THE GRAVEDIGGERS'S TOP TEN BEST AND WORST OF 2005!
Just when you thought 2005 was gone for good and you had bid good riddens to it... along comes The Gravedigger to put in his 2 cents about the best and worst in horror for the past year. While all of us may not totally agree with the order of this list, we do agree that 2005 was a pretty good year for horror, and a pretty bad year for everything else. Put the past year to bed and get a load of what The Gravedigger thought was the best and worst in horror of 2005!
TOP 10 BEST
#10: HELLRAISER: DEADER - Surprisingly, this is one of the better HELLRAISER movies. In fact, this movie originally started off as a movie unrelated to that franchise.
Kari Wuhrer is a jaded journalist who is sent on an "undercover" assigment to investigate the seeming resurrection of a young woman by a group of creepy individuals who call themselves Deaders. One of the best scenes is when she breaks into an apartment and, in order to get the information she needs, has to creep by a dead, stinking corpse that's blocking her way. Another effective scene involves a moving train in which this weird party is perpetually happening-and this later on gets turned into Pinhead's playground. But perhaps my favorite shot is when hooked chains erupt from the Hellraiser box and latch onto Wuhrer's face. DEADER is what a HELLRAISER movie should be-grim, unrelenting and nasty.
#9: AMITYVILLE HORROR - This new movie isn't so much a remake as it is a re-adaptation (loosely) of the Jay Anson book, which popularized the Lutz's and their demonic house in the mid 1970's. If you want a comparison, it's like the old version of SALEM'S LOT compared to the recent version with Rob Lowe. Both are good, both concentrate on different things.
In fact, I found this version much more creepy than the first, which is probably because of the digital effects and the editing more than anything else. Ryan Reynolds (BLADE 3) and Melissa George (ALIAS, ROAR) do a good, believable job as the newly married couple, whose marriage is nearly torn apart with an ax. George Lutz quickly starts to disintegrate into a mean, threatening personality as whatever is in the house takes hold of him and makes him paranoid against his family. He starts to believe they are demons and that he has to kill them.
There isn't a lot of story which involves the priest and blessings of the house-it's relegated to one scene in which a horde of flies chases a priest out of the house, and he doesn't return. There also isn't a lot of that black goop running down the walls as in the first movie. Instead, we're introduced to a hidden room in the basement which dates back to the late 1600's, when an insane preacher killed the local indians who he thought were possessed by demons. Quite a few scenes also involve the boathouse, as well as the roof of the house.
In fact, the more that I think about it, this new AMITYVILLE is a lot like Kubrick's version of THE SHINING, with the ax wielding insane father and the hysterical mother. Regardless, the movie is worth checking out. It's leaps and bounds better than THE RING 2.
#8: HOUSE OF WAX - The newest "HOUSE OF WAX" movie is a surprisingly effective slasher movie that doesn't hold back on the gore (in particular, this one scene that involves a road kill pit). It has the usual scenario of a group of young adults traversing in an area they aren't supposed to-and in this case it's a creepy, secluded town that has this strange Wax Museum, which is literally made out of wax. The movie does keep you guessing as to what's going to happen next. It's sort of "The Hills Have Eyes" meets "Friday the 13th". One of the insane brothers (yes, there is more than one killer) does a great Bill Paxton impersonation. Most surprising of all is that Paris Hilton can actually act. I was kind of hoping to bash her performance. Oh well. When her graphic death scene happens, though, most of the entire theater audience was clapping-and I haven't seen that reaction in a while.
HOUSE OF WAX is one of the best horror movies I've seen yet in 2005.
#7: THE CAVE - Thirty years ago a group of military types accidently get trapped in a massive cavern beneath the Romanian mountains, but not before we're made sure we know that there's SOMETHING down there with them. In present day, a professor hires a diving team to explore this same vast cavern, which has finally excavated admist the ruins of an old church. One of the old frescos in the church show knights fighting demons, something which comes into play towards the end of the movie.
It's estimated that there is an underground river, over eighty miles long, beneath the Carpathian Mountains, and that it has no other exit. At first the divers have no problem with anything. Soon they start discovering strange lifeforms, like this repulsive albino mole. Later, there are strange, threatening sounds. It isn't until one of the divers is killed in an avalanche that things start going wrong for them. As the leader of the group (Cole Hauser) tries to find a tunnel leading upwards, he's attached by something with large talons-and gets badly torn up. And soon the wound becomes infected, causing him to behave irrationally. Yet, he's the only one who can get all the others out alive...
Although I could guess where the movie was going-and it is much more like THE RELIC than ALIENS-I was entertained and kept on the edge of my seat. The movie also has an unsettling ending which WORKS. If you missed it at the theater definitely check it out when it hits the video stores in a few months. Undeniably one of the best horror films of 2005.
#6: WAR OF THE WORLDS - This movie far exceeded my expectations. It's scary, the effects are amazing and the action non-stop. I'm not the biggest Tom Cruise fan but he's much better here than in Spielberg's MINORITY REPORT.
The story starts off with Cruise getting home from a long day of work to watch his kids for the weekend. His ex-wife (Miranda Otto of LORD OF THE RINGS) dropped them off because she and her new husband are taking a vacation. Immediately, you get the sense that he doesn't pay much attention to them and that they're more of a nuisance.
But after there are these strange lightning storms and the huge Tripod machines erupt from the ground and start zapping everyone like bugs, he becomes much more attached to his children.
They, and just about everyone else, run away-yet these machines follow, either killing people right away or taking them captive and using them as fuel or food for these giant contraptions. In one gruesome scene we see a man impaled by one of the tentacles from the machines-and it sucks out his blood. Actor Tim Robbins has a brief role as a crazed survivor who gives Cruise and his daughter (Dakota Fanning) shelter-and they don't exactly become friends.
The aliens are defeated the same way as the H.G. Well's book and the previous 1950's movie version. The only thing that sucked is the very ending, when Cruise makes it to Boston, to the house of his ex-wife. One of the characters should have died but somehow miraculously survived. It would have been far more effective, powerful and realistic if they left him dead. Well, that's Hollywood for you. Still, this is one of the best movies of the 2005 Summer.
#5: BLOODSUCKERS - This is one of the better vampire movies I've seen in the past few years. Usually when they take a monster and put him in space (Leprechaun 4, Critters 4, Dracula 3000) the movie usually sucks. But in BLOODSUCKERS they manage to make the creatures even more dangerous and horrendous. In the voice-over at the beginning of the film, it's explained that when mankind started exploring space he encountered alien life-forms-and they were all vampiric.
There are soldiers who hunt down the vampires and the tale is about one of those crews. The Captain, who we think will be the lead character throughout, is killed and it's up to his new second in command (who has a shady past) to bring the disgruntled crew together. Oh, and one of the crewmembers is also a vampire, the result of two humans who were changed who became pregnant. She has a very unique power, which comes in handy later on.
We're introduced to troglodyte vampires, vampires who look like Nosferatu and even these eel-like vampires which take over humans and use them as hosts. Actor Michael Ironside (SCANNERS, V: THE SERIES) portrays one nasty vampire. If there's only one vampire movie you want to see this year-then this is the one.
#4: SATAN'S LITTLE HELPER - Jeff Lieberman (SQUIRM, BLUE SUNSHINE, JUST BEFORE DAWN) returns to horror filmmaking with this disturbing, well written/directed Halloween tale. Dougie, a 9-10 year old, is obsessed with a video game called SATAN'S LITTLE HELPER. In fact, that's the costume he has picked for his Halloween excursion this year. When he says he wants to go out and kill people his mother (Amanda Plummer) doesn't take him seriously because she thinks that it's all make-believe. His sister Jenna (Katheryn Winnick-an actress who really stands out in this movie) has returned from college to hang out with her little brother, although she's brought along her "actor" boyfriend. This poses a slight problem because Dougie wants his sister all to himself.
Once they start trick-or-treating the kid gets separated from his sister and observes a man in a Satan mask killing people in plain sight. He thinks it's just a great special effect, even when he sees him hanging an old woman, kicking and screaming, from her porch. After he's done with the murder Dougie approaches him and asks if he can be his helper, to which the masked man nods yes. So Dougie follows him around the neighborhood on his killing spree....
From the get go this movie makes you uncomfortable because this kid is so earnest about killing-and we're not sure until later on if he views this as all make-believe or not. Also, the killer doesn't utter a word throughout the entire movie. When he's walking with Dougie you get the feeling that he could turn on the child at any moment. By this time the sister and the boyfriend are worried about him for wandering off and go looking for him separately. The boyfriend finds them first-and is knocked unconscious by the murderer. When Dougie brings him home to meet his family they presume that it's really the boyfriend under the mask and not this anonymous killer...
This has become one of my new favorites in the "Slasher" genre and perhaps one of the best Halloween type movies I've seen. Check it out-you'll be in for a treat.
#3: DEAD BIRDS - During the civil war a group of bankrobbers have a bloody shoot-out at a bank and take themselves and their gold to an old abandoned farmhouse to recoup. On the way through the corn field they come across a man, sack over his face, tied up like a scarecrow. They also shoot and kill what looks like a skinned dog when it comes charging at them. That night stranger things begin to happen. One of the men is pulled into a well when he hears the voice of a young child. A few others see demonic-looking children within the house. In the barn he African American member of the group sees a slave woman disembowled before his eyes. Through a memory flashback it's explained that the owner of that farmhouse had performed a black magic ritual and opened a gateway to another world in order to bring back his dead wife and instead his two children were possessed by demons. He was tied up (that scarecrow at the beginning) and left for dead by the townsfolk for murdering those kids.
One by one the bank robbers are possessed by the demons until only two survive. There's also an unsettling, surprise ending. Although it has a vague similarity to NIGHT OF THE DEMONS and even EVIL DEAD, DEAD BIRDS is more atmospheric, like the Clint Eastwood movie THE BEGUILED (which also takes place during the Civil War) and I found the creatures far more creepy. Also, having the events take place in the 1860's succeeds in adding to its strangeness.
DEAD BIRDS is a surprisingly creepy movie, with a solid cast and unnerving special effects. It's also the best horror movie I've seen so far this year (2005). This is not one to miss.
#2: THE DEVIL'S REJECTS - This is one of the best horror movies made in the 21st Century, a throwback to those gritty 70's killer maniac movies like THE HILLS HAVE EYES and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. Although it's a direct sequel to HOUSE OF A 1,000 CORPSES, this takes place much more in the "real world"-and the leads are put through hell as they try to avoid the evil Sheriff (William Forsythe of RELENTLESS 2, TV's JOHN DOE) who's hot on their bloody trail. It also has a phenomenal cast of cult/genre actors such as Geoffrey Lewis (NIGHT OF THE COMET, SALEM'S LOT (original tv version)), Ken Foree (DAWN OF THE DEAD, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3)-- and even a cameo by a very plump PJ Soles (HALLOWEEN), who portrays an unlucky innocent bystander. The first half of the movie is the unholy trio making their escape from the authorities-and killing people along the way. The second half involves the sheriff and his hired goons finding out where they are, then capturing and torturing them. What also helps in making the movie unsettling is the soundtrack, 70's hits, which is at odds with the images the audience is shown. The ending is GREAT--I doubt any further sequels could be made with these characters. THE DEVIL'S REJECTS is highly recommended by this reviewer.
#1: KING KONG - From Carl Denham dodging his angry producers in New York City to the discovery of Skull Island and the sacrifice and rescue of Ann Darrow from Kong, this three hour movie has not a slow spot in it. Everything from the 1933 movie is expanded upon, with more character development of Ann and Jack Driscoll, more dinosaurs on the island. There's a herd of brontosaurs, Kong battles three Tyrannosaurs, and rather than one Pteranodon attacking him at his cliffside abode, there's a swarm of these horrible looking bat creatures. Kong is portrayed as much more ferocious-and a reason is supplied. Strewn among his home are the skeletons of all the other giant gorillas that have been killed by the island. He is the last one of his kind and it's a daily battle for survival, as attested by all the scars over his body. In Ann Darrow he finds a positive connection to another creature, though it's ultimately his downfall. The end fight atop the Empire State building is amazing, both visually and dramatically.
As far as casting, Naomi Watts gives another superb performance. Even Jack Black, not exactly my favorite actor, is perfect as Carl Denham. I had my doubts about Adrian Brody as a "re-imagined" Jack Driscoll, yet it works having him be the Denham's script writer turned hero.
Peter Jackson's KING KONG not only surpasses the original, it's one of the best films I've ever seen.
TOP 10 WORST
#10: THE THING BELOW - Aboard a military ship, during a horrendous storm, a group of scientists are doing something with some substance contained in a big glass container. Even though the ship is rocking back and forth they decide to move the container-and, of course, drop it (Obviously they're not rocket scientists). From within comes these rapidly multiplying tentacles via the worst computer animation imaginable. It kills them all. These tentacles were originally found deep in the Earth, where an alien has been before life even started on our planet. It causes the men to have these hallucinations of naked blonde women, which has nothing to do with the story other than to show naked blonde women. The tentacles keep on getting larger, more people are killed, they have to stop the alien, blah blah blah. THE THING BELOW is one of the worst movies I've seen-definitely A THING TO MISS!
#9: ELEKTRA - I enjoyed the film version of DAREDEVIL, though I could have done without the casting of Ben Affleck in the title role. And although the character of ELEKTRA was 90% different than as portrayed in the comic, I thought that the character's solo movie could only be better. It's always a bad sign when any movie starts with a long, voiced-over prologue of what it's supposed be about. The only exception I can think of are the STAR WARS movies-and they were the first to regularly do this. Anyways, this was a negative from the get-go because it's so long winded.
The producers & scriptwriters (3 writers!) have made the same mistake they made with the recent PUNISHER movie, in bringing in these supporting characters that are supposed to "shape" the main character and make them more humane. She's a ruthless assassin, for godsakes. Here, it's a father and daughter (their last name is MILLER, which I guess is an "in-joke" about comic character creator Frank Miller) she is supposed to exterminate-and can't bring herself to do so because it reminds her of her own father and her own childhood as a "gifted" youngster. Also, casting of Jennifer Garner doesn't quite work as she's identified & compared too much in the back of my mind with her character on the tv show ALIAS. By comparison, ELEKTRA just sucks.
#8: RIDING THE BULLET - There's always a 50% chance that a movie based on a Stephen King story or novel is going to suck. The made-for-cable tv RIDING THE BULLET is one such film-and perhaps director Mick Garris' weakest movie. The film takes place in 1969, though it curiously doesn't have that "feel". The way the characters are acting and talking could be today. Thank goodness there's the constant 60's music soundtrack to remind us when this takes place. I did like the opening title sequence, which was made to look like old Super 8mm film home movies.
The story revolves around a morbid college student obsessed with death, who has unresolved issues in regard to his mother (Barbara Hershey). He half-heartedly tries to commit suicide because his girlfriend broke up with him and he's also depressed. While he's recovering in the hospital his former girlfriend visits and tells him that she was just playing a joke on him, that she wasn't really breaking up.
Soon after, he gets a call from a neighbor back home who informs him that his mother is in the hospital because of a stroke. Because he doesn't have a car he hitches a ride there-and along the way literally comes face to face with death in the guess of David Arquette. Interspersed among this are various flashback scenes from when he was ten years old.
The "Riding the Bullet" refers to a roller coaster at a local amusement park. He chickened out going on it when he was ten and still regrets it. Arquette, as the zombie driver, taunts him about this. Ultimately, the college student has to make a choice between his life or that of his mother-and, realizing he is actually afraid of dying, chooses his mother. The movie ends with the character as a forty-something adult with some trite voiceover about how everyone is special. Sappy, sappy, sappy.
#7: MANGLER REBORN - There were some good actors in this movie. Unfortunately, their performances sucked-and I think it just shows what a bad script and direction they had to work with. Aimee Brooks, so good in THE MONSTER MAN, and Reggie Bannister, so entertaining in all of the PHANTASM movies, are simply wasted here. The premise is that a laundry repair man is putting together an old antique washing machine in his house, in an upstairs bedroom, no less, and it possesses him. He goes on his repair jobs and kidnaps the clients, takes them to his house, locks them in one of the rooms until it's time to feed them to the machine. A lot of the movie takes place in this house, going up and down the stairs, trying to escape, et cetera. I can't believe how bad this film is. The worst horror movie of 2005! From Barnholtz Entertainment, the same company that brought us the unwatchable GHOST WATCHER.
#6: GLASS TRAP - This Ed Raymond (Fred Olen Ray) directed giant ant movie is a pale comparison to either THEM or EMPIRE OF THE ANTS. A bunch of tropical plants are dropped off at an office building, on a Saturday. Somehow these dozens of three foot long ants have managed to hide in the foliage without anyone noticing. Unfortunately (for both them and the viewer), there are people inside the building-and they have to try to survive and make it to the roof before they are eaten by these really fake, plastic looking insects. The "hero" character is C. Thomas Howell, who is in every other low-budget horror movie lately (and he was also in a killer bee movie a few years ago). Avoid this movie-it is a trap!
#5: HIGH TENSION - This movie doesn't come anywhere near the hype I've heard about it. It's overly long, predictable, with not so great makeup effects, predictable, has unlikable characters, and did I say it was also predictable? The majority of slasher movies previously made is better than this rerun.
#4: DAY OF THE DEAD 2: CONTAGIUM - Taurus Entertainment should be ashamed for making this "sequel", as it's simply using the "DAY OF THE DEAD" title to sell one of the worst zombie movies ever made. In 1968, at Ravenside Military Installation, a strange virus breaks free and turns the personnel into flesh eaters. The military comes in and shoots everyone in the head, but not before one of the escapees makes way with a vial containing a sample of the virus. Skip to present day. Ravenside is now a mental institution and one of the patients finds the vial. The virus slowly turns him and his friends into zombies and the whole place is soon rampaging with the creatures. The majority of the movie takes place in this mental institution, which is filled with the stereotypical characters (the understanding doctor with his own methods, the crazy fascist doctor and the horny orderlies who want to get the female patients alone).
In addition to the story and dialogue being weak, the special makeup effects are piss poor and inconsistent from scene to scene. The continuity person must have been asleep. There are also variable speed zombies-sometimes shambling, sometimes running like in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. And like RETURN, the virus is spread by opening a sealed container. There's even a "Tar Man" type monster! Believe me, you don't want to rent this flick out. I saw it for free and I still felt like I was immensely ripped off. The people responsible for this must not see movie are producer James Dudelson and director Ana Clavell. Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment.
#3: THE RING 2 - This is a hugely underwhelming sequel, having none of the story, scares or suspense of the first movie. Here, Naomi Watts moves to a small coastal town with her son in order to start over. But the ghost from the first movie finds her and goes about possessing her son. She wants to be a real live person. It's revealed who the girl's biological mother was (Sissy Spacek) and why she had tried to drown her in the first place. Now, Watts has to somehow get the ghost out of her child.
RING 2 is far too predictable and one-note, to such an extent that it's incredibly boring. It reminded me most of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY'S REVENGE, when Krueger comes out of the nightmares and into the real world. Absolutely not worth seeing.
#2: THE FOG - This film will undoubtedly rank amongst the worst re-makes ever made-and reaffirms what a classic horror film the first FOG (1980) is.
Tom Welling (Clark Kent of SMALLVILLE) takes the role of Nick Castle, Maggie Grace (LOST) is in the Jamie Lee Curtis role and Selma Blair (HELLBOY) takes over Adrienne Barbeau's role of Stevie Wayne, the lighthouse radio show host. The acting isn't bad but all the characters are given these already established relationships so not a lot is done with the characters.
The biggest problem of the movie is that there is no suspense or scares. Then, there's the computer animated fog and the ghosts that come with it. Far too much time is given to the flashback scenes of "why" the ghosts of the lepers are seeking revenge. And that whole subplot with the reincarnation can be seen a mile away-it's not a "Surprise ending". You know you're in trouble when 45 minutes into the movie you're anxious for the thing to end. If you're thinking of seeing this movie-don't. Rent out the original instead.
#1: RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD: NECROPOLIS & RAVE TO THE GRAVE - As these two movies were shot back to back and are equally as bad, I'm counting this as one long bad movie. A mad scientist (Peter Coyote in his worst role/performance ever) goes to Chernobyl to find some hidden containers which contain the reanimation gas that brings back the zombies. He's working on a project called Necropolis and it has to do with them making some type of super soldier out of the zombies. The main guy character, who has this mad scientist as his uncle and legal guardian, finds out that his parents, who presumably died a year before, are subjects in the experiments. He discovers this out when he and a bunch of his friends break into the facility to rescue one of their friends, who is going to be experimented on.
Lines are liberally stolen from the very first movie such as a zombie calling on a radio "Bring more security guards". The zombies are easily dispatched with a shot to the head-which makes no sense, since the zombies in the previous three films still moved around if their heads were cut off. In fact, there's one scene where Coyote reanimates just a dead arm. This, by far, is one of the worst zombie movies to date-making RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD II not look so bad after all. This sequel is a HUGE disappointment and should have the title RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD: CRAP. I dread viewing the directors sequel, RLD: RAVE TO THE GRAVE...
RLD: RAVE TO THE GRAVE begins with how the last one ended, with Peter Coyote driving a canister of the gas in a pickup truck. Eventually, it ends up on the hands of some college kids who, after analyzing what the green substance is made from, decide that it's almost like the drug ecstasy. The first person who ingests the drug doesn't immediately have a bad reaction so they think it's safe. Then they start putting it into pills and selling it, turning the entire campus into zombies who want to eat brains. I think they've eaten the filmmakers' brains as well as this is one of the dumbest, unnecessary zombie movies I've ever seen.
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