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Friday, December 12, 2008

The Year in Horror: One Blogger Looks Back

Maybe it was because it was my first full year blogging, but I have to say that 2008 was a pretty solid year for scary entertainment. Certainly a lot better than 2007, at least in my experience. And when it comes down to it, this is all about personal experience. It's all subjective, people, and I can only write based upon what I actually experienced over the course of the past 12 months in horror. There are a lot of great flicks and shows that I need to get to, most notably Let the Right One In, which I will watch via vaguely illegal means sometime in the next few days.

That said, I feel it's with good reason that I claim 2008 to have been a highly satisfying year for terror. For one thing, we kicked off the year with Cloverfield, a bona fide mainstream American giant monster movie that opened in the midst of an earth-shattering multimedia marketing campaign. And while it may not have been the life-changing experience many apparently were led to believe it would be, it was an enjoyable flick, and it was a pleasure seeing a kind-of-horror movie grip the imagination of the entire nation like it did.

And speaking of the nation, if 2008 was anything, it was the year that domestic horror took a trip to the woodshed, courtesy of foreign horror. Yes, fans, our fear-loving brethren from across the seas put America to shame this year.

Apart from Let the Right One In, which I haven't even seen yet, you had Juan Antonio Bayona's The Orphanage reaching U.S. shores--a sublime film which rightfully received the blessing of Guillermo del Toro. Frenchmen Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury shocked the holy hell out of us with Inside, the first knockout French gore flick since the days of Jean Rollin. And J-horror took a backseat to K-horror thanks to Black House, a DVD releases from South Korea which it was my pleasure to review some months ago. Of course, there was also the god-awful The Wig from the very same country, but who's keeping score?

But the granddaddy of 'em all was the flick that was, for this blogger's money, the best horror movie of the decade thus far--Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza's [Rec]. Although criminally withheld from U.S. theaters this year so as not to steal the thunder of the American remake Quarantine (no, I haven't seen it), that couldn't stop those curious and industrious enough to get their hands on it and discover that a horror movie can still have the power to terrify even the most jaded veteran fans.

I'm thankful that starting up the VoH has helped me gain access to a greater world of horror out there, beyond the beaten path. Without the Vault, I might never have had the pleasure of catching Ryan Spindell's Kirksdale, a festival-favorite short that yielded some of the highest quality 20 minutes of horror you'd be likely to find all year.

I also had the privilege of catching George Romero's Diary of the Dead during its extremely limited and brief theatrical release. And yes, I am a defender of that film, and I will continue to be as long as I have breath to pontificate. It was a joy to see Romero's zombie saga continue this year, with an installment I found much more fresh, innovative and powerful than 2005's Land of the Dead.

I can't really say the same for Steve Miner's pitiful Day of the Dead direct-to-DVD remake/fiasco. I was really convinced that that would be the lowest I'd sink all year. And then I saw M. Night Shyamalan's latest stop on the painful descent to oblivion, The Happening. I can honestly say I can't recall the last time I saw a movie that bad. For real.

What else? Oh yeah, well, I guess there was another Saw movie that got wheeled out in time for Halloween. Watched it. Not bad. Not great. Slightly better than the last one. Whatever. Next.

On the small screen, I was treated to a third season of Dexter that maintained the same level of excellence that the first and second season set in place. And HBO rolled out True Blood, a very good, if not quite great, vampire series that restored TV horror to a place of respectability after the lameness that was NBC's sad anthology series Fear Itself.

In the realm of fine literature, Marvel Comics went old school with the extremely well-done EC-style Dead of Night miniseries, starring one of my all-time favorite underused characters, the Man-Thing. Dark Horse gave it a go with a new, painted Evil Dead series that, despite attempting to do something interesting with the narrative of the original film, failed to make much of an impression on yours truly.

A year of foreign language triumphs, American kaiju, Romero controversy, M. Night's latest debacle and horror on premium cable. Nothing if not interesting, 2008 was a great year to begin this little Vault of Horror adventure, if I do say so myself...


gord said...

REC as the best horror movie of the decade?!

Blech. It was so over hyped IMO. The only good part of the film was the last 10 minutes. And none of it was really all that scary for me. Everything screamed 'you're watching a movie!' for me, and I found that that killed what little atmosphere it had to begin with.

On the other hand, I agree with you on the painted Evil Dead comics. While I love the series, and have all the AoD comics, the ED ones failed to impress. Not only that, but they turned Ash into a horny, whiny loser.

And yes, while not a typical horror entry, Dexter is downright amazing.

Also, no love for the quirky, though so-so Dance of the Dead? Also, I'd put The Strangers in there somewhere, if for no other reason than to mention how much cash it made.

Or how about a couple of releases DVD wise vis-a-vis classic horror? Like the Universal Legacy stuff?

B-Sol said...

Thanks gord, The Strangers is a major omission! And I did enjoy it quite a bit. Funny you mention Dance of the Dead--haven't seen it yet, and came real close to ordering it on demand last nite. DVD releases deserve a mention, too. Ya know, I may need to write a "part two"!

gord said...

Ha, well we all have differing opinions on what was big this year.

In news related to another post of yours, specifically remakes,


the Near Dark remake has been canceled.

Wes Fierce said...

Noooo! Stay away from Dance of the Dead! *pukes*

B-Sol said...

Hmmm. Who to trust?

gord said...

Oh, I wouldn't disagree.

Dance isn't exactly stellar, but it's nice to see young kids trying hard and at the very least creating something unique.

Alana Noel Voth said...

Happy Blog Birthday, B-Sol.

I very much want to see Let the Right One In but intend to read the book first. I'm a book slut. I'd also like to see Quarantine and Inside soon as possible.


B-Sol said...

Alana, you really should see [Rec]--the original Spanish version--before Quarantine. Let me know, I can hook you up...

Bo said...

Let the Right One In may be a lock for best of the year for me after seeing it on the big screen over the weekend. Nice shout-out to "Kirksdale", too, one of the nastier little short films I caught on the festival run. University of Florida film school guys, if I'm not mistaken. I heard the Martyrs DVD date was pushed back again, so that's one on the radar, especially after Inside and Ils which I thought was vastly superior to The Strangers. Great article!

B-Sol said...

Thanks, Bo. Yes, the Kirksdale crew are UF guys.

Alana Noel Voth said...

Yeah? Hook me up!


pot head pixie said...

Talking of REC... An (English) friend of mine here in Madrid is in the new film by the REC team - which seems to be called REC 2 at the moment and which is shooting in Barcelona now. Unfortunately, he hasn't told me much about it apart from the fact that it's horror! The bastard!

Anonymous said...

The Happening might not have been the best but I will say better than The Lady in the Water. That is still the worst by Night IMO.

B-Sol said...

Yeah, you might be right. I didn't even get halfway thru that one...

Anonymous said...

Wow, you liked [rec] and Diary? Interesting. To me they're mutually exclusive, like if you watched 'em back to back you'd open a black hole or something.

God, I hated Diary. And I like Land quite a bit, so it's not like I can't handle Romero at reduced power and relevance.

We should fight. Any particular names I could call you that would make you see things my way?

B-Sol said...

I'm kind of partial to "Cyber-Horror Douchebag"

Anonymous said...


The weird thing about that movie was, I actually liked the CGI kills, and my only misgiving going in was that, shit, an Of The Dead flick without practical FX?

But then all these young, cheekboney people that had no business being leads in a Romero movie showed up and started saying things that hurt my ears. And they wouldn't stop.

Well, at least the zombies didn't run. Which reminds me, google Simon Pegg's review of "Dead Set" if you haven't read it yet.

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