Wednesday, March 25, 2009

10 Great Modern Horror Films

The fragility of horror loyalists is regularly tested by 2 major components: A lack of originality on the film industry's behalf and lack of faith on behalf of the loyalists' themselves. It's often times justified. Take the rash of remakes as an example: What could possibly be original about retreading ground that's completely worn, especially, considering the amount of great horror novels begging to be turned into screenplays? But, a lot of times rabid fans of any pop culture phenomenon react stronger than necessary (myself included). Fanboys cry about comic book movies not being EXACTLY what THEY think it should. Star Wars geeks jerked off for years over the possibility of more flicks. Then bitched like pregnant women when the new episodes came out. Though I must confess I don't care, because I don't give a shit about Star Wars...yep, I said it. And while we're on that subject, I don't give a fuck about The Godfather either. Think it's boring. But I digress...
The point is, as a horror fan, I can tell you that we're all as guilty (remakes not withstanding). But the point of this blog is not to bitch about what sucks about horror. No sir, this blog will now be the home of shedding light on what's GOOD about our beloved subgenre. As a victim of the VHS boom, I consumed movie after movie, good or bad. That would explain why I love Cannibal Holocaust as much as I love Grizzly. It all came from a primal corner of the mind and is consumed by those who dwell within those same corners. Voyeuristic tendencies be damned, we see it as entertainment. And that's what it's SUPPOSED to be.
But having said all that, there still was something about the 70's and 80's that we're just soooo damn enticing. And truth be told, those big ass clamshells were a doorway to a fucked up world that shaped my current taste. I can still remember cruising aisle to aisle, shelf to shelf, trying to decided which three movies would make their way back to my grandma's house in that dark brown plastic bag. Whether it were Italian cannibals or zombies, slashers, big breasted Nazi prison wardens, Troma's heyday of schlock-it was all fodder for my under-developed mind. Nowadays, the movie industry is a little bit different. And so truly great horror is few and far between. Gone are the days of Texas Chainsaw Massacre's and The Beyond's littering the movie theatre. At least, unless they have a West Coast-manufactured, prototype of a twentysomething passing as an actress. And, YES that was a shot at the mindless cunt, Paris Hilton. I seriously wished I believed in voodoo so I could stab her face with needles. Sorry, got off track again...
So, now since we're in the MTV editing era of horror (that includes PG-13 ratings and Japanese kids with white paint on their bodies crawling down hallways) we need to start being more thankful when the good ones do come along. With that in mind, I am going to present 10 films that I have deemed as great examples of why horror is still viable. If you've seen these flicks, then I hope you'll agree. If you haven't seen them, please make a point to check them out.
The only criteria I used was that they were NOT remakes and they were released within the last 10 years. Enjoy...

Let the Right One In (2008)-This ended up being my favorite film from last year. It has more atmosphere and a far more personal flair than the common genre piece, but it all adds to the purity of the film. Set in 1982 Sweden (which was still behind the Iron Curtain, if you don't recall), it follow a bullied, introverted 12 year old named Oskar. Oskar lives with his mother in an apartment, only kept entertained by reading, and an obsession of someday having vengeance over his tormentor. One bitterly cold evening, he meets a young woman named Eli, who eventually teaches him to not only stand up for himself, but to love without question. Oh, and did I mention that the young woman named Eli is also a several centuries old vampire trapped in the body of an emasculated/mutilated 12 year old boy. Despite her plight (which includes trying to control her need for blood, to no avail), Oskar stands at her side with fierce loyalty. Couple that with the best third act of a film I've experienced since seeing Audition for the first time, and you've got yourself a badass flick that will please both horror fan and potential piece of ass alike.

Hostel (2006)-A couple of years ago, Eli Roth was not a whiny bitch. And at that time, he made a fucking beast of a movie that brought a little chunk of the giallo that made Italy a force to be reckoned with all those years back. Though I'm sure several of you have seen this flick (which is evident by the box office receipt it racked up), it bears discussion. Wealthy businessmen pay assloads of money to purchase wet-behind-the-ears backpackers, of which they will torture and murder. Roth did a particularly excellent job taking you down a path where you're taking sides of one character but find out you hero is a completely different person. I'm trying to be vague, but the bottom line is this movie was everything good about horror that year. Excessively violent and visceral for the gorehounds, suspenseful and energetic enough for fans of action-driven stories. Hostel is a winner. It showed a potential that many of us haven't seen in a horror filmmaker in a long time. Being a fan of the genre makes him the perfect candidate for leading a new world order, as long as he can keep his ego in check...and stop making turds for sequels.

Audition (1999)-Takashi Miike is an elusive creature. He's one of those filmmakers that makes his movies with such obscure precision, you'd swear he's a horror veteran. The fucked up thing is, he couldn't care less about it. Maybe that's what makes him do what he does so well.
Audition is the film that sorta reignited my faith in films that were being made today. It moves at a pace that I can only compare to Lynch or Hitchcock. It builds as more of a drama about a widower and his "audition" process to find a woman he can be in love with. This inevitably goes wrong. And when I say wrong, I mean 30 of my favorite minutes in the history of the genre. So much of what makes this movie great is not obvious on the surface. Normal scenes of dialogue cut away to images, though not always violent, sickening. And if you can imagine what the combination of bonewire, tranquilizers, and acupuncture needles can do...yeesh. God willing, Hollywood won't fuck with this Japanese masterpiece.

Calvaire (2006)-Also known as The Ordeal, this Belgian film is a total mindfuck that starts out weird and doesn't stop being weird until the credits role. When I say weird, I really mean it. Bestiality, gallons of blood, inbred country folk, and just a whole lotta fucked up shit. I'm fairly sure I've only lent this film out to one friend and he brought it back with a "what the fuck dude?!" look on his face. It's justified. You'll never look at Belgium the same ever again. What makes Texas Chainsaw Massacre scare you and what makes your butthole pucker when you watch Deliverance (yep, that scene) are a lot of the same components that will make you wanna dodge certain parts of Europe.

Battle Royale (2002)-Alright, I'm sure this will cause some bitching. But facts are facts-when this shit started circulating in '02, I got a hold of (what was at the time) a bootleg, and I fucking loved it. Compile an entire class of high school kids on a island, strap explosives to them that will promptly detonate (killing them instantly) if non-compliance takes place. They're given each a backpack with a handful of different items that will be their only means of survival. May the strong survive isn't the proper description, but rather don't fucking die. Just don't fucking die. It's produced a sub-par sequel but this film holds up tenfold. From what I understand, the Hot Topic generation has taken a shine to this Japanese Import. Rightfully so, ya' eyeliner wearin' ninnies! Plenty of the red stuff and several moments that leave you wondering what the fuck is going on. I highly recommend.

Teeth (2007)-This is a well thought out film that plays on man's biggest fear-phallic removal. The story revolves around a young woman suffering from vagina dentata. Basically, a twat with teeth. After a sexual assault that doesn't end well for the young man involved, this girl is forced to deal with her "curse" of sorts. It pulls from the wolfman premise. The affliction isn't wanted but it's there, nonetheless. The story is definitely a women's revenge tale and can play up to that audience. But it's more than that. It's darkly funny, and a pretty great ride. I'm certain that if you have external genitals, you'll be recoiling in disgust and you're lady will no doubt be laughing her ass off.

The Abandoned (2007)-Here's a list of names you need to find out about: Nacho Cerda, Richard Stanley, and Karim Hussain. These 3 men were responsible for this dreary and unpleasant story. Nacho Cerda helmed this film (and worked on the script with the other 2 aforementioned names) after his collection of short films that earned him a spot in the Fucked Up Horror Director's Hall of Fame, he took on this gem. Not only was it chosen by the After Dark Film Festival but had a nice little theatre run for a week or two. It tells the abysmal tale of an American woman who sets out to find her birth parents but instead finds out that she owns a home set back in a very remote area of Russia. Upon visiting this home, she not only discovers a broken down farmhouse, that's beyond livable, but also a man living there claiming to be her twin. What begins to unfold is a series of events that will force them to revisit awful murders committed shortly after their birth. They also found out through these events that this home is where they are meant to die. The Abandoned is a miserable, cold, dank film. It's pacing reminds me of some of Bava's better moments as well as some of the British horror from the 70's. It's got some nasty images and the film looks incredible. Plus, a screenplay that came from the guys that made Aftermath, Intolerable Cruelty, and Dust Devil (which I will write about in the near future-it's a classic!) is destined to stray away from simple storytelling and make you feel gross inside. Some flicks leave you feeling good, other leave you feeling empowered. This one gives you no hope and doesn't give a fuck about your feelings. Not for everyone, but it's still a fine example of filmmakers that aren't getting the credit they're due.

Wolf Creek (2005)-Quentin Tarantino gets behind flicks all the time. He puts his annoying stamp on it. Don't misunderstand me. I love that man's films. But I would rather shave my balls with a butter knife than ever speak to him. But I definitely agree with him on this one. An Australian film that starts out as a road tripping movie for the MTV generation and turns into a kidnapper/slasher flick that gives slashers a much needed kick in the ass. My favorite part of this movie is the build up to the showdown. It's pretty mean spirited and the character that the filmmaker spent 2 acts getting you attached to, spend the 3rd act making you suffer for caring. It's exciting to watch and it's ridiculously entertaining. When this one came out, it really struck a chord with the horror audience and rightfully so. It's a laugh for horror fans who love the bad guys. Well fucking done, Aussies!!!

Black Sheep (2006)-Straight outta Peter Jackson-Land, this fucker's got style. Lots and lots of gore, tons of laughs. The premise is as dumb as it sounds. Gene-splicing and cloning attempts go horribly wrong on a sheep farm (that has a lab?!) and well, you can imagine what happens. It's definitely paying homage to some of those great splatterfests that Peter Jackson used to make before he started jerking off to his own King Kong fuckery. It's got as much to do with comedy as it does horror, and it's a riot! Very light-hearted and probably really great for drunk party nights.

The Devil's Rejects (2005)-Undoubtedly, I will catch hell for this from some of my friends. But I thought it over long and hard. I love this movie. It's fun to watch. YES, I think his Halloween remake was garbage, and YES I think House of 1000 Corpses looks like TCM mixed with a White Zombie video. But as a solitary movie, I love it. It's got a lot of the over acting and completely unrealistic dialogue that you come to expect from the 70's and people that love that era. It's got a real gritty, unpleasant feel and keeps you entertained throughout. All the naysayers have no real explanation as to why they don't like it other than for the sake of not liking what Rob Zombie does. Believe me, I don't like his music and I don't know why the hell he'd want to make Halloween sequels but he knocked it out on this one and it still provides a glimmer of hope that someone still give a fuck about horror. That's what I'm looking for