Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Decade’s Scariest?

Well it’s official. The zeros, the decade we’re finishing, is the decade of wimpy horror movies. At least that is, according to the Chiller channel’s list of the 13 scariest movie moments. The gore quotients went up, but suspense and fear took a nasty hit. Sad, sad, sad. Here’s their list, and what’s wrong with it.

#13. Drag Me to Hell: Although the gypsy curse plot is cliché, this movie was actually decent and should have been rated higher given the other listees. There’s a lot of slimy things here, with some genuinely revolting moments and some decent action. The ending raises the level too, and it reflects true horror. 3 out of 5 on the Gramlich Approval Meter.

#12. The Strangers: I wanted my money back. A couple is trapped in a farmhouse by 3 people intent on terrorizing and murdering them. Rather cliché, but could be OK. The problem is that the 3 “villains” are kids, with no guns, and there’s not an ounce of threat in any of them. The couple, who are far too stupid to live, even have a shotgun and other weapons but allow a couple of teens to own them. I know a lot of folks who would have wasted the 3 “mad-dog killers” inside of ten minutes. 0 of 5.

#11. Final Destination: This is really a remake, which means no suspense or tension since we already know the story. There were a few cool gory scenes but not enough to carry the movie. This one would come nowhere near my top 13. 1 1/2 out of 5.

#10. The Orphan: Didn’t see it so won’t judge.

#9. The Descent. Five women go spelunking and end up fighting monsters and each other. I liked some of this. There are claustrophobic moments I could appreciate, and the monsters, although typical mutated humans, were pretty nasty looking. 2 of 5. Maybe even 2 1/2.

#8. Hostel: No suspense, no fear. Lots of gore. This one is sometimes described as torture porn and I agree. Tourists are kidnapped and taken to a place where people pay to torture them to death. That’s about as slender a plot as I’ve ever seen. There’s one effective scene involving a woman and a train. 1 of 5.

#7. 30 Days of Night: I love the idea. Vampires tree a town near the arctic circle where it stays dark for 30 days. The vamps were appropriately nasty and there was some genuine tension as survivors hid for their lives. The middle sagged, though, and I didn’t buy the ending. 2 of 5, with an extra point thrown in for the concept. 3 of 5 total.

#6. Cloverfield: Oh, it was bad. A giant monster movie where you almost never see the monster. Shaky cam crap that ruins any chance to suspend disbelief. Characters that are realistic enough to be boring. I’m glad I didn’t pay for it. The only effective scene is when the Statue of Liberty’s head crashes down onto a New York street. 1 of 5.

#5. 28 Days Later: By far the best on the list so far. Essentially a zombie movie, but before the current glut, and this was the first movie to use fast zombies. That ratcheted up the tension, and the acting was really good despite a cast of mostly unknowns. 4 of 5.

#4. The Mist: Good acting and some moments of genuine tension as you wonder what lies in the mist. Some decent gory stuff. And, this one had the most horrific ending of any movie I’ve ever seen. The ending took guts and I loved it. 3 of 5, with an extra point tacked on for the ending itself. 4 of 5 total.

#3. Saw: Finally one that can stand up to the great old movies of the past. Passion and intensity. Wild twists and turns. This one had gore aplenty but it was well done and worked ‘with’ the storyline so well that you appreciated it even as you winced. A great horror movie. 5 of 5.

#2. Paranormal Activity: How this even registered as a blip on the horror field escapes me. The lamest movie on this list and nowhere near the top 100 of the decade, much less the top 13. You know that internet joke where you're watching a commercial and a zombie suddenly pops up? This is exactly the same, but it runs for over an hour before the monster pops up. I am ashamed to say I paid for it. -1 of 5.

#1. The Ring: This one deserves to be number 1. It scared the crap out of me, and that is not easy to do. Great twists and turns and the ending rewrites your expectations. 5 of 5.

Of the movies on this list, only The Ring, Saw, The Mist, and 28 Days Later are really good horror films. 30 Days of Night and Drag Me to Hell were worth seeing. Only The Ring and Saw match up decently with the best horror movies of the 80s and 90s, like The Exorcist, The Thing, Alien, and In the Mouth of Madness. Cloverfield, The Strangers, and Paranormal Activity aren’t anywhere close to good. The fact they made Chiller’s list could mean: 1) the decade really was a wimpy one for horror, 2) the Chiller folks who made the list don’t watch anything other than major Hollywood releases, or, 3) the folks who made the list are about the same age as the villains in The Strangers.

So, what is your vote for best horror films of the decade? Or of forever? How about the worst?


Tom Doolan said...

I'll admit that I don't like horror movies much. But the one movie that always scares the crap out of me, yet I will still watch it multiple times is Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal is just that damn scary.

Of your list, I've seen a few. 28 Days Later was probably the only one that I really liked.

Ron Scheer said...

OK, this is my movie genre to strike out on all ten. ALIEN and HALLOWEEN are a couple I enjoy recalling from the distant past when I'd sit through them on HBO with my kids.

Paul R. McNamee said...

I haven't seen much horror in the past years. I'm more interested in monsters and supernatural, so any of the serial killer(s) stuff doesn't interest me, anyway.

28 Days Later I have seen, and it was a very good - a groundbreaker in some ways; at least with the concept of fast "zombies."

Anonymous said...

28 Days Later is at the top of my list, and The Strangers is definitely at the bottom. What about Silent Hill? Really liked the imagery in that one.

Deka Black said...

Cloverfield... to me, as a fan of Godzilla, i must say: is good to have suspense, but... is a GIANT monster, it must be seen! is not a gremlim, , is a creature who plays baseball with the Liberty's head!

I believe the creators wanted to play a "man of the street" story, and all that stuff. but still. is a giant monster. a daikaiu, if you like. But... where is ?

I hoe the new american Godzilla movie (to be relased in 2012) will fix it. And the mess from 1998.

Oh, yes, Happy New Year, Charles!

Steve Malley said...

Word on the street is, the really good horror movies of the last decade have all been coming out of Korea and Japan...

Wish I could remember some titles, but I would tend to agree. And add Spain to the list. American cinema... not so much. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'd agree The Ring should be at the top. Don't like torture porn though. The Orphan had its moments. Sorry, did not like The Mist. Didn't buy everyone turning so radical in just two days or the ending. And I'd definitely add The Others and Let The Right One In.

Ty said...

Totally agree about "The Ring."

"Saw" didn't do anything for me, but at least there was some semblance of plot as compared to "Hostel" and the "Saw" sequels.

"Paranormal Activity" and "Cloverfield" were both solid ideas, I thought, but executed poorly. I still love the idea of a Lovecraftian monster tearing through New York City.

"Drag Me to Hell" was okay. Not great, not sucky, simply decent. It did what it set out to, I think.

"Hostel" sucked. Total gore fest. No acting. No plot. No suspense. No interest.

"28 Days Later" is probably my second favorite on this list, after "The Ring." It's a solid film, but still not my favorite of the zombie genre.

The rest, I haven't seen, and probably won't.

I'm surprised the 2004 "Dawn of the Dead" remake didn't make the list. It's definitely better than much of the garbage that DID make the list.

David Cranmer said...

The only one of these films I've seen is The Ring. Thats pretty sad on my part.

I tend to like the old horror films like The Wolf Man (1941) with Lon Chaney Jr.

ArtSparker said...

I did like the infusion of the genre with Japanese horror - directly in remakes like "The Grudge", and I think the Ring was also a remake? You could see the influence also in "Dark Water" which had some of the melancholy poetry of Japanese horror.

I think a must-see horror film is an early one by Guillermo del Toro, Cronos, which has his trademark combination of sweetness and horror. Devil's Backbone, a later film by him, you would have to call a genre-bender.

Sidney said...

Yeah, I like The Ring, probably the most originally and genuinely disturbing one of the bunch. Like Saw but didn't really find it exactly scary. Just kind of interested in where it was going to go. Of course not much scares me these days, except maybe getting older.

Charles Gramlich said...

Tom, Silence of the Lambs is a great horror story too. Both the movie and book are great.

Ron, I don't think we watch many of the same movies. :)

Paul, I'm much less interested in serial killers. Only a really good one, like Silence of the lambs can do anything for me.

Milo, I wanted to see Silent Hill but haven't. Scenes I've seen of it definitely look pretty cool.

Deka, and happy New Year to you. And yes, show me the monster, man! That's what I want from the movies.

Steve Malley, the ring was first done in Japan, of course, and that version was also pretty good. They've done some really cool ones.

Alex J. Cavanaugh, The others. I forgot about that one. It was pretty good. I liked a lot about the Mist but King's characters are always very broadly drawn.

Ty Johnston, I agree on the remake of Dawn of the Dead. I though it was quite good, one of my favorite zombie films. Cloverfield had promise that they pissed away. Paranormal activity was soooooooo slow. I mean, how exciting is it to watch people sleep? Which you do in that movie.

David Cranmer, Did you see the New Wolf man? it wasn't bad.

ArtSparker, the ring was definitely originally Japanese and I've seen some pretty good Japanese horror films. One I can't think of the name of right now.

Sidney, I agree, Saw wasn't exactly scary. There were "uncomfortable" parts. But I liked the concept and the twists, especially at the end, which I didn't see coming. Getting old is scaring the hell out of me.

Travis Cody said...

No votes for me, since I usually avoid scary stuff. But from what friends of mine say, it seems like this past decade saw a dip in horror film quality that could signal a shift in the way the genre is presented.

j said...

Am I ever out of my league with this post! I just can't do horror. The scariest thing that I watched was The Village (Charles, do I hear you laughing?) and I watched part of that through my fingers.

Lana Gramlich said...

Saw was (is?) awesome.

Charles Gramlich said...

Travis Cody, I believe it did in general, and it's because the art of storytelling seems to be getting lost.

jennifer, I kind of liked the village. Not overly scary, though. :)

Lana Gramlich, you are awesome.

the walking man said...

I didn't see a single one of the movies but I thought the guy around the corner laying on the ground with five holes in him 6 or 7 weeks ago was pretty well fucked up & gruesome.

Randy Johnson said...

Haven't seen any of them. Don't care for most of the films that pass for horror these days. It seems to be "let's see how many teenagers we can waste in an hour and a half."

For me anyway, the last decent horror films I liked were Carpenter's Halloween, the first Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th(original). All three series just became gore fests after that that bored me to death. No plot, just stupid slaughter.

Randy Johnson said...

Should have read the comments first. How did I forget Silence of The Lambs. Great film and book. Much less so the others in that series.

Harry Markov said...

I consider Drag Me To Hell as a more comedic movie than horror & The Orphan was somewhat disturbing. It's a weak list. I only agree about The Ring. Nothing else is gripping at all.

pattinase (abbott) said...

THE RING was pretty darn scary. I also saw 28 Days Later. Also, The Orphan, Devil's Backbone, Others, Fraility, A Tale of Two Sisters, Shaun of the Dead and Let the Right One In, Never Let Me Go.

Scott said...


I saw this show,too, and thought it was a lame-ass attempt at copying Bravo's 100 Scariest Moments shows. First, when most of your 'experts' are comedians and American Idol contestants, you know you're in Bullshitville. Second, these were pretty much all American films, and the best horror, for my money anyway, has come from other countries in the past decade or so. Where was 'Martyrs'? Or 'Inside'? 'Frontier(s)'? 'Let the Right One In'? "Audition'? And barely a word that 'The Ring' was a remake of a Japanese film, and of course, the original was better.

Of the films covered, your observations pretty much mirror mine, though I did like 'Cloverfield' more than you. My dog Magni and I would've made 'The Strangers' a much shorter movie if those three goons picked my house...I also liked 'Drag Me To Hell', especially the ending. Also really liked '30 Days Of Night' and 'The Mist'. Thsi show was typical of Chiller on the'd expect some decent programming form a channel with that title, but it's usually 'Fear Factor' reruns or lame flicks. Maybe next time they'll call us instead!

Scott said...

Oh, and for the record, movies like 'The Orphan' don't do much for me either...evil kids? Kick 'em down the nearest flight of stairs. Problem solved.

Charles Gramlich said...

the walking man, indeed, far more gruesome than any horror movie. I watch horror movies because true life is far too horrible.

Randy Johnson, I should have put Silence of the Lambs in my post about great older horror flicks. Definitely. I liked Halloween and the first nightmare on Elm street. But like you say, the sequels. “Meh.”

Harry Markov, Drag me to hell definitely had many comedic moments, comedic and gross at the same time. I really did like the first Saw though.

pattinase (abbott), I wanted to see “Let the right one in.” It’s one that escaped me that I thought I’d like.

Scott, Yeah, evil kids don’t seem very terrifying, in the same way that I never was bothered by Evil dolls. Audition was the movie I was trying to think of that was really freaky. And yeah, the commentary from the background was pretty lame for the show.

Middle Ditch said...

Happy new year to you and yours Charles.

X. Dell said...

I'm hardly a fan of the horror genre, so I can't recall one made in the 2000s that I have seen yet. My favorite of all time is Night of the Living Dead (original).

My scariest moment at a theatre during the past decade was listening to an audience laugh and applaud the death of an innocent character. The scariest movie I saw was Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector. It shocked the hell out of me that someone actually greenlighted that project.

Anonymous said...

I've seen 6 of the movies on this list, and I pretty much agree with you. The only one that scared me even a little was The Ring. And I'm easy to scare. Really.

BernardL said...

I agree with your take on all of them, especially Cloverfield.

laughingwolf said...

not seen any lately, quite a while, actually... alien is worth many views

there were others, but old bean can't recall any, atm....

sage said...

I haven't seen any of them... But many of them do sound wimpy!

Charles Gramlich said...

Middle Ditch, and to you, my friend.

X. Dell, I, fortunately, was spared the Larry the Cable guy movie. I did like Night of the Living dead, although it certainly looks dated to me these days.

Christine Purcell, the Ring definitely freaked me out. I liked Saw, but it wasn't really scary. I don't judge horror movies as necessarily scary.

BernardL, it was a sad, sad movie.

laughingwolf, you haven't missed much.

sage, it's interesting how different folks want different genres.

Erik Donald France said...

I think the wildest "horror" films I've seen would be psychological ones, Turn of the Screw and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Mafia movies, the kind where a dude thinks he's gonna get made and gets ambushed intstead.

Happy New Year, man!

Akasha Savage. said...

I love horror movies but can never remember which ones I've watched! I really enjoyed The Mist and although it was pretty cliched, Wolfman. But my favourites - although not actually sure they're classed as 'true' horror - Secret Window and Shutter Island.

Happy 2011 x

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, turn of the screw was a pretty good one actually, now that you mention it. I enjoyed it. Never saw Spotless MInd, although Lana tells me it's good.

Akasha, I've heard good things about Shutter Island too and haven't seen it. I definitely want to watch that one.

Barbara Martin said...

My favourite horror movie, or rather ghost story is A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim (1951). I haven't watched a horror movie in years so am unable to comment.

Happy New Year, Charles.

Lisa said...

Happy New Year Charles Gramlich sir.

I avoid horror movies but was introduced to 28 days later and also the sequel 28 months later or something by my children. I did enjoy them!

Charles Gramlich said...

Barbara, I like A Christmas Carol. I've seen various versions of it. Love the story by Dickens too.

Ocean Girl, I didn't see the sequel to that one. I did like the first one.

Barrie said...

I don't watch many horror movies, but I did see Saw. Yikes! It was way too intense for me. I only watched it to spend time with one of my teens. ;) Happy New Year!

ivan said...

Ah they don't seem to make good horror movies anymore.
I was certainly affected by one made in l989, that year being a spooky time for me anyway.

Seems in the throes of divorce, my Important Other called me an evil elf and a warlock...Certainly not for the first time.
I did see the movie The Warlock, and oddly, probably influenced by the flick, suddenly found my feet in great pain, and I had trouble walking...I could not find a railway car to escape to. :)

Had she been like Cassandra in the movie, who had hammered nails into the warlock's tracks, my very trackls, to agonize and immobilize him?
I was certainly, one day, agonized and immobilized, divorce trauma or not. I could not walk.

I think I did hear her hum, over the phone, an old Simon and Garfunkel tune, "I'd rather be a hammer than a nail."
I did order Dr. Scholl's Hobnailed Boots or something.
Had to have an antidote. :)
I dunno. I still have trouble walking...Likely a Plantar's wart not cured by Dr.Scholl...Or the hobnailed boots.

... Looking for witchbane?

Charles Gramlich said...

Barrie, I like my movies and music intense. Only my life do I like peaceful.

Ivan, I saw Warlock. I'm thinking it might have had Julian Sands in it I've generally liked his weird turn on things.

Rick said...

Sorry to be late to say Happy New Year, Charles, but I've been trolling through Atlanta over the holidays. Loved this topic and especially what you said about "30 Days of Night."

Charles Gramlich said...

Rick, trolling? Literally or figuratively? :)