.First and foremost, I'd like to thank Zach, the proprietor of the great Z for Zombies, for a runner-up nod for a Kreativ Blogger award. I always appreciate hearing feedback, good or bad, and as an aside I did read your entry Saturday, Zach, but I was saving it for today in a planned "catch up" odds and ends post. I've been a reader! Though speaking of negative feedback, today's odds and ends entry was shelved after receiving a very terse (well, angry) e-mail last night from an unnamed reader over my "Top 10 Horror Features of the Past Decade" entry. Complaining about my lack of explaination, myself being a "know-it-all", and running a "shit blog no one fucking cares about." Why, thank you...
Now listen, as the vast majority of you cool readers know, opinions are like assholes. I wasn't even going to fashion such a Top 10 simply because lists like that are always tough when considering the wealth of horror unleashed in the past ten years. I gave into blogger peer pressure and if everyone else is doing it--why can't I? After much deliberation over a stupid little blog entry, I decided to let the films speak for themselves and not let my thoughts clutter the presentation. That and I knew I'd probably go off on a tangent of some more than others, making my numbering seem off. In truth, selections 10 through 4 can be shuffled about amongst themselves, but I'm sticking to the Triforce of mastery that are the last three. In the process, I found out more than anything that those who condemn the genre as "dead" have no idea what they're talking about.
So I'm going regulate the following brainfarts on the Top 10 to the short and sweet. I'm writing this for you, and not that asshole behind the e-mail. Check these out.
10. El espinazo del diablo (2001) (The Devil's Backbone) - del Toro's last bow to Spanish horror "proper", a history lesson with a rich paranormal twist, before moving onto projects so large that they've already cast this and 1993's Cronos into a dim shadow. Eduardo Noriega and Federico Luppi are especially excellent in a period chiller that asks, "what is a ghost?"
09. Haute tension (2003) (High Tension) - An incredibly directed and scored debut by Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur that harkens back in flashes to Carpenter's audaciousness with Halloween. A reluctant Philippe Nahon crafts the most unnerving slasher brute of the decade leading up to the most divisive concluding twist of the decade.
08. Marebito (2003) (The Stranger from Afar) - A seemingly natural technologically isolating extension of Japanese horror filmmaking melded with more universal vampiric delights. Profound results for something shot-on-the-fly in no time for inclusion in a series of low-budget films before Ju-on/Grudge milker Takashi Shimizu hopped a jet to helm the American Ju-on remake. It is disheartening that one of the best works Shinya Tsukamoto was involved in this past decade didn't see him behind the camera.
07. Trick 'r Treat (2007) - An old fashioned rousing horror anthology so damn good it makes you tear up a little and scornfully look at Hollywood kingmakers for abandoning the formula and this film. Instantly cemented either before-or-after Carpenter's cornerstone, director Dougherty deserves unconditional praise for the razor-bladed Snickers bar he's given to our favorite holiday.
06. Shaun of the Dead (2004) - Who would have figured the greatest tribute to the giddy joy of zombiedom and Romero's lifework would arrive in the form of a British relationship comedy during zero hour of a zombie outbreak. It's following only increases with each Comedy Central airing and has doomed Simon Pegg to forever be referred to as the titular character. Yet fret not, the work of you and your partners in crime will reap the gratitude of horror fans for decades to come. You've got red on you...
05. Låt den rätte komma in (2008) (Let the Right One In) - Going back to my November thoughts, "Director Tomas Alfredson, author/writer John Ajvide Lindqvist, and truly "beyond their years" performances from newcomers Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson construct a "realistically whimsical" fanged yarn that never betrays the horror genre...a true vampiric chiller for the new century that's wonderfully acted, paced, and photographed [that] deserves to stand proud in the pantheon of vampire screen greats...the mature, revitalized direction bloodsuckers need to follow..."
04. Session 9 (2001) - Those that know, know, yet Brad Anderson's magnificent walk through the condemned catacombs of Danvers State Hospital remains criminally underrated even within the horror community. This film was blessed with the happy accident of a subplot that if included would have severely damaged the extreme tension and psychosis found in Peter Mullan's flawless performance. The rest of the cast, yes even Caruso, hold their own and frankly this film towers over Anderson's more widely seen The Machinist.
03. Going Home (2002) - Cut up to fit into the pan-Asian horror anthology, Three (3 Extremes II), the rare hour-length director's cut of Peter Chan's contribution is the best horror feature to emerge from Hong Kong...ever. A bittersweet rumination on the power of photographs of loved ones and the struggle to hold on sewn into a Grand Guignol telling of a man patiently awaiting his wife's opening eyes. This feature was nominated for and won a slew of Hong Kong film awards and deserved all of them.
02. Kairo (2001) (Pulse) - I once pegged Romero's Dawn of the Dead as the horror genre's only true epic...until experiencing Kurosawa's terrifying coaxial apocalypse. As written above with Marebito, Pulse seems a ripe path for the country's horror offerings to explore. A strike at the loneliness in Japanese youth culture with an increasing technology dependency only exacerbating the disconnect; Kurosawa presents an end times scenario that systematically erases humanity with a ghostly virus hitting the Delete button. It might have seemed like a ripe path for other filmmakers to explore, but here Kurosawa's frightening red-taped vision proved definitive.
01. Martyrs (2008) - It's a very different climate, but perhaps in another time Laugier's vicious creation would have had the same potential to facilitate a sea change the likes of Hopper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. But unlike the 1973 milestone which annihilated the genre's golden age, Martyrs works to birth transcendence on the rungs of the critically despised torture porn subgenre pioneered by Saw and Hostel. Laugier gathers up the current state of Horror to show us how high stakes have gotten with its tremendously emotionally crushing exhibition of protagonists not "winning" or quickly dispatched before the credits roll.
Echoing Pasolini's Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom both in style and reaction, fury called for the death of Laugier while his film became a tentpole for censorship after even the ultra-liberal French Ministry of Culture got antsy. Martyrs throws its hopeless depravity not just at those willing to buy tickets to every remake to come down the pike, but also into the faces of veteran horror fans. It's not all been done and Martyrs typifies the places the genre is still afraid to tread on the silver screen.