I see more horror movies in a year than the average person does in two. I also review them for FEARnet. So here is a list that comes from a guy who knows and loves this stuff, but is also an opinionated whiner sometimes. Just like most horror fans.
Best Horror Films (yes, they're "ranked" but there's an eyelash separating most of these)
10. 'The Crazies' -- I still have legitimate nags about the final reel but they're not enough to ruin a surprisingly intense and well-presented tale of humanity gone loco. It sounds like high praise to call this film an improvement over the original, but it's not like the first flick is among Romero's best efforts.
9. 'Daybreakers' -- I was one of the few horror geeks who wasn't all that crazy about the Spierig brothers' 'Undead,' so it was with much enthusiasm that I found myself quite enjoying their sophomore effort. Sort of a vampire take on 'Gattaca,' it features some juicy performances, a few cool action bits, and some interesting ideas about futuristic vampirism. That's just fun.
8. 'The Last Exorcism' --Just when you thought the "occult possession" schpiel was as tired as the "found footage" narrative gimmick, hey, up pops a smart little indie that injects some new energy into both of those sub-genres. Strong performances and a creepy sense of dread help a lot, but it's the morality tale behind the scares that makes the flick so interesting.
7. 'Red, White & Blue' -- A bruisingly effective indie that asks you to empathize with three unsavory characters, but if you can, then you're in for one rough and unflinching flick. Certainly not a "fun" horror flick, but it punched me in the gut pretty hard. And I watch tons of harsh flicks.
6. '[REC] 2' -- Call it "more of the same" if you like, but if the second batch tastes as good as the first one ... what's there to complain about? As far as Part 2s go, this one deserves high credit for walking a deft balance between the stuff we know we want -- and the stuff we won't be expecting. Great monsters too!
5. 'Frozen' -- You don't have to "like" a bunch of characters in order to "empathize" with them, and it's the partially prickly demeanor of the three trapped characters that make the flick just a little more realistic. Much like 'Open Water' and 'Buried,' this one takes a very simple "hook" and stretches it out to make a nifty little snowbound thriller.
4. 'Splice' -- A slick but smart (enough) 'Frankenstein' update with Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley as two serious "science lovers." You can take that phrase a variety of ways, but first you'll enjoy a genre flick that's equal parts brainy, broad, and smoothly entertaining.
3. 'Shutter Island' -- Call it a "psychological thriller" or dismiss it as Martin Scorsese playing around with "genre" as a lark, but this is still one of the coolest, darkest, and most unexpectedly intense chillers of the year.
2. 'Let Me In' -- Despite a metric ton of skepticism on my part -- like you I adore the original film -- I found this one to be a very clever adaptation of both the original book and the Swedish film we've all been so darn protective of. Hell, this version even finds offers a few new wrinkles of its own, so while it's probably not an improvement over 'Let the Right One In,' it still makes for a rock-solid companion piece.
1. 'Black Swan' -- Both luridly artsy and unapologetically pulpy, this is a smart, sharp and rather creepy little character study that feels a little like several other films -- but is also a very unique beast in its own right. Bonus points for wonderful music, gorgeous women, and overt sexiness.
Notable omission! If I told you how many ways I've come close to seeing 'Rare Exports' (missed a screening, faulty screener disc, car trouble, you name it) you'd smack me. But several trusted friends and colleagues assure me that this weird Finnish import is something kinda special. So keep an eye out for it.
Also worthy of your attention, or at least some of it: 'Buried,' 'Devil,' 'Dread,' 'Hatchet 2,' 'The Human Centipede,' 'Lake Mungo,' 'Monsters,' 'Paranormal Activity 2,' and the goofy new 'Piranha' remake. (Also, if you watch 'Skyline' when it comes out on DVD, approach it like a horror flick and you might see why I liked it. I said might. ) Oh, and 'Resident Evil: Afterlife' is probably the best chapter since Part 1, if that means anything to you.
The List of Horror Shame (in no particular order of stank)
'The Black Waters of Echo's Pond' (wow)
'Cabin Fever 2' (stunning in its badness)
'Chain Letter' (just you wait for this flotsam to hit video)
'The Horde' (think the French can't make bad horror flicks?)
'Legion' (saw it twice; still don't know what went on)
'My Soul to Take' (palpably generic right down to the poster art)
'A Nightmare on Elm St.' (lazy, obvious, boring, plagiarized)
'The Wolfman' (production design notwithstanding)
Best Horror DVDs
1. 'Alien' Anthology
2. 'The Exorcist'
4. 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' (1984)
5. 'House of the Devil'
Ridiculously special honors to both Criterion and Shout! Factory for their superlatives genre releases in 2010. For more on these home video horrors, check out my recent piece at FEARnet.