Horror films are a really popular genre with a really devoted fanbase. You don’t see anywhere near the same kind of specialized resources dedicated to any other genre of film (except for maybe martial arts or something). This community has built up around the horror genre because there’s a sense of persecution among the genre’s fans, they feel the genre doesn’t get the respect it deserves. But they’ve got to admit, the genre’s disreputable for a reason: there are a lot of crappy horror movies. That’s why we need to celebrate the ones that really work.
- Antichrist: This is an excellent movie, but I have mixed feelings about its inclusion in this category. There’s suspense to be found in this movie but I wouldn’t really say that generating fear was really the film’s primary goal. That said, the movie takes place in a really creepy and atmospheric woods and the spirits that seem to plague them are certainly discomforting. In retrospect, the gory scenes that everyone talks about are (deliberately) the least horror-movie-like part of the whole thing.
- Drag Me to Hell: Sam Raimi became a horror legend in the eighties when he made the first two Evil Dead movies but he never let himself be typecast. Having made some diverse movies like A Simple Plan, The Quick and the Dead, and three Spider-Man movies, Raimi never allowed this to typecast him. With Drag Me to Hell he’s returned to the fun, cartoonish style of horror that made him famous. Filled with outrageous set pieces, this is one of the few movies that really earns a “turn your brain off your brain and have fun” designation.
- House of the Devil: As I write this, it has been less than 24 hours since I saw this neat little horror film which as far as I can tell was released directly to DVD. Sporting a pretty genuinely retro feel, this film feels a lot more like a 70’s horror film than most of the other films trying to ape that aesthetic recently. While I do feel like the film suffers from some serious run-time padding, there are sections of it that are among the best horror material around.
- Paranormal Activity: The story of how this micro-budgeted project managed to become a regionally released phenomenon does not need to be reiterated. What probably should be re-iterated is how smartly the movie is able to use small things in order to generate large scares. The battle between this couple and a pretty unpleasant invisible demon managed to; once again utilize the surprisingly durable found footage motif in order to generate some scares.
- Thirst: In the world of left-field Asian genre cinema, Park Chan-Wook is king. Chan-Wook’s previous films were violent and off-putting thrillers but they weren’t really horror flicks. The fact that his newest film is about vampires does push it into that genre, but it still doesn’t quite play like a real creep show. The film contains elements of comedy and romance, but both of those elements are going to be a bit warped when there’s this much bloodletting involved.