It's been a rough year for everyone. Whether you were hit by the economy imploding or rocked by a personal tragedy, 2008 turned out not to be all that it was cracked up to be. The same went for the film industry - the Writer's Strike directly affected quite a few of the productions, and beyond a few stand-outs, the year has been filled with mediocrity and outright crapitude. Nowhere more evident in my favorite genre, horror. Here is a list of the crappy big-screen horror films that helped make a bad year even worse. As usual, these are up for debate...wait, no they're not. My word is law.
10. Diary of the Dead
Oh, George. Including this pains me the most. What happened? After the criminally underrated and intelligent yet slightly bloated Land of the Dead, Romero said he was going 'back to his roots.' Sorry George, but Night of the Living Dead wasn't filled with cookie-cutter characters, obvious subtext, and god-awful acting. The cinema verite style might have helped had there been a point to it besides the obvious message behind everything. Huge misstep in his lineage. Though, it had a mute Amish man with a scythe, so it can't be all bad right?
One of the first of many remakes this year and on this list. Directors John and Erick Dowdle took everything that worked about the Spanish original and streamlined it into dullsville. The camera was too neat. Everything looked staged. And worst of all, the 'cause' of the madness was made less ambiguous and became a copy of I Drink Your Blood. Only thing going for it was Jennifer Carpenter - who I admit I am in love with - and even she became irritating. Also, boo on the marketing team for not letting audiences know this was a remake of a ridiculously better film.
Goremaster Alexandra Aja's fall from grace. Highlights from this remake included Keifer Sutherland's "acting" - also known as screaming and smashing things - and a CGI climax that made Darkness Falls look like a masterpiece. The only interesting part was the final twist at the end, which honestly should've been where it started! That was what I wanted to know about, the rest was idiotic. Besides a wonderfully done death scene by Amy Smart, there wasn't much here. Aja's productions generally at least look gritty and gory, but this was just bad.
7. One Missed Call
Another redo, this time one of the many remakes of an Asian horror flick. The original by Miike isn't exactly terrific, but the American remake amplifies everything that was wrong with it - a silly premise that only really served to make money for other projects. The best part for me was it was filmed in Atlanta, so I recognized a lot of the locations.
6. The Eye
Asian horror remake #2. This time, with Jessica Alba goodness! Or, badness, whichever you prefer. Acting-wise, definitely badness, especially in this boring redo of the Pang Brothers' 2002 spookfest. Instead of tension we get jump scares, instead of Angelica Lee looking frightened and alone we get Alba looking constipated.
Despite what usually occurs, remakes can in fact be a good product - but they must present something new, bring a new element to the table (like Cronenberg's The Fly), otherwise why in the hell are you making them? Besides making a lot of money. With movies like The Eye, the filmmakers play things so safe it's just point, shoot, go home, and yawn.
5. Prom Night
Surprise! Another remake. A redo in name only, as the filmmakers seemed to go out of their way to deny the fact it was a remake. They even went as far to not give credit to the original screenwriters, which is a huge no-no in my book for obvious reasons. On top of that, the movie was plain awful. While the original was a half decent slasher for its time, the 2008 version was a PG-13 yawnfest that, honestly, had some potential. With all the teacher-student sex abuse cases going on the past few years, the angle of a teacher in love with a student could have been played up more, especially since we know who the killer is the entire time. In fact, we follow the guy around for half the movie. Why didn't we know more than 'omg he's crazy'? What a waste.
4. The Happening
Honestly, I hate to put a movie that isn't a remake or a sequel so low on the list - but holy hell. This was going to be M. Night's big return to dabbling in spookiness, his first R-rated feature...it was going to be so many things but turned out to be nothing. Ironically, the title lies, as nothing actually 'happens.' There is no story, no action, nothing. It's a basic premise (worst of all, it could've been an interesting premise) that leads nowhere and has a pretty obvious and dull message. Say what you will about The Village, but the commentary on the Iraq War and the state of America's fear at the time was rather artfully done. Though, I imagine a lot of people missed it, so maybe this is why the environmental message of The Happening is so heavy-handed and blunt? Either way, a total dud.
3. Saw 5
'You won't believe how it ends.' Right. I couldn't believe how the first one ended. The second one was a bit of a surprise. Past part three, not so much. Unless the ending is something along the lines of "Holy crap this all takes place in Nazi Germany and it leads up to them winning World War 2" or something, I'm not going to be all that surprised. I do admit I like the Saw series, for what it's worth, and at least for a lot of the series the writing has been pretty decent. The first movie with the surprises, the second one with all the characters and some tricks (I still love Jigsaw's line 'He's in a safe place.'), the third with the strong Jeff character. Ok, so the fourth one was more of a "behind the scenes" look at part three, but it at least tried. Five, however, was just a drawn-out ad for Saw 6. The only thing that was resolved was the Strahm storyline, and even that was idiotic - especially when he would verbally tell the audience everything he was thinking so we would know what was going on. Plus the only really good trap was the Edgar Allen Poe influenced pendulum trap!
2. The Haunting of Molly Hartley
Again, another 'original' movie makes it lower than most of the remakes and sequels. Why? If anybody out there actually saw this, you know. For the rest of you, take a piece of paper and write a bunch of random words, maybe a transcript of your favorite poem or movies - in this case, The Omen, Rosemary's Baby, the like - then tear up the paper and throw it in the air. Now deliberately eat 1/4 of the paper, then attempt to reassemble the poem or whatever with what's left. Now call it The Haunting of Molly Hartley, rate it PG-13, and make me watch it. Now I hate you.
What a twist! Another remake. Shutter is easily the worst of the bunch. If there's anything I hate, it's mediocrity, and this movie is the epitome of shooting for average. Everyone just looks bored. The exploration of what the effects of guilt can do to a person from the original film were lost on remake screenwriter Luke Dawson - though, it's hard to really pick just one person to blame for this. I'll stick with the producers and the heads of the studio for now. More jump scares, more Dawson's Creek, more naptime. And once again, the original filmmakers went uncredited! Luckily in this case IMDB gave them their due, but come on.
There you are! I'm going to throw together a list of the best and worst movies of the year at some point, plus I might do a "worst remakes" list as well. Here's hoping 2009 will be a better year, full of real horror flicks that...what's that? Three of the first horror films of the year are two remakes and a sequel? Fuck. On to 2010 then.