2008 has been a great year for horror. Hollywood is starting to get out of the habit of remaking every moderately successful Japanese fright film, but I fear they will slowly turn their sights to the French who have just had a phenomenal year in gore. That is not to say that Americans were slouches this year though, we had a few films that shined through the bloody pile of sequels and remakes. Without further ado, here is the list for the top 10 horror films released in 2008.
1. Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in)
This little Swedish gem is by far and away the best vampire film in the past decade and easily the best horror film this year. Director Tomas Alfredeon directs with such confidence and vitality that his images immediately evoke the mis-en-scene of Stanley Kubrick and the wide angled suburban horrors of John Carpenter.
2. Inside ('À l'intérieur')
I still have a group of friends that are pissed at me for showing them this film this summer. Alexander Bustillo and Julien Maury have made a film so wet, so gory, and so disturbing that my wife and I were actually shocked. That is not faint praise, after years of foreign horror (Italian and otherwise) we have developed a bloody thick skin. This French home invasion horror film pushes the boundaries for what fans of the genre will pay to see on screen (c-section on a stairwell with a pair of scissors anyone?). Hopefully Hollywood doesn’t swallow them whole and suck out their creativity like Haute Tension Director Alexndre Aja.
This has been a phenomenal year for French horror. This film is another version of city folk going where they don’t belong, very much in the same vein as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Frontier(s) starts out like a poor imitation of one of Guy Richie’s lesser works, quickly turns into a mixture of Hostel and Texas Chainsaw, and then it just totally jumps the fucking zombie shark as it rides on a pre-nuked fridge. The movie gets so gory and so intense it actually begins to rain blood in the climax.
4. The Signal
The Signal is an intimate horror film that shows that a big concept does not need a big budget. When a discordant signal is broadcast on the television the whole populace of Terminus loses their collective shit and attacks each other. The Signal is broken into three parts that directed by three different directors. The tone is all over the place because of this. What starts as a horrific vision ends up turning into a pitch black comedy. That being said, The Signal is still a great horror film (that can be streamed instantly on Netflix).
5. My Name Is Bruce
Bruce “Fucking” Campbell.
6. The Strangers
Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers is a solid exercise in home invasion horror. While remarkably similar to David Moreau’s THEM (the German film, not the one about giant ants) and Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (sans the self-referential narrative) it still has a few beats of originality to it. The reason I have to compare this film to foreign horror is because this type of horror film hasn’t been made in the states by an American director since the horror boom of the mid to late 1970’s. While Bertino traverses a very similar path to some popular foreign horror, the films he truly owes the most to are Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (1974) and John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). Just please for the love of god, don’t pay attention to Scott Speedman and his magic tie. Continuity errors almost kill a good film.
Neil Marshall’s Doomsday is such an amalgam of movies it is hard to categorize it as just horror. The movie has elements of Mad Max, 28 Days Later, Escape from New York, and Lord of the Rings. Doomsday is an incredibly self aware romp that at its best it transcends some of its references and at its worst it plays like a highlight real of terrible B-movie imitations. All of it though, is fun. Grab some beer and at least two friends, this is the perfect “before the bar movie.”
I know. I am surprised this sucker is on here too. Quarantine, which is actually a remake of a Spanish film titled Rec, is another take on the zombie apocalypse genre. No, there aren’t actually “zombies” in the film (and lord strike me down if I have to talk about running zombies vs. shambling zombies or undead vs. infected ever again). Director John Erick Dowdle keeps the tension high and the scares abundant throughout the 89 minute run time. This is a brutally effective skillfully made film even if it is about as original as 1990’s fashion sense.
Matt Reeves proves that a lot of forethought and talent go into the framing of shots in a first person perspective movie. The narrative is told with great skill and little exposition. Cloverfield is the high mark for directors who are working in this first person genre. It has been a long time that I have seen a monster movie on the screen that I was this happy with. It was marketed hard and there is a backlash against this movie because of it, but that does not stop it from being a great monster movie.
10. George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead
Hey, hey you there…George A. Romero. Hey baby. How you doing? We had some good times didn’t we? Remember the time you made Night of the Living Dead? Oh man, that was smoking. Then there was The Crazies and Martin, oooh yeah you like that? Then you made Dawn of the Dead ,and I just about finished all over your face, but you weren’t done with me yet, were you baby? No, you went out and made Day of the Dead and don’t get me wrong it was pretty hot when you brought Bub in the room to make it freaky, but I just wasn’t feeling it and I’m sorry. Then it seemed like forever had gone by and I heard you were slutting around with Monkey Shines and The Dark Half, finally selling yourself to Bruiser for some amyl nitrate and a handful of Ju Ju Bees. I just couldn’t follow you down that path baby. Then out of nowhere you show up on my doorstep in a see-through shirt drenched in caro-syrup with a rock hard and writhing Land of the Dead sticking out of your pants. I took that in baby, I took it all in. It had been so long. It was epic. Remember the sky flowers baby? We had some great times, we did. But George my love, I refuse to let you stick Diary of the Dead up my ass. I am so sorry, I just don’t want to take it in. Hey! Hey stop it! George! George, stop raping me with Diary of the Dead! Ahhh! You are ruining the memories! George! Nooo! No, uh, it hurts, it hurts so bad. George!!!!!!