The Best Films of 2010 [My Awards Nominees and Top 10 List]

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You wouldn’t be able to tell it just looking at how often HND is updated these days, but I swear I do still love horror movies.  The reason the site is so infrequently updated is simple, really:  No one pays me to do it.  I started this site over four years ago as a hobby.  It was a means for me to hone my writing craft while also serving as my own personal film school.  And things were going good until about a year-and-a-half ago.  That’s when I quit my old job, moved to Austin, TX and tried to see if I could sucker people into paying me to write about movies full time.  Much to my own astonishment, it worked and I now write about movies for a living.

And while I’m unbelievably fortunate to be able to make a decent income off of doing this, the unfortunate side effect of getting paid to write about movies is that, if no one is paying me to do it, I’m not all that motivated to, well, do it.  It sucks, I know, but the truth is that writing is exhausting– and now that writing is my day job, I’m too tired to do it for my night job too, which is what HND has always been for me.

Earlier this year I was accepted into the Austin Film Critics Association, an organization that I am incredibly proud to be a part of.  Yesterday the AFCA released our Best of 2010 Awards, and while I stand behind what we collectively ended up awarding best-of-the-year, I definitely didn’t side with the rest of the group on nearly all of the winners.  So, I wanted to share my nominations for each category as well as my Top 10 list for the year.  Just keep in mind that this is A) not horror-exclusive and B)  films that had a US theatrical release in 2010 (except for The Loved Ones, which I love too much not to vote for).

And yes, I will be doing my own horror-exclusive version of these awards in the next week or two.

BEING HUMAN Season 2 Blu-ray Review

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Created by Toby Whithouse

I have, unfortunately, sat on BEING HUMAN for far too long.  When I first heard of the British series back in 2008 I basically knew it as the show about a ghost, a werewolf and a vampire living together.  It sounded promising, but I was unfamiliar with anyone involved with the series so I didn’t allow myself to get too excited.  And then I watched the pilot and was… thoroughly disappointed.  Whithouse and company were trying to desperately to tap into the pseduo-gothic world of supernatural romance novels and hipster-looking vampires and timid, why-am-I-still-here ghosts just aren’t my thing.  It did have a pretty good werewolf transformation, though, so it wasn’t a total loss.  After the pilot, though, I kind of forgot about the show.

This was a mistake.

I knew that the core trio had been recast for the actual series and that the first episode had been entirely rewritten, but I just never got around to watching the proper first season.  However, with the recent release of Season 2 on Blu-ray here in the States, I decided I might as well give in to the buzz the show had been earning for over two years now and catch up.  I’m glad I did.

If you’re entirely unfamiliar with BEING HUMAN, here’s the gist of it: a ghost (Lenora Crichlow), a werewolf (Russell Tovey) and a vampire (Aidan Turner) live together; all three just want to be…wait for it…human.  Pretty simple, really.  However, what makes the show great is that it shed a lot of the angst from the original pilot and became a solid drama about the lives of three people who happened to all be creatures of the night.  The heavy lifting in that regards was done in the first season, but for my money it’s season 2 where things really get interesting.  No longer are they simply dealing with how to live together or adjust to their abnormal way of life (Annie the ghost and George the werewolf are much newer to this world than Mitchell the vampire), but how they fit into the bigger picture of the supernatural world.  And what’s great about that is they have no idea that they do fit into the big picture.

HOUSE (HAUSU) Blu-ray Review [Oh, Japan!]

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Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977
Written by Chiho Katsura

Reputations are an interesting thing on their own, but they can be exceptionally curious when it comes to the horror genre.  If anything garners a reputation within our walls, it’s likely because it is either A) notoriously bad or B) notoriously shocking.  So once a fan catches wind of a reputation, it’s practically impossible to not hold the film up to the exaggerated fancies and standards that have heard about.  In the case of HAUSU, the reputation isn’t one of being bad or shocking, it’s just known as being a notoriously weird Japanese film.

Well, now that the Criterion Collection have released the film on Blu-ray and DVD in the US, I’ve finally had a chance (and an excuse) to see what the hubbub is all about.  Annnnd…….

Yeah.  It’s got a reputation for a reason: HAUSU is pretty damned bizarre.  However, I don’t think it’s the nonsensical oddity that many make it out to be.  It’s got a lot of interesting artistic merit and clear intent to it (after all, Criterion put their stamp of approval on it by delivering this pristine presentation of the movie), but, yes, it’s certainly one of the weirder, if not weirdest, Japanese genre exports around.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 Review [One of 2010’s Best Horror Movie Surprises]

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Directed by Tod Williams, 2010
Written by Michael R. Perry

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 may just be one of the best  horror movie surprises of the year.  Obviously it is destined to be a hit after the massive success of the first film, which is the kind of movie that even if you hated, you had to admire it.  But who was really expecting it to be a smart, progressive approach to the presentation?  After all, what made the first movie so great was that it wasn’t by a master director of the genre, it was made by a dude for $15,000 in his own house with amateur actors.  It was the entire homemade aspect of it that made its haunted house story so damned effective with audiences the world over, surely a studio’s attempt to franchise the concept would dull the effect, no?

It doesn’t.  It doesn’t dull it one bit.  PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 is not only as creepy and effective as Oren Peli’s original film, but it bests the film in almost every regard.  As well a sequel should.

That’s why it’s such a surprise how rock solid the film actually is.  Visually, it’s not very hard to emulate what made the original film such a scary experience, but it is a difficult task to not merely raise the bar in the fright department.  A good sequel needs to both explore and elevate the material the first film introduced, and that is exactly what Tod Williams’ film does.  I won’t say how it does so for risk of spoilers, but I will say that the transition between the two films is inspired and graceful and that if you’ve somehow escaped seeing Peli’s experiment thus far, you’re going to want to see it before you see this one.

Interview: AJ Bowen, Simon Barrett and Travis Stevens on A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE [Fantastic Fest 2010]

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One of the most unique films I saw at this year’s Fantastic Fest wasn’t some experimental flick about killer tires or a crazy Japanese movie about killer fish store owners, it was a little American indie called A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE.  Written by Simon Barrett (DEAD BIRDS), directed by Adam Wingard (POP SKULL) and starring AJ Bowen (THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL), Amy Seimetz (WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY) and Joe Swanberg (LOL), AHWTD is a thoughtful and haunting serial killer movie that strives – and succeeds – to be unlike every other serial killer movie.

Hopefully I’ll get off my ass and start working through my Fantastic Fest reviews so I can write about the film at greater length, but in short I think it’s damn good.  It’s got a unique approach to what it means to be a serial killer, a very sharp script and a hell of a set of performances in it.  It shouldn’t be much of a surprise, then, that it took home awards for Best Screenplay, Actor and Actress at the festival.

I wish I could have done it sooner in the fest before director Adam Wingard had to leave, but I did make sure to have a chat with the very cool Simon Barrett, AJ Bowen and producer Travis Stevens over some drinks before they left town.  Anchor Bay has picked up their film for US distribution, so I’ll be sure to update things whenever I know when people will be able to see this gem, but in the mean time here’s a nice little interview about serial killers, killer land sharks, the studio system, nihilism in horror and AJ Bowen’s tits*.

*My quest to be the SEO king of the search term “AJ Bowen’s tits” begins!

MOTHER’S DAY Review [Fantastic Fest 2010]

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Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, 2010
Written by Scott Milam

Since the first thing that’s on any fan’s mind when it comes to a remake is how said film stacks up with the original, let’s just cut to the chase: I have no idea how Darren Lynn Bousman’s remake of MOTHER’S DAY compares to Troma’s original.  I’ve never seen it and, to be honest, I had no idea what the movie was about.  Given the title and my tiny knowledge that the original was from the ’80s, I assumed it was just another holiday-themed slasher.  And for all I still know, the original could be that or it could be a documentary about Hallmark.  Point is, I had no idea what to expect from Bousman’s latest, which is no doubt why I was pleasantly surprised by it.

Turns out MOTHER’S DAY isn’t a holiday-themed slasher, it’s a fairly twisted home invasion story about three criminal brothers who take refuge at their mother’s house after some manner of heist goes wrong.  One of them is bleeding badly from a brutal gutshot (seriously, the make-up effects on it are pretty damned gnarly once you see the thing), but the other two can’t exactly give his wound the attention it deserves because they’re too busy wondering why the inside of their mother’s house looks completely different from how it did a few months ago.  The new owners also happen to be too busy partying in the basement with their fellow suburbanites to notice their living room is now a fugitive triage center.

Of course eventually someone has to go upstairs, and thus begins one hell of a Yom Kippur.

HATCHET 2 Interview: Adam Green, Danielle Harris and Kane Hodder Explain What’s Wrong With Horror Movies

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A little over a week ago at Fantastic Fest I did an impromptu interview with Adam Green, Danielle Harris and Kane Hodder about HATCHET 2.  No one had any idea of the controversy that would soon befall their little film, so if you’re expecting any revelations as to why exactly AMC pulled the film from their theaters during its opening weekend, you won’t find it here.  (But you will find it at Cinematical.)  What you will find below is an off-the-cuff chat with three very cool horror fans.  

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE: UNRATED Review [Fantastic Fest 2010]

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Directed by Steven R. Monroe, 2010
Written by Stuart Morse

Steven R. Monroe’s remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is one of the most pathetic films I have ever seen.  I am aware that is going to sound like exaggeration or a kind of knee-jerk reaction; I assure you it is neither.  It’s a completely worthless enterprise that offers nothing to the world other than the crushing realization that it exists.

There’s no surprise there, of course.  It’s a completely mercenary project; a remake of a movie that not many people loved 30+ years ago, but that’s “worth” remaking solely because it has a recognizable title.  It’s directed by a man whose career is the very definition of director-for-hire (hell, even Monroe’s ICE TWISTERS for Syfy is better than this abysmal piece of shit), it’s written by a first time screenwriter, produced by a first time production company, and it stars a handful of actors vaguely recognizable from small roles on TV shows.  And I’m not one to hate on “for hire” projects – everyone’s gotta eat- it’s just that the financial motivations are painfully transparent here.

No one cared about exerting any thought toward actually improving on the original, or giving the movie a reason to, well, exist at all.  They saw an opportunity to capitalize on a name and took it.  Nevermind bothering to attempt to make it anything unique, that would just complicate their genius formula of “Rape + Rape + 4xMurders = horror”.

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