compiled by The Black Glove staff
Well, it was another year filled with 3-D "in-your-face" horror cinema entertainment that was supposed to be...well...entertaining. Unfortunately, on the whole, it was not. What we got were crap-fests like SHARK-NIGHT 3D and rather tepid below-par remakes of what most of us consider classic horror films, like THE THING, which was supposedly not a remake, but a prequel to the remake by John Carpenter in 1982. The biggest problem is the assholes who made the film didn't even have the respect to follow the Carpenter storyline details, ignoring a huge major fact from his film that they were supposed to be using as a springboard: the goddamned scientific research before Carpenter's doomed men were supposed to be NORWEGIAN! To me, if you're going to have the balls to try and re-imagine, remake or add-on to the classic, you should at least have the respect and professionalism to know the details.
But that's been pretty much par-for-the-course these past few years in this modern American horror cinema. There hasn't been any respect for the fans or the creators, just a shot at easy bucks by using something already licensed to the studio in question.
We also found ourselves deluged by the inevitable "found footage" mockumentary horror film, as we will be for the foreseeable future, given our culture's dummied-down predilection for reality TV. Most of them were better as "lost footage", and will most likely be thrown into the footnotes of cinema history as cheaply made, badly made, best-not-to-have-been-made-at-all. Basically, what these films have become are the modern day version of the exploitation films that once played in the dirty downtown theaters and rural drive-ins across the nation. But there were a couple which have made our list, because in what they, those movies created a sense of doom and horror, which most of their peers barely attempted to achieve.
Also, ultimately, most of the movies that got picked were not big budget studio films. That's because..well..see my rant above. It applies to this as well. Strangely enough, there were more big budget so-called (and labeled) sci-fi films which were closer to being horror than most of the usual PG-13 excuses for stupidity to rake in the mallrats' dollars. Sadly, that meant we couldn't really stretch a point to allow something as good as COWBOYS AND ALIENS, or even the halfway good SUPER-8, onto the list. But I encourage Horrorheads to seek them out, because compared to the crap that got released as horror his past year, those two movies actually had more darkness and scares. But when we could stretch a point to allow two sci-fi-ish movies onto the list, we did so with a clear conscience. You'll know them when you see them below, and I defy anyone to argue they don't belong on the list.
That's not to say we didn't have a few decent-to-damned awesome horror releases. And I hope we have chosen the same films our readers and fellow Horrorheads feel were the highlights in yet another dismal year in horror. Below, you'll find our choices for the list of "Best Horror Films of 2011", but here are some key things about the list:
1. The titles are in alphabetical order--not by in order of greatness or importance (I am sure to get more emails that are going to tell me we were full of shit and don't know our horror because we didn't place such and such movie at number one instead of number thirteen, but I gotta try to explain again anyway).
2. You'll find some movies that weren't made in the U.S.--thank God! If it were left up to American horror cinema, we would have been forced to pick from such shite films as THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II: FULL SEQUENCE and SCREAM 4. Cripes!
3. There may be a couple of movies which had release dates in their home country, but didn't make it to the U.S. theaters of DVD releases until 2011. And as far as we're concerned those count as 2011 releases for us, since we didn't have a chance to see them until then. So before anyone sends more emails or leaves more comments letting us know we don't know what we're talking about, please be aware we use the above criteria for our final decisions for the list.
4. And, lastly, these are our choices after careful consideration. The list may vary greatly from what you would have chosen for the list. And that's cool with us. I encourage anyone to leave their own list in the comments or even to send an email (Nickolasecook@aol.com) with suggestions. We love to hear from our readers.
So, without anymore explanations, check out our TOP 13 BEST HORROR FILMS OF 2011 as compiled by the staff of THE BLACK GLOVE.
13. The Woman
What do you get when you take Lucky McKee, one of the most exciting horror directors in twenty years, and add in Jack Ketchum, one of the most frightening and visceral horror writers in the genre? You get one incredibly fucked up, disturbing film that will make you cringe and cry and want to kill a family of screwed up fundamentalists.
When a backwoods lawyer decides to capture and "civilize" the last member of a backwoods family, he brings the titular woman to his home, chains her up in the basement and allows his entire family to take part in the process of teaching the wild woman how to be "civilized". Of course the irony is the tactics he and his emotionally fucked up family use to do so are as uncivilized as you can get. When she escapes...well, I won't spoil it for you.
This is a movie that you do NOT want to watch with young children, unless you're trying to punish them. The fact that this movie didn't knock the American movie going public on their asses is only because it has received such a fearful word of mouth about its content that a lot of big market corporate theaters won't show it for fear of what hell it would bring down upon them. But rest easy: This movie, like the equally disturbingly bleak French flick, MARTRYS (2008), will go down in the annals of horror history as a classic of the slowly dying "torture porn" sub-genre.
12. Red State
Kevin Smith is a funny guy. He can sometimes be a gross out kind of guy. He is quite often blasphemous and angry, and almost always right as rain with his insight in modern American culture and psychology. What no one expected is that Kevin Smith is one hell of a horror director. This movie left me shivering and cowering for hours after watching it. Again, we're in "torture porn" territory, here, but this one is even more disturbing for what you don't see, as opposed to a literal gorefest like HOSTEL (2005). But like HOSTEL, RED STATE dives into the darkest parts of the human heart and swims around in the slime. You will feel dirty and grossed out by the end of this one. You almost want to the assholes teenagers to get it. And you really have to ask yourself: Is this what we have to look forward to as the leaders of our country? These kids are as steeped in modern day angst and instant gratification as you can get. But when they butt heads with the local crazy religious group, they find a "heart of darkness" beyond even their trivial sex-crazed, anti-establishment hell-raising. As usual, Smith takes potshots at everything from modern cell phone sex-ting to backwoods religious cults to the U.S. government's inability to accurately handle a crisis. -
11. Quarantine 2: Terminal
The original Spanish film REC (2007) was the basis for the American remake, QUARANTINE (2008), both of which used the "found footage" mockumentary style kof cinema to tell the dirt cheap story of a zombie-like outbreak (although these killers had more to do with the "ragers" in 28 DAYS LATER (2005) than anything Romero imagined). But the Spanish sequel REC 2 (2009) had nothing to do with this American sequel to the 2008 remake. But that's okay. These guys knew how to create a tension filled story despite their jumping off the Spanish narrative's POV. This time the outbreak starts on a a commercial passenger airliner. And when the pilots are finally forced to land, they and their surviving passengers and crew are sent into another quarantined building as in the first remake. Again, the possibly infected victims are kept inside the quarantined structure, getting infected and picked off one by one, until the usual downer ending that these "found footage" films have become used to giving their audiences, thereby setting us up for the next one. What made this movie better than the plethora of other "found footage" horror films that came out last year is its level of intensity and the caliber of acting and special camerawork/effects. I'm not saying this will win any Oscars, but if there were an award shows just for these "found footage" horror flicks, then this would be a front runner for sure.
Of course, this won't be the only "found footage" horror film that appears on this list...
10. Paranormal Activity 3
And lo and behold...here's another "found footage" horror film, and not the last, either. Since the original PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007) was such a hit, the producers/directors/cashmongers all decided they needed to keep this juggernaut a rollin', which they did with the sequel, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (2010), and again, they made enough money using a few cameras, some darkride special effects (string and out of camera eye people throwing shit at the screen), that they had to go the next level...you guessed it: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3. Yeah, so you may be asking yourself, if you're being so glib and condescending about the movies, why are you putting it on the damned list, man?
One good reason: Because the movies are fucking creepy and scary as hell. It's like watching a GHOST HUNTERS episode turned up to eleven. I know, I know...it's all bullshit--people throwing things off screen, strings rigged to make things open and close in a sudden and disturbing manner, and in camera effects galore. It's actually a prequel to the first two films, explaining how the place came to be haunted and what made the spirits so violent and evil. A young couple, with a couple of young kids, and a dog...and one pissed off demonic spirit who talks to one of the young girls. It's not a complicated story at all, and it relies heavily on the "jump scares", which work much better in these "found footage" horror films than the big budget crapfests that try to out CGI the last horror film in the theaters.
So you may ask yourself, will we be seeing yet more PARANORMAL ACTIVITY flicks? Well, rest at ease, PA3 broke box office records, so you can bet your demonic child spirit we're damned to see more and more and more...
I know a lot of horror fans may find it confusing to see an arthouse film directed by arthouse legend, Lars von Trier, and starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Ian Holmes, Kiefer Sutherland and other big name actors and actresses in the indie film scene on a best of horror list. Well, let me say this: MELANCHOLIA left me breathless and disturbed (which should not come as a surprise since von Trier was also responsible for the equally disturbing and dark semi-horror film, ANTI-CHRIST (2009), a film that few people who saw it will ever forget). And it wasn't so much the devastatingly accurate portrayal Dunst gives as the clinically depressed newly wed, as it was the notion of all life on Earth ending in such a horribly inescapably destructive manner as another planet smashing into our little blue planet. The effects are minimal, but the peripheral events and background scenery is so well done that you can almost feel Earth's oxygen layer depleting and leaving you without air, you can almost feel the last moment of impact.
von Trier is a masterful director, a crafter of movies with characters that feel as real as the person sitting next to you in the theater. And in a world that feels as if it is drifting into a technological coma, dividing itself from all things humane and intrinsically human, it is comforting to find a person who understands the simple emotion of sadness. He also understands the use of non-linear narrative, and leaving the audience to fill in the blanks when key characters are no longer with Dunst (it's especially disturbing to see her new husband, who has professed nothing love and empathy for her, is gone halfway through the film and no one explains where he's gone, just that he's left her to her sadness because he can't take it).
The music is another especially key element to this movie. von Trier's use of Wagner gorgeous and sweeping prelude composition to his famous opera, TRISTAN UND ISOLDE (1857-1859), that creates an ethereal atmosphere that plays counterpoint to the massive destruction to which Earth is doomed. Like Dunst's character, the music is also filled with an inescapable sadness.
And it is sadness which drives this film. Dunst's character suffers from intense melancholia, which is clinical depression, and by the movie's end she is the only one in her immediate circle who has the courage to face the end with love and compassion for the people who have treated her pretty badly throughout because of her inability to shake her depression.
If you see only one arthouse semi-horror film this year, make it either this or his ANTI-CHRIST. You won't regret it.
One of our few foreign offerings on the list, but by far not the least. Who knew the Swedes could make such a disturbing and horrific film about a widower who is left to raise a newborn child and a teenage daughter who ultimately blames him for her mother's death. As the man is dragged ever deeper into his state of despair and hopelessness, he becomes convinced that it's more than an emotional issue, but that he is being attacked daily by the demonic creature known as the MARE, which is the mythic creature once blamed for nightmares and sleep paralysis (and for anyone who has ever suffered from intense sleep paralysis, it's easy to understand why the myth was so far reaching and so easily believed). What makes the film so disturbing is to see a gentle man driven into a state of madness by what everyone keeps telling him is his own imagination, his own emotions. But when we are shown his nightmare visions, we know there's more going on than his emotions. The director doesn't rely on special effects so much as atmosphere and shadows, which makes this an even more disturbing viewing experience.
This is one that may be difficult to find, unless it happens to catch the attention of the international horror community, which we believe it will, and become an instant cult horror classic. It's also going to helped along by a great website for this film, which has hidden footage and clues and all kinds of awesome easter egg-like links and pics to explore. Check it out here: MARIANNE
Here's another foreign flick that we hope will hit the U.S. theaters soon. INBRED is one creepy and disturbing backwoods horror movie. It makes DELIVERANCE (1972) look like a ride at Disneyland. The imagery alone is enough to give most Horrorheads nightmares, but when we get to the "red-red-groovy" it becomes an almost unbearable viewing experience at times.
When a gang of smart ass young "youth offenders" are sentenced to community service, led by a few idiot service supervisors, and dragged out into the middle of nowhere to a remote Yorkshire village, all hell breaks loose when one dumb move against a gang of inbred village children makes the entire village begin to hunt them down one by one, each of them looking like some outcast from Tod Browning's FREAKS (1932). It becomes a cross between backwoods horror and torture porn horror in some places, but all through the film you feel dirty and disgusted by these toothless, moronic, animal-like people who treat violence and death as some kind of game to ease their day to day ennui.
The strong suit of this kind of film is who is being tracked down and killed, and when it's a bunch of young kids, there's an additional element of discomfort about the proceedings that most mature viewers will feel at some point during the movie. Maybe not...maybe you'll cheer for the toothless freaks.
6. Hobo With a Shotgun
I could say lots of great stuff about this one, but I think Brian Sammons, review-miester extraordinaire did it so well in this review for the Blu-Ray release. I think it will do just fine...
5. Dylan Dog: Dead of Night
And, again, I think Brian said it all very well in this Blu-Ray review as well. HINT: Scroll on down and read it...and his other great reviews along the way.
4. The Dead
And while we're on a roll...here's his review for this film in our October 2011 issue #28. But if you would like more convincing that this is without a doubt the best zombie film to hit the screen since George Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), then take a look at my own review of the movie here. Just scroll down and see what I had to say about it. Truly, this is cult classic in the making.
3. The Awakening
Here's another of our foreign offerings, which come to think about it, seem to be pretty damned plentiful on this best of list, don't they? This moody, atmospheric and emotional ghost story comes from the good people at the BBC, and tells the story of circa 1921 England, where the population has become overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I, as thousands of men will never come home again, and destruction seems to have engulfed the world at large. During this tumultuous time in England's history comes hoax exposer Florence Cathcart, who is asked to visit a boys boarding school to help explain the several terrifying sightings of a child ghost. Cathcart is steadfast in telling all who have been frightened by what they've seen that there are no such things as ghosts, and it's her pragmatism and logic which is sorely tested when everything she knows inside unravels as the earthbound souls begin to show themselves to her in an ever-increasingly violent manner. It being an English ghost story, there is, of course, a mystery about the ghostly children which must be solved before it's too late, and this part of the narrative plays as a second engine to the spooky happenings on the school's grounds. This movie is filled with shadow and light, love and hate, fear and fulfillment. It is not only about the dead, but mostly about the living who are left behind to be alone, left by those they've loved.
You won't find CGI overload in this movie, thank God. What you will find is great, earnest acting all around, and a story that leaves you feeling and thinking after it's ended. Highly recommended to anyone who loves a great ghostly tale, ala the great M.R. James, one of my biggest influences in my own horror writing.
2. Attack the Block
Another foreign film, you say? Yes. And this one isn't specifically horror because it's ostensibly an alien invasion movie, which is more along the lines of science-fiction than horror. But the alien creatures in this movie aren't what you'd call technologically advanced aliens. No, they're more along the lines of large black shadow monsters with no eyes, but a mouthful of neon blue glowing teeth, which they use to rend their victims to bits. The story takes place in one horror filled night in a low income multilevel housing project (the U.K. version of the Ghetto, apparently), peopled by just plain normal folks...except, of course, for the drug lord, the philosophic potheads, the teenage hooded gang members and some really bad ass weed. This is frequently played for laughs, but not so much as you'd expect from the producers of the cult classic SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004). I fell in love with this movie in one viewing and have been telling people about it since, just as I did with THE DEAD above.
But if you need more convincing that this one deserves a place on this best of list for 2011, take a look at Brian Sammon's Blu-Ray release review here as well. He makes his case much more eloquently than me, I think. Again, just scroll down for the review.
1. Apollo 18
And this is the last film on our list, and lo and behold, it is another "found footage" mockumentary sci-fi/horror flick. It is also a period piece, in which we are given a memory of the old days, when space travel was the greatest thing America could be involved in. But we also had those damned old Commies, the Russians, who were also trying to get ahead of us in space, especially to the Moon, as it was considered by all involved as a primary military defense/offense post. Whomever got to the Moon first would hold the entire planet in its power.
God, how dumb were we?
Well, apparently, we were dumber than we first thought because according to this film the Moon is actually home to a colony of carnivorous rock-like creatures, who first attack some Russian cosmonauts, who according to this film actually have beat us there but the general public was never made aware of it, and then the pesky little killer creatures swarm our good old red-blooded American astronauts, infecting them one by one, and finally killing them. All this under the watchful eyes of our "trustful" military and N.A.S.A. authorities--adding yet more evidence that our government is out to exploit us and screw us over.
There is very little CGI in this one, but what is used is well placed CGI, adding to the doom filled atmospheric narrative. One of the most important aspects to the making this one work so well is the fact that these poor slobs are stuck over 230,000 miles from Earth, with only the oxygen they carry with them to keep them alive, surrounded by the vast, cold uncaring universe. It's that sense of isolation, being cut off from all the rest of mankind to share in the horror, that adds an extra fillip to this "found footage" horror flick that makes it even more disturbing. I highly recommend it, but be warned, it will leave you feeling a little lost and confused if you don't know the basics of the American/Russian Space Race.