Shocktober: Top Terrors of the 2000s

So often I hear people discussing the decline of horror movies in this day and age. Where it would appear that remakes and the “Torture Porn” genre ruled most of the decade there’s surprisingly been a handful notable bone-chillers as well, you just got to know where to look. Though good American horror films may be somewhat of rarity these days, I think you’d be surprised by how many good foreign horror films were released in the 2000s. Unfortunately I could only tackle so many movies this year, here’s some flicks I’ve heard good things about but haven’t seen.

– Thirst (2008)
– Slither (2006)
– Inside (2007)

And now on to my list, enjoy.

10. Dog Soldiers (2002)
It was tough picking a number ten, it really could of gone to any of my honorable mentions (listed at the bottom) but I went with my gut and chose the gory, tongue and cheek U.K. flick Dog Soldiers. Following a squad of British soldiers training in the highlands of Scottland, all seems well until the team discovers a wounded Special Forces captain and the last remains of his men. So next thing you know we have our cast, lead by Kevin McKidd (Trainspotting) facing off against seven foot tall werewolves for an action packed, blood filled 100 or so minutes. It’s not one to be taken too seriously but there’s still some good scares and impressive makeup effects.

9. Paranormal Activity (2009)
Maybe it’s a little premature to add a film that I just saw yesterday but seeing that it’s already topped The Blair Witch Project for most successful indie film must account for something significant. I’m confident that this is one that horror fans will remember and cherish for years to come. It’s scary, unique and a definite highlight in this era of low budget shaky cam films.

8. REC (2007)
Jesus Christ! Remember when I said I’d mention the scariest movie I’d seen in years? Well this is it and this Spanish horror film is a relentless 75 minutes of non -stop shit jumping out at you like some high adrenaline monster thrill ride. I assume most people are probably more familiar with this film’s American remake Quarantine (2008) but this is where it all started and it’s another triumph of the handheld video camera era. Ángela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) is a television reporter in Barcelona who along with her cameraman Pablo is filming a segment for a show about people who work various nightshift jobs. For this night Angela accompanies a couple of firefighters as they’re called out on a disturbance to a local apartment building. What starts out as routine call soon escalates into a viral breakout transforming residents into enraged psychopaths. The building quickly becomes quarantined and the next thing you know, everyone is trapped in a frightening fun house of thrills and chills. Wanna see a freaky flick? Check out REC.

7. Drag Me To Hell (2009)
Sam Raimi’s return to horror is another gooey, gross out instant classic (classic in cult horror sense.) An offbeat take on the infamous “Gypsy curse” scenario, Drag Me To Hell may be the closest we’ll ever get to another Evil Dead movie. Alison Lohman stars as Christine Brown an ambitious loan officer attempting to get ahead. Though what she didn’t anticipate was an encounter with customer Mrs. Sylvia Ganush (Lorna Raver), of course Christine denies her an extension on her mortgage and from then on, all hell breaks loose. All in all it’s basically a dark comedy that’s good for a quick laugh and a few “jump out of your seat” moments.

6. The Mist (2007)
Although a bit of downer particularly the ending, The Mist has an outstanding ensemble cast, entertaining creature effects and a striking atmosphere. Based off the Stephen King short story, The Mist is about a group of citizens in a small town in Maine that hold up in grocery store after the appearance of a mysterious fog. Waiting for it to pass, things only get worse after a man arrives warning everyone of “something in the fog” and the next thing you know all hell breaks loose as waves of bizarre creatures attack the townspeople. This film seemed to go more or less unnoticed when it was released but it still did well financially and critically. I guess it really struck a chord with me, I love those “isolation” type movies that pin people against each other.

5. The Host (2006)
Not only South Korea’s most successful film of all time but perhaps the best “giant monster” movie in years. Opening with a U.S. run military base dumping formaldehyde into the Han River, four years pass when suddenly a vicious tadpole-like monster emerges attacking the people of Seoul. We follow Park Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) a slow witted man who along with his oddball family attempt to track down the creature to rescue Gang-Du’s daughter. Almost as much a comedy as a horror film The Host is an excellent creature feature with a lot to say, check it out if you’re in the mood for a monster.

4. The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
A great horror fan himself it’s no surprise that Guillermo Del Toro had a great horror movie brewing within him. The Devil’s Backbone set in an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War, is about Carlos and his experiences with ghosts and a cruel caretaker. It’s powerful and fascinating film that although chilling has a lot of heart. If you liked Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth than I highly recommend this film that Guillermo calls the “brother companion piece” to Pan’s Labyrinth (Pan’s Labyrinth of course being the sister companion.)

3. Let the Right One In (2008)
Still a relatively new movie, (that’s soon to be remade for American audiences) Sweden’s own vampire romance story is both a dark and moving film. Oscar is a bullied young boy living between divorced parents in Blackeberg, Stockholm until one evening when he finds love and revenge through Eli, a young gil who turns out to be a vampire. Now I’m sure everyone’s pretty damn tired of vampires in this day and age but this one is a return to tradition and respects the mythology. It’s a wonderful story, the cinematography is magnificent and the acting between the two young leads is worth high note. This is definitely one that will go down as one of the great horror films of this decade.

2. 28 Days Later (2002), 28 Weeks Later (2007
At this point I’m not sure about my order. I’ve really come to appreciate the seemingly bleak but fascinating 28 Series but whether I like it better than Let the Right One In? I don’t know it’s a tough call. I doubled these two up because for some reason I can’t think of one without thinking of the other. They’re both violent, yet human views at a post-apocalyptic world. It’s funny too how they reflect a lot of issues that our world has faced in this decade. 28 Days Later is definitely the better film but they’re both notable highlights in the genre and have definitely made a big impact.

1. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Perhaps the best homage/tribute to the genre Shaun of the Dead is an incredibly layered horror comedy that’s endlessly quotable, a little creepy and all out hilarious. Out of all of these films it’s just the one I enjoy watching the most and has quickly become one of my favorite movies of this decade. I’ve discussed it before so I’m gonna keep it brief and say that Shaun of the Dead is perhaps the greatest horror/comedy film of all time (at least in my eyes) and will continue to be remembered through it’s already large cult following.

Finally it’s done and I have a few honorable mentions below, Happy Halloween.

Honorable Mention
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
Cloverfield (2008)
Mothman Prophecies (2002)

Shocktober: Scare-anormal Activity

Paranormal Activity

I love the Halloween season and what better way is there to celebrate than going to see a spooky flick in a darkened movie theater? Most years there isn’t much to see aside from the latest Saw installment, but this year there’s a new freaky flick that’s risen from film festival favorite all the way to U.S. box office gold. Made on a shoestring budget by first time filmmaker Oren Peli, Paranormal Activity has made it’s way from humble beginnings to what’s now being called the new Blair Witch Project. It’s recently been declared the most profitable movie ever made (and beat out Saw for the number one spot at last week’s box office) and with all the hype and positive word of mouth I had to see this film. I pride myself on being a horror fan, although an incredibly critical horror fan, a fan nonetheless and rarely see something that impresses me but this impressed me… Not to mention it gave me some welcomed chills along the way.

Paranormal Activity is essentially a mockumentary style thriller about a young couple being tormented by a paranormal entity. It’s really that simple and through minimal effects combined with tense pacing, Paranormal Activity is a completely effective horror film with some great scares and solid acting. It’s the personal approach that makes this film feel completely genuine. Truly one of the greatest feats a movie can accomplish is distracting you from the fact that you’re watching a movie and this is where Paranormal Activity shines. It seems real and feeds off a fear that many people actually have, so it’s no surprise that it’s become the hit that it has become.

Another aspect that attracted me to this film was the claim made by critics and moviegoers alike that this movie is “the scariest movie in years.” Whenever I hear that I just got to see whether I find these claims just or everyone is a bunch of pansies. In this case Paranormal Activity is unnerving but not the scariest movie I’ve seen in awhile (I’ll address that in my next post). To be honest there’s really only one “Holy shit!” moment, though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous most of the time. Looking back I think that was the best decision, I get pissed off when a movie just dishes out a bunch of cheap scares. It’s the overall spooky experience that leaves a person truly terrified, not a second or two of a hissing black cat.

The only downside to seeing this movie is that you’ll most likely have to see it with a whole audience of both cackling and screeching teenagers. Despite the fact that it’s rated “R’ teens always seem to find a way in. A bunch of loud mouthed kids snuck into the showing I went to and I don’t think they ever did shut up. Though seeing this in a theater is probably the best way to enjoy this film, I guess the experience is both it’s gift and it’s curse. Anyhow I’m glad to say that this film lives up to the hype and in my eyes is truly inspiring. It just goes to show that anyone can make a movie as long as they have determination, ambition and a good idea, happy haunting everyone.

Shocktober: Update

Just thought I’d let everyone know that I’ve changed up my “post plans” I posted earlier this week. I’ve decided not to do a horror filmmakers list or a retrospective, I was going to do the classic Universal Frankenstein series but I still haven’t seen the House of Dracula which I guess technically is part of the series. Instead I’ll do a post about something else but I’ll still do my Best horror movies of 2000 list on saturday. Hope everyone is having an enjoyable Devil’s Night, for some reason that’s what some people call the night before Halloween.

World Series Predictions

Ah, here we are. A mere minutes before the fall classic is set to begin and I almost forgot to post the final post of the series. So I believe I was correct with my LCS predictions, which presents us with one of the better match ups in recent years.

Everyone knows NY has one of the best lineups ever, but what their real strength in this series, if they choose to use, is their 3-man rotation. CC, Burnett, and Petitte are sure to have a good advantage over whoever Philly throws out there. Not to say Philly doesn’t have pitching, but lefties CC and Petitte match up very strong against a heavily left handed Philly line up.

I really could see this series going either way. But I really thing that NY is going to destroy Pedro in game two, so based on those grounds I think NY will win in 5 games.

(But I want Philly)

Shocktober: Frightening Followups

No genre has seen the dark side of sequels quite like the horror genre. With movies like Saw VI or Friday the 13th Part VII it’s easy to see that a lot of studios just take it too far. They pinch out the last few pennies of a once good idea but sometimes they can’t even capture what made the first film popular in the second installment. Most horror franchises simply up their kill counts in sequels but every once in awhile you’ll get lucky. I didn’t plan on including multiple movies from the same franchises but surprisingly, good horror sequels don’t happen that often.

10. Halloween II (1981)
Though it was released almost three years after the original, Halloween II starts right from where the last one left off and it’s seamless. It’s almost like an extension of the original film, like it’s some expanded directors’ cut with essentially the same people (minus director John Carpenter, though he did film some additional scenes). It may not have the same atmosphere or charm of the first but it’s still an entertaining slasher filled romp (set entirely within a hospital) and it’s a hell of a lot better than any of the following sequels or remakes.

9. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Who would of expected the Nightmare series to make comeback with it’s seventh installment? Well actually this one is set outside of the series continuity. You see Wes Craven was more or less fed up with all the terrible sequels to A Nightmare on Elm Street (according to him only the first one and this one truly count) so he set this film in a universe where the original movie was no more than a movie. Thus we follow Heather Langenkamp the star of the original being stalked by Freddy who’s made his way into reality. It’s a bizarre concept but fairly clever and a solid horror film.

8. Scream II (1997)
I’ve always loved how the Scream series are slashers movies that parody the genre and here that’s brought to an even more amusing level. The characters are still self-aware of the “rules of horror” and there’s even a cheesy movie within the movie called Stab based on the events of the first film. The same cast, director and writer return and it’s just as much bloody fun as the original.

7. Day of the Dead (1985)
Set on a larger scale than any other installment in the Dead Series, George A Romero’s third dead movie is a zombie blockbuster. There’s just a ridiculous amount of walking dead swarming all around a group of scientists and soldiers trying to survive in an underground military base. It may sound kind of stupid and in certain parts it is a little melodramatic or conventional for horror but if you ask me this is scariest installment of the series. This is a perfect example of why slow zombies are scarier than the fast zombies of this day and age. It’s not the chase that’s scary it’s the idea of waiting to die as their numbers grow and grow everyday. Thus the climax is excellent and the makeup effects (by the legendary Tom Savini) are just outstanding.

6. 28 Weeks Later (2007)
Set well uhh… 28 weeks after the initial outbreak 28 Weeks Later presents a world that is seemingly under control in certain quarantined areas and slowly overcoming the pandemic, at least for a little while. We follow the journey of two children along with their grieving father (Robert Carlyle) as they attempt to survive a world crumbling at the seams. Lessening some of the drama for a significantly more action packed experience, 28 Weeks Later is a violent, high adrenaline thrill ride that still manages to capture the spirit of the original. The opening is one of the most exciting I’ve ever seen in a film and a strong supporting cast including; Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner and Harold Perrineau that give the film a good deal of heart and soul.

5. Army of Darkness (1993)
Slapstick comedy meets Jason and the Argonauts is how I’d describe this zany horror comedy. The third installment in the Evil Dead Trilogy picks right up from where the last one left off. Ash is sucked back into the dark ages and now must face an entire army of the undead (though the whole fiasco is his own fault). Great fun, though it’s not much of a horror film it’s inventive and incredibly quotable. “Give me some sugar baby”, “See This? This is my boom stick!”, “Hail to the king baby”, or how about ” Good, bad… I’m the guy with the gun.” and the list goes on. This overly macho version of Ash would of course go on to inspire video game tough guy Duke Nukem and reel in an even wider Evil Dead fan base. Plus it’s even cooler to me after realizing that the head sorcerer was played by Ian Abercrombie (he played Mr. Pitt on Seinfeld.)

4. Evil Dead II (1987)
Edging out it’s more comedic followup, Evil Dead II is strange in that it’s both a sequel and a borderline remake. Ash returns to the same cabin but it’s presented as his first time through a collection of confusing recaps. That all aside it basically takes the original idea and kicks it up a notch. There’s more gore, more elaborate effects, more comedy all packed into one smorgasbord of blood filled chaos and I love it. Actually Now I have trouble deciding which Evil Dead movie I like better. The first one has an independent charm to it but this one is just hilarious and obserd. Gotta love Ash using that chainsaw as well.

3. Aliens (1986)
Though I’m not sure if you’d technically call Alien a horror movie, it was damn scary so that’s good enough for me. Aliens, although still creepy really takes the series in a more action packed direction. James Cameron takes on the role of director/writer and really pumps some adrenaline into a series that was originally a slow, brooding monster movie. Sigourney Weaver returns in an Oscar nominated performance as Ripley and is joined by a strong cast including; Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen and Carrie Henn.

2. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
A film that’s definitely “out there”, Bride of Frankenstein is a spooky classic that rivals the original for horror greatness. Giving Boris Karloff an even meatier part, as the Monster learns to speak, this is definitely Boris’ best performance in the series. There’s a lot of oddball characters and a great deal of humor as well, plus you got James Whale returning to direct. All in all it’s a classic horror flick of the golden age of cinema.

1. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Arguably George A. Romero’s greatest accomplishment as a filmmaker, Dawn of the Dead is a milestone in the genre. The sequel to Night of the Living Dead (released almost ten years after the original) Dawn tells the story of four people held up in a mall attempting to make the best of a bad situation, in this case an all out zombie invasion. With commentary on consumerism and the decadence of the 70s lifestyle Dawn of the Dead is a complex film and excels in just about every department, if you haven’t seen it than maybe someone should eat your brain.

Shocktober: The Vault (Halloween Edition)

Remember my “The Vault” feature where I review old games? Well here’s my latest installment. I was contemplating the idea of a Resident Evil retrospective but decided to just review a few genesis oldies that delve into the spookier side of things.

Haunting (1993)

The Scoop: You control a rebellious young teenager by the name of “Polterguy” who haunts a yuppie family through household objects.

Pros: Inventive and wacky, I can’t think of any other game quite like Haunting which features some very humorous visuals and great graphics.

Cons: This game is really only fun once for about a half an hour. It just gets so repetitive after that. You haunt someone, get sent to the underworld, haunt someone else, get sent to the underworld, drives me crazy.

Decap Attack (1990)

The Scoop: You control Chuck D. Head, a living mummy battling against Max D. Cap and his underworld army.

Pros: An amusing side-scroller that includes features such as taking potions, throwing skulls and wearing skulls as Chuck has no head of his own.

Cons: It can be a little confusing navigating your way through some of the levels and doesn’t rise above to many side-scrollers.

Mutant League Football (1993)

Mutant League Hockey (1994)

The Scoop: Violent, yet comical sports games where the player controls a wide array of mutants including; skeletons, trolls and robots.

Pros: Both games feature vibrant graphics and creative animated tidbits. Mutant League Hockey is very entertaining, especially with the feature of killing the other team.

Cons: Football games in my opinion were always terrible in the 16 bit era. They never makes sense and are basically always impossible. So that one sort of sucks but hockey works just fine. I just wish MLH didn’t have the forfeit option after you killed all the other teams players. Nobody wants to win by forfeit.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors (1993)

The Scoop: A parody of B-movies by Lucas Arts, Zombies lets you take control of two totally 90s teenagers waging war against zombies with everything from squirt guns to soda bombs.

Pros: The weapons are hilarious and I love that your character can drink a potion transforming them into a monster. Great graphics and music as well.

Cons: Gets a little harder later on but aside from that I love this game and wish I had my own copy.


Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

I guess John is taking charge and making the blog interesting for the week, but we can’t let him have all the fun now, can we?  On the other hand, I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to horror films, so I don’t really have much to say, list wise.  I did, however, manage to expose myself to the greatest, most disturbing cinematic experience all year, Michael Bay’s Transformers sequel.

Full disclosure: I hated the original.  The combination of the bastardization of one of my most beloved childhood franchises and Bay’s terrible direction was brutal.  It was as if he fundamentally did not understand the intellectual property he was depicting.  But it certainly wasn’t Bay’s worst, and on one level, I do like giant robots fighting each other, even if he managed to fail at delivering that in a satisfying way.  Well, this second time around, it seems like Bay heard my complaints and responded, “Oh yeah?  I can do way worse than that!”

Let’s talk about the length of this immense piece of shit.  150 minutes.  That’s two and a half hours.  Sure, the original was just a few minutes shorter than that, but this is a Michael Bay sequel, completely devoid of character development or much plot in general.  It’s about 135 minutes too long. On top of that, he somehow managed to edit the film in a way that was extremely jumpy, with numerous transitions between scenes that left me momentarily confused about what was going on. The fact that all the transformers look the same adds to the confusion.  I couldn’t even tell who Megatron was among the other Decepticons.

Yes, the effects are pretty.  But it feels so pointless.  Remember in the trailer when the Constructicons form together and it seems epic?  Not like that in the final film.  The characters just randomly stumble into this construction site and the Constructicons just show up while the two extremely racist Autobots crack wise.  That’s just one of the dozens of scenes that probably sounded great in the script to the morons but Bay totally failed to realize. Never before have I seen so much money on display and felt so little.  The fights are just boring, and since those are supposed to be the redeeming feature of a Michael Bay movie, you know its got problems.

SPOILERS – but it’s OK, you don’t want to see this movie

So the plot?  I’ll walk you through it.  Sam Dipshitty’s going to college, his mom and girlfriend are sad.  Sam finds part of the Allspark thing from the first film, he goes crazy in Dwight Shrute’s class.  His school is full of super model women and insane men.  The Decepticons show up again, trying to get Sam’s brain to… uh, blow up the sun.  For energon.  Because their boss, The Fallen, says that’s a good idea.  The Decepticons revive Megatron.  The Fallen says only a Prime can kill him, so Megatron kills Optimus Prime (but he still takes orders from The Fallen for some reason).  Meanwhile Sam, his girlfriend (who I’m sure had a name in the first movie, but I can’t remember them saying it this time around), and his coked-up roommate find John Turturro and go to a museum.  It is there that they find a Blackbird jet that turns into an old British transformer who teleports them to Egypt.  There’s a big fight, Optimus Prime comes back to life thanks to the Matrix of Leadership – a big dagger.  The end.

That’s leaving out some of the minor plot points, like the Autobots being part of a military organization that features Tyrese Gibson and that white guy, and is headed by Aaron from 24.  They deal with problems from this corporate fuck who works for the president, in one of the most scathing depictions of the Obama administration yet. There’s also a tiny Decepticon that ends up allying with the human heroes, only to inexplicably disappear towards the end of the film.  And, yes, they introduce two new twin Autobots that are extremely offensive without even being a little funny.  I appreciate the effort to focus less on the humans and more on the robots, but everything here fails.

I really like giant robot movies.  Robot Jox is not a good movie, but I’ll happily watch it.  Transformers was not so lucky, I never want to watch that again.  This sequel is several magnitudes worse.  I try to avoid using the half star rating, but this calls for it.  There was enough talent and money behind this concept for it to be so much more.  Instead it stands a testament to Michael Bay’s vast incompetence.