These films occupy a curious place in our hearts. Neither comprising themselves on a "Guilty Pleasures" type list nor a worst list, they fall somewhere in between. We gleamed many moments of enjoyment from them yes, but we also suffered through many moments of mediocrity. Ultimately though and above all else, we endured the painful realizations that they were not at all what we hoped that they would be. Whether this was because we had high expectations due to a director involved, a beloved franchise that was being reanimated from the dead, or an effective ad campaign that wowed us into submission with their skillfully done promotional materials among other reasons, the one thing they all have in common, is that every single one of them failed to realize their full potential and ultimately let us down mighty hard.
The UK's Doghouse initially presented many reasons to get us excited; A willfully offensive battle between the sexes (one side undead, the other soon to be) done up in that uniquely winning combination of humor and horror the Brits have been pulling off with aplomb lately. Danny Dyer. Gore aplenty. Danny Dyer and uh...Danny Dyer. Sadly this was not to be the case. Doghouse, ultimately, was a serious snooze-fest. Creatively bankrupt, the gags, the comedy, the gore and big titted zombies ultimately fell flat in an uninspired mess of wasted potential. I've been more impressed by online, fringe, zombie pornography.
Honestly, whenever a film is in as much reported trouble as The Wolfman was eons before it's bumped-around release date, one should expect nothing less than a big steaming turd. Well, we were cautiously optimistic, but optimistic all the same. We should have went with our gut. Re-shoots, a revolving door of attached directors, over budget, overlong and a host of other problems plagued the production, all of which are evident onscreen in it's manic, all-over-the-place identity crisis. Benicio del Toro turns in a fine performance while co-star Emily Blunt barely registers and Anthony Hopkins hams it up unmercifully. Worthwhile for a stunning set piece set in a medical theater, it hardly seems worth noting, considering that you'd have to slog through an inflated 103 minutes of absolute tedium to witness it and watching this half-baked remake of the classic 1941 lycanthrope favorite, is not something that I wholeheartedly recommend that you do.
A film that I initially was not looking forward to seeing was Nimród Antal's (Vacancy) Predators. For too long it's studio, Twentieth Century Fox, couldn't seem to get it's story straight on whether or not they were releasing a remake of the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger fan favorite, or a completely original beast entirely. Considering that I am opposed to 99.9% of all remakes, the PR confusion surrounding the former turned me off and I essentially stopped paying attention, and completely ceased caring about it's production. Then, when it was released it garnered some favorable word of mouth here and there, and the news hit home that in fact it wasn't a remake, so I decided to give it a go. Predators isn't the worst film I saw in 2010 by far, but considering the talent, money and promise involved, it's certainly one of the most underwhelming genre offerings of 2010. A shame really, because it boasts a truly terrific opening bit and a mostly effective, creepy and understated first act. However, by the time the titular creatures make themselves known to the cast of alien fodder, the movie loses all the steam that it had so successfully generated and contends itself by settling into a tired, by the numbers monsters vs. muscles action film. We've seen it all before, done much better.
Now for a film we were anxiously awaiting here at The October Country. Adam Green's sequel to his insanely blood red and fun Hatchet, the cleverly titled Hatchet II. A fan of the first movie and having just recently been blown away by his man-against-nature horror film, Frozen, my husband and I were considering making a 6 hour road trip (collectively, both ways) to catch a limited screening of this film in Chicago (also, we were both all about getting behind Green's "Support Unrated Horror" marketing campaign / cause). Thank the gods that we never made that pilgrimage. After gas, food and admission it certainly would have been the most expensive and disappointing movie date ever, behind or equal to our $60 movie date that was George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead in Toronto. How was it $60? Don't ask, suffice to say that that price tag still smarts all these years later, as in retrospect I would regret spending even $6 on that turkey. So, another crisis avoided. One thing that cannot be avoided however, is the fact that Green took three enormous steps backwards after the success of his previous film. Hatchet II is nearly everything that it's progenitor wasn't; boring, cliched, unfunny with nary a lick of a good time in sight. Add to this Danielle Harris' uncharacteristically struggling, uneven performance as the films new female lead (taking over the role originated by Tamara Feldman) and a general atmosphere that Green is just going through the motions for the fans, and you are left with the strange sensation that you just watched something that is akin to something that was familiar and beloved, but in reality is nothing but an imposter trying to distract you long enough to fish the money free from your wallet. Maybe that's too harsh. Maybe Adam Green sincerely did want to return to this well but if that truly is the case he sure does a shitty job of showing it. Though Hatchet II just barely avoided being the fifth film on our "Worst Of..." list, I would watch it again purely for Scream King AJ Bowen's (fuzzy and gruff lust of my loins) screen time, though not without fast forwarding through everything else to get to him. I do love that poster and tag-line though.
A film that we probably wouldn't judge so harshly and would most likely cut more slack that it deserves if it weren't for a string of stellar, recent Clive Barker adaptations before it, would be John Harrison's Book of Blood. Coming in on the heels of The Midnight Meat Train and Dread would be a hard act for anybody to follow, and unfortunately, Book demonstrates that though it has some good things going for it, it just isn't up to the same task. Wonderful atmospheric cinematography of bleak and foggy city streets, a sympathetic performance by Jonas Armstrong (who bares all, hubba), some genuine scares and a really cool, grim final twist notwithstanding, Book ultimately falls short of being anything other than a going through the motions haunted house time waster.
Then we have Daybreakers, in what could have been a really awesome melding of vampire flicks of yore and something akin to the The Matrix (in it's sleek, dark style), comes off as just another mishandled, miss-the-mark lost opportunity from directors Michael and Peter Spierig. It's a true travesty that Daybreakers contends itself (like so, sooooo many of other modern films do) with yet again coasting through the typical screenwriting beats of getting from point A to point B with little variation of the expected norm, because elsewhere in this script is an utterly amazing and fascinating world of vampires fully functioning and ruling society. The related ideas (when there) are awesome but sadly Daybreakers never fully commits itself to exploring these exciting concepts. It would much rather bore us to tears by presenting us a world where scripts are apparently still written utilizing every cliche in that tired and used up screenwriters manual. A serious disappointment followed by an enormous, sleep inducing yawn.
Lastly, there may be no greater disappointment of 2010 than AMC's and Frank Darabont's handling of Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead. The Walking Dead in graphic novel form is (in my mind) hands down the greatest zombie story ever told, in any medium. A bold statement that I will stand behind until something better trumps it. So, to say that I had been chewing at the bit for years to hear of a deal being struck to adapt it television...well, you have no idea just how much I wanted it. Especially after the stunning Dead Set by way of the BBC proved that zombies can and do make for riveting long form television. Then one day that much dreamed of deal was struck, and there was talent aplenty involved and it was on a highly respected network that I loved and it all just seemed so promising. The series's impressive trailer followed and fed the flames and the hype was through the roof.. I could barely contain myself. Then the pilot debuted, and the lord spoke and said "This, is good". Then the second episode aired, and we gave pause. Then the third and fourth behind it and by the time the brief season was limping to it's conclusion, it was official; a reality that I could no longer delude myself from acknowledging, The Walking Dead, as a TV show....sucked. How the talented Darabont, Gale Anne Hurd and so many others could get so much wrong when they had the perfect outline in the form of the comics to follow, is beyond me. The one thing that they unquestionably were successful at, were the zombies themselves which across the board have been memorable and conceived with top notch, frightening quality (my hats off to you Mr. Nicotero). But the fact is, and I'm certain this reality hasn't escaped them, The Walking Dead isn't about zombies, it's about characters, it's about humanity. So why pray tell, has every character, from the deeply flawed Rick to the fiery Lori, to the spunky Andrea to good 'ol reliable Dale, seemed as hollow and empty as the lumbering brain dead husks of humans devouring the planet? Why does every attempt at character development come across as B-grade melodrama? Why is the most successful, believable character (Norman Reedus' Daryl), not even original to the award winning comics? Why do the writers keep piling on scenario after scenario that divert from the source material yet add nothing to the overall universe of the show, in effect, not enriching the mythology but subtracting from it? Why does everything look as flat and limp as a SyFy original movie? The biggest misfire of not only 2010, but one of the biggest of the past decade. You have been granted another season folks, lets get it right this time shall we?
The second biggest disappointment of the year? That would be that Jonathan Levine's All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) and John Erick Dowdle's The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) are still wasting away on a shelf somewhere, unreleased and unseen by the public at large. Both films are superior, intelligent works of terrifying art. Both films are stunning. Both films are worth your time to hunt down....however you see fit. Hopefully, 2011 will see saner heads prevail and these two mistreated, neglected gems will get the chance at the cinematic life that they so rightfully deserve.