Best Horror Films Of The Year - 2010

Guilty Pleasures

These films, for one reason or another did not qualify for either the "honorable mentions" portion of this list, nor the "best of...." In some instances it is merely a fact of them being, well, frankly bad (in anywhere from the script department to their execution). In other cases, some of the films were technically so ridiculous in concept that I'd be remiss if they bumped a far worthier film from the "best of" list, this despite the fact that many here are more compulsively re-watchable than say, Dogtooth (really, regardless of that film's greatness, I need to be in a specific mood, ya know).

While none of these movies are likely to win any awards anytime soon, sometimes after a trying day or a hard night at the office, all a horror nut needs is a fun little flick that knows how to lather on the gore, moderate chills, memorable kills and hokey one-liners. Alas, getting the job done without taking themselves to seriously all the while taking us, the viewer, on a entertaining if ham-fisted ride.

I initially nearly turned off Pearry Reginald Teo's Necromemtia 15 minutes into the film. The acting was so distractingly uneven that it was making it hard to pay attention to the actual movie (not to mention there is a demon named "Morbius", groan). Thankfully, my husband and I agreed to give it "10 more minutes" to prove itself, and boy did it turn things around! The acting (from select parties), still remained horribly amateurish in spots, but by the second act Necromentia's twisted world of monsters, mutilation, drug addiction and hellish torment came wonderfully and disturbingly alive. Also, kudos to what was without a doubt one of the most unnerving creations I've beared witness to in 2010; Mister Skinny, a demonic diaper-wearing fat Caucasian butcher in a pig mask who appears to children and sings songs about how suicide and self mutilation is "fun", while encouraging them to eviscerate their slumbering babysitters. A brilliant, quietly surreal and terrifying vision, Necromentia is worth suggesting for that character alone.

While certainly there are very few new frontiers explored in the French backwoods cannibal film High Lane (aka Vertige), I will always maintain that you can tell the same story over and over in the genre (really, it's bread and butter) but when a degree of finesse and sincerity is added to the proceedings, you can fashion for yourself a truly striking film experience. High Lane is just such a film. Nothing new here really, save for the exploiting of many's (me included) fear of heights. Think Cliffhanger meets Wrong Turn. If the sight of a helpless human body danging hundreds of feet above the ground by a unraveling safety harness while some mutated abomination taunts them from above gets your palms sweating (it does mine), then High Lane is just your ticket for a night of well orchestrated suspense. Add to this, Nicolas Massart's rather stunning, vertigo inducing cinematography, five flawed characters drawn with a little bit more depth than usual and the film's penchant for occasionally behaving unpredictably with it's admittedly predictable premise, and you have what should be a sleeper hit with fans of this sort of thing.

I wasn't expecting much from Marcus Dunstan's The Collector. Truth: I wasn't even ever going to bother with it. Emblazoning your movie's poster art with the slogan "From The Creators of Saw V, VI & XXIII" or whatever it was, isn't necessarily the most efficient way to capture this viewers interest. However, after catching some good word of mouth here and there, I reluctantly decided to give it a go. Let the record show, I was wrong in my initial assumptions (those being that it would be nothing but a limp and tiresome retread of those same creators' most monotonous concepts). Acting as sort of a spiritual cousin to that aforementioned franchise of torture and bloodletting, The Collector's resident psychopath essentially takes the puzzle devices from the Saw films and proceeds to booby-trap every room of targeted, unsuspecting families' homes with them. Why? I have no idea. Refreshingly, this time out there is no offensive moralizing in these endeavors, they seem to serve no purpose other than to fuel the film's chief concern; putting the movie's anti-hero Arkin (Josh Stewart) through one suspenseful "he's never going to get out of this" cat-and-mouse scenario after the other. Which, if you ignore the script's sky-high implausibility of many of those scenarios and just go with it, they work remarkably well. Over the top in nearly every way, The Collector nonetheless emerges victorious with it's acute sense of style, grisliness and extraordinarily taut set pieces.

Coming at you by way of my husband Daniel (whose sole preoccupation when I hit the hay is seemingly tracking down one bizarre filmic excursion into the worlds of strange sexploitation after the other), I was originally averse to participating in his enthusiasm for Someone's Knocking at the Door's twisted achievements. Honestly, I'm still more than a little reticent and unsure in my final feelings about this truly fucked-up undertaking. However, it did leave an undeniable impression on my psyche, and I did have a good time while trying to unravel just what the hell it was I was watching, not to speak of my feelings about what was on screen. While not the grindhouse era throwback it purports to be, it does share with that company of notoriously off films a go-for-broke sensibility in it's willingness to offend and shock; Entire heads devoured by vaginas, rib cages fucked to smithereens by monstrously oversized cocks, the sight of said cock, nearly 3 feet long, erect and flopping two and fro as it's naked owner pursues the film's leading lady (undoubtedly one of the genre's most unique chase scenes in recent memory). Amateurish though it may be in many ways, Someone's Knocking at the Door is entertaining enough throughout it's bugged-out running time to recommend it to more jaded, adventurous viewers in the mood for something truly...different. It's just a shame about that tired and overplayed final reveal though. An acquired taste, Someone's Knocking at the Door is the type of film that the phrase "guilty pleasure' was invented for.

That phrase also being applicable to our next film, Australia's Damned by Dawn. The title being an allusion to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn every bit as much as the film's content. Well, either an "allusion" or homage or rip-off, you'll have to be the judge of that dear readers. Whatever it is, one thing is for sure, Damned by Dawn is a fun, energetic throwback to late 80's / early 90's heyday of direct to video exercises in ghoulish carnage. Sadly, the film's commendable ambitions definitely overreach it's ability to realize them, alternating back and forth from merely serviceable special effects to unfortunate displays of laughable CGI. Richly atmospheric though it may be (hats off to the film maker's for blanketing the entire movie in swirling, eerie fog) , Dawn exists in a twilight netherworld somewhere between being occasionally effective and a curiosity of what might have been if director Brett Anstey had been allotted the resources to fully realize his vision. Would it be an overblown special effects extravaganza or a largely insane, epic nod to demons in the woods pics that came before it? I guess we'll never know, but us less discerning viewers were left with a convivial 81 minutesall the same.

While I personally feel that French film director Alexandre Aja has yet to live up to the insanely awesome potential he displayed with his stunning debut Haute Tension (aka High Tension), his re-imagining of Joe Dante's seminal cult classic comes mighty close. That Piranha 3-D is favored by me in anyway is a true feat, because for the most part I refuse to partake in the remake trend currently devouring (and destroying) the mainstream genre field in addition to the fact that I pretty much loath 3-D (as a trend, as a gimmick, as an over-hyped marketing tool and as a surefire wellspring of blinding headaches). Yet it won me over, in spades (and this without titillating me in the least as far as the film's over abundance of using three dimensional tits and ass as a sight gag). The one aspect that keeps Piranha 3-D from being a truly great side-note in the genre's history is that it dispenses with the original's story structure (that being what essentially played out as a suspenseful chase movie) in favor of relocating the action to two static locales; a Spring Break bash where we have little emotional investment in any of the faceless, nameless participants and Jerry O'Connell's ship of sexual debauchery (with the always pleasurable Elizabeth Shue flitting between the two). It kinda shoots itself in the foot with this format, leaving the viewer with the feeling that they neither went anywhere nor did anything for the last 88 minutes. That is of course, with the exception of witnessing what truly must be one of thee goriest, nastiest bloodbaths in mainstream Hollywood history. The carnage of which, believe me dear readers, is worth the price of admission alone. Gruesome, amusing and cheerfully willing to push the limits of good taste and politeness, Piranha 3-D couldn't be a more rambunctiously riotous diversion.

We'll return shortly with The October Country's list of worst films and biggest disappointments of 2010. Until then, thanks for visiting us!

Skull Ratings:
5 Skulls - The Best
4 Skulls - Very Good
3 Skulls - Good / Average
2 Skulls - Poor
1 Skull - The Worst

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