We're now a mere 24 hours from the unveiling of the most astonishing, most unbelievable, most necessary top 25 list of films you're likely to find. In anticipation, BGH head-honcho Eric offers his personal choices for top and bottom 5 films of the last ten years. There's a theme running through several of his selections for worst films. Can you guess what it is?
I first discovered "May" during a time when my eyes were being opened up to the fact that great films, and in some cases the best films, were being released direct to DVD. It was also a dark period in my life, and so needless to say I had a profound connection with the title character. What gives the story depth is that May is not an emo girl who has it all and still can't relate to the world. Her twisted upbringing and subsequent awkwardness gives her every reason to withdraw from society and give up on life, and yet she persists in jumping feet first into an adorable crush on a grungy mechanic played by Jeremy Sisto. What follows is a hypnotizing slow burn that eventually devolves into a beautiful tribute to Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. Lost in a world where nobody loves her, May is forced to "create" a friend of her own. The results are gruesome and haunting.
I once asked Lucky Mckee what he would be doing if he wasn't a filmmaker, and his response to me was that he would probably be a more depressing version of May. In that case, let's be thankful he found his calling.
2. The Descent
British director Neil Marshall's follow-up to "Dog Soldiers" is pure, slobbering, adrenaline fueled terror. What's more impressive than the emotional resonance and masterfully crafted action, is just how interesting the first 45 minutes of the film are considering the fact that the monsters haven't even shown up yet. I was so impressed by this that I'm still a little perplexed by his follow-up, "Doomsday". With a handful of films finished or in development, his future in the genre remains bright. I'll also agree with Schnaars, that this very well may be this generation's "Aliens".
3. Session 9
The movie that brought me closest to peeing my pants this decade. Which in itself is an amazing feat, considering how much I dislike ghost films in general. You never see a door close by itself, a crappy CGI specter, or so much as a cloud of mist, and yet Brad Anderson was able to weave a spine-chilling ghost story that will no doubt go down in horror history as one of the scariest of all time. Low budget filmmakers should study this one to learn how to get big scares with a small budget.
A great example of how the French spent the decade adopting American horror cliches and attempting to deconstruct them in an intellectually interesting way. "Martyrs" took the "torture porn" sub-genre and turned it on its head by actually giving a reason for all of the disturbing mayhem. Don't get me wrong, it's not a pleasant experience... by the end director Pascal Laugier has broken down your own personal barriers along with his main character's. It's this transgression that paves the way for the deeper message, that only by losing all hope for any semblance of a future on earth, can we truly understand the life thereafter (or depending on your interpretation, the lack thereof).
5. Let the Right One In
Whereas the 90's were more preoccupied with making fun of genre films and parodying them than actually making them scary, I think the 00's will be remembered for the filmmakers who advanced the idea that horror could dig deeper into the complexities of the human experience and still remain relevant. This literary adaptation made a few key changes to the source material to make everyone involved more sympathetic, and then put forward a stunningly beautiful adaptation. Much like "May", this film taps into the painful isolation of adolescence and flawlessly melds it with the old-school vampire mythos.
The decade started out promisingly for Rob Zombie with "House of 1,000 Corpses", his wild, technicolor tribute to horror films of old. Within the span of the last 10 years however, his once bright future in the genre has dimmed for me with each new outing, to the point where I will be shocked if he ever makes a truly "good" film. His problem? Rob is, to use a phrase I coined on the podcast, the "anti-subtle". "Halloween" features the cheapest dimestore psychobabble available, mixes it with an awful and misused soundtrack, and coats the whole shit-casserole with a ridiculous amoung of laughably gratuitous violence. All of this might have made for a fun outing, if it wasn't clearly obvious how serious Zombie takes himself and his "art". This film is awful on every level, and as you can see, I still haven't gotten the taste out of my mouth.
2. Halloween II
I dislike this film more on principle than anything else, since it was almost a year of Zombie going to great lengths to say he would never do a sequel before he (presumably) saw the dollar amount on the check that he was waiting for from Dimension Films. Why is it bad enough to make the list? Two words... white horse.
3. Diary of the Dead
This is what happens when you spend 30 years listening to horror fans praise you for your genius social commentary that you maybe didn't fully intend in the first place. It's also what happens when a director ages and possibly loses his touch in the process. Schnaars summed it up best, when he said that this film "[is] more like a crotchety old man's editorial to the local paper than it [is] a true horror movie". Even the preachiness would have been a tad easier to handle if he got his message straight, but I'll be damned if I could make heads or tails of anything he was trying to say, except of course, "get off my lawn".
4. The Devil's Rejects
In Zombie's 2nd feature film he decided to toss out the technicolor aesthetic of "House of 1,000 Corpses" and go for, in his words, a "grittier" feel. That in itself is not a bad thing. He also talk about how he was "disturbed" by the way people seemed to be relating to and cheering for the Firefly clan in the first film, and how as a result he really tried to demonize them this time around.
He goes about accomplishing this (?) by making them the main characters of the film, and ending it with a slow-motion montage where they valiantly fight to their death over the entirety of "Free-Bird". To me it's a dirty, offensive film that showcases more of Zombie's trademark: pointless rage. It's also when I began to realize that Zombie is making the movies that an angry, sexually aggressive 16 year old would make if he had the resources. Unfortunately, there has been little growth in his material since.
5. The Grudge II
"The Grudge" was one of the better entries into the American J-Horror remake craze. I would go so far as to say that it was 2nd best to "The Ring". Which is what makes this sequel so perplexing. It is unbelievably boring and almost unwatchable in every way.