starts, you’re already thrilled, energized and a little unsettled.  What a way to begin.

crowbait: The sequence is alternately titillating and horrifying as a picture of the complex and contrary images in the heroine’s head. Nice place to visit. Bad place to live.

Best Post-credits Sequence

“Shark Bite” Music Video  (Shark Night)

StayFrosty: This movie is not so great, but I am SO glad FGSG decided to wait out the credits, because we found the absolutely hilarious Shark Night Rap.  My god, if only the movie had been as good as that three minute rap.  Do yourself a favor and watch this.  You will not be disappointed.  I mean, the man manages to rhyme “shark ghosts”.  And frankly, just the phrase “shark ghosts” is enough to crack me up.

crowbait: Here’s a taste.

Most Anticipated 2012

Prometheus  (Ridley Scott)

StayFrosty: Words cannot describe how much I’m looking forward to this movie.  No seriously, I can’t think of any short way to talk about how I feel about another movie in the Alien universe directed by Ridley Scott with a cast that seems impeccable.  The only way to thrill me more is to add a power loader.

crowbait: I already deeply admire the guts that Ridley Scott has shown in breaking from the Alien continuity in order to make this prequel free from the tampering of the trademark holders. We know we will get what he wants and what he wants is a great movie.

This concludes our Ripleys list, readers. Comment with your picks. We’d love to hear them! Now, until next time, let’s enjoy a year of bloody fun.

Awards Season 2011 Part 1: The Lucky 13

Posted: February 25, 2012 by Jenny Dreadful in Editorial, Film, Lists

Good morning, horror fiends. It’s that time of year again. Time for film fans to pause and reflect on the bland emotional blackmail from the year before. Time to obsess over hideous dresses. Oh yes. I speak of Oscar season! Although Final Girl Support Group will be cheering for Uggie the dog and bitching about snubs along with the rest of the film community Sunday, we need to honor the films of last year in our own way.  In a 2-part series, we would like to present the best in horror from 2011; starting with our favorite films.

The Lucky 13: The Best Horror of 2011

Although we occasionally get press perks and are lucky enough to live near some festivals, we can’t make it to everything. We’re usually at the mercy of U.S. release dates for great foreign films too. That said, selections are limited to our experience and are listed alphabetically to avoid the pain of indecision.

1. Absentia

StayFrosty: Low budget filmmaking usually calls to mind (with some notable exceptions) poor CGI, fair to poor acting, and bland storylines we’ve seen a hundred times before.  And then there’s Absentia, a movie that takes the little money it has and runs with it, creating an effectively scary, well written and well shot film that Hollywood wished it still understood.  Absentia proves that you don’t need millions of dollars to make a good movie.

Jenny Dreadful: With a low budget and a horrendous DVD cover (such a crime), this is a film genre fans are likely to miss. If you like supernatural horror, ignore cover art, turn off the lights and go in with an open mind. The skilled use of focus and clever practical effects make for a very creepy experience. We adore this film.

2. Black Death

Read our Review

crowbait: After the disappointment of Season of the Witch and the misleading advertisement this film was a delight. Unflinchingly brutal and with a story that took twists and turn to keep it above the “typical” witch hunt, it is highly recommended.

StayFrosty:  I rewatched this a few days ago, fearing it might not be as good as I remembered.  On the contrary, I think it might have been even better than I recalled.  What I most noticed this time around was the excellent casting choices.  The members of Sean Bean’s team all felt very natural together, had great chemistry, and naturally fit within the environment.   The creepy town – and especially our leading lady – remain unsettling and the ending still packs a punch without being too typical.  Repeat viewings only make this one stronger.

3. Hobo with a Shotgun

Read our Review

Jenny Dreadful: I said quite a bit about this crazed throwback already. See the link above for my pretty lengthy review. Despite its grim subject matter, I’d name it among the most fun blood-fests of the year. That may be because this list is depression central (and boy is it ever), but I think Hobo is colorful, wonderful madness.

4. In a Glass Cage

Read Jenny’s Review on Cinedelphia

StayFrosty: This movie is deeply disturbing, tackling issues like child molestation, Nazis and revenge.  If I had to classify it as anything, I would say it’s essentially a rape/revenge movie dealing with the cycle of abuse.  It’s also stunningly beautiful (there’s a giallo-homage scene that floored me with its cinematography and color use), wonderfully acted and isn’t afraid to take on these issues up front. Nothing is black and white, everything is gray.  There’s no side you can take that makes sense, and no safe place your mind can land.  And that’s what makes it so great.  Have a chaser movie ready though, because you’ll need it.

Jenny Dreadful: I was hesitant to consider this film eligible since it’s a release from the 80s, but we decided a beautiful new print making rounds at festivals and an impressive new DVD/Blu-Ray warrants breaking the rules a little. One of the strongest films I watched last year. I say plenty more at the link above.

5. Insidious

Read our Review

StayFrosty: It’s hard to pick a top of the year, because there are so many beautiful, disturbing films that stick with you long after the credits roll.  But I think in the end I would choose Insidious over all of those, because Insidious reminded both the viewing public and the Hollywood system that you don’t need CGI, quick cuts and cat scares to make an effective horror film.  James Wan uses atmosphere and implied terror to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.  Wan has shown that even when his movies aren’t perfect (Dead Silence, anyone?) he can still create amazing atmospheric setpieces, and he does the same with Insidious, except this time it works on all levels.  And I appreciate that the ending isn’t just a closed book.  It’s a throwback to films like Poltergeist, and I mean that as a compliment.  If I can be scared watching Lyn Shaye stare at a ceiling fan and speak under her breath about something evil, the movie is a success.  Hollywood, please take note – this is how it’s done.

Jenny Dreadful: I can’t consider this the best film of the year, but it might be my favorite. A spooky haunted house-style flick made for watching in the dark and huddling with friends. Scary and fun.

6. I Saw the Devil

Read our Review

Jenny Dreadful: This disturbing cat-and-mouse thriller from Korea tops a good number of year-end lists from horror critics and fans alike. This is for good reason. Absolutely beautiful visuals, shocking brutality, fascinating performances, and jaw-dropping action sequences make this is a must-watch for any genre fan with the stomach for cruelty and violence.

7. Kill List

crowbait: I think I’ve seen more strange twists in recent British horror films than I have in any others. What starts out as the “workaday” world of a soldier turned contract killer becomes a strange mystery and semi-crusade against despicable criminals before descending into horror as an unexplained coven comes to pursue the  protagonist as fervent worshipers. An odd one, not for everyone but well made and worth it if you find the premise intriguing.

Jenny Dreadful: Although I’m loathe to define such an interesting film with comparison to another, the best way to efficiently describe Kill List is “Hitman movie meets The Wicker Man.” I agree with crowbait that some viewers will be turned off by a conclusion that seems to come from nowhere, but I feel the creeping dread is there all along; building toward the disturbing turn. I suspect it’s one to watch twice. If you go in with an open mind and the knowledge that genres will clash in strange ways, I think you’ll be surprised by a solid and scary flick.

8. Melancholia

StayFrosty: What a gorgeous, gorgeous movie.  Gorgeous and upsetting and overwhelming and like nothing I’ve experienced.  It takes the cycle of depression and anxiety within two despairing souls (effectively reflected in the characters played by Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg) and blows it out to interstellar proportions, with planets literally representing the emotional states of the two sisters.  The movie was dismissed from the Oscars on a technicality, despite sweeping up wins in almost every other awards show to date.  The Oscars are less for not having this movie on their roster.

Jenny Dreadful: Those who are close to me might find that I talk about this film constantly. As you may guess, Melancholia is my pick for the best of 2011. Frosty did a good job with condensing the film effectively into a short summary. Fitting everything I have to say about this beautiful and devastating piece in a concise way is impossible. I’m going to need to write a full review. I will say that, from the heart-breaking realism of the performances to the breathtaking and surreal visuals, the film’s absence from the list of Oscar nominees is a crime.

9. Red, White & Blue

StayFrosty: This is a hard movie to take, and definitely not for everyone (I find we’re saying that on so many of our choices this year).  Excellent performances all around, keeping all the characters as gray areas.  No heroes here, just lost, lonely, sometimes violent people trying desperately to find someone or something that can help them begin to heal.  While not precisely a “twist” ending, the final moments of this film stays with you.

10. A Serbian Film

StayFrosty: This is a seriously depressing list, but we can’t leave out this movie, even though it’s been called all sorts of names.  JennyD and I watched this, and while it does deal with some shocking and upsetting topics, it’s shot beautifully and the “shocking” moments feel in service to the story (with one potential exception).  Our lead actor does a great job keeping a character committing a series of vile acts sympathetic.  He’s a victim as much as the people he’s victimizing.  Is this movie hard to watch?  You better believe it.  But is it just a series of trashy, misogynistic, disgusting images made for shock and nothing else?  I don’t think so.  I was more offended by Doghouse than I was by this movie.

Jenny Dreadful: Agreed. As we’re a feminist blog, I think it’s easy to assume we’d hate this film based on the subject matter and the controversy it stirred. A Serbian Film is too smart, too beautifully shot, too well-scored, and too emotionally affecting to be dismissed as trash. Don’t necessarily take this as a recommendation. If you think you’re up for this bleak film, do a little research first.

11. The Silent House

crowbait: The hour-long takes of this film build a relentless tension. It’s surprising as well how much the characters can be developed in such a short span without becoming unbelievable but the story is really one of revelation as secrets are peeled away in the house of horrors. There are so many “how did they do that?” camera moments in this film, it’s worth seeing on a technical level even if you aren’t a fan of hauntings.

12. Stakeland

Read our Review

crowbait: A vampire western, through and through. The vamps are full-on monsters and the heroes are a lone wanderer and his apprentice. They travel the land looking for some place safe from the apocalypse but it’s more a journey of growth and a coming of age story for the young apprentice.

13. Tucker & Dale vs Evil

Read our Review

StayFrosty: Thank god this movie came out this year, or our entire list would be incredibly depressing.  We reviewed it for 31/31 here, but just to remind everyone, it’s hilarious and clever and sweet and gory.  All of these things.

Jenny Dreadful:  Sweet likable characters and increasingly silly coincidences keep this joke from getting old. Lots and lots of fun.

There you have it, readers. Our favorite genre films of 2011. Agree? Disagree? Tell us your picks. Meanwhile, look out for Awards Season Part 2. It’s time to get a little more specific.

Love Bites – Day 1 – The Vampire Lovers

Posted: February 1, 2012 by StayFrosty in Film, Lists, Reviews

  It’s February everyone, so FGSG decided that we would cover one vampire movie a day up until Valentine’s Day.  You know, that day when flowers cost $100 and Hallmark makes you feel bad if you’re single.  But whether you love V-Day or loathe it, vampires just seemed the right way to go.  And if you’re going to write about vampires during the month of love, why not jump in with both feet?  So we open our Love Bites series with the Hammer/AIP 1970 classic “The Vampire Lovers”.

Would you be able to resist Ingrid Pitt? I don't think so.

Ah, Hammer, the world of the heaving bosoms, fog-shrouded forests and superstitious villagers. This story is loosely based on Sheridan Le Fanu’s story “Carmilla”.  It’s interesting to watch what is basically the same plot as the Christopher Lee Dracula films, but now with a female vampire, called both Marcilla and Carmilla (played by the beautiful and talented Ingrid Pitt).  Pitt is absolutely gorgeous and compelling – it’s easy to see why anyone would be drawn to her, naked or not.  Like Lee, she hypnotizes her prey, fears religious items, and prefers the taste of the blood of young, nubile ladies.  And since it’s now 1970, there’s more than heaving bosoms in play here – there’s bosoms all over the place.  This is a racy and erotic film, especially for Hammer, but hey, everyone has to try and keep up with the times.

While the plot sticks close to the Hammer tradition, it’s the deviations in the traditions that make this film interesting.  Carmilla stalks and murders many women, but she also falls in love with some of them and expresses a deep emotional regret that everyone around her must die.  It’s certainly nothing Christopher Lee ever seemed to worry about.  This addition to the vampire character added a new layer to the plot, and allows the viewer some sympathy with Carmilla.  Not that there has never been a romantic male vampire who acts out of love (Coppola’s “Dracula” is the perfect example), but that was years after this film.  Carmilla is still a predator, but she also craves companionship and love.

Our vampire also uses the gender bias of the time to get closer to her victims – no one suspects the woman, and Carmilla is freely allowed access to all of her victim/lovers.  In fact, for most of the film, there’s no men in the story at all, or at least not in any significant role.  All of the action is driven entirely by women, until the end, when the men race to save the day and destroy the monster.  Way to wait until the last minute, boys.  While I would have preferred that such a female-driven story also have a female heroine, it didn’t fit the Hammer mold, and I guess they just weren’t willing to take that last step.

Well, it's not all about love, is it?

“The Vampire Lovers” is worth a watch – it’s Hammer and that alone makes it worth your time, and it’s also a different take on the Hammer traditional style.  And while the lesbian vampire movies are often just an excuse for lots of nudity, this one seems to have a little more to it than just that.  Along with lots of nudity.

The Top 10 Wicked Women of Horror

Posted: November 2, 2011 by Jenny Dreadful in About Us, Editorial, Lists, News

Since it was published during the 24 Hour Horrorthon we attended this past weekend, this list sort of got lost in the shuffle. In case you missed it, allow me to direct you to my article, LA FEMME BRUTALE: THE TOP 10 WICKED WOMEN OF HORROR, a collaboration with Cinedelphia. I hope you enjoy reading the entries as much as we enjoyed choosing our favorite fiendish ladies. While you’re at it, speak up. Who are YOUR favorite female villains?

Ground rules:  Men in drag, sympathetic protagonists, and possessed women are disqualified! Sorry Norman, Carrie and Regan. We’ll be in touch.

The Top 10 Final Girls on Cinedelphia

Posted: October 5, 2011 by Jenny Dreadful in About Us, Editorial, Lists, News

Today, Jenny Dreadful and StayFrosty are proud to present STILL ALIVE: THE TOP 10 FINAL GIRLS, a collaboration with Philly film blog Cinedelphia.  Learn about our favorite horror heroines today, but keep checking out their site throughout the month for 31 DAYS OF HORROR.

PS: Hope you didn’t miss our scary movie recommendations on Sunday!

Happy Father’s Day!

Posted: June 19, 2011 by Jenny Dreadful in Editorial, Film, Lists

Whether we have really great relationships with our dads, bad relationships with them or whether we’ve just grown apart… I think the following horror movie parents can help most of us appreciate our fathers even more on this special day. We present 5 of the worst horror movie dads to grace the gory screen.

#5 Harry Powell

Seen in: Night of the Hunter (1955)

Jenny Dreadful: Serial killer, preacher, family man, Love and Hate tattooed across his knuckles… This evil Reverend is a classic. Looking for an executed robber’s stash of hidden money,  this charismatic psycho moves in on the man’s widow and her two children. Wooing his way into the family and establishing himself as husband and father, he seems kind and devout at first. Abuse, greed, murder and the merciless hunting of two innocent children soon follow. And that makes this guy one bad step-dad. Check out Night of the Hunter for an excellent villain and fairly shocking subject matter for its time.

StayFrosty – Jenny D said most of what I would say, so I will just add that while this movie does contain a creepy stepdad, this is also one amazing film.  Way ahead of its time, beautifully shot and very well acted (especially by our villain), this is well worth everyone’s time.

Crowbait: Mitchum is amazing in this role. Charismatic and engaging but never without the sinister undercurrent that some would see as zeal and others would see as menace.

#4 Grandpa Sawyer

Seen in: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

Jenny Dreadful: Grandpa Sawyer would be higher on this list, but unlike many of these nightmare dads, he truly does care about his family. We don’t know much about his kids, but we do know that he remains the dutiful patriarch for his large group of loving cannibal grandsons; Bubba (you might know him better as Leatherface), Drayton, Nubbin and Chop Top. And he looks so good for his age!

Ok, seriously, this grandpa stuff is freaking disturbing. This horrific practically-mummified old man in a wheelchair strikes screaming teens in the head with a mallet over and over while his adoring family shouts encouragement. Licking blood and deleriously giggling while he does it, Grandpa Sawyer is not the guy I would invite to the family picnic. But we can’t deny it… the saw is family.

#3 “Jerry Blake”

Seen in: The Stepfather (1987) and Stepfather 2 (1989)

StayFrosty:  I haven’t seen this one, but I hear Terry O’Quinn kicks ass as a crazy stepfather determined to have the perfect family, even if he has to slit a few throats to get it.  Skip the remake and stick with the classics, people.

Jenny Dreadful: If it wasn’t for all the stalking and murder, dad of the year!

#2  Satan

Seen in: Countless titles since the dawn of cinema. For the purpose of this post, however, let’s talk about Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Omen (1976).

StayFrosty – Ok, Rosemary’s Baby.  So not only does he impregnate innocent Rosemary, he deals with her husband to get to sleep with her.  So actually, is the husband the jerk in this equation?  Either way, the Satan sex scene to this day is surreal, disturbing and effective.  And you just know he’s going to be one of those parents who’re never around.

Jenny Dreadful: Ok, so… Satan. How could Satan POSSIBLY come second on this list? Well…

#1  Jack Torrance

Seen in: The Shining (1980)

StayFrosty – Torrance is one of the best unhinged characters in the genre.  Is he possessed?  Crazy?  Both?  As he slowly spirals into insanity, he manages to be kind, threatening and outright murderous, sometimes all in one scene.  This Dad is a mess all over the place.  You can be sure Danny Torrance went from The Overlook right into therapy.

Crowbait: This is one of those films that hits all the right notes for me. A truly artisitic vision that took a simple premise to unimaginably horrifying heights. I think the later film version that sticks more closely to the book is inferior because it avoided the opportunities for disturbing imagery that Kubrick saw within the story. Let a novel be a novel and let a film be a film.

Jenny Dreadful: One part Stephen King, one part Stanley Kubrick, one part Jack Nicholson. Soak in bourbon. Blend. Serve over ice.

Happy Father’s Day!

Awards season

Posted: January 31, 2011 by StayFrosty in Editorial, Film, Lists

Hello, dear readers.  With the Oscars coming up and various other awards shows already in the can, the three of us here at FGSG have decided to make our own awards.  Just like our top 13, we’re keeping it within the genre (otherwise Inception would be all over this thing!) and we modeled the awards on the Oscars, with a few cool additions.  Hey, the Oscars SHOULD have a Best Gore award!

So here are our Oscars – read on and then tell us what you think!

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky

Black Swan

Crowbait: Aronofsky’s strong artistic vision is a constant. Jenny Dreadful: Always amazing work whether the film’s subject matter appeals or repels. But, for the record, this is my favorite Aronofsky film to date.  StayFrosty: This is also my favorite so far.  A near perfect film directed by man with vision who isn’t afraid to tackle difficult subjects and not talk down to his audience.  Can’t wait to see what’s next.

Best Actor

We’ve got a tie here…

Stephen McHattie

Pontypool

Crowbait: The film is a vehicle for his terrific voice. They didn’t really leave room for a sequel but let’s just have a radio show for him anyway.  StayFrosty: He made this  movie, both with his wonderful voice and his acting talent.  He has such an expressive face – one raised eyebrow says more than some actors can do with their whole body.

Patrick Fabian

The Last Exorcism

Jenny Dreadful: Patrick Fabian charms the audience and carries this film. I wonder if The Last Exorcism would be worth watching without him?  StayFrosty:  This performance is stellar.  I don’t think it would be half as good of a movie without him.

Best Actress
Natalie Portman

Black Swan

Crowbait: You don’t need to hear from me that this is a great performance. What is special about it is that the academy is willing to honor her achievement in what some would still call a genre picture.     StayFrosty:  People have always been divided on the level of Natalie Portman’s talent, but all those in doubt should watch this movie and I have a feeling they’d change their tune.  This is probably the performance of the year, and I would be very surprised if she’s not up there at the end of February winning a very well deserved Oscar for Best Actress.

Best Supporting Actor
Richard Jenkins,

Let Me In

Crowbait: The biggest way in which the remake of this film improves on the original is in the detail given to the Father character.

Best Supporting Actress
Barbara Hershey,

Black Swan

Crowbait: Unstable mothers are always a favorite of horror films. What’s more upsetting than your own mother turning against you? Hershey’s portrayal starts subtly and spirals into the chaos of the surrounding action.  StayFrosty: It takes a lot to make a nail clipping scene terrifying, but Hershey does it.  Even Carrie White would be uncomfortable.

Best remake
Let Me In

Directed by Matt Reeves, Screenplay by Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lindqvist, Based on both a novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist and a film by Tomas Alfredson

Crowbait: Though it loses some moments from the original, it adds a lot of enjoyable characterization. Jenny Dreadful: It’s hard for me to endorse any remake, but this is an excellent film. Probably the best horror remake we’ve seen since The Ring. StayFrosty:  It doesn’t surpass the original, but it’s still an amazing film – well acted, beautifully shot, and at times both touching and terrifying.

Best Score
Clint Mansell

Black Swan

Crowbait: Mansell’s brooding music is both a contrast and compliment to the romantic sweep of Swan Lake. His score does a good job of avoiding that sort of sentimentality and playing on the growing tension within the character’s relationships but in such a way that when the full orchestra kicks in I never felt that any musical expression was less valid than the other.

Best Monster
Dren

Splice

Jenny Dreadful: Dren, played by Delphine Chaneac, isn’t your standard monster. She(?) is scary and dangerous, but also sympathetic and sweet… Alien, animalistic, but oh so human. Like a modern Frankenstein’s monster, it’s hard not to become emotionally attached to Dren as she grows up and the plot races toward its bizarre and horrific conclusion. Crowbait: Few films these days want you to feel for the monster (and those that do use some hackneyed methods to provoke your affection.) Dren is a fragile creature, oftentimes vicitimized for her lack of understanding and that makes her the perfect monster; one you actually care to see live or die.

Best Gore
Piranha 3D

Directed by Alexandre Aja, Written by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg, Gore by far too many FX professionals to name individually. We salute you!

Jenny Dreadful: Possibly the best gore I’ve ever seen. Crowbait: Blood, guts, bits and pieces and one very prominent knob.  StayFrosty:  This man is a master of gore – the massive beach attack alone is worth the price of admission.  The Grand Guignol would be proud.

Best Visual FX
Splice

Directed by Vincenzo Natali, Screenplay by Vincenzo Natali, Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor. Again, too many incredible FX artists to name.

Jenny Dreadful: It’s possible that other bigger-budget films had more polished visuals, but the creature FX in this film were incredibly ambitious. Concepts that could have been utter disasters were pulled off beautifully by the production team. Through a combination of practical FX and CGI, realistic textures, natural movements and a plausible sense of weight brought Dren and friends to life.

Best Poster Art

Another Tie!

Buried

Variant designs by Ignition Print

Jenny Dreadful: Although some of the variants by Ignition Print have a fun and graphic Hitchcock flavor, it’s the claustrophobic simplicity of this poster that had people talking. A bold move to leave so much asymmetrical black space around our star and his predicament, but a successful one.  StayFrosty: Just goes to show that sometimes less is more – so impacting without overdoing it.  Maybe one day the people who make trailers will learn this…

Black Swan

Design shown by Bemis Balkind. Other variants by Balkind and La Boca

Jenny Dreadful: The stark layout of the main poster, shown, utilizes a creepy photograph of Natalie Portman’s dark transformation beautifully. The red eyes and lips and the black makeup popping against the hazy white hints at the film’s beautiful aesthetic and horror content, but doesn’t give too much away. In addition to Balkind’s design, there are a number of illustrated variants by British design firm, La Boca. Equally stark and beautiful, they evoke Eastern European posters from the 60’s and 70’s.

Worst remake
Nightmare on Elm Street

Directed by Samuel Bayer, Screenplay by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer, Based on a film by Wes Craven

Crowbait: I missed the 80’s stereotyped victims. They had more character. Jenny Dreadful: As much as I despise the trend of remakes, I always thought this was the horror property that could actually use a reboot. The increasingly cartoony films just didn’t live up to their fright potential for me and the possibility of a Freddy tale with less humor and more dread was exciting. I was a fool for thinking this might be that film. I can see that the production team tried to deliver that experience, but the end result is a disappointment.  StayFrosty:  I agree with Jenny, while I think the original is cool, another take could have been interesting and very scary.  Not so much here – instead we get wooden acting, worse line delivery, and disappointing CG effects.  There’s so much you could do with a dream monster, and it is just wasted here.  And what should have been a creepy performance by the talented Jackie Earl Haley is marred with poor makeup choices and even poorer scripting.

We Warned You

We told you it sucks and it does. Mightily.

Skyline

Directed by The Brothers Strause, Screenplay by Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell

Jenny Dreadful: Ugh. This should have been a dumb fun FX extravaganza. Instead, it was kind of a boring eye-sore. But the laughable ending will stay with me always. Don’t eat the red brains. Crowbait: Such a waste of time and sfx budget. These guys need to stick with making other people look good by providing effects, not by providing comparison.

(Honorable Mention: Jonah Hex. We didn’t warn you because it was released before the creation of this blog. But we should have. We let you down. -JD)

WTF?!?!

This dubious award goes to a film that many people seem to love and we just totally dislike – like some bad relationships, we just don’t understand what people see in this one…

Dread

Directed by Anthony DiBlasi, Screenplay by Anthony DiBlasi, Based on a short story by Cliver Barker.

Crowbait: When the poster has the movie’s title written in crap, that’s all the review I need.


So there it is, carnage lovers, the FGSG awards.  Agree?  Disagree?  Think we’re crazy?  Post and let us know!

Lucky 13 – The Best of 2010

Posted: January 3, 2011 by StayFrosty in Editorial, Film, Lists

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:

1. AntiChrist

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.

AntiChrist on IMDB, Netflix, Amazon and Wikipedia

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.

Black Swan on IMDB, Netflix and Wikipedia

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.

Don’t Look Back on IMDB, Netflix, Amazon and Wikipedia

4.  Frozen

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.

Frozen on IMDB, Netflix, Amazon and Wikipedia

5.  Hausu

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.

Hausu on IMDB, Netflix, Amazon and Wikipedia

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.

Lake Mungo on IMDB, Netflix, Amazon and Wikipedia

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?

The Last Circus on IMDB, Netflix and Wikipedia

8.  Last Exorcism

August theater release. Read our somewhat conflicting reviews here and here. (Although I’d say we agree 100% months later) The Last Exorcism is available on DVD and Blu-Ray tomorrow.

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.

The Last Exorcism on IMDB, Netflix, Amazon and Wikipedia

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!

Let Me In on IMDB, Netflix, Amazon and Wikipedia

10.  Monsters

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.

Monsters on IMDB, Netflix, Amazon and Wikipedia

11.  Mutants

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.

Mutants on IMDB, Netflix, Amazon and Wikipedia

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.

Shutter Island on IMDB, Netflix, Amazon and Wikipedia

13.  Splice

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.

Splice on IMDB, Netflix, Amazon and Wikipedia

Honorable Mentions:

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!