With yet another short week at work due to the impending holidays and therefore, no real desire to actually accomplish whatever it is I get paid to do there, I spent a good portion of the day compiling this list (and rearranging a lot...to be fair, it may change again).
Note: Based on all horror made readily available in the U.S. in 2009, not on imdb's official release year or any other such nonsense.
10. The Last House on the Left
A surprisingly effective remake of the Wes Craven classic that trumps the original in several key areas. Gone is the awkward humor that was more distracting than anything and the performances, especially within the gang, are far less cartoonish in this one. The biggest issue here was the decision to spare Mari's life as this made her parent's subsequent vengeance less powerful (and considering how unsettling the rape scene was, I cannot imagine her death would have been any more shocking for the audience). As well, the microwave ending scene was just plain stupid and clearly tacked on in post.
While not nearly at the level of triumph that so many in the horror community made Martyrs out to be, it did remain a fascinating, if not flawed venture. The complete tonal shift halfway through the film could have been handled better and while I appreciated the more thought-provoking aspects regarding what comes after death (or in the moment of) and how an individual's personal suffering can affect this, the overall message was muddled and lacking in any real substance.
08. My Bloody Valentine 3-D
Celebrated mainly as a return to the shlocky (and always entertaining) 1980's slashers, much like the original of which it is loosely based, the 2009 version is fun, but disposable. To be honest, I do not recall much at all about the characters or storyline and it ranks as highly as it does simply because the 3-D effects were used well and the inclusion of Tom Atkins instantly makes anything better. I have heard that the use of 3-D is nowhere near as good for home viewing so this is likely a "one and done" feature for me.
07. Drag Me To Hell
An open letter to Sam Raimi:
Congratulations on a truly great return to form. No one wants you to make Spiderman 4. You are better than that.
Based on the director's previous work, the abysmal House of Wax remake and the recent trend of even worse "evil kid" movies like Joshua, The Unborn, practically every lazy American version of a J-Horror, etc., expectations for Orphan were razor thin. The last thing I expected was a well-crafted but still wonderfully trashy and exploitative film with a twist that, for once, did not induce any groans. We need more mainstream horror willing to pull no punches.
I almost hasten to even consider this a horror film as the inclusion of zombies doesn't necessarily relegate a movie into the genre, but I will, seeing as it would be practically criminal to leave it off the list. One of the best horror/comedies of all time, falling only behind classics like Return of the Living Dead and Slither and a cameo that marks the best work that particular actor has done in a decade.
A truly disturbing film that stuck with me for days after and will be rewatched again and again for years to come. This would likely be higher on the list if the last scene didn't completely go against what was built up from the beginning in regards to one of the main protaganist's intentions...
03. Trick 'r Treat
I really hope someone at Warner Brothers got fired over this. With all the junk that horror fans have to put up with from major studios in their newfound desire to appeal only to high school kids and the opening weekend numbers, Warners sits on a bonafide classic for over 2 years before dumping it into the video market? Halloween now has its quintessential film, outside of, you know, Halloween.
02. The House of the Devil
As noted in my review of this film about a month ago, The House of the Devil is like a long lost classic you happened to stumble across on late night TV and can't believe that you missed it for some long. Horror filmmaking at its best and I will watch anything writer/director Ti West does from this point on. (Well, maybe not Cabin Fever 2 seeing as he apparently has disowned it due to studio interference.)
I knew nothing of this film when I watched it on VOD earlier this year and was instantly blown away. As suspenseful and tense as any film I have ever seen, Pontypool is a slow burn and much like the best of David Lynch, a film that must be reexamined through multiple viewings to fully appreciate its many layers. Recommended to everyone.