Sunday Special: Randall's Honorable Mentions

• Sunday, January 31, 2010 0 comments
Since Sunday is a notoriously slow day for the Mojo Wire, and since we still have a few more guest blogs to go, I thought I might take today to throw a few of my honorable mentions for the past decade in horror. Some of these are just movies that didn’t quite make my list, and don’t seem to be making anyone’s else’s, but still deserve to be recognized because they’re freaking cool. A couple others aren’t movies at all, but episodes of television shows that actually did a better job at the whole horror thing than the movies in their shared genre.


Zombieland (2009) – I wanted to put this on my list so much it was ridiculous, but just couldn’t do so in good conscience. Yes, it is about a world destroyed by the zombie apocalypse, yes, it easily one of the most entertaining movies in the genre, and yes, it even made me forgive Woody Harrelson for being, well… Woody Harrelson, but let’s face it there’s just nothing all that… horrific about it. So much about the film is about being safe, and staying safe, and with Harrelson’s character being so good at what he does, there’s never any real fear or peril in the movie – and even at the end, when the undead horde really come out in numbers for one last hurrah, Zombieland feels more like an action movie than survival horror, more Mad Max than Night of the Living Dead. Even some of the more heartfelt realizations, like the ones about Tallahassee’s son or Columbus’s family fall a little flat, because there’s still this four-color cheerfulness, this promise the movie makes to never take anything too seriously, to stay, above all else, fun.

And what’s wrong with that? There’s something brilliant about one of the movie’s many credos – “enjoy the small things” – that looks at the end of the world in a surprisingly pragmatic way. Bleak, dreary visions of post-apocalyptic life abound in the zombie genre, going from not only common, to expected. Zombieland looks at the end of the world as a very bad thing that there’s no reason to get all that depressed over, yes it sucks, but why not make the best of it? Why not destroy a tawdry tourist trap, or paint a rallying tribute to Dale Earnhardt on your newly stolen car? It’s already as bad as it can possibly get – let’s go have a Twinkie, or watch Ghostbusters.

Oh, and speaking of which. Best. Cameo. Ever.


“Smile Time” (Angel - S05E14. 2004) - Obviously not in the running proper because of its status as a television show, even if you weren’t a fan of Joss Whedon’s polarizing “Buffyverse,” you’d be hard pressed not to appreciate the craftsmanship of this episode of Angel. The short version is that a group of demons manage to take over the felt-covered members of Sesame Street-like cast, and use their new position to suck the souls out of the helpless children watching. When our eponymous hero, the vampire-with-a-soul, steps in to stop the demons from feasting on the kiddies, the late-90s to early 00s poster child for dark, brooding, and bad-ass gets turned into, well…

“A wee puppet man.”

Though both the cult hits Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Angel relied heavily on camp [and there is a lot of that here, too], “Smile Time” has a plenty of disturbing touches, from the rictus grins left on the affected children’s faces, to how the demon puppets control their Jim Henson-esque creator in truly ironic fashion. Plus, as a kid who grew up on Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and the Muppets, there was just something overall disturbing about the concept that really… bugged me, and kept me slightly unsettled even during the funny bits. Maybe it’s not strictly horror, but if Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and Freddy vs. Jason deserve praise, then “Smile Time” at least deserves a bit of attention.

But for the doubters, it doesn’t hurt to praise this particular episode’s pedigree – Ben Edlund, creator of “The Tick,” wrote and directed “Smile Time,” Whedon himself was the son of Muppet’s writer Tom Whedon, and numerous Jim Henson Company puppeteers joined the cast to bring puppet Angel to life. With the comedy, a few scares, and a couple of gross out moments, “Smile Time” showed just how good Angel could be, a real shame because just days before the episode aired, the series found itself cancelled.

Thanks, WB.


Land of the Dead (2005)/Diary of the Dead (2008) – With the wealth of zombie horror that came out in the last ten years, it’s baffling that George Romero wound up gaining so little attention for his newest entries genre.

The first, Land of the Dead, was an excellent movie, and a proper continuation of the Romero zombie saga that started with “Night of…,” was followed by “Dawn of…,” and then finished [at the time] by “Day of…” There’s everything in this you expect from a George Romero movie – lots of scares, the obligatory gross-out feeding scene [I love those, I’ll admit], and healthy, artful social commentary, this time focusing on the haves and the have nots, and the great divide between the rich and the poor, which not surprisingly we humans have carried over into our post-Apocalyptic society. It garnered a lot of attention, grossed a higher box-office than any of Romero’s other films, and garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews. And all the modern day horror aficionados and autors came out in spades to celebrate it – from Roth, to Wright, to Del Toro.

Where the movie falls short is its standing as a sequel – it just isn’t as accessible as the other zombie films that came out in the past ten years, which keeps it from quite having the pop movies like the Dawn of the Dead remake and 28 Days Later had. It feels a bit dated, and in all fairness, it is, as there isn’t much in the movie Romero didn’t already cover in his time working on Creepshow or “Tales from the Darkside.” It’s a great movie, but its history, regrettably, drags it down, making it feel a little like Romero is constantly referencing his own work.

Diary of Dead meanwhile, has the opposite problem. Romero starts his mythos over from scratch, and attempts to view his zombie apocalypse as a POV-style docudrama, which sounds absolutely genius, but doesn’t quite come off as well as a film like [REC] did. There are still some great scares, and a lot of good laughs [and arguably some of the best characters Romero has written to date], but it doesn’t feel quite like the “A” game you’d expect from someone who more or less invented the genre.

The biggest problem is a split of focus – Romero’s work always shines brightest when he’s got a message he’s after, and at first glance Diary of the Dead seems like a sharp look, if not a criticism, at how interconnected our world has come to be. It certainly is interesting to think about how something like zombie outbreak would be viewed in a time where nearly everyone has some sort of camera at hand, and the internet allows for fast dispersal of any and all information, and in theory this should all play well with the ever pervasive question not just in Romero zombie movies, but all films in the genre – how good or bad regular people can be. But while trying to get at this, there’s also something about “Diary of…” that seems like a filmmaker’s movie, like Romero’s attempting a commentary about how far removed the man behind the camera can become, and when trying to get at so much, the end result just isn’t as grand as it ought to be.

Still, zombie movies ruled the last decade of horror, and the father of the genre deserves his due. And George Romero’s clearly back in the game.

And anyway, I thought they were both awesome.


Splinter (2008) – If instead of a top ten, I’d have done a top eleven, Splinter would have made the cut. This has everything a good horror film should have in it – a slow burn beginning, steady development, victims you can actually give a damn about, and a creature that terrifies you before you ever get a real good look at it. In some ways it’s amazing how many of the different genres of horror Splinter pulls from, complete with the middle of nowhere setting, and the themes of almost zombie-like infection. In some ways, you could even describe it as Cabin Fever with an actual monster, but that would be unfair to Splinter because it suggests it’s far more derivative than it actually is. There’s something about Splinter that really feels original, and the movie deserves an immense amount of credit for that.

My only complaint, and the one I hear a lot from other reviews of Splinter is that the ending falls a little flat. By the time we reach the end of the movie, a big reveal of the creature feels necessary, but we don’t really get that, we’re not rewarded with enough proper face time with the creature – which, for budgetary or special effects reasons might be good idea from the filmmakers standpoint [think Jaws], but it just isn’t quite as satisfying as we’d like it to be.

Still, a great horror film, and it deserves mention just so more people will seek it out, and see it.


“Blink” (Doctor Who - S03E10. 2007) – There have been a lot of scary things in the Doctor Who revivals, from zombie-like mutants in gas masks to the Doctor fighting the Devil himself, but along with being one of the best episodes of the new series, “Blink” is easily the scariest.

The Doctor is mostly absent from this episode, with the focus on one-off character Sally Sparrow [played by the beautiful and talented Carey Mulligan] and getting into the particulars of the plot would take a lot of explanation of time travel rules in “Doctor Who” that I just don’t have the time [puns!] to get into here. But what’s truly scary about the episode are the alien baddies known as “The Weeping Angels.” Essentially creatures that only exist when no one is looking at them, these monsters take the form of stone angel statues, which hide their eyes even from each other. Keep your eyes on them, and you’re fine, they stay frozen in stone – but that’s easier said than done since there are four of these things and you only have two eyes.

Just how scary this can be is near impossible to describe without actually seeing the episode, but to give you some idea, just remember you can’t run backwards, which means occasionally you have to turn around and see this.

Right on your heels. Sweet Jesus, forget Daleks. That’ll keep me behind my couch – with my back to the wall.

"Whatever you do, whatever you do no matter what – don’t blink."


30 Days of Night (2007) - Stylised, violent, and terrifying, and based off some great subject matter. The pacing is a little off, and the subtitles are just...weird, but this is one of the more original vampire films the American system has managed to produce [even if it is an adaptation], and it deserves credit for that. Plus, my experience seeing it was one the most wonderful I ever had in a theater.









That’s the bulk of my honorable mentions. Expect my full list after the last guest blog is posted. We’ve had quite the turnout, so happily there are still a couple to go.

Guest Blog: Ian Rogers's Top Ten Horror-ble Films of the Decade

• Saturday, January 30, 2010 2 comments
by Ian Rogers.

"Ten Movies from the ‘00s That Give Me Nightmares"

When Randall asked me to do a guest entry listing my top horror movies of the decade, I jumped at the chance. Those who know me best are well aware that I’m not the biggest horror movie fan (and some might even remember the time I confused George Romero and Robert Rodriguez), but I was determined to share with the Mojo’s readership those films that sent me reeling from the theater in fright. So, without further ado, I present ten of the most frightening, knuckle-clenching, nightmare-inducing movies of the ‘00s:


#10: Hulk (2003)
Though the massive green CGI Hulk is, in itself, more comical than frightening, the film’s over-reliance on cheap gags like having the title character jump through the desert for forty-five minutes was more than enough to keep me up all night.









#9: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
The original trilogy gave us Darth Vader: a two meter-tall caped Sith Lord with that unforgettably raspy breathing who crushed men’s necks using the Force. This movie gave us Hayden Christianson’s horrific acting and a not-so-subtle anti-drug reference in the form of Death Sticks. I’ll leave you to judge which is scarier.







#8: Ghost Rider (2007)
This gem brings several frightening elements together for a new take on the genre: eye-poppingly predictable plot twists, Nicholas Cage’s acting, and CGI usage so excessive that it will give you goosebumps.









#7: The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
Consider how many people ran out to see this flick on opening weekend and tell me that isn’t scarier than global warming.











#6: Mission Impossible II (2000)
Director John Woo’s first attempt at the horror genre doesn’t disappoint. I jumped in my seat when Tom Cruise disregards any semblance of stealth by burning through the science lab with guns blazing, and was terrified that the final action sequence would never end.









#5: The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Fuck this movie.













#4: Pearl Harbor (2001)
Aside from having enough factual errors to make your hair stand on end, this movie proves the horrifying truth that one terrible mistake can ruin the career of an otherwise promising actor (well, making Gigli, didn’t help his chances), in addition to having a run-time that is truly shocking.








#3 Bring it On (2000)
An army of mindless undead beings wanders mindlessly across the screen, stopping at nothing until they’ve consumed the brains they need to feed their unholy appetites (in this case, the brains of the viewers). At least that zombie in Day of the Dead was smart enough to fire a handgun.








#2: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
As I watched this sequel to one of my favorite movies of all time brutally rape the themes of its predecessor, I became increasingly aware of the menacing feeling that I’d wasted the three dollars I’d spent to see this movie at the drive-in. A movie so disturbing that not even Claire Danes can save it.








#1: Virgin Territory (2008)
The only thing more terrifying that Hayden Christiansen’s acting (see entry #9) is watching him read horrendously-scripted sex jokes alongside the Bride of Frankenstein herself, Mischa Barton. I honestly cannot describe those 97 dreadful minutes that have since slipped away into a bottomless void of suck. This movie does for the teen sex-comedy genre what Friday the 13th Part VIII did for the horror genre: absolutely nothing.






Ian Rogers is a writer currently teaching English in the Yamanashi Prefecture of Japan. He chronicles his adventures there on his blog, “A Wave of the Hand,” along with numerous other pieces of fiction, non-fiction, and semi-fiction. He held the distinction at Bennington College of both living with and driving Randall around. In all confidence, he’ll be a literary reference someday.

Guest Blog: CheriAnn Stevens's Top Ten Horror Films of the Decade

• Friday, January 29, 2010 6 comments
by CheriAnn Stevens.

In chronological order:

Scream 3 (2000). I know this one is probably the movie I'll catch the most flack for, which is why I'm talking about it first. And anyway, eff you, this movie is awesome. When the first Scream movie came out, some claimed it was the death of the slasher genre. That's not the case; they actually revitalized the genre. The first and second came out in the late 90's, so I can't put them on the list of top horror movies of the past decade. Back to Scream 3. The ending wrapped up the saga in a pretty definitive way, while helping connect the previous two films. I know, I know, before you say it: They weren't written as a trilogy. I know that, but they work well that way. No movie in the series nullifies anything that happens in any of the others. That's rare for a horror movie saga, especially a slasher movie series. It's also unique because the killers in each movie are irrefutably dead by the time credits roll in each film. They manage to introduce killers with surprisingly plausible motives in each flick. Plus, any movie which references movies and Hollywood so openly is great. It's a nice touch of irony. This is the very thing that many people claimed was Scream's method of killing the genre. But I think it served to bring humor to the genre- humor that had always been there, because most slasher flicks are the kind awful that makes you laugh... Only deliberate humor is better for a horror movie than accidental humor... like in Cursed which I bought because the whole thing was absolutely hilarious, and as much as I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt, I'm pretty sure that only a third of it was intentional.


Battle Royale (Batoru rowaiaru) (2000). HOLY SHIT, Battle Royale! Alright, so kids in Japan are getting way out of control. They're disrespectful and well on their way to being criminals. So there's this law where they take an entire class of ninth-graders (randomly selected in kind of a lottery type of deal) every year and put them on this island. They wear collars that will blow their heads off if they try to remove the collars, leave the island, or stay in restricted areas. They're told that they all have to kill one another; that only one can survive (after four days, if there's more than one kid left alive, all survivors are killed by the collars). So imagine a strange high school class dynamic of kids, plus weapons, plus free reign to kill classmates however possible. That's Battle Royale, and it's awesome. This is a great delight for me because I am of the firm belief that humans from the age of 7-17 are not people. And it was great fun to watch school-aged children kill and maim each other. This one is really worth seeing, and word is, there's an American remake in the works. While I'm sure it won't be nearly as awesome as the original, I'm going to watch it when it comes out.


28 Days Later (2002). This film looked at the zombie genre and said: okay, post-apocalypse- scary. Ease of becoming infected- scary. Isolation- scary. Dead, rigor-mortised, slow-moving monsters- not as scary as you think, akshully. So they took zombies and turned them into fast moving diseased/infected with hyperactive aggression- kind of like Super Rabies (I know, I know, Quarantine did this later, and it was an okay movie, but this isn't a review of Quarantine, so eat it). They filmed it with a kind of grainy, raw lens which made it feel almost like you were watching home movies of the zombie apocalypse, minus constant shaking and inability to focus the lens on what's important. They used GUITARS to create a really unique soundtrack. And after you've finally adjusted to the zombie apocalypse, they comment on humanity itself. You realize that, when left unchecked, the REAL horror monster is mankind. BUT, screw 28 Weeks Later. They really should have just made a movie that was unrelated, not a sequel, not related to the first- I mean, they pretty much did it anyway (ditching the original movie's cast and specific plot), why pull the title of the first into the picture and sully what was otherwise a perfect end to the movie?


High Tension (2003). This one starts with two French women traveling out to visit one of the girl's families. That night you discover that one of the women is probably gay and seems to have some non-platonic feelings for the other one. So a dude shows up and attacks the family and kidnaps the straight girl. The lesbian, in her undying love for her friend, chases them in an attempt to rescue her. Well after a long, terrifying pursuit, she comes face to face with the bad guy and the battle commences. But don't let this fool you. If you haven't seen this movie, it shines a whole new light on friendship and the idea of good guy vs. bad guy. With "New Born" in French by Muse, a gritty look, and very little dialogue for the vast majority of the movie, it's little wonder where they get the title of the film from. And it really delivers on that promise.



House of 1000 Corpses/Devil's Rejects (2003/2005). Now, it's important that you consider these two as a pairing when you looking at them in my list of top horror movies of the decade. The reason being that they serve as two unique counter point views on the same stories. In House, it's obvious that the people we're supposed to hate and fear are the members of The Family. They're awful cartoony exaggerations of murderous lunatics. But in Devil's Rejects, they're the people you're supposed to actually sympathize with, which, by the end of the movie, believe it or not, you actually do. Alone, neither of these films would be on my list. But together, as an interesting dichotomy (which was deliberate, says Rob Zombie, and is the reason he gave them two entirely different titles), they're both terrifying in totally different ways and it's incredible how RZom manages to make you sympathize for the same Family of heartless, murderous psychopaths that you just watched, two years prior, kill a group of road-tripping kids, and some cheerleaders.


Shaun of the Dead (2004). The ads for this movie implied that it was a zombie parody movie. I half expected something more along the lines of... Scary Movie... But what I found was a really delightful romantic comedy with zombies. You've probably seen this movie by now. It starts over in England, with Shaun in a failing relationship, two less than ideal roommates, a lousy job at an electronics store, and a step father he can't stand. The next day, zombies are walking the earth. Prior to Shaun of the Dead, I had seen my fair share of zombie movies, but was never really passionately in love with the zombie movie genre. I mean, there were lots of things I didn't get/buy about the zombie genre. Then Shaun of the dead came along. Don't get me wrong, there were zombie movies which redefined our expectations of zombies, and that's great. But Shaun of the Dead managed to be both a romantic comedy AND a zombie horror movie. That's a tough one to do, but they did it. And unlike most horror movies, this love connection isn't contrived. Shaun of the Dead probably won't keep you up in the middle of the night because it was terrifying, but it's really delightful, with lots of replay value. It's just all around a great movie that I'll never get tired of.


The Descent (2005). Our lead loses her husband and daughter in a tragic accident. When her friends decide to take her along on one of their regularly scheduled adventurous expeditions, they get trapped in a series of underground caves which also house humanoid monsters which of course, intend to eat them. The movie doesn't just have the group getting picked off one by one. The film also focuses on the all-too-common mistrust among female friends as the group destroys itself. We watch on in horror. The good guys are flawed- some more so than others. Whenever someone asks me about horror movies, I tell them to rent this one. It's one of those movies that sticks in your mind after you've watched it.




Paranormal Activity (2007). Okay, I know it's also new... well, not really. See, it was an independent film that was actually made in 2007 and didn't make main stream until 2009. And I'll probably catch a lot of flack for this one too. Let's cure you of any misconception. This was not real footage from an actual event. This wasn't even based on a true story. They obviously wanted it to look and feel real. But it wasn't. At all. BUT, it's amazing how many viewers it fooled into believing it was real. That really says something for the movie. ALSO, it really uses the classic horror tool, suspense. A lot of movies nowadays like to jump right into the horror, the macabre. Many other horror flicks show you someone getting murdered in the first scene and then let you see the monster/killer over and over throughout the movie. This one takes its time getting scary. It builds a little at a time. You get to know the two main characters. You get to know about their dynamic, about their family history, about how they got where they are, and about what they might be up against. You don't have to see the monster to be afraid. Because it's so "new," I'm going to avoid spilling any possible plot points, but really, a spooky movie, worth watching... with a friend or two, because if you're by yourself, you'll probably need a new pair of pants.


Cloverfield (2008). I know there's a divide in the general public about this movie. I am of the school of thought that this movie was good, scary, and 100% worth watching... repeatedly. You're in New York with a group of people having a going away party for their friend who plans on moving to Tokyo. The man about to leave has feelings for this woman who's now at the party with someone else. You see footage of our lead and this woman being a cute couple sporadically throughout the movie (seems they decided to record the going away party right over top of the only video of these two being romantic). The love interest leaves the party early in a huff. The monster comes and that's the end of the party. Our friend who had been the guest of honor at this party drags some of his friends on a trek across the city to save the girl we all can tell he loves. Now, I have absolutely zero interest in the two main characters and their shitty failed romance. I like Hud, our photographer for the majority of the movie. Now, this movie adopts the shaky cam outlook, as this is supposed to be recovered footage from the camera of the people who star in the movie. The monster is scary, but its scales which drop down after it's been shot... those are really terrifying. It's a really great movie. And Hud's commentary is classic.


Zombieland (2009). I know that it's still super recent. I also know it was a comedy... But there was lots of gore and there were zombies, so I'm putting it on my list. So we find the protagonist in a gas station parking lot trying to go to the bathroom and narrating to us about the rules for survival. Then he comes across some zombies. So he starts running... In large circles around his car. When I saw this movie in theaters, the people sitting behind me (mind you, this is 5 minutes into the movie) said, "Dis movie is ridicalus. Why's he runnin' in circles?" Why is he running in circles? Because if he runs in a straight line, he'll be far as shit from his car when he finally gets away from the zombies. If he runs in circles, he's got time to kill them and he won't have to walk back across town to get to his car. That's what's great about this movie. It's thoughtful. A few minutes later, he meets Woody Harrelson... Well, if you had any wonder as to whether this was a serious zombie movie that probably cleared it up. Seriousness vs. silliness aside, this movie has a variety of good zombie kills. It also has astounding cinematography. It's really impressive. I'm going to try not to spoil any of the details on this one. If you've seen it, you probably know why it's on this list. If you haven't seen it, you should. If you've seen it and didn't like it, then you and I can't be friends. Seriously. Don't talk to me.


(Finally,) Hard Candy (2005). I know this is out of order. BUT it's pretty much my favorite ever, so I saved the best for last. Hayley Stark and Jeff Kohlver have been talking online for some time now. The movie starts with their instant message conversation in which they decide to finally meet. But it's painfully obvious that this man is far too old be interested in a girl so young. There are five characters, and you only see three of them for a combined total of five minutes. The other two are the only people you get for the whole movie. I know this isn't usually classified as a horror film. It's usually classified as a thriller or a psychological drama. But if you're a man, you're going to consider this to be a horror. Every male friend I've ever shown this to has considered this a horror. Just watch it. The cinematics are incredible, the writing is truly convincing, the acting is superb, and the movie is overall fantastic.


Now, there were SEVERAL really great horror movies that I didn't review, for a variety of reasons... But you need to watch: Pitch Black (2000 - Chronicles of Riddick should die in a fire), American Psycho (2000), Frailty (2001), May (2002), Love Object (2003), A Tale of Two Sisters (2004), Dawn of the Dead (2004), Saw (2004- but only if you don't know how it ends), The Grudge (2004- there are three moments in that movie that still haunt me to this day- sacrilege, I know, but I prefer the American version), Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Pan's Labyrinth (2006- I still don't agree with the horror classification, but it's a must see anyway), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Slither (2006), Sweeny Todd (2007), Pandorum (2009- I was angry at it for the first half of the movie, but came around before the end).


CheriAnn “NIXON” Stevens is the artist and generalissimo on the web comic “Pictures of Crying Children” with her writer and fiancé Ian “DASH” Borgstrom. Randall pesters her from time to time on gchat, which like a saint she never complains about. Her signature move is the Falcon Punch, and if you went looking, you might find her living in Riverside, New Jersey. Along with “Pictures of Crying Children” she also has a blog, both of which you should be telling everyone you know about.

Guest Blog: John Wiswell's Top Ten [er...18?] Horror Films of the Decade

• Thursday, January 28, 2010 3 comments
by John Wiswell.

My top ten Horror movies of the decade, starring eighteen movies! Yeah!

[REC] (2007) - The 2000s were the decade of the zombie, so I'll start my list with my favorite. I saw it before it was remade as Quarantine in the U.S. and didn't know what it was about. I thought it was about a contagion. I wish everyone got to go into this not knowing zombies showed up. ... I just ruined it for you, didn't I? Crap. This list isn’t starting well.







Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) - There 2000s were also the decade of the docudrama. Behind the Mask is my favorite of the humorous movies of the decade, following a documentary team that films a lovable killer who wants to be the next Freddy Kruger or Michael Myers. The most unashamedly referential (opening bits are actually "shot" in Haddonfield and Elm Street) and wackily-acted, this is the only movie I've ever bought two DVDs of. They were on sale, but still.






The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) - An indy docudrama that has existed in pre-release-Hell for years. Unlike [REC] and Cloverfield, Poughkeepsie Tapes is presented like a real documentary about a serial killer, with his disturbing home movies cut between interviews with the police and experts who pursued him, and the families of his victims. Bit actors who might never get a chance in a major motion picture filled out a world that feels way too authentic. Whenever you can finally see it, if the subject matter interests you, please see it.





Cloverfield (2008) - I may have watched Blair Witch Project more than any other movie. I have certainly owned more Godzilla movies than movies in any other series. Then they had a baby! This movie was made for me! I'm told this isn't Horror, but there's a giant monster, bugs in the subway, and kids puking in the theatre. That's lifetime achievement award material right there.







Dawn of the Dead (2004 Remake) – Remember when I said this was the decade of the zombie and the docudrama? You knew I was full of crap, right? This was the decade of the remake! And Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead is a landmark Horror remake for three reasons. 1) It's good. 2) It convinced studio executives that every Horror movie should be remade. 3) It doesn't try to be a remake at all, it just has the premise of zombies at a mall. 1) and 3) are quite novel. I wish it had a different title, going the Hatchet route of merely showing its influences on its sleeve, but what can you do? It's dumb fun and zombies running gave so many of my college friends nightmares.



Shaun of the Dead (2004) - Randall will probably tell you why this is funny. So in lieu of praising it, I'd rather relate that I thought it was okay on my first viewing. Pretty funny on the second. Really funny on the third. Hurt myself laughing the next time. Six viewings and it's still funnier every time. I don't know how this happened. All I know is, "We're coming to get you, Barbara!"








28 Days Later (2002) – Slumdog Millionaire if you replace “India” with “Zombies.” I love Danny Boyle, but this is an exercise in crapping on your characters, giving them a couple of minutes only to crap on them even harder, in the effort to make your audience beg for a happy ending. In a cynical world where happy endings are cliché (despite happening less often in serious dramatic films than sad endings), I respect the heck out of them for making it work. The movie is packed with great moments, from wandering the barren streets of London, to the Ave Maria grocery shopping scene, to that one infection. You know that one infection! That one that made the girl in the next row jump up, turn around and scream at me, “That’s not fair!” No movie this decade, no matter how blockbuster huge or art house emotional, has done anything like that to an audience. I also respect the heck out of 28 Days Later for coming up with something more ridiculous than Night of the Living Dead’s radioactive satellite from Venus: it’s infectious monkey anger. That’s the sign of a great movie. Turn infectious monkey anger into something that makes my friends cry with relief.


The Descent (2005) - Not a remake, not based on a Japanese one, not a documentary thing, not a referential comedy or anything. This was just an amazing Horror movie. Remarkably non-slutty, non-moronic women go cave diving and go too deep. They have personalities, charm, and when the beasties show up they aren't hapless pansies. They're mortal and some die, but it's earned in a way you don't even think about in most Horror. The star of the movie is the cave - so huge, so dark, so cramped, channeling every kind of environmental fear, often in ambience if not utter silence.


Hatchet (2006) - Actually advertised as not being a remake or based on a Japanese one! Instead of remaking Friday the 13th, they paid grotesque homage and drew cameos from Robert Englund, Tony Todd and Kane Hodder. Where Descent broke the mold of female stereotypes, Hatchet broke the mold of characters in a slasher movie I didn't care about. Almost everyone was at least funny. The death scenes are so lovingly crafted that I can only hope the special effects crew got counseling afterwards.





Devil's Backbone (2001) - One of two movies on this list you could argue me into agreeing isn't Horror. The ghost child in the basement is a Horror trope, but the whole movie's Gothic sensibility sometimes works as a hard look at children's stories, a civil war picture and a movie about incurable failures in adults. It's like Guillermo Del Toro baked just a quarter of his pizza with Horror toppings. Blood is the sauce all around.






Ginger Snaps (2000)- I mock True Blood for doing a bad imitation of X-Men's tolerance and difference themes with the girl who played Rogue. Ginger Snaps actually taps the same X-Men vein, but it does it well: the split between friends, the sex drive awakening, the changes. The morbid leads helped give it style before the plot broke them up, but the maturation is something that's obvious with most of its allusions, yet never violates the fiction. They're living those examples, rather than playing out examples to make points. Also, holy crap a good werewolf movie!




1408 (2007) – One of the best ghost movies in years. Samuel L. Jackson may always play the same character, but as the warden and eventual personification of a haunted hotel, he experienced one of his best casting opportunities. The randomness eventually tied together and that room was light and wallpapered authentically, but rather than the traditional eeriness of many ghost movies, what shone were the little things. Cusack rests his hand on the window exactly where the suicidal ghost had. That’s layers of creepy that beat actual creepiness. And a ghost movie that had the guts to rip into skeptics for their motives? Wow.




The Host (2006) - Joe Lynch said this was like Jaws meeting Little Miss Sunshine. A mildly demented family is caught in the wake of a genuinely unique-looking beast. It makes you question how far into the movie they'll go before they'll stop having gags (spoiler: they won't stop) and how bad things can get (spoiler: surprisingly sad).








Silent Hill (2006) - That's right, I liked it! It was great. Get off my lawn! It helps that I deeply love the games and know exactly the mindset necessary to understand this movie. In fact, I entered it without thinking, as did the friend who accompanied me. By far the best videogame movie (there's an Ignoble Award waiting to happen), sporting one of the best soundtracks of the decade, and set and creature design that have way more thought in them than they get credit.






Freddy Vs. Jason (2003) - That's right, I liked it! It was great. Get off my lawn!













Trick 'r Treat (2008) - There were three movies that appeared almost at the end of 2009, right before the decade ended. If you think the decade ends in December 2010, we can have a fist fight about it later. Trick 'r Treat was the first of those three, popping on video in time for Halloween, relishing in the traditions of Halloween and so many twists you expect the top to come off and pumpkin-flavored booze to pour off the screen. It peaked early with the principle story, but was still a blast.







Let the Right One In (2008) - Like Silence of the Lambs, one of those Horror movies so good that you do a double-take when people call it Horror. This is the genre where Jason lives, right? Above invoking fear, it's about two desperately lonely children and three amazing performances (including the voice of Eli) that puts it up there with Lord of the Flies, Devil's Backbone and Stand By Me in terms of great movies about children. One of those kids rips a lady's neck open, so it's Horror. Case closed. Heart touched.





Paranormal Activity (2009) - I saw it Halloween day in a theatre sparsely populated by stereotypes. Their shrieking made this so much more fun. It's a great piece of work on its own for being such a slow burn. It could be downright boring in the first twenty minutes, but it's not for bad acting. It really is like people taping themselves. So when spooky things actually happen to them? It was perhaps the first time since the Lord of the Rings films that I forgot what I was watching wasn't real. Anything that can achieve that deserves huge props.






There you go: the top ten Horror movies of the decade. If you don’t like the top ten being eighteen, pick ten of them. Pick the ten you’ve heard of. Pick the ten you like. Pick the ten artsy ones. All I ask is you watch what you love.


John Wiswell is prolific fiction writer currently residing in an undisclosed location called Hillsdale, New York. The majority of he and Randall’s conversations revolve around proofreading, word placement, and whether or not that wrist lock seems believable. This entire thing was his idea, and don’t let him deny it for a single minute. You can read his short form fiction on his blog “The Bathroom Monologues” which he updates with new work daily, or follow him on Twitter.

Guest Blog: Kate Hensley's Top Ten Foreign Horror Films of the Decade

• Wednesday, January 27, 2010 6 comments
by Kate Hensley.


10. Otto ; or, Up with Dead People (2008) I don’t think any country but Germany could have brought us a hardcore gay existential zombie flick, complete with gang bangs, wound penetration, and the first zombie suicide. Poor Otto the vegetarian zombie, doomed to feed on roadkill. But is Otto truly a zombie? Or does he just think he’s a zombie? If he thinks he’s a zombie, then he is a zombie, isn’t he? I hope he didn’t eat dead crows for nothin’. The heart-rending denouement has parallels in today’s un-undead gay community, but the scene where a zombie kills and eats a buff hottie who reanimates halfway through the meal and becomes the object of a different basic hunger really steals the show.



9. The Descent (2005) Yes, it’s set in America, but it was produced and filmed in the UK by a British director. Bucking tradition, it features an all-female, silicone-free cast, subterranean monsters called ‘crawlers’ who are played by actual people in these things called prosthetics and costumes, and a hell of a downer of an ending. Fear and tension are introduced slowly, using all the available possibilities a spelunking expedition has to offer – heights, claustrophobia, drowning, and the dark – before finally introducing some of the most terrifying monsters I’ve seen in a decade. Not that I don’t love American slashers and thrillers that wait oh, five minutes before they give it to you hard, then just keep pounding you with it ‘til the end; it’s just, well, can’t we ever just make love? And since this movie didn’t OD on CGI, I can watch it again in ten years without peeing myself at how ridiculous it looks.


8. The Orphanage/El Orfanato (2007) This Spanish film was inspired by classics like Poltergeist, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Omen, which results in a lack of gratuitous nudity or buckets of blood. What it does boast is a classic haunted house story, a genuine mystery, and creepy orphans. Without resorting to cheap scares – “I’m gonna shut this door to reveal my dog/my mom/absolutely nothing, and here’s some scary music and purposeless camera work to fake you out!” – The Orphanage gave me crawly skin and sweaty palms, and then bitch-slapped me with some Oedipus-level ironic tragedy. Ghost children and compelling plots aren’t your thing? The female lead has some impressive implants and a wardrobe full of low necklines!


7. [REC] (2007) P.O.V. style film-making is a hard style to pull off unless you’re a porno director, and not even my longtime boyfriend George Romero really thrilled me with his foray into the genre. However, this Spanish thriller about a news reporter and her cameraman quarantined with in an apartment building as some crazy rage-virus begins its world domination simply rocked my socks. I hope you made the effort to see the original. As much as I love Jennifer Carpenter’s legs, Quarantine, while being almost exactly the same, didn’t achieve the same beats per minute - kinda like banging Ashley Olsen. [REC] also went there and blamed the whole demon virus on the Vatican, which deserves a fist-bump, IMHO.


6. 28 Days Later (2002) I could seriously money-shot all over this movie’s face. It opens with the ever-elusive male frontal nudity, reinvents the classic zombie apocalypse premise while melding it with the coming-of-age drama, showcases a great cast playing interesting characters (and not one but two strong females), manages to pull your heart strings repeatedly yet end happily, and has a seriously badass and now-iconic score. Plus terror. Heaps and heaps of terror, paced perfectly, and culminating in an orgy of tension that had me literally writhing the first time I watched it. If I have to employ Pilates side-wall breathing to calm myself, it has earned its place in this list.



5. Martyrs (2008) This second effort from Frenchie Pascal Laugier combines survivor’s guilt, the revenge genre, mad scientists, and man’s quest for spiritual revelation in one of the most brutal packages ever to grace film stock. Lucie, an orphan who escaped from captivity and torture as a child, believes she has found her captors, and after blowing the whole family away with a double barreled shotgun, enlists her orphan best friend Anna to bury the bodies. But this is no simple torture flick. The family is but one branch of an organization dedicated to creating martyrs, in the hopes that in the time before their death the martyrs will share their revelations of the next world. Lucie, a failed experiment, is disposed of, and Anna begins her own agonizing journey. The end is such a pricktease I almost punched my television, but it’s somewhat mitigated by the most mind-blowing cringe-worthy full body prosthetic I have ever feasted my gorehound eyes on.


4. High Tension/Haut Tension (2003) Okay, I realize that this movie has massive plot issues. Severe dissociative identity disorder and homicidal tendencies need to be supported by more than unrequited lesbian lust. Also, Dean Koontz called and says he wants some royalty kickbacks. That said, the title is incredibly apt, and this film is a tension filled splatter-fest. Also, Cécile de France is hot. Get your hands on a European release for two more very important minutes of arterial spray, shotgun blasts, and a bookcase decapitation.





3. Inside/A l’Interieur (2007) Johnny Depp’s hot French wife loses her husband in a fatal car crash. On Christmas Eve, she prepares to spend the night alone in her Parisian home during the suburban riots. The next day, she will go to the hospital to deliver her baby - or will she? Not if Béatrice Dalle has anything to do with it! Armed with some wicked huge shears, she infiltrates Allysson Paradis’s home, intent on stealing the fruit of her womb, destroying anyone who happens to stop by – friends, family, the police, even some poor teenager who just wanted to set a car or two on fire. The unflinching end – come on, you know where this is going – is a prosthetic triumph awash in a sea of blood. Can you tell I like female-centric films?


2. Shaun of the Dead (2004) The best romantic comedy zombie movie since Dead Alive, SoTD combines humor, heart, and well, hearts, with a great rock and roll soundtrack and the best-choreographed zombie fight scene ever, hands-down. This British flick is proof that you don’t have to trade blood and guts for character development and the exploration of human connection, as everyman Shaun combats an undead horde while evaluating his relationships with his girlfriend, his ex- girlfriend, his best friend, his flatmate, his mum and (step)dad.





1. Let the Right One In/Lat den Ratte Komma in (2008) Swedish vampires don’t sparkle, they employ Renfields who commit mass murder and bring home the bacon in Tupperware. Twelve-ish year old Eli befriends lonely, bullied Oskar and encourages him to stand up for himself. Their friendship blooms and she manages not to eat him when her servant consistently flubs the takeout. We get to see an acid burn, a turned vampire commit suicide with the sun, a teenager drained like a prize buck, a vicious classic vamp attack, and Oskar snotting all over himself, Blair Witch-style, but the infamous swimming pool end takes the cake. Or head. Whatever. It’s a beautiful, artful, touching exploration of childhood loneliness and friendship, reinvents some facets of vampire mythology and the sound effects team deserves a righteous b.j. Look for a crappy American remake this year.

So that’s it, kids! I love American slashers, gorefests, thrillers, and frightfests, but get over yourself and read some subtitles!


Kate Hensley teaches English to teenagers at Lycee Arthur Rimbaud in Douai, France, while also modeling for figure drawing, sculpture, and portrait classes at L’Ecole d’Art de Douai. She was unlucky enough to work with Randall in his first attempt at a real job, but wound up forgiving him for being so damn neurotic, and then gave him a hug anyway. She’s currently touring the Continent, and if you’d like her to school you further on foreign films, she can be contacted via her
Facebook page.