THE GRAVEDIGGERS'S TEN BEST HORROR FILMS OF 2009!
Just when you thought 2009 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 in horror for the past year. While all of us may not totally agree with the order of this list, we do agree that 2009 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 in horror of 2009!
10 BEST HORROR MOVIES OF 2009
#1: DRAG ME TO HELL
Finally, Sam Raimi is back to what he does best--directing a bona fide horror movie. DRAG ME TO HELL starts off with a bang and a scream and manages to maintain that momentum until the not-so-Hollywood ending.
Christine Brown (Alison Lohman of MATCHSTICK MEN, KRAA! THE SEA MONSTER) is a loan officer at a bank looking for a promotion but in order to clinch it she has to refuse an extension on an old lady's line of credit. Unfortunately for her this old lady, Mrs. Ganush, is a nasty piece of work--and ambushes the young woman in her car. After the intense struggle, which involves a stapler and the old crone trying to gum her to death with a toothless mouth, the witch puts a curse on her. In three day's time an evil spirit called the Lamia will drag her to hell unless she's able to pawn off a cursed item she is carrying. But in order to do this she has to knowingly give the curse to someone else.
There are plenty of creepy scenes, the digital effects are not overdone and the main character gets thrown around as much as Ash in any of the EVIL DEAD movies. And while that ending is predictable the movie is so well put together that you don't mind. You will definitely enjoy the ride.
PANDORUM is of the "haunted spaceship" sub-genre of horror film, a cross between SILENT RUNNING and EVENT HORIZON with a good dose of ROBINSON CRUSUE thrown in. A man named Bower (Ben Foster of 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, SIX FEET UNDER) awakens from his cryogenic sleep chamber to find himself aboard a massive spaceship. He has no memory, which is a side effect of a long sleep, though it slowly comes back to him as the movie progresses. He awakens another person he finds, Payton (Dennis Quaid) who is also part of the navigation crew. They are both locked in to the control section of the ship and try to figure out what is going on. Bower finds a way out only to discover that there is something else alive in the massive ship and it's not quite human. There's a tribe of ferocious looking creatures and they hunt humans. They are sort of like pseudo-zombies, like the Reavers from SERENITY or the mutants from THE MUTANT CHRONICLES.
Bower remembers that he's an engineer and by observing the flickering lights realizes that something is wrong with the ship's power. With the help of Payton, who has the schematics of the ship where he is on the deck, he cautiously makes his way to the reactor. He finds some other survivors--a woman, Nadia, who has been awake for six months and a wild looking man, who doesn't speak their language and seems very primitive. Just how long has Bower been asleep?
I won't get in to what he finds and the satisfying twist ending except to say that it's a fun ride. Not only one of the best horror movies of 2009, one of the best movies of the year.
#3: HOUSE OF THE DEVIL
At the beginning of this movie a college girl is set to rent a house not too far from her college campus. She has a loud, sloppy roommate in her dorm, so is anxious to leave. The landlady of the place (Dee Wallace of THE HOWLING) likes her and agrees to waive the deposit fees. All looks up in the world for her.
Then the girl answers a want ad for a babysitter that's posted on a kiosk. She calls on a pay phone, gets an answering machine, and the guy calls her right back, telling her to meet him right away in front of the student union. She goes there and waits but he never shows up. However, when she gets back to her dorm there's a message from him--and she reluctantly agrees to accept the job.
Since she doesn't have a car and the guy's house is a ways in the woods, she gets her friend to drop her off. Things get even stranger when the old guy (Tom Noonan) explains that she's not really babysitting a child but will be watching his elderly mother. This is all too weird for her and she says she can't do this--but he offers her four hundred dollars fro what amounts to four hours work. This will pay her rent for a month, so she stays. Then she meets his even stranger wife (Mary Waronov) who seems like she came directly from the ADAMS FAMILY. Together, Noonan and Waronov remind me of the creepy old people from ROSEMARY'S BABY, which I'm sure is intended.
As the night progresses the girl gets more and more creeped out in the big old house until she discovers just why the man was so anxious to hire her for the night. Not only is it the night of a rare lunar eclipse, it's the night for a certain Satanic ritual....
HOUSE OF THE DEVIL is a very cool, old-fashioned horror movie that relies on the solid performances of its actors and steadily builds suspense. I also thought it very interesting that it takes place in the early 1980's. Even the title sequence,with its use of freeze frames and the groovy font of the letters, gives it a feel of a much older film. Even the title music would be a home in a Lucio Fulci movie. I enjoyed the movie far more than the director's previous horror movie, THE ROOST. Highly recommended.
Check out the interview with Director Ti West in the interview section of buried.com
#4: THE CANYON
A newly married couple, who just got hitched in Vegas, decide to take their honeymoon trip to the Grand Canyon. This is Lori (Yvonne Strahovski of CHUCK) and Nick (Eion Baley) But once they get there they find out that they needed to get a permit months before, to go down to the bottom. However, while they are getting drinks in the local bar, Henry (Will Patton), offers his services. He tells them he has the gear, the mules and can get a permit. Lori is reluctant because Henry looks like a bum, but her husband convinces her to go.
Everything is fine at first. Then, one their way to some ancient cliff drawings, Henry is bitten by a diamond back rattlesnake and breaks his arm when his horse throws him.
The other mounts are also spooked and run away, so that the trio are left without supplies. Now, they are in a very dry section of the canyon with a very sick guide.
Henry downplays his injuries but he knows his number is up. After he dies and they bury him under some rocks, the couple try to find their way back out but become hopelessly lost. At night they make a fire--and while Lori is sleeping Nick sees one of the wolves they've heard howling. He doesn't mention this at all in the morning because he doesn't want to scare her.
When they come to a dead end and face a rock cliff, Nick things they can climb it so they can at least get cell-phone reception. Lori is reluctant but after Nick tries and it seems doable, she follows him up. However, he loses his grip and falls straight down, wedging his foot in some rocks below. He's stuck and the leg is horribly broken. The only way to free him is to cut off that part of his leg--but is this something Lori can do?
THE CANYON is a well-crafted, suspenseful film that is entirely plausible. I also didn't have a problem with the pack of starving wolves wanting to eat them--it makes total sense. Here's this injured, bleeding guy right in front of them in this desolate area and it's like an open buffet. And they actually used real wolves for all the attack scenes, which was very cool and added realism that computer animation can't compete with.
Rent this if you're a fan of Strahovski--she gives quite a different performance than in CHUCK. Or rent this if you just want to see a good movie.
#5: UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS
This is the best of the UNDERWORLD series, focusing on how the war began between the vampires and the werewolves. The vampires, lead by the evil, creepy Viktor, live in this huge cliffside stone fortress and constantly have to defend it against the werewolves, which continually try to attack it. These werewolves are stuck in their monstrous form, unable to change into humans. However, when a human-looking baby is born from one of these creatures, Viktor (Bill Nighy) decides to spare its life and raise it as a servant. This is Lucian. And since Lucien (Michael Sheen) is half human Viktor decides to start breeding/creating a whole line of these shape-changing werewolves to help protect the vampires against the full-blooded werewolves.
Viktor has a daughter, Sonja (Rhona Mitra of DOOMSDAY), who is secretly in love with Lucian, and she frees him when her father is going to kill him. Lucian escapes with a few others into the nearby woods and starts freeing slaves for his army. He gives them the option if they want to become immortal Lycans or not. He also is able to communicate with the pureblood werewolves and gets them on his side for the final battle. Yes, basically this is the "Romeo and Juliet" story, but it works. And just why Lucien is so bent on killing the vampires is explained by what Viktor decides to do with his wayward daughter. The end also ties in neatly with how the very first movie begins--and in doing so makes those previous movies all that much better by filling in the blanks. Recommended. Director Patrick Tatopoulus more than makes up with this movie for designing that lame-ass American version of GODZILLA a decade ago.
John and Kate Coleman, who already have a boy and a girl, decide to adopt nine-year-old Russian girl Esther after they meet her at the orphanage. But the couple have some marital problems, such as Kate (Vera Farmiga of the other evil kid movie, JOSHUA) being an alcoholic who is trying to maintain her sobriety. She's responsible for an accident that caused her daughter to become deaf. And her last baby was a stillborn, which prompted them to adopt another child. To top it off John had an affair ten years ago for which she's never truly forgiven him. All of these things come out as sweet innocent Esther starts manipulating them. She also terrifies her new step brother and involves her younger step-sister in covering up a murder. When the nun who runs the orphanage comes to the house with some unsettling information about Esther, she kills her with a hammer and dumps the body off the road. She hides her bloody clothes and hammer up in the brother's tree house. But when he finds all this she locks him up there and tries to burn him down. He jumps out and survives but is in critical care in the hospital. When the family visits him Esther gives it another go...
Then Esther sets her sites on her new father, John, and turns him against Kate. After all, how can this innocent little girl be doing all of these horrible things her step-mother is accusing her of? While I was watching the movie I kept on thinking there would be this supernatural revelation at the end that would explain her behavior. But what happens took me by surprise. I did not see that coming--and it's way more creepy that being possessed by demons. This movie gets lots of points for originality. For me, THE ORPHAN is at the top of the killer kid sub-genre of horror movies.
#7: SICK GIRL
In the first six minutes alone a girl named Izzy pees on a nun, slits a guy's throat and chases after two Catholic schoolgirls after dispatching everyone else on the school bus. Then, she goes home, as if nothing happened. Through a series of flashbacks we see that Izzy had incestuous feelings for her older brother, Rusty, who soon after an uncomfortable incident goes off and joins the Marines. She and a biker neighbor take care of her younger brother Kevin. Now, Izzy has completely snapped and is doing some very disturbing things to some prisoners out in the barn...
Leslie Andrews gives quite a performance as the psychotic Izzy and Stephen Geoffreys (FRIGHT NIGHT) portrays a sad school teacher whose pet rat is stolen by the class bully. The special effects are gruesome and realistic. What really contributes to the unsettling mood is the dread inducing music.
This movie is up there with the original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE in terms of sheer relentlessness. SICK GIRL is one of the best horror flicks of 2009.
Directed by Eben McGarr
This new release from Synapse Films is definitely one of the best, not to mention most offensive, horror movies of 2009 (and this past decade). I had read author Ed Lee's novella HEADER years ago and when I heard someone was actually adapting it as a movie I didn't know what to think. How could they capture the spirit of the story? But capture it they do.
It begins with a redneck named Travis being released from prison. He has nowhere to go, so he heads to his evil grandpappy's place, a run down shack deep in the woods. Unfortunately the old man introduces him to "Headers" and Travis becomes addicted to them. The body count of the females rapidly rises. In a parallel story, Federal Agent Stewart Cummings is on the take, as he needs to pay for his girlfriend's expensive medication. He loves her and will do anything to help her out, even if that means breaking the law.
Eventually Travis and Stewart meet, in a bloody conclusion, a meeting that imparts a very specific form of revenge.
If you're a horror fan looking for an uncompromising horror film this is it. The only other movies that have disturbed me as much are the NEKTROMANTIK flicks. Be warned!
SWEATSHOP is a well-crafted, brutal horror movie that makes the SAW movies look like they were produced by Disney.
A group of punked-out friends break into an old warehouse and start setting up for a party, from which they'll potentially make a lot of money. They tie into the electricity and start setting up the lights, audio and speakers. However, they have picked the wrong building and it literally ends up biting them in the ass, among other places.
On one hand the characters reminded me of the ones from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and some of the killers look like they escaped from DEMONS. And, of course, there's a big nod to LEATHERFACE with the huge, welder-helmeted slayer. However, this is a splatter movie unto itself. No explanation is given as to who/what these guys are, which succeeds in making the situation all the more creepier. No time is wasted with exposition and back story as the murders begin. The gore effects are surprisingly realistic and the best part is the tool of choice used to dispatch many of them. It's a gruesome and horrible way to go and I've never seen this used in a movie before.
I was trying to figure out what the title had to do with the movie, other than that the factory they're in may be an old clothing factory. But refreshing my memory as to the definition of the word "Sweatshop", it makes more sense. According to Wikipedia, " a sweatshop is a working environment with conditions that are considered to be difficult or dangerous, usually where the workers have few opportunities to address their situation. This can include exposure to hazardous situations..." Yes, this does describe the movie.
Throughout the year I see many low-budget, independent horror movies, many of which need room from improvement. SWEATSHOP is perfect--there's nothing that can improve this flick, one of the best horror flicks I have seen this year.
written by Stacy Davidson & Ted Geoghegan
#10: THE BROKEN
The movie begins with Gina (Lena Headey of TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES) and her boyfriend attending the birthday of her father, who is an American who works at the U.S. Embassy there in London. Also there is her brother and his girlfriend. During their dinner a huge mirror falls off the wall and breaks, for no apparent reason.
Things start to get weird when she's making a phone call and sees herself drive by, in her own car. She follows the car to a parking lot and follows the woman up to her apartment. Then, the next thing we see is that she's upset and driving back in her car--and gets in a bad car accident. She recovers but has only fragments of memories. And she begins to think that her boyfriend really isn't her boyfriend anymore, which may indeed to the case. Or is it because she has head trauma from the accident.
This is one creepy, suspenseful movie and one of the best movies on doppelgangers I have scene, though a very similar idea was explored a decade previously with J.D. Feigelson's television movie, THE LAKE. Highly recommended.
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