Granted, this past year's worst list should contain a helluva lot more films than just these four. If you were believe every other critic of the genre, 2010 was one of the most dismal years for horror in recent memory. A statement that probably seems very true if you look no further than the mainstream, Hollywood offerings that stunk up cineplexes year round. But thankfully I've been blessed with the good sense to go hunting and digging for the good stuff and ultimately found 2010 no less rewarding and full of genuinely first class films than any other year. As for the aforementioned cinematic blights of 2010, well I've also been blessed with the common sense to sniff out a turkey well ahead of it's arrival. Hence my eventual avoidance of movies like Chain Letter, Vampires Suck and Resident Evil: Afterlife and the sparing of my intelligence while I was at it (my brain still whispers sweet words of gratitude to me every night before bed). That and the fact that the genre is full of so many obviously worthwhile offerings (films, books, games etc.) that I barely have the time for, that I find it hard to sacrifice something I suspect to be made with genuine quality for something that I know, isn't. Which, I now realize is a fate that I may no longer be able to avoid, seeing as how I run a horror website and I am wholly devoted to bringing you dear reader, the most informed information on films like these as is within my means to do so. So, in 2011, I suppose I very well may be taking one for the team, alot. Also, I try my hardest to abstain from forming an opinion about something until I've actually seen it. You'll probably never find movies like Vampegeddon or Mega Piranha on one of our worst lists. Chiefly because movies of that nature are too easy a target (and much too plentiful to cover them all). We're hoping here at The October Country to impart these reviews as cautionary tales; A Nightmare on Elm Street did have one bad ass trailer that likely hoodwinked many into paying to endure it, for example. However, anyone who thought that the likes of Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus held promise of some sort, is likely too far gone to be helped by any advice that we could bestow upon them. So, here they are, the whopping four films that we unwisely gave a shot this past year. We still regret it.
A Nightmare On Elm Street
In the needless remakes category, I'll take Platinum Dunes' (suck it already fellas, seriously) A Nightmare On Elm Street for $500 Alex. Completely trivial, worthless and inferior to it's original in nearly every way, Nightmare somehow manages to get it wrong over and over and over at every turn (this despite it adhering more closely to it's source material than most of these endeavors).During it's average (yet it feels so very bloated, it honestly just drags) 95 minutes run time, it only manages to add one worthwhile wrinkle to the legendary character of Freddy Krueger; spelling out for us once and for all that yes, everybody's favorite psycho sandman, was and is, a child molester. This was always alluded to before with the previous incarnation of course, but it was later conveniently and quietly swept aside as the character became more popular at the cineplex, not to mention a pop culture, mainstream horror hero (in the mass marketing, media tie-in craze of the 80's that saw Freddy pajamas and Freddy bedsheets for the wee ones, it's always been something that's filled me with a sense of gallows humor at the utter cluelessness of the American public who were essentially buying little Tommy and little Suzy a pedophile action figure, and so on). Burgeoning genre vets Kyle Gallner and Katie Cassidy add some much needed bright spots to the proceedings, but little else does. Nightmare also proves (in case you are one of the ignorant disbelievers, and judging by the box office, there are many) that Hollywood's resident Antichrist Michael Bay truly has nothing else to offer the world except more car chases, more explosions, more CGI masquerading as plot, and an overeager willingness to suck the life from previously existing film franchises like the bottom feeding, lowest-common-denominator Prince of Darkness that he is. An unfortunate (yet telling), moment arrives midway through 2010's Nightmare that perfectly encapsulates what is so wrong and misguided about the current state of mainstream, big budgeted Hollywood horror offerings and it is this: 2010's Nightmare recreates an iconic moment from the original film, wherein Freddy Krueger manifests above a slumbering Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) in bed, his body stretching forth through the wall like taffy, reaching for his prey. In the original, this effect was created practically and on camera, for a mere $10 utilizing a sheet of spandex stretched across a hole in the wall. Simple, cheap and very effective (there's a reason why it's an iconic set piece). How does the remake tackle this scene? By using horribly fake looking CGI that effectively turns a sure-fire scare into a silly looking gag. Uh, yeah. So to reiterate, Hollywood could have effectively achieved the same results by spending 10 dollars and an hour of manpower (if that) to pull of a time-tested scare but instead chose to go with an effect that costs thousands of dollars, more time to create, and ultimately is neither frightening nor convincing or effective. Yep, that sounds like modern day, mainstream film making and the mentality of the likes of Bay to a T. Absolute, utter rubbish.
Legion was almost a guilty pleasure. Almost. While I sat watching, stunned at the ridiculousness and inanity of it all, admittedly there was a part of me that was effectively creeped out by key scenes and another part of me that was kind of enjoying other, over the top moments of mayhem. But then, thankfully, my common sense snapped back into place and I readjusted my overly analytical, critical thinkers cap and resumed viewing the film, mouth agape at just how honestly awful the whole affair is. The plot? The plot is happenstance, especially considering that there likely would be no plot to speak of if films like The Terminator, The Matrix, The Prophecy and Demon Knight (just to name a few) hadn't existed before it for Legion to shamelessly ripoff. Those and others all went into Legion's story blender, but the makers couldn't even bring themselves to hit the "liquefy" button. Instead they went for "stir", or possibly "frappe", but that might be a bit too generous. The remarkably capable cast is way too talented for this sort of thing too (leading me to suspect that what they signed up for isn't what got made), which is a shame because it would be great to watch them all in something that was memorable (for something other than it's grade A shit-tasticness) and generally good. A side note: it was awesome to see Lucas Black, who I watched every week on Shaun Cassidy's American Gothic when I was a young teenager, back in a genre effort, all grown up and hot as hell. Its just, why did it have to be this piece of garbage? Anyway, if it sounds like I am half-assed lavishing more praise on Legion than it deserves, it's because as I said, it was almost a guilty pleasure. The demonic old Gladys Miller (Jeanette Miller, whose big moment is telegraphed ahead of time in the trailer) got a sizable rise out of me. As did the incredibly disturbing Ice Cream Man and oh hell, so did the angel Gabriel (Kevin Durand, of LOST fame, and of whom I would definitely do some serious sinning to experience his...wrath) with his rather awesome metal wings (no lie, sometimes, I just geek out, unfortunately there is no known cure). But...but then I reflect on the fact that the script has a character die, only to descend from heaven in a beam of blinding light moments later to fight anew and that the script has it's lone heroic angel (Paul Bettany, what are you doing in this mess my hot ginger Cheeto chip) unwisely rip his own wings off in the first five minutes of the film in preparation (or as a symbolic finger to his creator, whichever, it matters not because none of it makes any sense) to fight an entire army of still-winged angels, or that boils cause people to spontaneously explode now and well, the film's utterly nonsensical tripe just goes on and on. Then, I remembered that I have a high school diploma, that I am generally well read and that though I'm not aware of what my IQ is, I'm certain that it is higher than the IQs Legion was written for. The film does make one succinct and honest observation though; that being that God is undoubtedly a first class asshole. Which considering the nation we live in, I'm rather shocked that this point, truly the crux of the film, wasn't taken to task by the fundies and believers amongst us. Perhaps they were too busy being shocked and awed by all the pretty explosions, CGI rendered winged menaces and hails of machine gun fire, as someone definitely was (Legion went on to gross $67,827,482 worldwide after all). Dear god people, we use to go to the moon.
I really don't know why I keep expecting great things out of director William Malone. Back in the day, I was a big fan (seemingly the only one in existence) of his remake of William Castle's House on Haunted Hill. My initial viewing of it was a mixed bag of excitement and annoyance as for the first time since I was in grade school I got to see a scary film in a classic, two screen theater complete with over hanging movie marquee, red velvet curtains to either side of the screen and 1940's art deco decor (fittingly in line with Hill's own look). However, never in my life had I sat through a film that was cranked up so loud (the sound guy barely avoided a punch to his ear when I left the theater). Yet, I thoroughly enjoyed myself with the exception of the miscast Chris Kattan (whose performance mucks up much of the film), I felt it had a really fun EC comics vibe going for it, namely in the relationship between Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen who are, like all the best marriages from Crypt/Haunt/Tomb's legacy, engaged throughout the proceedings in a battle to see who can put the other in a early grave first. I thought the film was harmless fun and I was really taken with Malone's personal eye for stylish, nostalgic set design. The same visual style of which can also be found in Feardot.com (the stupid title alone should have been more than ample warning as to what I was in for), his follow up to House. The less said about that atrocity the better, save to say that Malone was now 1-1 with me. Which brings us to his most recent film, Parasomnia and my growing suspicion that at the end of the day, Malone may very well just be all style (admittedly a very lovely to look at style) and no substance. What Parasomnia does try to pass off as substance, the love story between the film's "hero" Danny Sloan (Dylan Purcell) and Laura Baxter (Cherilyn Wilson, quite amateurish), is so unintentionally creepy and offensive that once this is discounted, all we are left with is 103 very long, very padded minutes of one nonsensical scene connected to next needlessly complicated one. Oh, and I say the film's chief romance is "creepy and offensive" because well, what else do you call a story depicting an adult male becoming infatuated with a total stranger in a coma, who wakes up briefly on and off only to have the personality and mental maturity of a 5 year old (she's been asleep all her life), which only makes him fall more madly in love with her, leading to him smuggling her out of the hospital and doing really savory things once he gets her home like undress her in her sleep so he can well, ogle her vulnerable goods? If this storyline was presented as the dark, disturbing examination of what is essentially a seriously not-all-there-man who can only connect with a silenced woman-child that it is, well then I would have been game for the ride. Hell, depending on how it was written I may have even had some sympathy for the pairing but the thing is, it's not written that way. Danny's obsession with and subsequent abduction and keeping of the helpless young girl is presented as sweet, tender and god help us,just about as normal as apple pie. Which is just...wrong. Not that this aspect of the film was enough to truly ruffle my feathers (it inspired a furrowed brow and pinched face at it's oblivious tastelessness yes). No the thing that got under my skin was the fact that Parasomnia is plain and simply, awful. The script piles on one overwrought contrivance too many by the half way mark, the characters are all unsympathetic, Malone's patented style this time around suffers from an obvious lack of funds to fully realize it effectively, rendering some scenes meant to be showstopping, laughable in a Full Moon Entertainment circa 1991 sort of way. Oh, and Parasomnia's highest offense? Casting the MIA, still sexy after all these years Sean Young in a thankless, throwaway roll wherein she appears sans dialogue for 20 seconds only to throw herself off of a building's balcony. So forgettable is her part that it doesn't even work as stunt casting and I spent the next 103 minutes preoccupied with the notion that surely we were going to be treated to a flashback of some sort that would further flesh out her character and give her more screen time. Alas, that was not to be the case. By the (blessed) end of Parasomnia, William Malone was now 1-2 in my book and I was left with the irritating suspicion that I never really had a clue as just to how untalented he was in other areas of his career, despite what I initially thought to the contrary all the way back in 1999. I now stand corrected.
Yet another movie who made us unsuspecting victims of it's rather stunning advertising campaign. Honestly, who when they saw all of those screaming, flailing bodies being sucked up into the sky (the film's money shot really) in Skyline's trailer didn't think to themselves"This sucker can't lose!" Well, that's precisely what we thought as we were carried away by the trailer's eye-popping spectacle. Unfortunately, that jaw dropping moment is about the only time the movie achieves anything other than boredom. Ripping off every invasion film in sight and going so far (in some cases) as to lift entire scenes from far superior movies before it (the tentacle search from 2005's War of the Worlds), in the end Skyline succeeds at being precisely what it is; a special effects reel / Hollywood calling card for the directors Colin and Greg Strause and failing miserably at what it purports to be, namely, a film. It neither begins promisingly, builds up steam or tension in it's middle moments and it sure as hell ends on one strange, out of left field note. It does nothing in it's 94 minutes but drape it's SFX on the shoulders of its wasted actors (window dressing really, one suspects that the directors would have been just as happy to render them in CGI as well and place them in the background while they blew shit up in the foreground) who admirably do the best that they can with the little that they've been given. Eric Balfour, David Zayas and Scottie Thompson, you deserve better. You certainly deserve some sort of consolation prize for lending your talents to this garbage at any rate. As far as the brothers Strause are concerned, we get it guys. When it comes to special effects, you are immensely talented and capable of creating a lot with with very little. Though hows about next time you keep your flashy spaceships and slimy aliens confined to someone else's undoubtedly better (it couldn't be worse), real movie. Because a movie, this ain't.