Horror 2008, a Retrospective: Part 1, January to March

Posted by Peter Hall - December 22nd 2008 @ 10:45 pm

Part 1: January to March.
Part 2: April to June.
Part 3: July to September.
Part 4: October to December.
Part 5: Events.
Part 6: Awards. (coming)

This was fun.  I set off to do a roundup of 2008’s horror output, good and bad, and ended up with a rather nice guide, a work in progress to be broken into 6 sections: One for each quarter’s theatrical and DVD releases, one for major news and obituaries, and a final for a Top 10 of 2008.

The criteria rests that a film must be uniquely relevant to 2008.  That is not to say that a title must be mutually exclusive to ’08, just that it be important.  For example, ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE premiered in 2006, but wasn’t made available to paying customers outside of a film festival until earlier this year in the UK.

As for the date framing to follow, these are not ironclad.  All US titles should fall within their respective releases.  It is tougher to place something like MANDY LANE or ROVDYR, which having no US release could go either by their foreign theater or DVD runs.  So don’t complain too much about where a film lies, this will all be on one page once all parts are done, but if I’ve left something off entirely – and I am sure I have – please let me know.

January:


CLOVERFIELD

Who Made it: Dir. Matt Reeves, Scr. Drew Goddard, Starring: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman

Links: HND Review, Rotten Tomatoes, Trailers, Netflix

How it will be remembered:

As the BLAIR WITCH of a new generation.  No, not because of the found-footage POV style, but Reeves’ skiddish reveal of towering Clovie will be as anticlimactic for the PG-13 crowd as Michael standing in a corner as the camera falls to the ground was for their older brothers and sisters.  A whole new generation of horror fans, the kind unaware of the kaiju influences of CLOVERFIELD, are bound to remember the disappointment that the monster is so rarely glimpsed.

Vets, though, will develop a fond attachment over time.  Enough adventure (skyscraper to skyscraper climb, anyone?) and invention to feel fresh.  Plus, America just does not have enough city sized monster movies.


ONE MISSED CALL

Who Made it: Dir. Eric Valette, Scr. Andrew Klavan, Starring: Shannyn Sossamon, Edward Burns, Ray Wise

Links: No HND Review, Rotten Tomatoes, Trailers, Netflix

How it will be remembered:

Vaguely.  Horror fans will remember it as a remake of a piece of J-Horror that was only mention worthy because Takashi Miike directed it.  I’m sure some of the target audience out there may have been jolted by ONE MISSED CALL, but the rest of us see right through the dreadful acting.  If you ever wondered why a face as pretty as Shannyn Sossamon never had a wider career in front of the camera, look no further.  Not even Ray Wise, who makes everything awesome, could lift the doldrums of a movie about technology defiant cell phone calls from the future that predict ones death.


TEETH

Who Made it: Dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein, Scr. Mitchell Lichtenstein, Starring: Jess Weixler, John Hensley, Hale Appleman

Links: HND Review, Rotten Tomatoes, Trailers, Netflix

How it will be remembered:

TEETH will always be reduced to, “That movie about the girl with teeth in her vagina,” an unfair categorization.  Sure, that is an accurate description, but there is much more to it.  Jess Weixler could not have given a more uninhibited, nuanced performance, Lichtenstein could not have delivered more refrained, knee wobbling, yet still tasteful imagery of mauled penis.

I’m a huge fan of this funny, jaw slackening film.  I think it is a great creature feature of a breed people aren’t accustomed to seeing.  TEETH had a good across festivals throughout 2007, but its US theatrical release, a limited one, wasn’t until January ’08.  Unfortunately I was only ever able to catch it on DVD.  I’d of loved to have been in a theater to hear the music of every man’s seat cushions shift in unison.  You’ll do just as well to show TEETH to a mixed group of friends.  Few movies this year will warrant as vocal a reaction as this will.


WHITE NOISE 2: THE LIGHT

Who Made it: Dir. Patrick Lussier, Scr. Matt Venne, Starring: Nathan Fillion, Katee Sackhoff, Craig Fairbrass

Links: HND Review, Rotten Tomatoes, Trailers, Netflix

How it will be remembered:

Fondly.  By those who have actually seen it, that is.  I believe it filled seats in the UK, but WHITE NOISE 2 went straight to DVD in America.  A wise choice, I suppose, as a sequel in name only to the maligned WHITE NOISE was never destined to be a blockbuster.  Which is a shame, because it is a solid movie.  Nathan Fillion is, as always, reliably charming, but it is Matt Venne’s script that takes things up a notch.

After a near death experience, Fillion is burned with an ability to see those who are marked for imminent death.  Coming to terms with this, his character begins to take on the role of an almost dark superhero, until he realizes that those whose lives he saved are doomed to become homicidal three days later.  It’s a clever script, much smarter than anyone could have predicted a WHITE NOISE 2 to be.  Yet still it is cursed with that name, a name that people rightfully have no interest in.  Get past it though and THE LIGHT is a nice reward.


LAKE PLACID 2

Who Made it: Dir. David Flores, Scr. Todd Hurvitz and Howie Miller, Starring: John Schneider, Sarah Lafleur, Chad Collins

Links: HND Review, Rotten Tomatoes, Trailers, Netflix

How it will be remembered:

It won’t.  LAKE PLACID 2 is fucking awful.  Fuckers even Vanilla Iced a real photograph for their abysmal DVD’s cover.


ROVDYR

Who Made it: Dir. Patrik Syversen, Scr. Nini Bull Robsahm, Patrik Syversen, Starring: Kristina Leganger Aaserud, Janne Beate Bønes, Henriette Bruusgaard, Jørn Bjørn Fuller Gee

Links: HND Review, Rotten Tomatoes, Trailers, No Netflix

How it will be remembered:

ROVDYR won’t be remembered stateside until 2009 when it gets a proper release, but 2008 is when it kicked off a few festivals and a domestic Norwegian run.  It is currently available on Region 2 DVD and BRD and, for enthusiasts, worth the cost.  It is a very respectful, to the point backwoods stab-em-up that few have heard of or seen.

If you’re looking for a horror movie that you haven’t read tons about, this may be 2008’s best bet.  Underexposed sums it up in one word.  Give it time, though, and ROVDYR will have its share of fans thanks to A class, heart thumping brutality that takes place 100% in the daylight.  Any horror movie that can thrill with its characters under sun holds an automatic special place in my heart.


February:

BLACK WATER

Who Made it: Dir David Nerlich and Andrew Traucki, Scr. David Nerlich and Andrew Traucki, Starring: Diana Glenn, Maeve Dermody, Andy Rodoreda, Ben Oxenbould

Links: No HND Review, Rotten Tomatoes, Trailers, Netflix

How it will be remembered:

Without question BLACK WATER is the top film released in 2008 that I’ve seen and not yet reviewed.  I’ve no valid excuse as to why I haven’t, either.  It’s a great movie.  Very intense with fine performances, perhaps unfairly, summed under the umbrella of, “OPEN WATER with Crocodiles.”

The effects work is top notch, seamlessly blending real crocs in lethal proximity to the cast with prosthetics and little CGI.  BLACK WATER came out in Australia in ’07, but ’08 found its widest release to date.  Fine little film.


STORM WARNING

Who Made it: Dir. Jamie Blanks, Scr. Everett De Roche, Starring: Nadia Farès, John Brumpton

Links: HND Review, Rotten Tomatoes, Trailers, Netflix

How it will be remembered:

As another sweet Australian shocker.  City couple tortured by hillbillies has never been my bag.  Far from it, actually, but STORM WARNING plays its cards just right.  The hill folk are creepy without being mutated inbreds and the couple are not painted solely as obnoxious had-it-coming wine lovers.  The set pieces are grander than most modest-budgeted affairs these days and the script goes into dark territory with an infectious grin on its face.  Not to mention it’ll take a lot of huffed paint to forget the bottle boasting climax.

This Australian surge in horror arguably would not have been possible without the spotlight WOLF CREEK drew, but it has nothing on STORM WARNING.  Or BLACK WATER for that matter.


THE EYE

Who Made it: Dir. David Moreau and Xavier Palud, Scr. Sebastian Gutierrez, Starring: Jessica Alba, Alessandro Nivola, Parker Posey

Links: HND Review, Rotten Tomatoes, Trailers, Netflix

How it will be remembered:

As just another inadequate, pointless remake of an otherwise good bit of Asian horror.  I might be one of the few people on the planet who thinks that Jessica Alba has somewhere in her the ability to emote, but THE EYE won’t be convincing anyone else of that.  She’s stale Vanilla Waffers in this and her hotness is played down to boot.

THE EYE was the first American vehicle from the French duo behind THEM, a great, bare-bones home invasion movie.  Don’t expect any of the same taught pacing and quickened pulse setups here.


THE SIGNAL

Who Made it: Dir. David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry, Scr. David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry, Starring: Anessa Ramsey, Sahr Ngaujah, AJ Bowen, Justin Welborn, Cheri Christian

Links: HND Review, Rotten Tomatoes, Trailers, Netflix

How it will be remembered:

As a valiant Indie anthology film that struck its own path for better or worse.  I’m not the biggest fan of THE SIGNAL – I think Justin Welborn is great in it and the script, separated into three segments, has a few good highs – but even I have to acknowledge how unique it is.  The plot of a tech signal turning those who hear it into not-zombie zombies may sound like a rip-off of CELL, but the three filmmakers stake that their film was underway before any of them had heard of Stephen King’s book.


March:

FUNNY GAMES U.S.

Who Made it: Dir. Michael Haneke, Scr. Michael Haneke, Starring: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet

Links: HND Review, Rotten Tomatoes, Trailers, Netflix

How it will be remembered:

As a good, but oddly unnecessary remake by Michael Haneke of his own clever, albeit pretentious film that challenges the demagogy of horror films and horror fans.  Naomi Watts once again proves that she has few generational acting peers, while Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet cement themselves as the source of Halloween outfits for film geeks.


DIARY OF THE DEAD

Who Made it: Dir. George A. Romero, Scr. George A. Romero, Starring: Michelle Morgan, Joshua Close, Shawn Roberts, Amy Ciupak Lalonde

Links: HND Review, Rotten Tomatoes, Trailers, Netflix

How it will be remembered:

Inconsistently.  George Romero’s return to more grassroots filmmaking was a mixed bag by all accounts.  The acting is hit and miss, as is the makeup.  The script waffles between inspiration and exasperation.  But, come on, it’s Romero!  Loved or hated, DIARY OF THE DEAD at least commands to be seen once.


DOOMSDAY

Who Made It: Dir. Neil Marshall, Scr. Neil Marshall, Starring: Rhona Mitra,
Bob Hoskins, Alexander Siddig, Adrian Lester

Links: No HND Review, Rotten Tomatoes, Trailers, Netflix

How it will be remembered:

As madness, plain and simple.  Biggest supporters will (mis)remember DOOMSDAY as a genius mix of action and horror in a most absurd backdrop.  More balanced viewers should be able to take a step back, realize that DOOMSDAY takes place in the future yet features a gladiator fight in a castle; ’nuff said.  Personally, I think Neil Marshall finally hit on the right kind of stupid with this ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK 28 YEARS LATER chimera.

Gotta give it up to Rhona Mitra, though.  She’s not the most ranged thespian around, but who would have ever thought the girl who got (gloriously) naked and (ingloriously) raped by Kevin Bacon in HOLLOW MAN – the most throwaway of throwaway roles – would end up anchoring multilmillion dollar action/horror hybrids?  That’s impressive.  Gal has got tenacity.


SHUTTER

Who Made It: Dir. Masayuki Ochiai, Scr. Luke Dawson, Starring: Joshua Jackson, Rachael Taylor

Links: No HND Review, Rotten Tomatoes, Trailers, Netflix

How it will be remembered:

It won’t.  Not content with remaking J and K horror, SHUTTER marked the first time Hollywood went to the Thai well for cash grabbing.  It did not pay off.

I’m a fan of the original SHUTTER, which was a refreshing jaunt of yūrei, aka the long-haired Asian ghost niche, with a nice ending.  I’ve not actually seen the Americana version (the first on this list I haven’t), so I won’t talk smack yet, but there’s no evidence to suggest SHUTTER is anything more than what you think it is.

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rss 11 comments
  1. G
    December 23rd, 2008 | 7:51 am | #1

    Rovdyr aka Manhunt = a small neo classic.

  2. Brian
    December 23rd, 2008 | 9:13 am | #2

    Alright, I’m moving Black Water to the (near) top of my queue. It is so hard to get my wife to watch horror movies, I figure I can go with the “don’t worry it could never happen to you in real life” angle, unlike say…THE STRANGERS.

    Wait…we live in Central Florida, where gators are as prevalent as crocs in Australia. Maybe she won’t notice.

    It is better than that other recent Australian croc movie, ROUGE, right? I wasn’t overly impressed with that one.

  3. December 23rd, 2008 | 10:05 am | #3

    Yeah, Brian, I think BLACK WATER is a lot better than ROGUE. BLACK WATER is to ROGUE as DIE HARD is to LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD. It’s gritty, minimalistic and, save for one notable shot, doesn’t have any lumbering computers doing the hard work.

  4. December 23rd, 2008 | 11:34 am | #4

    I don’t get what you mean about CLOVERFIELD/BLAIR WITCH. People wanted more monster/less corner?

    Who? (Let me know so I can proactively avoid them.)

  5. December 23rd, 2008 | 12:06 pm | #5

    Oh, yeah. If the crowd walking out of the theater is any indication of the larger whole, all the complaints were, “That was bullshit, you never got to see the thing!”

  6. Brian
    December 23rd, 2008 | 12:13 pm | #6

    To this day, if a friend of mine silently stands in a corner, facing the wall, it scares me.

    To the point some poop comes out. Just a little.

    It is going to be a long work day.

  7. December 23rd, 2008 | 12:31 pm | #7

    Brian, I think you keep making an excellent case as to why you and Goss should be best friends.

  8. December 23rd, 2008 | 3:29 pm | #8

    Just as an FYI, a good number of the Netflix links up there, aren’t.

  9. December 23rd, 2008 | 3:40 pm | #9

    Ah, thanks, should be fixed now.

  10. December 24th, 2008 | 8:00 pm | #10

    omg you liek totaly forgot boogeyman2 (1-8) and catacombs (2-19)

  11. PT
    December 26th, 2008 | 5:42 pm | #11

    Wow, had no idea there’s a years gap between UK and US release of White Light 2.

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