2011 was a strange year for horror films. It was not a bad year per se, but there were not that many large theatrical releases for the genre. It seems that we are coming to a transitional period; Hollywood is not taking that many chances on horror films these days and will not sponsor long theatrical runs in fear of losing money. This was still true some years ago and it gave birth to the Direct-to-DVD films, which were usually lacking in some way and never did many people favors. With the dawn of digital rental services, studios now can invest in distributing their films through On Demand or Vudu. With this new system of distribution, high quality films are able to be streamed into your home. This is particularly beneficial if you live far from a city that runs limited-release films. We are now living in an age where horror films don’t need the approval of thousands of theaters, they just need to be filled with quality and someone will host it.
So here we are, the end of 2011. I think it was a pretty good year for horror, but in general, a not-so-good year for wide films. There was something lacking in the mainstream films but there was still a few solid surprises. My top ten list is not in any particular order, and contains some films that are not strictly horror related but were talked about a good amount within the community. There are also a number of films I have not seen, but I have tried to see most of them for the year. So don’t go, “WELL WHAT ABOUT THAT GERMAN FILM?!” Remember, we are just doing this for fun.
MOANS AND GROANS FROM THE AUDIENCE! Many individuals had issues with this film that caused them to spill out gallons of hate on the message boards and blogs. I disagree, though the film was problematic in some parts, Insidious is effectively creepy and contains an interesting story. The biggest reason why this is on my list because this film was given a wide release and made back 9x the amount of money it cost to make it. Insidious gave hope that horror can still make it theaters and actually be well-made. We should be thankful that people still care about making quality PG-13 horror films.
Super 8 is not a horror film in the slightest but it was a film that the community was behind, and hey, Abrams made it. Super 8, like Insidious, is not perfect but it reached out to me on an emotional level and struck cords in me that many films do not. The film spoke to the child in me that grew up on old sci-fi films and it also spoke to personal things in my life, which I will not discuss openly on this post. Super 8 was also grounded by amazing performances by child actors, which is a hard thing to do (remember Jake Lloyd) and great direction by Abrams. It is one of my favorite films in recent years.
Attack the Block
There has been much praise for this film already; I don’t think that I can tell you anything that you don’t know. While it may not have hit any emotional notes for me, I thought that this was a well-made British-alien film that sported some great effects. I was also impressed with the attitude of the film, it was ruthless and it did not protect the kids from any kind of harm (like Super 8).
The return of old school zombies! I never cared for the war between fast and slow zombies, I think they serve a purpose in their own fiction and can be great no matter if they run or walk. I considered 28 Days Later to be one of the greater zombie films of all time, and nothing past that point has impressed me. That is until The Dead came out and it surprised me with its well created characters and storyline. This is another film that people will knock for its purposefully slow narrative, but I enjoyed it in its entire runtime and I hold it in high regards as the best zombie film in the last decade. Suck it.
If The Dead was the new, greatest zombie film, then Stake Land is the vampire equivalent. I did not know what to expect from Stake Land, I figured it would lead me to love it but disappoint in the final act. That was not the case with my viewing. It was one of those few experiences where I was glued to the screen, unable to answer texts and unable to go and use the bathroom. The story is a father/son narrative that speaks to me, and those two characters are so defined that I feel that I could meet them in real life. Not only is the story, gore, and vampires amazing, but it is a great looking film (thanks to those filters) and provides a gritty experience that hasn’t left me.
The Skin I Live In
Not only is this film well acted and directed but it has the ability to mess me up for days. I did not know what I was getting myself into when I started watching this. As the plot continues to evolve, the rabbit hole for both the viewer and the main character gets deeper. When you get to the end, you can’t get rid of what you just watched. Like I have stated, films don’t “shock” me anymore, but this one was able to. So why wouldn’t it be on my list?
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
The horror-comedy market is flooded, and every writer is trying too hard to make the next Evil Dead. It seems that everyone thinks that this sub-genre is the easiest one to make it in because you don’t need a large budget. I tire of these individuals, and I say to you, don’t waste my time. Every once and awhile there is a glimmer of hope. Shaun of the Dead was the best horror-comedy in years and since then no one was able to top them. While Tucker and Dale vs. Evil does not top that film completely, it does a great job in being an equal. I laughed steadily through the film, and though it drops the ball a bit in the last act, it is a delightfully, funny film.
Paranormal Activity 3
Another film/series that people love to hate and make sure that everyone knows it. I have been a fan of this series because I have an unhealthy love for found-footage. These films spook me in a way that no other series can and I actually enjoy the narrative. I did not expect much from the third installment; in fact, I figured this was going to be the beginning of the end. I was pleasantly surprised though and wound up liking it more than all the other entries. Even Ted Brown of this site, who was once a hater, was turned around by this film. So, I guess there is something to be said there. Other than that, it is more of the same but it takes elements of both 1 and 2 and improves on them. I anxiously await the next entry.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
This is another not-so horror film, but one that many people talked about within the community. I was touched by the story of the film more than anything. Alright, a demonic Santa is pretty awesome but that was not what lingered in my head after my viewing. Like Stake Land, this film sported a father/son story that had the boy trying to prove his worth to a father. Though the ending it rather ridiculous and does not jive with the main theme of the film, it was a great watch and this is a film that I will return to every holiday season.
Personally, I have never been a big fan of the site Bloody Disgusting. I think that they are more concerned with the news and their image than doing the right thing, but they exist to serve a purpose than many enjoy and I am not attacking those (or you) for liking that site. There is one thing that I am proud of them for doing, and that’s making a distribution company to get otherwise, unknown films some face time. Out of this we got Berlin Undead, Atrocious, Cold Fish, and The Woman. We owe a lot to the guys over at Bloody Disgusting Selects. Anyways, Cold Fish came out of this and I thoroughly enjoyed this Japanese tale of nihilism. Running close to two and a half hours, this is a movie to digest and is not to be taken lightly. The violence does not ramp up until the end but before that we are treated to some great dialogue and interesting situations. I enjoy Asian films and this is no exception. It is now on Netflix Instant, so give it a whirl.