My lifelong dream of seeing 1981's MY BLOODY VALENTINE in its uncut form came true thanks to LIONSGATE, ANCHOR BAY gave fans the gift of HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME complete with its original score, and SCORPION ENTERTAINMENT dusted off the criminally overlooked slasher SILENT SCREAM and decorated it with a plethora of worthy extras. No doubt about it, the DVD gods were generous in 2009.
TRUE MIND BLOWERS
Hey, at least buy my brain dinner before you have your way with it like that! The Spanish language [REC] scorched retinas with truly horrific imagery while dispensing mounting cinema verite style hysteria, EDEN LAKE supplied the most depressing ending known to man, and MARTYRS was a hand grenade aimed at your very soul. I thought I had seen everything but I'm still searching for the socks these three blew off my feet.
STRAIGHT-TO-DVD NO LONGER MEANS CRAP!
I can't stop watching or singing the praises of Norway's COLD PREY, the U.K.'s THE CHILDREN effortlessly breathed new life into our favorite pet sub-genre, and SPLINTER conjured up memories of vintage JOHN CARPENTER. Movie theaters better step up their game if they want us shut-ins to walk away from the boob tube.
THE WORST OF HOME VIDEO
OFFSPRING squandered decent source material and made it almost laughable, yet WRONG TURN 3 screwed the pooch in just such a way that the poor pup is still having trouble walking straight. Sorry WRONG TURN 3, you win at being the biggest loser.
TRICK â€˜R TREAT proved that some times positive hype can be pinpoint accurate. Let's hear it for an undebatable instant classic that made many of the theatrically released movies released this year look paler than the Pillsbury Doughboy in comparison.
TELEVISION BEST AND WORST
TRUE BLOOD's bite may have been a bit uneven in its second season but who cares when MICHELLE FORBES is shaking it on screen? Critics and audiences may have turned their noses up at HARPER'S ISLAND but anyone smart enough to stick around for the finale knows that the slasher as miniseries concept was an innovation that really worked. Man, I wish there was a second season to look forward to!
On the other side of the spectrum lies the SYFY channels CHILDREN OF THE CORN retelling. The 1984 version left nowhere to go but up, yet somehow this redundant redo found a way to burrow itself deep into the soil.
WHO WOULDA THUNK…THIS AIN'T JUNK?
SORORITY ROW's final reveal sucked like a dirt devil but the rest of it played like a flashy, slashy tribute with surprisingly decent kills. JENNIFER'S BODY, when it wasn't talking your ear off with annoying dialogue, delivered an engrossing bird's eye view of a once symbiotic relationship on the brink of implosion. THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT out maneuvered its dated source material left AND right and is it wrong to kind of sort of love its crazy out of place microwave epilogue?
MANY HAPPY RETURNS!
Only a pick in the mud could deny the in-your-face charms of seeing Harry Warden resurrected in MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL rewound VHS nostalgia while reminding us all how much we missed not only MARY WORONOV but (who knew?) THE FIXX, and Norway's DEAD SNOW pelted us with a new rendition of the long thought dead Nazi zombie film. Screw the future, what has it ever done for us? The past is where it's at!
SOPHISTICATED KID FLICKS!
CORALINE (in 3-D or otherwise) spun a dark fairy tale that warned of the results of selling your soul for the false idea of perfection. Think of it as a sort of kiddie version of THE STEPFORD WIVES and an inevitable starter kit for future goths. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE confronted childhood feelings of social disconnect and populated its fantasy world with monsters battling a lifetime's worth of neurosis. Both films steadfastly refused to dumb down their vision based on their assumed target audience while loudly preaching that most timeless of kid flick mantras, "There's no place like home."
FEED YOUR HEAD!
These aren't your granny's zombie films! PONTYPOOL married GEORGE ROMERO and ERIC BOGOSIAN with H.G. WELLS serving as justice of the peace. Communication and language itself stood accused of being responsible for the modern brain dead mob. Extra tip of the hat for supplying the year's best tagline with "Shut up or die." DEADGIRL's (s)icky premise spoke volumes about the darkest side of human sexuality with its "nothing to lose" outsiders discovering an even more injured creature than themselves to objectify and exploit. The living dead have been begging for brains for decades, in 2009 they got them!
MAYBE IT'S ME
Try as I might, I had a difficult time falling under the spell of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY; the film that others claimed kept them awake at night put me right to sleep. I dug GRACE's early nods to ROMAN POLANSKI but I thought the second half suffered from the cinematic equivalent to S.I.D.S. Don't go be me though kids, ROB ZOMBIE's critically burned at the stake HALLOWEEN 2, which tenaciously insisted on looking at the slasher sequel through grandiose art house goggles, left me smiling like a doped up jack-o-lantern.
NOT WITHOUT MY MOTHER!
Say what you will about ROB ZOMBIE's sophomore venture into Haddonfield, Illinois, for better or for worse, at least he remembered to bring along all of the franchise's major players. 2009's FRIDAY THE 13TH made the critical error of throwing momma from the train right after the opening credits! The result? A needlessly heartless re-slash!
SOMETHING WE CAN ALL AGREE ON
I've noticed that THE UNBORN sunk to the bottom of many a year-end list for 2009 and I could not agree more. Usually I pride myself on being able to find at least one redeemable quality in a movie, but this aptly titled abomination resisted all such efforts. Some claim it was written by DAVID S. GOYER, the guy responsible for BATMAN BEGINS (and somewhat more impressively DEMONIC TOYS), I'm not sure if "written" is the right word… "excreted" perhaps?
A WELCOME RETURN
Horror legend SAM RAIMI proved that mainstream success hasn't made him such a big-shot that he can't get his hands dirty (or covered in vomit) with the classic upon arrival DRAG ME TO HELL. The story may have been D.C. comic simplistic but thanks to SAM's virtuoso touch, a refreshingly "thems the brakes" ending and a scene stealing goat, I honestly never even noticed it was PG-13. SAM, you've been wasting yourself on guys in tights!
BEST USE OF COYOTE UGLY ALUMNI
Sorry MUMMY III: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR, but we're having a hard time swallowing a British accented MARIA BELLO. On the other hand, we had no problem at all believing that we could catch something contagious from PIPER "Jersey" PIRABO in CARRIERS. Pipe down and don't bellow MARIA, PIPER wins by a landslide!
KINDERTRAUMA FILM OF THE YEAR
How could any movie be more kinder-tastic than ORPHAN? Think about it, tykes in trouble, a kid who kills and no matter how hard it tried to be taken seriously it just always ended up reeking of campy trash.
Look in the mirror ORPHAN, you're Kindertrauma's sister from another mister! While we're on the subject let's hand out an official traumatot award to ISABELLE FUHRAM for her beyond awesome Natasha Fatale "Hello Dollink" delivery and astonishing ability to keep a straight face while interacting with PETER SARSGAARD.
BEST ALL-AROUND HORROR FILM OF THE YEAR
O.K., maybe ZOMBIELAND wasn't the scariest film of the year but it was funny, it was thrilling and it miraculously had characters that you actually wanted to spend time with rather than strangle. Plus you know a movie's heart is in the right pace when it simultaneously damns clowns AND salutes man's greatest creation, the Twinkie. You'd simply have to be a zombie yourself not to love it.
Look at that damned calendar! The year is over!! What the heck?! Remember good ol' last year when we were able to do an overview of all the creepy kids that appeared in horror films over the year? Sure you do, it's HERE. Well, what in the name of Rhoda Penmark are we supposed to do this year? Sure, kids appeared on the sidelines in movies like MIRRORS, but their presence seemed only required so that they could mutter faux-creepy slogans for use as gotcha moments in the movie's trailers. THE ORPHANAGE ruled for sure, but one movie does not an end of year overview make and technically it was made in 2007.
If you're anything like the frightening voices that torment me nonstop in my head, you're probably screaming in a twisted hag voice "Unkle Lancifer, you need to get out more!" Yes, countless hours were wasted this year playing Lego Playstation games, I'll grant you that, but remember I live in Bumblef*ck where the only films on the theater marquee are ROCHELLE, ROCHELLE and THE FLOWER THAT DRANK THE MOON. Adding insult to unjustifiable rationalization, TRICK R' TREAT is still sadly M.I.A. and the U.K. flick THE CHILDREN is yet (to my knowledge) to jump across the pond.
What was I to do? How was I to make any kind of statement about kids in horror in 2008? I think there was a kid in that French movie FRONTIERS, I assume there was a zombie tyke in QUARANTINE, and didn't some kids try to warn people to stay clear of THE RUINS? A spiraling spurious non-list began to form in my mind's eye. Who was I kidding? Then, there I was at my wits end and fantasizing about fashioning a noose from NERDS ROPE when I received a message from a carrier vulture named Saint Antonio Sanchez informing me that maybe perhaps I should check out LET THE RIGHT ONE IN…
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN makes up for everything, and it saved my year. I'm not just saying this because I was on the precipice of the abyss when we met; I mean it. Even outside the realm of horror it may be the best movie of the year, it certainly and without question is the Kindertraumiest. Aunt John has no say in this matter whatsoever; I'm prepared to skip camp if rebuffed. I, with the power of Grayskull and inspired by this unique film, have decreed that a new award must be forged for future years and that award is the KINDERTRAUMA MOVIE OF THE YEAR! That's right, it's official, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is KINDERTRAUMA MOVIE OF THE YEAR! We must all listen to MORRISSEY (to whom it owes its title) today in celebration.
What is so special about this movie and what can I tell you about it without ruining it? First of all, I'd just like to say this movie does not spaz out and get all up in your face. That is very important to me. It's calm and peaceful yet stand warned, it's not afraid to smack you around a little when you start feeling too secure and cozy. It's about actual human connection, how we change the people who come into our lives and how they change us. More importantly, it shows how outsiders can identify themselves in each other and gather strength from their alliance. (Call me nuts but REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE sprung to my mind not to mention E.T. with a taste for blood). To top it all off there is mucho snow (my cinematic Achilles heal) and the whole thing is filmed as simply and as exquisitely as humanly possible.
It is a "horror" movie for sure, but I have to point out that it reflects the actual universe that we live in far more accurately than most non-horror films (Certainly more than all the superhero, wedding disaster and dopey buddy flicks released this year combined). This is the real deal folks. The main characters may be twelve (even twelve for a looooong time) but their ability to bond without judgment and care for each other is something you rarely get to see in films that feature characters of any age.
Less you think I'm reviewing SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING COFFIN, I should inform you that many people die undeserving deaths within this film and at the hands of these spiritual and soulful characters. Well, what can I tell you? You got to break eggs before you devil them and I'm so enamored with these kooky kids that if that's what keeps 'em writing love notes and teaching each other the Rubik's Cube, so be it. (By the way, apparently there is no moral question in my mind concerning the film's final poolside massacre as I laughed whole heartily and gleefully all through it, I may have even clapped).
I really don't want to say much more as I don't want to spoil anything, but GO see this movie! If it's not playing around you yet go buy the book it's based on by JOHN AJIDE LINDQVIST instead (I'm devouring it now). This is the type of horror tale that comes around far too rarely and, like a long lost soul mate, it lifts the genre up to a whole new level.
P.S. Many films have attempted the proverbial "attacked by cats" scene with questionable to borderline comical results. This is due to the rookie mistake of actually throwing live cats onto people in order to simulate the melee. Not so in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, I'm so happy now that somebody has finally done it right!