Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: A specialized list

I wasn’t surprised to find that the list of 100 films of the decade included at least 11 titles—Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), 28 Days Later… (2002), The Devil’s Backbone (2001), From Hell (2001), Grindhouse (2007), Let the Right One In (2008), The Orphanage (2007), The Others (2001), The Ring (2002), Shadow of the Vampire (2000)—that could be classified as horror pictures. A case could be made that all of those titles are something “more” than horror films—and I wouldn’t disagree with that—but they are still horror movies, that most marginalized and ghettoized of genres.

Perhaps it’s because horror was the genre that seriously attracted to movies in the first place, but I’ve never found them to be wholly deserving of their reputation as somehow less than films of just about any other genre. Oh, I understand where this comes from. From the minute horror films became big business with the “first wave” of horror with Dracula and Frankenstein back in 1931 fly-by-night producers started churning out the most incredible muck in the guise of horror and foisting it on the public. Not much has changed on that score in the intervening 79 years.

The last decade brought us not only the films cited above. We also were on the receiving end of bad remakes, the PG-13-ification of the genre and the rise of that most dubious of sub-genres, torture porn, which, in some ways, isn’t a whole lot more than the old “creative death” school of filmmaking from the 1970s with extra sadism added. It’s just not that hard to lose respect for a genre that’s associated with such things as Hostel (2005), See No Evil (2006) and The Hills Have Eyes II (2007)—to name but a few. However, I’m not convinced that this says anything worse about horror than New in Town (2009) or any Nancy Meyers movie says about the romantic comedy.

The truth is that there have been quite afew horror films in the last decade that might not entirely work, or are even deeply flawed, or that just don’t quite cross genre boundaries, but are not without merit or interest—and in some cases might grow in stature over the years. No, I’m not making the case that the titles I’ve come up with (with a little help from Justin Souther) are necessarily unsung classics waiting to be appreciated—though some of them, I think, might well qualify. Rather, I’m merely suggesting that these are movies of some note that bear more consideration than they’ve generally been given. These are not ranked, but presented strictly in alphabetical order.

Dead Silence (2007). James Wan made his mark with Saw (2004) and while he’s continued to be associated with that franchise in a producing capacity, he and Saw screenwriter Leigh Whannell conspired to make the more classically horrific Dead Silence in its wake. Since the duo had helped to launch the torture porn mania with Saw—and helped keep it going through their involvement with its annual sequel—Dead Silence came as a complete surprise. Oh, the film isn’t without its gruesome side. It earns its R rating. But it’s also old school horror—completely grounded in the supernatural. In this case, it’s the supernatural of the local legend variety, which, along with the story’s revenge theme, serves the film well.

This doesn’t mean Dead Silence is without its flaws. A number of things that happen in the course of the film only work because characters do improbably stupid things of the sort that only characters in horror films do. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not about to throw a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy that I suspect is somehow involved in having murdered my wife by ripping her tongue out in the backseat of my car and drive off. Has no one ever heard of a trunk? Similarly, the film is cursed with one of those “let us show you how clever we were” endings that, as usual, mostly serves to make you suspect that the filmmakers aren’t so much convinced of their cleverness as they are of your stupidity.

However, there are many things to prize about the film. It has more atmosphere than just about any horror film of the time—and it’s atmosphere that is deliciously drawn from the essence of classic era horror. If you’re a horror geek, there’s no way you’re not going to be a little disarmed when the film opens with the classic Universal logo from the 1930s. You get the immediate sense that a kindred spirit is at work here. It doesn’t stop there. The film’s improbable Guignol Theatre (what kind of jerkwater town could possibly support this place?) is like some magnificent blend of the old Phantom of the Opera (1925 and 1943) Paris Opera set and the curtain-billowing corridors of Paul Leni’s The Cat and the Canary (1927).  And if the whole film doesn’t work, the flashback to the performance of the ventriloquist (Judith Roberts) that started the whole thing is masterfully done. I have a hunch that time will magnify its virtues and minimize its problems.

Dreamcatcher (2003). Lawrence Kasdan’s Dreamcatcher—drawn from the Stephen King novel—is a film I’m slightly reluctant to put on this list. First of all, it’s not strictly a horror film, but sci-fi horror. But more I’m never quite sure how I feel about it. Kasdan called the source novel a “fever dream” and certainly approached it that way. King wrote the book while recovering from being stuck by a van (an incident mirrored in the movie)—and while taking a lot of painkillers. This may or may not account for the downright loopy quality of the narrative, which is never less than odd. Stranger than this, however, may be the fact that Kasdan’s film also relates to his earlier film (and his biggest success) The Big Chill (1983)—only with mayhem, ESP and aliens added to the mix.

The film was pretty much written off as a failure in 2003 (it remains Kasdan’s last directorial project) and seems to have simply fallen through the cracks in the meantime. I liked it—on its own screwy terms and despite its occasional lapses into unintended humor—on its original release, and the one time I watched it since then I still found it entertaining. My belief is that it’s worth another look, but at the moment that’s as far as I’m willing to go.

House of 1000 Corpses (2003) and The Devil’s Rejects (2005). When Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses finally made its debut (after Universal dumped it and Lionsgate took it on and had it recut to secure an R rating) I gave it a generally bad review—even while noting that it was fascinatingly made and occasionally very effective. It also became a film that I kept returning to. And the more I saw it, the more fascinated I became—and the more I liked it and the more it seemed to me to work.

My original thought was that it worked up the point that the innocent victims were taken to the Firefly residence (the house of the title)—or that it worked in the manner of an old-fashioned spook house ride. After a while, I found it worked through the point where the “guests” became captives—and then worked in fits and starts throughout the rest of its length. Some of this I blamed—and still blame—on cuts that have reduced the narrative to an often incoherent mess. But beyond this, there’s a level of sadism to the film—a dwelling on pain and humiliation—that I’m simply not comfortable with and don’t think I ever will be. Yet something—I suspect it’s a combination of Zombie’s own horror movie geekiness and his willingness to go absolutely wild with cinematic invention just to see if it will work—keeps drawing me back.

In terms of coherence and being of a piece, Zombie’s sequel, The Devil’s Rejects, is undeniably a better movie. It’s just as sadistic—maybe more so—but it aims for and achieves a 1970s drive-in exploitation movie vibe. The fact that it starts with that vibe and sticks with it for its entire length is what makes it a more solid piece of work. But there’s a trade-off to get there. The sense of inventive playfulness has given way to a unified look. It makes the film more of a piece, but it’s nowhere near as much fun. On another level, it feels a little bit like a betrayal in that insists on explaining too much about the Firefly clan—right down to the origin of their use of the names of characters from Marx Brothers movies. What had been an in-joke for movie geeks in the first film is pretty much ruined here. But on its own separate merits, it’s arguably Zombie’s best work to date—a statement the value of which is utterly subjective.

Jeepers Creepers (2001) and Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003). Victor Salva’s Jeepers Creepers is about 60 minutes worth of one of the creepiest movies of the decade. Unfortunately, that only accounts for the first two-thirds of the film. Those first 60 minutes, however, are rich in dread and atmosphere and surprisingly good characterization. They’re also blessed with a sense of humor about the genre. When bickering brother and sister (Justin Long and Gina Philips) spot a sinister figure (Jonathan Breck) apparently dumping bodies down a pipe in the ground next to an old church and he insists they investigate, the sister remarks, “You know the part in scary movies when somebody does something really stupid, and everybody hates them for it? This is it.” And, of course, it is.

What he finds down that pipe more than fulfills any fears the film has already conjured—and it plays on those fears effectively for some considerable time. Then almost exactly one hour into the proceedings, we get our first clear look at the killer—or as he’s billed “The Creeper”—and the film immediately turns into something altogether different. It suddenly becomes a kind of retro 1950s rubber-suited-monster picture. The thing is it’s a pretty darn good rubber-suited-monster movie, but as much fun as the third act is, it loses almost all the unnerving quality of the earlier portions.

When the film proved susprisingly popular, a sequel was inevitable. Just as inevitable was the fact that there would be no room for the slow build-up of the first movie and we would get an entire film more or less in the key of the last section of the original. The surprise was that Jeepers Creepers 2 was a much better monster movie than might have been suspected. The Creeper (Jonathan Breck again) had undergone something of a makeover—he was darker and made to appear wet or possibly even slimy. In an interview I did with Breck for Scarlet Street magazine at the time, he told me that Salva had decided this would increase the menace of the creature, and he was right. The overall film was geared toward a more action-oriented approach that worked well—and was surprisingly used to bring the movie around to an ending that had some of the dread inherent in the first film. That, however, was left to the very end and the promise of a sequel, which it appears we may finally get in 2011 with Jeepers Creepers 3: Cathedral.

The Midnight Meat Train (2008). Ryuhei Kitamura’s The Midnight Meat Train ought to have been one of the major horror films of the decade—and it might have been had it not been for power plays by new Lionsgate head honcho Joe Drake, who not only bumped the film for a favorable release date (so as not to play against a film he had produced for another studio), but then proceeded to bury, giving it only the most perfunctory of releases—to a handful of second-run theaters. The sad thing in all this is that Kitamura’s film was easily the best English language horror film of 2008—and almost no one saw it. The ads called Kitamura a “visionary director” and based on the style and atmosphere he brought to this film, I’m not going to argue the point—even though it’s exactly the kind of ballyhoo that studios like to indulge in with directors you’ve probably never heard of. For once it was true.

The question arises as to just how popular it might have been with a decent release. There’s no telling, but the reviews were surprisingly good on those rare occasions when it got reviewed at all. (Interestingly, Lionsgate actively sought to have the film not reviewed whenever possible.) However, it may have been a film that was not exactly in the mood of the moment. A number of the reviews—even the good reviews—complained that the film went “off the rails” in its climactic section, which indicates—as did the response to Alexndre Aja’s Mirrors (2008)—a certain resistance to horror with actual supernatural elements was in the air at the time. It actually should have surprised no one since the supernatural figures into Clive Barker’s short story on which the film was based—and the story and the film end in roughly the same manner. Whatever the case, The Midnight Meat Train is a film very much in need of serous reassessing—or maybe just assessing at all.

Mirrors (2008). Yes, Alexandre Aja’s Mirrors has some pretty bad dialogue—the kind that induces laughter where none was intended—and its plot isn’t what you might call the latest model. It is, however, a surprising film to come from Aja, who made his mark in 2005 with the French import High Tension (or if you’re French or pretentious Haute Tension), a truly nasty bit of goods that wore its sadism on its sleeve and somehow garnered a following. This in turn landed Aja the remake of The Hills Have Eyes (2006), which turned out to be just about exactly the movie you’d expect from the maker of High Tension. So nothing was more of a shock than the supernatural horrors of Mirrors—a film that relies far more on atmosphere than anything else and has nary a trace of torture porn clining to it. This isn’t to say that the movie is gore free—merely that it doesn’t revel in pain for its own sake.

Even if the whole idea of evil being on the other side of mirrors is not something you would buy if it was being sold as fish, Aja and screenwriter Gregory Levasseur (who has worked on all Aja’s films) manage to make it compelling enough to generate a certain degree of tension—and the story actually hangs together, assuming you can accept certain fanciful basic notions. (After all, you’ve gone to see a horror picture about haunted mirrors, you’re already half way to accepting whatever comes your way.) The film’s atmosphere is the key to it all, though, and its central setting—a skillfully art-directed fire-damaged department store—is surely unsettling and memorable. Better still, Aja gets the most out of the setting—so much so in fact that the film loses steam when it strays from the location. But I’m not complaining, because Mirrors—while it finally goes on too long and tries too hard—is that rare film in modern horror that actually delivers a climax worthy of its build-up.

None too surprisingly, Mirrors didn’t do very well at the box office, grossing about one third of its cost Stateside and only going into mild profit based on its worldwide figures. It was clearly not a film that was in the mood of the moment where horror was concerned. It is, however, afilm that will probably look better with the passage of time. Interestingly, its tepid business did not result in Aja running back to the comparative safety of torture porn. His next film instead is the 3-D remake of Joe Dante’s Piranha (1978), which looks just as campy as the original to judge by the trailer.

Seed of Chucky (2004). It will doubtless be noted that I’m friends with the writer-director of Seed of Chucky, Don Mancini. It may also be noted that I am at least acquainted with star Jennifer Tilly and guest star John Waters. And in the interest of full disclosure, I have spoken on the phone with Brad Dourif. However, it should be noted that all of this happened after I’d championed Seed of Chucky, so while I might be considered biased now, I certainly wasn’t when I first saw this twisted trash masterpiece that’s a classic of what we called “splatstick.” It’s also the sort of splatstick that doesn’t stint on the splat. In fact, despite its comedy status, it’s very likely the bloodiest and goriest film on this list.

Universal originally rejected the project as being too gay and having too much Jennifer Tilly, which is to say that Universal missed the fact that are two of the key elements that make Seed of Chucky such a deliriously subversive work. After having written the first four films about the wise-cracking homicidal doll, Chucky (always voiced by Brad Dourif), Mancini here took over the directing chores—something that makes one wish he’d been emplyed in that capacity all along. He brings a drive and tasteless glee to the proceedings that is unique to the series—perhaps because, as its architect, he felt free to do whatever he liked with the material. And what he liked was to take the horror concept and stand it on its head with a satire on the first films, horror movies, pop culture in general and the whole back-biting world of the movie business in the bargain. The results are fresh, funny and delightfully wicked from start to finish.

Silent Hill (2006). Christophe Gans’ Silent Hill has a clunky opening, an often ineffective musical score (thanks to the insistence on using music from its video game source), and a totally unnecessary tacked-on wrap-up that blunts the film’s amazingly horrific climax. None of this, however, is enough to keep the film from being one of the most creative and disturbing horror films of the decade. Not surprisingly, it was a film that was largely savaged by critics. Considering that it was based on a video game, this was probably inevitable, but I’ve yet to understand just why so many of the naysayers had so much trouble following the story, which I found to be remarkably coherent—especially for a film that’s more concerned with capturing the essence of a nightmare than with spinning a tale. The tale is all there—assuming the viewer understands that it’s taking place on two levels of reality at one time, and frankly that’s not so hard to understand. Indeed, it’s virtually spelled out.

As a nightmare on film Silent Hill is hard to beat. The world it inhabits is hostile and unlike anything that exists in a waking state. Gans mines this world for every drop of horror possible and more often than not succeeds in a feverish vision that is at once horrifying and grand. The plot is actually fairly simple and revolves around the ritualistic attempted slaying of a child (Jodelle Ferland) by a crazy puritanical community for being “different.” What they have wrought, however, is the terror of a vengeance-crazed demonic version of this child, who keeps them trapped in this world of darkness until she can exact her revenge on them.

Part of the brilliance of Gans’ approach to all this lies in the insistence on using floor effects as much as possible. While nearly everything in the film has been highly colored by the use of CGI effects, the characters and creatures have the kind of solidity than only comes from using real actors as the basis for the effects. As fanciful as the film gets, it never strays into the realm of the cartoonishness that plagues so much CGI. More, the film is utterly unafraid of plunging the viewer into the logic—or lack thereof—of a dream. It offers no explanation because it doesn’t need to. It assumes that you accept what you see—and what you see is remarkably disturbing in a way that film rarely is. It also offers a truly bravura climax that is neatly summed by the mother (Deborah Kara Unger) of the demonic creation with, “Alessa, what have you become?” And when you see the child happily dancing in a shower of blood from her victims, it’s hard not to echo that question.

Unfortunately, the film was an expensive undertaking that was simply too weird—and maybe too artsy—to make a profit. It should come as no surprise then that the proposed sequel will not be directed by Gans and is promised to be more “accessible,” which likely means it will also be a lot less interesting.

This is where I’m ending the list—safe in the knowledge that there will be those who are going to be upset over titles I’ve left off as much as by titles I’ve included. I don’t believe there’s a horror film—that got a mainstream release—from the past decade that I didn’t see. In the case of quite a few of them, I might wish I didn’t see them, but I did. And, yes, there are some highly-rated titles that didn’t impress me as much as they were supposed to. And there were titles that impressed almost no one that I actually considered putting on here.

The main one of these was the largely indefensible feardotcom (2002) that ploughed its way into theaters to beat the not dissimilarly themed The Ring—and which vanished very quickly, which is probably no more than it deserved. I say that as one of three critics who actually gave the film something like a good review. It is not a good movie, but as even Roger Ebert noted, “I give the total movie two stars, but there are some four-star elements that deserve a better movie. You have to know how to look for them, but they’re there.” And he’s right. Visually, the film is a weird throwback to German Expressionist film with echoes of the very first wave of sound horror movies. It’s also a mess that’s sometimes hysterically funny when it oughtn’t be and I can’t recommend it or say that I think it will improve with time. It will always be a bad movie with some amazing things buried in it. Whether or not you have any desire to dig for those things is completely your call.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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44 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: A specialized list

  1. LYT

    Damn, I have to give you a lot of props for championing some movies here that I thought only I liked. I’m sorry to see you mostly dismiss the SAW and HOSTEL flicks, since I think they do have more going on than people give them credit for, but standing up for the merits of Dead Silence and Feardotcom is a bold move that I applaud.

    Not so much Dreamcatcher. I don’t deny it is fun, but it isn’t in any way what I would call “good.” I like the first half as legit horror, then the second for being totally nuts, but Donnie Wahlberg’s performance as a retarded guy with cancer is one of the most ridiculous things ever.

    I also like Bride of Chucky better than Seed, and would assert that Bride did everything you say Seed did first. That doesn’t make Seed bad, just less groundbreaking.

    Jeepers Creepers – I never got the appeal. Found the sequel slightly more palatable.

    Silent Hill is still the one to bring up whenever someone tries to sarcastically ask if there have ever been any good video-game movies. Its only notable flaw to me is one common to English-language movies made by foreigners – the characters’ accents are all over the place.

    And I think Antichrist should have gotten more respect as a pure horror movie than it did…though I think von Trier welcomes the condemnation.

  2. davidf

    I know you didn’t like Frank Darabont’s THE MIST all that much, but I’m curious if you ever saw the black and white version. Apparently, he had wanted to release it in b&w from the beginning but then didn’t, for whatever reason. Some copies of the dvd have the b&w version in addition to the full color. While it’s still incredibly flawed, the movie plays much better in b&w. So much better.

    Also, I’ve never been a fan of torture porn, but if I had to pick one torture porn film out of the entire genre that impressed me, it would be THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Of course, the only thing that impressed me about it was that it managed to trick my squeamish mother into watching a torture porn film on the big screen, and that’s quite a feat. If anyone wants to argue that it wasn’t supposed to be a horror movie, I’ll just point out the final scene which clearly makes use the horror convention of showing one part of a dead character’s body move as the character rises from the dead. So it was the feet walking out of the shadows of a tomb instead of a hand rising out of the swamp: it’s still a horror movie.

  3. Ken Hanke

    I’m sorry to see you mostly dismiss the SAW and HOSTEL flicks, since I think they do have more going on than people give them credit for

    I think we already knew we didn’t agree on the Saw pictures. I would, however, concede their relative genius when placed alongside the Hostel films.

    standing up for the merits of Dead Silence and Feardotcom is a bold move that I applaud.

    Well, I don’t think I can be arrested for it. Actually, I don’t understand not liking Dead Silence. As for feardotcom, I find it impossible to dislike a movie with a sinister little girl who appears to be wearing Kathleen Turner’s wig from Crimes of Passion — and who has a mother who seems to think it’s okay for her small hemophiliac child to play in a disused concrete factory.

    Not so much Dreamcatcher

    As I noted, I’m not quite sold on that myself and need to actually sit down and watch it again — someday.

    also like Bride of Chucky better than Seed, and would assert that Bride did everything you say Seed did first. That doesn’t make Seed bad, just less groundbreaking

    For me, Seed just takes it all a little bit further and that tips the scales.

    Jeepers Creepers – I never got the appeal. Found the sequel slightly more palatable

    Find the sequel more amusing, that’s for sure — not in the least because Salva makes absolutely no pretense about filling the movie with beefy boys minus their shirts.

    Silent Hill is still the one to bring up whenever someone tries to sarcastically ask if there have ever been any good video-game movies. Its only notable flaw to me is one common to English-language movies made by foreigners – the characters’ accents are all over the place.

    I think I’m less bothered by that than by the often less than scintillating dialogue — and I know Roger Avary can write better than that. Still, I find most of the film absolutely fascinating — and incredibly creepy.

    And I think Antichrist should have gotten more respect as a pure horror movie than it did…though I think von Trier welcomes the condemnation.

    I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know. I do have a strong suspicion that it’s probably going to bore me when I do.

  4. Ken Hanke

    I know you didn’t like Frank Darabont’s THE MIST all that much, but I’m curious if you ever saw the black and white version. Apparently, he had wanted to release it in b&w from the beginning but then didn’t, for whatever reason. Some copies of the dvd have the b&w version in addition to the full color. While it’s still incredibly flawed, the movie plays much better in b&w. So much better.

    It may be, but I don’t think it’d probably alter my views all that much. Plus — though I’m sure technology exists now to make this work better — it wouldn’t be a film that was designed for black and white. It would be a black and white print of a color film and the two aren’t really interchangeable.

    Also, I’ve never been a fan of torture porn, but if I had to pick one torture porn film out of the entire genre that impressed me, it would be THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Of course, the only thing that impressed me about it was that it managed to trick my squeamish mother into watching a torture porn film on the big screen, and that’s quite a feat. If anyone wants to argue that it wasn’t supposed to be a horror movie

    I think it would be hard to argue that and harder still to make a case that it isn’t torture porn — and that that was a large part of its appeal. After all, when Gibson recut the film to get a PG-13 rating, audiences stayed away in droves.

    I’ll just point out the final scene which clearly makes use the horror convention of showing one part of a dead character’s body move as the character rises from the dead. So it was the feet walking out of the shadows of a tomb instead of a hand rising out of the swamp: it’s still a horror movie

    Of course it is, and feet walking out of a tomb isn’t appreciably different from Karloff’s mummy coming back to life in The Mummy.

  5. davidf

    “It would be a black and white print of a color film and the two aren’t really interchangeable.”

    It definitely didn’t have a classic b&w look, but the lack of color allowed the mist to create an atmosphere that is completely lacking in the color version. Granted, I’m really not trying to defend the film from a plot or performance standpoint. It’s merely a good case study in how a change in color palate can make or break the atmosphere of a movie.

  6. LYT

    If Antichrist BORES you, I’d be surprised. There are many reactions I can imagine, but that isn’t one.

    I am no von Trier lover, yet it was my favorite film of last year, and it’s the closest he’s gotten to David Lynch territory. It’s also far more a straight-up horror movie than anything he’s ever done.

    That said, I relate to it strongly because it’s perhaps the only movie I’ve ever seen that truly understands the mindset of one who suffers panic attacks, as I do. Not to say that such people all envision images like those in the film…but he gets the general mood quite right.

  7. Uncle Charley

    My friends tell me that zombies are the dead horse I always beat, but dammit, they make sense to me. Also, isn’t it a bit redundant to refer to zombies as a dead anything?

    That said, I’d have to suggest Zombie Diaries for consideration on this list. I say that without a trace of snide menace, because I’m sure there are slews of folks that have never even heard of it, and that’s not their fault. It has all the appearance of a $14 straight to video flick until you actually pop it in the player to find that it does three things better than perhaps any other film of it’s kind. Its writers did a fine job at telling a non-linear story that bridged multiple elements nicely by the end. Its use of hand-held cameras a la The Blair Witch Project (which I assure you, I loathe thoroughly enough) was steadied enough not to call attention to itself without reason.

    Most important of all, it made a point that all great monster films do: if given the choice to go on as a human being or become a monster, one must at least consider that the monsters tend to work as a team. Sigourney Weaver said it best in Aliens: “I don’t know who’s worse. You don’t see them @#$%ing each other over for a goddamn percentage.”

    Zombie Diaries makes this assertion with a slowly dwindling subtlety throughout its duration, and in the end the viewer is left purely ashamed to be associated with other people, much less being one. If you don’t mind the lack of shlock generally associated with its ilk, this thing’s a keeper.

  8. Ken Hanke

    It definitely didn’t have a classic b&w look

    I’m sorry to hear that. I was hoping that technology had reached a point where that was possible. Of course, it may have, but whether or not anyone is likely to go to the time and expense is another matter.

  9. Ken Hanke

    If Antichrist BORES you, I’d be surprised

    I’ll almost certainly catch up with it at some point and then we’ll see. I will say that nothing I’ve heard or read about the film has been encouraging to me that it’s likely to be something I’ll like. I am, however, open to being persuaded otherwise.

  10. Ken Hanke

    My friends tell me that zombies are the dead horse I always beat

    I’m not sure why they single you out, though I tend to agree that it’s an expired equine — even on those occasions when I like the films. I think I’m just burned out on the creatures in general, which may have more to do with all the extraneous stuff that goes along with them, e.g., zombie walks, imaginary scenarios about what you’d do in the event of a zombie attack, etc.

    Gotta admit I’ve never heard of or seen Zombie Diaries, so I’ve no opinion on it. I did rather like Romero’s Diary of the Dead, though, especially after the absurdity of Land of the Dead with its notions of peacefully coexisting with creatures who view you as lunch.

  11. Ken Hanke

    Watched Warhol’s “Dracula” recently. It’s wickedly funny

    Well, let’s be clear on the fact that it has nothing to do with Warhol, except that writer-director Paul Morrissey came from the Warhol Factory (and Warhol’s name had some selling value), and that its proper name is Blood for Dracula. Actually, I think it’s a very fine film on a number of levels, but, yes, it’s wickedly funny. I mean what else can you say about a movie with lines like “If he’s looking for a virgin, what’s he doing with you two whores?” (pronounced “hoo-ahs”), “The blood of these whores is killing me” and “Oh, I’m sure they are religious — they have a very nice house”?

  12. Not only hilariously funny, with lines like you mentioned…I loved the accents that Morrisey uses to distinguish the characters. The directors comments make the movie much more interesting. Makes me want to re-watch. Done on a tight budget with Carlo Ponti financing.

    They needed to travel to a religious country to find “wirgens” because Romania had no more….and once the Romanian “woods were full of wirgens.”

    Visually, I found it exquisite.

  13. LYT

    I’ve always wondered in zombie films why there isn’t at least one person who’s curious about turning into one, as opposed to blowing his own head off to prevent it. My attitude would be that if I were going to die anyway, why not at least see what it’s like being a zombie first?

  14. Steven

    [b]Victor Salva’s Jeepers Creepers is about 60 minutes worth of one of the creepiest movies of the decade.[/b]

    I agree with this statement completely.

    It’s kind of like [i]It[/i]. The first half is brilliant. The second half is, well, crap.

  15. Ken Hanke

    My attitude would be that if I were going to die anyway, why not at least see what it’s like being a zombie first?

    Seems reasonable to me, but that may be exactly why it’s not in the zombie movie repetoire.

  16. Dionysis

    It’s good to see a defense of the long-maligned horror film. Along with Ken and (doubtless) uncounted baby boomers, that is the genre that got me to be an avid movie-goer at a young age, and while my tastes have expanded, I still enjoy a good horror film In recent years, I’ve somewhat lamented that fact that to young people today, too often the term ‘horror movie’ means the sub-genre of slasher/torture porn ‘horror’ films. Give me a traditional monster flick (whether it be a ‘classic ‘ monster a la The Wolfman or a creature run amuck) anyday.

    Of the titles listed here, there are several I’ve not seen. Among them, based upon these summaries, Silent Hill is the one I’m now going to have to check out. I didn’t pay attention to it when it was released, assuming it was yet another torture porn flick. Glad to know it has more going for it.

    Finally, in reply to this:

    “Universal originally rejected the project as… having too much Jennifer Tilly…”

    Too much Jennifer Tilley? Not possible. Who can resist that breathy delivery and slightly off-kilter personality?

  17. davidf

    Just to mention it, I enjoyed THE DESCENT a great deal.

    Also, I seem to remember hearing that the idea for SYNECDOCHE, NY started out because Sony asked Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze if they could make a horror movie together. I like thinking of that film as Kaufman’s take on the horror genre. I can definitely see the body horror elements come through, especially in the first parts of the film.

  18. steph

    I recently rewatched DREAMCATCHER and found the first half very good but it completely goes off the rails once the alien “possesses” the character who turns into “Mr. Gray.”

    However, there’s nothing in the film as funny as Ken’s description of the animals running out of the forest as “closing time at Disneyland.”

  19. Dread P. Roberts

    Thanks for mentioning Jeepers Creepers 2. That is definitely one of those movies that I feel like I’m supposed to be ashamed to love, but I do all the same. I have received a decent amount of heckling over my fondness for that. I guess it’s due to the 180º shift that takes place in the first one, but some people really seemed to hate Jeepers Creepers for not being quite what they expected. Therefore, they won’t give credit to the sequel either. I just have so much fun with it. If a horror movie isn’t really scaring me, than it better entertain me by allowing me to have a lot of fun with it.

    This is where I’m ending the list—safe in the knowledge that there will be those who are going to be upset over titles I’ve left off as much as by titles I’ve included.

    I wouldn’t say that I’m ‘upset’ over any omissions, but there are (of course) a few more horror titles from the last decade, that I think deserve a little recognition.

    1408
    What can I say, I thought it was just plain good, horror movie fun.
    The Descent
    At the time that you wrote your review for this, you didn’t seem too impressed; but I really liked it. I can’t help but wonder if there were other factors (comparisons being made to other movies at the time) that might have stinted your enjoyment. Have you gone back and tried to re-watch this?
    The Cell
    I would like to know your opinion of this movie, Ken. I really like this movie. The atmosphere is wonderfully creepy; it belongs alongside Silent Hill in my book.

  20. Ken Hanke

    Among them, based upon these summaries, Silent Hill is the one I’m now going to have to check out.

    One thing I will caution is that it’s one of those movies that was best viewed in a theater. If you watch it at home, at least turn the lights down low.

    Too much Jennifer Tilley? Not possible. Who can resist that breathy delivery and slightly off-kilter personality?

    You came to the wrong guy for an argument.

  21. Ken Hanke

    What can I say, I thought it was just plain good, horror movie fun

    For me 1408 was okay, but it didn’t resonate with me — even as much as some far worse horror movies (the remake of The Omen, for example) did.

    At the time that you wrote your review for this, you didn’t seem too impressed; but I really liked it. I can’t help but wonder if there were other factors (comparisons being made to other movies at the time) that might have stinted your enjoyment. Have you gone back and tried to re-watch this?

    I’m afraid I was insufficiently impressed with The Descent to feel any urge to see it a second time. I realize I am in the minority here.

    I would like to know your opinion of this movie, Ken.

    Unfortunately, I only saw about half of The Cell and under less than optimum conditions, so I’ve no way of making any kind of assessment on it.

  22. Dionysis

    “One thing I will caution is that it’s one of those movies that was best viewed in a theater. If you watch it at home, at least turn the lights down low.”

    I’ll be sure to do so.

    davidf mentioned ‘The Descent’. I liked that movie a lot (and also Neil Marshall’s previous horror film, ‘Dog Soldiers’). It was a real letdown, then, to watch ‘Doomsday’. That was among the most unoriginal, derivitive films I’ve seen (not a horror film, though). As someone else noted in a review I read a while back, “I guess that’s what happens when Marshall gets a bigger budget.”

  23. Ken Hanke

    davidf mentioned ‘The Descent’. I liked that movie a lot (and also Neil Marshall’s previous horror film, ‘Dog Soldiers’). It was a real letdown, then, to watch ‘Doomsday’. That was among the most unoriginal, derivitive films I’ve seen (not a horror film, though).

    I think part of the point of Doomsday was to be an absurd mix of a lot of other films. Here we definitely part company in general, though, because I fell asleep during Dog Soldiers and, as noted, I just wasn’t whelmed by The Descent. On the other hand, I had a pretty good time with Doomsday and its silliness.

  24. Dionysis

    “I think part of the point of Doomsday was to be an absurd mix of a lot of other films.”

    If so, it was a success.

    “Here we definitely part company in general…”

    I understand. I’ve parted company with you on some films you’ve reviewed in the past (occasionally scratching my head wondering ‘huh’, he liked that?), but most of the time agreeing with you. Even when I didn’t agree, I still enjoyed reading them. Different strokes you know.

  25. Ken Hanke

    If so, it was a success

    As I said at the time, “The fun of the film lies in its ability to leap from improbability to improbability without flinching. It’s tacky, tasteless, violent, gory and deliberately campy. I’m not sure what more you could want from this sort of movie.”

    By the bye, if you agreed with my all the time, I’d be alarmed.

  26. davidf

    Wow, I’ve never heard of DOOMSDAY, but after that description, I’m going to have to check it out.

  27. Ken Hanke

    I’ve never heard of DOOMSDAY

    If memory serves, it wasn’t around very long.

  28. Kipper

    Ken, I applaud your appreciation for some of the better horror movies to come out within the last decade. Specifically Midnight Meat Train and Mirrors, which I think were very much unsung heroes of the horror world.

    With the onset of torture porn and the rise of PG-13 crescendo-fests, I feel as though the entire genre is hobbling on one leg.

    Larger production companies aren’t embracing the genre, and while funding some with mass release and marketing campaigns, the greater majority are damned to the world of direct to dvd releases.

    At least the Europeans are still creating truly unsettling works of horror. The french film High Tension has been reasonably celebrated amongst horror fans over the past few years. Filled with plot holes as it may be, it’s a nice addition to the catalog of “good” horror movies.

    Slightly lesser known, and TRULY horrifying and disturbing is a film entitled Martyrs. One of the only films I’ve seen where upon viewing I’ve been tempted to turn off the tv. The onslaught of disturbing material is like being held underwater, and one must remember to breathe. In all truth the amount of mental impact it had was remarkable, and I applaud it, even though I’ll never be able to sufficiently scrub out certain images from my mind’s eye.

    Along the same lines of disturbing/someone has a really bad day cinema, I urge you to check out Eden Lake, a british film if I recall correctly. Not so much jumpy horror, as the unnerving, squirm in your seat kind.

  29. Arlene

    Couldn’t agree with you more on most of “tops” of the last decade. Especially SEED OF CHUCKY. That is just a film to pop

    < <<>>>

    You should try to catch it. I bought a used copy at Blockbuster for a song,during a snowstorm. Worth a look. I won’t say much more until you give it a look. But it was the Romero’s past DAWN should have been.

  30. Neil Marshall’s previous horror film, ‘Dog Soldiers’
    I have fond memories of watching this on DVD with a group of friends at a sleepover for my thirteenth birthday. We all thought it was a wonderfully silly B picture and had a great time watching it.

    The french film High Tension has been reasonably celebrated amongst horror fans over the past few years.
    I remember seeing this after much hype, and finding it nasty, stupid and a little homophobic. The main thing I remember from it was thinking it bore a striking resemblance to the screenplay Donald Kaufman was writing over the course of ‘Adaptation’.

  31. Ken Hanke

    I remember seeing this after much hype, and finding it nasty, stupid and a little homophobic.

    That’s kind of where I am on it, though I thought it was more than a little homophobic.

  32. Uncle Charley

    The onslaught of disturbing material is like being held underwater, and one must remember to breathe.

    See, this is why I haven’t delved as deep into horror as I have other genres. Comedy at its extremes might occasionally make a person say something to the effect of “well that was in poor taste,” but then the viewer can walk away without anything awful burned into their retinas or soul.

    I’ll concede that we all go to the movies to feel something, and in the cases of the good movies to take something away as well. All I took from gems like I Spit on Your Grave and Begotten was that my evil scheme to quietly sterilize certain folks through their drinking water might be the best thing for future generations.

  33. LYT

    Jeremy – if you want to see, more or less unironically, the script Donald Kaufman wrote in ADAPTATION, it’s out there, and is indeed called THR3E. I know Ken had to suffer through it like I did.

  34. Ken Hanke

    See, this is why I haven’t delved as deep into horror as I have other genres.

    If what was described was in any way the norm for horror films, I probably would have stopped watching them long ago. However, it is not the norm, nor would every horror fan find a film with that result a desirable experience.

    Comedy at its extremes might occasionally make a person say something to the effect of “well that was in poor taste,” but then the viewer can walk away without anything awful burned into their retinas or soul.

    Subjective. While I have been appalled by any number of horror films, I’ve felt equally violated by things like Observe and Report and Date Movie — maybe more so. Hateful, mean-spirited and just plain lousy movies are not confined to one genre.

    All I took from gems like I Spit on Your Grave and Begotten was that my evil scheme to quietly sterilize certain folks through their drinking water might be the best thing for future generations.

    Again, I could say the exact same thing of Observe and Report and Date Movie. Then again, I’ve not seen Begotten, though it sounds more like a surrealist work than a horror film per se from what I’ve read (and assuming we’re talking about the same movie). On the other hand, it seems to me that a title like I Spit on Your Grave should warn you that you’re getting into something potentially nasty.

    There as so many different kinds of horror that I find the blanket condemnation fairly unfair. If you look over the titles on my list, only the two Rob Zombie pictures are not in the realm of supernatural horror, which places them in a fantasticated area that’s more akin to the fairy tale than to I Spit on Your Grave. (Actually, House of 1000 Corpses might be construed as fantasticated — at least in the case of the improbable Dr. Satan.)

  35. Ken Hanke

    I know Ken had to suffer through it like I did

    Thanks for reminding me. I’ll see your Thr3e and raise you C Me Dance.

  36. brianpaige

    Dreamcatcher was a truly bizarre movie. I saw it in St. Pete when it came out (on vacation) and certainly remembered it. It seemed all over the place, but it was definitely distinct.

    I actually quite like the James Wan stuff I’ve seen. Dead Silence has some truly freaky moments in it that aren’t all that different from Saw (Jigsaw has dummies too). People forget that the first Saw had less sick gore and more suspense and chills than the sequels, but it was more of a mystery anyway. It’s like in the first Saw the film built to a crescendo of limbs being cut off, whereas in the sequels this sort of thing was just a transitional moment.

  37. Ken Hanke

    I actually quite like the James Wan stuff I’ve seen. Dead Silence has some truly freaky moments in it that aren’t all that different from Saw (Jigsaw has dummies too).

    In fact, if you’ll look carefully you’ll see the Howdy Doody from Hell puppet sitting around amidst the ones in Mary Shaw’s lair in Dead Silence.

    I was never that impressed with the original Saw, but it’s certainly more interesting than the sequels. Of course, that’s a problem with sequels — they get stuck in the formula of whatever the original is best known for.

  38. Don Mancini

    Ken, thanks for the shout-out. As you know, I myself, like LYT, actually prefer BRIDE to SEED, mainly because I think BRIDE is simply better directed and visualized. I recognize that. But for what it’s worth (probably very little, given my lack of objectivity), I think SEED is more idiosyncratic, and has more laughs.

  39. Ken Hanke

    But for what it’s worth (probably very little, given my lack of objectivity), I think SEED is more idiosyncratic, and has more laughs.

    Which, as you know, is part of the reason why I prefer Seed. (And I think I can get the backing of Harry Long and Arlene on that, so we outnumber you and Luke.)

  40. Don Mancini

    Ken, thanks for the shout-out. As you know, I myself, like LYT, actually prefer BRIDE to SEED, mainly because I think BRIDE is simply better directed and visualized. I recognize that. But for what it’s worth (probably very little, given my lack of objectivity), I think SEED is more idiosyncratic, and has more laughs.

  41. Dead Silence and Jeepers Creepers scared the hell out of me. Both the monsters in those movies just made me jump every time I saw them, mean could you imagine seeing them in real life? That’s how I always associate myself to a movie, I put myself in the same predicament as the main star themself.

    I’m waiting for a Jeepers Creepers 3 to come out, hopefully be good.

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