Number 30- ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Tim Burton does what he does best and weird’s up a simple tale. Alice in Wonderland received mixed reviews, but there’s no denying it was a feast for the eyes, was extremely dark in places and managed to touch those funny bones in the way only Tim Burton can. Burton regular Johnny Depp played the Mad Hatter and him and a few other suspect characters had this film only just bordering on a 12A. It was great fun as Alice disappeared down the rabbit hole into a bizarre world filled with superb characters and wonderful set designs. The odd song helped add to the magic of a truly unforgettable and strange experience. Like him or not, there is no denying Burton has a genius talent of delving into your weirdest, darkest dreams and making them feel like a reality. Every character, every scene, every song, every background, every joke is a master-stroke of twisted genius
Number 29- MY SON, MY SON, WHAT HAVE YE DONE
David Lynch and Werner Herzog, a due made in heaven, team up to try and out weird themselves in this truly bizarre true story of a man obsessed with a Greek play. Driven to murder his Mother by what he has learnt from the play, we start the film as the police move in to arrest the suspect who has locked himself in his house across the street. Willem Dafoe plays the police captain desperate to learn this man’s story in order to get him out quickly and peacefully. The suspects girlfriend and best mate turn up and fill us all in on what turned him into a killer. Strange stories, bizarre settings, a great cast and some of the most frightening music you will hear all year prove that the Lynch/Herzog collaboration has worked a treat. Lynch’s stamp is all over it, and Herzog takes charge to create masterful characters and brilliant scripting. Long pauses, bizarre and unsettling camera angles, moments of oddball comedy (witness the suspect rolling out a tin of food from his garage) and a story which draws you in and suffocates you all add up to possibly the strangest film of the year.
Number 28- THE HOLE
Joe Dante made his return to the horror/comedy genre with this little gem that was a must for all fans of 80’s horror. Remember the days of films like Gremlins and Ghostbusters, even the Lost Boys, those horrors that reached out to even none horror fans and, dare i say it, families! Well, the Hole was just that, a horror you could take your kids to see, and a horror for teens, and a horror for old farts like ourselves to enjoy if only for a nostalgia trip. The basic idea of a bottomless pit in a basement brought all sorts of fun for a family escaping a past life with an abusive father. The good old fashioned and safe love story of the older brother and the girl next door is there to inject some realism, and the unbelieving Mother and suburban setting all set the tone perfectly. The mystery of the Hole is later revealed by a character straight from the 80’s, and the horror comes thick and fast once it gets going, with some scenes that even made me jump! The Hole is one of those easy to watch, safe, comforting horrors which i am sure will be remembered as a classic of its time and should hopefully fill many dvd collections as it deserves its rightful place alongside all those family friendly 80’s classics
Number 27- MONSTERS
I actually want this higher in the list, but i am struggling to find anything to replace it with. This has not been an easy task! Monsters divided opinions and became 2010’s ultimate marmite film. Critics loved it, viewers (most of them it would seem) hated it. I was one of the few that loved it, and as an added bonus, so did the wife Monsters was not what the trailer and marketing campaign promised, or was it. The idea that man is the monster is one that was painfully missed by some viewers. This film is essentially a love story, and a damned honest one at that, about two people thrown into an impossible situation and where the adrenalin of fear forces a close relationship. Aliens are there, mostly in the background, but when they do come on screen they are nothing short of brilliant. Remember, the director made the majority of this film on his computer, and has somehow created a huge landscape that looks stunning. Music is added to help create the mood, and it is some of the finest music in any film this year. The two central characters, husband and wife in real life, prove you don’t have to have been a big Hollywood star to actually be convincing. A slow build up was too much for some, but it helped create a sense of chaos as we enter the “infected zone”. For what it is, the film is bordering on genius and i reckon it is a film that will gain much more praise and fans once it gets released on dvd and people can watch it at home, without all the fuss and advertising that got people far too excited about something that was essentially not what they were expecting.
Number 26- THE ROAD
If ever there was a film that made you want to kill yourself, this was it. The Road was bleak with a capitol B, however, it was also a very accomplished movie about hope and survival. The realisation of a world literally dying was superbly presented in a film using the colour grey to disturbing and moody effect. Viggo Mortensen plays the father and him and his young son head of through the wilderness in the hope of finding salvation. Along the way they meet cannibals and some disturbed characters. They also present one of the closest father and son bonds you will ever see in a film. Emotions run high and your heart will be tugged from its sockets as the two make their journey. The film was far too bleak for some, but those who did sit through till the end would have found an incredible film full of passion and perfection. Not a happy journey all round, but a film that gets you thinking, and finally an honest portrayal of a world with nothing left to give. Powerful powerful stuff
Number 25- THE LAST EXORCISM
The exorcism movie had yet another breath of fresh air with this genius and disturbing masterpiece from director Daniel Stamm and produced, unbelievably, by Eli Roth! This film divided opinions, and the ending seemed to have pissed off most viewers who found it to be lazy and as if the writers had run out of ideas. Personally, i actually found the ending extremely powerful and had the same powerful, kick to the head shock like the Blair Witch delivered all those years ago. After such a realistic and strong build up, the end found out of place, but also very upsetting and i found myself literally shaking with fear in the cinema. Likewise the first 1 hr and 20 minutes did the same as Stamm cleverly used the handheld camera to brilliant effect. Reverend Cotton Marcus has become an unbeliever in exorcisms after performing so many, and believes the fake scam should be shown for what it is and so decides to document his Last Exorcism on video, with unfortunate results. The whole thing feels so REAL, the characters blessed with incredible acting abilities and special effects which came mostly from a girl who could actually twist her body into such positions. Everything about this stunning film oozes quality and reassurance that the exorcism horror is well and truly alive and well. Nothing in this film is wasted, the performances are inch perfect, you warm to the right characters, you find yourself second guessing right to the end, and the scares are expertly delivered. Not a chance in hell are you gonna see an exorcism quite like this again for some time, let alone a better one.
Number 24- PIRANHA
Early photos of this movie in production suggested director Alexandre Aja had created a bit of a blood bath, and the final production did not disappoint. Generally remakes are either incredibly bad, or classic, Piranha falls into the classic category. Aja brought together one of the most beautiful casts ever, hundreds of bikini clad sexy girls, including Kelly Brook and Riley Steel as porn stars who get involved in one of the greatest underwater lesbian scenes in movie history! Half the movie is build up, character growth and a bit of a perv fest as hundreds of students celebrate Spring Break. The local Sherriff has left her son to babysit, but he decides to go on a boat to guide a porn film maker round the sites. All these stories are just there to fill in the gaps, it’s the blood and violence we’ve come to see and Aja relishes it. Once the piranha attack, it’s a nonstop mess of chopped limbs, severed heads, naked girls and blood everywhere! It’s fantastic, way over the top and utter utter brilliance. I haven’t had this much fun watching a horror in a long long time. Aja keeps his tongue firmly in cheek as he delivers one fast joke after one nauseating death after another and another. I actually cheered some of the deaths they were that good! Oh, and let’s not forget the classic castration scene, or the brilliant homage to Jaws at the beginning. Aja we salute you in your genius, but isn’t it now time to make your OWN film again?
Number 23- CHERRY TREE LANE
The home invasion movie took a turn for the nasty as young thugs become the new threat in this vicious little horror not a million miles from Eden Lake. Whereas it would take something incredibly special to match Eden Lake’s brilliance, Cherry Tree Lane used those realistic and uncomfortable ideas and brought it from the woods direct into your home. Cherry Tree Lane is brutally filmed in real time as a normal husband and wife sit down for dinner, having forced conversations and struggling to love one another. Three hoodies turn up wanting to find their son, sending them away thinking nothing of it, the hoodies come back and this time once the door is answered they force themselves in. What follows is a relentless, brutal, savage set of bullying and mind games as the hoodies wait for their “grassing” son to return. It’s tense, nasty and at times incredibly hard to watch. The unrelenting camera which forces you to become another person in the room, the brilliant use of real time which makes you feel like you are really there with them, and the vicious use of perfect realism as characters react in a way most people would. It’s slow in places, but it builds up incredible tension and delivers horrible violence. The rape of the Mother as the husband can only listen is sickening, the hoodies themselves threatened by their leader, the arguments, the act of friendship by a hoodie, followed by extreme violence. Nothing feels safe, it’s scary and delivers an ending that will haunt you for days, even weeks after watching.
Number 22- THE HORSEMAN
Christian is your every day father, but his daughter has disappeared and soon turns up dead. The poor guy is devastated, but when a mysterious video tape turns up with footage of his daughter in a porn movie, his sadness turns to hate and then turns into a thirst for revenge that is both shocking and understanding. Hunting down the makers of this porn film, he finds himself in more and more dangerous situations as he spirals further into his own living Hell. The violence on offer here is magnificent, but also incredibly real as Christian gets into fights with shady characters. It’s his want for revenge that gives him the edge over the thugs he’s out to get, but some situations come dangerously close to going wrong. The passion from this guy to avenge his daughter’s murder is intense, and makes for some incredible scenes and a brutal, honest story that will have you siding with him from the beginning. The Horseman is one of the most impressive revenge films i have seen in many a year, but you will need a strong stomach to get through it
Number 21- A PROPHET
Just missing out on the top 20, but had this been a top 50 of films in general, this may well have been number one, most definitly in the top 3 of the year. Since this is a list for horror and cult films, A Prophet shouldn’t really be here, but the film is just too damned good not to be in the list. Let’s just be happy with the fact it’s foreign, and so is a little different, and could possibly become a cult classic, as its most certainly a classic in every other sense. This stunning gangster film charts new convict Malik’s rise to the top in a touch French prison. Malik goes to prison for a crime that isn’t exactly that bad, but it’s his behaviour IN prison that gets him his reputation as he’s stuck in the middle of two class struggles, the Muslims and the Corsicans. An early job is offered to him in return for protection from Mr Big Cesar, a brilliantly portrayed, ageing criminal with no hope of ever seeing life on the outside again. Malik plays each side against each other, but becomes incredibly close, and at times, loyal to Ceser and becomes his right hand man. The relationship portrayed here is incredibly powerful and brilliantly real. They do jobs both in and out of prison while on day release, there’s violence, there’s tensions and most of all there’s two central characters that are incredibly powerful. The film is a work of pure brilliance, and is ultimately quite devastating in parts too. I don’t want to say much about the plot as not to spoil things, but this is a very, very special film indeed and the best prison film since the Shawshank Redemption. If you haven’t seen it yet, after all my ramblings about it early last year, then I don’t want to hear anymore fuckin excuses. It less than a fiver on Amazon, buy it now!!!!
Number 20- THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
Wow!! Sweden certainly made their mark with Let the Right One In the previous year, and then this, one of the finest murder mysteries to have graced our screens in years! A star is also born in Noomi Rapace who plays the girl in question, a tortured soul who has had a pretty shitty life and it looks like there’s no end to the misery. In care due to her mental health, carers abuse her and the new fella forces her into sexual favours in order for her to get money which is rightfully hers. This leads to some gruelling and uncomfortable scenes early on. We learn she can handle herself too as she takes on a bunch of drunks in a subway, but her story is just a fraction of the brilliance on offer here. A missing person is thought to have been murdered and a writer has been hired to find out the truth and he asks for the help of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as she is dedicated to her work and both becomes incredible investigators. To say much more about the plot would seriously jeopardise your viewing pleasure, so let’s just say there are twists and turns and people you trust, and then you don’t and then you do again? It’s a riveting story that gets darker with each frame. It reminds me of those good old killer films from the 90’s. It doesn’t try to be too big or too clever, it simply tells a story, brilliantly, and uses excellent characters, fast pacing and interesting plot lines to get you completely hooked. At over 2 hours long it never feels over long, and you are so into the story it’s a real shame when the end credits role. An incredible achievement, and i cannot wait to see the next two films in the trilogy.
Number 19- THE REEF
Everyone knows my love for Open Water, Adrift and all things that get as real as they possibly can. The Reef continues realism of people in a seriously dangerous situation and ups the stakes big time! Five friends go out on a boat on the reefs of Australia and while out at sea with no one around, their boat catches a reef and gets upturned. Based on a true story, 4 of the friends decide to swim after one of them explains that in this heat and with no one in site, they would die of exhaustion and thirst if they stay on top of the boat. What follows is a relentless and fuckin scary swim to find land. They aim for one direction, and just prey that they will see land soon. Knowing what lives in these waters, the 2 girls and 2 guys are cautious at first, ut soon start to laugh and joke and relax a bit. All that is quickly taken away as a Great White Shark fin breaks the water. Using his goggles, the main swimmer in the group is able to check under the water to see for sure what it was, and there in the murky distance is a massive Great White shark. Panic sets in and you will now have to endure some of the most tense scenes you will have ever seen as the shark keeps coming back and circling its prey. This is NOT for the faint of heart and if you are scared of water, this aint gonna help the problem! The camera work is genius as a REAL shark is used, god knows how they did it, but in one scene a girl is quite literally brushed aside by the shark. It’s incredible to witness but very very frightening. An excellent cast of unknowns really drive this film, and the camera spending the majority of the time on the water’s surface really get you involved. But it’s the scenes with the shark that will have you reaching for the rewind button to try and figure out exactly how they did it. Not an easy watch, at all, but a brilliant one!
Number 18- AVATAR
OK, so this has somehow gone from worldwide phenomenon to the movie more and more people seem to hate, but there is no denying that Avatar, for what it’s worth, is a pretty impressive beast. Yes, like many looking back over the film and having a good ol’ think about it, the plot, its characters, its universally friendly and safe story, its great big Hollywood stamp all over it, I will admit to having had no interest in seeing it again since my experience at the cinema. Now, that viewing at the cinema was quite special, apart from the groundbreaking effects and wow factor, Avatar was THE biggest event movie of the last decade. Working in a cinema, i was seeing customers actually taking photos of themselves going into the screens, there was an almighty buzz around this film, people were coming to see it three, four, even five times! Put simply, this is what defines the word Blockbuster. At the time of seeing it I was blown away and gave it top marks, I loved it. Yes it was cheesey, yes predictable but by God it rocked, the action scenes were astonishing, the 3D set the benchmark and has never been bettered; even the jokes were perfectly timed and make me giggle. I was caught up in all the hysteria and loved it. Upon reflection, maybe a second viewing will show all its flaws. Also, seeing it at home, in 2D and on a mere 42″ screen, it will lose that wow factor and i feel i may even hate it. For that reason, I probably won’t watch it again; i would like to cherish the fond memories i have of this film, in the cinema with 500 other people all saying “ooohhh” and “aahhhhhhh” at just the right places.
Number 17- BURIED
Having reviewed this just last week I don’t want to go into too much more detail. All I can say is I so wish i saw this work of brilliance at the cinema, my god I would’ve loved it. Buried was an extremely brave idea for a film, which probably put the popcorn audience off. It didn’t put me off though, and the main reason for missing it at the cinema is the wife. She said she couldn’t bare to sit through this, so i ended up watching it at home, by myself, lights off in all its glory. Petrified is a good word to describe my feelings at points. A real dark and suffocating film with a bleak as fuck sting in its tale. Ryan Reynolds proved he is one of the best actors of his generation by spending the entire 90 minutes in a coffin trying to figure out who put him there, and why. An incredible performance really pushed this films power, as did the directors genius use of camera angles and excellent music. The possible political message in there about the Iraq war is also a key factor, although unnecessary. You could have used any situation for being buried alive and if it was done this good, would still have had the same, brutal effect. Definitely not one for those of a nervous disposition or with heart problems
Number 16- THE LOVED ONE’S
Ah how the Aussie’s love a bit of nastiness. The Loved One’s turned out to be a real treat, and much much better than I had ever dreamed of! Hughes posting the trailer got me excited, but I was expecting the usual quality you get from a straight to dvd type horror, a good one but not a great one. Man was i wrong! The Loved One’s brought incredible quality, clever and slightly original ideas and one of the most impressive crazy people to have graced our screens all year. Brent is consumed with guilt after being involved in a car accident which kills his Dad, trying to move on he is in a steady relationship with the rather good looking Holy but quiet class mate Lola is having none of it and wants Brent for herself. With the help of her equally mental Dad, she kidnaps Brent and plays out her own version of the school prom in her own house, with Daddy keeping things in order. There is a side story of Brent’s mate trying desperately to get with a seriously sexy dark haired girl, and this story offers some light comedy and entertainment which kindly distracts a bit from the brutality on offer at Lola’s house. You will need a strong stomach for this nasty little flick, but it does have a good sense of fun about it, and while at times it borders on silly, others it will leave you numb with terror, especially scenes involving the Dad. The Dad is as good, if not better than Lola’s bitter creation; he says nothing, just coldly stares and gets out punishment tools when needed. This film has it all, but never loses itself up its own arse and knows where to draw the line at either being too silly or too serious, it strikes the perfect balance. It has a great story and one which turns it just as you’d hope, it contains some of the most spine tingling screams from poor old Brent, but most of all its a horror that is really REALLY enjoyable, in all its violent, brutal, funny and downright brilliant glory. One of the finest horrors to have come out of Australia in years.
Number 15- THE COLLECTOR
Having seen far too many “Saw” adverts on films including “from the makers of Saw”, “from the director of Saw”, “from the producers of Saw”, “from the fuckin sound mixers that did the sound for Saw”!! i have had enough! Saw this and fuckin Saw that, I must say I am fed up, and so when I saw this advertised as from the writers of Saw, AND the fact it was due to be a Saw prequel, I was instantly put off. Thank fuckin Jigsaw that i gave in to many great reviews and many people on this here thread singing its praises. Could it really be that good??? Your damn straight it was that good, even better! The Collector was one of the finest home invasion movies ever! Why, because it turns the whole bastard idea on its head, and the thief becomes the victim as he breaks into his boss’s house, only to find it rigged with vicious and ingenious traps. Oh boy does the fun kick off and never let up! As he tries desperately to get out the house, the occupants come home and now it’s a race for survival as he decides if he should save them. Boasting traps far more inventive than Saw comic book ideas, some gruelling torture scenes and some surprisingly touching moments between thief and child, the Collector really does have everything. Perfect pacing, some fuckin awesome music, atmosphere and tension you can cut with a knife, a brilliant claustrophobic setting and some serious violence. Could it get any better? Hell yes, I haven’t even mentioned the killer yet, or the Collector of the movie who is happy to watch his victims pretty much kill themselves thanks to his traps. One of the most freaky looking bad guys I have ever seen, and one of the most brutal and brilliantly nasty AND this bastard is tough. He can fight, man to man and he is fuckin scary. Behold the creation of THE best bad guy of not only 2010, but of quite possibly at least the last five years. The Collector is a relentless, brutal vicious ride that never lets up and seems to do EXACTLY what you’d want a great horror film to do.
Number 14- THE TORMENT
This British horror was made on a micro budget, but uses that to its advantage. The Torment is a completely mental ride into the darkest depths of one poor man’s mind, or is it? David O’Reilly is being haunted by some strange goings on; it would seem demons are trying to get into his home. He does a runner after finding out his girlfriend is cheating, or is she??? Staying at a friend’s house, he’s a bit shady to begin with and doesn’t want to involve his friend and his missus in all the fuss. He admits to his girlfriend cheating, but keeps the demons a secret. However, once the demons turn up, he can’t keep it a secret for long and so begins a decent into madness and paranoia captured brilliantly with such a small budget. As I said before, the small budget actually works in its favour and makes the whole thing seem much more real, and actually adds to the tension. Brilliant camera trickery of different characters perspectives conjure up some real surprises and the cast all do a fine job. This is an intelligent horror that demands you to start questioning what’s real and what’s not. It won’t give anything away and even the baffling ending doesn’t give the answers you’d hoped for, and so you find the film lingering in the back of your mind long after it has finished. Dark, disturbing and at times, utterly horrific, the Torment was one of the finest original tales of the year and judging by my list, is the best British horror of the year!
Number 13- 7 DAYS
This exceptional French shocker (yes, they’ve made another one!!) takes the torture porn idea and makes something real and totally compelling about it. 7 Days is a film about natural human emotions and anger, and pushes the boundaries to the point of you asking what is and what is not justice. Bruno is a surgeon and his daughter has gone missing, she later turns up raped and murdered. The scenes where Bruno and the police find her are hard to watch, as the camera glides over a very young girl’s battered corpse and shows Bruno’s reactions. It gets worse though. Bruno and his wife go through all sorts of emotions, resulting in their marriage falling apart. The killer is caught, and his sentence is not what Bruno was expecting, and so he decides to kidnap the child rapist and dish out his own justice. Bruno barely says a word to the killer as he comes up with new ways to dish out some of the most vicious torture scenes you will ever witness. The sound effects as Bruno batters the killer with a chain is almost unbearable, but thankfully the film never loses touch of its human realism. Bruno clearly is not enjoying what he’s doing, and is distancing himself by not engaging in conversation. He even tracks down another victim and forces her into dishing out justice. Bruno just wants to see this guy get what he deserves, and even the police chief trying to find Bruno is sympathetic in their riveting phone conversations. This is a truly adult torture-porn movie, for people with brains and feelings, and it’s one that does get you thinking, and does get you siding with Bruno, even as he cuts out a kidney.
Number 12- THE OBJECTIVE
If you took mine and Hughes advice (and I’m pretty sure most of you did) then you would have found something surprisingly special in this quite brilliant piece of sci-fi/horror/mind-fuck from one half of the Blair Witch team. If you didn’t listen to our advice, then now is the time to redeem yourself. The Objective is one of the brightest, cleverest horrors of the year that manages to blend current affairs with out of this world bizarre happenings. A group of elite soldiers are sent to Afghanistan in search of a new super weapon apparently being made by terrorists, and Agent Ben Keynes has been ordered to document everything on camera and find the truth no matter what the cost. We enter Twilight Zone territory as strange things begin to happen to the group. Are there really weapons, is it some paranoid conspiracy, or is there some other force at work? Telling any more will spoil the fun, but there are some real moments of brilliance here. The cast, relative unknowns, out act most major Hollywood stars here and deliver characters that are both vulnerable and believable. Some genius use of special effect creates an incredibly creepy atmosphere, and the fact most of the film is filmed during the day only adds to the bravery on offer here. In a masterful scene a helicopter disappears in to thin air, believe me it needs to be seen to be believed. Another stroke of genius sees what looks like car headlights do something extraordinary! The film is filled with moments of greatness that prove Daniel Myrick still has some life left in him. This really is a work of utter brilliance and proof that originality is still alive and kicking. Seriously, if you haven’t got round to watching this yet, get on with it. You can pick it up anywhere dead cheap, and it’s worth every god damned penny!
Number 11- LET ME IN
Having just reviewed this in the usual fashion, i don’t really need to add anything more, other than add it to the list! But, just to re-iterate, this was an exceptional remake, and you all know I don’t normally agree with remakes. Matt Reeves has quite possibly created something ever so slightly better than the original, helped ever so slightly by Hammer’s superb classic horror design. Let Me In boasts two extraordinary stars who fill the roles of some of the best child acting I have ever seen perfectly. An incredible film, full of serious passion and a uncompromising desire to dig deep into our darkest fears of loneliness and relationships and all things supernatural. It’s first and foremost a dark love story, and a powerful one at that. Reeves creates tension and bite with every seen and allows the brilliant story to tell itself. The added pleasure of Elias Koteas is always a winner, and Reeves’ brilliant use of camera angles and music have created one of the most stylish looking horrors of the year.
Number 10- KICK ASS
Anyone who did not get any pleasure out of watching this needs their pulse checking! Kick-Ass most certainly did, and then some. With Nic Cage continuing his spiral into madness as he picks up one crazy film after another, this film had everything. A star was born in Chloe Mortez as Nic Cages, or Big Daddy as he’s known in the film, daughter by the name of Hit Girl. The brilliance of having a 12 year old girl batter grown men and use the most offensive language was just genius! The Kick-Ass of the title was a no body who dreamed of being a superhero, and so buys a daft costume and goes on the prowl for criminals with his baton. The film plays out perfectly and does everything you ever dreamed it would do, and it’s relentless. The fight scenes are superb, some actually quite nasty, and the whole concept of a guy desperate to be recognised works brilliantly. The whole cast give it their all, with Nic Cage delivering some of the best lines, like when he screams at his daughter when tied to a chair. There is nothing to dislike in this film, the characters, the music, the plot, the great good guys, the brilliant bad guys, the humour, the action, the moments of sensitivity, this film has it all. The best anti-superhero film EVER! Roll-on Kick Ass 2 I say!
Number 9- HOUSE OF THE DEVIL
The quality on offer here meant it was almost impossible to tell whether this was a brand new film, or if it was some lost classic that had been kept hidden since the 80’s. Director Ti West made an incredible job of recreating that 80’s feel and atmosphere to brilliant effect, even down to some of the stuff used in restaurants, phones, hell, even that almost porn-like feel of 80’s films was all over this, you know, the almost faded colours that kind of make every outline feel like its blending into the background. So far so good, but apart from the impeccable design, was the film actually any good? Hell yeah!!! It was so refreshing to see a horror based on those wonderfully simple ideas from horrors golden age, with simply a young college girl babysitting. That’s it, she responds to an advert to babysit, and with a hefty pay cheque involved, she’d be mad to turn it down as she is desperate to pay bills. Enter Tom Noonan, the guy she is babysitting for, and one of the creepiest characters of the year. We soon find out it’s not a child she will be babysitting, but it’s his Mother, so he and his wife can go out for the night. It all starts to become a little strange, but with so much money offered, Sam takes to job. This then leads up to one of the most frightening atmospheres created all year, as quite literally nothing really happens, but you just know there’s something sinister lurking, and so you end up caught up in all Sam’s paranoia as the Mother becomes ever more real. The build up is superb, really really great and proof you don’t need all this blood and guts to make a decent horror, you need an interesting story and shockingly claustrophobic atmosphere and the House of the Devil delivers both. The ONLY thing that lets this minor classic down is the rushed ending, which is pretty much the view of everyone who has seen it, so I can only hope that someday an extended director’s cut get released. As I said, I can only hope…
Number 8- FROZEN
Well, this one took me completely by surpris. Directed by the man responsible for the rather excellent Hatchet and the messy Spiral, Adam Green had a lot to prove as horror fans get excited about his Hatchet sequel (which looks awesome going by the trailer). Anyway, Frozen arrives, a million miles from the gore fest of Hatchet or the psychologically awkward Spiral, and is essentially a survival film, in the same vein as Open Water, Adrift and the Reef. At first I questioned just how three people being stuck on a ski chair lift could fill 90 minutes, but man was I proved wrong. The three friends meet up, a couple and the guys best mate who feels slightly out of place as there is the feeling that his best mate ir now more interested in his girlfriend than him. Round one to Green who, in the space of ten minutes, has built up a brilliant emotional characterisation of the three leads and gives you people you can care about. Doing a dodgy deal with the guy in charge of who uses the ski lift, they ask to go up at night for a bit of night-time skiing, like the old days. Problem is, the ski lift man changes shift, there is some confusion as to how many people are on the lift, and our three friends end up left hanging, in freezing temperatures for the best part of a week. The ski centre has closed for the weekend, with no one due back til mid-week and they’re up way to high to even think about jumping. Added to their problems, wolves are gathering underneath, they are frostbitten, emotions run high, and hope is all but lost. This s quite possibly the most tense a film has made me feel all year, with its brilliant use of situations and responses to what’s happening that are actually believable. The three friends do exactly what you’d probably find yourself doing, and Green cleverly chooses to go for realism rather than over doing it on action or gore. A superb example of the less is better approach, and this truly justifies you do not need a big budget or big actors to pull off a work of utter brilliance.
Number 7- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2
See, this is what happens when a list isn’t properly thought out. The reason this list took so long is I was waiting to get hold of this, and after Hughes review, I had high hopes and so saved a place for it in my top 10. Silly mistake. Don’t get me wrong, the film is very good, and uses all the elements of the first one all over again to great effect, but it just didn’t quite reach the heights of greatness the first one so expertly delivered. I won’t go into too much detail now as I plan to do a full review over the weekend, but let’s just say had I seen this earlier, it would have been in the bottom half of my top 20.
Number 6- (REC) 2
So, just how do you improve on a minor masterpiece, one of the finest horrors of the last decade? Well, that’s easy; you just take things up a notch and deliver one of the finest sequels in recent memory. (Rec) 2 follows on from the moment the original finishes, as the police and a scientist enter the infected building to try and find answers, and a cure. Again, using handheld cameras to stunning effect, but these are those police cameras attached to the shoulder. Pretty much the same as the first, the police start getting into trouble as the infected start attacking, and both police and infected are killed off in some of the most incredible ways. I mean, a person is thrown from the top floor of a staircase, with the camera fixed on them all the time, and then the camera watches as they fall down bashing into the banisters, how the fuck did they do that? There’s the infected guy who gets blown up with fireworks, scene after scene of absolute brilliance and gobsmackingly impressive effects. Added to the mix are three teenagers who want in to see what’s going on, and guess what, they have a camera. A bit of a weaker bit of plot here, but once in the building they are made use of very effectively. (Rec) 2 shocks and stuns and quite simply will take your breath away, not expecting anything near as good as the original, the makers have made a film that is either as good, if not better than its predecessor. This is how zombie films should be done, full of shocks and surprises, and sheer, utter terror. There are many scenes here which will most probably have you cowering like a baby. All the acting, again, is spot on too. Everything here is utterly believable, and produced so well. There is not a bad word that can be said really, and i also regard this as a minor masterpiece which, if you want the proper experience, should be viewed back to back with (Rec) and then you get almost 3 hours of pure hell and zombie terror. With the news a third is due this year, and a prequel, (Rec) just might be THE horror franchise of the last ten years!
Number 5- A SERBIAN FILM
So, just what was A Serbian Film? A political message about a country having to deal with its inner demons, or a film about a porn director who pushes his main attraction to the edge and over it, with shocking consequences that were disturbingly pre-planned? No one knows for sure but director Srdjan Spasojevic insists it’s political. Whatever the message, there is no denying that A Serbian Film is quite possibly the nastiest film of the year which gained early word of mouth at the festivals thanks to its violence and “newborn porn”. Since the BBFC have cut it by 4 minutes, the storm seems to have settled, and now reviewers seem to be hailing the film as too cartoonish and not as real as vicious as myth would have you believe. I say bollocks, I have the uncut version and it is far from cartoonish, or too polished to ever be disturbing. It is disturbing, incredibly, and it will make you feel physically sick. It is one hell of a ride as famous porn star Milos takes a well paid job to star in new “Art-porn” director Vukmir’s latest film, After some morale self questioning, Milos leaves only to end up being drugged with a very high dose of drugs including speed and Viagra. We then join him a few days later, and follow him on his twisted journey to find out what happened. You will not like what you see, but you just cannot help but be amazed by it. Reviewers have said that the film doesn’t quite deliver on its reputation. I disagree; I simply feel those reviewers are far too scared of the sheer guts of what is happening on screen. It’s so in your face, so unbelievably cruel and vicious it’s hard to actually take it all in. Also, the use of music is very clever indeed, with its pumping mix of techno and rock music, it blends that usually definitive line that music creates in movies which allows the viewer to either be drawn in or detached. With the music here, you have to make that choice yourself, so the music is either an easy way of escape, or an invitation into the carnage. If you accept the invitation, be prepared to be more shocked than you have ever been in your life, as long as you see the uncut version. Political agenda? Quite possibly. Sickest film of the year? Most definitely!
Number 4- VALHALLA RISING
Mads Mikkelson gives one of the best performances of the year, without uttering a word, in one of the most badly marketed films of the year. See that cover?(actually, i’m talking about the dvd cover with the amry stood behind him!) Nothing in the film even comes close to resembling that; in fact, the cover could not be any further from the truth of what is actually in this film if it tried. Having said, that Valhalla Rising is one of the finest examples of Art house cinema this year, or any year in fact. The director of the also very good Bronson has created something rather special here, highly original and like nothing you have ever, or will ever see again. Mads Mikkelson coldly plays One-Eye, a mute warrior driven by pure hate for reasons unknown. Used as a fighter in Scottish clans, they make bets and One-Eye pulverises his enemies, but he is a tortured soul. Befriending a young lad, One-Eye breaks free and heads off on his own personal quest for redemption. After being a slave to the Catholics, he soon meets up with a group of Vikings looking for the Holy Land. One-Eye joins them, in the hope he will find peace at the end of their journey. Whether the ending to this film is the New World, The Holy Land, Hell, or just One-Eye’s personal Hell is anybody’s guess. This is Art to the extreme, nothing is explained and you will simply have to figure it out for yourself, I’m still not sure. However, the journey to get there is interesting to say the least. Broken down into Chapters, we firstly encounter horrific, stomach churning violence, a close friendship, a journey through creepy misty seas and eventually to a confusing ending which requires your full attention. Valhalla Rising is certainly not for everyone, I can imagine the slow pace, dreamlike quality and two page script may try the patience of some. But if you’re willing to let a film quite literally sweep you off your feet and drag you into someone’s own personal Hell, then you might just find as much to like about this masterpiece as i did. It is incredibly slow, many many long shots of facial expressions, scenery and the sky, the dialogue is barely two words at a time, but is spoken with brute force by strong, powerful men. Mads Mikkelson commands the screen, never saying a word, but just staring coldly and with vicious intent, he really does come across as if he’s in his own world and completely detached from ours. He is a machine, ready to strike down anyone who comes near him, without a second thought or even consider consequences. This is a scary man, and at times, this is an incredibly scary film. The use of music heightens the overall effect of claustrophobia and panic to unbearable levels and even with the majority of the film shot in the beautiful Scottish Highlands, you still feel like you can’t breathe, like you’re boxed in, trapped, unable to escape. I am reading some bad reviews of this and it upsets me. The marketing was all wrong, and I believe the film is too clever, and too brilliant for its own good, and some people just don’t get it. Me, I think it’s a masterpiece, plain and simple, just don’t ask me to explain the blasted thing
Number 3- BAD LIEUTENANT
As made perfectly clear in my review and everyone else’s, this is NOT a remake of Abel Ferrara’s brutal masterpiece of the same name starring Harvey Keitel. This is Werner Herzog’s unique vision of a cop who’s gone downhill after saving an inmate in the New Orleans floods, hurting his back while doing it, this decorated officer wins an award, and spirals out of control from then on. Hooked on painkillers for his back pain, things turn to much much harder stuff. At times the similarities with Ferrara’s film are uncanny, but this film couldn’t be further away from being a remake. Now, I remember having one of my usual gripe’s before this film was released, I was expecting it to be remake and i remember questioning just how Nic Cage could ever even start to fill the shoes of Harvey Keitels monstrous character. How i was proved fuckin wrong by a blistering, beltering, terrifying and comical performance by Nic Cage. He OWNS this film and has to be THE best character created for the year. I haven’t felt this glued to watching a character on screen since Johnny Deep donned a hat, glasses and bald head as Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing…. Nic Cage’s officer will do anything for drugs and money, and he’s also hooked on gambling. He uses the law to his advantage and bends to rules but he has a unique charm about him. I’ll never forget the first time he walked on screen after becoming a bit of a mess, tie all wonky, shirt hanging out, gun hanging out his trousers for all to see, crazy hair and walking as if he’s had too much to drink. What a character, what a presence. He stumbles round the film getting into more trouble and more debt and pissing off my and more dangerous guys. He joins forces with drug dealers and plays everyone against the other. A case of a murdered black person see’s him having to look after a key witness, a young lad whom he loses in a shopping mall. Then there’s the classic scene with Granny and her oxygen inhaler
The film is littered with classic scenes and moments of pure weird genius, like the bizarre scene involving a Iguana and its own point of view! For all its crazy antics and truly bizarre characters, Bad Lieutenant manages to be one things more than anything else, and that’s entertaining. Considering it bleak story and dark and shady characters, i had an absolute ball watching this, I loved every god damned second. Oh, and as if it couldn’t get any better, Brad Dourif turns up as a loan shark!!! Ah, classic stuff!!!
Number 2- SHUTTER ISLAND
It’s very very rare indeed for Scorcesse to make a bad film, but there are times when his level of brilliance still shock even his most devoted fan at just how good this director is. Shutter Island is a true example of a director still, after all these years, at the very top of his game. Helped by one of the best casts put together this year, with Di Caprio giving an Oscar worthy performance, Shutter Island had everything any fan of dark and twisted movies could ever want. Some truly horrific images, some violence, some earth shattering and scary as fuck music, but most of all a deep, well thought out story with a genius plot twist that took everyone by surprise. DiCaprio plays US Marshall Teddy Daniels, he has come to Shutter Island with his partner to investigate a missing patient. Shutter Island is an asylum for the criminally insane, Daniels calls them “prisoners” but the head Doctor played inch perfect by Sir Ben Kingsley, insists they are “patients”. Daniels is allowed to interview chosen patients, guards etc and the whole set up seems a bit suspect. Daniels starts to have his own nightmarish visions and seems to be haunted by some murderer. It would seem the head Doctor has his own plans for Daniels, and a race to find the truth and actually get off the island become life or death for Daniels. To tell you any more would spoil the brilliance of how this story unfolds but Scoresese really has out done himself here. With horror elements and images that remind of the old fashioned classic ghost stories, the films island setting and shady doctors and patients all add up to one of the most riveting and dark tales of the year. A mystery so well handled and designed that when you give this film a second watch, everything seems slightly different. In fact, if you have only seen this once, I cannot recommend enough watching this a second time, trust me it’s 100 times better! In any other year, this would have topped my list, I absolutely adore this masterpiece, but one film beat everything else this year hands down….
Number 1- INCEPTION (seriously, what else was it gonna be?????)
The word genius gets thrown around this thread, more often than not, by me. Sometimes it’s meant as a way of emphasising my point, other times i genuinely mean it, and when talking of Christopher Nolan as I director, I honestly believe the man to be a genius. Inception is Nolan’s film all the way through, and it’s Nolan proving that he simply cannot do any wrong. He re-invented Batman to staggering effect, he fucked with our heads in Memento, and to be fair he almost sent me to sleep with Insomnia, but let’s not forget he made the quite brilliant The Prestige. And now with Inception, he has proven that there is no other director like him, and the level of excitement a new Christopher Nolan film generates is quite something, and understandably so. Inception is a work of art, a work of an absolute master at his very peak. It is a clever film, one that gets you thinking, but most importantly, one which requires your complete full attention. Nolan’s brilliance at telling a story means you literally hang on every word, and the build up where all is explained and we go through the training etc is the most fantastic hour I have spent watching a film for quite a while.
You all know the story, but to remind you, Leonardo DiCaprio (on yet another Oscar worthy performance) plays Dom Cobb, a guy who can use technology to enter people’s minds and get information. Hiding from the US for the murder of his wife, he would do anything to have his name cleared and return to his kids. He gets the chance; a rich Chinese businessman can do it, but only if Cobb plants an idea in someone’s head that will shake the foundations of this guy’s massive company which he has just inherited from his dead Father. Confused? Nah, the film spells the whole thing out brilliantly. Cobb gets a team together and they set to work on how to plant this idea by researching the targets past, asking in the help of a student to help create the world in which they will do it (making for some jaw dropping effects) and planning every last detail. This film is quite simply brilliant, and I just recently watched it a second time and it still had the wow factor. It was tense, gripping, fuckin exciting and constantly interesting. It’s honestly breathtaking. What really made this film even better is that, based on its performance at the cinema, it showed the general public do still like to use their brains. It was the most anti-Summer Blockbuster out there, and it was the best. Without a doubt the best film of the year. If you haven’t seen this yet then you have some serious explaining to do…