This list took some time to compile, and for the sake of conformity, I have added a tenth film. At the end I've included my Worst Of... list just so you can get an idea as to why I'm relentlessly teased for my vastly superior taste in horror films. So without further adieu, my Top 10 Horror Movies of 2009, rewritten and tweaked for Horror Squad.
10. House of the Devil My ex post facto entry to this list, House of the Devil was not an enjoyable film for me. I found it incredibly slow and lacking a sufficient payoff, all while only giving AJ Bowen approximately ten minutes of screen time. So why am I including it on this list? Because Ti West didn't make an homage to an 80's Satanic Panic film, he MADE an 80's Satanic Panic film. House of the Devil captures the look and feel of the time period perfectly, from the way it was filmed to the soundtrack. It is based on that alone that he deserves a spot on this list, even if it's number ten.
9 Zombieland Whether or not you want to argue over its intended genre, its content guarantees the word "horror" somewhere in there, and as a result it earns a spot on this list. Unlike Shaun of the Dead, which becomes more and more serious as the film progresses and to which it is often compared, Zombieland is consistently funny without ever missing a beat. I did not stop laughing throughout the film, and the insane applause once the credits started to roll is a testament to just how enjoyable it really is.
8. Orphan (my review) When I went to Austin to experience Fantastic Fest, I was derided by many for loving Orphan as much as I did. Walking away from the film, I was in awe that such a young actress can pull off such a terrifying role. The tension in the film is palpable, and at times I was shocked that a film with such tense and disturbing scenes involving children was actually found in a major theatrical release and promoted as heavily as it was. The film was not perfect, but it managed to be one of the few major releases this year that restored my faith in mainstream horror, if only for a brief period.
7. Doghouse (my review) Like many of the other films on this list, Doghouse was seen at Fantastic Fest, and while I am prone to hyperbole, Jake West's insane pseudo-zombie comedy was one of the most fun experiences I have ever had in a movie theater. The film was endlessly hysterical, delightfully subversive, and, best of all, genuinely intelligent. Every death was handcrafted with the utmost care, and hearing Jake West go into detail as to why he did what he did made me appreciate the film even more.
6. Last House on the Left I would have laughed in your face if you told me I would include a remake on an end-of-the-year list, but here we are. I was never a fan of the original Wes Craven thriller, as I thought it to be too cheesy for it was intending to do. As a result, I really had no doubt that I would enjoy the remake more, but I was blown away with just how damned good this film really is. It's unflinchingly brutal in its approach, and save for a cheesy ending intending the film to go out with a bang, as it were, is not deserving of the stigma associated with modern, big-budget studio remakes.
5. Trick 'r Treat (my review) Going into this film I assumed it was a Halloween-themed slasher. As I was watching it, I became more or less confused as I was completely unaware that it's an anthology. As the film progressed, I realized how big of an idiot I was as the pieces fell into place. In the end, I was witness to a solid, engaging, beautifully shot film that one can only hope will eventually become the standard of holiday horror films. The film became even more impressive when I heard Michael Dougherty speak after the screening, explaining in detail how he came up with the idea. His passion for the genre and material is deserving of the utmost respect, and with luck his wonderful film will get the recognition it deserves.
4. Carriers (my review) This film got screwed hardcore. Finished in 2007 then tossed around by Paramount Vantage before receiving an incredibly limited release, Carriers is one of few PG-13 horror films that gets it right. It is utterly bleak and depressing, providing an unflinching look at an end-of-the-world scenario that focuses intensely on the human element, something that's incredibly rare in horror nowadays. Despite the opinion of several others, Carriers possesses more of a dramatic element than it does horror, yet manages to blend them together in such a way that it transgresses definition. All you need to know is that it is a brilliant film, and you'd be doing yourself a major disservice by skipping it.
3. [REC]2 [REC] 2 is the greatest first person shooter I have ever seen. I can't stress this enough. It's certainly not as scary as the first, but it's so loaded with action, often employing a unique picture-in-picture approach to drive home the fact that there is nowhere to go. Beyond this it manages to delve deeper into the "why" of everything, as well as continue the trend of utilizing cinema verite in a way that doesn't make you want to shout "Put down the f-in' camera!"
2. Paranormal Activity (my review) If it weren't for another viewing of my number one choice a mere two weeks before making this list, Paranormal Activity was a sure bet to take the top spot. I still maintain that it is one of the most effective horror films in recent memory, invoking a level of fear rarely, if ever, found in contemporary horror. Paranormal Activity is one of those films that defies convention and is living proof that you don't need a giant budget and tons of special effects to make a good, scary horror film. Minimalism is the future of horror, I just hope others will catch on.
1. Pontypool I really can't say enough good things about this film. Based on the novel Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess, it features an outstanding performance by Stephen McHattie as Grant Mazzy, a radio personality who reports on a series of strange occurrences wherein individuals exhibit bizarre behavior focused primarily on the repetition of words. Highly unique and containing some of the best dialogue I have ever heard in a horror film, Pontypool is a monumental achievement in film-making, and much like Carriers, if you consider yourself a horror fan, you will seek this film out and give it your undivided attention.
And there you have it. Like I promised, here's my Worst Of... list, just for the Hell of it.
7. Antichrist (my review)
6. The Haunting in Connecticut (my review)
5. The Uninvited (my review)
4. Grace (my review)
3. Drag Me to Hell (my review)
2. Jennifer's Body (my review)
1. The Unborn (my review)